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. Tender Mercies (Bruce Beresford)
  2. Henry V (Kenneth Branagh)
  3. Madadayo (Akira Kurosawa)
  4. Henry V (Laurence Olivier)
  5. Fantastic Planet (René Laloux)
  6. Trouble In Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch)
  7. Z (Costa-Gavras)
  8. The Dybbuk (Michal Waszynski)
  9. The Double Life of Vèronique (Krysztof Kieślowski)
  10. 45 Years (Andrew Haigh)

1- Horton Foote is the greatest playwright America has produced. Don’t talk to me about O’Neill or Kushner or Tennessee Williams. Foote’s plays are masterpieces of understatement with a seething core of emotion below the surface. Tender Mercies is a gorgeous character study of a very simple, very complicated man, portrayed beautifully by Robert Duvall. The scene when Lenny Van Dohlen and his friends pull up to the gas station has all the trapping of a gang encounter. But no, these men are unbearably sweet and are great admirers of the Duvall character, a successful country musician who has fallen on hard times. The switch that Foote plays invites us deeply into his world of kindness and tender mercies.

2- For a comparison of the Branagh and Olivier versions of Henry V see this

3- I just don’t know what to make of Akira Kurosawa’s last few films. They are incredibly sentimental and not showing any of the majesty and genius we expect from most of his movies. Madadayo is his last film and it is a sort-of Japanese Goodbye Mr. Chips, with all the ominous sentimentality that would imply. I found it really hard to get through. It is based on the life of a educator and very popular Japanese author. Perhaps I would have been more involved if had been familiar with his work.

4- I had Fantastic Planet on my radar for decades. It was an interesting, loopy watch. For me, though, so much of science fiction is about surrendering yourself to a complicated, constructed world. Generally, I find that tiresome.

5- When considering a masterpiece of comedy like Trouble In Paradise, the cliché is “They don’t make ’em like that anymore.” I am never satisfied with that. If ‘they’ made them like that once, why can’t ‘they’ make them again? Thinking about this after watching Trouble In Paradise again, it occurred to me that the culprit is the Production Code implemented by the studios as a pre-emptive strike to show that moviegoing public that Hollywood was not as depraved as right-wing groups were imputing. Before 1934, a sophisticated sex farce like Trouble In Paradise was made by American studios all the time. There was a great thriving of European artists. The puritanical Hays code shut that down for decades. When sex was finally allowed to be seen overtly in films again, it was in a prurient fashion in the 60s and 70s. The adult depictions of relations between men and women was now almost adolescent in its self-congratulatory ‘liberation’ of those decades. Sophistication was gone. More to come on this topic.

6- Z is a terrific political thriller that holds up beautiful after five decades. It is so refreshing to see an unapologetically left-wing film. And even though he was a disgusting Anti-Semite, the score by Mikis Theodorakis is a classic.

7- I thought I had seen The Dybbuk years ago, but nothing in it seemed familiar. I thought it was fascinating but I understand how it could be difficult for certain audiences in the way opera or Kabuki are. What we get to see is how the Yiddish theater of the time looked. Like opera and Kabuki, it is stylized and very little of it is naturalistic. There is a thought that it was influenced by German Expressionism, but I don’t see it. It is a creepy business and I am glad to have had the chance to see it again.

8- I was bowled over by Three Colors. I thought that it was time to go back and rewatch The Double Life Of Veronique. It was the first Kieślowski film I ever saw. At the time of first viewing, I was left baffled and cold. I am sorry to say that this time around I had the same feeling. Please tell me why you love this film. I am really interested. It looks stunning and Irene Jacob is glorious, just as she was in Red. But I just don’t know how to go about getting into this film. Help!

9- I was tremendously moved by Weekend by Andrew Haigh. I was glad too see his 45 Years. It has many of the attributes of the earlier film, especially its close examination of the relation between to people. In Weekend the couple meet during the film and face a very uncertain future by the end of said weekend. In 45 Years we spend time with a couple who have been together for, well, 45 years. They dialogue in both films is terse but laden with emotion. Two icons of 60s British cinema, Tom Courtney and Charlotte Rampling are brilliant.

Charlotte Rampling then and now