Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Film Review: "The River," by Jean Renoir


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"The River" (1951) is one of my all time favorite films. I saw bits of it several times on the late late show in my younger days. It always struck me as a "neat film" but I could never find out the title or see the whole thing. Recently I found it. I give it 5 starts on my netflix rating and I only give 5 starts to my absolute favorites such Bergman's "The Seventh Seal." "The River" is a strange film directed by Jean Renoir, one of the truly great directors, best known for the film classic, "the Rules of The Game," (19390 (Roger Ebert's Review), and the equally famous "Grand Illusion" (1937) (Renoir was the son of the famous Painter). The first time I saw the river I had no idea who made it. I came to respect Renoir, years before I  knew about the River. Probably his most famous works are Rules of the Game, and Grand Illusion both "must sees" for anyone who pretends to a good knowledge of film as an art form. These were made in the 1930s when Renoir was at the top of his game, one of the true  greats of cinema in Europe. The River, on the other hand, was made in 1950 released in 1951. By this time Renoir had been ruined in Hollywood and was no longer commercially viable as a director. He was searching for a story that would put him over again. He found a review of the novel The River by Rumer Godden whose major work is probalby Black Narcissus.The River is a true story, the story of  Godden growing up in Bengal.

Renoir bought the rights to the novel but had no money. No famous American actor would do it. No one wanted to shoot in India, technicolor had never been used in India. This was the first color film made in India it almost didn't get made due to the limitation on shooting in color in a  place with no real film making infrastructure set up to deal with technicolor. Yet the film turned out to be called one of the greatest uses of color in all of film history, on a par with The Red Shoesfor its use of color. It's also Renoir's first color film. He just happened to connect with a Florist who wanted to make a movie in India and was interested in that story. The producer knew nothing of film making but had the money and did not have the rights to the film he wanted to do. Renoir had the knowledge and the film rights. They got together.

It's a female coming of age myth, but it transcends that. It's about a girl growing up and experiencing her first crush, unrequited of course, which catapults her out of childhood and gives her her first taste of being an adult. It's a love triangle with four parts, does "love rectangle" make sense? Three young girls are in love with a soldier who comes to India from the war, having lost his leg, to live with his cousin because he's alienated form his native America. The Cousin is Scottish as are the other two families. As the narrator (the adult voice of the youngest girl of the triangle, Harriet) says, "in the war he was a hero, after the war is forgotten he's just a man with one leg." The Cousin is the father of one of the girls who vies for his attention (Melanie played by professional Indian dancer Radha). She's not really as serious as the other two (he is her cousin). The other two are Valerie (Adrienne Corri), the oldest (16) and most well developed who is now a young woman and very beautiful with flaming red hair, and the youngest (14) Harriet ("Harry") (Patricia Walters). Harriet's family lives in India in order to manage a jute factory. Jute is a fibrous plant made into rope and also paper. The two neighbor girls belong to families that are also involved in Jute production and all three families are wealthy the standards of the community, although not extravagantly so.

PhotobucketPatricia Walters as Harriet

The film is a strange thing, it seems almost home made. It has a very innocent quality and strikes one as almost childish. The romantic crushes of adolescent girls sounds like a trivial subject matter. Despite the fact that it's like watching home movies or sort of like a Disney classic from the 60s, at the same time it strikes one as extremely profound. One expects to see Brian Keit, Maureen O'Hara, and Haily Mills playing twins. Yet, at the same time one feels that this is a great film, we are watching something closer to Bergman's The Virgin Spring unfolding.  What follows will include spoilers so if you want to be surprised by your films, stop reading, go get the River because you will love it.

