Till det som är vackert [2009)

This is a perfect, imperfect film.

Like Russell’s paradox.

And I hope director Lisa Langseth won’t go all Frege on me and jump out a window.

Ah!

You know…

I have spoiled nothing.

And my words are almost completely inconsequential.

But similar things have been said about La Règle du jeu.

And I disagree with that.

In 1939, Jean Renoir made an unqualified (perfect) masterpiece with that film.

I qualified it only to distinguish from my initial example.

And so Pure (the title of this Swedish film which is currently on Netflix in the U.S.) is much like Asia Argento’s almost-masterpiece Incompresa.

I will be quite blunt.

Lisa Langseth stretches in almost the exact same dimension that Argento did with her fine film.

But the real similarity is acting perfection.

For a young child, Giulia Salerno was magnificent (really!) in Argento’s film.

And so Ms. Argento had the secret weapon.

A (very young) actress capable of cine-magic.

Ms. Langseth was blessed with more-or-less the same thing.

But even better.

[perhaps because the actress was a little older and more experienced]

Alicia Vikander makes Till det som är vackert go.

I mean, really…this is an acting performance unlike any other.

And so my only gripe with Ms. Langseth, the director, is that she stretched the story TOO FAR.

But that’s ok.

Because, you know what?  Maybe I’m wrong.

Langseth and Argento both seem to be trying to tell every story they’ve ever lived…IN ONE FILM.

Argento is the guiltier party.

For most of Pure, Langseth sticks to a taut plot.

Buttressed by Vikander’s exquisite acting, the sum total is ecstasy.

And so, I find myself reacting against the Hitchcock tendency in two films.

Some directors NEED a good dose of Hitchcock.

Wes Anderson, for example.

That guy is so saccharine…that when the fingers come off in Grand Budapest, we finally have a filmmaker.

But Langseth and Argento are telling GRUELING stories throughout (in Pure and Misunderstood, respectively).

And so the heavy bass note…the one which when slammed births the 9th harmonic…it doesn’t work here.

Because the tritone.

To progress through the harmonic series.

And resolve on a tritone.

It takes a special auteur to do such.

And these two ladies are not the dodecaphonists to do so.

They have not worked out a coherent system to justify their heart-ripping atonality.

But fear not.

Pure is so, so, so worth watching!

This is as close as a film can get to masterpiece while still being flawed.

And it’s so very close, I’m wondering whether the flawed one is me.

[no doubt]

Let me correct the record (ouch…David “Scumbag” Brock)…

We get noodles with ketchup.

I mean, this film is Gummo real.

So I want to give some BIG compliments.

Till det som är vackert is the best Swedish film ever made by anyone not named Ingmar Bergman.

In fact, it’s BETTER than several of Bergman’s films.

Shall I name names?

Pure is worlds (WORLDS) better than Fanny and Alexander.

Bergman was in poseur mode.

That flick is so overrated.

And Lisa Langseth totally smokes (eats the lunch of) Bergman.

Further, Till det som är vackert is (in my humble, masculine opinion) the greatest feminist film since 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days…and in some ways EVEN BETTER than that timeless masterpiece.

And so, in general, I bow down in worship to Pure.

We have homelessness.

We have mental illness.

We have resilience.

Naturalism.  Grit.  The bird-soul of music…

The only thing we needed was an editor.

To say.

Cut.

About 20 minutes before the end.

Because Ms. Langseth wants to give us redemption.

She just seems to have her Raskolnikov in the wrong pocket.

It’s ok.

I’m the daftest son of a bitch on the planet.

One last thing…

This movie moved me so much.

The bulk of this film.

Did something to me.

Therapeutic.

And sublimely enlightening.

And so I thank God for Lisa Langseth and Alicia Vikander.

God bless you.

Thank you for making this kind of art.

As Nick Cave sang,

“It’s beauty that’s gonna save the world now”.

-PD

Vi är bäst! [2013)

IF you want to see a bogus, bollocks feminist film, watch Free the Nipple.

But if you want to see the real thing…a really empowering, touching story, then check out We Are the Best!

IT’s in Swedish.

So you’ll have to use your brain.

And your eyes.

Unless you speak Swedish.

But it will be well worth your time.

Vi är bäst! isn’t trite acting from a bunch of pseudo-provocateurs who just want to take their shirts off.

Nej.

This is the story of three 13-year-old girls.

None of them fit in.

Everyone tells them they’re ugly.

One of them is ostracized for being a Christian.

