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. Broadway Danny Rose (Woody Allen)
  2. L’Atalante (Jean Vigo)
  3. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock)
  4. Lenny (Bob Fosse)
  5. The Tenant (Roman Polanski)
  6. The Traveler (Abbas Kiarostami)
  7. The Coward (Satyajit Ray)
  8. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
  9. Dos Monjes (Juan Bustillo Oro)
  10. Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami)

1- If there is such a thing as a Thanksgiving movie, Broadway Danny Rose is it.  I think it might be Woody Allen’s most successful comedy, and that is because it is mostly kind.  Danny Rose is almost a holy fool. His goodness radiates out, and even though he is mistreated worst by those who owe him the most, eventually his kindness makes a difference in the world. There is none of the smarminess that we find in later Allen films, although the scene where he and Mia Farrow are tied up together seems pretty icky.   There are still the Italian caricatures that he is so fond of, but in all fairness he has a lot of Jewish caricatures as well. The jokes are wonderful.  The world of seedy New York is lovingly drawn.  Is it the 60s? The 70s? The 80s? I can’t tell.  The Greek Chorus of old Jewish Standup comics in the Deli that are narrating and commenting on ‘the best Danny Rose story’ are the heart of this movie.  The way they describe how hard it is to get a gig now is heartbreaking but they take it with a joke.  There is only one comic line that falls flat.  Let me know if you know which line I mean.

2- I am done with Jean Vigo.  I watched all his works again on the Criterion Channel. It only amounts to about 200 minutes, since he died so young, but they all bore the life out of me.  I find them tedious and pretentious.  Much noise is made about how revolutionary L’atalante is. I don’t see it.  It bores me. It may be my fault, but I have watched it four times, so the blame can’t entirely lie with me.  I think it is a bit of the James Dean syndrome.  Vigo died at the age of 29, with only one feature and a few shorts to his name.  Like James Dean, perhaps his talent has been overappreciated because there is so little of it available and what exists is flashy. Please tell me why you think I may be wrong.

3- My one great truth about Hitchcock is that his movies are not about what you think they are about.  The Birds is not about a series of unexplained bird attacks.  It is about the unresolved tension in the relationships between Melanie Daniels, Mitch Brenner and his mother, Lydia Brenner, with his sister Cathy thrown in the mix for fun.  Vertigo is not about Madeline Elster’s real identity. It is about the power of erotic self-destruction.  Rear Window is not about what happened to Mrs. Thorvald. It is about the struggle for the upper hand in the relationship between Jeff and Lisa (spoiler alert: it ends in a temporary draw).  And so, Psycho is not about the shower scene and what leads up to it. I am not really sure what it is about, but I have a feeling it is, in a perverse way, about the empowerment of women.  Marion steals the money to fix a situation that her lover seems incapable of fixing.  Lila ‘solves’ the mystery when all the men around her bungle it.  Even Mrs. Bates wins out at the end.   There is an extraordinary amount to male objectivizing for a movie of this time.   When we first see John Gavin in the hotel room, he is present as a sex object, even more  than Marion is.  Anthony Perkins is stunningly beautiful and so endearing as Norman Bates, that the end should always come as a shock even though, sixty years later, we know what it is.  The cliché is that Hitchcock was awful for women.  I think Psycho should make us reassess that thinking.

4- I missed seeing Lenny when it first came out and I was glad to watch it now.  I don’t know if Fosse was being more objective than the normal assessment vis-a-vis Lenny Bruce, but the comic comes off more as a dangerous and self-destructive figure than the shining exemplar of First Amendment rights. It is hard to pity his downward spiral, because as brilliant as he is, he is just MEAN. Dustin Hoffman is spectacular, yes, but Valerie Perrine. Wow.

5- Man, I LOVED The Tenant when it first came out.  I dragged all my friends to see it. I don’t think it has aged as well as the film it seems most closely linked to: Rosemary’s Baby. Apparently these two films plus Repulsion are a loose trilogy.  Rosemary’s Baby wins hands down.

6- The Traveler is Abbas Kiarostami’s first full-length feature, and as such it is solid.  I love movies that show kids to be rotten and not living in some kind of Edenic childhood paradise.  This boy is absolutely amoral and selfish.  Nowhere close to Kiarostami’s later works of genius, but worth a watch for sure.

7- I watched The Coward the day after the great Soumitra Chatterjee died.  He starred in a ton of Satyajit Ray, most famously making his film debut as Apu in the last film of the trilogy.  The Coward is a small film, but like every other Ray film I have seen, it is deeply satisfying. 

8- I am not sure what drew the great Terence Davies to Sunset Song. It is gorgeous to look at and involving, but it doesn’t have the overwhelming emotional impact of his masterpieces. The next film he made, A Quiet Passion about Emily Dickinson, has all the hallmarks of a Davies masterpiece.

9- If The Cabinet of Doctor Calegari and Rashomon got married, moved to 1930s Mexico and had a baby, it would be Dos Monjes. Expressionism and Mexican Romanticism.  The scenes in the monastery remind me of Ivan The Terrible weirdness.  And the multivalent story telling must have seems so fresh coming some 20 years before  Rashomon.  It thrills me that such sui-generis films exist that I never heard of. What else is out there to discover?