The three girls are immediately enchanted with the visiting Captain John. Thomas E. Breen who plays the part was a real war hero and like the character he plays did lose his leg. One of the remarkable things about this film is the mixture of non professional actors with professional actors. Only three members of the cast were real actors but thy all blend perfectly. Mr. John is the neighbor, his daughter is Melanie,  the product of an English-Indian Marriage. She has been away at school in England and just returned. She is struggling to understand her identity, is she Indian or English? The two "men" (boys) in her life, both of whom are love interests for her, symbolize her two heritages. She has an Indian boy friend with a long time understanding about being married at some point. She also is fascinated with the new stranger. She has the least chance of getting Captain John. She is featured in an interlude that illustrates a story the major character Harriet is writing, about "The Lord Krishna." In that story within the story Radha does a traditional Indian wedding dance and film buffs will appreciate the technique becuase they didn't have a means of moving the camera close for tight shots so the actress has to dance close to the camera and then back up again, yet somehow it works.

On the Eve of the Hindu version of Chrstmas, a harvest festival called Duwali, the festival of lights, there's a children's party, a scene between Captain John and Valarie where they establish their mutual attraction. He goes into the relationship in a more deeply romantic way with her, the other two girls are just sort of trying in vain to catch up. Valarie is a tease and loves to be cruel. She betrays Harriet and reads her secret diary to the Captain who is angered and refuses to play with her. They play a sort of ring-toss game and Valarie causes him to fall down and damage his prosthetic leg. After this the Captain is going away so the girls are trying to get his attention and keep him there. Harriet tries to win his favor by shewing him her creative side, she reads poetry to him that she wrote herself.

In the midst of this adolescent crisis Harriet sort of half notices that her little bother "Bogie" keeps trying to catch a cobra. There's some obvious foreshadowing and she finds the child dead in the bushes. Harriet did try to reprimand him for playing with then snake but didn't really stop to make sure that he did, owning to her romantic brooding. Thus she feels guilty for her brother's death. She takes a boat out on the river in the middle of the night and jumps into the current to allow herself to be dawned. But the local fisher boys recognize her as one of the English girls and they know she can't cope with the river alone so they follower her in their boat and fish her out before she can drown. They get word to the house and it's captain John who came to take her home. He has come to accept his lost-leg by this point and they have a touching scene and share some talk about facing life, learning to live with one's mistakes. Of course he tells her it wasn't her fault that her brother died.

By the end of the film the Captain has moved on but he's not wondering the world in alienation. The three girls in the final scene are waiting to learn if Harriet's mother gave birth to a boy or a girl, they are reading a letter form the captain but it matters so little they just let it blow away and run to see how the birth went. They find she had another girl and they all laugh with the father, who then goes to see the mother and the three girls stay outside talking about their plans for the future. When one begins unraveling the archetypes it becomes clear that this is a great film, it's a tapestry of universal concerns, a view of life tinged with the wisdom traditions of all ancinet cultures. The film as a whole is set to a sort of timing that fits with the river motif. The river of course is a metaphor for the passage of time and of life. The life of the people who live along its banks becomes a metaphor for all people everywhere involved in the business of living in this brief span of mortal days, symbolized by the many steps which are pointed out by the narrator, hundreds of pairs of steps every few hundred hard leading down into the river from temples and houses and whatever. The films preserves that these timing, slow stead flow, universal and timeless yet caught up in the concrete moment. Just we are watching an adolescent drama, a slice of life, a families daily grind and trivial concerns, yet all of it pointing toward the universality of human experience. The use of color is one of the motifs. The color red is used in this Southern Indian culture of Bengal where they paint themselves red as a sign spring, the blow a red dying spice around on each other. The color bright orange red, (Cadmium red light) shows in clothes, blossoms on a tree, perhaps linking to this more dark red spring color.

There is a motif of things almost crashing into other things. In the opening segment there is an extremely near collision between two boats. We this on the river many times. There's a scene the first time we see the father (Harriet's father) he is almost ran over by a huge pile of Jute moving on a cart but just barely misses him. He also walks though the bazaar and has a dozen near misses with  people, cows, carts. This near miss thing fits with the timing of the river. It gives the sense of the flow of the river and if one is in sink with the river the timing is right and there is no collision. Harriet is almost run over by a cart and the men have to stop it to keep from hitting her, she's not in sink, she's in the very act of chasing after the Captain when it happens. There is a poem Rumer Godden wrote as a child which is repeated two or three times that binds up the river with life and time.There is a use of maxims and such lines throughout the film. One-liners aimed at dispensing Indian wisdom in a single shot. At the little Duwali party the mother says she feels guilty for spending her money on making paly fairy crowns for the kids, she should be getting them sox. The Captain says "so many children have sox, so few have crowns." The Captain is angry about his handicap and is saying "I want to be a normal man." Melanie says, in her true Indian accept which sounds almost German in a way, "den you must vind a country of one legged men." This hodgepodge of seeming  homespun innocents (which is actually a masterful professional  treatment by one of the great filmmakers) and the universal profundity of  India, adolescent pining, life an death and birth (the films ends with a birth) the timeless nature of the recurring cycles of nature, rebirth, somehow it all comes together in this amazing synthesis. It's like watching the original Parent Trap discovering it's really The Seventh Seal in disguise.

