falderal : a moving images blog

Archive for May, 2009

8 femmes (8 Women) ; 2002

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Director: François Ozon
Actors: Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart, Fanny Ardant, Virginie Ledoyen, Ludivine Sagnier, Firmine Richard
Country: France

8 (Huit) femmes reminded me of Clue very much and the quirkiness and oddness of Clue can be seen in this film as well. A stylized film with the clothes and furnished backgrounds, it is reminiscent of Kammerspielfilms because everything happens in one building. While I found this film to be cute, I really did not like it as a musical. I did like the musical numbers separately, but I felt like they didn’t fit seamlessly into the film. When I least expected a song, someone was singing and it was so jarring that I was taken aback. The songs all reflected the character singing it, and out of all the songs, I found the song sung by Madame Chanel (Richard) to be the most poignant. Despite the film’s cute exterior, I felt that the film had something to say about the role of women in various different situations.

I was surprised to find out that Ozon wanted to remake Cukor’s The Women but ended up making this film. I have no idea how successful Ozon’s The Women would have been (the American remake flopped although I enjoyed it), but I thought that this film had many aspects that were similar to The Women.

It was fun to see an older Catherine Deneuve and to hear her sing! I do believe that all of the actresses in the film sang their own songs and I would be highly disappointed if they didn’t. I was upset to hear that Deneuve’s singing voice was dubbed in Les parapluies de Cherbourg so when I watched this film, I thought, “Aha! Finally we get to hear Deneuve sing.”

I would put this film under the “dark comedy” section because of the mystery aspect and some of the things that happen throughout the film. If you like it the first time, I highly recommend that you watch it again; you’ll find so many subtleties and foreshadows that all make sense when you know the ending. I recommend it to people who enjoy cute mysteries with a serious undertone beneath its light and cheery exterior.

IMDb Link: 8 femmes
Where to buy: Amazon.com

The Women ; 1939

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Director: George Cukor
Actors: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland, Paulette Goddard, Phyllis Povah, Joan Fontaine, Virginia Weidler
Country: U.S.A.

George Cukor’s The Women has got to be one of my favourite films. Not only is it highly enjoyable, but the lines, the acting, the clothes, and the pace of it is all perfect. I never watched the play version of it, but I sure do like this film! It was the film that introduced me to Norma Shearer and I absolutely fell in love with her. It was also my first Joan Crawford film and I found her to be an amazing actress. I have read complaints about Shearer’s acting, but I thought she was really great and wasn’t overacting at all. My favourite scene has got to be when she says, “I’ve had two years to grow claws mother. Jungle red!” It’s such a shame that a once famous actress and the queen of MGM is now long forgotten.

Although there are some remarks that may make modern women cringe, I thought that the overall portrayal of women was incredibly accurate. Watching these women’s actions were almost looking at a mirror and I could relate to almost every character. Mary Haines (Shearer) is nobel and she sure knows how to get revenge! Sylvia Fowler (Russell) has the most outrageous clothes and hats (ref. Picture 2) and is the biggest blabbermouth ever. She is also someone who enjoys seeing other in pain, probably due to her not-so-great relationship with her husband. And Joan Crawford as Crystal Allen… my, my! She is fabulous and whereas Crystal is quite a… for the lack of better words, a bitch, I can sympathize to a certain extent. Actually, I wish I can be like her! She is gorgeous and knows how to fend for herself using words. Her final line, “There is a name for you, ladies, but it isn’t used in high society… outside of a kennel.”, is a perfect way to make an exit; while she did admit defeat, she at least got to say something nasty in a calm manner and leave in a superficially classy way.

All I can really say about this film is that it is FABULOUS and a film that everyone should watch once. I have watched it multiple times and it never fails to put a smile on my face. So many of the things mentioned in this film are true to this day and it’s really fun to see a glimpse into how high society women lived in those days. Seeing Rosalind Russell do all those exercises was hilarious and seeing how women got perms and facials was interesting as well.

IMDb Link: The Women
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (Diary of a Lost Girl) ; 1929

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (G.W. Pabst)
Actors: Louise Brooks, André Roanne, Josef Rovenský, Fritz Rasp, Franziska Kinz, Andrews Engelmann, Valeska Gert, Edith Meinhard
Country: Germany

From all of the Pabst silents I have watched, I think that the following are the top three in no particular order:
-Die freudlose Gasse
-Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney
-Tagebuch einer Verlorenen

I really loved this film despite the terrible score that came with the Kino DVD. I never had a problem with any Kino films and the music scores because they were all quite good, but the one for Tagebuch einer Verlorenen didn’t even fit the film. I thought that the music was too overwhelming and was depressing even during the “happy” scenes.
The film was beautifully filmed and Pabst did a wonderful job directing it. I loved the staircase scene when the camera follows Louise Brooks’ movements. I was reading an article in Lulu in Hollywood and Brooks actually mentions Pabst being excited about finding out a way to make the camera turn for the staircase scene. If I didn’t watch the film before reading that, I would have not known which film or scene Brooks was referencing.

