OTB#48: L’eclisse

L’eclisse. Michelangelo Antonioni. 1962. ⚅

Oh, L’eclisse… not Réglisse… So this isn’t a French movie about liquorice, but an Italian movie about an eclipse.

Makes more sense.

[time passes]

OH MY EMACS! Everything in this movie is so gorgeous! The performers, the lighting, the costumes, the interiors, the framing, the film stock, the 2K transfer… And there’s no music telling us how to feel! I could watch this forever.

The only scenes I don’t find riveting are (ironically enough, don’t you think?) the stock market scenes. They just seem… forced? You could pretty much tell from the first scene (where Delon (and mom) made money) that there was going to be another scene with a stock market crash, and that’s not like the rest of the film at all: Throughout the rest of the scenes, there’s a thrilling feeling of not knowing where all this is going.

It’s not a perfect movie. There’s about… a quarter? of the movie that’s kinda less gripping. (From the crash and the following… 30? minutes?) It’s the bit where Monica Vitti can’t decide whether to fuck Alain Delon or not. OK, his character is a shallow, horrible human being, but c’mon. He’s Alain Delon.

But despite his Delonness, it’s the scenes where there’s just Monica Vitti and nobody else that’s the most striking. They’re really something. It’s hard to stop screenshotting because every shot is just wonderful. She manages to be this blank presence… very different from, say, Liv Ullman (in Bergman’s movies), but still as fascinating.

Oh, and it’s not a movie completely devoid of a soundtrack: There’s two scenes near the end, where music is used extremely efficiently.

This blog post is part of the Officially The Best series.

OTB#48: Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia. David Lean. 1962. ⚁

This isn’t a movie I’ve looked forwards to watching. I think I’ve seen it… a couple of times? Back in the 80s? I seem to remember it being one of those double VHS box things?

And all I remember about the movie is that it’s one portentous desert scene after another. I mean, I love deserts and stuff, but it was all so… British. One shot of a sweaty, badly bleached Peter O’Toole after another.

I mean, that’s what I remember! It’s been *counts on fingers* over thirty years.

Perhaps I misremember! Let’s find out.

[some time passes]

Oh deer.

Everybody’s acting as if they’re in a panto. I’ve never seen anything more British in my life. I mean, I like that in general, but here it’s really rubbing me the wrong way. It’s like… It’s like it’s Extruded Quality Film. It’s really well shot in that … professional way where everything is nicely balanced and everybody’s the right position for maximum bathos and… here comes the desert scenes; exquisitely filmed.

Yeah, this is just what I remembered from when I was a teenager, and it’s still annoying: The cloying, swelling music and the pointlessly beautiful desert scenes.

But what does people think of this movie?

Well, that’s what I expected. Kinda interesting: There’s only two negative reviews, and they’re both from when the movie was released. One from the New York Times, and one from Sight & Sound magazine. Now I wonder what Cahiers de Cinema had to say about it, but my Google-foo fails me.

OK, I’ve only got it on 2K.

… the only thing?

These people are mad. There’s nothing, not one iota of this movie, that doesn’t place it in 1962 (late autumn, around 3pm). That’s not a negative thing? Previous times have existed, you know.

As you may surmise from this number of screenshots: This movie bores me. And I’ve watched Noli me tangere; boring me is some kind of achievement. So I’ve been ruminating: Just what is it about this movie that bores me so? I wonder whether it’s how basically all the characters are ciphers… even Lawrence himself. We don’t get a feeling, at all, just what’s motivating him to go to these extreme lengths to help these Arabs. Beyond him liking these gorgeously shot deserts, and them happening to live there.

I mean… what are their view on transsexual rights? Are they for or against Warren? What does Faisal think of Zoom’s inclusion of the Facebook SDK?

What I’m saying is: Is Lawrence aiding the literal IS here? There’s no room here (in all the hours the movie keeps on keeping on) to even try to hand-wave at us why we should be on Lawrence’s side (which the movie obviously seems to want us to be). It’s sort of… because the British are racist scum, then Lawrence is the hero?

I don’t quite get it.

And:

Anyway.

Hm… is there a single woman in this movie?

This blog post is part of the Officially The Best series.

OTB#48: The Searchers

The Searchers. John Ford. 1956. ⚃

There’s sure a whole bunch of westerns on this survey, padner. I got this one from a 20 disc box set some years back. I think it was this? That’s a pretty solid collection.