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Radha as Melanie

Cast

Complete credited cast:
Nora Swinburne Nora Swinburne ...
The Mother
Esmond Knight Esmond Knight ...
The Father
Arthur Shields Arthur Shields ...
Mr. John
Suprova Mukerjee Suprova Mukerjee ...
Nan
Thomas E. Breen Thomas E. Breen ...
Capt. John
Patricia Walters Patricia Walters ...
Harriet
Radha Radha ...
Melanie
Adrienne Corri Adrienne Corri ...
Valerie
June Hillman June Hillman ...
Narration (voice)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jacques Tati: Not the Charlie Chaplan of France, but the Ingamar Bergman of Comedy


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Tati as Hulot: I am convinced that he was
the model for Inspector Clouseau. The above picture
In front of the "mos French Looking house" form Mon Oncle.

Part of the mission of this blog is intellectual reflection upon life as well as faith. The appreciation of Great art counts in that endeavor, and if the great art makes you laugh so much the better for Sunday, the day of rest. Toward that end I sometimes do little film reviews, always of old art films from the golden age of artistic cinema. Recently (in the past couple of years) I have really come to appreciate the great French filmmaker Jacques Tati (Oct 9, 1907--Nov 5, 1982). American film critics always call him "the French Chaplin." That is a dismissive injustice. He was a brilliant filmmaker who deserves to be thought of as the Bergman of Comedy.

I heard of this guy a long time ago. I even saw some of his early shorts. I thought "Ha, ha they are ok but he's no Chaplin." Not to insult the actual Chaplin, who was a great filmmaker in his own right. Chaplin himself is so much more than just "ha ha the little clown fell down." Some of those early shorts of Tati were much like the little clown of Chaplin, both were excellent in their own rights. They should not to be compared to each other, and neither should limit the greatness of either filmmaker. Beyond the dismissive nature of American film critics, let's have no more comparisons with Chaplin. Why do I mean by the "Bergman of Comedy?" Ingamar Bergman is my favorite filmmaker and in my view the greatest and most brilliant filmmaker of all time. Many Critics bleieve that his film The Seventh Seal (1957) was the greatest film ever made. I have to admit I agree, even though it's hard to choose just one. One can find several of his films reviewed on my film review page.

Tati is better compared to Bergman because his films are not so "ha ha" funny like the little clown falling down, but more a brilliant, humorous, positive, sometimes painful (so much so one must laugh) glimpse into the rich pageantry of life. They are the kind of "zen" humor at which the French excel; the unfunny made humors, the subtle mixture of the absurd and the painfully acute. His early shorts made in the silent era and early talkies were the typical funny slap stick sort of fare. My first real exposure to his full length films was to Les Vacances de M. Hulot (1953), (aka Mr. Hulot's Holiday). It does have some slap sticky shtick (business) going for it. It's packed with the sort rye subtle eye opening "ah, yes, that little aspect of life" epiphany that just breaks over you like an ocean breeze and fills you with longing for summer in childhood. It's one after another.

