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This is one of the Debuts
In a film that was secondary in my introduction to Terrence Malick, his world of estranged people took in my mind what would have been essentially a film like "Rebel without a Cause" and turned into an allegorical narrative, inspired by Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, about the seemingly halcyon lives of Kit and Holly. Kit in a fierce tragedian move killed Holly's Father for her love; obviously in this quixotic world, it was more hobson's choice then a behemoth dilemma about which lives she takes. It's in the same vein as a Shakespeare story and the film couldn't make its lucid poetry any more clearer then the conflagration, which is orchestrated by music of spontaneity.
As we go through the film, the narrative, relayed by Holly, would seem pretty monotonous and quite graining, but here it speaks the soft and wondrous sounds of a world with which acts in opposition. We see Adam and Eve, we see the life on a farm and we see them act like moguls; Malik also plays on individual alternate paths as Holly looks at genealogical pictures and knows that her life could never be the way it's.
The film is seemingly facile, but as it goes on, it pulls at the heart strings, makes you feel detached from any possible sense of wilderness and comfort and it culminates in the end when the last thing on Martin Sheen's characters mind is whether or not he can get a hat. It's really marvellous in doing so; some flaws would come from how realistic the story is in communicating the events of 1958. But I felt chilled to the bone, like I did with "Mirror" by Andrei Tarkovsky or even further back to "2001: A Space Odyssey" by Kubrick is that the world is rendered in the eyes of two young people who decided to go adrift into a world of chaos and most beautifully and swishing framed landscapes, which Kitt just wanted to embrace. Every errand is with a gun - it's as though his only resource isn't by sociological means, but by a pathological need for things to be done his way. In a way he's a selfish reprobate. And this is what makes the film interesting - there's no protagonist, not even bounty hunters, as they're looked at as though they're prey.
The part that put me in a very tentative position to judge the film was when they went to the Moguls house. I look at that now as an adventure like we're going through their terrible journey as well and it may not make a lot of sense, but I consider it to be part of an unduly ride. In the end, the films dialogue, powerhouse acting and naturalistic look make it a must to pick up. Completely imperative and it just goes to show that Maliks profession underlay in poetry because he certainly made it into transition as a film maker!
An Amazing Piece of History counterpoised with 3D
I have heard people say Martin Scorsese, it seems, wouldn't have made a film like this. I want to direct anybody about these qualms on that "kiddie film" idea to watch "A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through the American Movies". To put it in a laconic way, Scorsese was predestined to make a film like this. What makes it enchanting and close to home is that the film is a fable per se; underneath it, though, is Scorsese's true love for films.
The film is based upon a book about Hugo Cabaret, which Johnny Depp had in production for a couple of years now. Martin Scorsese was commissioned to direct and the result is a lavish design with an amazing stellar cast including Ben Kingsley who portrays George Melies with bathos and subtlety, Christopher Lee who plays a book keeper, Asa Butterfield as Hugo and Chloe Grace Moretz as Isabelle. Even the minor role by Ray Winstone as Claude the Uncle becomes momentous to the story. I think the real thing that came to mind for me was that 3D wasn't subordinate to the story or concurrent to the story IT WAS THE STORY. If you have ever seen Yasujiro Ozu's films or "Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles" (1975) and films by Akira Kurosawa and even Orson Welles that you'll fathom out that film has ALWAYS been Three Dimensional. What Scorsese done with his amazing crew was that every spatial part of the foreground would be shot with depth of field. Melies at his celebration talking about what Scorsese would refer to as "the illusionist" the magic tricks he would pull with Mermaids and Magicians, it's as though he has been cut out and is sticking out the screen (to use a cliché).
The magic of cinema, the montages of the films to decipher "Papa Georges" despair, the film follows a young boy, who tries to fix an automaton. He constantly evades an inspector and always runs the clock in its amazing interior (referencing "Safety Last!" in terms of cinematic iconography) that his Uncle Claude does. His Father is no longer with him after a fire, while he was trying to fix an automaton, which his son subsequently has tried to fix using bits and bobs he can purloin from shops like George's shop. What's amazing is that throughout there's pervasive hints as to who this mysterious man is such as the poster, which seems to be showing "A Trip to the Moon" (though it's in French so you can't tell).
