Author Topic: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons  (Read 25592 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.
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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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Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #587 on: October 13, 2019, 05:25:57 PM »
Krotki film o zabijaniu / A Short Film About Killing (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1988)



Adam & Matty's takes (both films)

One would think that a film with such a title and conceit would be pretty easy to figure out: it's about killing, duh, and more specifically about how "one shoult not do that", according to the Catholic church anyway - and other religions as well, but this is Poland. And yes, it clearly is about that, but it certainly isn't didactic. Or if it is, Kieslowski's intentions flew right over my head. Is this a plea against the death penalty ? Maybe... that seems to be Adam & Matty's takes on it to some extent, but it doesn't seem that obvious to me. The death penalty might be Kieslowski's primary concern here, as it poses the question to how the judicial system might allow the state to breach the fifth commandment while strictly forbidding individuals from doing so... but I don't get the idea that Kieslowski has a definite answer in mind here.

There is the idea that the death penalty is used as a dissuasion mechanism: this is what the judge (or maybe prosecutor ?) tells the idealistic lawyer: God issues commandments and sorts it out in the afterlife, but man breaks his commandment in order to enforce it. Which basically means the final judgment won't go very well gor anyone, and that humanity simply isn't good enough to live up to biblical expectations. This all sounds very Catholic, which is why I'm unsure that the death penalty is the subject of thefilm in a "should we abolish the death penalty" way - it seems more like a reflection on sin to me: envy in this case. But this isn't from "The Heptalogue" (as in the Seven Deadly Sins), so I'm probably wrong there... though this also tracks with the next film being about luxury. I'd probably need to watch the Dekalogue to explore this further... another time.

There is a mythical quality to the film - from the nature of its story which directly references the tale of Cain and Abel to the style: the yellowish tint Kieslowski uses makes his world look drab and toxic, but also vivid and striking. That sense of the mythic is somehow reinforced by his use of multiple techniques associated with silent film: the aformentioned yellow tint, at least one irish shot (+ generally blacking out parts of the screen, I lack the technical vocabulary there) and, well, the lack of dialogue early on in the film. I'm not sure what that translates to "mythical" to me, but it does. Maybe it would be more accurate that it feels biblical, which is obviously appropriate to the story. In any case, it showcases Kieslowski's ability to use the form in very different ways to serve his material. Also, it looks great.

7/10

Krotki film o milosci / A Short Film About Love (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1988)



I watched this whole thing assuming the commandment in question here was "Thou shalt not coveit thy neighbor's wife", but it turns out it's "Thou shalt not commit adultery". Hm. Well, I guess both fit the film about as much - the absence of a neighbour or a wife to cheat on makes it a loose fit in any case... which brings me back to the idea that this feels more like a film about sin than one about a commandment to me. Both characters are sinners - of course we would view the woman much more favorably than the man here, but - given the Catholic frame around this whole thing - a woman sleeping around is just as much a condemnable sin as, you know, lying, hiding letters and all the shady things our protagonist does throughout this film. This should be a bit of a tough pill to swallow: isn't Kieslowski being too soft on our peeping Tom(ek) by having Magda* almost instantly brush over his manipulations and embrace him ? But that scene just works, through a combination of Kieslowski's empathetic camera and Grazina Szapolowska's effortlessly communicative performance. At this point, we really know very little about this woman, having only seen her through the peeper's eyes - and yet we understand her whole character completely. It helps that  they are defined by the same basic motivation: a desire - a need even - to connect. One might describe it as lust, going back to my "is this about commandments or about sins" question from Killing.

Though this is does not have the previous film/episode's almost apocalyptic aesthetic, they do both use chiaroscuro**, presumably to underline the idea of good and evil, of lines one should not cross because, well, God said not to. It's again unclear to me what exactly Kieslowski thinks in all this - which I would very much count in the film's favor by the way - is he showing us two hopelessly lost souls who have succumbed to their desires and are so obsessively devoted to finding love that they cannot seem to do much else ? Well, I think he is, but is that good, bad, or anything in between ? Hard to say, and are those visual contrasts supposed to be undermined or reinforced by the narrative ? There's something mysterious here that I quite enjoy when it's executed this masterfully.

8/10

*the reveal that her full name was Maria Magdalena had me cackling. So neat it would feel cheap in a lesser film.

**Wikipedia tells me this is the appropriate translation for clair-obscur, though I'm somewhat doubtful it's much in use anymore. But it does sound cooler than "stark contrasts".
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oldkid

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #588 on: October 15, 2019, 10:36:40 PM »
The Dekalog, of which these are two theatre versions of the miniseries, in my interpretation, deals specifically with at least one specific commandment of the famous ten for each episode.  I find that each episode wants to stretch our understanding of each command beyond a simplistic good/bad, obey/disobey dichotomy.  The blurry edges of each command is explored, sometimes to the point that we can no longer see a clear ethical idea.  I love this narrative approach with very little exposition in the series.  And the common elements— the twin apartment buildings and the voiceless “angel”, always observing and never interfering.   I highly recommend the whole set.
"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 #589 on: October 16, 2019, 01:04:45 AM »
The Dekalog, of which these are two theatre versions of the miniseries, in my interpretation, deals specifically with at least one specific commandment of the famous ten for each episode.  I find that each episode wants to stretch our understanding of each command beyond a simplistic good/bad, obey/disobey dichotomy.  The blurry edges of each command is explored, sometimes to the point that we can no longer see a clear ethical idea.  I love this narrative approach with very little exposition in the series.  And the common elements— the twin apartment buildings and the voiceless “angel”, always observing and never interfering.   I highly recommend the whole set.

The voiceless angel ? Did I miss something there ?

Judging by those two (which I know are longer versions but still), it does look very much worth my time, but I suspect I'll leave it for much later, given that I'm about to watch most of his major works in a relatively short period (if I don't take another 5 month break that is  ::)).
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