Mr. Hulot, who Tati always plays, is his signature character, going on holiday in the summer in the north of France. I think it's in Normandy which not the vacation capital of Eruope. This would be like wanting to go to the Meditation and staying at Faulty Towers instead. The tone is set by the most wonderful background music which is progressive jazz. It's a very mellow sort of Jazz that was new, sophisticated and somewhat progressive in the 50s. It's black and white, giving it a dream like quality of a childhood memory.The pervading sense of the film is one of happy optimism punctuated by the ruined surprise, the spit take, the cake in the face sort of thing. There's a small child who is given money to get ice cream for himself and his bother, he guys two cones. This two fisted ice cream eater realizes the cones are dripping all over his hands, he can't open the door to the hall where his brother is because he can't set the cones down. He's n quandary, he milks it for the humor then the kid eats both. Not a car chase, not an explosion, it's not the stooges but it's humorous and it makes you smile. Moreover there's another coming in about a minute. Hulot opens the door to the eating hall and the wind of the sea blows over a bunch of stuff people were cleaning up and so for ages. There's a bit with wet foot prints that never seem to go anywhere. There's a record player connected to the lights and it's real loud and this guy keep's playing it all night. There's a super funny scene where Hulto is knowing stuff off the wall while trying to look debonair to impress a woman. There's a grand finale fire works display where Tati gets into some priceless shtick with trying to put out the fire they cause and basically bombards the hotel and sets it on fire. Of course it was his clumsiness that started the fireworks shooting off inside a shed in the middle of the night. All the way through the film gives one a feeling being on holiday. I watched it eight times in a week the first time I saw it.

I think I like even better the film Mon Oncle (1958) (My Uncle). This film is in color and that's important because it has a modernity theme that would be belied by black and white. It begins with the construction of a sky scrapper on the outskirts of Paris. The names on placards in front of a building under construction usually tell the name of the firm and the architect and so on. We see the names we realize these are the credits of the film. But the title and the credit for producer and director (Tati of course) is scrawled in chalk on an old wall around the corner. So have two spheres here, the new gleaming factory district, with modern buildings, and the old quarter around the corner that still looks like something out of nineteenth century Paris. In fact there is a pack of stray dogs we follow in the opening of the film. This section of town is where Mr. Hulot lives and it's the most French looking place, it almost fits the stereotypical Hollywood image of 1901 in Paris. There are even horse drawn carts. There's one of those little markets where you can buy all sorts of fresh fish and veg and everything from street vendors. Kids playing in the street and so on. Hulot lives in the most French looking house I've ever seen. One would expect a sign that says "Jean Val Jean slept here." This is Hulot's turf. It is his domain. The shiny factory district around the corner is out of his world, He even rides a horse drawn cart. the dog pack is important because we are meant to understand that Hulto is one of the dogs, he's a straw, he's out of place, he's not rooted anymore. The old part is his turf but even there he's out place because he's out of the time in which he belongs.

Around the corner in the gleaming factory district is the house of his sister. He goes there every Sunday, I know what that's about. When I lived in New Mexico I went to my sister's and hung around on Sunday, not wanted there by my brother-in-law but just tolerated. I didn't have the money to go anywhere else, got a free meal talked to my sister. This is like Hulot in this film, he loves his nephew and his nephew loves him. He gives the child toys and picks him up after school and always finds interesting things to show him. The gang his nephew is in play this game where they hide on a hill over looking a street with lots of foot traffic and they wait until someone is coming they whistle the person runs into a sign in front of them becasue he's looking to see who whistled, they lay bets on who will hit the sign.

The sister lives in an ultra modern house. The house looks like a bank or a jack in the box form that era where they used square box like buildings. It has a high wall and electronic gate, filled with gadgets. the furniture doesn't look like furniture, nothing looks comfortable. they have a little fountain with a fish that spurts a stream of water out of its mouth and straight up. They turn it on when company comes. Everything buzzes in that house becasue everything is push button. When the mother is cooking there are so many buzzers going off you can't hear yourself think. The atmosphere is sterile. The child clearly hates it, this is one major thing driving him away form his father whom he can't stand to his uncle who the father hates. Of course the uncle, Hulot, mills about, if he takes a nape the father get's angry. Of course he falls asleep in the living room and is there on Monday morning . They decide to force Hulot to get a job. The father is the manager of the plant so he makes a job for him, and of cousre they all act it's a huge favor so me must take it. Of course he's about as suited to it as a pig would be to flying a bomber. The first day he let's the pack of straw dogs into he factory offices and they run amuck. Symbolism.The factory offices look like a bank. They are made in the style of fascist architecture: huge spaces that are way more than needed for the task they contain, big marble walls, cold and antiseptic and clunky out of proportion statues.