My favourite scene, outside of the staircase scene due to the fabulous way it was filmed, has got to be when the girls are exercising and the director’s wife (Gert) orgasms as she hits the gong (ref. Picture 2). The way the scene is filmed by cutting to the girls exercising, the hitting of the gong getting faster and faster, to Gert’s face as she climaxes is incredibly well done. Gert’s face expression says it all: her sadistic nature comes out and so does her sexual self despite her plain non-made up face and her nun-like clothes. The scene also reminded me of Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will and Olympia and what Susan Sontag calls “fascist aesthetics”. The lines that I thought of when I saw this scene was “a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, extravagant effort, and the endurance of pain; they endorse two seemingly opposite states, egomania and servitude” and “the masses are made to take form, be design” (Sontag, “Fascist Aesthetics”). Then I remembered another line from “Fascist Aesthetics”: “The relations of domination and enslavement take the form of a characteristic pageantry: the massing of groups of people; the turning of people into things; the multiplication or replication of things; and the grouping of people/things around an all-powerful, hypnotic leader-figure or force.” As you can see, I read this essay maybe one too many times. Anyway, the girls in the film were like the masses, all doing the same movements, and Gert’s character was like the dictatorial figure who had full control over the girls. They followed her orders almost mechanically, without thought. I wonder what Kracauer said about this film; I think this film would fit his teleological argument (and flawed in my opinion) perfectly.

Along with Die Buchse der Pandora, this film succeeds in weeding out the melodrama and really hits the nail on the effects of societal norms on people. The realism of the film really hit me when I saw that Meinert (Rasp) is not punished at all but the innocent Thymiane is. It’s true that there isn’t always a happy ending and sometimes, bad people don’t suffer. What made me a bit annoyed with Thymiane is that she gave away her inheritance rather than giving it to the people who have helped her survive, such as Erika (Meinhard) and the other hostesses/prostitutes and the madame. It made me upset that she completely forgot about the people who she was with. Thymiane writes that she wants to forget the past, but the people she was with were incredibly supportive and friendly. None of them forced her into prostitution and even protected her when a man almost raped her. In the end, she does help Erika, which I guess does redeem her previous actions, but it was frustrating nonetheless. And Meta (Kinz) was the biggest bitch EVER. Even when she receives all the money that Thymiane has, she doesn’t even say a word of thanks. She is reluctant to let her child even go to Thymiane and although her letting her child go to Thymiane can be a sign of compromise, it just wasn’t enough. I yelled out, “YOU BITCH!” when I watched the film and was frustrated beyond words.

I’m pretty sure Pabst has meant this film to be a social critique, but I wonder if the scenes I considered to be criticisms were meant to be criticisms. I saw this film as a critique towards high society and how they shun the women for being “deviant” yet the men never suffer the consequences. Also, high society families are portrayed in a negative light with the philandering father and a family willing to cut off connections with their daughter. It is the prostitutes and lower class people who are genuinely caring and friendly. The hypocrisy of the self-righteous people are emphasized in this film, but maybe this wasn’t what the film was about? I hope I’m not too off the base with Pabst’s vision and the story.

IMDb Link: Tagebuch einer Verlorenen
Where to buy: Kino Video, Amazon.com

Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box) ; 1929

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (G.W. Pabst)
Actors: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer, Carl Goetz, Alice Roberts, Gustav Diessl
Country: Germany

First of all, rest in peace Pabst. Your films are much loved by film enthusiasts, scholars, and most people who have watched your films. You will never be forgotten.
I watched Tagebuch einer Verlorenen, another Brooks film, without knowing it was the day of Pabst’s death until afterwards. Sad but somehow fitting. It’s a great film that I’ll post about next.

Since I’m a huge whiner, I want to start this post with a complaint: the Janus Die Büchse der Pandora DVD in the Essential Art House DVD set has a terrible score. I honestly wanted to stop watching the film because the music was so bad and half the time, I turned it off. It’s the score by Peer Raben, which is also available on the Criterion DVD, and the stupid score made me on the verge of tears (due to frustration) and I couldn’t help but think how much it ruined the film. I’ve watched it before without the music and it was quite enjoyable that way and I was excited to watch it with music, but alas, what a disappointment.

