Comoara [2015)

It’s such a joy to return to Romania.

Not that I’ve ever been there.

Except in films.

But so you understand, no national cinema has moved me quite so much as the Romanian.

[With exception to the French.]

Iran is close.

But oh so far.

Because we don’t see Iranian movies.

Not real ones.

And on Netflix, we don’t see the history of history.

Just a recent interpretation.

And that is so often fool’s gold.

Netflix, like its dire counterpart Hulu, is heavy on Holocaust films.

This would be appropriate.

If the films were any good.

Because the Holocaust is the most important event of the past hundred years.

But the films aren’t any good.

By and large.

However, fear not:  this film does not try to take on what cannot be documented.

[see Histoire(s) du cinéma for the only good Holocaust film ever made]

No, we are after buried treasure.

Indeed, this film is listed as The Treasure on Netflix.

And I commend that streaming service for its ostensible dedication to quality foreign films.

[even if the same company has no concept of history]

If you look at the “classics” section of Netflix, you will find a paucity of titles.

This is problematic.

Last I checked Hulu (before I quit it), their “classics” section was just as bad (if not worse).

But Hulu had, for awhile, a distinct competitive advantage over Netflix (while it lasted).

The Criterion Collection.

Sure, it was not the collection in its entirety, but it was a treasure (pardon the extended metaphor) of classic films…many from countries other than the U.S. and U.K..

As I have reported previously, Hulu began to surreptitiously phase out its lost licensing (apparently) of the Criterion catalog.

Once I realized what had really happened, the damage was done.

I was out of there.

Nothing, I imagined, could be worse than the current laughable joint venture (and anemic selection) of Hulu.

And I was right.

Netflix has been a breath of fresh air.

I had previously seen Netflix’ hopper.

Years ago.

It seemed very light on classic films.

And it still is.

But what Netflix lacks in historical perspective, it makes up for (marginally) with its plentiful “international” category.

And thus we come to this fine Romanian film: Comorara.

It may be incredibly naive for me to postulate thusly, but Romanian cinema is the future.

No national cinema rivals the French.

Yes, Germany has had its share of important films (especially in the silent era and soon thereafter).

But the French-language library of films which has been passed down through the “ages” is nonpareil.

Of that tradition, nothing comes even close (for me) to equaling Jean-Luc Godard’s output.

[though he was, and always will be, gloriously Swiss]

Thus, he stands head-and-shoulders above the rest.

But there are others.

Especially those with whom Godard would have been nothing.

Jacques Becker.  Robert Bresson!  Marcel Carné.  Henri-Georges Clouzot.  Jean Cocteau.  Jean-Pierre Melville.  Jean Renoir!  Jean Rouch.  Jacques Tati.

And then there are those foreigners who worked in French (to varying extents) such as Luis Buñuel and Max Ophüls.

But the French cinema has given us other visionaries contemporaneous to Godard.

Alain Resnais.  Eric Rohmer.  François Truffaut.  These are just a few that come to mind.

And until Netflix (and even the Criterion Collection itself) gets beyond to utter genius of Abbas Kiarostami, we will know little of the Iranian cinema beyond its undisputed master.

[Indeed, Netflix has not even broached the true cinema of Iran by featuring Kiarostami…as far as I know.  It is solely the Criterion Collection which is to thank for exposing people to films like Taste of Cherry and Close-Up.]

But I must give Netflix their due.

They have made available the very fine Romanian film under review.

Yet, before we delve into that…I would like to delineate exactly what makes Romania different as far as being “the future” of cinema (in relation to, say, Iran…for instance).

The simple answer is that there are multiple genius (genius!) directors working in Romania.

They may not (certainly not) get the budgets they deserve, but their output is of the highest, most sublime quality.

And, sadly, Abbas Kiarostami is no longer among the living.

But it bears mentioning the auteurs of Romanian “new wave” cinema.

Cristi Puiu. Cătălin Mitulescu.  Cristian Mungiu.

And the director of Comoara:  Corneliu Porumboiu.

The Treasure must not have been an easy film to make.

Indeed, the very end of the film evinces a directorial sigh of relief (if I am interpreting it correctly).

Let me just say this:  nothing much happens in this film.

Indeed, this might be the type of film which illustrates the different way in which film critics view films (as opposed to most moviegoers).

Not to mince words, my guess is that most people (98%?) would find The Treasure boring.

But I loved it!

The defining characteristic of this film is tension.

But it is not the type of tension which strings us along in a film such as Rear Window.

No.

The tension here is far more mundane in comparison.

