Les Parents Terribles / The storm within (1948/Cocteau) pro
Just a very theatrical, yet admirably skillful, adaptation of his own play. No exterior scene, the action is walled in either the "trailer" appartment, or at the girl's place, just like on stage, to build up a tight atmosphere between the series of trios. All combos are tried and matched up : Father, mother, son, aunt, fiancee, mistress cruely plot to gain power over the other and control the lives of the family. Frustrated, deceived love is their motive to ruin eachotehr's lives. Scene after scene the characters change side and bend morality to suit their means. And successive compromises will settle's everyone's expectation to maintain their union, the moral bounds of the family. Even the characters spell it out loud : "our life is a work of art of a veaudeville!"
It's all about witty written lines, intricated situations, successions of the figures in the same room, playing on who knows what? who lies to who? who manipulates who?
It's the story of an old boy (Jean Marais) living at home, entertaining a passional / fusional relationship with his mother. His first love cause a chaos in the house organisation and crumbles the long weaven peace between the 2 sisters, his mother and the old girl, his aunt, who both loved his father.
Cocteau is very classic, nothing to do with his avant garde experimentations in The Blood of a Poet, Beauty and the Beast, Orpheus... Even if the first image is one of a man leaning at the window with a scuba diving equipment on over his suit! Although his mastering of the close ups, and the framing of the rooms and doors is dynamicaly sharp and dramaticaly efficient. He invents incredible shots to frame 2 faces, by stacking them verticaly, showing only the mouth of Jean Marais and the tearful eyes of his mother (Yvonne de Bray) underneath. These little details are quite interesting and fresh in a camerawork point of view.
The talented Jean Marais is 35 years old when he plays the role of Michel (22 yold) in the film, role he originaly played at 20 on stage. This awkward age difference is a bit annoying, especially since he's supposed to be younger than his 25 yold fiancée... If he can't fake it physicaly, his naive, playful, careless nature of youth plays out nicely.
Jean Cocteau voices over the narrator himself.
Paris, mon petit corps est bien las de ce grand monde (Franssou Prenant/1999/France)
a low budget (16mm i think) film diary of the director/lead actress who tell us how she sees the world from her small apartment on the tin rooftop of Paris. She represent herself under twin characters, opposed and complementary chating together and fighting over politics, cinema and love, to portray her teenage crisis. One is Lunette ("Glasses") the other is Myope. one wants to go outside visit the world and tell her doppleganger, without glasses, who rather look inside herself...
her voice over tell us her doubts, her struggle to write a movie about a fantasized love story, in a nostalgic Paris (movie within a movie).
erratic editing of silent, empty shots where only the wind, the sun, and shadows live in.
Unfortunately this was not well distributed. A small film d'auteur, a surrealist essay. Franssou Prenant edits old 16mm footage she filmed when she was a teen, showing her adolescent identity crisis split into a twin character (both herself) Lunette -wearing glasses- outgoing, traveller, politically aware, activist... and Myope -without glasses- introverted, mysantrope, romantical, scared of the outside world, staying in her apartment. Opposed and complementary, they appear alternatively using appropriate counter-shots and voice over, and argue about politics, cinema and love. Her struggle to make a movie, fantasized through glimpses she peek in the nostalgic street of Paris or into somebody else's windows. Delicious poetic contemplative cinematography observing the motion of the wind, the shadows and the sun.
Paris qui dort / Paris Asleep (1923) B&W - silent - 36'
Sci-Fi short film, and very first film of René Clair. A mad scientist invented a mysterious ray that put asleep the entire city of Paris. Only the watcher living at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and some tourists onboard a plane trip escape its power. They first enjoy it, by stealing all the wealth they could grab, but grow tired of being on their own, and find the reason why all this went wrong. Great scenes of picnic on the Eiffel tower, with aerial views, and chases up and down the stairs!
Paris vu par.../ Six in Paris (1965)
Claude Chabrol; Jean Douchet; Jean-Luc Godard; Jean-Daniel Pollet; Eric Rohmer; Jean Rouch
6 foremost notorious auteurs of the french Nouvelle Vague are asked to make a 15' fictionous segment taking place on location in one of the 20 parisian districts to highlight its spirit. Their style is unified by the new wave theory (which makes this compilation quite homogenous) but the personality shows individualities in the first part of their long filmography.
Paris vu par... 20 ans après (1984/France)
Same concept made by the new generation.
