Author Topic: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons  (Read 24098 times)

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #580 on: January 06, 2019, 05:25:21 PM »
The Red Shoes (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)



Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 32:35)

The Powell-Pressburger part of this marathon is one I've been particularly looking forward to for a while, based on my experience with Colonel Blimp, and I specifically had high expectations for this film. I didn't know that much about it, but the screenshots I had seen and the connection to Black Swan were quite enough. To say these were not quite met would be - as always with these things - quite unfair, but here we are nonetheless. I like this film, and I do think there is a decent chance I would like it more upon rewatching it in a few years, but I didn't connect to it as much as I hoped I would.

It comes down to the central ballet sequence, I think. It's a scene I should absolutely love, not only because it's quite impressive and inventive technically, but because it quite literally encapsulates the whole film. Maybe that's part of the issue, as The Red Shoes (the story) is quite aptly summarised by Lermentov in fifteen seconds, and the ballet itself doesn't really seem to bring much more to it. Yes, Moira Shearer was an amazing dancer, and yes, the Archers do neat (though somewht confusing) stuff by adding effects to it, but the idea of the red shoes taking control doesn't quite transcribe, for example. I don't know if it's ballet that's not didactic enough an art form for me or if the story just isn't that developped. In any case, the whole film rests on that sequence, and while it's a good one, it's not the masterpiece it would need to be - and I say this as someone who generally enjoys protracted stuff like this (see also: An American in Paris and A Star Is Born).

What does work great is Anton Wolbrook's performance. I was almost shocked when it became clear that his character was supposed to be the villain of the film, because I was so captivated by him, despite Lermontov being a theoretically typical tyrannical of an artist. I'd agree with Adam's interpretation of his feelings for Shearer's character: if he does love her, it translates for him in wanting to make her great, and to do that with him. Wolbrook brings something more to that part, makes you feel for the pain that he feels in seeing her get away from him, not so much because she could somehow not be a great artist without him, but simply because he wants to be the one to be accompanying her. Marius Goring is pretty good in a role that could easily come off as "bland protagonist we're supposed to root for but really don't care about", so that's a rather succesful "love" triangle, with Moira Shearer's acting being just good enough (helped by the very expressive makeup) to support her marvelous dancing.

As announced by Lermontov's summary of the Andersen story, the narrative here turns to the tragic, in ways that don't entirely work. What makes a tragedy is what happens to the protagonists, yes, but just as important is the feeling of inevitability, of implacapble destiny bringing us to the sad conclusion, and I don't know that it's entirely there. Narratively, yes, as we understand where this is going from the moment Lermontov casually mentions the ending of Andersen's story, but it's not quite there in the filmmaking... or rather, it's there and it isn't. I'm not sure exactly what makes me feel this way, because any time we go to a closeup of Moira Shearer, yes, we do feel the tragedy coming... but then the rest of the film is not quite as intense as that. Maybe it's the lack of a true villain: Wolbrook is too good for his part almost ? But I don't know that a tragedy needs a villain either... I don't know, the more I think about it, the less I understand why I ended up underwhelmed by it all. The weight of expectations, possibly, and I should say that I did like it quite a bit still, just not as much as it may deserve... I guess I'll have to revisit it somewhere down the line.

7/10
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oldkid

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #581 on: January 10, 2019, 12:05:47 AM »
As you said, the opinion of the film is founded in the ballet sequence.  I absolutely adored the ballet, the rest was... okay.  I think you captured the performances well, and I was hoping for a more dynamic protagonist.
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #582 on: January 10, 2019, 03:59:22 AM »
As you said, the opinion of the film is founded in the ballet sequence.  I absolutely adored the ballet, the rest was... okay.  I think you captured the performances well, and I was hoping for a more dynamic protagonist.

Yeah, I'm guessing the Archers felt they couldn't ask too much of Moira Shearer as an actress ? It kind of contributes into Wolbrook kind of taking over the film I think, and perhaps part of why I didn't feel great about the way the film ends with regards to his character. It's almost as if the Powells expected his character to be a full-fledged villain but his character ended up more nuanced, and almost felt like the protagonist at times.
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oldkid

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #583 on: January 10, 2019, 12:59:20 PM »
As you said, the opinion of the film is founded in the ballet sequence.  I absolutely adored the ballet, the rest was... okay.  I think you captured the performances well, and I was hoping for a more dynamic protagonist.

Yeah, I'm guessing the Archers felt they couldn't ask too much of Moira Shearer as an actress ? It kind of contributes into Wolbrook kind of taking over the film I think, and perhaps part of why I didn't feel great about the way the film ends with regards to his character. It's almost as if the Powells expected his character to be a full-fledged villain but his character ended up more nuanced, and almost felt like the protagonist at times.