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Sister's house


Hulot runs amuck. The factory makes rubber hoses and due to his general ineptitude for the job he makes a huge long string of hoses that look frankfurters. His friends try to hide the hose so he wont get fired, and they have lots of adventures trying to get it out of the plant unseen. Of cousre I'm skipping over a lot of hilarious stuff. Hulot damages the water line to the fountain in the sister's yard and it's spraying party guests. The father finally get's fed up with Hulot and trasfurs him to the provinces outside of Paris, far away, as a salesman. He's as suited to selling hoses as he is to making hoses. The brother can't make him go but because he's rootless and inept he does anyway. The son introduces the father to the bump-into-the-sing game and the father and son begin to move closer to each other. Lurking underneath his innocent state upon which Tati plays out his high jinks is a serious conflict between Paris as it is shaping up after the war and those who feel displaced by the new business orientation and who long for the old Paris, the Paris of great jazz, Josephine Baker, Picasso, and the lost generation. This is really not Tati's attempt to get to laugh at Mr. Hulot it's Tati's cometary on the faceless corporation the urge to do business in the American model, the loss of the elements that made Paris what it was before the war. This is interesting from the stand point of film because this was the time of the New Cinema when directors like François Truffaut were developing a new cinema. Yet Tati is not a throw back to pre war film making techniques. He's standing up for the individual and artistic integrity with a hint of nostalgia for a time when all of Paris reflected these ideals in everything, he's not doing it in an outmoded way.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Review, The Longest Day: cast of thousands Committee of directors



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IMBD page

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Eddie Albert ...
Paul Anka ...
Arletty ...
Jean-Louis Barrault ...
Richard Beymer ...
Pvt. Dutch Schultz
Hans Christian Blech ...
Bourvil ...
Richard Burton ...
Flying Officer David Campbell
Wolfgang Büttner ...
Red Buttons ...
Pauline Carton ...
Sean Connery ...
Ray Danton ...
Irina Demick ...
Janine Boitard (as Irina Demich)
Fred Dur ...
This is an excellent film. It counts as American it's Ameircan produced even though it had a million directors.
It commemorates an event that I think stands out as one of the seminal events of human history. I'm an anti-war guy for the most part. I protested Vietnam when I was a little kid. I protested the contra war and; the gulf war and Irak. But WWII I don't think I would have protested. I would have supported the war effort totally. Hitler was evil and had to be stopped. The militaristic forces that controlled Japan at the time were also Hitlerian and evil.

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 The chruch at Sainte-Mère-Église where
Red Buttons hangs from the tower.

The Longest Day is fine film to commentate the event. It has so many moments it would be hard to Isolate one. The Richard Burton scene is one of my favorites. Burton is a downed flyer who has been stitched up by an American medic who left him promising to come back. Another American, lost and separated from his unit, finds him. They talk, we find out he's been stiched up with safety pins. when the drugs wear off he's in trouble. Red Buttons, paratrooper, hanging from the chruch steeple at Sainte-Mère-Église watching his guys get slaughtered as he just hangs there, then being defened by the bells. The Little clicker devise to identity each other in the dark. Then they mistake ducks and gese clicking then the German breach loading his rifle makes that clicking noise.The Nunjs who walk deterred and openly right into the middle of cross fire and don't flentch whild on both sides go "get backi!"

My favorite scene has to be the peasant who lives at the beach. Every morning the German sergeant rides a donkey around the area and the french farmer curses at him. He's just longing for the day when the allies comes. One morning he looks out his window toward the sea and there is a load of ships sailing toward land.He's ecstatic. suddenly his back yard blows up. Shells are exploding all around him. His wife is shouting "we will be killed." He jumping around going "who cares. they've come! Vive la France!" The Sergent is knocked off his donkey by the blast and the peasant is still jumping around celebrating. Intercepted with this is the German officer who goes to the bunker to check. It's routine does it every morning. They never come. Suddenly it looks some dark objects are emerging from the fog. He can't believe it, they come into focus, they are ships, then they start shooting at him.

