(Click here to read my general introduction to the 'Films This Week' series of posts.)
|Rachel Weisz as Hypatia of Alexandria in Agora|
Watched Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Despite my initial scepticism, I really liked it. Some of the early scenes felt a little pretentious, but a little pretension never really hurt anybody…and as the film progressed it built in some really interesting, borderline transcendental moments (such as when the daughter gives out the drinks). At times it feels a little bleak (it seems to say that people shouldn't have children, because they'll pay for the sins of their fathers, and because the world's such a shit place people shouldn't bring others into it), but more often it plays like an absurdist, minimalist comedy (I hadn't expected it to be so funny). Most of all, though, I admired the gravitas beneath the humour, and the density of ideas it explores (it feels crammed with themes, thoughts on life and death – perhaps even too many). There were odd moments that didn't work for me (like when the son throws the stone), but overall it totally won me over.
This morning I rewatched Agora. I still think it's great: beautifully crafted, brilliantly acted, stunningly shot, entertaining, involving, intelligent, philosophically rich yet very human, very tragic, and (despite its fictional elements) a story of historical importance. It's pretty much everything you'd want from a film. It seems to be criminally overlooked and underappreciated. Hopefully time will rectify that. This evening I went to see Je, Tu, Il, Elle. I was kind of transfixed by the minimalism of the first section, and I liked the pacing and the use of voiceover (and monologue) throughout, but overall it left me a little cold – though perhaps that's all too appropriate for a film about alienation and estrangement (and perhaps the intended reaction). There were also some strong compositional elements in the final section (there's something sculptural about their naked bodies, like a work by Giambologna).
Went to the BFI to see La Captive, which was excellent. Ackerman's minimalism feels more opulent this time round (the camera moves!), and she's built an effective thriller from the mysteries of love, sex, desire and jealousy, and the inscrutability of the opposite sex (or is it the inscrutability of all other people?). 'Thriller' may be pushing it, perhaps, but that's how it felt to me; how involved I was, how tense I was – the flirtation with genre tropes seems much more complete and cohesive here than it does in Jeanne Dielman. The spectre of Bresson was present once more, and I was also reminded of In the City of Sylvia (I wonder if La Captive was an influence?). The work of Haneke came to my mind, too – though perhaps that's because his works share the Bressonean feel. Afterwards I saw Salome which was, fittingly, another film about the mystery of love and desire. Despite the fact that the score went from extremely effective to extremely distracting, and the film looked like it was being projected from a poorly transferred NTSC DVD, it still proved to be a visually and dramatically powerful experience. There's something extremely exciting about films this stylised, and the sets and costumes were a beauty to behold.
|The Beardsley inspired Salome (1923)|