Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Week in Review

Another quiet week on the film-viewing front, though La belle noiseuse certainly makes up for it. I saw Irma la Douce at the Astor this evening and was disappointed, as I was with the Interfilm screenings at the George. I've still got this damn cold which is slowing down my film-going. Normally I'd use a long weekend to go on a spree. C'est la vie.

FILMS:

SHORT FILMS:
  • Interfilm Berlin International Short Film Festival selections at St. Kilda Film Festival
DVD:
  • Pierwsza milosc (First Love, 52 min, Krzyzstof Kieslowski, 1974)

BOOKS I'M READING:
  • Almodóvar on Almodóvar (Revised edition, 2006, Frédéric Strauss)
Irma la Douce
I don't have a lot to say about this film by the acclaimed Billy Wilder, as I didn't particularly like it. This was my first experience of his work, but I'm not going to let that put me off seeing his other films, as I'm told he's done much better - particularly The Apartment and Some Like It Hot.

While it was fascinating to see a young Shirley Maclaine (in her late 20's) and Jack Lemmon, their roles were ... I don't want to use the word peurile as it's a bit harsh, but I can't think of something better. I realise there were different sensibilities in those days, but still it was all a bit too cute and sterile. I know I saw a film with a similar premise about a decade ago, but I can't recall it.

Being set in Paris was visually very effective - the architecture, the market vista, the vehicles all looked great. But I also suspect there was another reason to do with American prudish sensibilities and the difficulty of pulling something like this off in America. I suspect it was more digestible for an American studio to distance themselves from the morality of the story by setting it in gay Paris.

Ultimately I found the film contrived to the max, over-long and with little substance, though I enjoyed the Moustache character. Maybe one needs to be a Wilder aficionado to appreciate the film more. By the way, the image above was my favourite visual from the film. I got a good laugh out of that.

Interfilm Berlin
In 1999, I spent a week at the St. Kilda Film Festival and watched nearly every session. At the end of the week I was all short-filmed out and haven't been back until today. I had decided some time ago that if I was to go back, I would avoid the local competition sessions, which are hopelessly formulaic and repetitive, but that the selections from international festivals were really worth seeing. I was hoping to catch the selections from the Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival (France) on Friday and the Gas Stations session on Saturday, but this damned cold I've got kept me at home.

Today I made it to the five films selected from the Interfilm Berlin International Short Film Festival, but was majorly disappointed. The first three looked like they'd been shot on digital camera and the quality of the visuals was extremely poor. It was so drab that despite the gravity and quality of their narratives, it couldn't pull me into their respective worlds. There was no engagement (I even nodded off through one). I suspect that we were being screened films from a DVD, though I'm not sure.

The fourth film was bright and colourful, but used my other pet hate: MTV music video style editing with fast cutting that also fails to engage me. This was a real pity as the story had substance, but I found it virtually unwatchable. The final film was an animation and was OK, but nothing special. Again, c'est la vie.

First Love
Stuck at home with a cold and a shelf full of unwatched DVD's - what does one do? Watch one, silly. I felt too crap to make it even through a whole DVD, so just one short off my Kieslowski documentary collection sufficed. I really like this guy's work. There's a rawness to these early documentaries, but a vision that endures through all his films. In this film, a 17yo girl is advised by her doctor not to have an abortion, and she later marries the 19yo father. Kieslowski is always the observer of interesting little stories that we can closely relate to - every day people in every day situations. I was left feeling a little sad and wondering what became of the participants who would be a little older than myself now.

For more on First Love and the other Kieslowski documentaries, check out the Polish Culture website.

1 comment:

Marty said...

Billy Wilder's best films, by far, are:

Double Indemnity - a film noir classic. Barbara Stanwyck is the best female fatale of all time and a benchmark for all other female fatales in cinema.

Sunset Boulevard - a brilliantly scathing look at Hollywood

The Apartment - Jack Lemmon is magnificent in this as is Shirley Maclaine

Some Like it Hot - very funny cross-dressing film that still stands the test of time.