-J'ai faim, j'ai froid by Chantal Ackerman
-Place Clichy by B. Dubois
-Rue Fontaine by P. Garrel
... will watch the rest later
The Party and the Guests / O slavnosti a hostech (Czechoslovakia/1966/Jan
a very disturbing film between political satire and abstract theatre. forbidden during 2 decades in the Communist Block!
4 joyful couples are having a picnic in the woods before heading together to a wedding ceremony they more or less enthousisticaly anticipate. the personality of each character is outlined in a few determinant lines on few key subjects like ambition, marriage, order and food. we notice the dominants and the passive ones. suddenly the arrival of a strange shameless man, who ask direct and offesive questions, kill the pleasant atmosphere of a quiet promenade. politely they ask him to go, and then push him away, when 20 of his friends appear and grab them by force to take them to a bizarre improvised trial without charges...
the story is very Kafkaian (re Welles' The Trial), and reminds strongly of Haneke's Funny Game setup.
the absurd "trial", slides into a man hunt when one of the guest escaped, and everyone is convinced to get him back through subtle manipulation of curtesy and flatering. this is scary, and highly politicaly incorrect (especially when u think it was created under the communist clamp!)
a masterpiece of manipulation and mise en scene.
People on Sunday (1930/Siodmak) ****
silent. black&white. non-professional actors. a film experiement made by a bunch of friends with a camera : the brothers Robert (director) and Curt Siodmak(scenarist, AD), Edgar G. Ulmer(art direction, AD), Billy Wilder(scenario, AD), Fred Zinnemann(AD), Eugène Schüfftan (photo)!!!
the film is a blend of a urban documentary with romance fiction. a very romantic vision of Berlin in 1929 (clashing with the vision in The Serpent's egg by Bergman painting Berlin in 1923, and Max, showing the atmosphere in Berlin after WW1). in the midst of the great depression (completly ignored in the film), the documentary shows the week end leasure promenade of 5 young berliners around 20 yold: a couple, a seducing boy (friend with the couple) who gives a rendez-vous to a girl he met in the street (she bring along her best friend). the wife doesnt wake up so the 2 guys take the 2 girls to the lake for a spin.
amazing treatment for a silent movie, we can tell the relationship between the characters building up without a word (a couple slates throughout the movie only). it's all playful carelessness, joy, innocence and humor.
Perdita Durango (1997) ***
another remake of those Kidnapping/Mafia/Guns B-movie, with Javier Bardem. always violent, gore and insolent.
Persona (1966/Bergman/Sweden) **** PRO
Elizabeth walled herself in a pathologic mutism, confronted to her illness by an easygoing spontaneous nurse at the opposite of her state of mind. The epitome of double cinematography : several smartest tricks mirror the 2 women in an ever ambiguous manner to suggest both mimic and split personality. Women are canibal vampires, eating eachothers' soul, swaping role, shifting enveloppe. The camera shows alternatively whole characters, half faces vanishing in the shadow, combined halves, overlaping faces... in a most disturbing montage. Isolated in a desertic island, it's virtualy impossible to find out if either woman existed or if all of it took place in the mind of a ill patient at the hospital. The doppleganger complements a self-amputated ability : the voice, not only the words but the consciousness of a traumatic event linked to an unwanted child. Each woman is incomplete, archetypal, like if they shared the functions of a whole person (like in the Cyrano/Gattaca double feature). One is intellectual the other is emotional, mude/talkative, existentialist/epicurian, acting/audience, manipulating/naive until all reverses to question the contempt of this autharchic alienation.
breaking point in Bergman's career, who quits melo-realism and dedicates himself to modernism (existentialism), 3rd period, and most impressive, of his filmography. this is a statement film. a manifesto of an auteur. his vision has changed, he knows it, and he tells us.
Bergman was at the hospital when he came up with the scenario. it was a rough time for him both physicaly and artisticaly. his last project, aborted, was "The human-eaters (artists)" / "The Canibals", from a Steinberg play i believe. this project is however present in Persona with a thematic subtext : the canibalism (the women are vampires who suck eachother's soul).
PROLOGUE summary decomposition (60 plans in a couple of minutes)
fragmentation : poem with images, "dream imagery".
- the cinema projector lights up (cinema backstage, technique)
"this is how it works", light + reel, it's only illusion! (same warning used in Mulholland Dr.'s Silencio)
fade from black (obscurity), 2 points of light appear, 1 triangle, 1 round (if i recall right), these are the 2 ends of a lamp contacts, warming up until ignition. inside a 35mm reel projector. Bergman is fascinated by the magical technique of cinema and wants to show us, to show what we never see! what only professionals see and know.
here becomes the statement of the auteur to the audience, a new relationship, not based on deception/illusion, but on truth. this is a metaphore : "i show u my tricks, i will use illusion to tell u a story, be careful".
