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 Human Condition  (Masaki Kobayashi)
  2. The Long Day Closes (Terence Davies)
  3. Onibaba (Kaneto Shindo)
  4. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
  5. Nothing Sacred (William Wellman)
  6. The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks)
  7. In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar Wai)
  8. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)
  9. Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer)
  10. Humanity and Paper Balloons (Sadao Yamanaka)

 

1. The Human Condition has been on my radar ever since I was a kid and saw it mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘longest movie’. I think nowadays it would be considered more of a mini-series since it consists of three separate two-part films. When considered in that light the prospect of watching six 90 minute films is less daunting than watching one 540 minute one.  Politically, the film is powerful.  It is astounding that Japan produced a film that is so self-indicting regarding the abuses of its fascistic military in Manchuria during World War II. There is certainly nothing comparable from Germany after the war or at all!.  The Human Condition is certainly ambitious and powerful with amazing set pieces, but the length does give rise to longeurs as well.   Watching it I felt like I was watching one of those epic American All-Star movies like The Longest Day. In fact, two of the hugest Japanese actors of the time, Chishu Ryu and Hideko Takamine, appear in cameos late in the film much in the way Red Buttons appeared in The Longest Day.  Wonder if there was some influence there.  The Longest Day came out after The Human Condition but that sort of thing was very popular at the time – consider Around the World in Eighty Days.  I have become an admirer of Kobayashi, especially for Kwaidan and Samurai Rebellion.  And Tatsuya Nakadai sure is dreamy.

2. If you haven’t read my Scene Analysis of the penultimate scene of The Long Day Closes, please do.  I hope it will inspire you to watch the whole magnificent creation.

3. I had forgotten how hilarious Nothing Sacred is and what an absolute mess The Big Sleep is. I love them both.

4. To paraphrase Enobarbus from Antony and Cleopatra, there are films which cloy the appetites they feed, but In The Mood For Love makes hungry, where most it satisfies’. I want to be watching it, always.

5. Humanity and Paper Balloons is yet another beautiful cinematic experience I owe to reading Donald Richie’s One Hundred Years of Japanese Film.  The director Sadao Yamanaka died very young as a soldier in Manchuria, which makes this film and The Human Condition neat bookends to my current list. As others have noted, it is also a nice companion piece to Kurosawa’s The Lower Depths, based on Dostoevsky.  We’ll never know what the world lost with Yamanaka dying so young, but if this film is any indication, it lost a lot.

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments

The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. The Suitor (Pierre Étaix)
  2. Good Health (Pierre Étaix)
  3. Sitting Pretty (Walter Lang)
  4. Satan Met A Lady (William Dieterle)
  5. Mr. Thank You (Hiroshi Shimizu)
  6. The V.I.P.s (Anthony Asquith)
  7. Days Of Being Wild (Wong Kar Wai)
  8. Out Of The Past (Jacques Tourneur)
  9. The Maltese Falcon (John Huston)
  10. The School of Babel (Julie Bertuccelli)

 

1- What fun to have the opportunity to watch two versions of Dashiell Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon so soon after one another. Made by Warner Brothers, the studio that made the more famous and undeniably greater John Huston version, Satan Met A Lady stars Bette Davis ostensibly in the Brigid O’Shaughnessy role and Warren Williams not at all reminiscent of Bogart’s Sam Spade. I can’t speak with authority as I have not read the novel, but my guess is the John Huston classic is probably closer to the feel of the book.  Satan Met A Lady seems to be a rush-job, B-picture, something that would fill out the bottom half of a double-bill.  The story is somewhat confused (as, I guess, the story of The Maltese Falcon should be), but the tone is what’s off.  Is this a light-hearted murder mystery romp? A proto-noir affair?  Hard to tell what the intentions were.  The results are not satisfactory.  The John Huston film remains sublime and gets sublimer and sublimer with each viewing.  The humor is there, but so is the great themes of greed, trust and integrity – something Satan Met A Lady was not very interested in.

2- I need to write a little piece on Pierre Étaix and his brilliant use of what I would term ‘slow comedy’.  Much of comedy, either verbal or physical, comes at you in a torrent, and part of the thrill of it is the sheer sensory overload.  Not here. The situations cook slowly and boil over into an inevitable climax.  Wonderful stuff.

3- Does anyone read what I write here?

4- Watching Mr. Thank You (Arigato-san) made me realize how rare and difficult it is to portray a truly good person without the whole thing becoming cloying and self righteous.  A lovely and very innovative film, with what must have been a pioneering use of location filming.

5- Film Noir is one of those things that people feel they are supposed to revere out of all proportion.  I’ve always found the nihilism and cynicism to have an air of posturing about it. Nowadays, all you need is dark lighting, a betraying woman and death of the hero and voila! you have yourself a noir film.  These films have as little to do with the films originally identified by the French critics as noir, as most films labeled ‘Hitchcockian’ have to do with an actual Hitchcock film. Even Hitchcock didn’t always make a successfully ‘Hitchcockian’ film. That said, I was happy to review Out Of The Past, the noir that nowadays is viewed as the noirest of noirs. The relentlessly downbeat tone gets to me. I know that it is strictly a matter of taste and there are those that revel in this film and the genre itself, but I remain skeptical.

 

 


6 Comments

The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Dodsworth (William Wyler)
  2. End of Summer (Yasujiro Ozu)
  3. Stromboli  (Roberto Rossellini)
  4. In The Heat Of The Night (Norman Jewison)
  5. The Graduate (Mike Nichols)
  6. Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar-wai)
  7. The Bad Seed (Mervyn Leroy)
  8. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
  9. Across The Pacific (John Huston)
  10. The Plot Thickens (Ben Holmes)

1- It was interesting revisiting In The Heat Of The Night and The Graduate on the same night on TCM. The latter holds up much better. Both are firmly rooted in a 1960s Zeitgeist, but In The Heat Of The Night  achieves a timelessness in the same way The Grapes of Wrath achieves a timelessness while being firmly rooted in the Depression

2- Is it possible that Days of Being Wild is even more exquisite than In The Mood For Love?  Maybe. Sure glad I don’t have to choose between them! The nocturnal, triste love episode between cop Andy Lau and distraught Maggie Cheung is one of the most beautiful things I have seen in a long, long time. Xie xie, Wong Kar-wai

3- I always knew about Across The Pacific and wondered why a film with almost the identical creative team as The Maltese Falcon was not more famous.  Finally caught up with it last night and I guess the blatant propaganda of the film’s final half weighs down the sexy fun of the first half.  Still, see it. It’s a hoot.

4- I curse myself for waiting so long to see Holy Motors. I could have been watching it over and over again all these months, successfully convincing myself that it might just be one of the most spectacular things ever committed to celluloid.  But don’t take my word for it.  Please read Michael Glover Smith’s lovely review, nay , his lovely paean to this exquisite work. (I sure wish I could write like this! ) Excuse me. I need to go watch Holy Motors again.