[now THAT’S punk!]

But it’s the story of three girls who come together and do the greatest thing possible:  form a band.

Music!!!

And let me just say this:  the acting is fucking fantastic!

Mira Barkhammer plays Bobo.

For me, she is the star of the film.

She is the outcast of the outcasts.

No make up.

No cool haircut.

She’s searching for her identity.

But she’s so smart.  So truly unique!

She wears these little wire-rim glasses.

From one perspective, this film is her search for what’s behind the mirror.

Director Lukas Moodysson made a masterpiece here.

Bobo…

The name…

I think of Boris Diaw.

The whole scenario is aw-kward.

But so beautifully so!

And yet Bobo is not perfect.

Far from it.

It’s a team effort.

And teams, especially when they are ad hoc and organic, are inherently dysfunctional.

The actress who puts the dys in dysfunction here is Mira Grosin.

But she too is so wonderful in this film!

She is the inspiration.

The first one out on the limb.

The rebel.

The loudmouth.

She inspires her other two bandmates to fly their freak flags high.

But the most enigmatic is Liv LeMoyne:  the Christian.

Director Moodysson is so deft in his handling of this dynamic.

LeMoyne’s character [Hedvig] has long, beautiful blond hair.

[At this point it is appropriate to address a strange form of class relations in Sweden:  hair color.]

When I used to think of Sweden (which I did rarely), I would imagine everyone as a blond.

Perhaps the American vision of Sweden is a socialist paradise of blond bikini models.

At the very least, blondness seems to be the defining characteristic in the American popular imagination regarding Sweden (as far as I can tell).

This isn’t a scientific study, you understand…

But it is important to point this out.

The snottiest (in the stuck up, snobbish sense) characters in this film are mostly blonds.

The little girls who call Bobo and Klara [Grosin] ugly.

It is really heartbreaking.

These two BRUNETTE girls endure such humiliation throughout this film.

And so it’s no wonder that they want to start a PUNK BAND!

But they can’t play.

Like, not at all…

Their first halting efforts are in the vein of The Shaggs.

No, worse.

And that’s where the Christian comes in.

Hedvig is an accomplished classical guitarist.

It is, indeed, much like the story of Garth Hudson’s joining The Band.

Lessons.

So to speak.

Bobo and Klara are astounded at Hedvig’s talent.

They lament that they’ll never be as good as their gifted new friend.

But Hedvig is all encouragement.

It is [pardon the expression] a match made in heaven.

And so three misfits (for different reasons) band together (literally) and take on the cock rock ridiculousness of bullies like youth-center-rehearsal-room-“stars” Iron Fist.

The message is astounding.

I haven’t seen a film which does such honor to the idea of feminism since 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

But there’s no ulterior motive here.

This isn’t a George Soros production.

This is the real thing.

Just three young people (who happen to be female) wanting to make some noise in their world.

And we see how beautiful punk music is.

IT’s a catharsis.

Like Sonic Youth.

And we remember the true geniuses of the genre (like my hero, the late Alan Vega).

But we also remember the maxim:  “three chords and the truth”.

Hedvig’s got the chords.

[Ah…harmony!  What a concept!!!]

But Klara has the attitude.

And Bobo has the intellect.

They learn from each other.

“Here.  Stay on this note.  Good.  Now move to this note.”

“Punk is about rebellion.  It’s not about the school talent show.  We’ve got to keep going.  It’s a fight.”

“You really need to change your hair.  Do something fun!  Express yourself!  Cut loose!”

Those are my translations of action, not dialogue.

But I can’t stress enough how great these three actresses are in this film.

Mira Barkhammer in particular is a prodigy.

But, as in the story, the trio is inseparable.

And for this kind of cohesion, we have but one place to look in thanks:  the auteur.

-PD

Trump vs. Clinton, October 19 [2016)

As I write this, the United States is undergoing a soft (so far) coup d’état and, thank God, a countercoup (also soft…so far).

There are no tanks in the streets.  No physical bridges closed.  But the competing coups are very real and in progress at this time.

This might be hard for my international readers to wrap their heads around.

Likewise, my domestic readers (if there are any) are perhaps equally perplexed by the statements I’ve just made.

For different reasons, these two audiences (my dear readers) have probably not heard ANYTHING about this coup.

And yet I am not exercising hyperbole.

You WON’T hear anything about these competing coups in the media of the “new world order” (or, more accurately, the “old world order”).

