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. Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven)
  2. June Night (Per Lindberg)
  3. Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding)
  4. The Oyster Princess (Ernst Lubitsch)
  5. Christmas in Connecticut (Peter Godfrey)
  6. The Street of Love and Hope (Nagisa Oshima)
  7. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desireee Akhavan)
  8. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky)
  9. This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner)
  10. The King (David Michôd)

1- I have been studying the Turkish language for a while and have been watching Turkish series on Netflix for practice and fun.  Mustang is the first Turkish film I watched, courtesy of the Criterion Channel.  Very absorbing film which reminded me of The Virgin Suicides. Five orphan sisters are subject to suffocating restrictions by their guardians: their grandmother and extremely awful uncle.  It was interesting to see the five different responses to the oppression. Some submit and destroy themselves.  Others become empowered and save themselves.  Apparently the director wrote the screenplay based on her and her sisters’ own story. 

2- In anticipation of the release of Guillermo Del Toro’s remake, the Criterion Channel was featuring the original Nightmare Alley. Have I mentioned that I don’t care for Film Noir? This is one of the noiriest of noirs.  You do get to see Tyrone Power play a bad man for a change, but the grimness is unrelenting.  It is good to know, though, that there always seems to be opening for geeks in carnivals.

3- It is interesting to see Ingrid Bergman in a film from her native Sweden before she became the quintessential Hollywood star. June Night is not a masterpiece by any means. It is most comparable to a Hollywood ‘women’s picture”.  That said, it is interesting to see how much more frankly sexuality was dealt with in Europe at a time when the Hays code had already put a stranglehold on Hollywood’s forms of expression.

4- TCM was showing a bunch of Ernst Lubitsch films including several silents which he made in Europe before settling in the US.  The Oyster Princess is one of the nuttier films you will ever see and totally enjoyable with a title character that makes Becky Sharp look like Mother Teresa.

5-  Yeah, yeah. It’s a Wonderful Life. For your faithful blogger it wouldn’t be Christmas without at least one viewing of Christmas in Connecticut. Funny, sexy and cozy. Plus you get S.Z. ‘Cuddles’ Szakal and Una O’Connor!

6- After reveling in the sublime masterpieces of Naruse, Uzo and Mizoguchi, I have been exploring the later, grittier, perversely funny and upsetting films of Nagisa Oshima.  The Street of Love and Hope, as my sister-in-law says, has neither.  Just a very bleak yet fascinating look at the economic hardship of Japan after WWII.

7- The Miseducation of Cameron Post is another film depicting gay conversion camps. While none of the films I have seen on this topic present these places in a good light, this one presented the people who run this particular camp and very tortured, sad individuals. Great performance from John Gallagher, Jr. as a councilor who has been ‘cured’ and a terrifyingly restrained performance by the underappreciated Jennifer Ehle as the not quite Nurse Ratched who runs the joint. For a more nuanced take on this theme I recommend Boy Erased.

8- It had been at least 35 years since I saw Andrei Rublev. I loved it at the time.  It was the first Tarkovsky  I had ever seen.  Since then, I have seen all his films.  They are sui generis, Andrei Rublev especially so. Only the Medieval films of Ingmar Bergman give you a sense of living in the time.  Andrei Rublev is all over the place and some of it is heavy slogging, but the last section about the casting of a bell stands on its own as magnificent and fascinating.

9- I have been leading a Shakespeare seminar and we just finished reading Henry V. I had rewatched the Branagh and Olivier versions.  I had heard of The King and was curious since it was not a film of the Shakespeare text but it did tell roughly the same story.  A tamer, more sagacious Falstaff, an ineffectual, diseased Henry IV, an even more supercilious Dauphin. They are all here, along with the beautiful, spidery Timothee Chalamet playing Hal/Henry V.   It is a curious film.  Quite involving, but you wonder what they were thinking when they made it. It seems that they took pains to show that this was not a Shakespeare adaptation, yet so many bits of the script only make sense if you know the Shakespeare (I’m looking at you, tennis balls!)