Other than that, I want to start with my honest opinion that I might get shot for: I think that this film isn’t exactly the best out of Pabst’s silents. Die Büchse der Pandora always gets the most attention along with Die freudlose Gasse and while I think it’s a film that deserves recognition, I don’t see all the hype about it. Yes, I like the film, but I would give it probably a 8.5/10 THE HIGHEST. Maybe I’m just bitter because this film gets so much attention, but I just don’t think it lives up to its hype. Hm, maybe I should take back everything I typed. I think I have more problem with the story that I’m just really angry. The film was beautifully directed and the ending was absolutely perfect, but my sense of justice made me aggravated with it. I hated that Lulu had to die, but then again, that is probably the only way to escape her dreadful life. She died in the hands of someone who she liked whereas her relationship with her previous lover was pretty much dead. Whenever I read about this film, people always say that it’s a film about a woman who brings the demise of anyone around her and that Lulu is a femme fatale, yet I do not see it that way at all. I can see the point in the argument because she is a gorgeous woman, and everyone enamored by her are like moths to a flame, and I purposefully use that idiom because while a flame can be beautiful and something that attracts you, it can also hurt you. I want to deemphasize the fact that she brings destruction to the people around her because the question is, does she really destroy the people around her? I think that she doesn’t because while people put her in this box of a “femme fatale”, I feel like a woman pursuing what she wants is always seen in a bad light when I don’t see anything wrong with it. Is it that wrong to be selfish? Was Lulu truly trying to hurt the people around her? I do not think so and I am incredibly sympathetic of Lulu. She didn’t deserve to be in prison because she didn’t mean to kill her husband and it was really Alwa’s fault that she had to live in a terrible state and eventually even prostitute herself. Rather than seeing Lulu as bringing ruin to everyone around her, I see her as a victim of circumstances. I believe that she was looking for love and some place where she would truly belong. In the end, she found it in Jack the Ripper (Diessl) and while it is twisted and tragic, it is as if she got her happy ending.

The ending for this film was perfect. Pabst did such a wonderful job directing everything and the mood of the last shot evokes so many things: loneliness, the meaning (or lack of) of life, death, continuation of time… it’s just so much that I can’t put it in words. In my opinion, from the scene of Lulu’s death to the end is probably one of the most powerful scenes in cinema. When I saw Schigolch (Goetz) eating the Christmas pudding, Alwa ignorant of Lulu’s death, and the Christmas parade, it made me think about how insignificant a life can seem or even be and how life goes on despite deaths. Lulu’s death seemed so insignificant especially when I saw Schigolch with the pudding because the only reason she went out to sell herself was because Schigolch guilt tripped her into it by saying how he would like a taste of pudding before he died and in the end, he got his pudding anyway. Instead, Lulu died and she could have escaped her fate if she didn’t go out. Some people say she deserved her death to stop the cycle of destruction, but I don’t see why. I don’t think she deserved death, although it could imply that it’s the only way to be happy for her. Rather than a cycle of destruction for the people around her, I felt as if Lulu was in a state of self-destruction due to the people around her. Speaking of the ending, the chemistry between Brooks and Diessl was perfect. Brooks did say that she was attracted to him and I could see why. I’ve seen Diessl in another Pabst film and didn’t find him to be attractive, but he was kind of handsome in this film. And seeing Kortner in this film made me laugh because I just find him to be really funny looking and a terrible actor. Funny that he didn’t respect Brooks as an actress when I think she was so much better. Although that can be based on what good acting was back in the 20s, Asta Nielsen was respected for her natural acting.

Louise Brooks has been immortalized by this film and I think that overall, she did a great job. The scene when she is in the courthouse (ref. Picture 3) and the ending is when I thought Brooks’ talent came out. She portrayed a beautiful, tragic, and sympathetic character to perfection and her presence on screen was great. Brooks said that she wasn’t a wonderful actress and that she was just being herself and I’m not going to complain because she was terrific. Many people credit her for natural and nuanced acting, but to me, I thought that she still had a very noticeable American style of acting of that time. Comparing her to Asta Nielsen (interesting fact: Asta is probably the first actress to portray Lulu on film), I would say that Asta is the one who truly acts in a nuanced fashion. While Brooks does so in certain scenes, when she is excited, she reminded me of Clara Bow in It rather than any European actresses in European silents. It’s not a criticism, but I just thought that Brooks didn’t live up to her reputation, but nonetheless I really admire her. She is such a charming person in the film and in her interviews and it’s such a shame that most of her films aren’t available. As much as I love Marlene Dietrich, I’m so glad that Louise Brooks was cast; I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job. I watched a short American sound film with Brooks in it and I felt like her acting wasn’t that great (neither was the film), which led me to my conclusion that Pabst brought the best out in her. But don’t take my word since I haven’t watch any other Brooks films and I heard Beggars of Life is another film that Brooks is great in. Of course, being a fan of Pabst, I can be totally biased.

