Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Notorious (1946)

Today's film is Notorious, a romance film disguised as a spy caper.  Ingrid Bergman stars as Alicia, whose father has been put away for being a Nazi.  Devlin, played by Cary Grant, lets her drive drunk around town for a bit before letting her know his real intentions: he is working for a government agency and they want her help spying on some Nazis.  But, they're all the way in Brazil.

Soon, Devlin and Alicia fly to Brazil, but he hasn't told her exactly what the job will entail yet.  Before you know it, Alicia has already fallen in love with Devlin, but with the amount she drinks, anyone would probably look handsome to her.  I was so annoyed with how heavy-handed she laid on the romance.  She spoke in those long, almost breathless tones, "oohhh, Delvin,  you're so hot with your butt-chin!" Makes me want to gag.

But the plot still exists.  The government agency, the OSS, a precusor to the CIA, want Alicia to flirt with a Nazi named Alexander Sebastian, and bonus points because he already had a crush on her at one time.  Alicia is mad about this, but agrees because that's what she came here for.  She does such a good job with the flirting that Sebastian asks her to marry him.  She doesn't want to, but the OSS convinces she has to as part of the mission.  So, that's what we're doing now, marrying off women for the greater good?  If I was Alicia, I'd be like "fuck this" and jetski away.

But, Alicia does marry him and throws a party.  Since she was concerned about a servant's reaction to a wine bottle in an earlier scene, she steals the key to the wine cellar and gives it to Devlin.  After breaking a wine bottle, they are shocked that it contains sand rather than wine.  Devlin scoops some up to take it back to the lab.  Meanwhile, Alicia's husband is still jealous of him and after finding his wine cellar key gone, realizes that Alicia is an American agent.  Sebastian's mother gets the great idea to poison her to make it look like she has an illness.  There's always some wrong or evil about mothers in Hitchcock films.

So, the sand turns out to be uranium ore which surprises everyone.  Brazil has the 6th largest reserve of uranium in the world so I don't find this surprising.  The OSS tells Alicia to find out where it's mined. (um, everywhere?)  She discovers that it's in the Aimores mountains in the town of San Ma (this part gets cut off so we don't hear the rest). It's at this point as well when she realizes she's being poisoned.  All that non-stop booze drinking she does and it's coffee of all things that's making her sick.  Devlin comes to rescue her and she tells him all this.  This bothers me.  San Ma?  San nothing! San is the Spanish word for saint, but we are in Brazil, so it should be São.  I may not know a whole lot, but I do know how to speak English and Portuguese.  (I read a little Spanish, but can't speak much).  If I'm going to do anything constructive today, it's to teach some Portuguese.  For example, Devlin calls someone from the phone in the hotel and asks, "Parle Anglaise?"  The only reason I knew how to spell this is because I keep the closed captioning on.  To say, "Do you speak English?" say, "Você fala inglês?"  Let's break this down:

Vo (like Vogue without the -g sound)-say  fah-lah een-glace (like glacier without the r).  There! Now say it together!  Você fala inglês?  Not hard at all!  We hear English, Spanish and French in this film, in fact the only language never spoken in the whole film is Portuguese, which is the national language!

To top it all off, the film ends abruptly.  Devlin places Alicia into the car to take her to the hospital.  What happens after this?  Do they get married?  What if Alicia is too poisoned and won't make it?  What about all that business with the uranium sand?  Did they think I was just going to forget about that?  Absolutely nothing gets resolved in this film except Devlin succeeds in getting rid of his romantic rival so he can get the girl again.  Which proves this is a romance film above anything else.  I will give this film a 6/10.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Les maîtres fous (1955)

Today's film is Les maîtres fous.  I have been thinking about this film for over a week, which is sort of a half documentary-half fiction movie.  My main question is: what was the filmmaker's intention in making this?

The film starts off with showing off the town and various jobs people do.  Then it shifts to a remote location where everyone gets high and becomes "possessed" with the spirits of various European conquerers (occupiers).  They cook a dog over a fire and eat it and then do other random things.  Then, their high wears off and everyone goes home to their normal day jobs.

When this film first came out, it offended near everyone.  It offended the African viewers because it portrayed them as exotic and wild, full of strange rituals Europeans can't understand what with all their technology.  It offended the European colonists because the actors were mocking them under the guise of being possessed.  It was banned in various countries across Africa.

