2/1/09

My Week in Film (1/26 - 2/1)



The Seventh Seal (1957)*
(Directed by Ingmar Bergman)


I hadn't seen this since middle school, I think (I don't count my aborted high school viewing) and my memory of it was pretty different. Which is to say... Well, I don't know. Basically, what I like about it is the starkness of its images (and their status as iconography of art film or whatever is well justified) like, well, you know, Death vs. Von Sydow, the flagellants, other. What I didn't expect is Gunnar Björnstrand being a total bad ass here. I don't think that gets said enough. The movie is kinda silly in its bluntness (in a good way) but at points it's just really, really dumb. Like, do I really need to see Death sawing down a tree? No, I don't. That feels like a joke to me. The overtness of the film, its very literal images are what make it striking but it's also what hold it back for me? I don't know. I think I just enjoyed the route that Bergman took with his other films (God as Spider!!! -- eh, nevermind). But, yeah, still good.

"I shall remember this moment: the silence, the twilight, the bowl of strawberries, the bowl of milk. Your faces in the evening light. Mikael asleep, Jof with his lyre. I shall try to remember our talk. I shall carry this memory carefully in my hands as if it were a bowl brimful of fresh milk. It will be a sign to me, and a great sufficiency."

Long Live Max Von Sydow!!!

★★★




Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1956)
(Directed by Kenneth Anger)

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome "details the shifts in consciousness undergone by guests at an occult Eucharist at the house of Lord Shiva, the Magician." uh...

"An orgiastic fantasia of mythic personages, crazy costumes, pancake makeup, hallucinatory superimposition, and lysergic colors" Yeah...

This thing is pretty crazy. I couldn't have told you what the hell it was about if I hadn't looked it up later. It feels like a bunch of people playing dress-up and having a crazy party... or something. At first, it's just kinda bizarre and slow as random people start to show up in different wacked-out costumes but when this thing gets going (and it really synthesizes with the music) it's pretty great cuz of all the reasons above. I guess I like colorful crazy stuff :|

★★★



Vidas Secas (1963)
(Directed by Nelson Pereira dos Santos)

*spoilers*

Sort of reminded me of The Grapes of Wrath. Pretty surface comparison since I haven't seen that film since like the 11th grade (and I was barely paying attention to it) but I got the same vibe. It almost felt like a western with its barren landscapes and cowhands and the like. But if I had to point to a single source of inspiration, it would probably be neorealism. Although, on the whole, it seems to be more vibrant and kinetic (I may be making this up) but on the same level of depressingness.

The film follows a family of four + dog (what a dog!) as they basically cross a desert and stumble upon a house. They live in that house until the dude who owns it comes by and tells them to GTFO. The dad is like "wtf, hell no, at least let me work for you." The owner is stunned into silence. Okay, not really.

Anyway, plot sucks. Let's talk about something else. The film is interesting to me in the way it sort of tries to become completely subjective, I think trying to do that by using POV shots (or, at least, I think they're POV shots). Like, there's a scene not five minutes into the film that has the family all walking across a plain or something. The mom goes up a hill to look for a town or something and one of the kids stays at the bottom of the hill. The kid falls to the ground, cries for a bit (cuz of hunger and SHIT) and whatever. The family starts leaving and then we get a shot that sort of gives us the experience of walking away from the child. I found that sort of fascinating (although not as interesting as what something like Diamonds of the Night tries to do). Another example comes at the very end, in what's arguably the film's most heartbreaking scene, Baleia's death. Fabiano has shot Baleia. She/He(?) limps to find refuge under some structure (I don't remember what it is). We get a shot of some rat or something at Baleia's eye-level and then we see her drop of exhaustion and pain. The next shot is lower, closer to the ground. We are right with Baleia, feeling the dog's pain. I'm sure there's other examples that I'm not remembering (since I have the worst memory on record of anyone in this forum) so I'll just stop now. But, whatever, I could be wrong. I'm certainly not as savvy as other people in that type of analysis.

The film also has pretty awesome cinematography with its kind of awesome use of shadows and SHIT, particularly, in the film's prison sequence where the suffering of Fabiano is juxtaposed with some sort of celebration that Fabiano's boss is attending. In his cell, Fabiano meets a soldier/guerrilla(?) of some sort and when he gets released, he lets him use his horse to get back home. This is a critical moment. The soldier gives a gun to Fabiano, more or less asking him to join the right/revolution. We see Fabiano holding the gun, filled with power but then he looks at his family and gives the gun back, denying revolution/radicalization/etc. So the dudes leave. This is a key moment as I think Santos is portraying the common people as sort of passive, willing to take it, more or less. Fabiano goes back to the house, then has to move again (I think because of his boss) and walk thru another desert with his family. Really want to rewatch The Grapes of Wrath.

The film begins right as it starts with a very long shot of the family walking into/out of view as some sort of buzzing music plays (almost avant-garde, the one sign of modernity in the film's design; outside of the subjective stuff). I'm still wondering what that was about. Maybe one of you can throw this old man a bone or something.

Anyway, Cry

★★★



The Witch's Mirror (1962)
(Directed by Chano Urueta)

Unlike The Curse of the Crying Woman, there's very little fun to be had here. The sets are still kinda cool and it's pretty campy but it just didn't hit the same spot for me. For one, there's little to no visual inventiveness which pretty much makes the film boring right off the bat and then there's the plot which... well, it's dumb. Really dumb. And it's made even dumber by the retarded execution and hammy acting by all involved. The one thing I did like was that I may have fallen asleep for a good 10 minutes at some point and all of a sudden there's graverobbings and some weird Frankenstein shit going on. It was interesting to try and piece out what had happened while I dozed off. Not interesting enough to rewind and check out what I had missed.

★1/2




Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
(Directed by F.W. Murnau)

I don't know about you, but that city girl was pretty hot.

Well, I really dug this but I have to say I'm puzzled as to why this movie gets all the attention. I mean, isn't this about a would-be murderer? I kept thinking to myself, isn't this supposed to be a love story? I can't think of any good reason why I would take back this douchebag if he tried to kill me... I also love how often he tries to choke a bitch, always welcome in my book. The first 40 or 50 minutes were pretty much sublime (and yes I fucking bought it when she forgave him) with that great music playing and when they come out the church I was all Image but after that it becomes 30 minutes of them going around town being all happy which wasn't as interesting to me. So, hi.

And, yes, visually, this was pretty much bananas. Good stuff all around.

★★★1/2

Anyway, I wasn't totally in love with Sunrise but I found enough to really like and...

Jhon's Movie of the Week is... Sunrise