IMDb Link: Die Büchse der Pandora
Where to buy: Amazon.com, Criterion Collection

Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney (The Love of Jeanne Ney) ; 1927

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (G.W. Pabst)
Actors: Édith Jéhanne, Uno Henning, Fritz Rasp, Brigitte Helm
Country: Germany

I’ve watched Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney in bits and pieces in semi-conscious states but I finally sat down and watched the whole film at once. I do not regret rewatching this film at all and I think that this is the best Pabst film I’ve seen. I really love Die freudlose Gasse, but there is something about Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney that is so much better. I’m not quite sure why I love Die freudlose Gasse, but I remember the first time I watched it, I thought, “Hey! I really enjoyed watching this movie!” and my fascination with Asta Nielsen began. Now that I think about it, I think the reason I love Die freudlose Gasse so much is because Nielsen’s acting really caught my eye and there was something about her in the scene when she was at the jeweler’s that drew me in. So what is it about this film that I like so much. I don’t know. Just like me being interested in Nielsen and loving her in every scene of Die freudlose Gasse, I think Brigitte Helm’s performance as Gabrielle blew my mind. I really liked Helm’s somewhat hammy acting in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (and it totally doesn’t help that her sneer is one of the sexiest things ever and that peacock dance at the Yoshiwara is one of my favourite scenes from all the films I’ve watched so far), but her acting in Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney was PHENOMENAL. Édith Jéhanne as the titular character was great as well along with the oh-so-delicious Uno Henning as her lover. By the way, I totally thought Henning looked like Ewan McGregor, but maybe that’s just me.

In Pabst’s Die freudlose Gasse, I thought that Pabst did a great job experimenting with slow motion, different film stock, and lighting; with Geheimnisse einer Seele, Pabst did a terrific job with special effects/various techniques (perhaps maybe even overdoing it), but with Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney, I think he was able to really find a happy middle. He used various techniques he used in Geheimnisse einer Seele but didn’t overdo it and used them to their full advantage by using them as a plot device that fit in seamlessly with the story. Whereas Die freudlose Gasse has the potential to be perfect, Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney has almost reached perfection. Maybe Die freudlose Gasse appears to be a bit rough due to missing parts and scholars/film archivists not knowing the order of the scenes, thus restored versions of the film don’t guarantee that the presentation of the film is that close to the original, but Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney really was a step forward. I’m not making sense and it’s a bit hard for me to try to explain my thoughts, but what I’m trying to get to is that this film was a huge improvement from his previous films.

The film is a (melo)drama, but it had me intrigued almost from the beginning. I hated that Pabst started the film with Fritz Rasp because Rasp is truly a hideous man. I noticed that he always plays the sleazy guy in films and his face is really perfect for that. Seriously, his face just annoys the hell out of me and he isn’t even a good actor. He brings on the lulz (I can’t believe I actually used that term), but… dskfhksdg I REALLY, REALLY DON’T LIKE HIM! Jéhanne and Helm’s acting is so natural and beautiful, particularly Helm’s, but Rasp overacts in almost every scene. What’s the point of slowly getting closer to a girl and then all of a sudden grabbing her? And the whole kissing-Hertha von Walther’s-eye thing was really weird. Jéhanne plays the sweet, innocent, and somewhat naïve Jeanne and although I would usually be annoyed with characters like Jeanne, I couldn’t help but like her. The story is of lovers who are madly in love with each other yet something happens that separates them. Then another incident occurs that could separate the lovers but a nice man comes along and patches things up. Misunderstandings happen, murder, and all other great things that probably happen in soap operas occur, but the film implies a happy ending.
I really adore this film, but my biggest problem with it is the story. Although highly enjoyable, I wonder why the film leaves Gabrielle with an unhappy ending and doesn’t even return to her after her father’s death. Out of all the characters in the film, I think she has suffered the most and deserved a happy ending. Jeanne deserves it as well but Gabrielle was such a tragic figure that I couldn’t help but almost cry when she found her father’s dead body. I also didn’t understand why Gabrielle first flinched from Khalibiev’s (Rasp) touch but then somehow fell in love with him. I thought that she was able to see, despite being blind, behind is “friendly” exterior, but she somehow fell for him because he brought her flowers and acted as if he really loved her when all he wanted to do was get into Jeanne’s pants (um, skirt?). Jeanne was never comfortable around Khalibiev and I kept looking forward to a scene when she would tell Gabrielle that she is not comfortable with Gabrielle’s engagement with Khalibiev but that never happened. The final shot is truly a beautiful one, but it’s too simple to wrap up everything: how will Jeanne and Andreas (Henning) be together when there are political problems surrounding their relationship? One of Die freudlose Gasse‘s criticisms is that the melodrama overpowers the message behind the film and that applies to the film perfectly. I don’t agree much with the criticism for Die freudlose Gasse, but the happy ending truly seems tacked on like it just needs to happen. But things really aren’t that simple! But nonetheless, that final shot means multiple things, which is why I love it. The obvious one is that the murderer has been caught, but the diamond also can be foreshadowing Jeanne and Andreas’ marriage, and perhaps maybe it is a happy ending for Gabrielle; since the diamond was found by her father’s company, most likely she would be able to have the reward money.