The film is relatively simple, though its tale of history is extremely pivotal to its anniversary of over 100 years now. Reduxing the Melies sets is wonderfully done through flashback and even little moments like Baron Cohen (playing the inspector who's basically a Keystone Cop in my opinion) constantly having pratfalls and pitfalls on the train station can actually feel more interactive as though his feet are sticking right out at us. Scorsese has not only proved the potential of this gimmicky device, but he's also used it to counterpoint with the old technology as an ardent student still learning his craft as he says. It could be up there with his great films ("Mean Streets", "Taxi Driver" and even "Casino").
The person I went with to the cinema had prior to it been told about Melies by me. I was oblivious to the premise being central to this Man; my reasons for talking about were because I was showing him primitive versions of Joan of Arc because I'm always interested in Dreyer's version, but I think that the way it branches out is fascinating. I then drew to the 1899 version of Jeanne D'arc by George Melies and how beautiful it was in its grainy hand painted form and I was telling him how Melies' anger caused him to burn the first carbon copies of his films. And then I get even more history on it in this film with so much poignancy about "reinventing the wheel" and basically the guile of the artist. For example, Scorsese plays with the dream sequences at one point; the boy tries to get something off the tracks and the train comes straight to him like an old suspense thriller from the silent era with Pickford or Gloria Swanson; though it was different here. The swishing of the train is emphasized as it crashes right through the building and then it's contrasted later on as if it was breaking the forth wall for a couple of minutes in my opinion.
It will be the first time you'll see Intolerance in this format, The General, "Trip to the Moon" and even Edwin S. Porter's "The Great Train Robbery" in this format. Even the projector in the cinema where Isabelle and Hugo go for an adventure flashes right out at the audience as we dabble into true magic. What an experience and I will note though that it will be tardy and slow paced for some. But it was simply rewarding in the end.
Dao ma zei (1986)
A Film of Veritable Sacred Messages, which soon marred and got extolled on Tian's side
I read a review on here saying that he was no Scorsese or film student and generally a cineaste. In other words, he thought that one could only enjoy the film if they analyse and explicate it as opposed to absorb it. I respect that he flouts it for a lack of entertainment, but generally speaking this film doesn't need a large overlook or analysis (though that can explain elements such as the sheep mask and the way in which they 'insert swords to pasture the sheep). What we must remember is that we're entering another world that is foreign to those in the western world.
The film warrants a high score anyway. Supposedly the year and period is set in 1923 as the prelude purports, but actually this was stipulated to be set in the time frame. Tian says that there's no necessity for a time period and that the film should be seen as a film without a period, as though it's pervasive. But taking this into consideration the film uses an old style; it's shot on celluloid, it's very visual compositions along with superimposition's and montages, which almost resemble the Rocky series, so the film is definitely a product of its time. But the truth still remains about the narrative within.
The main character (it says his name is Luobur on my DVD, but this site says his name is Norbu, but either way he's the focal character) has a son, Zhaxi, who in the beginning of the film has already died to due to illness and then gets devoured by birds, as a formation of religious men bat a ball as though it's a chime and his body gets taken up into the ether; this scene proved to be heavily controversial in China, but fascinating over here. Then we go into a descent of this landscape, where Norbu has to fend for himself and eventually cuts the strap of a horse to sell for his own needs. The film has a ponderous lapsing, such as when the tribal chief's father dies, and it's in this instance that the film absorbs us and shows us how the human condition affects the spectre as it sacredly goes in the sky... Norbu has to look after his other son and we see how he raises it by the little drips of water he picks up from the rain and how they bathe in the water to overcompensate for the fact they have no bath. Dolma (on my Chinese DVD, it says a different name wholly, but I'll disregard this) starts to fend for herself as the silhouetted world shows. Sometimes the film chronicles the incandescent lighting and ambient naturalistic light that creates an unknown dynamism in film.
One of my favourite parts is when he looks over the tribe as they chant. Now being unaccustomed to the Tibet traditions, I became increasingly interested in the way they looked at things, masquerading their faces with what either seems like sheep, calf or, appropriately, a horse. It's the emotional intensity that gets me with these moments that transpire. Tian tends to soar his score in for dramaturgical effect or better yet use the sounds of the people around to break it. For example, when Norbu comes to take a body into the water, he gets stoned along with the body and though he doesn't die, it leaves a rather perplexing effect. It can either be a negative energy or a positive energy.
