Monday, February 21, 2022

Favorite (four), eighty-one

Just like in my other eighty posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to see but only a very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those and my hope is one or two will be good to you as well.

Robert Bresson's Les anges du peche
In a rare case, Bresson emerges in his first feature already a masterful filmmaker.  His style is not yet fully formed, that would not happen until his third feature, but his understanding and command of the medium's power are fully present.  

Although I imagine there is a way to view the film, being that it was made in 1943, as a film of resistance, I experienced it at face value as a film of faith.  As such, it demonstrates faith as well as anything I have seen on film.  Bresson finds the cinematic tools to make us understand certain beliefs, such as sacrificing worldly materials to attain a true spiritual state, that in less skilled hands would leave us unmoved and unenlightened.  I experienced the film not only as a film about faith but as an indication of Bresson's faith in the medium of cinema to plumb the depths of human experience and to emerge with emotions of a deep spiritual and intellectual revelatory power.

Jean-Claude Biette's Trois ponts sur la riviere
I know more about French film than I know about almost anything else. And though I was aware of some of Biette's work, particularly Loin de Manhattan and Le champignon des Carpathes, this is the first of his movies I have seen.

Biette has a great feel for capturing spaces in a precisely realistic way, like a college student's apartment in Paris or a bookstore in Porto, Portugal.  Similarly, his dialogue and the way he lets his actors move around and express themselves, reinforces a directorial desire to adhere closely to the way these types of moments unfold in real life.  In fact, it seems that Biette's quest to remain accurate and truthful give the film one of its most unique qualities, its willingness to show certain glances or moments without the need to explain them.  I am thinking, for instance, of the way Claire stares from her hotel window at the Brazilian guest, the brief scene suggesting it is normal for attraction to occur without ever being acted upon.  

I can only guess at the reasons for it but like Rivette's Out 1Le Pont du Nord or even La bande des quatre, Biette includes, with the character of Frank, a subplot of noirish overtones.  Like in the abovementioned Rivette works, the subplot feels more artificial and more difficult to believe than one typically experiences in regular genre films while the foregrounded story, that of Arthur and Claire, feels far more real than most movies.

Josh Swade's Ricky Powell: The Individualist
Highly recommended for fans like me of the Beastie Boys.  Chances are, again like me, that you know less than 10% of the massive contribution Powell made to the early hip hop era and to the Beasties from their early career all the way until the completion of Ill Communication.   
Lee Man-hui's Homebound
Not only my first experience with a film by Man-hui but also probably the first Korean film I have seen that came out before 2000.  To summarize it in broad strokes, it feels like a Sirkian melodrama filmed in a more natural New Wave manner.  Yet, Man-hui gives it certain touches that make it distinctive and take it into territory that is neither Sirk nor New Wavish.  I am thinking about some of the ways Man-hui uses sound and music to draw the character of the military husband.  And, the institutional pressures, marriage in this case, feel even more oppressive than we typically experience in one of Sirk's films.    


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