Nothing on the BBC.  Nothing from AFP.  Maybe (maybe) something from Russian or Chinese or Iranian sources.  Maybe something from North Korea.

As for the US, there is a complete blackout on all the major channels of media communication concerning this digital coup taking place.

WikiLeaks is very much a part of it.  But even more so, it is the globalist Clinton cabal against a very brave movement seemingly spearheaded by US military intelligence.

I cannot claim to understand exactly what is going on.

But Hillary Clinton is being warned by the US intelligence community and US military to stand down.

Meaning, she has been warned publicly that the game is up.

The main spokesman of the countercoup has been the extremely brave and wise Dr. Steve Pieczenik.

And so, dear readers, you might be able (from this) to fathom just why I have decided to write once again on this Presidential election.

There are no more debates.

The third and final one.

In what is turning out to be an American revolution.

While moderator Chris Wallace was not perfect (he grilled Trump just as the transparently partisan previous moderators had), he did a generally passable job here.

Hillary got the first question.

Clinton:  “You know, I think when we talk about the Supreme Court, it really raises the central issue in this election.”

Translation:  “I know you don’t like me (and that includes my ‘voters’), but just remember that without me you won’t get to have abortions any more.  AND…you won’t have someone to take the guns away from the rednecks.  So vote for me, even though you hate me.  Thank you.”

Clinton:  “And I feel strongly that the Supreme Court needs to stand on the side of the American people. Not on the side of the powerful corporations and the wealthy.”

Hahahahaha….ahhhhhhh…this lady cracks me up!  The hubris!!!

Hillary then speaks of “dark, unaccountable money”:  something on which she’s an expert.

And that, my friends, is at the heart of the countercoup.

As I write, Hillary Clinton is under so much investigation by the FBI (including the Clinton Foundation) it’s not even funny.

Hillary punctuates her sermon with “That’s how I see the court.,” but there might be another court she’ll be seeing very soon (one which is trying HER).

Hillary’s self-righteous proclamation of “standing up to the powerful” is absolute bollocks.

She continues, “I would hope that the Senate would do its job…”.

This lady is one to talk!  Look at the “job” SHE did as Secretary of State!!!

Unbelievable that her Janus routine is so seemingly effortless.

Hillary says that the Senate’s job is to, “…confirm the nominee that President Obama has sent to them.”  Actually, that’s one of two options…of “doing their job”.  And by not even getting to that fork in the decision tree, the Senate is saying (regarding Obama’s nominee), “Hell no!”.

But in Hillary’s world, peons like the Senate just “confirm”.  They don’t question.  They just take orders.

Well, not for long…Hillary.

Trump:  “Something happened recently where Justice Ginsburg made some very inappropriate statements toward me and toward a tremendous number of people.”

Yes, we all hope Ruth Bader quits.  It would only be fair, seeing as how Scalia was most likely whacked down on the Texas border.

Hillary almost breaks into fake Southern drawl when she feigns respect for the Second Amendment:  “I lived in Arkansas for 18 wonderful years.”

And I’m sure she hated every minute of it.  Such a boring task being a social climber in a backwoods like Arkansas!

But, you see, Hillary has been waiting for this her whole life.  And that’s why she is refusing to stand down (so far) as the US intelligence community has requested (John Brennan notwithstanding).

Hillary:  “But there is no doubt that I respect the second amendment.”

No, in fact there are VERY BIG doubts that you do.

But how do we know that Hillary is fake?

Because she can’t even come up with her own words.

As she apes Obama (“common sense regulation”), we know which side of the fence she sits on.

She is all about confiscating firearms BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY (like the fake Sandy Hook “shooting”).

Hillary:  “And you know, look. I understand that Donald has been strongly supported by the NRA, the gun lobby is on his side. They’re running millions of dollars of ads against me…”

Nice try…complaining that your overwhelming advantage in corporate donations (and the related, overwhelming ratio of Clinton to Trump ads) has not been enough.

Hillary:  “…and I regret that”.

The only thing she regrets is that Robby “Take The Money” Mook couldn’t convince the NRA that Hillary was pro-gun.  And not even a shyster like David Plouffe could have convinced them of that!

Trump:  “And I don’t know if Hillary was saying it in a sarcastic manner but I’m very proud to have the endorsement of the NRA and it was the earliest endorsement they’ve ever given to anybody who ran for president.”

Sarcastic.  Facetious.  Disingenuous.

Indeed, every Hillary statement is something other than what it seems.

