Thursday, February 28, 2008

Seen over the last few days: "It Always Rains on Sunday", "Vivere", "Blind Mountain" and "Judex". Also "The Gates".

Right now, shall concentrate on "It Always Rains on Sunday" and "Vivere".

To start with "Vivere": Angelina Maccarone has made films which have appeared in the gay/lesbian circuit, "Everything Will Be Fine" and the recent "Punish Me" as examples. In those films, there was an earnestness which often mitigated against the mood she was trying to create. But "Vivere" is different. It's an attempt on Maccarone's part to create a modern-mosaic film, in which little fragments of the story, individual scenes, are woven together, and eventually form a pattern. Here, the "story" is (supposedly) told from three different perspectives, but the individual scenes are often very moving, and visually the film has a lovely texture. The film is set at Christmastime, and the usage of colored Christmas lights provides glinting hints of warmth and cold. In a sense, it's rather predictable: when you realize that the two young women's mother ran off, even if the encounter is accidental, you know that the middle-aged woman they encounter will figure into the story. It was strange, i didn't expect that i would find "Vivere" such a lovely movie, i was surprised by the delicacy of the film, and the expert way in which the film was edited and constructed.

"It Always Rains on Sunday" is a British thriller from 1947; i'd never seen it, but it was the first really big success for Ealing Studios (headed by Michael Balcon). It's a terrifically trim little thriller, about one afternoon in Bethnal Green (London's East End). This is another movie where a number of stories intersect (quite dextrously), but what's really fascinating is how open the film is about ethnicity, in particular, about the Jewishness of many of the characters. In this, it was reminiscent of many English thrillers which followed, especially in the late 1950s, where social issues were tackled, under the guise of the thriller format. Thus racism is considered in "Sapphire", immigrants are featured in "Tiger Bay" and homosexuality is the issue in "Victim". "It Always Rains on Sunday" is a beautiful movie, and i'm glad i finally saw it. In the notes, it is mentioned that Michael Balcon was Jewish; Henry Cornelius (who was one of the three credited writers on the film, as well as the associate producer; Cornelius would go on to direct one of the perfect Ealing comedies, "Genevieve") was also Jewish. (This leads me to wonder how Michael Balcon raised his daughter Jill, because that would factor into her son Daniel Day-Lewis's upbringing. I never would have guessed that one thing that Rebecca Miller and Daniel Day-Lewis had in common was Jewish ancestry.)

Anway, "Vivere" and "It Always Rains on Sunday" are fascinating little movies. And that's the operative word: "little". They're not movies to go to when you're expecting to be overwhelmed, but both are trim and succinct.


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