There's actually only one graphic moment craning on a sheep getting slaughtered while the bereft Norbet lies out there in the cold shunned. It could be looked at as dispensable and graphic, but I look at it as a day in this individuals life. Tian, as has been said, was avant garde in making a documentary-esque film set to the backdrop of tumultuous times and beautifully lit mountains with lots of sacred iconography, which end up becoming too breathtaking with its superimposition's and the lost hope into the abyss of time.
The film is slow (a caveat and to reference the beginning of this review), but wholly overwhelming. It sometimes can inundate you with drama and melodrama that proves to be insignificant, such as when the chief's Father dies and so forth. But in the end, I felt like being in the eyes of a film maker in progress. It sometimes feels meditated at times as well. A cultural film that can be ignored (only by those not interested in film-making) or can be looked at as a textbook at the instigating film.
Tian said it was more about image then plot, character and story and though this may be a defect to the country he's in (In 1993, he made Blue Kite, which put him in exile for a decade, so... his images certainly were omnipotent anyway), it still sprawls over to a new culture like Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji or Akira Kurosawa; it just demands that you have the temerity to speak it with such vision. A scary insight into an eerily harrowing landscape that I have never entered, but can look at through this well done film.
The Scarlet Letter (1926)
Good thing I have a penchant for silent films and this one of the more poignant ones in the same vein as "Passion of Joan of Arc"
I can't help, but give this film a deserved 10. Not only does it go against the idea that silent films were a novelty and a really egregious piece of pantomime, but that it could be completely poignant, pungent, painful and heart aching. What I just mentioned in that list of sentiments really do impose upon this film. The idea that this could be a rudiment is easily debunked by the quantity of reviews that are all nearly consecutively impeccable.
Some of the praise for this film can be laid upon Sjostrom's masterful direction replete with the novel of Hawthorne's lyrical words and story. Of course, the films screen time and period is set in the 1800's and it illustrates the hypocrisies of the church, the relentless protest against heresy and that unbelievably taking place all because of a pointless hullabaloo of Hester Prynne not turning up to church. She becomes enamoured with the priest; then she gets pegged as an adulteress.
There are subtle moments when her denotation and symbol that is firmly on her are then drew by her Daughter, the most innocuous thing in her life that she couldn't just punish for not understanding. And when she holds her Baby in a plea for serenity - there's no copious intertitles - there's only a break in pure, unadulterated drama. The minister/priest's performance can be hyperbolised at times, but this was probably to posit an alternative state of ambivalence, so it's only a nitpick. Sjostrom's touch to the heart of his audience, infused with Gishes poised and tragedian performance shows that not only was the methodology of this film ahead of the curb, but the fact it's not been released on a legitimate copy is heinous.
Another thing that nearly moved me was when one of the onlookers say, when they see Hester's lover go for her, that "He must be the most compassionate Christian ever to go past such evil" (paraphrased). It's true that we get a complete anthropology of this town and it keeps your interest right into the 1hr 37mins running time.
When Gish was getting this film past the censors, it was on the list of "Banned Book Adaptations". Her complete regard for the novel allowed for one to push the envelope. She personally hired Sjostrom to direct the film, a novice to Hollywood at the time. He had came of his success on that amazingly suspenseful "Phantom Carriage" (1920). The elements in the film that may not seem very much into his style would be the narrative; it doesn't seem like something he'd tackle, but his craning of the world to show us it especially when an intertitle that inserts says "The day when they didn't take gaiety as an offence" is proof that I got deceived. It seemed as though they were just having merriment in the village, then after coming from a pure long shot, we see from close shot that it was somebody being accused of being a whistle blower.
When the character Robert came in the film I was entranced by both the sorrow of the situation and I couldn't turn it off, so much so, that it affected my sleep the next day. It had an insurmountable grip; I believe Sjostrom was one of the few legends of his time that can actually branch to a whole new set of novices. Without a doubt, he learned the craft of storytelling and he learned the tricks and artifices of enticing his audience. Verily, he's not dissimilar to any suspense masters that subsequently came.