- the erected penis : only a couple of frames (close to subliminal image). part of the footage censored and deleted from almost all prints. later discovered by Bergman and he got a new print done. the DVD shows the integer version.
theme of sexuality in a symbolic sense : relationship of people with love, with themselves.
- the silent film : origin of cinema. a little farce, a tragic comedy, with the theme of death. the beguining of the manipulation of the audience : easy tricks of appearance/disappearance of characters. the hero runs aways, tries to escape death, his fate... interesting symbols!
(this footage was already used in his previous film Prison 1949) obviously more connection to make between the 2 films.
an old B&W cartoon is seen upside down (as it is mounted on the projector, the lens flip it on the screen), again a hint to the cinema technique.
- the spider : seen from underneath, through glass. the God-Spider. reference to Through a Glass Darkly 1961 (didnt see this one, anybody can comfirm/expand?) the fobic fear watched safely behind a window.
- the sheep sacrifice : from the traditional folklife on Farö, the island he lives on (also the location of the shooting of Persona). he will make 2 documentaries on this island later (1969+1979)
sheep = innocence / blood = death. the eye close up reminds me of Un chien Andalou (but that's just me)
- Crucifixion : a hand nailed to a wood beam. the hand has the look of a dying spider. theme of the passion of Christ from his film The Seventh Seal 1957
- the cold nature : still photographs of natural scenery. reference to his Faith trilogy : Through a Glass Darkly 1961 + Winter Light 1963 + The Silence 1963.
shots of fungus, dying trees : symbol of Disease and Death. i think the vagina looking plant comes around here, mirroring the penis shot.
eldery faces, feet, in an hospital or on a death bed.
- dripping water : (soundtrack) clepsydra = time passing by, aging, Bergman's farewell to his old boring films (cited above)
- the boy : (actor playing in The Silence 1963) = Bergman at the hospital (while he writes the scenario), in a state of a child (dependant), who wants to find rest, but is constantly waken up by the telephone (from the Swedish Royal Dramatic Theater he directs in Stockholm) a true trivia told by Bergman himself. the boy shuffles around and finaly puts on his glasses and read a book "Heroes of our Time".
overlaping faces : (film main inspiration) the boy and the mother : (Liv Ullman). it's the unwanted child of Elisabeth, the aborted child of Alma. note the distanciation between the child and the mother. the child cant reach, it's only a fading in/out photography.
end of prologue. Bergman gave us a quasi-psychoanalitic word-association (with wordless images) thearapy. he ponders about cinema, recalls his old films, abandon/deny them, open a new window of exploration, annouces and reveals the key theme of the film. it's a check up of his filmography, a testament
opening credits (flashes, glimpses of images) : alternation of the characters (the 2 women and the child) with symbolic images of the prologue, and the self-immolating monk protesting against the war in vietnam (current hotest news from the real world), later watched on TV by Elizabeth in the film.
Peter Ibbetson (1935/Hataway/USA)
A surrealist fiction about the paranormal powers of the subconscious linking beings miles away apart through dreams and imagination. Strange connection and oniric trips when night comes.
La Petite Lili - The Little Lili (France/Canada/2003/Claude
loose adaptation from Anton Chekhov's play "The Seagull"
Ludivine Sagnier arrives into the house of a "cinema family": Mado, the mother is an old famous actress (Nicole Garcia), her husband is gone, her partner, Brice, is a soapy movies director writing popular films with and for Mado. Her son, Julien is a young and naive wannabe director, true to himself, contesting Brice's compromises.
Lili, the girlfriend of Julien, who acts in his first experimental short, finds herself welcomed in this family and grows admiration for Brice, the older experienced writer with romantic speeches.
The projection of Julien's short will cause heated discussion about cinema purity and more, suddenly shaking the superficial family ties. Is it Lili or the hurge for freedom that broke up the peace?
the last part of the movie, 5 years later, show the character changed, their lives pieced together, but they will all have to face again what happened between them that summer because Julien put it on film, and Lili has become a successful actress.
this is a "film within a film" kinda perspective to the filmaker's dilemna between real private life and fantasized creation.
with symetrical characters: young/old actress/director opposing their point of view, and blaming the failure of their past/future sometimes quite cruely.
a delightful cast with renowned actors/esses as supporting roles and 2 up-and-coming actors filling the leads.
this gives a fresh development and deep secondary characters with strong personality.
