Monday, August 27, 2007

Foreign into Fall: Part II

I mentioned this project last week in Part I, here's my most recently veiwed foreign films as selected off the nomination list compiled by Edward Copeland of top non-English language films.

Au hasard Balthazar (1966) directed by Robert Bresson

While slow and boring at times, it also is uniquely moving and purposfully spiritual. The story is about a donkey named Balthazar and her first owner Marie. The story follows Balthazar amongst his various owners as well as Marie. Bresson is clearly drawing comparisons not just between Marie and Balthazar, but also between the full range of experiences that Christ experienced as man.

There certainly was no warning that said that Animals were not hurt during the making of this film, and the mild donkey abuse in itself makes this movie unique.

Beauty and the Beast (1946) directed by Jean Cocteau
This is not your 1991 Disney movie. No songs, no cartoons, and no tea pot played by Angela Lansbury. Although there are moving (not singing) candelabras. In fact, I'm sure some people were impressed with these special effects back in 1946, even though today the tricks are not greater than what you'd experience at a haunted house.

All the same the story is classic, and although Beast (la BĂȘte) is certainly bizarre looking, the story's charm is still there. If only part of the movie was in color, I think the movie would remind me of the Wizard of Oz. Again, no singing, but the overacting and mystical storyline surely must have provided a nice since of post-WWII escapism.

Cries and Whispers (1972) directed by Ingmar Bergman
Sure the other movies are about a Christ-figure donkey and a prince with magic gloves, but this movie is the oddest of the bunch. The story is simple enough, one sister is dying while the other two sisters and their maid in their own depravity wait for their sister to die. In a couple very strong flashbacks the two sisters own immoralness is shown in contrast to the more innocent sister and maid.

What amazes me about this movie is that it received 5 academy award nominations, including Best Picture. I certainly wouldn't argue it's unique cinemotography with it's scenes saturating to red in between significant cuts, but I can't see this film impressing enough people for a best picture/best director nomination. The four women in this film do an excellent job in their roles, particularly Liv Ullmann as one of the sisters. But this movie certainly did not enchant me or grab me in anyway.

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Lorna said...

I remember Cries and Whispers as incredibly moving, and I know I identified with the dying sister, although now I can't remember why.
I actually saw it when it came to art theatres in Canada in 1973, so it may be that I was just impressed with myself....

Out Of Jersey said...

Man, I am so out of touch when it comes to foreign films. I really need to start stepping up on this.

Terence Towles Canote said...

You listed two of my all time favs. I have always loved Beauty and the Beast. You wouldn't think someone could get something substantial out of a fairy tale, but Cocteau did it--visual poetry at its best. And while I prefer The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, Cries and Whispers is one of my favourite Bergman films. He certainly had the touch for characters who were ambivalent about their faith, particularly in times of crisis.

Sam Brooks said...

Cries and Whispers, while a very good film, tends to pale in comparison to the heights of Bergman's films. I still enjoyed it a lot, though. Particularly Liv Ullmann, who manages to never give a bad performance.

Emma said...

Saw Cries and Whispers last week... it moved me to tears.

RC said...

@ lorna...the film certainly is artful, so I imagine with that atmosphere cries and whispers was great fun.

@ the cubicle reverend, step it up then...if any of these sound interesting, watch it.

@ mercurie, isn't that the point of a hide significant things. I agree, I definitly like Wild Strawberries much better as well as the 7th seal.

@ brooke cloudbuster...sounds like you and mercurie agree...this is probably not Bergman's best...but yes, Ullmann was great!

Edward Copeland said...

I'm with you on Cries and Whispers. I love Bergman, but I've watched it twice and found it as dull each time. I also recently watched Au Hasard Balthazar, which I liked a lot but really couldn't think of much to write about it, though I thought I could title the review "Jackass the Art Movie"

Will said...

You continue to pick some really fantastic films here.
Cries and Whispers is actually my favorite Bergman film, so I wasn't surprised at all at its many nominations. Sorry to be the black sheep here. It has such an overwhelming sense of the visual, which is used almost as a language in itself. And the story develops almost like a spiritual opera. I felt it was unbelievably moving, but you know, film-watching is always so dependent on the state of the viewer while watching it. God may have prepped my life so I would resonate with it.
If you at all cared for Bergman, you should check out The Seveth Seal, The Virgin Spring and Through a Glass Darkly."