Every word out of her mouth is a false flag.

Hillary Clinton refers to abortion as “health care”.

I shit you not!

Hillary:  “So many states are putting very stringent regulations on women that block them from exercising that choice…”

Oh boo hoo hoo!

Hillary again resorts to euphemism in calling euthanasia (death, murder…), “healthcare decisions.”

This is a pretty sick, diabolical woman.

Hillary:  “We have come too far to have that turn back now.”

There have, even by CDC statistics, been 52 million (million!) abortions in the United States…since just 1970.

Let me put that in perspective.  If North Korea nuked South Korea tomorrow and killed EVERY SINGLE South Korean, there would by 50 million dead South Koreans.

Are you beginning to get the magnitude of the drive-thru nature of US abortion?

Clinton:  “The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make.”

Or, for Hillary, joyful.

Clinton:  “I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.”

So Hillary is all for the freedom of mothers to murder babies, but she’s up in arms (no pun intended) when the safety of “toddlers” is endangered by firearms.

Right.  Makes perfect sense.

In other words, the government would be taking firearms to protect “toddlers” (District of Colombia v. Heller), but the government shouldn’t dare interfere with the murder of unborn children.

Got it?

Just wanna make sure we’re clear on Madame Secretary.

Trump scored his first credulity points merely by tone of voice (and amplified by ethical position) when he intoned, “…but it’s not okay with me.”

Exactly.  Hillary Clinton wants to globalize death.  She wants to export it in the form of war.  She wants to import it in the form of mass immigration.  And, not least, she wants the citizenry unarmed so that she and her pals like George Soros can more efficiently exterminate any lowly Americans who disagree with her governance.

Trump:  “And that’s not acceptable.”

Thank you, Mr. Trump.

When Trump describes late-term abortions in some detail, Hilary retorts that his descriptions are “scare rhetoric.”

Right…  Get an abortion.  Everybody’s doing it.  And get a new pair of sunglasses.  Accessorize your abortion.  Make it festive.

Hillary:  “You should meet with some of the women I’ve met with. Women I’ve known over the course of my life.”

You mean like Saudi spy Huma Abedin?  Or do you, more accurately, mean “girls”?  How does Jeffrey Epstein figure into your respect for women?  Because you and Bill know him quite well…and Jeffrey (the sex offender) Epstein likes ’em YOUNG!  [And, as has been established beyond a shadow of a doubt, Hillary prefers females to males (as far as arousal goes).]

But Hillary reframes…like the slimy lawyer she is:  “…choices that any woman and her family has to make.”

Oh.  So it’s not a woman’s right to choose?  It’s a family’s right to choose?  So the decision is equally incumbent upon the man’s consent?  Or is he just supposed to “confirm” like your dream Senate?

Hillary:  “You know, I’ve had the great honor of traveling across the world on behalf of our country.”

She came.  She saw.  He died.

Yes, Hillary Clinton actually said (not in this debate), “I came.  I saw.  He died” in reference to Libya and Gaddafi.  After “died”, she let out a little gleeful laugh.

I wonder if that same laugh greeted the news that Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans died in Libya on account of Hillary?  I wonder if she even cared enough to laugh?

Probably not.  Because killing Gaddafi was an accomplishment (for her).  Something to put on her résumé…always social climbing…always for this moment…as Princess of America…so close…

I will give Hillary credit.  At least she’s conversant with natalist Romania (probably because of the insidious (artful!) propaganda of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days).

Hillary:  “…decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith.”

Which “faiths” condone abortion?  I know not all are as strict as Catholicism (at least until Pope Francis ruins the religion), but there aren’t any “faiths” coming to mind that would be in “accord” with abortion.  Perhaps my religious scholarship is lacking.

Trump isn’t drooling out the same globalist shit.

Donald:  “We have no country if we have no border.”

Are you seeing why this guy is winning?  NO ONE has EVER said that at the highest levels of US government.  People here have NEVER had a choice to vote for someone so opposed to the globalist grand design.

But Trump isn’t just taking on the suit-and-tie gangsters like David Rockefeller and George Soros. Like a goddamned Eliot Ness, he’s taking on the “bad hombres”:  the drug lords.

This man has huge, brass testicles to go down this path.

And we love him for it!

Clinton:  “…I was thinking about a young girl I met here in Las Vegas…”

I BET YOU WERE!

Hillary only dislikes scare tactics WHEN SHE’S NOT USING THEM!

