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Angel's Egg has haunted me for many days since I saw it, it is a film
to adore. It seems to have much to do with the internal struggle of the
director, who loves life, with the teachings of Christianity. But
beyond that it is just staggeringly beautiful. When you watch an
animation movie, you know that a huge effort has gone into each frame.
In a live action feature a camera can simply be pointed at a dark pool
for a few seconds and you have a take, in Angel's Egg it's much more
deliberate, the animator at one point shows several different ways of
illustrating the surface movements of the water and its reflections,
and when they're doing that they are truly contemplating darkness. It
is not throwaway. Every part of an animation oozes intention, and it's
clear here, it is a film where the substrate is blatantly tattooed
rather than absorbent.
Angel's Egg tells the story of a small white haired girl who looks to protect a large egg, and a mysterious taller male youth also with white hair who follows her around a bizarre landscape. Delirious bafflement is a perfectly reasonable response to a plot lite movie, but I think the movie is trying to say something. Christianity's treatment of the afterlife is quite opaque, if you are good you go and sit with God. But what does this make you, a voyeur, a vestige, a carapace? Does anything enjoyable happen in Heaven, is their rebirth? As a neutral rational observer the Christian Heaven seems a weak idea excused by the message that it is too great for a mortal to understand. Other religions can seem to have much more desirable afterlives, or suggest more of a cycle of life (note that this is not necessarily incompatible with Christianity's core teachings). Oshii's feelings about heaven seem to be reflected by the gigantic spaceship in the form of an eye festooned with grey statues, an inactive God and his array of crud angels.
There is a hunting of fish-like shadows with harpoons, and this seems to me to be to do with the Biblical story of Leviathan, who can't be caught or stopped by humans, a figure of evil or a representation of Satan. It's a representation of injustice, the imposition of a malevolence against which we are impotent.
In a very simple graphic way the young girl is old beyond her years, she has white hair already, and the hiding of the egg underneath her robe mimics pregnancy; she is a very poignant figure. I wondered if there was a comment on gender, women's role is to create, men's to destroy. Like any comment on this film it is hard to know whether your interpretation has anything to do with Oshii's intent.
Definitely I think a film where it helped to have some context before
watching. After the battle of Monte Cassino in WWII, some Moroccan
troops under French colonial command, went on a massive rape spree in
the surrounding countryside of Ciociaria, you can read about the
numbers involved, but really it's beyond understanding. But to an
Italian audience watching a WWII movie called La Ciociara (literally
the woman from Ciociaria) I guess they would have known what was going
to be happening in the movie. I was not aware of the incident and it
just seemed like a bizarre and affronting denouement to the movie, too
weird to invent. It turns out that once again, the truth is stranger
than fiction. In Italy the victims are known as the Marocchinate,
literally those given the Moroccan treatment.
The lead up to the outrage is always hinting at danger, but the movie is in fact quite sweet. It's about a lady and her daughter (Cesira and Rosetta) who return to the village of her humble origins from Rome whilst the Allies are bombing. They are both very lovely people, who meet Michele, a man in between their ages (played by Belmondo) who is an intellectual. There are some brilliant scenes for example when Cesira points out to Rosetta that Michele is a subversive, and when Rosetta asks what that means, Cesira says, "a nice man who doesn't want to work". And there she has it in a nutshell, despite barely being able to write. It occurs to me that all liberal education is really there for is to make up for natural deficits, but Cesira doesn't actually have those deficits. The movie just seemed full of natural wisdom. Although the movie shows how abject and shocking life can be, it also makes you fall in love with love, the way Cesira, Rosetta and Michele love each other is just so perfect. I also liked a movie that understood that an intellectual is just another of the pilgrims on the way to Canterbury.
Sophia Loren received the Best Actress Oscar here, the first time an Oscar had gone to a performance in a non-English language movie. Like Gillo Pontecorvo's Kapò, another Italian war movie from the same year it treads a dangerous ice by utilising formalism when depicting earth-shatteringly hideous events.
