Sunday, 2 June 2013

Films This Week

(Click here to read my general introduction to the 'Films This Week' series of posts.)
Isle of the Dead
Watched Isle of the Dead, which was a fantastically tense meditation on death, fear and paranoia; a study on the evil that dwells within us all. It's a story about how we take recourse in superstition to help explain tragedy. There's an increasing tightening of the screws throughout. Really superb. In the evening I watched, Vicky Christina Barcelona, which I also enjoyed, if not quite to the same degree. 
Watched The Body Snatcher. I think it's a good adaptation (expansion) of the original story, even if there are a couple of individual scenes/sequences which have lost their power in the transition from page to screen. Some of the best moments, though, are original to the film – the death of the street singer is exceptionally well handled. In fact, the handling throughout is excellent, the shadowy cinematography perfectly crafting the required atmosphere. The performances, too, really stood out, especially Henry Daniell and Karloff (this is the best I've seen Karloff). I think it's interesting that they chose to singularise the title of the original story – it has a curious effect upon the way one thinks about the film (I'm reminded of the Bicycle Thieves/Bicycle Thief discussions). Watching it so close to the other Lewton films has got me thinking about Lewton as the auteur of his films. There's something cohesive about them all. He may not have been the (credited) director, but they all unmistakeably bear his stamp.
Went to see The Passion of Joan of Arc in a church in Shoreditch, with a live score from In The Nursery. A combination of delays and a support act meant there was quite a long (too long a) wait before the film began, but it was worth it. No matter how many times I see it, it still feels fresh. Today it felt like I was watching it for the first time all over again – the hounding assault of the judges was as terrifying as ever. It's a film of quivering lips and flaring nostrils, a masterpiece built upon gestures and moments. Its slow progression from controlled exteriors to all hell breaking loose outside worked its magic – never has a film been so perfectly structured. And, of course, there's the beautiful geometry of its images. It's exhilarating cinema. The score was excellent too, really drawing out the drama and excitement of the film, but not to the extent of wiping out its emotion. I think its shot up to become one of my favourite scores for the film. The location, while exciting in theory, failed to really add anything to the experience, though. The church itself wasn't particularly atmospheric, and while it seemed like a fitting addition to have a dimming stained-glass window behind the screen, as soon as the film started Joan was all that mattered (it's not a film during which you can take your eyes off the screen). I just wanted to be alone (alone with Joan). These novelty screenings may be all well and good as an excuse to get people back into watching films on the big screen, but personally I think I'll stick to the cinema.
The Passion of Joan of Arc

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