Saturday, September 05, 2009

Watching "I Aim at the Stars"; it's one of those movies remembered from childhood, yet it's rather more complicated than memory served, because there are all these arguments about patriotism/nationalism and science.

In the last few weeks, i've either seen some new movies , or movies have opened which i saw a while ago. There are some interesting compare and contrast items among these new releases.

First i'll start with two new Argentine releases, Lucretia Martel's "The Headless Woman" and Lisandro Alonso's "Liverpool".

Alonso is one of the recent directors (i would also include the Dardenne Brothers and Pedro Costa) whose films are rooted in an aesthetic which is a development from neo-realism. There is the attempt to create (mostly through images and sounds, not really through dialogue) an impression of life from what used to be called the lumpen-proletariat. In "Liverpool" (as in Alonso's earlier feature "Los Muertos") the protagonist is on a journey; he is seeking to go home, but finds that it is more difficult than he realized. But the journey is realized in images of eerily composed isolation: the sailor (traveling) is often dwarfed by snowy roads. The attempt is to articulate those emotions which are present in the environment which are are congruent with the emotions of those who cannot articulate in words.

Lucretia Martel's work is from a different angle, because her work is about a different strata of society. Her style is also one which does not depend on fully articulated dialogue, but not because her protagonists are the lumpen-proles, but because her characters are the bourgeoisie who refuse responsibility for the imbalance in power. In "The Headless Woman", her protagonist is a woman who may (or may not) have caused an accident, but her actions then proceed as a way to hide from, to mask any responsibility.

One thing: in thinking about Lucretia Martel's work, i was reminded on the work of Leopoldo Torre-Nilsson, who was the most prominent Argentine director of the 1950s and 1960s. His films were also about the irresponsibility and the rigid social structure of the Argentine bourgeoisie.

Finally caught up with Claire Denis's "35 Shots of Rum" (which i missed at this year's Rendez-vous With French Cinema). In many ways, a lovely film. But somewhere in the background there is the template of Ozu's "Late Spring" in this story of a middle-aged metro conductor living on the outskirts of Paris, and his adult daughter. In the beginning of the film, he returns home and presents his daughter with the gift of an electric rice-cooker; that rice-cooker is a sort of symbol of the Japanese geneology of the narrative.

But when i realized that "Late Spring" was the referent, i was reminded that earlier this year, Doris Dorrie's "Cherry Blossoms" was released, another European film in which an Ozu film is referred to (and quite explicitly in the cased of "Cherry Blossoms"): "Cherry Blossoms" is a movie about a retired couple who go to visit their three grown children (the younger son has a job in Tokyo, which prompts a visit to Japan). One problem that "Cherry Blossoms" has (which "45 Shots of Rum" avoids) is that Doris Dorrie's film is an explicit "remake" of Ozu's "Tokyo Story", and at times, some of the incidents seem strained because Dorrie is trying too hard to find an equivalent to incidents in Ozu's original.

I thought of the fact that, in both cases, Denis and Dorrie wanted to make a story about "traditional values", i.e., the family unit, and in both cases, they turned to Ozu for inspiration. But is Ozu such a "traditional" filmmaker? He's one of the most stylized filmmakers of all time, yet what are the meanings of his films? Like John Ford, so many of Ozu's films are about the dissolution of family: at the end of "End of Summer", the funeral processional becomes ominous. In "Tokyo Story", the aging parents find out that their family is now dispersed and no longer cohesive; in "Late Spring", the marriage dissolves the unity of the father-daughter bond. And the dissolution is one of great sadness.

This week, Fox ran the pilot episode of "Glee" several times, to build an audience for the series premiere next week. But this morning, i watched a documentary "Battle of the High Schooll Musicals: Guys and Divas", and it was amusing to see so many of the elements satirized in "Glee" being based in real life.


Post a Comment

<< Home