Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Man Escaped - Robert Bresson (1956)

 French art does French resistance, or: How to break out of prison with nothing but a spoon. And no panning. Austere instructional film about tight-lipped terrorist spy in cell who doesn’t masturbate. Mozart C-minor Mass adds emphasis to tragic heroism of incarcerated French spirit during Nationalist-Socialist collaboration. (Shower-scene not included.)

American Beauty -  Mendes (1999)

Suburban liberationist phantasy about beating the system (as it beats you). Main messages: materialism and narcissism corrupt; homophobia (exposed as -philia and thwarted desire) leads to violence; opting-out as the path to authenticity: sex (or its intention), drugs, and the transcendence of middle-class conformism through the cult of hedonic American style "beauty." 

Kes - Ken Loach (1969)

Unvarnished late British kitchen-sinker and all-time top-tenner about degradation of adolsescing boy who finds short-lived state of grace through falconry. Think: The Yearling set in a northern industrial town, sans Delius' score. Man’s iniquity (socio-economic oppression) wages war on unwitting emancipation attempt from class-dependent bondage. (With shower-scene.)

Berlin-Alexanderplatz - Fassbinder (1980)

I-VII : Ponderous sepia-toned chamber-opera about Weimar-era wife-killer released from Tegel prison into post-war Berlin’s socio-political chaos only to be tempted away by corrupt circumstances from his path-to-regeneration and righteousness. 

VIII-XII : ‘Mieze’s’ [Barbara Sukowa] miraculous innocence emplotted as synesthetic-reverie. Aural-dramatic counterpoint to end all counterpoint. Consummation of the Fassbinder-Peer Raaben collaboration and apotheosis of “New German Cinema.” With epilogue.

Plein Soleil - René Clement (1960)

Highsmith’s Talented Mr. Ripley as mediteranean sun-drenched noir. A symphony of blues, reds and whites frames breath-robbing fleur du mal Alain Delon and his till-the-end-successful revenge-murder-theft from envy. Who needs Hitchcock? 

Maria’s Lovers - Konchulowsky (1984)

Home-coming to a Russian-American community finds veteran struggling with flash-backs and a reluctance to penetrate idealized virgin bride's vagina. Nastasia Kinskey, Jon Savage, Keith Carradine and Robert Mitchum star. A paradigm of authentic Sitz-im-Leben mis-en-scène. The incomparably intense Savage invites you in. 

The Yearling - Clarence Brown (1946)

Bucolic innocence meets life’s hard facts. Father and son bond in exotic Florida swamp-land while bitter odd-man-out mother kills joy. Yearling transitional object represents the unmasculine as miraculous in its own right. Alas, as per Schiller: “Auch das Schöne muβ sterben,” and Bambi [spoilers!] has to be double-barreled out of its misery by the one who most adores it. Claude Jarman Jr. will rip you apart. 

Shane - George Stevens (1953)

Gun-obsessed frontier boy finds true hero-love in laconic gunslinger only to be jilted. Message[s]: guns are bad, but real men know how to wield 'em. Size counts less than manner of use. Courage is always sexy, especially if you die trying. Memorable lines: “I saw your gun in there one day... Are you mad?” “A man has to be what he is--can’t break the mold.” 

Goodbye Mr. Chips - Sam Wood (1939) 

Homely professor finds inspiration in saintly woman and lives to be ripe-old (ugly) professor adored by small-town folk for moral fiber. Sanctimonious, unsexy British homeland pride display. Message: A man’s honor is a post executed to the best of his ability--even civilian positions in times of world conflagration. Promotion is always possible. Faith in self comes through the faith others have in us. Huh. 

Rebel without a Cause - Ray (1956)

Middle-class Californian adolescents duke it out with peers and parents. Symphonic score lends gravity to uppity teens’ struggle to dismantle oppressive parental over-site in impassioned bid for “sincerity.” Ray's paean to unphoniness marks the beginning of America’s obsession with high-school as the arena of institutionalized authority-vs-spontaneity confrontation. Teenagers as tragic we-just-want-to-love individualists. Parents as greying, histrionic meddlers.

Marnie - Hitchcock (1964)


The devil is a (neurotic) woman (but not beyond redemption by an undeceivable Hero). Kleptomaniac liar and frigid man-hater Marnie [Tippie Hedrin] helps herself to employers’ cash reserves, only to be detected by righteous he-man ethnologist and amateur psychoanalyst Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) who marries and sorts out the tangled threads of her [spoilers!] obsessive-compulsive derangement through free-association & return to crime-trauma scene. Prissy, pious old mama who can’t love once was whore. One day sailor-John, who just wanted to comfort little Marnie, winds up on wrong end of poker during flash-back storm with. 

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