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

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  1. Secrets of Women (Ingmar Bergman)
  2. The Princess from the Moon (Kon Ichikawa)
  3. Brother (Kon Ichikawa)
  4. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston)
  5. All is True (Kenneth Branagh)
  6. Day of Wrath (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  7. Don’t Look Now (Nicholas Roeg)
  8. The Red Badge of Courage (John Huston)
  9. The End of the Affair (Edward Dmytryk)
  10. Booksmart (Olivia Wilde)

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1- Early Ingmar Bergman can be very disconcerting, but so can later Ingmar Bergman. In both cases you are waiting for the sparks of genius. In the later works you sometimes have to sift through a ton of murky symbolism to find it. In the earlier films, you have to sift through a genius finding his voice and making some cringeworthy art along the way. Secrets of Women (or Waiting Women as the Swedish title is better translated) is firmly in the early camp. It is a bunch of vignettes strung together around a flimsy story. Some of the sequences are good, especially the most famous one about jaded married couple Eva Dahlbeck and Gunnar Bjornstrand getting stuck in an elevator. There is a pretty bad sequence taking place in Paris (this is the 1950s after all) that is way too arty for its own good.

2- TCM has a weekly feature late night on Sundays called TCM Imports which showcases foreign-language films. Quite often they will have a double bill of the same director. A few weeks ago they showed two by Kon Ichikawa back to back. They showed Brother from 1960 and The Princess from the Moon from the 1980s. The former was a classic ‘story of today’ depicting the cruelty of a dysfunctional family and was good enough. The latter was just insane. Obviously Ichikawa had seen and studied Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind very closely. What starts out as a classic rendering of a fairy-tale of a mysterious girl who fell from the moon, quickly winds up in Spielbergland down to the exact kind of spaceship as seen in CE3K. This is one nutty movie and, alas, one of the last appearances of Toshiro Mifune.

3- I know I am supposed to be enraptured by the films of Carl Theodor Dreyer, but they bore me to tears. Day of Wrath even has sex and I find it dull. Yes, The Passion of Joan of Arc is genius and I seem to remember being swept away by Ordet, but the others….yikes. Gertrude – yikes.

4- The Red Badge of Courage and The End of the Affair are excellent specimens of how to adapt and how not to adapt great works of literature. The Red Badge of Courage apparently has as thwarted a production history as The Magnificent Ambersons. It was originally twice as long as the current version and in its entirety it was supposed to be the greatest war film ever made. I can definitely see that. The screenplay really captures the ambiguity of the wonderful Crane novel. The acting is uniformly super.

The End of the Affair is another story. I had just finished reading the Grahame Green novel and years earlier I had seen the beautiful Neal Jordan adaptation. This version was from the 1950s and I don’t know what the screenwriters were reading but nothing of Green’s ruminations on sex, and God and sin survive. Plus Van Johnson (!) is perhaps the best example of miscasting I can think of!

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

  1. Ingmar Bergman would totally get better as time went on. Love Japanese cinema, but I have to check out those two titles. I love the work of Carl Theodor Dreyer. Speaking of The Red Badge of Courage, did you ever hear of the Lillian Ross book entitled “Picture” about the making of the film. It was re-released in 2002 with a forward by John Huston’s daughter Anjelica Huston. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    P.S. I am also a huge Nicholas Roeg fan 🙂 Sad that he passed away last year 😦

  2. Thanks for stopping by. I have to look for that book. I never know about the film’s troubled production history!

  3. My mentor and personal hero Jane Alison is a huge fan of THE END OF THE AFFAIR—the novel, not the film; I was initially put off by it, but Jane makes a strong case.

    Kathleen Rooney and I were just talking with our young friend Logan—you remember Logan—about THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC the other day, in the context of young dashing Artaud. We still need to see that! (And perhaps stop there with Dreyer?)

  4. Artaud is so dreamy in a skanky way in that film! I guess I never showed that for a Movie Night. You did see snippets of it chez moi when we saw Anna Karina tearing up while watching it in Vivre Sa Vie. The film is overwhelming. And please…..don’t let me prejudice you against Dreyer!

  5. Also, Grahame Green I love. I think he is a superb stylist and even though he has such an unappealing world-view it is so compelling. What appeals to me especially is how central religion/ethics/morality is to his characters and stories, but in such an original way. Nothing mawkish. BRIGHTON ROCK blew me away and there is a superb film starring a young Richard Attenborough. Frankly, if one is not pre-disposed to take religion somewhat seriously I don’t know what one would do with these novels. I just bought THE QUIET AMERICAN and THE HEART OF THE MATTER. A happy summer reading list, no?

  6. That’s funny re Greene and religion; I remember Jane telling us something to the effect of, “I’m a complete atheist, but when I read THE END OF THE AFFAIR I think: Well . . . maybe.”

    I think you DID show Passion of Joan to the Movie Group, but K and I were absent for some reason!

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