Monday, October 11, 2010

Art House Films: aka reap the benefit of my suffering....


I do not have nearly the intellectual discipline nor the broad mind that I aspire to have, but I do have somewhat of a dedication to art cinema. Thus I have sat through many, many, many standards of the art house canon and thus, with the ease of a Ronco invention, reading this blog for 10 minutes can save you HOURS and HOURS of fighting to keep your eyes open in dusty art house theaters with bad popcorn...

First let's start with Werner Herzog, an egomaniac who has made some great films but also some real sucky ones (and then he defends the sucky ones as if their suckiness was an artistic choice, [I'm referring to his response to the horrid remake of Ferrera's "Bad Lieutenant" with Nic Cage, when most directors do an Avi Lerner film they get paid and shut their mouths, NOT Herzog] )

I haven't seen all his movies, but I have seen "Aguirre, The Wrath of God".
Now this movie has a Popol Vuh score that is so the quintessence of Euro 70s and an opening that is cinematically stirring. However, after the incredible opening...the film does not measure up.

But you watch the best part here and save yourself the trouble of seeing the rest which is Klaus Kinski on the side of the river or on a raft having temper tantrums (both on camera and off), when he should have been paying his daughter Nastassia so that she would have had to compromise herself at 14 and 13 to build a career.

(By the way, because everyone knows the beginning is the best part, it was banned off youtube and I had to search 45 minutes for it...hope you are impressed)



AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD -- Beginning
Uploaded by vincentyeo. - Watch feature films and entire TV shows.

Now let's move on to Bergman. More even than Herzog, mostly brilliant work. A genius. A wide range of films, _Persona_ and _Fanny and Alexander_ are masterpieces, however as for _Wild Strawberries_ go try and pick them by the road side, it's less tedious and painful then watching that film. Then there is his Oscar winner of Best Foreign film back in the day _The Virgin Spring_...Well, it is a difficult film about a farm family's loss of a beautiful young daughter, but mostly I did not find it that stirring, mostly because I found it to be a bit overdramatic in the way Bergman can sometimes be... (here is a French and Saunders parody to illustrate my point on Bergman)


Oh and watch this for good measure...


And this one....


Okay I'll stop now but French and Saunders are BRILLIANT....


Getting back to _The Virgin Spring_, though the there is one scene that was above and beyond the rest. In this scene, three wandering vagrants who happen to ask for the hospitality of a family who's daughter is missing...little do the family know the vagrants are the reason the daughter is missing. However, the vagrants are carrying with them their own little boy. Here is a scene between the Grandfather of the farm family and the abused little boy belonging to the vagrants... (starts around 4:30 in the clip)



Now let's get to Michelangelo Antonioni. I have watched all three parts of the "informal trilogy" which goes something like La Notte, L'Eclisse and L'Avventura. Or actually it's L'Avventura, La Notte and L'Eclisse. Now unlike say The Star Wars Trilogy which has a clear beginning middle and end, the Antonioni "informal" trilogy deals with such plot-driven themes as how rich italian people are effected now that they live in post ww2 condo complexes and not in town.

For instance, since they are far from center of town...they have to stay at home for fun and do this...(from L'Eclisse)


Also we see how disaffected she is by seeing her mother on the stock market floor (which Antonioni's argument is that the post war conditions made people more cold and greedy, but I would argue people have always been cold and greedy on the stock market floor....



But mostly Monica Vitti just gets overwhelmed by bad modern architecture....


And then there's the shots of the forebodingness of sprinklerheads watering things and streetlights...


Now apparently this is all supposed to all supposed to be comment on the austerity of modern life...and thanks to this film waiting for the bus will never be the same again.


In La Notte, Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni play a couple who aren't gonna make it...and they go to a party together, hence La Notte...

Here's Ms. Moreau at the party...playing chess with herself on a giant board while Marcello watches (not to be confused with the scene in "Big" where Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia play on the giant step-on Piano in FAO Schwartz).


What is wonderful about this movie is that you get to Ms. Moreau in her prime, because later on, Ms. Moreau (way before Betty White) loved to play very dirty old ladies... and here she is in the apex of dirty old lady-ness (Blanche Devereaux, just put your pink hibicus pattern mumu back on, because you ain't got nuttin on Jeanne....(by the way, I also endured _Querelle_ for you, where's my big f***ing "Thank You"?)


In my opinion, L'avventura has the most stirring plot, about a woman, Claudia, again Ms. Vitti, who loses her wealthy friend and searches for her with the friend's boyfriend (Sandro) finally falling for him (who is a spoiled failed architect, which with all the ugly buildings in Italy that Antonioni films apparently being a crappy architect in Italy is big business)...
Now Claudia and Sandro's search for the missing is the most focused, dedicated search I've seen since OJ went searching for the REAL killers of Ron and Nicole on Palm Beach golf courses.

Here are Ms. Vitti and Sandro getting a bit sidetracked during search day #....




