CineMathematics or CinemaThematics. Your choice

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sundae Monday's Film Marathon Part I

Finals are over! Have been since Thursday. Almost as if to celebrate my freedom, the Prince Charles Cinema hosted a marathon of films in celebration of Europe Day. After that, I caught Days of Heaven at the National Gallery, and the Wajda War Trilogy at the BFI Southbank. This would make for a total of 11 films, except I fell asleep for most of Persona and Knife in the Water, so I'll go with 9 1/2 films consumed this weekend, only two of which I had seen before. This week's Sundae Monday will give me an opportunity to collect some of my thoughts on these films while providing you with some wonderful accompanying visuals. This section covers the 5 1/2 during the From Europe With Love film marathon.

La Belle et la BĂȘte

This film is like a play on screen. The sets are wonderful, and the actors EMOTE in a way that you just cannot find these days. The use of technology is admirable, but the most impressive thing about it is how seamless it is. The dissolves are absolutely stunning for the time, and they help to elevate the film in its realism, even as it reminds us that this is a fairy tale and cannot be real. The film is technically impeccable, but it never overshadows the story at its heart. Here is the first meeting between Beauty and the Beast:

8 1/2

8 1/2 is much better than it was a month ago. Who would have guessed that a film mired in dreams, fantasies, and symbolism would be better on the second viewing? The harem scene is an incredible way to show how our memories and fantasies must compete for our attention. I was a bit surprised to look upon an early dream scene and feel that it could have been ghost-directed by Ingmar Bergman. More on that connection later. Since that scene is unavailable on YouTube, so instead I present the single most stunning image in a film full of them. Pause at the 15 second mark.


Director Szabolcs Hajdu is certainly one to watch, if you get a chance. His shots are relatively long and well composed, and his narratives are certainly unique. If I were judging solely by Hajdu's technical abilities, I would have nothing but glowing things to say about this film. Alas, the plot is very challenging to someone unfamiliar with a Hungarian point of view, and I don't think that should necessarily be praised. Perhaps the film's weakest aspect is its sense of humor. It trots out stale jokes; some of them are beaten to death, and some of are revealed to early, draining the humor from what could be an entertaining situation. Even so, I would heartily recommend this to someone looking for new talent. This clip doesn't have subtitles, but you don't really need them.

Rhythm Is It!

I can't wait for the inspirational film about inner city students who learn to express themselves through dance that will come from this documentary. Another lobotomized "based on a true story" film that will suck the soul out of what is actually an interesting story about an English dance teacher in Berlin and his counterpart leading the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The film executes its climax very poorly, and I'm not even sure why they included the section focusing on the conductor of the orchestra except to introduce the music the kids will dance to. That said, most of the film is an interesting look at how teens react to discipline and challenges that doesn't come from their normal lives. However, more than anything else, this film reminded me of how much I love Fantasia, particularly the scene scored to The Rite of Spring. As a child, I was obsessed with dinosaurs, and I watched this part to no end. With that massive bias in mind, this may be the single best scene in cinema:

Don't Look Now

My first thought after this film ended: Don't you hate it when you accidentally look into the future and see your own funeral? I get that all the time. Pisses me off. But seriously, this is a masterpiece of atmosphere in the uniquely 70's horror sort of way. 70's horror films used the zoom and little twinges in their soundtrack in a way that seems foreign to a modern viewer whose main horror intake has come from the post-Alien/Halloween era of horror films. I'm not sure if this is my cup of tea, but I plan to explore it further when given the chance. Enjoy the opening:


As I mentioned above, I missed most of this when I fell asleep at 3 AM. I saw the beginning and the end. In fact, my viewing experience is remarkably similar to the first time I tried to watch La Dolce Vita (There's that Bergman/Fellini connection again). Based solely on those two viewing experiences, I would have to side with Fellini. Persona mostly overwhelmed me with shock imagery, while La Dolce Vita started with a helicopted carrying a statue of Jesus. What's not to love? I woke up to a image of Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann merged together ala Brudlefly and spent the rest of the time confused. The final scene didn't depend on context and felt profound and moving, even without the preceding film. Based on these very limited experiences, I have to go with La Dolce Vita, though I hope to see all of Persona soon (since that first experience I did get a chance to see La Dolce Vita in full. Worth the wait). In that vein, this is what I woke up to:

I have no thoughts on Knife in the Water at this time. Expect Part II soon.

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