And yet, there is real inspiration at work in Porumboiu’s mise-en-scène here.

Toma Cuzin is our brooding “star”.

And he is very, very good.

But his “foil” is the Dudley-Moore-lookalike Adrian Purcărescu.

Cuzin is calm.  And yet, the dreamer…

One might even think “gullible”.

Purcărescu is frazzled.  Cynical.  Either a conman of a saint.  Hard to tell…

But the fellow who pulls it all together is Corneliu Cozmei.

He’s the man with the metal detectors.

Yes, two…

[this is a treasure hunt, after all!]

Cozmei is caught between the personalities of Cuzin and Purcărescu.

And yet he’s not just an innocent bystander (so to speak).

He may be the independent party in this whole treasure hunt, but he’s smack dab in the middle of a very tense situation.

Bogart fans will not be far off if they faintly recall the Sturm und Drang of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

But most of all…it’s just good to be back in Romania.

To see a half-lit, grey day.

To see the funny looking cars.

To notice all the details of a culture I truly love.

-PD

La Belle et la Bête [1946)

We return to old wounds.

First tastes.

Last glimpses.

I told her, but she did not believe me.  Belle.

And I have rejected several metric tons of noise to be a dedicated son.

Asks for a single rose.

Saved by a fire beneath a sturdy mantle in the cold countryside.

One of the first French films I saw.  Maybe the very first.

Where my eyes were open.

King Lear and filial piety and the prodigal.

But daughters who are pure.  Rare.

1001 nights.  The same question.

The persistence of memory.

We must visit.  We must move.  We must be there.

Magic mirrors before Skype or Facetime.

Back when coups involved messengers on horses.

It should be Cupid firing the arrows.

And not chess against Deep Blue.

Folger’s instant karma.

Here’s your svelte reward.

And your big fat penalty.

It would be nice.

To finish my penance.

And in these tests to feel the peace of Mother Teresa.

That we can call on a saint and ask translation.

Guidance.

We don’t need the whole fairy tale.

Mostly the arms with candelabras and the blinking statues.

 

-PD

Orphée [1950)

The philosopher has very little advantage.

Because the model and reality do not match up.

One-to-one.

And the oaf stands strictly no chance.

To understand mythology transposed onto plagiarism.

In the ancient world, it was the opposite of a crime.

Get the story right.  Same with medieval scribes.

There was no author.  There was only the story.  And perfect copies.

And perhaps the occasional illumination.

The glass of water that lights the world.

It’s Cary Grant.

Something about sitting in a bowl of milk.

Impossible to tune out the bourse.

Always the radio, but never the gloves.

Mirrors, or course.

Ravel.  Versailles.  Quite proximate.

But the erudition must lead somewhere.

And it does.

Heurtebise must look on.

He must spectate.

A strange sort of unrequited love.

Like the Watchers.  Breeding Nephilim.

It’s not all Elysian fields here.

It’s Nazi death.  and Death.

Stylometry squelches outliers only through aggregative loss of dimensionality.

Whew!

I need a drink after that one 🙂

But I don’t drink.

Death doesn’t drink.

Oh, to work for Death.

Taking orders.

Reporting.

Reprimanded.

The greatest transgression in this profession?  Love.

For love seeks to reverse the natural order.

Not even necessary to go as deep as Hell.

A mere gravedigger can get the picture.

Olfactory.  Not the new one.

Pre-Industrial Revolution.

You remember, right?

The English Revolution 🙂

Oh, wait…no, that never happened.

Not yet.

Happy Birthday Betty, you old hag!

We worship you down at MI6.

That’s not the royal “we” nor even a meaningful “we”.

It’s a disembodied imagination.

Remote viewing, if you must.

From beyond the dead.  Jean Cocteau.  One of the greatest film directors ever.

Because he was a complete creator.

Squiggle graphs like Miró.

Joan was a man.  Of ark.

And Georges is just one guy in France.  In America he is two fellows.  Two chaps in U.K.

George 1 and George 2, making Georges.

Georges Bizet.

And I must mention the composer of Orphée.  Georges Auric.

One of Les Six.  Satie’s bunch.

Not to be confused with The Five (Могучая кучка).  Cui’s quint.

Mere king to Balakirev’s ace.

And so you are condemned to extend metaphors throughout all eternity.

Long, ridiculous connections.

Until at last you are free.

And whether it is a table of Inquisitors or Nazis, you can do good and receive the ultimate punishment.

You might feel compelled to do good.

In that tiny particle is the answer which we seek.

Invisible, but tactile.