Nobody does composition like Antonioni, there are moments where the films are so beautiful you will never see anything better...but then I spend half the time bored out of my gourd waiting for these moments...inner dialogue goes something like this. "I'll just shut this off...what's my check book balance?...I wonder if I talked less at practice if I would be more popular on my swim team, maybe if I smiled more, I'm too socially awkward...Maybe I should just reduce this window and watch 'Poker Face'....Oh my god, that's so beautiful!"

In the end, there are people I know who are genuinely entertained by these films. People like Jane who was in my UC junior year in Lyon, France, Jane, a brilliant student, was already fluent in French when she arrived and now has a PhD from Penn in comparative, comparative something or other literature, not sure, but requires knowing at least two languages and reading a lot of things...
Jane and I went to see _La Dolce Vita_, and while I was trying to stay awake during the chicken feather pillow fight, Jane was heartbroken by the larger implications. When we left the film she said "When he stared at the girl at the end, it was like, oh he'll probably fuck up her life too." I remember she said it with a mix of rage, sadness and sarcasm that I envied. I thought "Well I saw that, so now we can go and get steak frites."

Here is the ending...ask Jane if you have questions...



I did cry watching something in France, but that was during the series finale of _the Nanny_ on M6 (the trashy French TV station). I mean, I cried because also because it was so pathetic that I watched the Nanny every night and I was actually engaged by this, but that's another story.

Now another French film I tried to watch TWICE on the big screen was _Alphaville_ (not the band who sang "Forever Young") but both in France and at the Godard revival at the Cinematheque, J'ai dort....


The problem with _Alphaville, the strange adventure of Lemmy Caution_ was that it was supposed to be Paris far in the future but when he checked into the hotel, the hotel reminded me of this hotel where my mom and i stayed and the room was cramped and their was a parrot downstairs named johnnie and I still remember a tiny piece of hard boiled egg yolk in the corner of the lobby room next to Johnnie's cage and it just kinda still grosses me out. And then every parking garage and street scene reminded me of something else tired, dirty and ghetto in France. Thus, the problem with _Alphaville_ as far as set decor vis a vis suspension of disbelief is that since all those 60s buildings in Paris haven't changed, when you look at them in the movie it just takes your mind to bad Paris neighborhoods with all that bad socialist architecture like the kind Obama will put everywhere if Republicans don't save us in November.

Now, I have a Godard Gold Card and this is because I have attempted to sit through his "Histoires du Cinema" a totally incoherent thing he made for French TV. Now before you think this is just me talking to fill space on this page...Let me explain, the FRENCH walked out of "Histoires du Cinema" and you must understand the FRENCH don't walk out of ANYTHING.

I walked out when Godard was filming his teenage daughter doing a tribute to like Joan Crawford or Greta Garbo or Marlena Dietrich by performing a stupid monologue that I thin was supposed to an amalgamation of their legacy but was really her standing in regular clothes in front of their nonperishables shelf in the kitchen...I kid you not, it was her and behind her you could see a wooden Ikea shelf with jam and nutella and chicory and whathaveyou...

I couldn't find the pantry soliloquy but here is a clip that might explain why (and even the full-blooded Gauls) walked out (and watched _The Nanny_ instead)


In my final time saving lesson of films no one else should ever have to sit through (unless you are way smarter than moi) is "Celine and Julie Go Boating" now Anthony Lane, a _New Yorker_ film critic referenced "Celine and Julie Go Boating" when reviewing the film "Jack Goes Boating" and said the following...

Philip Seymour Hoffman has...turned to directing, his debut "Jack Goes Boating" no relation, sadly to "Celine and Julie Go Boating" Jacques Rivette's exhilaratingly tall tale of 1974...

When I read Anthony Lane's words, I was stunned, for it caused my pulse to rise way higher than during the entire 3 HOURS and 13 MINUTES of "Celine and Julie Go Boating"

"Celine and Julie Go Boating" is about two flighty French girls who are flighty in that way that the French cherish as a sort of unique annoyingness that makes them special. Celine and Julie have putative little cutsie poo performance jobs and meander around their apartment, and frankly watching them do nothing is probably what all those Tea Party people watched to get them so scared of socialism...because unemployment runs out on even the flakiest of people (I've seen it happen) but these two are past where the buses run. They need to stop living off our Taxed Enough Already Money and get a bloody real job.

The movie is about their silly little games, but also about the house they visit where they both see a past event that happened there and then de and re construct it. Now apparently watching them delve into their imaginations in this house via these cheesy recreations is a moment of cinema so "exhilarating" that Anthony Lane, a famous critic is spellbound, but I endured the whole thing and found nothing but some girls who thought they were too cute for their own good...


So here is a little insight into the evenings where I watched something to expand my mind and wished I had stayed home and listened to trash music...

So now you can read my blog and just go straight to the Stacey Q. Here she is as part of the not-so-informal trilogy of episodes where she played pop star "Cinnamon" on _The Facts of Life_. Monica Vitti just can't quite compare...



















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