The Discreet Bourgeois

Possessed by an urgency to make sure all this stuff I love doesn't just disappear


4 Comments

The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. The Cabinet of Dr. Calegari (Robert Wiene)
  2. Nashville (Robert Altman)
  3. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles)
  4. La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
  5. The Best Worst Thing That Ever Happened (Lonny Price)
  6. Mifune: The Last Samurai (Steven Okazaki)
  7. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut)
  8. La Regle du Jeu (Jean Renoir)
  9. Crimson Peak (Guillermo Del Toro)
  10. Gojira (Godzilla) (Ishiro Honda)

.

1- Director Amy Heckerling was the Guest Programmer on TCM this month, and one of her picks was The Cabinet of Dr. Calegari. While introducing it, she said one of the funniest things I’ve heard in a long time: ‘It seems there was a shortage of right angles in Germany after World War I.’  I now officially love this woman.

2- It is interesting to have seen Nashville and La La Land so close together.  Nashville is certainly not a musical in the general sense, but it is emblematic of how songs arise in movies since the end of the great era of musicals (roughly 1932 through 1965).  These songs are performances of the characters.  Some are deliciously terrible and some are very moving.  But in no case, does a character break into song in a dramatic situation, with a song which highlights his or her emotion.  That was the trope of the classic age of musicals.  The plot would hit a dramatic point (or a comic point) and suddenly the character or characters would be singing, as if the music could elevate the dialogue to a level that mere speaking couldn’t.   La La Land is a throwback to this style of song.  Much has been said about how the success of this film will usher in a flood of such musicals. I am dubious.  It has been too long since this sort of musical was common fare.  Audiences are too used to either the way Nashville introduces songs or they are used to the Cabaret style where the songs are isolated moments which are outside of the narrative reality of the film – often the depiction of a performance.  I hope that someone talented enough to be able to convince modern audiences that burst-into-song musicals are not ridiculous, but we’ll see……

3- The more I see of the French New Wave, the more I love Ingmar Bergman.  I don’t have much use for this exuberant, youth-oriented genre.  I find it very sloppy and tiresome.  It does not age well. I always had it in my mind that The 400 Blows was an exception.  I just found it tedious to get through, although Antoine Doinel is fun to spend time with.

4- Crimson Peak is a terrible movie that, as you are watching it, you think is a great movie. It has fantastic production values, super actors and a somewhat intriguing script….at least in the beginning. It soon peters out.  I felt the same way about Pan’s Labyrinth.  Heresy, I know

5- Look for a post about Gojira shortly

6- I guess it is still problematic to revere a pantheon of great films, but it is my experience that there are films that on repeated viewing become even more dazzling.  Surely this is a mark of greatness.   La Regle du Jeu and The Magnificent Ambersons are so stuffed with genius that I watch them drop-jawed

Advertisements


2 Comments

The Last Ten Movies I’ve Seen

  1. Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman)
  2. Broadway Danny Rose (Woody Allen)
  3. Nashville (Robert Altman)
  4. I’m No Angel (Wesley Ruggles)
  5. All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk)
  6. Charulata (Satyajit Ray)
  7. Stage Fright (Alfred Hitchcock)
  8. The Magician (Ingmar Bergman)
  9. Zero Focus (Yoshitaro Nomura)
  10. The Music Room (Satyajit Ray)

.

1- I recently had a big, round birthday and I wanted to do nothing more than watch a few of my ‘birthday’ movies.  These are films that one watches over and over again throughout one’s life and that come to define one’s aesthetic. On my big day I got up at 5:30 in the morning and had the pleasure of once again taking that momentous car trip in Wild Strawberries.  I rounded the day out later in the evening with a viewing of the exceedingly kind and lovely Broadway Danny Rose and the, for me, epochal Nashville. I think I need to write a piece about ‘birthday’ movies.

2- Ah, Mae West! Subversive, hilarious and, more than anything else, powerful. Too bad that there aren’t more films.  I’m No Angel is brilliant. I keep hearing her as she saunters past the jury box while she is acting as her own defense attorney and saying to the folks in the box ‘How am I doin’?’  Mae! The best.

3- Both Stage Fright and The Magician I had regarded as lesser works of towering masters. I was kind of right with Stage Fright, but it is still a hugely entertaining movie – just without the subtexts that make Hitchcock a master.  The Magician, on the other hand, is up there with Bergman’s best. Fascinating.

