As of 9:30 this morning, I now have internet access at my house! This means that instead of painting in the bathroom, or tearing down the wallpaper in the kitchen, or raking leaves, I will be spending the rest of the morning playing on my computer – and specifically catching up on my “movie mayhem” posts for the last two months. I really like making notes on the movies I watch, and now that I have easy internet access I hope to get this blog feature back under control, tidied away into weekly, or bi-weekly posts. For the moment though, here are some notes that are far from tidy:
Out of 26 movies I’ll spare you and mention only a few that were particularly interesting to me.
It strikes me as odd that I have gone so long without seeing a single film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Shouts of appalled astonishment from friends or co-workers have often greeted this revelation, but it has not been particularly intentional. “On the to-do list, o’course” was usually my answer, and I meant it. Even so, I didn’t bother to seek his films out until one was tossed unceremoniously into my lap. Micmacs (France, 2009), Jeunet’s most recent offering came to a movie theater near me – the theater where I work. Unavoidable. So I watched Micmacs and liked it a lot. What’s not to like about a colorful band of misfits who concoct an outrageous plan to take down two major weapons manufacturers? Bizarre and wonderfully detailed sets, fantastic characters, and a plot that was clever and original, plus the right mix of action/adventure and a cute love story. Almost too perfect, nothing challenging there, but so enjoyable. I of course determined to watch more from Jeunet! Delicatessen (France, 1991) proved to be similarly imaginative – although a bit more warped and with a slightly darker brand of humor. In a weird post-apocalyptic world where food is scarce, a landlord/butcher occasionally puts the knives to his assistants and serves them up for his appreciative tenants. When his daughter falls in love with the most recent assistant, a charmingly goofy ex-clown, she seeks out the vegetarian troglodytes, a sub-society that live beneath the streets, for assistance with a rescue mission – which of course goes horribly awry. Again, astonishingly interesting set design and whacky characters make for a fantastic movie. In both films, actions over words and slapstick humor are used to great effect. While I watched both films purely for their entertainment value, I am aware that there are ideas just under the surface that beg to be explored. I said that there was nothing challenging about Micmacs, but I beg to differ with myself already, and I believe that a second viewing of these movies will give me something to think about. I think I’ll indulge in a “Jeunet week” sometime this winter!
Still smarting from the appallingly bad Nine, and having been only somewhat mollified by watching Federico Fellini’s original film 8 1/2, I found Fellini’s Roma (Italy, 1972) quite interesting. I kind of had the idea that theoretically it is the movie that Guido, the director character from Nine started making at the end of the film…not sure where I got that idea from…and not that I care! Anyway, so I watched Fellini’s Roma and found it’s impressionistic depiction of Rome very intriguing. Partially an autobiographical memory of Fellini’s arrival in Rome during the Mussolini years, and partially present day (1970s) footage, the movie is essentially plotless. It’s various episodes (a visit to a brothel, a lengthy and bizarre ecclesiastical fashion show, an exploration of ancient roman rooms discovered while digging a subway tunnel, a huge traffic jam, a visit to a music hall, an outdoor meal with neighbors…) hang together in the sense that each portrays an aspect of daily life in the city. The pace is slow, but the movie roars with life. Fascinating stuff.
In September the theater where I work hosted the second annual MIFF by-the-Sea film festival, an extension of the Maine International Film Festival which takes place in Waterville in July. Like last year, there was a collection of Maine-made films, international offerings, and documentaries. I got to see 5 films – two shorts, one from Kyrgyzstan, and one from Kazakhstan; a fascinating movie about a man and a gallery in Uzbekistan that collected Soviet-censured art, aptly called The Desert of Forbidden Art ; a Serbian made-for-TV doc about the Belgrades of the world, one of which is in Maine of course; and my favorite of the festival, Sita Sings the Blues (Nina Paley – USA – 2008). This was a gorgeously animated retelling of the Indian epic Ramayana. The several animation styles by themselves were interesting, and the three absolutely hilarious narrators – exquisite shadow-puppets – were fantastic. What made the movie particularly distinctive though was the fact that it was set to the 1920s songs of Annette Hanshaw. As the story progresses, Sita repeatedly breaks into song – and it is a bluesy, jazz piece sung by Annette Hanshaw which perfectly describes Sita’s current predicament! It’s brilliant and so funny. There are incredibly dramatic moments in the story too, and a fairly serious sub-plot that follows the story of the director’s dissolving marriage. It’s really a remarkable piece. I liked it so much that I got it through Netflix a few weeks later to watch again, and I’ve decided it needs to go in my permanent movie collection. 🙂
What else…? Let’s see, Yojimbo (Akira Kurosama – Japan – 1961) was quite interesting. It’s the movie that inspired Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars. In Kurosama’s world, it is a wandering ronin who comes to a town that is being slit apart by the swords of two rival criminal gangs. Sanjuro, portrayed by the masterful Toshiro Mifune, plays the two gangs against each other for his own apparent profit, but of course he really has a heart of gold and ends up putting his life on the line for a couple and their son, and his friend the innkeeper. Almost blow by blow the same story as Leone’s film, and equally full of that “slow action” I took note of in A Fistful of Dollars. Kurosama came up with it first though, and I’m eager to watch his follow-up, Sanjuro. And heck, while I’m at it I guess I’ll have to watch Leone’s For a Few Dollars More…!
I guess I’ll let the rest of the movies from these two months slip through the cracks of my blog. There certainly were more good ones, and I’ll probably do a round up list at the end of the year because I LOVE lists, so that’s enough blathering for now. Hope you all are watching fun things, and please don’t hesitate to recommend movies to me. 🙂