Saturday, 1 November 2008

A bit of Powell/Pressberger and Bunuel

Rewatched a terrific film this afternoon, which I'm sure most with taste who see it will love (and beat to death anyone who berates it). Its from Michael Powell, is named the 49th Parallel. Its about Nazi's in the early years of World War 2, whose sub is sank after a shipping raid on Canada. Six men get away and attempt to travel through Canada to America (this if before America joins the war). Its a beautiful film, despite its subject matter, expertly paced so as to study the men in landscape and interaction, always looking for the subtle reaction that will bring focus to the situation.

Its a Nazi-bashing film but careful. During their travels the Nazi's essentially destroy themselves, as they can find no connection to the various civilised people they meet, are revealed by action and words to be brutes, rarely having to tie them to Nazi-ism directly.
They lose members throughout due to their fascism, finally what is left is a lone man at the border, ruined by his own monstrous ego, which is a fitting and unforced metaphor. They run into trappers, German farmers who despise Nazi's (this is a sequence that is beautiful, especially as one of the Nazi's, who was forced into war, wants to join the farmers and is killed by his own men for it), normal people on the road, finally a British writer researching Indians in Canada, who articulates civilisation and graceful tolerance to the Nazi's with calmness and a sense of pity.

The atmosphere and landscapes throughout of Canada are stunning, are not often used in films. The film shows glaciers, Canadian Indians, Eskimo's, many remote locations. The film takes its time to allow you to see these landscapes while getting on with the story. It's an utter delight.

Watched The Phantom Of Liberty by Luis Bunuel. It's a stunning, nontraditional film. It's about mood, emotion, dark yet warm humour regarding absurd feelings and drives that all humans have. As its a series of small sections linked by characters going from one location to another its difficult to describe. So here's a few sequences to give an idea of the satire and mood. A young man takes his aunt to a hotel to sleep with him, as he has always loved her, and she him. He can't quite convince her then leaves the room, gets into a situation with four old priests, a lone woman and a strange couple, returns to his room to find his aunt has changed her mind and will sleep with him. A man, on finding out he has cancer, returns home to find that his daughter has disappeared. He goes to her school with his wife, interacts with the teachers, as well as his missing daughter, yet he and everyone insists that she is missing. This goes on for years until they can finally acknowledge her again. A man and wife go to a dinner party where you have dinner discussions while on the toilet (Toilets as chairs around a table) then go to a small room to eat. The entire film is has this wonderful mood, has sex perverts, a sniper killing people in Paris, a really strange old man and his odd relationship to memory and his sister. If you've seen Bunuel its amazing. If not, maybe start with Belle De Jour, which is a tad more straight-forward in narrative and demands made on an audience, before going into this one, the Discreet Charm of The Bourgeosise or The Milky Way.

Anyway, two great films that have to be seen.

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