Monday, March 14, 2011

Since awards week, there has been screenings for Rendez-vous With French Cinema, some revivals of French classics (Bresson's "Diary of a Country Priest" and Truffaut's "The Soft Skin", which bookended the recent French series for me), and New Directors/New Films. But the catastrophes in the world have taken precedence.

Japan is devastated by the most powerful earthquake to have struck since these have been recorded. But a continual danger: the nuclear reactors in Japan, how stable are they and what happens in a meltdown.

And closer to home: last week brought intense flooding to the area, including incredible damage to parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.

Turner Classic Movies has had some amusing programming. The "guest programmer" this month turns out to be staffers at TCM, and in some cases the films will be TCM premieres. I'm looking forward to "Caught", which i continue to think is one of Ophuls's best movies; one premiere last week turned out to be "A Taste of Honey", which i caught a while ago when it was shown on one of the cable channels (HBO or Showtime, can't remember). It was interesting to see, especially after watching "Georgy Girl" again last week. The change from kitchen-sink England to Swinging England wasn't really that dramatic, there are always those touches of humor in the kitchen-sink movies which point to what would develop. (In "A Taste of Honey", it can be found in such scenes as the ones where Jo and Geoff go to the fair, and go shopping for baby things.)

Yesterday (Sunday) there was a whole night devoted to Joan of Arc films. The 1949 "Joan of Arc" (mostly directed by Victor Fleming) was disconcerting to see: watching it on high-definition television, it's so obvious that a lot of the scenes were done against painted scenery. The opening at the cathedral, for example: the whole scene is fake, right down to the painted rays of sunlight! I hadn't seen that film since i was a child, and it was almost intolerable. And Ingrid Bergman is beautiful but fatuous: her nobility gets tiresome, and she's relying on her luminosity in a way which is patently false. "Saint Joan" is even more of a disaster than i remembered (and i've seen the movie several times). What did Graham Greene do to the play? I'm not even talking about opening it up, i'm talking about the wholesale removal of the Shavian wit! And Jean Seberg just has no finesse: she's so earnest!

Of course, Dreyer's "La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc" and Bresson's "Proces de Jeanne d'Arc" were examples of true piety. And restorative: they show how the subject can be approached with real artistry.


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