- Fanny (Marc Allegret)
- Lancelot du Lac (Robert Bresson)
- 12 Years A Slave (Steve McQueen)
- Persona (Ingmar Bergman)
- Yoyo (Pierre Étaix)
- Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (Robert Bresson)
- Rhapsody in August (Akira Kurosawa)
- Shame (Ingmar Bergman)
- Sword in the Desert (George Sherman)
- The Golden Coach (Jean Renoir)
1- It was interesting to watch Lancelot du Lac and Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne so close to each other. Lancelot du Lac is a prime example of what we expect from a Bresson film. It is an austere (very austere) telling of the Arthurian legend of adultery. I found it extremely moving in its depiction of an ideal world devolving into nothingness. Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, on the other hand, is very atypical Bresson. His second feature, made from a script by Jean Cocteau, has more of the sensibility of that writer-filmmaker’s work than of the ‘Catholic Atheist’ Bresson we have come to know and perhaps love. What is so interesting to me is that all the criticism and articles I found concerning Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne has the writers twisting themselves into pretzels trying to prove that this film has all the elements of his later, more ‘Bressonian’ films. It doesn’t really. What we have here is the theory of the auteur exercising its tyranny over any thinking about film. I suppose I am guilty of it too, since I always list films followed by the name of the director.
Also, I am so taken with the performance of Maria Casares in Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne . Best known as Death in Cocteau’s Orpheus and the unloved wife in Les Enfants du Paradis, she has one of the most impressive faces in cinema and was a hell of an actress.
2- By watching Yoyo, I completed watching all the films in the wonderful Criterion box set of the complete films of Pierre Etaix. A genius, ladies and gentlemen, descended from the line of Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati. I hope to write a Have You Tried…. post about him soon. But don’t wait for that! Untold delights await you from this comic master!
3- Some artists go from strength to strength as they age, leaving us undeniable masterpieces at the end of their lives. Otello and Falstaff by Verdi, Parsifal by Wagner, The Dead by John Huston are examples of this. But there are other genius who seem to fizzle out at the end of their creative life. It is hard to see how the director of Psycho and The Birds would have been content with Topaze. I was thinking about this watching Akira Kurosawa’s Rhapsody in August. This film comes shortly after his majestic epics Kagemusha and Ran, and compared to those mighty cinematic brothers, this film is little more that poorly executed cinematic claptrap. The platitudes about the affects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the Japanese and America survivors some 40 years after the fact, are cringe-worthy. The whole thing is inept and annoyingly sentimental. I really wanted to strangle that gaggle of a kids.
All that I have left to watch of the Kurosawa oeuvre is Madadayo, which, from its description, sounds like a bad Japanese version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips. I am nervous.
4- In the introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain writes:
‘In this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary “Pike County” dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in a haphazard fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech.
I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Golden Coach by Jean Renoir. I have no idea why the decision was made to have everyone in the film speak English, but because of this, the film often devolves into an incomprehensible Babel. Even Anna Magnani, the voracious star of the film, lapses into streams of Italian swearing from time to time and she seems much relieved.