14 Sep 2011
Le Mari de la Coiffeuse (The Hairdresser's Husband)
Director: Patrice Leconte
Part of Leconte’s “Obsession Trilogy” including 'Monsieur Hire' and 'Parfum d'Yvonne,' this film is filled with French joie de vivre, and that relaxed European sensuality which still acknowledges the inevitably fleeting nature of human passion. Jean Rochefort - so excellent in Leconte’s ‘L'Homme du Train' - is funny and touching as a man tenderly recollecting the great passion of his youth. The beautiful Anna Galiena believably embodies this powerful obsession. Chabrol's favourite cinematographer Eduardo Serra creates settings equally seductive. Michael Nyman, remembered for his work on Jane Campion’s 'The Piano,' provides another winning score.
Le Mari de la Coiffeuse by YopEater
Sommarlek [lit. 'Summer games'] (Summer Interlude)
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Regret for lost youth pervades this film. The remarkable B&W photography by Gunnar Fischer at one point takes a close-up of Maj-Britt Nilsson's troubled prima-ballerina, prepared for her role in white make-up which, under the stark stage lighting, has turned her young face into a death-mask. In old age, Bergman retained a great fondness for this early work about a woman's tragic first love. A drama played out to the music of Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake,' and with a cast authentically drawn from the Stockholm Royal Ballet, this has been called Bergman's 'The Red Shoes' - or maybe it is his 'Black Swan' ?
Cria Cuervos (Raise Ravens)
Director: Carlos Saura
Made in the teeth of censorship under Franco‘s dictatorship, this portrait of childhood enters into the same secret place which Victor Erice in 'The Spirit of the Beehive' and Guillermo del Toro in 'Pan's Labyrinth' also investigate. Through evocative camerawork by Teodoro Escamilla we watch, transfixed by the challenging gaze of a child‘s innocence, as, newly orphaned, she explores the sinister world of adulthood, seeing everywhere the disturbing legacy of her father, a fascist and womanizer, but accompanied by the gentle ghost of her broken-hearted mother - a luminous Geraldine Chaplin. The Spanish say: "Raise ravens, and they will pluck out your eyes."
Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel)
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Made during the Weimar Republic, when Germany was on the brink of collapse, this is a devastating film. Josef von Sternberg's stark, expressionist imagery is a distorting mirror held up to a respectable and pompous professor, dramatising his grotesque downward spiral of lust and debasement at the hands of the glamorous and manipulative Lola Lola - a very young and provocatively sexy Marlene Dietrich. The decadent world of seedy cabaret rapidly draws Dr. Immanuel Rath down into a living hell of degradation - this is the great Emil Jannings in one of his most memorable roles. His ultimate public humiliation will make you squirm at its cruelty.
The Shop Around the Corner
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
This comic masterpiece is set nostalgically in a vanished pre-war Budapest, just before the Christmas holiday. (A less effective updating, 'You've Got Mail,' starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.) In Lubitsch's witty film, the wonderful pairing of Jimmie Stewart and Margaret Sullavan are colleagues in a gift shop, perpetually bickering and falling-out with each other at work. Each of these quarrelsome characters has privately found love via pen-pal letters, but without having actually met the object of their affection. All this while, neither has realised that their annoying colleague .... But all these farcical misunderstandings do have a happy ending for Christmas!
Director: David Lean
The masterly scenes of Pip's encounters with the fearsome Magwitch, and with Miss Havisham in her Gothic mausoleum of a house, have powerfully influenced the horror genre. Yet along with this brilliantly creepy evocation of the past reaching out to touch the present, the young David Lean also made a fresh and forward-looking adaptation for a modern audience, allowing Dickens's social concerns to catch the Socialist mood of post-War Britain. Pip’s defiance of the almost mummified Miss Havisham similarly presages Britain’s escape from stifling Victorian values. Oscars followed for tour-de-force art direction, and Guy Green's striking cinematography.
Director: Kevin Brownlow
In the wake of the English Civil War, a group known as ‘the Diggers’ establish a self-sufficient commune on St George's Hill, Surrey. Disciples of the visionary Gerrard Winstanley, their peaceful claims to the common land are seen as an act of dangerous revolution by the Restoration landowners, and the King's troops violently evict them. This gripping account of a brief 17th century social experiment has many bravura touches - not least, one of the most brilliantly directed battle-scenes ever filmed. On a tiny budget, astonishing efforts are lavished on accurate period detail. This includes authentic portraits, even of figures on the political right.
La Peau Douce (Silken Skin)
France, Portugal 1964
Director: François Truffaut
Distrust of the established institutions of religion, politics, and marriage is central to the French New Wave, and this suspicion permeates François Truffaut's mesmerizing morality play, in which - with stars Jean Desailly and Françoise Dorléac - he reveals the arrogance of bourgeois adultery and it’s deadly consequences. A directorial masterclass, Hitchcockian mechanisms of suspense are brought to a seemingly trivial story, character and milieu are effortlessly evoked, and Truffaut's sheer prodigality of visual inventiveness in scene after scene is a wonder to behold. The film is a triumph of cinematic truth, and fully vindicates the Nouvelle Vague.
Sayat Nova (The Colour of Pomegranates)
Director: Sergei Parajanov
Censored, re-cut, renamed and banned, this is now recognised as a masterpiece to rank alongside the best work of D.W. Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein. Following the life and work of the great Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova (‘King of Song‘), the poet is shown growing up, falling in love, entering a monastery and finally passing away, but entirely depicted through the use of highly stylized symbolic images, drawn from Sayat Nova's poems and the riches of Armenia's cultural heritage. Parajanov involved himself in every aspect of this remarkable and hauntingly beautiful work.