The prologue in Mexico works very well, and Bond looks exactly the part
in his fiesta costume. From there on in I struggled, the bit of the
Bond movie that is usually the most reliable ingredient, is the credits
song, with Sam Smith's Writing on the Wall, well, to use my poison pen,
it certainly is, just as in the ghostly foretelling of Belshazzar's
death in the original Biblical writing on the wall, and the movie dies
a long death after that (two and a half hours is indulgent). There is a
painting of Belshazzar's Feast in the National Gallery in London by
Rembrandt, and the dark and gold colours in it are the same sort of
colours you will see in this soporific dreamy movie.
Sam Mendes shoots a car chase that is utterly boring, used only to fill in a bit of plot where Bond phones people up and requests information. The villain chasing him seems rather voyeuristic and so the obligatory barging manoeuvre does not come as he pulls alongside, just a comic and bemused exchange of smiles, where Craig uses practically the only facial expression he has.
The romantic element rings completely false with no chemistry between Seydoux and Craig whatsoever, she is an angel with a broken wing in an updated Piz Gloria. She is one of the most promising actresses working in the cinema today, the bit where she writhes on a bed and moans about "tueurs et menteurs" (killers and liars) seems like the only real thing that happens, but why is it happening in a Bond movie?
Thematically, the movie boils down to some patronising lowest common denominator stuff about family angst. A reveal comes that links all the Craig Bond movies that came before, but could I really care what Vesper Lynd was all about by this point, could I even be bothered to remember what on earth Quantum was? And really the arguments that M has about democracy and the sanctity of the double oh program are so lamentable that you wonder if Ralph Fiennes is having a midlife crisis, I think the scriptwriters actually think that this stuff is cogently part of the debate about individual privacy vs protecting against terrorism.
One of the challenges in life is to not dwell on the past too much, and equally to not spend all your time worrying about the future. The magic happens when you live in the now. Connery's Bond lives in the moment. Craig's Bond is now all about his childhood, and worrying about the geopolitics of the future, it has no vigour, it is fitting that the movie starts on the Day of the Dead.
I have yet to understand what Sam Mendes is doing directing these movies, it makes as much sense as it would have made asking Picasso to redesign the Macdonalds logo. The scenes shot in London towards the end are gallingly bad and seem to be poor copies of stock ideas from the Nolan playbook.
I have no idea if Isabelle Huppert's Emma Bovary is a close relation to
Gustave Flaubert's Emma Bovary. What I do know is that I was hugely
moved by her. I felt actually like I was watching one of my close
friends in a different incarnation. Emma's journey was poignant and
fascinating. She seemed somewhat apart from the world, not inimical to
it at all, but I guess recognising that her surroundings were somewhat
arbitrary, and any role she had just that, a role. You would not
exactly describe her as abundantly kind, but there seemed a complete
absence of malice in her, a curiosity about life, without verging on
recklessness, open-mindedness without verging on foolishness. She
recognised the importance of duty without becoming a petit-bourgeois,
brought up her daughter without blaming her despite her distaste for
child rearing. It seemed her fate to not be satisfied for long, to be
up and down, perhaps even what today we might call manic depression had
a part to play. Her relationships never seemed satisfactory, and often
she was wronged, particularly by Rodolphe. However I felt that she was
restless enough that there would be no satisfaction. You know it's a
great movie when it reminds you of someone you know, and the nuance
sticks with you so long.
There is also that being a romantic is a very dangerous thing to be if your powers of estimation of the other sex are faulty (I aim this comment at myself too!), or indeed if you conception of romance comes from fairy books.
I saw a screening of this at the BFI's "Cinema Born Again: Radical
Films from the 70s" strand in April 2015. Six Reels of Film to Be Shown
in Any Order is actually a pretty strong narrative feature film, but
director Barry Salt chose to give it a title that reflects the
experimental side of it. It's a film about relationships and sexual
politics with some superb dialogue. But the deal is that if you show
the reels in a different order you get different narratives, so for
example the order you show them in affects whether you would believe
all the characters are alive at the end of the movie. Barry was at the
screening and described it as an exercise in cleverness from himself at
the time. He had been influenced by aleatoric exercises in other arts
(music and literature, perhaps why there's a Webern reference in the
movie), and believes his movie to be the first aleatoric movie.