It's a brilliant movie and commentates something that so profound historically I can't really talk about it.
Even John Wayne's cliched character doesn't gum it up. In fact Wayne is prefect, WWII battles were his setting. Everyone who was anyone in that era (1962) was in it. It's really one of my favorite films.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"Ordet": (The word), a film by Carl Dreyer (no 10)


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1954
I'd like to know if anyone actually read this review. if so please make a comment?


I love foreign cinema and occasionally I enjoy reviewing old films from Germany, France, Italy or Japan, or other countries. My favorite kind of film is one that takes on a big question, the kind of question religious belief is about answering, through the perspective of modern thought and film making. My favorite director is Ingmar Bergman, for his quasi religous (even though he was an atheist) films such as The Seventh Seal, the Virgin Spring, Winter Light.

I've been searching for another director who would have that same kind of theological bent in a modern film package. I recently found one in Carl Dreyer (1889-1968). While Berman was a Swede Dreyer was Danish, and is very different from Bergman yet they both share that same Nordic kind of theater tradition that adds an element of stinginess and pageantry to their films. While they are very different they also at times remind me of each other. One Dreyer film that really made me feel I was watching a Bergman movie was his work "Ordet." Ordet means "the word." It's based upon a 1920s Danish play and is set in the 20s (although the film was made in 1954). It's about a family that has a son a who thinks he is Jesus.

Cast

Uncredited cast:
Hanne Agesen Hanne Agesen ...
Karen, a Servant (uncredited)
Kirsten Andreasen Kirsten Andreasen ...
(uncredited)
Sylvia Eckhausen Sylvia Eckhausen ...
Kirstin Petersen (uncredited)
Birgitte Federspiel Birgitte Federspiel ...
Inger, Mikkel's Wife (uncredited)
Ejner Federspiel Ejner Federspiel ...
Peter Petersen (uncredited)
Ann Elisabeth Groth Ann Elisabeth Groth ...
Maren Borgen, Mikkel's Daughter (uncredited)
Emil Hass Christensen Emil Hass Christensen ...
Mikkel Borgen (uncredited)
Cay Kristiansen Cay Kristiansen ...
Anders Borgen (uncredited)
Preben Lerdorff Rye Preben Lerdorff Rye ...
Johannes Borgen (uncredited)
Henrik Malberg Henrik Malberg ...
Morten Borgen (uncredited)
Gerda Nielsen Gerda Nielsen ...
Anne Petersen (uncredited)
Ove Rud Ove Rud ...
Pastor (uncredited)
Susanne Rud Susanne Rud ...
Lilleinger Borgen, Mikkel's Daughter (uncredited)
Henry Skjær Henry Skjær ...
The Doctor (uncredited)
Edith Trane Edith Trane ...
Mette Maren (uncredited)


Two fmailies, the Borgen family, whose second son,Johannes Borgen, played by Preben Lerdorff Rye thinks he's Jesus, and the Peterson family, whose daughter Anne the youngest son of the Borgen's, Anders, loves and wants to marry. The two families have been feuding for years over religion. The Borgen represent the modern liberal happy chruch kind of people who think religion is positive, but rationalistic. The Peterson's represent a more old fashion kind of sever dawyer always alarmed faith based upon German Pietism. They are not Penticostal, they would not get excited in worship but would act somber. one group thinks everyone should be happy, but responsible and moral, the other groups thinks we should all be afarid, alarmed, ashamed and somber.

We first see Johannes when he's wondered off into the cliffs and shouts down at the village "the word came into the world and the world received it not." he stands there shouting prophesies of doom on the unbelievers the other family members go out and bring him in. Rye's performance is excellent. He actualy looks a bit like the guy on the shroud of Turin. He speaks in a whining voice and always greets people "God beleeeeeessssss youoooooo." Anytime there's a dramatic movment and the old grandfather is contemplating the issues we hear that whining "Gawd Beleeeeeessssss youoooooo" we know there's going to be some comic relief. Once Johannes lights two candles and sets them on the window ledge. His sister-in-law, Inger wife of oldest son Mikel asks "why did you put the candles there?" He Johannes answers "so that my light will shin in the darkness." Everything he says is right out of the red letter bible, the words of Jesus. Even if it's an answer to mundane question me makes it fit.

