Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Week in Review - 19/4/09

  • A Film With Me In It (Ian Fitzgibbon, Ireland, 2008)
  • Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Lift to the Scaffold, Louis Malle, France, 1957)
  • Lacombe, Lucien (Louis Malle, France/West Germany/Italy, 1974)
  • One, Two, Three (Billy Wilder, USA, 1961)
  • Sonbahar (Autumn, Özcan Alper, Turkey/Germany, 2008)
  • Cinema 16 - World Short Films

A Film With Me In It

It's good to see a film from Ireland, but this black comedy doesn't quite do it for me. It starts off OK, becomes quite outrageous but then runs out of ideas. Actually, it goes so far so quickly, that it ends up with nowhere to go. It's good for a laugh, but nothing special.

Lift to the Scaffold
Very French New Wave, very Hitchcockian. A great looking film that structurally is very like A Film With Me In It, except that it is neither a comedy and nor does it run out of steam. This is screening as part of the Melbourne Cinémathèque season on Louis Malle (which I highly recommend). This is Malle's first feature film and quite a debut.

Lacombe, Lucien
This Malle film is quite brilliant. It is like Jean-Pierre Melville's Leon Morin, prêtre, in that it depicts French village life under German occupation. While Melville's film is more a character and philosophical study, Malle's film is a seemingly dispassionate depiction of the effects of occupation on ordinary people.

The film starts with the titular teenage character, mopping a hospital floor, but taking time out to shoot a small, golden bird. This tells us much about the character, who has a soft spot for violence and soon approaches a resistance fighter to join the cause. By chance, Lucien is taken under the wing of the French Gestapo, and he becomes an enthusiastic collaborator, resulting in the capture of the resistance fighter he wanted to join.

Lucien is a despicable character, because circumstances have allowed him to become one. Such is the nature of war, and why war is itself despicable. Lucien is just a normal village boy, not unlike any teen of today. War creates a cloak under which activities that normally constitute crime are allowed to flourish: extortion, theft, assault, rape, torture and murder.

The French collaborators were living like it was the height of the decadent roaring 20's, like there's no tomorrow. Embolded with a gun and the backing of the Gestapo, they were pilferers and as their crimes escalated, one sensed there was no way out for them.

Malle shows much restraint in his story-telling, relying very much on facial nuance rather than dialogue. There is much moral complexity and the Jewish tailor, the father of a girl that Lucien fancies adds greatly to the drama. This is mature film-making, a really thought-provoking film which can be read in multiple ways because of lack of overt didacticism. Great stuff!

Cinema 16 - World Short Films
I stumbled upon this DVD at the ACMI shop and for about $20, snapped it right up. It was much better than I expected, with some five hours of short films (16 of them, with an average length around 20 minutes). It has films from all around the world, including both recent and older short films by directors such as Park Chan-Wook, Guillermo del Toro, Sylvain Chomet, Alexander Sokurov, Guy Maddin, Adam Elliot (Australian director of Mary and Max), Jane Campion and Alfonso Cuarón. It's a 2-DVD set and imporessed me so much that I also bought two others in the series, British Short Films and American Short Films. I believe there's also European Short Films, which I'll have to look out for. I'm not normally big on short films, but these are definitely worth a look and excellent value.

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