The Discreet Bourgeois

Possessed by an urgency to make sure all this stuff I love doesn't just disappear

The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

2 Comments

  1. Fanny (Marc Allegret)
  2. Lancelot du Lac (Robert Bresson)
  3. 12 Years A Slave (Steve McQueen)
  4. Persona (Ingmar Bergman)
  5. Yoyo (Pierre Étaix)
  6. Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (Robert Bresson)
  7. Rhapsody in August (Akira Kurosawa)
  8. Shame (Ingmar Bergman)
  9. Sword in the Desert (George Sherman)
  10. 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.

Maria Casares

Maria Casares

 

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.

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Great post as usual:) Sorry, I have not posted in a week. Not to spoil the surprise, I was going to do one on my favorite Otto Preminger films (I still am), but I am a week behind because I made the mistake of trying to get too in depth with his career as a whole. Anyway, love the comments about Bresson and Pierre Etaix (I finally watched some of his films and I love them) 🙂 Anyway, interesting comments about Hitchcock though he made two more films after Topaz and that was Frenzy (1972) and Family Plot (1976). Other than that, you got everything completely correct. Two more things: Did you watch Robert Altman’s Nashville on Criterion, it is a really great edition of a great film (too bad whenever I mention the film, today’s generation of people keep thinking of that ABC TV series that has nothing to do with that 1975 film) and I do not know what you think of Howard Hawks (though I assume you love certain stuff from him), but here is a blog post regarding my favorite films by director Howard Hawks. Here is the link below:

    http://cinematiccoffee.com/2013/09/26/my-favorite-howard-hawks-films-final-revision/

    P.S. keep up the great work as always:)

    • Hi John,

      Of course, I did know that Hitchcock’s last films were Frenzy and Family Plot, but they were slightly better that the two I cite in the post to indicate a decline in powers.

      And as far as Nashville is concerned, I had the Criterion edition on pre-order the moment it was announced and have played it many, many times since. I saw the film when it was first released and it had a profound effect on me. It is probably the film I have seen more than any other. I recently read a book on the making of the film and what amazes me is how complex and rich it is even though the creation of it seemed so chaotic. It is the gift that keeps giving. The dialogue so quotable. Opal from the BBC has many a howler. I adore Nashville.

      I am curious to see your list on Otto Preminger. To me his most lasting work was the persona he created of himself. I always find his films really tedious. Just watched Exodus recently and could not believe how it dragged.

      I do love Nothing Sacred and To Have and Have Not by Howard Hawks, but I must admit I don’t get him. The French Auterists made him into a god and the films that they love (Only Angels Have Wings, Red River) leave me cold.

      In addition to ranking the films in your blog, it would be interesting to hear what you think of the various films you rank. That would make for a great discussion.

      Thanks for reading my post!

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