So the reels each have two long take scenes (one shorter than the other, with the each reel lasting about 10 minutes) and have different colour names. The BFI had an audience member select which order to play the reels in and we got Green, Black, Pink, Orange, Red then White. Barry described this after the screening as a "good" order afterwards. When he had the script he read the script in about 20 different combinations to make sure none of them produced contradictory, although there are 720 possible permutations (factorial of 6). BFI program notes list 5,040, but I think they copied this off some really old document, because originally there was a plan to have 7 reels, and it would be 5,040 for 7 reels. The film has also been shown under the name of Permutations though Barry said this title existed more so that it could be fitted onto clapperboards and cinema signage.
I liked the bit where the young woman talks about a piece of Webern music. The light in which her character is shown is very much dependent on the order of the reels (quite fun thinking about that actually). In the "version" I saw she meets a married man at a party and is sleeping with him almost immediately, but then she gets let down because he doesn't care about her having an orgasm and doesn't want to have a post-coital conversation about her poetry or the piece of Webern music that she loves. Two ways of looking at that are in a feminist way, i.e. the guy is at fault for not caring about female orgasmic rights, and objectifying her, but also I guess a more common sense way, i.e. don't think that sleeping with a married guy who probably can't remember your name, and who you don't really know, is a way to start a meaningful relationship. You could guess that one of the reasons Salt wanted to concentrate on the permutations of the film in his introduction to this film at the screening I saw, is because he might see the material as passé at this time, though I certainly didn't think so. It reminded me of a conversation I had last year with a taxi driver on the way to see a film at the London Film Festival where he was saying an ex-girlfriend he had, had taken him to the cinema we were going to (Hackney Picturehouse), and had tried to get him interested in opera and Japanese movies (you could tell after having known the guy for 30 seconds that this would be barking up the wrong tree, perfectly agreeable though he seemed).
A reel that did raise my eyebrows a bit is when a professor lectures about Jungian personality typing (generally referred to as Myers-Briggs typing these days). He suggests that the feeling and extroverted quadrant of the personality world is associated with criminality (violent criminality potentially). I'm pretty sure that's politically incorrect to say today, there's a lot of emphasis on all personality types being equal when I've been through it for work. For me this reel was shown at the start, but it got me to thinking, would his lecture have felt like a commentary on what had happened in different part of the film if that reel were played at the middle or end?
Clever, fun, and gets you thinking, ticks all the boxes for me.
Magdalena Montezuma, star of the film, muse of Werner Schroeter, died 14 days after the filming in Portugal wrapped in 1984. The film is a requiem for her, everyone involved knew she was dying from cancer (discovered in 1982), and she apparently had wanted to die on set. The only professional review I can find from the time slaps it with the emperor's new clothes stamp, seemingly unaware of any context, and whilst Schroeter makes few concessions to the critics, it is actually a fantastic film in my view. It has the dramatic feel of opera, and seems to be about art, religion, lust and love all being dead ends, or at least they were for the characters. There is a quotation of a fragment of Poe's poem City in The Sea, which is about a city that death rules over sinking and being replaced by Hell. It feels very apt up against the creepy rose farm by the sea full of ghastly beauty and fatalistic characters. Only a letter addressed to a location in Portugal provides any clue to the location being in Europe as opposed to Brazil, or Atlantis. Unlike the poem, it's clear that life will continue after the events end, as shown by the band of local children. But this is not an optimistic note as the children seem ignorant and cruel. With some graphic lingering gore, full frontal nudity, scenes of perverse animal cruelty, and with scant regard for the casual viewer, The Rose King is not for everybody, and has pretty much sunk without trace. I'll remember it for its sporadic ecstasies of light, and for its incredible emotional darknesses. The movie left me in pleasant lassitude as do many films which handle depression well.