This is the only John Ford movie on the list, which is somewhat surprising. And if I remember correctly, this isn’t the most visually striking of his movies…

But perhaps I misremember; it’s been decades since I saw this movie last.

[…]

Or perhaps I have never seen it before, because (I’m half an hour in), and nothing seems familiar.

It is pretty startling seeing the white made-up guy playing the lead Native-American role.

[another half hour passes]

OK, I don’t quite get it. I usually love John Ford’s movies, but this is all kinds of … squicky? Around the edges? Like the funny bits where the comedy sidekick accidentally buys a Native-American wife (for the price of a hat)? It’s… in a different, more goofy context, that would still have been pretty odd, but here? Where they’re searching (note: title) after a guy that’s killed (and heavily implied, raped) a whole family, and kidnapped a little girl, it’s…

Weird? Slightly squicky? Especially when the comedy sidekick’s “comedy” spouse abuse sets in?

The mood swings in this movie is enough to give you a whiplash. The deranged cowboy set on revenge and the homey interludes…

OK. On the positive side, it does looks quite nice. I wish I had this on 2K instead of DVD, but it still looks surprisingly spiffy. John Wayne is, as ever, iconic, and the rest of the actors are… present…

I do not understand, at all, why this movie is on this “best of” list in preference over… a dozen other movies by John Ford.

Well, that’s a varied list of directors voting for the movie.

OK, I was bored, so I googled around seeing if anybody had a full data set of all the Sight & Sound polls. Nobody has, but this guy has done an interesting analysis of the available data.

This blog post is part of the Officially The Best series.

OTB#48: Pickpocket


Pickpocket. Robert Bresson. 1959. ⚅

Oh, I’ve got this both on DVD from Artificial Eye and bluray from Criterion…

I’m watching the Criterion release.

OH MY EMACS! Bresson is straight from the screen into my pretentious mind. Those affectless deliveries! The moral quandaries! Those French hairstyles! It’s just pure fabulousness. I’m there from the first frame to the last.

It’s 230% riveting. This movie is PURE EXCITEMENT! MY HEART IS POUNDING IS IT THE COVID NO IT”S THE MOVIE.

[…]

THIS IS A LIE.

It’s the most thrillerey thriller ever.

Bresson is still hyper-modern; i.e., his style hasn’t arrived yet, but it must some day.

OK, the last fourth is a bit of letdown.

Oh, this one has a lot of leftover liqueurs. It’s all liqueurs! I B Damm’d.

Hm… I had expected something super-flavourful, but the liqueurs weirdly cancel each other out.

This blog post is part of the Officially The Best series.

OTB#48: Pather Panchali

Pather Panchali. Satyajit Ray. 1955. ⚄

There aren’t a lot of movies on this list from outside the US/Europe/Japan/Hong Kong axis. Is this the only one? Haven’t made a survey, but it kinda looks like it? Uhm… Oh! It’s got Close-Up by Abbas Kiarostami, too. (From Iran.) That one’s really good. My guess is that the next survey (scheduled for 2022, if the world hasn’t ended by then) will include a lot more, like, for instance, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

This is Indian, by the way, and is in Bengali.

I am not a conne… conos… connersue… I don’t know much from Indian movies. I watched a bunch of them last year for my Netflix blog series, and… I guess they weren’t any worse than the American movies, really? I mean, not much.

This is not a Netflix movie. (Note: Insightful comment.)

I really like this. I mean, on a scene by scene basis: I really love the pacing; it’s languorous and slippery, and every scene of picaresque poverty is exquisitely framed. The actors are great; not exactly naturalistic, but every look speaks volumes. It’s not that far from contemporaneous Italian cinema, I guess?

But…

I have to admit growing distracted after an hour or so. There’s some excellent, heartbreaking scenes here, but there’s a bit too much time spent on stuff that is less interesting than the movie assumes it would be. There’s like no… tension? In those scenes?

It is a lovely movie, though. I laughed, I cried.

The scenes with the cats feel quite 2020, I’m sure.

This leftover recipe (Bikini Martini) depletes both my stock of Peachtree and blue curacao, but not by much.

It’s OK? But it’s very alcohol-forward. After diluting it a bit more, it’s nicer.

This blog post is part of the Officially The Best series.