Almost a splinter.

A proof of a beyond.

 

-PD

Twin Peaks “Rest in Pain” [1990)

Science thinks it knows what religion doesn’t.

Religion thinks it knows what science doesn’t.

Science thinks.

Religion feels.

Romance is a sort of religion.

Unthinking.

But beautiful.

These are the issues in this rather unremarkable episode of Twin Peaks.

The romance of film criticism seeks to give no spoilers.

Break the code, solve the case.

Handwriting analysis…seems as old and mystical as phrenology.

Because today it is stylometry.

Were it not for Snowden, we’d still be in the dark.

ABSENCE OF LIGHT.

Hoping David Sanborn makes an album called Kryptos.

Or not.

I INSERTED THE CANDLE.

CAUSED THE FLAME TO FLICKER.

EMERGED FROM THE MIST.

There’s easier ways to get jobs.

To make verb tenses agree.

And to verb agreements tense.

Word pie lay.

The fragments are essential.

Each piece.

Piece by piece.

With ice cream on the side.

Huckleberry H.

Scalia was whisked off.

Like a broom.

He had been a jack of one-eyed secret society.  Guest.  SS.

Pound’s poetry didn’t go this deep.

But deeper.

To Colombian hell.

It’s trying to think.

Puttin’ on the Ritz.

I thought it was her.

A cipher.

Shame on me.

Eric Da Re.  Doremi Fasol Latido.

Rest in pain.

Jawohl.

The biggest asshole in television history.

Vs. a perception sharpest blade mind ever.

Even for an actor.

Kyle MacLachlan.

Sherlock Holmes.

A perverse sense of knowing.

Raymond Chandler.

Several stops and starts to get here.

Like the end of Vivre sa vie.

And like the beginning.

Michel Legrand subject to the most genius whims ever.

Lynch is our Godard.

Where the Germans have Schoenberg, we have Ives.

Not the best metaphor.

But perfect.

Length trying your patience.

I know.

Like the end of Vivre sa vie.

Where we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

That is the bathos of mechanical mayhem.  Haywire sob hiccups.

G’uh g’uh g’uh.

Over and over and over and over and over again.

The Vladimir Poutine syndicate have goldBRICked with the Meow Zedong overseas intelligence amoeba to form a truly Quebecois brand of! Godspeed.

Kinda like that hockey scene from Strange Brew.

Messiaen at the organ.

ils.

Sont.  Hellfire.  Bohemian.

No Moloch or Moulouk can do it justice.

Moulouk vs. Bébert.

Oui.  C’est Ça.

There’s always two sets of books.

 

-PD

L’Éternel retour [1943)

You might wade through theories near and far.

About the indestructability of energy.

And they would be true.

Great poets put their pens to page.

And poured out their hearts.

Rage!!!

Nay, sage…

Neigh, cage.

Nain, has a lot of courage to die in this way.

He’s not dying, he’s living.

He’s the positive man.

Wounded and scared.

Since the birth of the gun.

At least.

Must be hard to follow an endless stream.

As just a pebble.

And these my feet.

Right about now, the break.

Chalumeau.

Achille.

Zero acceleration.

Enormous forearms.

A clinically depressed quarterback.

Zero awareness.

Idiot savants all.

We welcome more to the eternal return.

Jean Cocteau.  Wrote the film.

Auteur.

And Jean Delannoy directed the film.

Auteur?

World War II and two blondes are battling it out in love.

And the only brunette is mon oncle…with his perverse moustache.

They call him Mr. Blond (which makes things extremely confusing).

How you know you have become a writer:

I must write or I will die.

Some famous for writing diaries.

All manner of writing.

And when we first fall in love she is reading.

Like Anna Karina…near the end of Vivre sa vie…or was it Made in U.S.A.?

Should be easy from black white to Lichtenstein popping.

But I see colors when there is only the absence of color.

And specific colors in the full chromatic.

A white scarf.

We can get the sweat of the desert gun running Rimbaud from Jean Marais.

Aden.  Mocha.  Sanaa.

A hitch in there somewhere to Abyssinia.

In the time of the assassins.

We all descend on Aswan high as kites for burial rites.

Now that I’m flying, I don’t feel so tired.

Two blond specimens of perfection.

Lorded over by the brunette fuhrer.

A war film.  Resistance.  Don’t capitalize.  To hell with the umlaut.

I’m feeling better, getting that out of my system.

That wave of sadness.

Regret and memories lapping at my feet on a Corsican shore.  I assume.