In "Wild Strawberries" you can see how Sjostrom played his character so well. He understood the trade of acting.
Procès de Jeanne d'Arc (1962)
Perchance Historically Accurate, but does it have the same Spark?
I think this film warrants a 6 or 7 in my mind. I have been introspective about this film for a wee while; in many ways, it's almost as if Joan was there - a sturdy, studiously determined and plagued 19 year old (in Dreyer's version it said she was 19, though this could be ascribed by Dreyer as to the response rather then the reality). I bought the artificial eye version in Fopp at a relatively good price. Robert Bresson whose work I'm unfamiliar with, bestowed upon the film a versimilitude, but was it overall as good as one hopes? You can see Bresson was heartfelt in his interpretation, but he couldn't sustain my interest for the ephemera of length. Of course, I can't seem to see Bresson's film as underrated, but I can see that it's heavily overlooked as a new look on the trial.
This one took itself seriously to the point of a docudrama. Its documentary-esque nature make it seem alien and detached from me and I think it was the approach that startled me. However this was my gut reaction; the film has Florence Delay portraying Joan in one of the best portrayals you'll see off her. Although the acting can feel stilted and the dialogue exchanges can feel artificial, it's Bresson's Costume Designers and so forth that give this Joan a feeling of authenticity. In some ways it feels ungodly brutal. For example, when Joan passionately wields the cross, she's nearly unceremoniously tripped up by one of the onlookers. Her feet look as if they waded right through the filth.
The references to St. Matthew and Catherine can feel really genuine and at the same time this is what the documentary needs is a stance. I finally seen that Bresson was a historian on the matter and this is why the film detracts from many other fictitious films. A study is seen of Joan from a peep hole where one of the vouchers observe her. In Dreyer's obviously we see the man with the crown and that come straight out and accentuate himself, this one keeps cool and in the background.
There's also a brutal scene where it's as if by rape that Joan has no sacrament and with the confession in this film, there's no play on objects shaped like some kind of psychoanalytical force from Germany, but rather an actual plea for the truth.
Bresson's film may be disingaging and a very unlikely film to be made, but I feel that this intepretation rings more true then any other exegesis of the book. That's a purity that could be seen as overlooked here. At the opening title sequences, we pretty much digest so much already, that the trial itself, on film, feels almost unnecessary. But the fact he done it should mean it's not meant to be avoided by any cineaste. You won't feel, you won't think, you won't bite your nails - you will be deadpan and firm. Bresson said "I want the critics to feel my films and not to think about them intellectually on first viewing". Well one can't help, but think during this film and one can't feel anything. What I can tell from the experience is that you will understand the pain and you will understand the essence of the trial
A Great Example of Griffith and Also an Example of his Quaint Traits
This film I think deserves a 7. I don't even need to say that Griffith was the pioneer of cinema at one point. This film about the Monteagues during the American Revolutionary war proved this as well. It even had influence on the amazing Abel Gance's "Napoleon" including the board room scenes, which add an interesting counterpoint to that otherwise modern masterpiece. You see Griffith used doctrines of another time to express things in his contemporary periods, so when watching his films there's a grand sweep of history and layers and layers of his own inherent interest in history. It just so happens this can be a defect when he infuses it with the melodrama of his own time in Biograph. Considering the man's extraordinary acute vision of cinema - the way he coached actors and actresses for hours and hours, sometimes even showing them the way they have to sit, their body language and the way they have to interact in the scene - then on how he cut film, masked film, brought emphasis on certain things along side his masterful cinematographer Billy Bitzer, who ran his course shortly after "America or Love and Sacrifice" this also proves to be the epitome of a man stuck in his time and frame of mind during which films like "The Iron Horse", "Strike" and "Michael" were getting made amongst some other classics by others like Chaplin and Fairbanks. Though I can't help to have a soft spot for his work here.
