The Discreet Bourgeois

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


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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)
  2. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
  3. Faust (F.W. Murnau)
  4. Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu)
  5. Early Summer (Yasujiro Ozu)
  6. Mr. Kaplan (Alvaro Brechner)
  7. The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (Yasujiro Ozu)
  8. Diary of a Lost Girl (G. W. Pabst)
  9. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu)
  10. Spotlight (Tom McCarthy)

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1- Citizen Kane is described as the greatest film ever made. While it is impossible (and pointless) to quantify that title, many critics, film lovers and journalists have worked hard to maintain it over the decades.  The highly-regarded Sight + Sound poll, which has appeared every ten years since 1952, had Citizen Kane first place in every poll from 1962 through 2002.  Then in 2012 it fell to second place, replaced by Vertigo. What does it mean? Nothing? A backlash against fifty years of being an unassailable icon? Perhaps, since critics and film devotees are often peevish folk. I had the pleasure of watching both of these films back to back recently.  I had seen them both about a million times. Seeing them in such quick succession highlighted how different they are in form and execution.  On the surface, Citizen Kane is a dazzling, precocious, exhilirating explosion of cinematic joy.  Under the surface, it is a profound rumination on the nature of truth and perception.  Vertigo presents a cool, controlled surface, and underneath it is a roiling sea of suppressed passion. Vertigo is not as linear in its story-telling as it first appears, and Citizen Kane is not as complicated as it first appears. So,  is Vertigo now greater than Citizen Kane? Shut up and stop asking such stupid questions.  Instead, watch them both as many times as you can, then come back here and give me your observations.  Both films are gifts that keep giving.  Don’t insult them by trying to rank them.

2- Late Spring, Early Summer and Tokyo Story comprise what is often referred to as Yasujiro’s Noriko trilogy.  Look for a Have You Tried…… piece on these three films appearing soon at a blog near you.

3- The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice is reassuring in that it shows even masters like Ozu can falter.  The film is OK, but doesn’t have the depth or incisive character study of many of his other films.  Glad I saw it, of course.

4- Diary of a Lost Girl  is the poster child for everything that is perverse and outre in German Expressionism. It is so sick and depressing, yet so much fun to watch. Yuck.  I think I need a Blue Angel chaser soon.

5- You never know where Life’s little pleasures will pop up.  Apparently there is a Spanish Film Club that meets periodically on the University of Chicago campus.  That is where I got to see Mr. Kaplan, a lovely mash-up of Holocaust survivor story and Don Quixote. I have no idea where you can find it but I recommend it highly.  It was delight and very moving.  I will post more information about this film club as I find it.

6- Talking about competent films: Spotlight.  One of the ‘important’ Best Picture Oscar winners which probably win the award because of the serious issues it deals with.  Think Crash, Kramer vs. Kramer, All The President’s Men.  Good films all, but would you keep going back to them? Probably not.

 

 

 

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Alas!

muppets

After one measly season, the brilliant Muppet Show becomes history when ABC decides not to renew it.  The show wasn’t family-friendly enough, they say, and the characters were not in keeping with their historical selves.   Oh, well.  Please see if you can find these episodes somewhere, and revel in the Altman-like complexity of this show. No need to thank me.

 


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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger)
  2. Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper)
  3. A Lesson in Love (Ingmar Bergman)
  4. Un Chien Andalou (Luis Buñuel/Salvador Dali)
  5. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel)
  6. Yoyo (Pierre Étaix)
  7. Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman)
  8. I Was Born But….. (Yasujiro Ozu)
  9. As Long As You Have Your Health (Pierre Étaix)
  10. Baby Face Herrington (Raoul Walsh)
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1- It is almost a cliché now to hear the films of Douglas Sirk referred to as feminist and subversive.  I agree they are. However, I need to stress that Now Voyager got there before Sirk did.  This film, depicting an unloved and abused child triumphing over adversity by her own inner strength, is astounding for the period.  Sure, Charlotte Vale does get great insight from the psychiatrist played by Claude Raines, but he merely puts her on the right track and gives her the shove she needs.  From then on, it is all her own doing. Yes, there is a love interest, but amazingly, as Charlotte Vane reintegrates her damaged psyche into her life, she finds that she has moved beyond the need for a man to save her. Of course, only Bette Davis could have played this.

2- In the early 50s it would have been hard to predict that Ingmar Bergman would turn into the profound artist of the later 50s and beyond.  So many of his early films are light, slightly risqué comedies of manners.  It is interesting to watch an early film like A Lesson In Love and then compare it to Smiles of a Summer Night. Both star the magnificent Eva Dahlbeck and dapper Gunnar Bjornstrand.  Both deal winkingly with the notion of sexual attraction and fidelity.  The early film is nice but very slight.  The latter is light but profound, evidence that Bergman is broadening his scope.

3- Do I change or do films age badly?  I used to adore The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. I even named this blog after it.  Rewatching it proved a bit tedious.  The shaggy-doggedness of it wore thin way before the film ended.  I noticed the same feeling when I rewatched The Exterminating Angel. However, Un Chien Andalou holds up in all its insane and anarchic glory.  Could its short length work in its favor?  Just how long should a shaggy dog run for?What about it, David Lynch?

4- I am rewatching the films of Pierre Étaix in order to write a Have Your Tried  post about him.  Stay tuned. What a delight.

5- TCM continues to be a source of cinematic bounty. No one would accuse Baby Face Herrington of being a classic in any sense of the word, but it gives you a great idea of what a solid B-picture comedy was like in the early 30s.  It was an adaptation of a Broadway play, so you get a glimpse into that world as well. Plus you get an appearance by the always-delightful Una Merkel.  What’s bad about that?

 Una_Merkel_-_still