Listen to her frame deportation of illegal immigrants in Auschwitz terms:

“every undocumented person would be subject to deportation. Here’s what that means. It means you would have to have a massive law enforcement presence where law enforcement officers would be going school to school, home to home, business to business. Rounding up people who are undocumented. And we would then have to put them on trains…”

Maybe Soros recounted his remorseless collusion with the Nazis.  Maybe they shared a laugh.  Maybe the metteur en scène Steven Spielberg “authored” the above paragraph.

But it’s not working.  The propaganda.  The social engineering.

But Hillary dug her own grave.

Trump could kick back and watch her self-destruct.

Wallace: “Secretary Clinton, I want to clear up your position on this issue because in a speech you gave to a Brazilian bank for which you were paid $225,000, we’ve learned from Wikileaks, that you said this. And I want to quote. ‘My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.’”

Trump:  “Thank you.”

Clinton: “If you went on to read the rest of the sentence, I was talking about energy.”

Of which you have none left.

The game is over.

Your goose is cooked.

No more bald-faced lies about “energy” (the borders would only be open for energy…yeah right), Abraham Lincoln (her “public” and “private” positions doctrine…which she claims to have taken from Honest Abe [you can’t make this shit up]…by way of a Spielberg movie [I knew he had to be involved, somehow…that hack!]), etc.

Hillary Clinton called one of our ostensibly greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln (aka Honest Abe), a liar on national television.

This woman!  Like the pot calling the stovepipe hat black…

The game’s up Hillary.

Time to stand down.

Or, in legal language (which you might be hearing an awful lot of in the coming months), cease and desist.

-PD

Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice P.T.T. [1967)

Something draws me to Eastern Europe.  I blame Romania.  Thank you Romania!  Yes, there was something about the ambiance which director Cristian Mungiu conjured up in 2007’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile) which has stayed with me for a long time.

Really, it’s a rather mundane part.  Near the top of the film.  The goddess Anamaria Marinca traipses down the hall to find some soap…and cigarettes.  The scene is a college dormitory in communist Romania (pre-December 1989).  Girls in one room chat about beauty products.  There seems to be a good bit of bartering going on.  Marinca is mainly uninterested.  Looking for a certain kind of soap (if I remember correctly).  On the way back to her room she stops off at the room of a foreign student (non-Romanian) who sells cigarettes and gum and stuff.  The whole film she is searching for Kent cigarettes (a few mentions of this brand).  Not surprisingly, there are no Kents to be had in the dorm.  She settles for something else.  Perhaps.  I don’t know.

She stops and admires some kittens which someone has taken in.

It is astonishingly real.  On par with Roberto Rossellini.

Indeed, it might be said that all New Waves (from the nouvelle vague to the Romanian New Wave) have their birth in the neorealist films of Rossellini.

But Mungiu added a new wrinkle.

Marinca.  [The goddess of whom I spoke.]

Marinca is unglamorous.  No one is glamorous in 4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile.  We get the impression that it is the waning days of Ceaușescu’s reign.

Times are tough.  The policies of the state haven’t worked out so well.  It bears some resemblance to a prison.  Material items take the place of money (reminiscent of cigarettes as currency in jails).

What I have yet to define in this article is “goddess”.  What do I mean by that?

Well, I’m glad you asked!  Marinca (particularly in this film) is a goddess to me because she represents the opposite of the typical American woman in the year 2015.  Her beauty is her soul.  Her beauty is her loyalty to her roommate and friend Găbița.  Her beauty is her dedication to acting.  She is completely immersed in her unglamorous role…and it is eye-watering.

I have mentioned a similar impression (which further solidified my admiration for Romanian films) I got from watching Dorotheea Petre in The Way I Spent the End of the World (Cum mi-am petrecut sfârşitul lumii).  This masterpiece by director Cătălin Mitulescu preceded Mungiu’s Palme d’Or-winning film by about a year (2006).  I was again struck by another goddess of film (Petre) who, with the help of her auteur, created a character also in direct opposition to the meretricious, vacuous ideal of American womanhood in the 21st century.

And so it is that we finally come to the film under consideration:  Душан Макавејев‘s Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator.  Dušan Makavejev is Serbian.  Out of deference to his country I have listed his name in Cyrillic script.  Likewise, the title of the film (at the top) is in Serbo-Croatian.  It is a grey area about which I am not completely informed.  Suffice it to say that Croatia seems to generally use Roman letters (as opposed to the Serbian usage of Cyrillic).  It is a bit like the distinction (and writing differences) between Urdu and Hindi [which I have heard described as essentially the same language, but with two different writing systems].