It's not contrived as such and it's actually a pretty supreme experience especially when Griffith filmed the dipsomaniacal Paul Revere riding recklessly on the horse to declare "fists to fists" as a way of commencing an act of war against England. I happen to be from Britain and found the story was interesting for me to look at as it was done with Griffith's perspicacious perspective and albeit I'm not really very conversant with it either, I understood how England was disparate back then (in the sense that they had total control over America) and how America wasn't the way it's today. And then as the war would see it, America would augment in stature again. As if this was like a lesson in history just goes to show how Griffith substantiating that instead of books, films should be the new source of history, remained completely obstinate in his views. Not so much that one can agree with him, but one can agree with the notion that this film should be accessed in film classes. It's just as good an archetype as "Birth of a Nation" and even grander in my opinion. As a lot of the film centres on Walter Butler's derailment on America, an English man, it's interesting how he pulled the performance from Lionel Barrymore that proved suave and understated and despicable in expression. His ideas of Good and Bad become two main elements here; for example Butler leading of Tories and Indians against that jingoistic mentality was a pure example of this perception. And his romantic archetype in the war, while she spectates across (Carol Dempsey) is just an element of Griffith that could have been dispensed. In some ways, I wasn't quite clear about whether or not Butler was English or American, so I had to try and resolve that ignorance subsequently watching the film.
I agree with another reviewer on here, who said that the subplot was really unnecessary. I concede because with this the film drones on these characters in an ineffectual way and it then loses its touch of brilliance. Nathan is the main character, who's sent out to War. During this time he's deeply impassioned in love by Nancy Monteague, a very wealthy woman who goes away to Mowhawk Valley. There's a lot of unnecessary establishing scenes with her and Butler and it's also set during the time Washington was growing to prominence.
Even with its preachy didacticism at times and the way it portrayed Men as chauvinistic, scenes such as the entrance into war and when Butler gets closer to the Americans can be intriguing, especially in the way Griffith uses lighting to emphasise them as if they're figures and his impressionistic use of editing to make you feel as though the war was taking place in his mind, which is done adeptly, but in saying so one wishes the film wasn't this melodramatic in the end. It's as though he was trying to pay the debt of his masterpiece "Intolerance" and then transgressed down the line afterwards. This film is just as well crafted, baroque and immense as anything, but as one reviewer said back during its debut "A war film has dwindled to shear melodrama" it shows this was essentially the counterproductive reaction during the time Vidor brought out his war film "The Big Parade" which made enormous box office revenue during the 20's. It's weird how Vidor also suffered in the 50's when he made "War and Peace" which was reputedly gorgeous, but lacked the substantive content of Tolstoy's original idea.
So what I am saying is that when watching the film, one must put it into context. It's a cliché I know, but unless you're interested in history, the film will rank poor. Interesting to note that during the film there are scenes where Indians seem like they're getting treated the same way Black people were almost a decade before in Griffith's film and yet it's barely looked at. It seems to be a marginal linkage, but it showed how conservative Griffith was still. Well for some of its faults (mainly because Griffith was coming out of his infancy in film making), I can't help, but be enraptured by the heat of war and the way Griffith shows it in great detail. If you have the chance pick up the Image Entertainment DVD, which restored the film to perfection.
Viskningar och rop (1972)
Spellbinding and Not as Depressing as one might think
This is one of these experiences. One can't adopt a mindset of the Bergman way by just diving into a foray of his content in this film. It seems as though the well versed people, especially those who seen it in 1972, seen what Bergman was tackling here. On the ground, it seems as though we should identify with these human beings, keeping in mind that Bergman doesn't even understand or identify with them either; he tells us this with that psychic lens by image exponent Sven Nykvist, who is perhaps the best cinematographer of the 70's during a time when cinema was changing its form as far as politics and fantasy were concerned.
The narrative of the film is bleak as anything. Not surprisingly Kubrick would take his toll on the baroque period in my personal favourite of his "Barry Lyndon" (based on the William Makepeace Thackeray novel) and then Kurosawa would adapt King Lear a decade later in "Ran". But these two aforementioned films weren't as deep and as gritty and ultimate as this film. I remember in my review of "Persona" that I gushed over its melding of character, its bound on our reality and its breaking through the forth wall. A nonconformist film and one of the greatest experiences I had ever undergone; it was not just beautiful, it was sincere, and because it was pure Bergman and Nykvist, it seemed as though there would be no rival on film. He then brings out his period drama... Everything came full throttle.