The minister comes to visit and introduces himself to Johan and Johan replies "don't you recognize me? I am Jesus of Nazareth." At that point we learn that he was a seminary student driven mad by reading too many books (he must have gone to Perkins). We find that it was primarily Kierkegaard who dorve him over the edge. He is the personifiication of SK's attack on Christendom, right out of the pages of the book. Everything he says has two meanings, one an answer to the mundane counted in nutty sounding Biblical quotation form Jesus, and the other a hinted application to the higher issues of the plot. Of course no one takes him seriously because he's just the crazy guy. Everyone pities him but no one listens to what he's saying. What he's saying inceently, as did Keirkegaard, "you profess faith but you don't believe it." All the other characters say nuttie things, they all exhibit paranoia and magical thinking, or an ordinary kind, but the implication is there that the problem is everyone in the society is revved up on religious anxiety without the actual faith to turn into something positive. Becuase they don't go around saying they are Jesus or answering every question with a quotation form the Bible no one thinks they are nuts.

Anders goes to Anne's parents and asked to Marry her. They refuse him. There is a sub plot his mother gaining his grandfather's approval. The two old men, the grandfathers of both families have been at each other for years, becasue one is for the happy chruch one is for the somber upset chruch. They discuss the issue in a special meeting in the girls home and come to actual blows. The stage humor is amusing that they meet in "Christian love" and wind up brawling.

At this point they are sent word that Inger is about to have her baby but she's sick. Something is wrong and her life is in danger. They go home and everyone is tense and praying. The doctor is working hard. The Jesus son is in the back room talking to hi young niece. He tells her "it's better to have a mother in heaven becuase then she will be always with you. On earth she has too many things to think about." The girl decides she wants her mother with her. He says "I can't bring her back (he's not gone yet) because they wont let me." He keeps quoting the passage about Jesus couldn't do many mighty works in his home town because of unbelief. In one scene the grandfather is talking out loud to himself about how God is doing this to punish him. Johannes is walking behind him, packing back and forth. He's saying detached nuttie things and the Grandfather is saying "not now." But Then things Johannes says start making sense plot wise. They are like informing him of his unbelief and how this is effecting the situation. The Granfather is sort on the surface saying "go away you are nut but he also starts talking to him as though he's really God. part of the time he's answering back going "why do you allow these trials" while the rest of the time he's saying "you are a nut." This is a perfect metaphor for the point of the play that their faith is double minded. It's a real Kierkegaardian theme that their belief is shallow and social and not interlinked.

The doctors thinks the woman will pull throw and now she's resting. He and mintier sit and have a little confab about God and the reality of miracles and they reduce miracles to science and decide that God works only thought he natural he's given them the ability to solve everything. They are the rationalists. The doctor represents modern secular view of scinece, the minister the modern ratinalisit view of the chruch. When they leave Johannes comes right out and says "the man with the hourglass is back. he's going through the wall to see Inger." They shush him "that's the doctor's car lights on the wall as he turns around." No sonner does the doctor drive away the the Miekkel comes out and says he died! Johannes again tells the little girl "i can't raise her because they wont let me." He leaves in the middle of hte night. His note says "where I go you cannot come" a quotation form John that Jesus told Mary Magdeline in the resurrection scene. They go looking for him for the next couple of days.

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Uncle and niece

They don't find Johannes and they wind up at the funeral. It's time to seal the casket and here comes Johannes. He's talking normally. The father says "you have come to your senses!" He says yes father I've come to my senses. Now I realize that the child's faith is all I need, referring to his young niece. The first comes over and says "you have to do it now Uncle." So he says "in the name of Jesus rise" and the woman comes back to life. He tells them "you never thought to ask God to restore her life because you only half believe your faith. The ending I'm told is in a tradition of Danish theater where they seem very stylized and not realistic in their reactions. I say this because in real life they would be running around in shock but in the film they act like "I won ten dollars in the drawing, that's nice." The minister and doctor are shot panned away from we don't even see their reactions.