Here's some life advice you need, make yourself a nice bowl of chili
and settle down to watch Moontrap. This is low budget, but all full of
love, just like that good ole bowl of chili. They got Walter Koenig and
Bruce Campbell with guns in space, wandering around the moon, following
the thread of a mystery. I just love how someone worked out that Koenig
and Campbell would make a perfect pair of chums for battling against
incomprehensibility. The special effects are mostly done with some
really great model work. The whole movie feels like an elongated dream,
and is helped along by a superb industrial/synthesiser soundtrack.
Quintessential tripe, as cockamamie as you like, but as lovable a movie as you can find. It's a truly a pure sci-fi movie that puts most of the big budget stuff to shame. It's really difficult to say why, but there's something about Bruce Campbell that makes him the ultimate hero, as deficient as his characters are, they just have spectacular attitudes. The mystery of this film lingers long, it reminds me that we're all struggling against the unknown and all we can do is put our best foot forward and keep our chins up.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a strange and enjoyable piece of spirit of '68 wish fulfilment.
Probably the most ambitious movie I have seen, this was pretty much
trying to start a revolution using the people watching it. One day,
year 01 starts, people just stop doing what they've done before and
re-assess how to live. Pre-01 people spend their time working really
hard to amass trinkets and white goods, don't speak to strangers and
are tied in possessive relationships. Afterwards people take a step
sideways, don't turn up to work, get rid of their keys, spend more time
reading novels and apricate in free association and amateur dramatics.
The thing that is the most devilishly indulgent in the film is when a
group of conspirators meets to plot a re-establishment of the old
order. They are secretly filmed and become the nation's favourite
comedy show, every time they meet they are broadcast and the audience
is requested to keep mum about the show less the conspirators find out.
It's the left wishing to turn the tables and not be the laughing stock
Some of the ideas are very provocative, such as when a guy who strangled his wife is told that he oughtn't to feel guilty as it was an inevitable consequence of pre-01 possessive love. The children under a new sun also let loose all the burglars, after all, there is nothing to steal in the post-01 society, so why not. At one point an old lady asks a young man to put his hand up her skirt, which is something you're not likely to see in any other movie of its time or now.
Jean Rouch shoots a segment in Africa and Alain Resnais in New York as the spirit of revolution spreads. The bit in New York is particularly atrocious, the actors clearly not feeling the movie at all. There are some references to looking towards China which must leave the writer a bit cherry-faced in light of the atrocities committed in the name of Maoism.
For all it's faults the movie has undoubtable charm, there's a sequence where a father and his daughter indulge in a sort of burglary game, where they go into a property in search of jewels, which they of course leave in their place as everything should have a place in order to avoid being lost. They wake a couple up whilst they do this but the couple are quite happy to go back to sleep, as if nothing of significance happened at all. I must admit that I often walk the streets and see nice homely properties and wonder what it would be like to talk to the people in them or have a look around, without the slightest desire to intrude or upset. Wouldn't it be lovely if none of us had anything to fear from the others and we could all check out all the dwellings, turning cities into beautiful labyrinths.
Like I say although manifestly problematic, the film is not as dated as some make out, and the kind of attitudes that it promotes are more recognisable today, with many more people looking towards quality of life as more important than working flat out, with much more sexual liberty, and fewer people building pressure cooker marriages over decades. To an extent it was prescient, although amongst many others, its suggestion that most people want/would like to spend time reading novels and expanding their minds is wishful thinking to say the least.
I watched Krysar at about three in the morning in my bedroom and it
absolutely terrified me. It takes major liberties with the original
story, though that's all to the good. Hamelin is this ultra weird
medieval labyrinth of garrets, spires, cavernous buildings, cellars and
gargoyles. The people that live in it are harsh and selfish, cheat each
other and are fixated on gluttony, alcohol, and prostitution. When they
speak they speak in squawking untranslatable gibberish, so it's a bit
like a silent movie but with a bit more menace from the onomatopoeia.
