Monday, September 17, 2007

The Week in Review

I had Destricted in my Outlook film calendar and turned up at ACMI today only to find that I was a week early. Strangely though, I had the correct date in my Google Calendar of Film Events (in this blog's sidebar). Strange, indeed. The Sunday screening next week also has a panel discussion afterwards, but I have a Melbourne Cinémathèque committee commitment that clashes, so I'm hoping to go on Saturday instead.

The highlight this week was the start of the Czech season at Melbourne Cinémathèque. I also watched Tom White late last night and am writing a separate review. I actually liked this more than anything else I saw during the week, but I consider Tom White one of the top 10 Australian films of the last decade.

  • Tom White (Alkinos Tsilimidos, 2004)

Lady Chatterley
Call me a philistine, but I hated D.H. Lawrence at school. From memory we covered both Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley's Lover. I found the writing staid and boring, reflecting a repressive social and class-conscious culture that held no appeal to me. I remember an interview I read some time ago with Charlotte Rampling, an English ex-pat living in France (and frequent collaborator with François Ozon), who felt she had to leave England because she finds even the contemporary culture stifling.

It may not be a surprise then, that I'm not a big fan of English period films, for pretty much the same reasons mentioned by Rampling. I generally find them dull, pretentious and overly theatrical. While this film didn't astound me, it was well made (avoiding the above-mentioned pitfalls) and quite frankly, better than any English period piece I've seen.

The cinematography was very good, the characters were much more realistic and there was more subtlety than we're accustomed to with the genre. The fact that it was an English story in French worked fine with me. If you like period films and/or French drama, there's a good chance you'll like this.


Jana said...

By the way, what did you think of The Piano Teacher? I saw it, and then remembered it fully as an Austrian film. When I saw it again, on TV some time ago, I was very surprised that it was in French, and not in German, because I simply blanked the memory of it having anything to do with France. I felt almost as if it was dubbed.

I wonder if Lady Chatterley worked the same way for you. Probably not, since it had a fully French team (while Haneke is Austrian, I believe).

And I have to agree with you. I found the book incredibly dull, very programatic, reading like a political manifesto of a self-righteous intellectual. There was more life, for me, in the Communist Manifesto.

Paul Martin said...

Jana, I loved The Piano Teacher (et toi ?). It was my first experience of Haneke and so I didn't know he was Austrian. I've now seen a number of his films and loved them all.

Hidden (Cache) is, of course, quite well known, and recently I saw La temps du loup (The Time of the Wolf). I recently purchased Funny Games on DVD on recommendation, though haven't seen it yet. I'm notoriously slow at watching the DVDs I buy.

The Piano Teacher was the film that made me stop to take notice of both Haneke and Isabelle Huppert, who regular readers here would know is one of my favourite actresses.

I'm not sure what connection you're making between the two films, but I don't see any connection at all, other than being in the French language. As for the film, I think the director has done an excellent job of taking a dull book and making it enjoyable. Both Zoe and I enjoyed it.

As an aside, while I'm not particularly happy with my progress in French (I should spend 15 minutes a day on it, but haven't been), I found myself taking in more of the language from this film than I have previously. I could also see inconsistencies between what was being said and the subtitles. It seems to be an affirmation that I'm making more progress than I'd thought. How's your progress going?

Umbagollah said...

A philistine, no, but in this case prose-deaf, yes, which is surprising and sad to see. A man who calls a gentian the "torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness … giving off darkness, blue darkness," who describes the countryside setting of Sons and Lovers with such rapt, loving clarity that the words almost shiver off the page (those cowslips like "pale, luminous foam-clots," the rose tree "splashing the darkness everywhere with split stars"), can't be called staid. I think his are the only books I've read in which characters get half-drunk just contemplating flowers. High school is the wrong time to read Lawrence, and Chatterley's is the wrong book to read. (We did The Virgin and the Gypsy; afterwards half the class said simply, "Where was the sex?") It's possibly his shrillest book, possibly one of the weakest, with some of the silliest lines. The court case has given it a status that it doesn't really earn.

Then again, when you say that his writing reflects "a repressive social and class-conscious culture" I wonder how much you remember of the books. That "repressive culture" was precisely what Lawrence was raging against. He spent most of his adulthood looking for some way to smash it. "How beastly the bourgeois is," he sneered with fury (Lawrence was good at fury). "Let him meet a new emotion, let him be faced with another man's need /let him come home to a bit of moral difficulty, let life / face him with a new demand on his understanding / and then watch him go soggy … Nicely groomed, like a mushroom … just like an old mushroom, all wormy inside, and hollow … Standing in their thousands, these appearances, in damp England / what a pity they can't all be kicked over / like sickening toadstools."

Paul Martin said...

Well, Umbagollah, I haven't read Lawrence since I was a teenager. I respect Lawrence from what I've read of him recently, but other than that, I have nothing but my high school recollections.

Prose-deaf? I'm comfortable with that, and I'm not being facetious. I have respect for the arts and writing in general, even those aspects I don't or can't appreciate.