Archive for November, 2007

Truffaut’s shorts

November 28, 2007

Les Mistons and Antoine et Colette are two fairly good shorts by Truffaut in his formative period, the latter being the second (after The 400 Blows) of his Antoine Doinel series. Following the films’ chronology, I watched The 400 Blows between the two, and while I did enjoy it, I think Jules et Jim is a far better film. But The 400 Blows is still probably a solid foundation for the Doinel series, just that, considered individually, I didn’t find it interesting enough.

Criterion has a nice essay on Antoine et Colette paralleling Truffaut’s personal life with the film, and there’s a decent review of Les Mistons at Senses of Cinema.

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Late Horror

November 20, 2007

My two horror films of last week were Georges Franju’s Eyes without a Face (of the fantastique “genre”), and a Russian film Viy, the latter chosen mainly because of the Gogol connection. I loved both films, and though they aren’t particularly scary, some parts are genuinely horrific. The next day, walking along the street, shivering in the cold, I noticed a used copy of The collected tales of Nikolai Gogol for sale (at half the price!). I haven’t gotten round to reading it yet, but have Viy bookmarked. Also, The DVD of Eyes without a Face had Franju’s earlier short Blood of the Beasts, which nearly drove me mad with its blunt grotesqueness, especially when juxtaposed with serene shots of the landscape. I’d recommend the short for all fans of horror.

Lonesome

November 11, 2007

l.jpgThis week I watched Paul Fejos’ 1928 silent classic Lonesome, accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra. The film was made during a period of transition from silent cinema to talkies and is sometimes regarded to be the last great silent film. Actually, there are a few stretches of dialogue inserted at (inopportune) moments in the film primarily for commercial reasons and as an attempt to cater to a wider audience. These moments are forgettable at best and coupled with their ludicrous dialogues induce a sense of artificiality to an otherwise brilliant film.

The main characters, stereotypically named Mary and Jim, are working class people in New York city. The hustles and bustles of the city are captured in the film through frame overlays as we watch New York wake up to a chaotic frenzied morning. Jim and Mary are both alone and decide to attend a fair at Coney Island over a weekend, where they then meet each other. The narrative technique Fejos employs is pretty conventional as he tracks the lovers through a night of fanfare and merriment. There are a few scenes here that are hand-painted with color, but I found them to be quite disturbing.

To me, this film is not so much about loneliness as about the thrill and excitement of a new relationship. By setting the carnival as a backdrop, Fejos ensures a vivacity in the film that resonates with the palpable emotions of his lovers. Contrary to its title, this is more of a bubbling enthusiasm than a depressing foray into solitude. There’s humor injected in almost every sequence, from when Jim wakes up late in the morning to the time he listens to a recording of Irving Berlin’s “Always” in an attempt to drown his sorrows.

The end is especially spectacular, since having pushed itself to the limit near its climax (by seperating Mary and Jim), I thought it virtually impossible for the film to retreat without resorting to some cheap or mangled reasoning, but it managed to succintly avoid this in an extremely convincing and poetic finale that led to a long standing ovation from every one of us in the audience. Lonesome is easily a masterpiece of its time just waiting to be enjoyed and explored more fully.

Funny Games (U.S.)

November 10, 2007

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This is a fantastic poster for Haneke’s upcoming U.S. version of Funny Games. I loved the original (though I consider his earlier works to be far superior to it), and Naomi Watts looks poised to give the most disturbing performance of her career.

Le Tourbillon

November 5, 2007

This YouTube link is a clip of the beautiful Jeanne Moreau singing in Jules et Jim. The freshness and intensity of her voice manages to enchant me every time I listen to this.

A Danish and Italian Week

November 1, 2007

Some fantastic films from my viewings of the past week:

Dreyer’s OrdetGertrud and Day of Wrath.
Crialese’s Nuovomondo (Golden Door).
Rosellini’s Rome, Open City.

Rome, Open City was especially memorable as I watched a very old 35mm print with sparse subtitling.