The vast majority of the film shoots wooden puppets and automata,
though the rats are real live rats, which is scary as hell. Obviously
the townsfolk mess with the Pied Piper, and that was a bad idea.
Krysar scared the hell out of me because some of the townsfolk just felt so recognisable. In the day before I watched this I went past a posh house and there were a load of large pillows outside advertised as being free, and I took one home with me feeling very satisfied because it was a fine pillow. But there's this character in the movie who takes a lot of time with fabrics and pillows making himself luxuriously comfortable, and I sure felt bad watching him led on a large white pillow, whilst I was also in the same position on mine, high up in my pit in a secure apartment block! I have to admit that I watched this movie in 5 minute segments with little breaks to absorb the shock, it was that scary. Despite its complete lack of contemporaneity in aesthetic, it felt very much in soul like a criticism of the modern capitalist world with all its locks and keys securing the wealth of the few.
This film is pure unadulterated genius and I found it devastating to watch.
Syberberg's preoccupations are to do with the intellectual and cultural
traditions of Germany and the German intellectual and cultural response
to the Second World War, and if that sounds interesting, or if you are
interested in the revolutionary thinking that was happening in the
world at the end of the sixties, and the aftermath, then San Domingo
should be of interest.
San Domingo is about a young hippie called König who is the son of a super-rich couple, but has dropped out. He seems to be working in botanical gardens and then he goes out into the countryside and ends up on a biker / hippie / anarchist commune. The bikers convince a young woman called Carla to throw herself at him and preoccupy his time whilst they ask his parents for a large ransom without ever technically kidnapping him. König has a fixation with Africa as some sort of ideal land, although he has never been there. His love for Africa is like the painter Rousseau's, influenced by picture books and botanical gardens, the reality of things like famine (this film was shot at the end of the Nigerian famine and beginning of the Ethiopian one) and civil wars or wars of independence and their associated atrocities hardly impinge on his consciousness. Relatedly part of Carla's allure may be her black skin, although as König is naive and inexperienced, and she is extremely worldly, experienced and throwing herself at him, not much extra allure is needed. König's name is ironic (German for king), he has a kind of long aristocratic 17th century haircut and he very much has the Antoinette-ish "let them eat cake" deal going on: he sits in with Carla when she interviews with a personnel manager and argues about employment, trying to make the case that people should be able to do whatever they want, and that jobs should be created to manage for this.
Syberberg's reputation has taken a shoeing because I think he believes in a lot of the cultural values that others believe led to the rise of Nazism in Germany. I think other intellectuals felt that he was also self-aggrandising. That's all a bit quagmirish for me, I generally believe that political correctness has harmful aspects sometimes intensely harmful, but I don't know if characterising the reaction to his output as politically correct is fair, though initially it seems so. In any case San Domingo is some pretty nuanced stuff that leaves room for your own opinion. Syberberg was dismayed by the German intellectual response to the war, and I guess the youth response of doing or believing the exact opposite of their parents. So the movie reminded me of Gas-s-s-s from Roger Corman a bit in that it often is exposing that young hippie-ish folks have some aspects of their thinking that are 100% idiotic. However I think all the young folk in the movie have been let down in one way or the other, so I think there's balance and humanism. There's two old women in the movie that are an interesting contrast, one who won't give König and Carla a room unless they're married, and another who seems like a maid/cleaner/mother figure who let's everyone get on with what they are doing and seems to revel in their youth. I kinda had an image in my head of Dali's Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) when thinking about the creator of the movie, as if he had two different heartfelt responses to what was going on, that he couldn't really blame the youth for their new ideas, but he didn't agree that they were sensible, and on the other hand that for youth, revelling in ideas is an end in itself. So there's sort of a conflicted Pasolini-an agony in this work.
The film is a very loose adaptation of Kleist's Betrothal in St. Domingo, though it never felt anything other than fresh and modern. Much if not most of the film appears completely improvised, with the actors being non professionals (excepting König) and playing under their real names.
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