I prefaced this article on Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice P.T.T. with my own backstory concerning Eastern European cinema because it is relevant to my approach going forward.

Before coming to this, my first Yugoslav (1967) film, I opened up the can of worms which is Czech cinema by reviewing Closely Watched Trains (Ostře sledované vlaky).  Jiří Menzel’s sexually-charged film poem from the previous year (1966) was a major revelation for me.  And so it is that Dušan Makavejev’s bittersweet confection shares more than just a communist framing with Menzel’s aforementioned erotic portrait.

Yes, Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice P.T.T. is about our old film-school standbys:  sex and death.  I can never combine those two words (in the context of film) without remembering the ridiculously funny scene of Jim Morrison at UCLA screening his student film in Oliver Stone’s The Doors (1991). 

The fictional Morrison, then, would be trying to hop on a nonfictional bandwagon represented by the likes of Menzel and Makavejev.  Morrison’s time at UCLA (1964-1965) not only coincided with the staggered births of “new waves” around the world (particularly in Europe), but also occurred while Morrison’s father (US Navy Rear Admiral [RADM] George Stephen Morrison) was the commanding officer of a carrier division involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Jim Morrison lived fast.  Entered UCLA in 1964.  Graduated with an undergraduate degree in film in 1965.  Was dead by 1971.  But those years in between…  It’s no wonder Jim had an Oedipal complex (evident in the song “The End” [1966/1967]) when considering his father was involved in false-flagging the U.S. into a suicidal war against communism.  What a disgrace…

No, the real hero in the family was not RADM Morrison, but rather Jim.  He turned on the dream-switches of so many kids.  To put it quite bluntly, he was part of the counterculture in America which caused kids to start giving a fuck about the world and politics and geopolitics and confirmed charades (frauds, shams, etc.) like the Gulf of Tonkin “incident”.  Such a sanitary and slippery word:  incident.

It fits perfectly, in that there was no incident.

But while Morrison the Younger had gone off into Brechtian pop-rock, Serbian director Makavejev was busy making Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator.  It is equally stunning, for its medium, as “The End”.

Sex needs beauty.  A really luscious film like this needed Ева Рас (Eva Ras).  She is a bit like Jitka Zelenohorská’s character in Closely Watched Trains…mischievous, bewitching…  But there is one great difference between Ras and Zelenohorska:  Ras is a blond.

Though our film is in black and white, it is clear that Ras’ silky hair is rather fair (a detail which would not have escaped Hitchcock).  It must be said, however, that Makavejev did not give in to the easy femme fatale portrayal when it came to filming Ras.  Izabela (Ras) is a complex individual.  The film tells us that she is Hungarian.  She is different…other.  She needs sex.  She is passionate.

All the same, her portrayal by Ras is poetic and tender.  Really, what we are seeing here is a tentative feminism expressed by Makavejev which would become a thundering symphony of women’s liberation in Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. 

And it is good.  It is good for men to see these types of films.  We men idolize and reify women in the West, but we don’t often enough stop to really observe the trials of womankind.

In the best spirit of socialism, this film has something for everyone…men, women…ok, maybe not children.

Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator is really an intense film.  If you have seen (and made it through) Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes (a film I, incidentally, once made the mistake of showing at a party), then you’ll be alright.  For those faint of heart (I generally fall into that category), there are a couple of rough moments in this film (in the context of criminology).

In all, I am very proud and happy to have seen my first Serbian movie.  As a resident of San Antonio (and fan of the San Antonio Spurs), I feel it gives me a better glimpse into the life of one of my favorite basketball players Бобан Марјановић (Boban Marjanović).  I highly recommend this film…and Go Spurs Go 🙂

 

-PD

Lola Montès [1955)

Throughout human history, many strands of activity have intertwined.

Let us take but two and ponder them for a moment:  romance and war.

Ah, romance…

What is romance nowadays?  Is it a glossy paperback with dog-eared corners?  Is there a mane of red hair?  A swelling bosom?

Or is romance chivalry?

After you.  Je vous en prie.

No.

Romance has not survived.

Who are we kidding?

For romance to have survived, love would also have had to survive.

But wait…

I see…here and there.  Is that not love?

Ah…romantic love.  A different thing.

I assure you, dear reader, if you have made it this far into my ridiculous litany of theses that you shall be rewarded for your efforts.

