Sunday, June 03, 2007

Cheer up sleepy Jean

Followup from the last post: I'm not knitting anything from my completed successful Firefly colourways until they're all done. It would be neat to design a project for each, but that's a little wacka-wacka even for me. But what about the ones that bomb, like the Kaylee colourway?

Hey hey it's soon to be a pair of Monkeys!

Anyway, in the last post I mentioned that I was going to be ripping off Brenda at Moot Point. The thing is, she does a feature called Weekly Movies where she decribes the movies that she's seen every week.

Coincidentally, this week I found the MOST AMAZING VIDEO STORE EVAH. I'd known about Videomatica for a while because West 4th is one of my favourite haunts. But it was only recently that I discovered they have a Canadian movie section - that is, they carry any Can
adian movies at all! This is a HUGE deal! And once I started poking around so more, I was truly gobsmacked.

I don't consider myself knowledgeable enough to be called a cinephile. I know more than the average bear, I think, but not much. But I want to know more. Two of my favourite books are Roger Ebert's The Great Movies and The Great Movies II, essays on what he consider the 200 best movies of all time. No, I don't agree with him on a lot of them, especially his deep fondness for French New Wave (which, given his level of sway, may be part of the reason French New Wave is considered such a huge freaking deal as opposed to oh, say, German Expressionism or the Canadian documentary tradition and I'm way off topic). My point was, Ebert is not perfect. He's not a great writer (the last half of the Citizen Kane essay is bullet-pointed trivia) and he has an obvious bias towards the artsy without going balls-out for the experimental.



He does highlight a lot of movies that I have wanted to see forever and have never been able to find. Films like The Lady Eve and the Up documentaries by Michael Apted and silent movies and Don't Look Now and for god's sake, The Seventh Seal has only one of the most iconic images of all time, would it kill people to stock it?!?!? These were films I finally found at Videomatica. I signed up on Tuesday and have already designated this the Summer of Sarah's Self-Education. I'm going to see all those movies I thought sounded interesting - interesting being the operative word. Last Year at Marienbad sounds like it should be banned under the Geneva Convention. So I'm going to try to document the movies I watch this summer. I signed up for a 20 movies for $40 deal in June, so I'm forcing my self into this thing head-first.

The Lady Eve: One of three I rented on Tuesday. Ebert's description made this my first-choice pick. Like all comedies, it lost some of its sparkle because of jokes retold in the review, but the pratfalls were genuinely funny. Barbara Stanwyck is also in another one of the flicks I rented but have yet to watch, and I hope she's as good. Peter Fonda is the male lead and darn they're cute what with the sharply written dialogue and the Edith Head costumes and the conniving surrounding a traveling cardsharp falling in love. I'm leaving on a cruise in two weeks and I strongly suspect this movie will have given me unfair expectations about the sort of people one meets. This movie was also notable for me because of the fact that it's really, really sexual. The sort of movie where a man's been "up the Amazon" for a year and he has a "pet snake" and he will have "trouble sleeping" and it's all acknowledged on screen in this very cool way that only adds to the humour. I mean, The Philadelphia Story is sort of the apex of the romantic comedies of this time, and yet you could swear all the characters were neutered. Not to dis The Philadelphia Story, of course.

The Third Man: I took a history of Russia class this past year, and I hated it with a burning, self-loathing hatred that burrows deep in the stomach. I don't find the history of the eastern bloc particularly interesting either. But something about this movie's setting grabbed me by the collar and shook me. It's set in a divided Vienna after WWII, and it's in glorious black and white that shines the water off the cobblestones and makes tiny men's shadows forty feet tall. It's a twisting noir that I could keep track of, but didn't make me feel like an idiot. It made me want to know more about the collective psyche of that place at that time, even though it's an English movie.
Oh, and by the way: Orson Welles is technically the star of this movie, and he doesn't show up for more than an hour. It's worth it. It's so worth it. You know those moments where
a movie completely sweeps you away, like the reveal of Barbossa at the end of Pirates 2 or the first time the Imperial March plays in the Star Wars sequels, and you're left smiling like an idiot saying, "That. Was. So. Cool!" to your friends because you don't have any other words for it? I was always a little worried I was feeling that way purely because of cinematic bombast. Not so. I got the exact same feeling in the first shot of Orson Welles in The Third Man, watching it at night on my little 13" TV in my bedroom.
The last shot of the movie, by the way, is perfect.

The Seventh Seal
: C'mon, I had to rent it. It's Swedish! It's Ingmar Bergman! This is the "playing chess with Death" movie, but it's really about the silence of God and wondering why there's so much pain on Earth.

Antonius Block: I want knowledge! Not faith, not assumptions, but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His hand, uncover His face and speak to me.
Death: But He remains silent.
Antonius Block: I call out to Him in the darkness. But it's as if no one was there.
Death: Perhaps there isn't anyone.

The wondrous part is that Bergman also talks about why it's good to be alive.

I shall remember this moment: the silence, the twilight, the bowl of strawberries, the bowl of milk. Your faces in the evening light. Mikael asleep, Jof with his lyre. I shall try to remember our talk. I shall carry this memory carefully in my hands as if it were a bowl brimful of fresh milk. It will be a sign to me, and a great sufficiency. "

The thing is, I feel like none of the themes in the movie are really new. Yes, it's hard to believe, especially when everything is going to pieces and you feel like the world just might be ending. Yes, God is silent. Maybe this is because I'm an agnostic. Even though I can't be defined by an either/or equation - faith or lack of faith - my agnosticism is a part of me. Like it or not, it affects how I view things. This was a huge realization to me; actually, I think it was brought on by seeing Pan's Labyrinth. And coming to terms with the fact that I'm neither - well, I guess a Christian - nor an atheist meant that I was dealing with those questions. The Seventh Seal is a remarkably well-made and articulated piece of art exploring those questions, I will more than grant it that. And I like the fact that it isn't nihilistic either.

About two-thirds of the way through the movie, the knight comes across a woman who's due to be burned alive. The people think she's a witch, responsible for bringing the Plague to them. The knight begs her what it is like to know the Devil, because at least the Devil knows God. But, as convinced as she is that the Devil is beside her always, she comes across as just another person searching for any guarantee that there's a greater world than us.


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