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. The Terence Davies Trilogy
  2. I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing (Patricia Rozema)
  3. The Tale of Zatoichi (Kenji Misumi)
  4. Le Rayon Vert (Eric Rohmer)
  5. The Phantom of Liberty (Luis Buñuel)
  6. Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)
  7. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson)
  8. Dead Man (Jim Jarmush)
  9. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Ana Lily Amirpour)
  10. The Lair of The White Worm (Ken Russell)


1- Terence Davies has a relatively small, but amazingly powerful output. The three early, short films that comprise the Trilogy were made between 1976 and 1983. They trace the sad life of a closeted Gay man in Liverpool of the 50s and 60s. At the time, it must have been an unflinching look at the cruelty of society to Gays at time when homosexuality was illegal. I suppose it is a good thing that such tragic depictions seem cliche and quaint now. The value of these three little films is more for the chance to see in embryo form the impressionistic style Davies would master in this next two features, Distant Voices/Still Lives and his masterpiece The Long Day Closes. As with the work of any genius, it is worth watching, even if it isn’t among his great creations.

2- I remembered I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing fondly even though I hadn’t seen it for over forty years. It holds up beautifully. The kooky, endearing Polly is the moral center of a corrupt art world that she kind of fixes with her passive goodness. In this respect she reminds me of Fanny Price in Mansfield Park. At the time it was pigeon-holed as a Feminist film. Yes, it is, but is more than just that. It is a sweetly human film. Thank you Criterion Collection, for once again restoring an old friend to me. I still don’t get the Prufrock reference in the title.

Polly in flight

3- I’ve been curious about the Japanese series about Zatoichi the blind swordsman. There are a ton of entries. I watch the first one and that did me just fine

4- Please see this post about the divine Le Rayon Vert

5- The Phantom of Liberty is more chaotic, but much funnier than this blog’s namesake, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. That film’s insanity overstays its welcome after a while. Maybe because it is (trying) to tell a cohesive story, but Phantom is a hodgepodge of insane but often hilarious situations. The dinner talk while sitting on toilets has to be seen to be believed.

6- Back when I first subscribed to TCM and Netflix (when they were still sending discs!), I decided to make a little project of seeing every film that won the Best Picture Oscar from Wings (1927) on. I got all caught up, then Covid put a kink in my theater-going, so I missed Nomadland when it was playing. What do you say about such a relentlessly bleak film with a central character who is absolutely alienating? It reminds me of my reaction to Madame Bovary. I hated spending time in that world with that awful person, but I admit it was fascinating. Nothing like that here. If you want a film where Frances MacDormand has diarrhea in a can, then this is the film for you. No denying the talent of all concerned, but what was the point? I welcome comments!

7- I missed a lot of releases due to Covid and had to wait until they showed up on the streaming services. I kept an eye out for Licorice Pizza and it finally showed up on Amazon Prime. I loved everything I’ve seen by Paul Thomas Anderson up to and including the extraordinary Magnolia. What I loved about Magnolia was that it seemed to be the grandchild of my beloved Nashville. This connection was borne out when Anderson was asked to help Robert Altman finish his last film, The Prairie Home Companion. The films after Punch-drunk Love were rapturously received, but left me confused and cold. I don’t get what the point was of either The Master or The Phantom Thread. And I really disliked There Will Be Blood. So, I approached Mystic Pizza with hope and trepidation. There is no denying that this is the work of an accomplished director/writer. The acting is tremendous. I think, though, the point of the film was its loving recreation of the Los Angeles of the 1980s where Anderson grew up. It is not exactly an exercise in nostalgia, because a key element of nostalgia is missing – a slightly magical depiction of the past. The locales of Los Angeles are very mundane, the characters are uninteresting and eternally horny. I am not even going to bring up the discussion of possible statutory rape in the story. I would really like to hear from someone who loved this so they can tell me how it hit them so emotionally. I just found it smarmy and cold, but well-made.

8- I haven’t anything by Jim Jarmusch since Stranger Than Paradise was released. Thank you, Criterion, for giving me a chance to catch up with this deconstructionist Western, Dead Man. It is a beautiful-to-look-at, nutty-to-watch movie. Not quite sure what the thesis is. Some kind of Beckett-like “life is nothing” message, I guess. But I had a great time watching it and it stars Johnny Depp at his most beautiful

9- It is Halloween – the most wonderful time of year (sorry Rudolph). I try to watch as many horror films during the month of October as is humanly possible. Everything I had heard about A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night made it seem like my kind of film. It did not disappoint. First of all, it must have been made for about $17 and it looks gorgeous. The atmospherics are the best I have seen in a low-budget film since Carnival of Souls. The image of the skateboarding, Hijab-wearing, woman-avenging vampire, known simply as the girl, is up there with all the great horror figures of the past. It is a feminist tract, I suppose and a vivid revenge film for the violence done against women. I loved it.

10- As I said, October is Halloween season and Criterion is featuring a slew of vampire movies, apparently just for me. I always loved the vampire genre with its erotic subtext of mixing sex with immortality. I grew tired of Ken Russell’s shenanigans years ago. But, hey, it’s Halloween so why not watch his almost universally deplored Lair of the White Worm. It became apparent while watching this, why his other films are such nutty junk but this one wasn’t. In his more famous films, he applies his over-the-top, hysterical aesthetic in the service of telling serious stories, like the life of Gustav Mahler, or Women in Love by D.H.Lawrence. This film, instead, was taken from a minor work of Bram Stoker which was probably not the good to begin with, so there was no harm in applying the Russellmania and it was a great ride. Imagine a Hammer film without the great story telling but with a lot more sex, and you’ll have an idea of what was going on here. Amanda Donohoe is absolutely nuts and I thank her for it.

Happy Halloween Everybody