I never felt that he was the protagonist and he seemed quite the creep, but only sometimes.  She was just never interesting enough to really capture my imagination.  Where was Deborah Kerr?  Probably busy making another movie.  On the other hand, I think that she'd have a difficult time playing someone passive.
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #584 on: January 16, 2019, 01:20:52 PM »
Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)



Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 26:36)

Only one Archer left (and consequently only one arrow in the logo, which I thought was a nice touch), and a decade and a half makes for a very different film from the previous few in this marathon. Gone are the fantasy elements and the technicolor, instead we get... a Hitchcock movie ? It's really quite eerie how much this looks and feels like a Hitchcock film, most obviously through its central theme: voyeurism. Though Peeping Tom will forever be linked to Psycho because they came out the same year (and Psycho does feature a peeping Tom scene), the Hitchcock films I was mostly reminded of here were Rear Window and Frenzy. Rear Window is pretty obvious (the very act of watching a movie is voyeurism bla bla bla), Frenzy... I guess I'm not sure why aside from "Hitchcock in England"... and maybe I shouldn't be spending so much time talking about another director, but maybe that's because I was very underwhelmed by this film.

Adam & Matty mention how provocative it might have been at the time to have such a sympathetic killer as a protagonist, and I guess there's something to that, because he is pathetic in the classic sense of the word (as in: he inspires pity)... but is he interesting ? His origin story is somewhat intriguing I suppose, but why is it exactly that he applies this obsession his father taught him to women ? And why does he want to kill them ? I guess he's a psychopath who just happen to have some quirks aside from that because of his awful father, but in the end... I think Powell doesn't really embrace the pulpiness of his premise, and the psychology isn't as interesting as he thinks it is, so it all kind of falls flat for me.

I mean it's a fine film, it's enjoyable. Moira Shearer dances in a scene, that's nice. Powell is a gifted director still, and he has an understanding of how to make scenes flow... but - and I hate to come back to this - he's not Hitchcock. He doesn't have the playfulness or the creepiness that would make this material sing I think.

6/10
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Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #585 on: January 18, 2019, 12:50:16 PM »
The (Archers Awards)

In the same order as the podcast (starts at 49:39).

Best Supporting Actor: Anton Wolbrook (The Red Shoes)



Best Supporting Actress: Maxine Audley (Peeping Tom)



Best Cinematography: Black Narcissus



Best Actor: Roger Livesey (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp)



Best Actress: Deborah Kerr (Black Narcissus)



Best Scene/Moment: Anton Wolbrook's refugee monologue in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp



Best Picture: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp



Summary/ranking

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1943)
The Red Shoes (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
Black Narcissus (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1947)
Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)
A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1946)


Up next (at some point), Krysztof Kieslowski. Time to cross some tricolor blindspots.
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Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #586 on: June 05, 2019, 11:16:50 AM »
Amator / Camera Buff (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1979)



Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 25:11)

The rise of individualism is the major sociological fact of the past few centuries, and what better time and place is there to explore it than in a Communist state on the verge of huge social change ? Not that Kieslowski could have known about Solidarnosc in 1978/79: really it seems like this film came more as the result of his own journey, first making documentaries and then gradually transitioning to fiction. Amator is some sort of autofiction, but its preocupations are very much universal. How do we fulfill our own wants and desires, and how does our pursuit of happiness interfere with others, from the ones that are closest to people we don't even know about ?

As always, universal questions such as this are best approached within a very specific context, and filmmaking is a particularly ripe "hobby" for Filip to get obsessed with. Aside from the obvious metatextual implications (which Kieslowski cleverly underlines several times), the voyeurism inherent to the act of filming makes it a more ambiguous pursuit than, say, painting, or music. When Filip explains to his wife that this new passion is more important to him than his family (hoping to comfort her, which surprisingly does not work out for him), it's a real test of the viewer's sympathy for artistic pursuit. Filip's marital life is generally the weakest point in the film I would say, seeming to be present more to give emotional stakes and make a point about comfort ("peace and quiet") vs art/individual expression, but his wife is not enough of a character for it register as fully as it should. Still, that scene is quite important in its content: is your personal fulfillment worth disengaging (at least partially) with your loved ones ? In today's western societies, we tend to celebrate it, and on principle it'd be easy to scoff at what could be labeled "family values", but when you illustrate it with individuals (as thinly sketched as they may be), it gets more complicated.

What's even more complex and interesting is Filip's conversation with his boss late in the film. This is where I do appreciate the nuance in Kieslowski's writing: the boss has been nothing but a stifling influence, a figure of burocratic authority and censorship to be overcome. But the points he is making about the consequences of Filip's actions touch a nerve, not just in Filip but in ourselves. Kieslowski has assimilated the communist values of the collective over individual, and confronts them with humanity's innate desire for freedom and the inevitable historical trend of individualism. He doesn't give us or Filip an easy answer either - the main person who loses his job because of Filip still encourages him to pursue his passion after all - he simply leads us to conclude that one cannot live as if the world around us only existed for us to exploit it for our own purposes while staying outside of it. One cannot simply be a voyeur - willing or not - we are all participants in human society.

7/10
« Last Edit: June 05, 2019, 11:22:52 AM by Teproc »
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