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A Story as a Catastrophe
Bernardo Bertolucci is for me quite a mystery. The first film I saw of him was the wonderful and magical The Sheltering Sky. After that film I have eagerly waited to get hold of other films by him, only to have been disappointed twice (The Last Emperor, La Luna). Now I am unsure if I have misunderstood his genius after having seen his biggest disappointment yet: 1900
First of all I believe Novecento, alias 1900, is an overlong and pretentious film with a sloppily written, dry story. Some reviewers call this film "realistic", and I give them that regarding the explicit sex-scenes and animal-torture. But the character interaction, their behaviour, dialogue lines - they are everything but realistic. As a story Novecento seems to be merely a hasty sketch, an unfinished draft that miraculously made it to the screen. It marvels me that this film has such a high rating (7.7) on IMDb, but I guess it's due to all the American voters who think they've seen some extraordinary European masterpiece their only motivation being the "realistic" absurdity. Well I myself have nothing against such films, but what I expect at the least is a well-written story. This Novecento fails in delivering cardinally, and being a 5-hour film there really should be no excuses.
Another striking failure is the acting. The lines are terrible so I get that living yourself into the roles as an actor must have taken quite a deal of trouble, but as de Niro shows it could be done. With de Niro, the only vaguely convincing performances are really the ones of Depardieu and Sanda. It says in the trivia that Donald Sutherland was so upset with his performance as Attila that he couldn't watch the movie for several years, and one can only feel sorry for him because that role was truly just about the worst in my viewing history. Another aspect that really kills the rest of all the credibility there is left is the inferior dubbing. When a film is good you can deal with such flaws, but when a film is bad, it's like cheap dubbing only crowns it all.
Luckily, Bertolucci hasn't done everything sloppily, and the scenery and camera-work is indeed pleasing for the eye. There are also rare, poetic scenes in the film that manage to tickle a spark of interest in me and that make me endure the whole five exhausting hours of the film. These are scenes like when de Niro and Sanda are falling in love and when the cast shuts up for the camera to do the entertaining.
Le souffle au coeur (1971)
La Soufflé au Cour really manages to make you question well-established values. Made in 1971 I can really imagine how it deranged the society and made the French film censure think twice before allowing it to be published. As a provocative film there's no doubt it's still timely. Louis Malle breaks taboos with a spontaneity that makes me as a viewer question if I've missed something growing up.
Malle seems to me to be above all a magnificent story-teller. There is no apparent message in La Soufflé au Cour, instead Malle let's the viewer make his own assumptions, based the deceptively realistic happenings and surroundings.
It's an unforgettable film, but watch out. You might be influenced by it.
Fanny och Alexander (1982)
I'm trying to understand, but...
Fanny and Alexander isn't utterly terrible. I enjoined parts of the film very much and thought I'd gotten the hang of it on several occasions. However, the film has several peculiarities that make me question Bergmans talent for composing a unity.
The whole film seems to be merely a series of loosely connected scenes. Is Bergmans ambition to make a realistic portrayal of the times (the beginning), a lascivious farce (the erotic adventures of Gustav Adolf), an artistic endeavour to portray children's odd fantasies and views of the illogical adult world (the end)? For me, Bergman seems to fail completely in composing a cohesive film.
The big interest in the film lies on the personalities of the characters, and Bergman does succeed in portraying the bigger part of them credibly (Alexander, Carl, Oscar, the bishop). However, illogical characteristics of other characters make me doubt Bergmans understanding of the human nature. For example: Gustavs wife lets Gustav play around with other women without feeling jealousy. This could work if only the film in the whole would aim on being a farce or allegory of sexual oppression of women. In the context of the rest of the film, however, these details spoil the credibility of the film as a character study.
In the case of the bishop Bergman seems to rely on insufficient reasons for making him appear as such a beast of a man. Why does Emelie suddenly start hating her husband so passionately? He is slimy and idealistic but nonetheless the same man with whom she originally fell in love. Bergman doesn't motivate these feelings, and for me, paradoxically, the bishop appears to be the true victim - haunted by an ignorant director. As far as the bishop's injustice is concerned I take it that spanking wasn't uncommon in those days. Nevertheless, Emilies hate becomes known already before the punishing.
Also, I couldn't really comprehend the poetic and incredible ending. Later, I read on the internet how to interpret the scene where Isak comes to save the children. Putting this scene in the context of the rather realistic earlier parts of the film, it seems to me far-fetched that Isak should have conjured the children in the chest invisible and at the same time made their bodies show up in their room to convince the bishop he wasn't taking them anywhere.
Considering these confusing aspects of the film I wonder how much was cut from the original five-hour film. On the other hand, it is self-evident that skillful cutting and planning plays an important part when rating a film. Fanny and Alexander should be understandable without having to see any edited scenes.
Regardless of what is said above, I refuse to believe that the whole film-loving world could have been fooled to like Fanny and Alexander. I must have missed the point somewhere on the way. Maybe the film needs a second chance.
Wo hu cang long (2000)
Tranquil state of mind
After watching this movie I fell in an tranquil state of mind which when coming from a movie is very rare. I don't often like action kung fu and my expectations for this movie were that low. The surprise was pleasant when I noticed I was barely making notice to the fight scenes, they were filmed in the softest and most beautiful and flawless way I have ever seen. However the tranquil state of mind was not triggered by the beautiful fight scenes, extraordinary views, good acting, sensual music not even by the mind blowing love scenes but by the calm sense and feeling that all these aspects pulled of together. It was like a symphony were all the instruments fit together.(lol i just read through this and I'm sounding like a terrible poet so i'll cut to the facts)The movie is great, whether you like kung fu, hate romance or whatever you should watch this movie and hopefully live yourself into it..