The whole thing is so totally Kirkegaaridan it's a joy to watch, if you are a SK fan like me. The family dynamic, the superstitious nature of their faith, is the issue. Its' not saying that all belief in God is superstitious it's saying that the way they use their faith as a protection against misfortune but don't really believe God's promises makes it superstitious like. The son who so closely identities with Jesus that he starts thinking he is Jesus is regarded as a nut but the one's who have no faith and yet cling to a rationalized version of faith are credited with sanity when in reality they are less aware of the true import of things than the "nut case" son.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

No 9 "Dr. Strangelove"


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(2) Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)


directed by Stanly Kubrick
Peter Sellers
Peter Sellers , Peter Sellers, and Peter Sellers.
(yes, he plays three different characters in the same movie)

George C. Scott George C. Scott...

Sterling Hayden ...

Keenan Wynn ...

Slim Pickens ...

Peter Bull ...

James Earl Jones ...

Tracy Reed ...

Jack Creley ...

Frank Berry ...

Robert O'Neil ...

Glenn Beck ...
Lieutenant Kivel (as Glen Beck)

Roy Stephens ...

Shane Rimmer ...

Hal Galili ...

This may be my most favorite American film of all time. As an art film I would put it up with anything from Europe, except it's a comedy. It scared the hell out of me as a child. I expected the world to end any day and I worried, no I agonized over nuclear war for days after seeing it. It may have set me on the entire political path for the left with that one film. The portrait of the military, the right wing politicians, and the cold war overwhelmingly lays bare the stupidity of "mutually assured destruction.". What I did not get as a kid (maybe 10 or 11) watching it was that it is totally hilarious. The anti-war statement is far more powerful as a comedy. As a drama it's way to serious to think about. People would have dismissed it. The Day After was a powerful film but it didn't change that many attitudes; Regan still won by a land slide. Nuclear war during the cold war was the ultimate topic, way too serious to approach seriously. As a comedy it's perfect for laying bare the stupidity of the times. Kubrick once said they started to film it as a drama and kept falling writing jokes until they realized cold war thinking is a joke, then it became a comedy.

It's a remarkable film for many reasons. Peter Sellers plays three characters, everyone and his dog is in it. I'll never forget the line by Keenan Wynn (colonel Bat Guano), who is asked to break open a coke machine so the Peter Sellers in his guise as a British exchange officer can call the President and tell him the general (Starlin Hyden as General Jack Ripper) has just started World War III, and Guano says "Ok but you are going to have to answer to the coca cola company." It so perfectly exposes the stupidity of the mind set that created the cold war and the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) Policy.

The chemistry between Sellers and George C. Scott is so hilarious, superbly done. Seller's portrayal of a British officer, a gentaleman, modern,sophisticated, cultured, totally afraid of the Scott charater. He sees how volatile the commanding offiecer is and seems as though he expects him to start shooting indiscriminately. While the general is convinced the communists have fluoridated the water.

Peter Sellers also plays the President and Dr. Strangelove, a Nazi war criminal working for America's cold war effort, whose own arm attacks him. The President is a whimp and explains to the soviet leader, "now Demitree once of our generals went a little bit funny in the head." General Jack T.Ripper ordered a nuclear strike to stop fluoridation.

I will never forget the iconic last scene where Slim Pickins rides the bomb to the earth like a Bronco waving his cowboy hat and shouting "Yeeeehaaa!" If only he could have gotten Regan to play that scene American history might have been very different. The generals are discussing options now that the soviet dooms day device is about to be set off, they say "we can live in mine shafts." A parody of the cold war thinking, fear of a missile gap when we had enough to blow up the world 11 times over, last line of the film, "we can't allow a mine shaft gap." The world ends when the bomb hits and the last images are of mushroom clouds and a song "tell them I was singing" is playing.