10- After watching a ton of Kiarostami films, I went back to The Taste of Cherry, often cited as his masterpiece. I didn’t get it when I saw it 15 years ago.  Having much more context now, I get it but I still don’t love it the way I love The Koker Trilogy and Close-up. It’s probably more my fault that Kiarostami’s.  This time around, I totally got the pacing and the extreme long takes, things which bored me before.  

 

 


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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Elena and the Men (Jean Renoir)
  2. Zéro de Conduite (Jean Vigo)
  3. Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas)
  4. The Holy Man (Satyajit Ray)
  5. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong  Weerasethak)
  6. Of Time and the City (Terence Davies)
  7. My Dinner with Andre (Louis Malle)
  8. David Holzman’s Diary (Jim McBride)
  9. Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette)
  10. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (Karel Zeman)

I recently subscribed to the Criterion Channel and I cannot believe what an incredible streaming service it is. I have watched 13 movies in 5 days and am ready for more!

1- I have watched all three of Jean Renoir’s ‘trilogy’ including The Golden Coach, French Can-Can and now Elena and The Men. I find them all quite amateurish and dull.  This is especially in light of having just rewatched the earth-shattering Rules of the Game.  Is this like Citizen Kanethe one work of genius in a director’s oeuvre? Although hearing Ingrid Bergman speak French for an entire film was entertaining

2- Clouds of Sils Maria is a film that I have been wanting to see for a while and having the Criterion Channel made it possible.  A beautiful and mysterious film. The performances are magnificent especially Kristen Stewart.  I had tucked away in my head a snippet from a review which said that it was a riff on All About Eve and I spent the first half-hour waiting for that to come to light. This turns out not to be the case at all.  It is an examination of how a work of art changes as we change. In this case, an actress who became famous creating the younger of two lead roles in a now-famous play  20 years before, is approached to play the older lead. Her view of the play is in fascinating contrast to the new actress who is taking the role she originally created.  Heady stuff and very moving.

3- I loved the magic realism Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Apparently the director is very influenced by the culture and religion of the area near the border of Laos where much of the film was shot. The depictions of life after death, or death in life, (or perhaps reincarnation) were moving and very puzzling to me.  I wish I knew more about it. The film is stunning to look at.  I love the monkey ghosts.  I need to watch this again very soon.

4- Watching My Dinner with Andre and David Holzman’s Diary was a little too much New York for me.  The 1967 New York of the latter film was something I lived through.  Grimy, bleak, dangerous…all these feeling came back and made it hard to concentrate on what this very clever and witty meta-fictional film was doing.  I think I got it but I don’t want to go back to find out for sure.

 5- I know that I will love any film that I watch by Satyajit Ray.  The Holy
Man is more of a divertissement compared to his other more profound film, but I found it delightful and very funny.  Thank you Criterion.

6- I wonder if someone of my age who grew up in Liverpool would have had the same reaction to Of Time and the City that I had watching David Holzman’s Diary. I would think not, because Terence Davies is a certifiable poet and the grime of the past in his film is so rich and emotional.  Also, the Davies film is a memory piece where as the McBride is more cinema-verite, albeit a funny send-up.

 If you haven’t seen anything by Terence Davies, this might not be the place to start. I heartily suggest the magnificent The Long Day Closes.  

7- I spent a lot of my birthday watching Celine and Julie Go Boating. I had a very happy birthday.

8- This post seems to be a lot about memory and The Fabulous Baron Munchause was something I am sure I had seen on local New York
television when I was seven or eight. OP The combination of cut-out and live action had a madeleine-like effect on me. Funny, beautiful and extremely weird. 

The Baron and friends on the moon

 


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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

    1. La Regle de Jeu  (Jean Renoir)
    2. Crainquebille  (Jacques Feyder)
    3. Zero de Conduite (Jean Vigo)
    4. Shockproof (Douglas Sirk)
    5. The Devil Rides Out (Terence Fisher)
    6. The Gorgon (Terence Fisher)
    7. The Horror of Dracula (Terence Fisher)
    8. Scream of Fear  (Seth Holt)
    9. Burn Witch, Burn (Sidney Hayers)
    10. The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson)

1- The narrator in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is constantly trying to put a reality to names of places that he has not yet visited. The narrator ruminates over the names of train stations on the lines to the north.  The realities of these places often have nothing to do with the actual place, but there is an implacable need to concretize the unknown, hence the projection of what the places might be like. I often have that same situation with films of which I know the titles, but nothing else. I always knew the name of the film Crainquebille, and not knowing anything else, I had decided it was some 1930s quasi-documentary about an idealized type of commune.  Imagine my delight when I found that not only was it not a socialist fever dream but a marvelously acerbic film based on a short story by my well-loved Anatole France! The film was an absolute delight.  Another reason to leave offerings at the altar of TCM.

2- Each time I watch Le Regle de Jeu I am dazzled by the its structural perfection as well as the profound human understanding and feeling behind it.  On the other hand, the films of Jean Vigo make me feel like I am knocking my head against a wall. I have watched Zero de Conduite as well as L’Atalante innumerable times but for some reason I just can’t penetrate them and am bored to tears. I will persevere, keeping mind that it took me six viewings to finally ‘get’ Breathless.

3- Halloween has always been my favorite holiday and I love everything about it. Bless the folks at TCM for feeling the same way. This year they showed a bumper crop of Hammer films of which The Devil Rides Out was a particular revelation. Burn Witch, Burn was another title I had always known, but in this case my surmise of what it was like was much closer to reality than my surmise about Crainquebille.