(Click here to read my general introduction to the 'Films This Week' series of posts.)
|The Place Beyond the Pines|
Watched Pasolini's Notes for an African Orestes. It was an interesting insight into his creative process, a working out of ideas and a thinking through of ideologies (a grinding of his axe, you could say). It was only slightly let down by an (unintentionally) amusing interlude of awful jazz, which quickly got tedious.
In the evening I went to see The Place Beyond the Pines. Initially, I was a little disappointed when it took a turn towards crime drama (I was hoping Luke would resist the temptation), but actually it was so well handled that my reservations soon subsided (many an action director should take note of the way Cianfrance constructed his chase scenes, the best I've seen on screen for quite some time). And then came the brilliant plot twist, which was genuinely unexpected (I'm very glad I got to see the film before I knew anything about it), leaving in its wake all the psychological depth and intensity I was hoping for from the film – though it's true that the third section isn't as involving or as interesting as the middle part, which was a slight shame (it also became a little – just a touch – too histrionic). Still, it's exciting to see a nuanced character drama like this on the big screen, especially when every single element is so brilliantly constructed and performed.
Went to see Peter Kubelka presenting Monument Film. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I know I wasn't expecting it to be quite so… visceral. Terrifying, almost (at first). The experience made me think back to my recent blog post about film as faith. As I watched, I felt like I was seeing the soul of the medium laid bare – as Kubelka said, with these films he has touched the essence of cinema. The experience felt as much religious as cinematic. So here we are again: film as religion. Kubelka spoke of film as connected to a collective memory (a similar point to that made by Scorsese) – maybe that's what I'm getting at? Either way, it was quite an experience. Kubelka himself seems like a fascinating individual: likeable, effusive and effervescent. Sure, some of his ideas come across as comical cod-philosophy, but his enthusiasm is infectious and irresistible, and some of his thoughts are genuinely interesting (like his suggestion that the windows of gothic cathedrals are the forerunners of cinema). Overall, it was a great evening which got me thinking about the physical medium in a way I haven't for quite some time. I'm excited… It's just a shame I can't afford to shoot on film!
Watched the Alice Guy disc from the Kino Gaumont collection. I enjoyed the trick films and the sly humour of the comedies, but some of the actualities (and the phonescènes) were a little dull. Actually, I generally got a little restless and bored by the end of the collection – but 64 films running over three and a half hours is a lot to take in in more-or-less one sitting. Some of them reminded me of other silent films I've seen (e.g. some of the stuff in the Cento anni fa collections), and it got me thinking about whether any of the early filmmakers (say, pre-1910) had any kind of real auteurist signature. The only one I could think of who does is Méliès (his work is unmistakeably his). Of the Guy films, I think A Sticky Woman may be my favourite. The Christ film at the centre of the collections is beautifully designed though (and quite epic for the time). It also felt like it was made with real conviction.
Watched The Decameron, which played like a paean to bad teeth. I thought the first half was an enjoyable put down of the institution of the church, while the second was a fun – if slightly less entertaining – call to arms for decadence. It also has some pretty arresting images. I think the scenes with Pasolini's painter were the best. In the evening Dad and I watched Salò. It feels like another example of intellectual, metaphorical, unempathetic cinema (much like Theorem). There's (very deliberately) no attempt to make us emotionally involved in the proceedings, which is all well and good as a filmic device, but it means that the primary emotion I felt when watching the film was not shock, but boredom. I still maintain that boredom in cinema is not always a bad thing (it's as valid a tool as any other emotional manipulation), but in this case it results in a lack of engagement, meaning that – to an extent – the point of the film gets lost along the way. Like Theorem, the film is crammed with ideas which are great to think about, but cold and uninteresting to watch (even more so here than in Theorem, which at least had moments that feel like they're reaching towards transcendence). I'm sure that as I read more about Salò, and work my way through the special features on the DVD, I'll enjoy the intellectual rigor of it all, but none of that will improve the actual experience of watching it – an experience I didn't particularly enjoy because I wasn't challenged, I wasn't provoked into thought, I was disgusted at times, but more than anything I was bored and detached.
Watched The Canterbury Tales this morning. It has some nice images and a few enjoyable moments, but I don't think there's much of lasting interest in there – only the final image of hell and the penultimate tale (which equates wealth and greed with death) have any real impact. I then watched Arabian Nights, which is definitely my favourite of the Pasolini's I've watched this weekend. The tone feels totally different from the other two entries in The Trilogy of Life – it's much more poetic, and far less bawdy. While it might therefore be less funny as a result, the mystical, mythical and magical overtones make it far more interesting. It's also more successful on a structural level, despite being a touch too labyrinthine at times.