After watching this film, I really didn’t understand why Die freudlose Gasse got all the attention out of the many films Pabst directed. The film isn’t even complete and the film is arranged by scholars guessing what the order of scenes are, and in comparison, this film is pretty solid. Maybe there are some missing scenes since I did read that this film was cut by the censors, but it’s not in the terrible state that Die freudlose Gasse is. Is it because Die freudlose Gasse addresses the political, social, and moral problems in Germany/Austria directly whereas Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney brings forth what was going on around the time the film was made but is overshadowed by the melodramatic story? I just think that this film is one of Pabst’s strongest silent œuvre because everything fits so well, but that’s just my opinion.

By the way, sexy Hertha von Walther is in this film! I almost did a little jig when I saw her. I love that Pabst usually has eye candy in his films and I completely trust his taste in men and women. Édith Jéhanne, Uno Henning, and Brigitte Helm were lovely to look at, especially Jéhanne! I also wouldn’t mind having Henning as arm candy as well. I really wonder how Helm became type-casted as a vamp because she was such a wholesome character in this film. Gosh, I really love Helm!

IMDb Link: Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney
Where to buy: Kino Video, Amazon.com

Geheimnisse einer Seele (Secrets of a Soul) ; 1926

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (G.W. Pabst)
Actors: Werner Krauss, Ruth Weyher, Jack Trevor, Pavel Pavlov, Hertha von Walther
Country: Germany

I have watched this film last semester and while finding it comical at times, I did enjoy it. When I rewatched it, I really enjoyed the cinematography once again and was amazed how Pabst did some of the effects. The way scenes were filmed such as having the dream scene be filmed in an incredibly surreal manner, flashbacks being filmed usually with a plain, white background (ref. Picture 3), and everything else looking as if it was set in location. The flashbacks/memories have somewhat of a surreal touch and I guess the white background sort of adds to that as well. Although I am no fan of psychoanalysis and Freud, this film is worth a watch for the cinematographic techniques and the visuals. The story is a bit bland, but it does give the viewer a taste of what psychoanalysis is.

My favourite scene would definitely have to be the dream scene, hands down. Every section of the dream is so well done that I wonder how Pabst filmed such things. There are some crazy things going on like a gate that grows really high, the husband (Krauss) flying and then getting shot down (this scene and one of the scenes from Lang’s Metropolis still confuses me because I don’t understand how they filmed it), a montage of his wife (Weyher) and friend/wife’s cousin, and the baby coming out of the river are… surreal. I really can’t come up with another word to describe the dream scene. My personal favourite out of all these has to be when the bells turn into heads. I can’t really figure out who the head on left belongs to (I think it’s either a nurse or someone who works in his house), but the one in the center is his wife and the one on the right is his assistant (Walther). When I first saw the scene, I almost yelped because it creeped me out and it really must have been a terrifying thing to see because apparently the laughter was something that the protagonist (the husband) couldn’t get out of his head. I wish that I can supply more screencaps from this film, but then it would just crowd up the entry. Oh well. Going on, the dream really brings together events from past, present, and his unconscious because the presents he received from his wife’s cousin (Trevor) are in the scene, the creepy doll/baby reflects the protagonist’s want for a child but also reflects a scene from his childhood, the totally crazy wife-stabbing scene triggers the protagonist’s fear of knives, his jealousy over his wife’s cousin, and his odd impulse to kill his wife.