After watching this film, I went to Jean Rouch's website to find some answers.  I still don't understand the purpose of this film.  Being a fictional documentary, I have no idea what is real and what is not.  Am I supposed to learn about the people of this country from this film or is this all fake?  I got absolutely nothing out of this film.  I will give it a 3/10.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

La bėllė noisėusė (1991)

Today's film is La belle noiseuse.  An old, retired painter named Frenhofer lives a quiet life in France with his wife, his former model.  A young, up-and-coming artist named Nicolas comes to visit and brings his beautiful girlfriend along.  Ten years ago, Frenhofer was working on what was to be his masterpiece, a painting of a beautiful woman titled La belle noiseuse.  Looking at Nicolas' girlfriend, Marianne, he is inspired to try again.  Nicolas volunteers her to be his model without even asking her.  At first, she is angry at him, but goes to Frenhofer's house to model anyway.

Marianne has a cold, distant personality and we don't know much about her.  At first, she is okay posing in her clothes, but eventually she's going to have to take her clothes off so he can sketch her body.  Now, I've been modeling for many years, and I'm always nervous the first few moments around a new (or unfamiliar) artist.  This nervousness and uneasiness was very apparent in Marianne.  But, after a couple days, she's totally comfortable being nude and even tells stories from her past.  While modeling, the artist will ask you to pose however they want you to, but it's never as extreme as how Frenhofer posed Marianne.  After all, this is nude modeling, not yoga class!

The best part about this film was the sounds.  Without a score, the sounds were overly apparent.  The only sound I didn't like was the skritch-skrittch of the ink pen as he sketched.  By the way, his sketches are awful. One of my favorite sounds was when he was drawing on the canvas with charcoal.  That was a wonderful sound.  All the sounds made me feel like I was sitting right next to Frenhofer as he drew.  If you get a chance (or another one) to see this film, try wearing headphones.  The sounds will feel like they're all around you.  It is so wonderful and relaxing.

Both Madame Frenhofer (his wife/former model) and Nicolas are supportive of Frenhofer achieving his dream of painting his masterpiece, but they don't want to alienate Marianne or their own friendships.  M. Frenhofer was especially mad that he painted straight over a painting of her (his first attempt at the masterpiece) instead of using a new canvas.  Nicolas is uncomfortable about Marianne being naked for hours in front of another man.  There is sort of an erotic feel to what Frenhofer says to Marianne and the poses he forces her to do, but there's no outright sex.  He sketches for hours and hours and he is such a perfectionist that he is going to overdo it.

 M. Frenhofer, who was the original model of his masterpiece before he gave up, gives Marianne some advice: Don't look at the painting.  However, she had been working with him for several days, so it was too tempting to not look at it.  She sees it and is stunned.  Her face is cold and not was she expected.  Frenhofer hides the real painting behind a wall and paints a different picture that doesn't show her face.  So he does all that work and we don't even get to see the real painting?  There is a good reason for that.  The film is about Marianne and her experience with Frenhofer.  Her reaction to seeing her own face on the canvas can never match anyone elses' reaction.  I know sometimes I hate seeing pictures or works of myself because I think that I could have done more to make it better.  Did I pose right? Did the light hit my body correctly?  Am I just ugly? (Of course the pictures are perfect.  These questions are just brought on by anxiety.  If we were to see the real painting, it would have been beautiful.  But to Marianne, it's not.  The way I see pictures of myself will never match how others perceive it.)  But, Frenhofer is respectful of Marianne and paints a different picture to replace it, one of her specifically hiding her face, curled up in a ball, as if she's protecting herself from something.  Or maybe protecting herself from everything.  Both paintings raise many questions.  I hope Marianne learned from her experience and she and Nicolas will have a good relationship again.  I will give this film a 9/10.

Bye from Florida and see you next time!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Deseret (1995)

Today's film is Deseret, a narrative of the history of Utah.  There are no actors, no lines, no scenes.  Just one man, Fred Gardner, reading summaries of various news reports about the area ranging from 1851-present day.  It starts off in black and white as we learn about the Mormon settlers and their fights with Native Americans, other settlers, and the government itself.  Later, Utah becomes a site for nuclear weapons testing.

While Gardner reads these accounts, we are shown various landscapes, everything from scrub-filled deserts to beautiful rock formations.  Then, we see mining and other industries emerge.  This documentary reminds me of Koyaanisqatsi, which also showed only landscapes and buildings, except that one didn't have any narration.  I learned a lot about Utah today, but I didn't find this documentary interesting or visually stimulating at all.  I will give it a 4/10.