When one watches "Cries and Whispers" they are mesmerised by the reversible colour, the pantheistic symbols and the lacklustre, yet surprisingly compelling dynamic of the relationship of three sisters and a maid. I always wonder when watching this film, how can this be enticing? Well, simply put, the illusion and disillusioned and the distance and intimacy make this another Bergman triumph. Some say that of "Scenes from a Marriage" being his most personal, but even Bergman said this film was like an actual dream he had, even so much as saying "The film could not be thought of in Black and White. There was too much colour". It was an exceptional example of photography in film. This was the film that has now influenced me to use photography in more avant garde ways.
So what does it need to sustain this with? The backing repertoire of actresses (akin to Persona). Bibi Andersonn refused to do the role of any of the women, thinking it would be imprudent if she was involved. Bergman, being the visionary, that he was still tried to co-erce her, but to no avail. Instead hiring Ingrid Thulin, Liv Ullman (Persona), Harriet Andersson (Summer with Monika) and Karl Sylwan take centre stage. Agnes (Harriet) is cancer stricken and is near to death. Her life flashes past her, with her dismissive sisters Maria and Karin, who cannot get any close or near to her. The maid Anna treats her as if she was a child in her bed ridden state.
In the prelude, Bergman decidedly took some exterior shots and some shots of clocks and so on for he wanted to ground us in the film. Its silence can be liberating and in many ways Bergman is, once again, codifying his cinematic techniques and subverting the conventions of some of them. Most films have a soundtrack in it and yet the chief soundtrack in this film is the quiet sounds of dialogue exchanges and the sound of a pendulum and tick tock. Throughout we look at the life of Maria, Agnes' sister, who philanders with David, the doctor, basically to vent her sexual ways. One scene, which I won't spoil, shows this as Ullman's wonderful acting goes against the words being said. It's the visual with words being subordinate to the story. Karin, the other sister, represses her feelings and ultimately during her sister's untimely death, unceremoniously confesses them to ultimately recanting them.
The film builds on the static character (the centrepiece) who happens to be Agnes, an insignificant character, who eventually passes on in the most disconcerting of ways. Bergman's idea of distance and silence to noise and closeness is astutely looked at when Maria and Karin grow close with the truth of their own selves - she's sulky and childish and Karin is an apologist and, in my opinion, deceitful. Eventually when they grow close, Bergman soars in a soundtrack that washes everything away from the surface so that he creates a certain distance with his essential audience. It's one of the most enchanting elements of the filmic experience.
I can't describe what kind of a bittersweet feeling I felt from this minimalistic film. I felt as though the receptive of what ever truth of what they sought, ultimately came at a price. Some will not like this film; for others it might colour their actual emotions about death. This was when I really felt, in Marshall Mcluhan's words, that "The Medium is the Message". Some masters like Trauffaut, Bertoluccio and Dreyer are able to embed their own influence on their work in one of the most subtle ways, Bergman seems to actually have a message that can be legible even without looking too far into it, which makes this an accessible masterpiece and one of the most sumptuous films ever made. I agree with Allen when he said that you come away feeling exhilarated because you feel like you're in the presence of great art rather than a depressing experience. Yes "Wild Strawberries" and any other are undeniably going to get received with warmer reception, but if it wasn't for the decorative beauty of the milieu imbued with the dour and off putting feeling of what transpires, it probably wouldn't rank that high for me. He has ample films to pick and choose - some don't even know his earlier films like "Prison" and "Summer Interlude", which happened to be a Godard favourite.
Certainly not Murneau's Best Film, but his most Daring
I would give "Nosferatu" a 7. Why? Because out of all the films that predate it, Nosferatu comes of age. But we must respect the fact it pertains to a medieval tradition and some flaws can be found outside when you actually see Max Shreck outside in the sun light. More a nitpick then anything on Murneau's masterwork. What made me like it so much? Well out of all the macabre films that have launched in the genre, this one had more layers and had well executed performances; it was actually shot in the Carpathian mountains, it infused the Monster (Frankenstein's Monster)'s pathos with the Vampire's lust for blood and the film chronicles epidemic more in earnestly then most films (only thwarted by "Vampyr" and Coppola's "Dracula" in terms of serious approach).