Throughout the film there are various motifs, repetitions and recreation of certain scenes, and symbolism. The very first motif in this film would be knives. The very first shot of the movie is of the husband’s razor and whenever there is a knife/sharp object in the scene, it is always emphasized with an insert shot. Most of the time, the ones that usually have an insert shot are shown twice: the first time is when the husband isn’t scared of them and the second time is when the husband is afraid to touch or see them. So what could this mean? It seems silly to be scared of knives, right? This is when the psychoanalytic part comes in. His fear of knives symbolize his insecurity about his masculinity. Out of all the knives, the one that the cousin gives him is the biggest and longest one and his jealousy of his wife’s cousin is exposed later in the film. This could be tied into him being insecure because he still does not have a child and of course, the knife can be a phallic symbol. In Picture 3, the shadow you see is of the cousin and notice where his head is? Yes, between the wife’s legs! And then it cuts to the husband’s face where he look uncomfortable to see the shadow. In addition to the whole knife = masculinity argument, his fear of knives makes him even less masculine because he becomes a little kid who can’t take care of himself. His mother has to cut his food for him when he isn’t there and on top of that, she cuts them into little pieces!
Now that I think about it, a lot of the motifs refer to the husband’s want for a child and not having one, which connects to his masculinity. I can list quite a few, but I’ll just discuss one more! The prison bars/gates in the dream scene prevent the husband from going to certain places, particularly places where his wife and her cousin are. Gates would prevent him from going near his wife and her cousin multiple times in the main dream scene and in his other one where his wife is part of an orgy-like scene. In a scene of the present, there is a scene when the husband returns home and the psychoanalyst says that he looks reluctant to go back to his own house. The gate is what separates him from his wife and her cousin inside the house. Maybe he doesn’t want to go because he’s scared that he’ll see them together like he saw in his dream. Another thought I had was that the gate was also a symbol of how he will reach his cure. By meeting the psychoanalyst and having the psychoanalyst returning the key so that he can go home, the psychoanalyst is “opening the gate” to his cure. Just a thought.
And talking about symbolism, see Picture 1 because the tree represents the couple’s marriage and their hopes for a child, but while the tree grows, they don’t have a real child.

And of course, can you have a Stephany post without a superficial remark? NEVER! My crush on Hertha von Walther started when I saw her in an earlier Pabst film (Die freudlose Gasse) but she looked even sexier in this film! Look at that smirk! It’s such a shame that her films aren’t available to the public because I would like to see more of her. I also have a huge crush on Ruth Weyher as well and when I first watched this film, I didn’t realize that she was the same actress from another film I really liked. Weyher is absolutely gorgeous and reminds me of Clara Bow, in looks. Both are defintely talented too! Oh, and Weyher has amazing eyebrows in this film… not like it matters… but hey, I’m also the girl who told her professor that she can tell Zarah Leander right away in pictures due to her “distinct eyelashes”. *facepalm*

Anyway, I can go on and on analyzing this film but this post is long enough! But I should address the ending. It looks tacked on although one can see the techniques Pabst used in his earlier films being used in this film as well such as slow motion and using a hand-held camera. Although Pabst did a fabulous job directing this film (I loved the way all the scenes were set up and the actors were superb), the ending was a complete “WTF?!” moment for me. Yes, it’s obvious that the husband was cured because he finally has a child, but really? I thought the film could do without the epilogue. And the whole symbolism about water is repeated and then he catches a lot of fish, symbolizing… well, fertility and having lots of babies. But what threw me off the second time was that he drops the bucket of fish in excitement when his wife comes out of with their kid. First of all, yeah parents get excited to see their kids at times, but to the extent to drop something? And he has seen his child before, so why get overly excited? Second, in the earlier part of the film, the husband drops a test tube when he hears the news that his wife’s cousin has arrived. He looks happy to hear the news, but we all know that he is unconsciously jealous of him. The psychoanalyst says that such a response to the news was a sign that something wasn’t right, thus does that mean that something is still wrong with the husband when he dropped the bucket of fish?

I’m going to shut up now, but I think that this is a great Pabst film to watch. I’m doing a Pabst marathon so I’ll be posting about him quite often. I’m also reading scholarly articles on each film I watch, so maybe I’ll come back and post about this film again (sort of like a part two to this post). Also, I highly recommend that you read Herr Ferdinand von Galitzien’s post on this film as well; it’s much shorter than my long winded entry and I think it’s a nice complement to this post.
Although the story is cheesy, watch it for the cinematography. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

PS: Did you notice something funny and odd in the first picture? No? Look at the upper area of the picture. See it? If not there is a picture of a reclining nude woman (her head is on the left, legs to the right). I didn’t notice it nor did any of my group members for a class presentation of Geheimnisse einer Seele presentation notice it, but my professor pointed it out; he said that he didn’t see it until the film was restored and it really is an interesting touch to the scene.

IMDb Link: Geheimnisse einer Seele
Where to buy: Kino Video, Amazon.com

Die Mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers Are Among Us) ; 1946

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Director: Wolfgang Staudte
Actors: Ernst Wilhelm Borchert, Hildegard Knef, Arno Paulsen, Robert Forsch
Country: Germany (Soviet occupied Germany)

This was the first post-WWII German film I’ve watched, well, that’s not phrased correctly. I guess what I mean is that it’s the first German film I’ve watched between the time WWII ended and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before learning a bit about East German films and German history post-WWII, I always thought that East German films were crazy Communist/Socialist propaganda, but on the contrary, most films weren’t like that at all. With Die Mörder sind unter uns, it was a film about Germans reconciling with their past and learning to go forward with their lives while acknowledging the atrocities they committed.

