(Click here to read my general introduction to the 'Films This Week' series of posts.)
Slightly streamlined again this week, as some of what I've seen has been for research.
Rewatched Cría cuervos. I was really struck by its melancholy this time. Very sad. I think it's creeping further and further toward my top ten films of all time, if one can say such a thing.
Watched Visages d'enfants. It's very good, though perhaps a little long and a little languid. I suppose, in a way, that's a result of the film's realism…not much happens in life either (but everything happens when nothing is happening, of course). The pace picks up for the final quarter. At times some of the editing made the space feel a little fractured (it didn't all quite hang together), but it was beautifully shot (by Léonce-Henri Burel, no less). It's a shame I watched such a low quality version. I'd love to see it projected. The avalanche sequence is brilliant (as is most of the last thirty minutes, even if it's a bit silly that Jean's step-mum knows exactly where to find him in those final moments). The only other thing that let it down slightly were a couple of moments of over-ripe symbolism. But, generally, it's a very fine piece of work. It also brought me back to my recent thoughts on whether silent cinema (or, more precisely, certain silent films) had a faster conduit to the inner lives of its characters. There are several times when a title card tells us explicitly what Jean is thinking (he was only hoping she'd get a scolding, etc.) – a short cut if ever there was one. I suppose you could argue that in filmmaking terms this is a little crass and simplistic (novelistic, even). And yet, if it's done right (as it is here) it seems incredibly effective. Of course, though, this is very different from the way A Page of Madness draws you in, once more proving that one can't make rash judgements about silent films as a whole. In the evening I rewatched The Leopard Man, which I really enjoyed. The baton-passing structure is brilliantly handled, and there's some very fine character work in the lead up to the kills – all of which are, in themselves, still very effective too (especially the first).
Went to the Antiquity in Silent Cinema screening at Bloomsbury Theatre. It was an interesting event, and busy, which was nice to see. Of the two films on show, The Odyssey didn't really do that much for me. There were some effective moments, but it never really came to life – perhaps in the same way as L'Inferno (though The Odyssey doesn't have that film's visual splendour). Julius Caesar was much better – a tragic melodrama, at once historical and epic, but familial and intimate at heart. There was a certain geometry to the compositions and designs which brought Die Nibelungen to mind, but the comparison is far too generous (Julius Caesar was very good, but nowhere near the quality of Lang's masterpiece).
Went to the British Independent Film Festival to see Sanctuary. It seems like the festival is doing good things for independent filmmakers. The film had some gentle human intrigue, but its real strength was its beautifully controlled compositions. Really striking.