Nosferatu uses atmosphere to capture the viewer's reverie for nightmarish figures. Knock is a character who has been driven from sanity to madness as the disseminating epidemic takes its toll. It took Bram Stoker's novel and Murneau explicated how he could translate it with subtlety. The answer was substitute the name (now well seeded in folklore) and create jagged and prismatic architecture to change the story ultimately. It's fair to say the film doesn't really have an all encompassing narrative, though it does encompass narrative POVs. There's a famous key scene when Orlock's shadow engulfs Hutter and it's seen from a Woman dying in her bed. The scene is so lurid and so resonant that it doesn't matter about movies like "Saw", "Halloween" (brilliant notwithstanding) and "Friday the 13th" when the director gives your imagination enough fulcrum.
It was bodacious no doubt even with the notable flaws that we can dismiss. Undoubtedly it's probably the most sterling horror movie ever made. I.e. when Hutter comes to the mountains he's completely lost. His time being lost gives us enough to soak up the gorgeously Stygian and cavernous world, much like how Allan Grey soaks it up 10 years later in Vampyr. It's only abruptly that Orlock interjects and stipulates that Hutter must come here. Not exactly a congenial acquaintance as the ravishing Bela Lugosi, but a shunned ogre-esque creature who besotted company. Then another scene, which looks almost like stop-frame animation, where Orlock moves rigidly to the coffin to make it up and then wields it as if like Jesus carrying the cross. I'm not saying this was intentional symbolism, but the impression is so sacrosanct that it starts to feel cogent.
Like with most silents of greatness, some may not respond to it concordantly. We must remember though that for its time, it had brilliantly archaic element, like "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari", which remain artistic. Although I must admit I have seen many other amazing silents.
La roue (1923)
The Rose of the Rail
I got Gance's avant garde melodrama several weeks ago (back on 15, October). It's probably one of the most engaging and suffering films on the human condition.
Now much has been made on its elaborate train wreck, derailment, the fantasy between Elie and Norma and also the famous second act where the fight and blizzard transpires. Has much been made about the innovative use of macrophotography or the magnificent way of masking? I don't think so. Gance was engineered the camera distinctively and his interest in the mechanical engines such as the train is very much that with which is inherent to his interest in the camera. The thing is the story becomes subordinate to allow more of an excursive metaphysical reality to come into play. Gance takes a thorough amount of time to set up Ivy Close as if she is the most enchanting thing on earth; and in a way, probably sharing a big slice of his mind in doing so. It's as if the world collapses with heart throb after Sisif impelled to give her up to Hersan, the chief of the locomotive industry. One stand out scene where he tries to persuade Sisif to allow him to marry her is one of the most disconcerting parts of the film because life and love have been made to dwindle into a gritty fight for love (You'll see that in the second act).
This film is probably one of my favourites, not because of its spectacle, but because of the subliminal feeling one gets from it. It's like fauvism each and every time that metaphor of the rose is used and the psyche of the characters is measured by one girl, one man and all in a disaster movie. Gance not only cut the film with the first source of souviet editing (to which Pudovkin and Eisenstein commended him for), but he also gave us macrophotography of indelible faces as if we know them personally, which is also attributed to the disturbing theme of the film.
Masking is used to flap out the images with a more sumptuous look, especially notable on the train sequence, where the whole thing is getting loaded with coal and the alarming rate of disaster is hell bent on mans reluctance. His love is insatiable, but his desire is unstoppable. It could be a banal love story, but instead it descends into something akin to Vertigo, but where Vertigo wasn't about any incest themes, La Roue does. The dolorous Sisif cannot come to terms with his lies and deceit and because of layers upon layers of complexity we never see resolved. What we do see though is probably just as grandiose as watching The Passion of Joan of Arc or Night on Bald Mountain (end of Fantasia).
I notice that the main complaint is with the running time. Unprecedented it's been said. But what makes a film long winded? Is it the content or the quantity of images? I think the images haunt you... and even move you to elation.