More full frontal nudity gifted by Ludivine 'Swimming Pool' Sagnier! :D and of course a touching 2-faced performance for an ambiguous (naive/ambitious) character through two critical moments of her life.
Special Mention to Jean Pierre Marielle (Mado's brother) who is brilliant as always! Bernard Gireaudeau (Brice) express his condescending attitude with much restraint. Nicole Garcia (Mado) is both irritating and pitiful as required by her part. Another 2 secondary characters hold up the spotlights in the background: Julie Depardieu (yes, Gerard's daughter in real life), and Yves Jacques.
IMHO, the philosophical questionning of filmaking creation divided by idealism, business, love and age fails for unfortunate underdeveloped illustration.
But what the film is really focused on: the emotional conflict of a handful of people through ambition and love, racing after what they want, holding on to what they believe in, is an opportunity for great scenes and moving situations.
La petite marchande d'allumette (1928/Renoir/France)
The Andersen tale adaptated by Renoir for his first short film. Combines toy animation and real-life actors within the same frame using perspective tricks, for the fairy dream sequence.
Körkarlen / The Phantom Chariot / Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness (1921/Victor
A variation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, with a Scrooge and only one ghost, based on a nordic legend saying that the last bad man passing away on New Year's Eve before midnight strokes must take his turn for a full year on the antic phantom chariot as the servant of the Reaper to collect all the mean souls.
David Holm (Victor Sjöström himself), is the most dispicable person you've ever met, worse than Scrooge, he's a drunkard beggar, wife-beatter, child-abuser, and spits his tuberculosis coughs in people's face (even his own children) to make everyone else die along with him.
Maria is a young nun working for the salvation army who falls in love with David out of pity, believing he was sent by God to entrust her a mission to make him good. The story is cruel, morbid, gloomy, built on a remarkable succession of flashbacks! The passage of almost all characters from life to death at various moments, make them cross eachother in this immaterial limbo. Superimpositions creates an etheric layer of a ghost universe overlapping on the world of reality. Sometimes the ghosts are walking through walls, sometimes they can touch people from the real world. The reaper with his hood and sickle on the chariot with a skinny horse make for great photography.
My first Sjöström, and really impressed by it. The fact I watched it with live music played by a band of 5 instruments of electronic/accoustic mix (OMR), certainly emphasized the dramatic effects of the silent mise-en-scène. Exceptionnal performance.
I don't understand the exclusive praise Sunrise (so melodramatic) gets for the entire silent era, with masterpieces like this one or The Last Laugh so much deeper and more complex.
Le Plaisir (1952/Ophüls) ***
3 short stories adaptated from Guy de Maupassant, a typical dark and erotic parisian novelist of the 19th century.
Le Masque : a very short introducing episode telling the sad fate of an old seductor who keeps dancing at night with a mask on. he falls on the floor and a doctor who wanted to have fun, has to examine him and take him back home. a lesson learnt the hard way.
La Maison Tellier : the longest episode describing the night life of a borthel, the girls, the Madame, and clients in Paris, and the country life where the girls travel to to attend to a christian communion of Madame's niece. featuring a great couple of stars : Jean Gabin and Danielle Darrieux. Witty dialogs and literary narrator.
Le Modèle : a short epilogue, telling the fast infatuation of a painter for his model, who marries his egeria and inspiration, but soon is bored by her homy and demanding attitude. He leaves her, and she runs after him...
La Poison (France/1951) Sacha Guitry ****
Admirable black comedy written by the master himself. very simple and effective murder case. a wife and husband who cant stand eachother wish death to the other live in a too quiet town. a famous attorney from Paris celebrates his 100th acquittal, wich gives ideas to criminals and worries to the judge...
a perfect Michel Simon, assisted by a bunch of talented actors (a young Louis De Funes!). a very original opening sequence where the director introduces on screen all the actors and thanks Michel Simon.
Polish Kitch Project (Poland/2003/Marius Pujszo) **** pro
an hilarious mockumentary about auteurism and home-videos meeting at Cannes!
