The high point of this week was 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, which I intend seeing again before I post a review. I saw the first screening of a brand new print that had arrived the previous day. All I will say for now is it is excellent, social realist film-making that has much in common with the Dardenne brothers' L'enfant or even Tsilimidos' Em 4 Jay. It is a worthy winner of this year's Palme d'Or at Cannes that just has to be seen by serious cinephiles.
- Sedmikrásky (Daisies, Vera Chytilová, Czechoslovakia, 1966)
- Valerie a týden divů (Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Jaromil Jires, Czechoslovakia, 1970)
- A Nocturne (Bill Masoulis, Australia, 2007)
- 4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu, Romania, 2007)
- Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Sam Peckinpah, USA, 1973)
- Otrantský zámek (Castle of Ostranto, Jan Svankmajer, Czechoslovakia, 1977)
- Zánik domu Usheru (The Fall of the House of Usher, Jan Svankmajer, Czechoslovakia, 1981)
- Kyvadlo, jáma a nadeje (The Pit, the Pendulum and Hope, Jan Svankmajer, Czechoslovakia, 1983)
I really like this unusual Czech New Wave film, though I know some of my fellow Melbourne Cinémathèque members thought less of it. It's experimental nature demonstrates some of the psychedelic devices of the period, and contextually I had no problems with it, though it has dated. It was banned by the Czechoslovakian authorities for a time, largely (if not entirely) out of ignorance. They feared the avant garde.
Daisies is about two young women (both named Marie), self-indulgent to the extreme. I call this type 'Princess Bitches' and was recently amused to find a book by Melbourne child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg about the same condition (and it's called The Princess Bitchface Syndrome). I have a daughter around this age who, it must be said, has caused much grief, and Daisies satirises the mayhem such girls can cause by pushing it to the max.
The film is an anti-war statement, a connection made clear at the start with imagery of destruction wrought by bombing. The director's intent is to show how obnoxious behaviour manifested on an individual level correlates to obnoxious behaviour on an international level. The two Maries plot to hoodwink older men to pay for their meals and other favours, in exchange for pleasure which is never delivered. What I find particularly fascinating is how such behaviour has proliferated especially in contemporary times.
The film comes to a climax when these two terrors discover an unattended banquet in a hall. There was a terrific long take capturing the carefree destruction by the girls. Once again, thanks to the Czech embassy, we had excellent prints on the night. Check out this site for more info, including links to Deputy Pruzinec's speech to the Czech National Assembly condemning Daisies and director Vera Chytilova's letter to President Gustav Husak, pleading to be allowed to resume work with film.
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
This was a fantasy/horror film, the least engaging of all the Czech season. It's a fairly camp vampire story which tries to tantalise with a little nudity and hints of incestuous relationships. While it has some beautiful imagery, the plot was fairly puerile.
Other than as a curio, the film did little for me. As it's been over a week since I saw it, I find I have nothing more to say about it, though Chris Hyde has written an interesting piece.
I struggled with this film, partly due to sleep-deprivation, partly due to the quality of the screening (at Toff of the Town, a non-cinema venue with a small poor quality screen) and partly due to the content. It's a vampire flick set in Melbourne, made by local film-maker Bill Masoulis. This was the opening night film for MUFF 2007, and as the festival finishes tonight, it will be the only film I got to see at the festival. It's just not humanly possible to fit everything in.
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
I'm not a big fan of the Western genre and consequently have had little exposure to Sam Peckinpah. Maybe it's the "over-abundance" of manliness (as it's referred to in Sunshine) that doesn't appeal. Or maybe it's the guns and violence. So this film, while it has some redeeming features (like James Coburn's depiction of Pat Garrett), this film also did little for me. The director assumes the audience has knowledge of the characters. It was only by reading about the film afterwards that I learnt what was the significance of the opening scene (repeated at the end).
Kris Kristofferson's role as Billy the Kid was reasonable but somewhat tame, and Bob Dylan's cameo was amusing, entertaining if not gratuitous. He provided the music to the film, which worked quite well. Like most westerns, the role of women was relegated to mostly window dressing. Perhaps that's another reasons why I don't generally like the genre - there's no balance of the real-life day-to-day, the drama of real people interacting.
I find it fascinating that the film depicts events that are scarcely more than a century ago - times that can surely be considered modern. Yet, the 'wild-west' nature of the times, with the proliferation of firearms and cavalier manner in which they were used (at least as depicted in the film) surely gives some hint as to why the US has so many problems connected to violence and firearms to this day.
Short Films by Jan Svankmajer
I presume this name means something to those a bit more educated in Eastern European cinema than myself. I found each of these films of little interest and didn't engage me at all.