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. Black Girl (Sembene Ousmane)
  2. Far From The Madding Crowd (John Schlesinger)
  3. All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk)
  4. Till The Clouds Roll By (Richard Whorf)
  5. The Mummy’s Ghost (Reginald Le Borg)
  6. Persona (Ingmar Bergman)
  7. Peterloo (Mike Leigh)
  8. Rasputin, The Mad Monk (Don Sharp)
  9. The Mysterious Doctor  (Benjamin Stoloff)
  10. Le Rayon Vert (Summer) (Eric Rohmer)


1- I had seen clips from Black Girl on TCM when they did that terrific series on World Cinema.  They were so haunting. I was glad to get the chance to see the whole film.  Powerful, poetic, tragic and very beautiful.  That mask, wow!

2- In my last post, I decried turning great novels into film. Well I was a little wrong. Far From The Madding Crowd is a very commendable attempt to turn Thomas Hardy’s novel into a film.  The book, of course, is way better, but the movie hits on all of the book’s main points and really gets to the emotion behind it all.  Pretty arty camera work by Nicholas Roeg considering that this was a typical big-budget prestige project. I want to read more Hardy.

3- I am currently teaching a course on the Great American Songbook and this weekend I will be speaking about Jerome Kern.  I figured that it would be a good time to watch Till The Clouds Roll By, even though I knew that its ties with reality were very tenuous.  It turns out that they were ridiculously tenuous.  This had hardly anything to do with Kern’s life, the way that Night and Day has nothing to do with Cole Porter’s life and Rhapsody in Blue has nothing to do with George Gershwin’s life.  What this film really is, is an excuse to have MGM’s musical stars do star turns singing or dancing to Kern songs, which is fun enough.  But what a stinker of a movie.

4- The Mummy’s Ghost – it is Hallowe’en season and I must watch as many classic horror movies as I can, many of them bad.  Like this one.  How can a 61 minute movie feel like it is three hours long? At least it had that classic Universal horror-romance atmosphere.

5- Thanks to Kathleen Rooney and Martin Seay, true friends who helped be to wrestle with just what the hell Persona is. I have seen and loved this movie many times but could never articulate what I felt it was. Thanks to K & M I’m a little closer to that goal.  All three of us are pretty convinced that it is a masterpiece sui generis.

6- Mike Leigh is a giant who walks among us. I may through the word ‘masterpiece’ around too much, but his films really deserve the name.  Peterloo is an epic yet intimate depiction of one of the first labor rebellions in English history, and its terrifying suppression. I hope it gets wide release.  I saw it at the Chicago Film Festival and I hope it doesn’t disappear.

7- I get such perverse pleasure from All That Heaven Allows. I love showing it to new people, because by the end it is not what they expected.

8- Please see Le Rayon Vert and read my post about it.









Le Rayon Vert aka The Green Ray aka Summer

I saw this Eric Rohmer film when it came out in 1986. It was released under the title Summer, which is a particularly useless title which doesn’t mean much, except that the film takes place during summer vacation and the heroine is preoccupied with how to spend the time.

The French title is Le Rayon Vert which translates to ‘The Green Ray’. This is the name of a long-forgotten novel by Jules Verne which has a great bearing on the film’s entire story arc.

I had nice memories of it but I hadn’t seen it again until TCM (Heaven bless them!) showed it last week. I was bowled over by it.

The plot is very simple: Delphine, a secretary, has been dumped by the friends she intended to spend the vacation with. She desperately tries to come up with alternative plans, because no self-respecting Parisian can remain in Paris during August. All her attempts pan out disastrously. The blame for this bad time can partially be laid at the feet of our heroine. She is second only by Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse in her infuriating sense that she is right.

The difference between Delphine and Miss Woodhouse is that, as we slowly discover, Delphine is actually right. Her restless bouncing from vacation spot to vacation spot, her despairing hopes for discovering love are outwardly neurotic, but as we spend more time in her company, we realize that there is something bigger going on here.

Rohmer is the king of the static camera. This allows his characters to sit, discuss, debate and argue in a very Gallic way for a very long time. The conversations are captured by Rohmer with a loving irony, but the beauty of it all is that, for all her comical self-involvement (you should hear her rationalization for being vegetarian!) we realize that Delphine could be teetering on the edge of the abyss. The attempts to have ‘fun’ seem to get more desperate. Her final attempt at fun in Biarritz seems to be heading for the ultimate French bummer. Then a very peculiar thing happens. Love comes to the rescue. We realize that Delphine and her skepticism about happiness was right up until now, but the magical moment in the Biarritz train station changes everything.

Delphine, who has armed herself with all kinds of rationalization that prevented ‘happiness’, finally realizes that now is the time to let go of them and embrace happiness.

At that beautiful moment we realize that she was right all along and our loving head-shaking at her foibles was wrong.

This is the most convincing depiction of falling in love that I can think of, and it comes as a beautiful relief for Delphine and for us.

I was delighted by the resolution of this film, because at the end you realize that what seemed like a director’s loving look at a neurotic was actually a director showing us a person learning that she doesn’t need her rationalizations any more and that by casting them off, she can be happy. Ecstatically so.

Unfortunately, this film doesn’t seem to be available in a reliable region 1 (USA) edition. Get with the program, Criterion Collection.

In the meantime, if you would like to see it, (and believe me, you would like to see it), I have it on my DVR.