Some Random Thoughts About Movies

Should I even pretend to link this piece to Montaigne? Nah, it’s an essay, that’s enough.

I’ve been spending a lot of my quarantine free time on movies and I’m still pondering writing a long series about Eric Rohmer’s films. What’s holding me back are the Rohmer movies not available anywhere, it’s very frustrating.  Why are three of the four Rohmer tales of the seasons available, but not “A Tale of Springtime?” Why are four of the six Comedies and Parables available, but not the first two (“The Aviator’s Wife” and “A Good Marriage”?) I was able to find some movies on Facets, but they aren’t shipping out DVDs at the moment, so I wait.  I guess I could start with the Six Moral Tales, all available on the Criterion Channel, and maybe I will.  Stay tuned.

Rohmer helped me establish my Iron Law of Film Locales — any movie set in Paris is, by definition, watchable. That also applies to TV series, which led me to dip into the new Netflix series “The Eddy.” It’s about jazz musicians in contemporary Paris, with the first two episodes directed by Damien Chazelle.  What could possibly go wrong? Well, I’ve only watched the first two shows and my problem with it is that it doesn’t follow the rhythm of European cinema. If you set a series in Paris, you damn well better match the atmosphere, and for me that means going easy on the plot. I really want to spend my time soaking in the music and atmosphere and getting to know the characters, but instead I’m rushed into a semi-interesting murder mystery involving the Russian mob and some really stupid police work. Sigh … hoping once they move on from Chazelle (who, to be honest, is way too obsessed with plot in his own movies) they might chill out and enjoy their can’t-fail status.

I haven’t revisited many previously-watched movies during lockdown, with one exception — I’ve rewatched Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 classic “Persona” twice. The first time, deep in my transference obsessed days, I was blown away by what a perfect depiction of transference goes on in the movie. But my second time through this week, I had a new perspective. “Persona” is often compared to experimental cinema of the 1960s and especially the French New Wave. But I think the movie actually most closely resembles the work of Alfred Hitchcock and should be considered a horror movie. There are some genuinely terrifying moments in “Persona” and the mindfuckery going on in nearly every frame feels much more immediately terrifying than the genre’s standard worries about assailants with knives entering your home. Watch it in a double feature with “Vertigo” and you could very well be enjoying the two best movies ever made.

Final thought — I filled in long-neglected hole in my movie watching resume a few weeks ago by finally catching Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon.” It’s one of those movies that ten times as many people talk about than have actually seen it — in part because the movie is such a perfect depiction of perspectivism. I think “Rashomon” is a great story, but I’m not sure if it really belongs in the canon of Kurosawa’s great films. It’s very clunky, directed more like a stage play than a movie. The happy ending seems tacked on to distract from the story’s obviously dark message about truth and human nature. Even the plot, while brilliant in its broad construction, could be more finely drawn in its detail. The movie actually screams out for a remake because it can be done better.

And with that heresy, I mark this piece complete.

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