First of all, I know that Staudte purposefully tried to use cinematographic techniques that were different than what the Nazis used and I think for the most part, he did succeed. Many of the shots reminded me of film noir (ref. Picture 2), German expressionist, and Kammerspielfilms, but the ending scene with the shots of the mass graves and super-impositions of crosses made me think of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph des Willens and Hans Steinhoff’s Hitlerjunge Quex; the shots were mesmerizing and somewhat overwhelming as well. Some scenes were shot with a tilt that caused a sense of anxiety and made me wonder why he chose to film scenes in such a manner. Was it because he wanted to show the unrest in Germany? This is just my speculation.

The story had me wonder just how much Staudte was coming to terms with his past and Germany’s past. What did he want the viewers to take in from this film? Was this film Staudte’s apologia as well as apologizing for Germany’s actions during WWII or was it something that the Allies, particularly Russians, wanted? Just how pure were Staudte’s intentions and message? In some ways it reminded me of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Il conformista and how Bertolucci looked at Italy’s fascist period, but Staudte’s film is also very different than Bertolucci’s. I know that the Russians knew the power of films and wanted the Germans to create films that were anti-fascist so that they can internalize it themselves rather than having outsiders consistently pushing their ideas. I also read that Staudte was embarrassed of his past and his connections to Nazi propaganda films.
The ambiguities of some of the characters’ pasts made me wonder just how much Staudte was accepting of the atrocities Germany commited. For example, Susanne (Knef) has survived living in a concentration camp, but the reasons why she was sent there are ambiguous. It is mentioned that she was taken to one due to her father, but why? My first thought when they mentioned concentration camps was that she must have been Jewish, but why only mention her father? Was he the only relative she had? Or was her father a communist, thus she was taken away as well? Her looks look like the ideal “Aryan” woman and she reminded me of Kristina Söderbaum, who was considered to be the prototype of an Aryan woman. Not only that, Söderbaum was in many propaganda films directed by her then husband Veit Harlan and both Staudte and Söderbaum starred in the infamous Jud Süß. Ok, now I’m just going off on a tangent, but really, why so vague about Susanne’s past?! And also with Herr Mondschein (Forsch) too! What’s his background? Susanne says that she is surprised to see that he has survived the war. Was it because he was in hiding? Why was he separated from his son? So many questions but no answers. This leads me to another complaint about lack of character development. Dr. Mertens (Borchert) is the driving force of this film with his past, his reconciliation with it, and how he comes to terms with it, but I wanted so much more from the other characters. Dr. Mertens rudely asks where Susanne was while Berlin was falling apart with people dying everywhere, and he says something like, “The country? The hills?” and Susanne doesn’t really say much and doesn’t mention that she was also suffering just as much or even more than the Berliners. Throughout the film, I assumed Susanne was Jewish thus I wondered iif they would address the relationship between a Jewish woman and an ex-Nazi officer, but no, they didn’t. Maybe Susanne was communist thus there really was no point in it? I don’t know.
I could really go indepth about my analysis of Dr. Mertens and how each action he commits reflects the “healing” process of Germany and about moral and social responsibility, but I think that’ll spoil the film too much (for you).

This is a film I would like to rewatch once I know more about German history. For those who do not know anything about German history and film, I’m not sure just how much I would recommend this film. Well, most people accept what happened during WWII and know something about it, so I guess it wouldn’t be so bad for anyone to watch this film. Maybe it’ll give a fresh look at it rather than overly analyzing it by trying to understand all the historical contexts that fit in with this film. Personally, I don’t know how I feel about this film. It was highly enjoyable but I tried to nit-pick it while watching it and kept wondering what each scene meant, what each camera angle implied, etcetera. But then again, I’m interested in the connection between what was going on when the films were created and the films themselves.
Ok, rather than all this random musing, my final verdict is, WATCH THIS FILM! I think it’s a great way to get oneself into German film from any period to see how films reflect German history. Also, this was the first post-WWII German film that was released, so it’s pretty awesome in that sense as well and the reason why this film was the first film to be released in Germany (both in West and East Germany) is interesting. I HIGHLY recommend Daniela Berghahn’s Hollywood Behind the Wall: The Cinema of East Germany, which I am currently reading right now. I sort of wish that I didn’t read a little bit of it because I wanted to watch East German films with a clear mind/clean slate so that my judgment and interpretations wouldn’t be influenced by outside ideas/historical context.

IMDb Link: Die Mörder sind unter uns
Where to buy: DEFA Film Library, Amazon.com

The Awful Truth ; 1937

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Director: Leo McCarey
Actors: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy, Alexander D’Arcy, Cecil Cunningham
Country: U.S.A.

