Sunday, 10 March 2013

(Some of the) Films This Week

(Click here to read my general introduction to the 'Films This Week' series of posts.)
A slightly streamlined version this week as, although I've watched nine films, most of these have been for work purposes (I'm researching a new project), and this means that the notes I've made have been focused around a particular aspect of the films in question – useful for me, probably not very interesting out of context. So, I'm going to hold off from publishing them here. Maybe they'll surface in a future post, maybe in another book – or maybe they'll stay private.
Due to my heavy workload, there have also been films that I've seen and enjoyed (Spellbound and Verity's Summer), which I've simply not written anything about. So, only two this week…
The Legend of the Suram Fortress
Watched The Legend of the Suram Fortress, which was astonishingly beautiful, and quite extraordinary. I really responded to the tableau style and quirkiness…though it feels like a film you need to experience. Writing about it, or trying to intellectualise it, seems pointless. (This is not a criticism, but the highest form of praise).
Went the Barbican to (finally) see A Page of Madness. It was pretty much everything I expected it to be – and everything I wanted it to be. It comes across like a dizzying battering ram to the head. Since watching Sir Arne's Treasure last week I've been wondering if silent cinema somehow had a faster conduit to the inner lives of its characters, and A Page of Madness would seem to support (confirm?) this thesis. There's something about the purity of the medium when it was still silent, its use of a purely visual grammar, which somehow opens up the soul of its characters in a way few modern films seem to achieve. What's so striking about A Page of Madness is the way it's all so simply achieved: double exposures, whip pans, distorted mirrors, tracking shots – it's hardly a fully equipped experimental arsenal… and yet the skill with which these techniques are deployed, and the results achieved, are extraordinary. It's all a bit too much to take in in one viewing (I don't think I could write anything approaching a detailed plot synopsis) and yet the film, as a portrait of madness, seems all the better – all the more effective – for the confusion. I have a feeling that subsequent viewings may well confirm it as one of the supreme achievements of the silent cinema. Truly masterful.
A Page of Madness


unreceivedopinioin said...

Funny, I was just thinking I should ask if you'd seen 'A Page of Madness'. Remarkable film.

(the last thing I'd call it would be simple, though)

unreceivedopinioin said...

But did you see it without sound?

I ask because a) it's important to remember this would have been originally presented with a live benshi commentary and musical accompaniment, and b) the music on the version I saw was modern and very evocative.

Silent film was rarely intended as a purely visual experience. Having said that, 'A Page of Madness' is, as you say, an astounding demonstration of the singular power of cinematic imagery.

Alex Barrett said...

Sorry, yes – I didn't mean it was 'simple'. Quite the opposite. What I meant was it weaves its complex web from simple means (basic camera moves, etc). They're simple techniques used in extraordinary (and complex) ways.

The screening had live music from In the Nursery (so a modern score). But the music, good as it was, didn't make much of an impact – I mean, there's so much going on with the visuals that it's already a sensory overload. 'an astounding demonstration of the singular power of cinematic imagery' indeed.

unreceivedopinioin said...

I found this quote and thought of you:

"In 1914, a book by Arthur J Eddy appeared, Cubists and Post-Impressionists', saying that the art of the future would be more spiritual: the keynote of the modern movement was "the expression of the inner self, as distinguished from the representations of the outer world."