What we have here is the final film by the great Max Ophüls.

I have heard this picture described as a flawed masterpiece.

Pay no mind to such estimations.

This is the product of a genius spilling his guts onto the celluloid canvas.

Film.  Celluloid.  When did it start?  When did it end?

Once upon a time, film was flammable.

And our film is certainly flammable.

Martine Carol, who plays Lola Montès, is one of a kind.

This particular performance…I must admit, this is one of my favorite films…such a powerful experience.

But Carol is not alone on the grand stage.  No…  This production would not be the breathtaking spectacle it is without the incomparable Peter Ustinov.

Ustinov is the ringmaster.  As in circus.

The important point to note is that Ophüls made a psychological metaphor of the circus…and created a film which is probably the longest extended metaphor ever captured by motion picture cameras.

But it is not a typical circus.

It is a nightmare circus.  A cusp-of-dream circus.

Every shot is effused with symbolism.

The little people…haunting Oompa Loompas…little firemen from a Fahrenheit 451 yet to be filmed.  Bradbury had published in 1953.  But it would necessitate Truffaut in 1966 to make the thing so eerie.  It is that specific vision…the firemen on their futuristic trucks…which Lola Montès prefigures.  The little people.  From Freaks by Tod Browning through Lola Montès to the cinematography of Nicolas Roeg.  And the tension of Bernard Herrmann.  From Psycho to Fahrenheit 451.  And even Oskar Werner (who plays a sizable role in Lola Montès).  From here to Truffaut.

But the nightmares are only horrible because her life was so vivid…Lola Montès.  First with Franz Liszt.  And then with mentions of Chopin and Wagner.  Even Mozart…

This was romance.  A different time.

What love would sustain a warrior in battle?

Simple love.  Honest love.

And yet, what love drives a man to the edge?

Romantic love.  The femme fatale.  Why is it that we never hear of the homme fatal?

All kidding aside, I want to make a very serious point about Lola Montès.  It is my belief that this film represents an admirably feminist perspective the intensity of which I have seen nowhere else than in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile).

For 1955, Lola Montès was a harrowing epic.  Because Max Ophüls was a true auteur, it has lost none of its wonder…even in our loveless, edgy world.

 

-PD

 

 

A fost sau n-a fost? [2006)

It took me a long time.  To come back to Romania.  Country I’ve never visited.  But in film.

I do not know which Romanian film I saw first.  It may have been 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

It may have been The Way I Spent the End of the World.

You can read my praise for those two perfect films here on my site.

But let me just say that I am honored to finally review what I consider the third perfect Romanian film:

12:08 East of Bucharest.

The Romanian title translates directly as “It was or was not?”

Perhaps a little massaging would render the phrase more like “Was it or wasn’t it?”

And so what is this Hamletesque sentence driving at?

That is the question!

The revolution.  The Romanian Revolution.

In a particular town (Vaslui) was there a revolution or wasn’t there?

While this may sound like a rather dry premise, let me assure you that director Corneliu Porumboiu proves himself to be a master on the order of his countrymen Cristian Mungiu and Cătălin Mitulescu.

Porumboiu is helped by the fantastic acting of three stellar performers.

Mircea Andreescu plays the character Emanoil Piscoci.  Andreescu’s comic timing as the awkward Mr. Piscoci is one of the defining elements of this film.

Also indispensable is Ion Sapdaru as Professor Manescu.  Sapdaru’s desperation and body language also make this film the timeless gem that it is.

Though we may not completely sympathize with his brusque character, Teodor Corban does an admirable job portraying the unifying (and polarizing) Virgil Jderescu.

Finally, I cannot leave out the small-but-pithy contribution of the excellent George Guoqingyun.

[we now interrupt this horribly boring review to bring you the point]

The point?

Black humor.  Bleak humor.  Dark humor.

The town…looks as shitty as my town.  My neighborhood.

There aren’t any explosions.  No CGI.

No superheroes.  In fact, there’s not even a pretty girl with whom to fall in love.

That’s reality right there.  Verismo.

As the snow falls on Vaslui I feel the same desperation I feel on a daily basis.

The cracked concrete of the apartment buildings.  The sad roofs.  From above.

The band is a little out of tune.  Desafinado.  I love them.

This film isn’t like the oblivion of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.  It doesn’t have a blooming flower of hope in its heart like The Way I Spent the End of the World.

But it shares with those films a country and a particular way of looking at the world.  Show the bad stuff.