Nietzsche to inspire Cocteau.  (Occupied Cocteau?)

Cocteau always several orders of magnitude more brilliant than his peers.

Nietzsche was a foundational literature for the Nazis.

And Webster Tarpley has Nietzsche as a foundational literature for the neocons.

And so making this film in censored times.  Under German occupation.

The only other film which jumps out at me is Les Visiteurs du soir (1942).  And then our L’Éternel retour of 1943.

And so you saved something of the war.

Surreptitiously.

Filming even before the columns of tanks had left.

Rossellini.

Culture jamming meets national security state.

Woo-ha!

Each Spartacus.

It’s a miracle he fell in love with her.

A miracle.

I’m the dwarf.  I’m Marais.  I’m Murat.

I’m among those lining the street to see Madeleine Sologne’s parade.

Lovingly.

And all alone shot with the realization that I’ve found a reader.  A genius.

A spark plug pulled from a pocket.

Must step over her bed.  To access the stairs.

That’s a moment of love.  Slow drag dancing on her cigarette.

As much as blondie’s fatted hair parted smart.

Hear your laughter at being upside down.

Heels over head.

Such a romance as only the French know.

And I know.  I seek.  Found.  Find.  No more.

Factories of love struggling with the lutte.

People married to their devices.

Too ugly to get a date.

There we go.

Me and Lester.  And Chuck.

Throw some more guys from the skunkworks in.

The name.  They work.  All night long.  Don’t bathe.

Maybe put in another day.

Don’t wash clothes.

Don’t even change clothes.

How “Skunk” Baxter got put on missile defense team.

You never know, folks.

There may be love yet to be had.

Pure love.

Mad love.

Keep your eyes and minds open.

And maybe if it’s even just a boring day.

Maybe there will be little pieces of art in the things you say.

Because you are toiling on something far beyond your current abilities..

So I praise film!  And France!

First review written while sleepwalking.

 

-PD

Les Enfants terribles [1950)

The past is hidden.

My friend.

You must find the magical words.

Which fit like teeth in combs.

A lock clicks with greasy precision.

A marvel of craftsmanship.

Two siblings in love.

A prolonged insult.

From the start it is as a homoerotic phantasm.

But that is the illusion of bent gender.

And genre.

What genre?

No, once again sui generis.

We would expect nothing less from Jean Cocteau.

The history of cinema.

Begins with luminaries.

Trying their hands.

Not yet taboo.

The world has not yet grown up.

Cynically, it could be said Cocteau had enjoyed the green hour a few too many evenings by 1950.

Crepuscule with absinthe.

But the truth is more beautiful.

Play the game…everybody play the game.

Just a Queen lyric haunting the childhood dreams of Paul and Lise.

It sounds like Liz, but looks better in the French.

Americans, take note!

You must love French cinema.

It is not for everyone.

John Milton.

Not for everyone.

Even Shaky William is acquired like marmite.

Or green olives.

Foie gras.

This train is the height of luxury.

Bound for glory.

Such concision of expression from Cocteau.

And such economy of means from director Jean-Pierre Melville.

Don’t worry about mispronouncing.

Here’s a French bloke who named himself after an American author (Herman).

Really!

It was the postwar influence on France.

The death of French cinema.

Slowly, as in a car crash.

Now they worship Tarantino.

Quel dommage!

Mais…what’s the damage?

It is Villon come full-circle.

The ladies of Paris.

And on through Baudelaire’s lady:  Paris.

Man becomes woman.

Voila!

It is a tricky story.

As when Lise is drenched in milk.

Not even for Technicolor Singin’ in the Rain.

Just for the texture.

Not color.

Renée Cosima.

Real name:  Boudin.

Like a sausage cased in a condom.

And Cosima Wagner.

Real name:  Liszt.

And Franz Liszt.

Real name:  Liszt Ferencz.

And Ferenc Fricsay.

Well, you get the point…

Renée with her beautiful, wide jaw.

And Nicole Stéphane trying to perfect her Greek profile.

A clothespin on the bridge of her nose.

[Which I call ghetto acupuncture.  Works great!]

And Édouard Dermit is not bad.

But the real star is Stéphane.

She.

Haggard from the world-weary beginning.

Funny and annoying.

Continuous repartee with Dermit.

All slang and no manners.

She is unlovably lovable until she does the expected.

She was no hero.

All along.

An antiheroine.

And it is anticlimax which we should feel.

When, like a cinder-smeared Gilda, she spits at the world one last time.

You can say they didn’t know.

Any better.

But their dream was more real than our reality.

 

-PD