4- As time goes on, I realize that film noir isn’t a genre, it’s a posture. The very messy Japanese film Zero Focus really brought this point home to me. Plus, it made me realize that I find the whole film noir cult a little tedious.  It is all too operatic without the great music.

5- I am belatedly going through Satyajit Ray’s oeuvre.  You don’t need me to tell you that he is one of the absolute masters. You do need me to tell you to watch more Satyajit Ray. Good news: Criterion will be releasing the restored Apu Trilogy in the fall. Rejoice!


2 Comments

The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Guilt Trip (Anne Fletcher)
  2. American Hustle (David O. Russell)
  3. Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale)
  4. An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujiro Ozu)
  5. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman)
  6. Gate Of Hell (Teinosuke Kinugasa)
  7. The Burmese Harp (Kon Ichikawa)
  8. Romance (Clarence Brown)
  9. The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman)
  10. She Done Him Wrong (Lowell Sherman)

1- Sometimes I feel like a big-game hunter when it comes to watching movies. There are films that I track for years but never quite bag.  McCabe & Mrs. Miller was such a movie.  I had been trying to see it ever since I went nuts for Nashville when that masterpiece came out in the 70s.  I finally caught up with McCabe & Mrs. Miller and it made very little impression on me.  I wonder if my viewing of it suffered from the ‘checking it off a list’ mentality? Can one watch too many movies? Possibly.  The Burmese Harp was another title I had been tracking for a long time. I made more of a connection with it than with McCabe & Mrs. Miller and I don’t know why, since it is far from a great film and the consensus is that McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a great film.  Perhaps the Altman style hadn’t crystallized yet? Perhaps watching a master hone his craft not as interesting as watching him at the top of his form. I would be interested in hearing pros and cons concerning McCabe & Mrs. Miller .

2- An artist who always seems to be on the top of his form is Yasujiro Ozu.  An Autumn Afternoon  is his final film and it is just beautiful.  It stayed with me for days.

3- The Virgin Spring holds up as well as I hoped it would. I hadn’t seen it in perhaps 20 years and since I have been playing around with a Bergman piece for this blog, I thought it would be good research. It is even more powerful and stunning than I remember.  I was struck by the similarity of this film to Richard Strauss’ opera Elektra, not because of plot or style, but in the brutal single-mindedness of the conception and execution of both works.

4- I wonder how such a stunningly bad movie like Romance could have been made. Greta Garbo was one of the hugest stars of the time, and she had just made a sensational transition from Silents to Talkies just recently with Anna Christie. This looks like it was slapped together from some creaky, mid-Victorian potboiler just to get Garbo in front of the cameras again quickly.  The melodrama is laughable and I am sure it was laughable in 1930.  I am all for melodrama (see my rhapsodies on Sirk) but this was excruciating to watch.  But try it, you might have fun!


4 Comments

Book Recommendation

nashville

 

 

The Nashville Chronicles by Jan Stuart

In August 1975 I came back to NYC after backpacking around Europe for the first time. I was still swimming in all things European. A very good friend at the time told me ‘There’s a new movie called Nashville. When you see that movie, you see truth’.

Was she ever right. I saw it a few days after my return and it was an experience that I never recovered from. The sheer hugeness of that American world it depicted stunned me. It almost wiped my European trip from my brain. That entire summer I followed that movie all over NYC and have since seen it at least 30 times.

Over the years I have made sure that everyone I care about not only sees this movie but understands why it is probably the great film of the 1970s – probably one of the greatest American film of all times, sharing that pride of place with its equally audacious older brother Citizen Kane.

This book was written on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the film. I never knew it existed until I happened to see the author’s by-line in a review in the New York Sunday Times Book Section a few weeks ago.

This is essential reading for anyone else obsessed with the movie. Stuart interviewed almost everyone involved with the making of Nashville and has woven together a chatty, gossipy but never cheap backstage story. The thorough explanation of how Altman’s improvisational style gave the film its unique form is probably what led my friend to declare it as ‘Truth’ so many years ago.

See the movie, please, at least 25 times. Then luxuriate in this tasty book!

(reprinted from goodreads.com)