The difference here is, “Show the bad stuff…and then laugh a little.”

A little.

It will still make you cry.

No, it’s not a calculated Italian confection.

This is a beautifully sloppy film.

It’s films such as this which make me push on–which make me keep writing.  I keep hoping.

Porumboiu…your crappy world gives me hope in my crappy world.  Thank you.

-PD

Way Down East [1920)

David Wark Griffith.  Perhaps it’s fitting that I return to my mission by way of this controversial figure.  To ease your fears, my mission is cinema.  Things disappear.  D.W. Griffith.  Histories become written on the wind.  Sirk.  Search.  And the stream of consciousness carries us to the precipice.  Will we go over with the orphans of the storm?

Ice floe.  Sloe gin.  Bathtub gin.  Spinning jenny.

It was a different time.  Lillian Gish.  Smashing.  Pupkin.  Will we “go over” like the orphans?  Well, the orphans would have to wait a year.  But what we really have here is the Urquelle (the Q source) for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.  It is a long, sad movie which ends with some of the most immortal celluloid ever printed.  It was like watching La Roue by Abel Gance.  Mercifully, 273 minutes would have to wait till 1923.  Griffith gives us a mere 145.

It was Billy Bitzer behind the camera for this story “arbitrarily” set in New England.  It is a bit like Ghost World in that it is universal (to a certain extent).  Are we in Chicago or Los Angeles?  It doesn’t really matter.  Anyplace.  But Bitzer, the cinematographer, was actually from this fictional setting.  Griffith was the hick.  From LaGrange (cue ZZ Top), Kentucky.

Lowell Sherman plays the villain.  Lillian Gish is just simply stunning throughout.

The story is transcendentally sad.  Richard Barthelmess is even a sad sack…until he becomes the unequivocal hero.  Burr McIntosh plays the backwards Squire who is required to “see the light” multiple times over the course of this film.  In his character we get glimpses of that stain upon cinema:  The Birth of a Nation.  But we also get the redemption of Intolerance.  Those two films alone (not to mention this masterpiece) display the crux of the problem:  Griffith cannot be written off as a bigot.  Far from it.

If you know D.W.’s work only from that famous racist relic, then you only have a small portion of the plot.  And yet, how do we explain that sad document?  Sure, it was a product of its time, but is that the end of the story?  The Birth of a Nation has endured as Griffith’s most famous film perhaps precisely because it is so repulsive to modern sensibilities.  But once one sees Intolerance, it is as if the man had seen the light.  Way Down East is perhaps the first feminist film.  Yes, Griffith turned it around within his heart to that extent!

Seemingly.  White River Junction, Vermont.  You can go read the backstory.  It is like François Villon‘s ink freezing in the inkwell.  The shooting of this film is the stuff of legend.  I can’t begin to wrap my head around the sets Griffith used in 1916 for Intolerance.  It is nearly inconceivable to me how Griffith made the abomination that is The Birth of a Nation with a clear conscience.  But by the time of Way Down East he had become a masterful humanist director.  As improbable as it sounds, it is true to my eyes.  This is not a biography of Griffith.  I claim no expertise regarding his oeuvre.  I merely urge increased engagement with his body of work.  There is something there.

-PD

4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile [2007)

This is “the big one” of the Romanian New Wave.  Winner of the Palme d’Or, it was director Cristian Mungiu’s second feature film.  The overriding perspective is radically and beautifully feminist (I say that as a man not well-versed in feminist literature or theory).  Over the course of 113 minutes we see the lengths to which friends go for one another.  In this case, the generosity is mostly one-way.

Anamaria Marinca gives one of the finest performances in cinematic history as Otilia.  It is a much pithier version of Dorotheea Petre’s role in The Way I Spent the End of the World.  What these two actresses bring to the screen is a representation of the female in diametric opposition to the typical young American woman.  These characters are not stylish, nor selfish.  They are not shallow.  Their lives are hard and I can relate to that.  These actresses make me fall in love with their characters.

Marinca embodies her role to a degree which is beyond extraordinary.  Mungiu’s direction is fantastic, but Marinca makes the whole thing possible through her onscreen dedication.  This is certainly one of the finest films ever made and it thankfully sheds light not only on the little-known Romanian film industry, but also on the harrowing tribulations of being female.

This is a pinnacle of synergy…where acting perfection and directorial excellence come together.  I simply cannot do this film justice…no matter how many words I throw at the page.

-PD