Marius plays himself in a video diary of his emerging career in the cinema business. to him, the film d'auteur have reached such ultimate inanity that anybody could pretend to make a deep meaningful movie with dense shots...lol a debate that is quite hot among the film critics themselves right?
he analyzed the stats : 50% of the audience wants action films, 35% want romance, and chicks, 17% want porn, 0.17% want film d'auteur LOL this makes up the perfect recipe for the most unanimous film on Earth. he picks up his best friend out of the psychiatric hospital to make him his lead actor, and a guy out of jail for cinematographer who will learn along the way to manipulate a camera... following to precious advice of Marius about aesthetism
now the girls! every woman dreams to become a movie star, he will exploit the weakness of some stupid blondes to fund his production by charging them for every casting they make. the girls stand in line with their $10 bill to be in the film. and Marius improvize on the fly what they're going to shoot next!
this is so funny, especialy because it's so true. it's good to have some derision on the cinema business and all the intellectual blahblah around filmmaking the cynism is pushed to the point, Marius pretends to have won the Golden Palm at Cannes and gets interviewed on the Croisette, by the pool... with dense meaningful thoughts out of his a$$.
the film uses a mix of black and white footage for the attempted rushes of the hoax film and the color video footages of all the castings and backstage conversations between the filmmaker and the stupid actor.
priceless shots of chicks running around in the woods at night, under the shouts of the filmmaker (on screen) "You're scared! run! run! no... this way! fall on the ground! crawl!"
omg, this is so good it's going to be a cult movie, i'm sure!
Los Porfiados (2002/Mariano Manzur/Argentina/Portugal) ***
a funny Black & White satire of the hopes from the anarchist revolution. Formaly very poor, a very amateurish, zero-budget, buddy-film with apparently non-professional actors, and large improvisation. However rather politicaly provocating.
a handful of characters living on the marge of society, homeless, knife-sharpener, military vet, divorced... band up together around a charismatic philosopher who reads poetry and Trotskist books. they cheer up their desperate future by plotting against the government in a country farm community unit of the most basic shape.
this fable resonate with Argentina's own history of revolution where ideals promised a lot but the revolution never succeeded.
today (2002) they rebel against the cybernetic society like Don Quixotte, in a ridicule yet moving way, with their heart, their hands and their illusions.
conflict of influences within the group (of 6) will shake the foundation of their cause: leadership dispute, and jealousy from the favor of the only woman.
i regret the form was so cheap... because there a lots of witty speeches and clever scenes.
Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times (2002/Junkerman)
Post 9/11 considerations about the misnammed "war on terrorism" by a 73 yold Noam Chomsky, still kicking in the governmental propaganda machine, more convinced and optimist than ever.
He deconstructs Bush's speeches and puts everyone to its due place, when it comes to define who is terrorist and who supports terrorism.
the phrase "war on terrorism" and "axis of evil" are nonsensical, and meant to alienate the apathic people and divert their attention off the real thing.
USA, UK and Germany are up their neck in the IranGate, the genocide of Kurds both in turkey and Irak, the occupation of Palestine...
He explains the world dominator (a place the USA occupy today) has always defined what was meant to be and how history should carry on.
Fear is a convenient tool to push forward an agenda that would be difficult to pass under usual condition of awarness.
Chomsky suggest the USA to apply to themselves what they expect from their enemies: "to be responsible for their own acts" (including war crimes)
exerpts from the NY Times: "Noam Chomsky is arguably the most important intellectual alive in the world"
whether u share his libertarian views, it's critical to hear what he has to say, because he seldom preach for a anarchist world, he's a philosopher before a politician, and essentialy offers people ways to assert their demand for truth to debunk the delusional lies they are fed everyday to keep the elitist democratic system working as it should.
it gets you thinking...
Profils Paysans: L' Approche (2001/Depardon/France)
Profils Paysans: Le Quotidien (2005/Depardon/France) ++
a great documentary on the last independant farmer owner in deserted countryside of France. Patient observation of introverted people who don't speak much, but given the time are giving their opinion on the latest reforms of the European Union, family heritage, lacking renewing generation, and hard daily labor. They are 80 yold and still walk the cattle every day all year round in the steep mountains! This tradition coming from a centenial history is over, taken over by a disgraceful industry driven by profits rather than quality. This is not a political statement, but the touching portrait of a dying community hanging on their folklore culture.
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Visions d'Europe - segment Prologue (2004/Bela
Vision d'Europe is an omnibus of 25 short films made by 25 directors from the 25 countries of the new extended European Union formed in 2004, adding 10 new countries from eastern Europe beyond the former iron curtain.
B&W. Long plan sequence slowly travelling up a line of homeless people waiting for the opening of the free soup. The camera frames profiles, slightly looking back on their eyes staring at the beguining of the queue with an impatient docile resignation. Dignity, gravity, nonchalent desperation, emphasized by a plaintive symphonic score familiar to Tarr's work.
I recognized an actor (János Derzsi) from Satantango in the very first persons, but most are probably non actors.
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