La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928)
Compositions that will never leave you and emotions that will haunt me each viewing of the film
I would like to note that I advocated Carl Theodor Dreyer way before I was seated in front of this film, which became to most critics, his crowning moment. He took cinema into sacrilegious areas and instilled ideas about the existence of a deity. These theocentric and glorious disembowelling of the truth of this and the truth of death are amongst a subject matter, which was picked up by Goddard, Bergman and Allen. It's good to know that it has been done, but Dreyer was ahead of this in condensing philosophical things to his films, such as this film, Vampyr and Ordet. What makes him more potent then Bergman (given that Bergman is a genius and undeniably knew how to make a film that tried to thwart any believe that he wanted to debunk. Powerful example of this is found in "Winter Light" (1963)), but let's just say Bergman tried a film that represented symbols rather than words. In Prison (1949), a film in which he dismissed as terrible, he uses visual ideas in quite crude ways. It's an anticlerical film in a way and it showed his passion in silent cinema, until he formalised his own approach head on. But he took ideas and brought them into nuanced complexity. Dreyer wanted to actually bring forth something as a standalone work and he never really wanted his opinion to be influenced into his films. I even think Bergman liked Dreyer; his works seemed to be influenced by him. Dreyer was a Danish director; he was one of the first masters of abstract images. It's bizarre to see overtly on his IMDb credits that his first film was "The President" made in 1919, even though it tackled similar ideas, it's unlike anything that his style encompasses. I discovered him by a feature that I fell in love with called "Vampyr" 1932; its mysticism, demythologising of the vampire and technological effects that set the way we move in Allan Grey's ventures, where he enters a world that we shouldn't have entered and he shouldn't have either is amazing and the demonology of the film is in my opinion really overlooked. It exploits death in such a way especially how Leone died by a ghost we don't see (similar to "Blood of a Poet" when Jean's character peaks through a painting to see a cowboy shooting a gun the same nervous effect). The film is expressionistic, dominantly white and metaphorically about us as thinatophiles and in doing this, reifying legendary figures. When the Vampires Accomplice gets killed, the ending is perfect because it's a time glass and it symbolises the memento mori and again we want to see this guy die because he wants to see others die as well. And then it segues into the forest where Allan and the affected of woman go off into the sun, the first mammoth bit of life in the condition of the films environment. Enticed by the shadows of figures and interiors of cavernous places, it's no doubt a fantastic film and heavily overlooked. The power is understated, but gloriously executed. I had been excited about "Passion" for a long time; "The President" (1919), "Mikhail" (1924) and "Master of House" (1925) are the only silent films I was aware of that he made. I then dabbled into film documentaries (one of which was the episodic "Story of Film" by Mark Cousins) and I found out more about the realist film maker and this made me even more serious about getting it. It was a criterion edition I purchased and it came through last week. With those few films mentioned into consideration, Dreyer makes a foray into detailing Joan's story The accuracy is diminished slightly, ultimately to accommodate the drama of the story, and instead Dreyer employs Marinee Falcolnetti as Jeanne D'arc and it's the most beautifully lit face in all of pantomime in cinema. There are a lot more that are probably better actors during that era, but it's an unequalled accomplishment to give such a resonance, simply with close ups (and it looks nearly like macro photography and this was during a time where these innovations weren't even around). I love seeing her response for salvation of soul, as if the apotheosis is manifestos. I don't believe anything that is said by Joan, but taking her impassioned words in this film, which are to me probably false and seeing how she goes against them, shows us the rigour of that terrible system.
The film interlinks objects with emotions and takes different accounts very serious. I nearly cried in the first half of it and as it culminated calamitously. Dreyer used a panning shot very infrequently when he showed the judges and there's one scene where the camera pans right down one of their faces and then it cuts to Jeanne in a state of despair about where she leaned the prayer from. The judges don't hate her, but rather that they hate her mendacity and hubris ways, which make them hypocritical just because she wants to help people. Two Judges plea that she is a saint and didn't stem from the Devil, but from God. As if by envy of her accomplishments in helping people, they refuse to accept any verisimilitude of the trial. Trust me, the subtle moments of cinematography such as when the people come in with the weapons or when they're getting out the stake and the unbelievable part when they tell her that the King wrote a letter just to get her to put down a signature to death, hits the emotional side, not because it's playing for poignancy, but because of the woe of it So while probably not the most accurate version of the story (I have yet to see Demille's "Joan the Woman" and actually read up on it), this is a bravura film and is close to being the best Dreyer film I have seen.