The Awful Truth… my God! What CAN I say about this film? There are just too many things that I love about it that I wouldn’t be able to list them all. It is definitely on my list of favourite comedies and each actor’s performance was top notch. I never found Irene Dunne to be that attractive nor was I ever interested in her, but after I watched this film, I fell in love with her and wanted to learn more about her and watch her other films. The cinematography, the dialogue, the scenes, ALL ARE PERFECT. I love how the way a certain scene is shot reflects the situation, such as when Lucy (Dunne), Jerry (Grant), Dan (Bellamy), and Dixie Bell (Joyce Compton) are all sitting together (ref. Picture 1) and then the camera focuses on Lucy and Jerry even though they are no longer a couple. Anyway, this film is truly a delightful one that I think anyone would enjoy it. How could anyone not enjoy the great lines and moments that this film has? Sure, the portrayal of the Asian man may be a bit racist, but as long as people are aware of the stereotypes and how Asians were portrayed in those times, it is a bit more understandable. I wasn’t offended at all (I had to pause the film and laugh/cry for over a minute), but I can see why people might be. If you are easily offended, at least you are aware of the implications, which I congratulate you for. Although usually I get riled up about it, just the way the scene played out was hilarious, especially the well Cary Grant fell and then got back at the Asian… assistant? Secretary? Receptionist? And the closing scene! The line that Lucy says about things being the same if they were different is so well-spoken and well-worded that I love it.

Ah, and Irene Dunne’s “come hither” look! My eyes turned into hearts and I had to fan myself because her face expression was too seductive. Really, who needs sex scenes when a woman can look at a man the way Dunne did in this movie? It’s so much sexier than anything I have seen in ANY film. I wish I was able to imitate the way Dunne acted in the whole end scene because I’m sure that I’ll be able to seduce anyone! Well, maybe not, but I wouldn’t mind looking like Irene Dunne or be able to act and sing like her. Anyway, this screencapture does not do her come hither look justice! On top of Dunne’s face expressions, the way the whole scene plays out is flawless. Every move by the actors, every shot, every… oh I don’t know!, but trust me, it wraps up the film really well.

In my film class, we discussed Dunne’s extravagant hats and how they all pointed up. My professor mentioned how these hats pretty much served no purpose outside of being a decoration on people’s heads and if people were wealthy enough, why not buy these hats? Then it reminded me of Ernst Lubitsch’s Ninotchka and how the hat Ninotchka is wearing in the screencapture was a symbol of decadence. As Ninotchka says in the film

How can such a civilization survive which permits women to put things like that on their heads. It won’t be long now, comrades.

As the Envoy Extraordinary of the U.S.S.R., Ninotchka does not understand capitalistic ideals, but when she buys the hat, it is her succumbing to the way people in Paris live rather than in Moscow. While Dunne’s hats in this film look silly to the modern viewer, they were most likely in vogue during those days and probably rather pricey at that! So who can afford those hats? Definitely Lucy Warriner! The shape of Lucy’s hat definitely reminded me of Ninotchka’s silly hat, especially because of the shape of it. It’s funny how both of them point up, sort of like crowns.

Anyway, I didn’t really go into any scenes because there are so many great scenes that all fit together. I can’t imagine this film with a scene missing because each one has such great moments and every character at least has one great line. And Ralph Bellamy! Once again, his character has his lady taken away by Cary Grant (ref. His Girl Friday); poor guy… But really, I can’t emphasize enough how amazing this film is. It is definitely one of the best screwball comedies!

IMDb Link: The Awful Truth
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Drop Dead Fred ; 1991

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Director: Ate de Jong
Actors: Phoebe Cates, Rik Mayall, Marsha Mason, Tim Matheson, Carrie Fisher, Ron Eldard
Country: U.S.A. / United Kingdom

After finishing with finals and packing, I relaxed with my friend to watch this film because I told her I wanted to watch a comedy. I have heard about this film from another friend who is a fan of Rik Mayall and I wanted to watch this film since I adored Mayall in The Young Ones. Anyway, I don’t know why this film has such low ratings on IMDb, but I loved this film and found it to be absolutely adorable.

Although a bit predictable, it didn’t impede on the story about a woman who learns to be her own person. Lizzie (Cates) is the wife of a two-timing husband and although she knows that he is cheating on her, she doesn’t care because she loves him. Her controlling mother brings her back home and that is when her imaginary friend from her childhood comes back! Drop Dead Fred (Mayall) is a troublemaker who likes to have fun and sometimes has good intentions, but he ends up creating chaos due to his want for fun. Lizzie tells Drop Dead Fred that he has never helped her, but in the end of the film, we find out how much he ends up helping her to truly grow up and be on her own and how he has helped her best friend, Janie (Fisher), as well.

The comedy can be a bit on the “immature” side, but I found all of it to be quite hilarious. From reading reviews, I realized that most people mainly had problems with the comedy and found it to be crude, but if you’re not a person who takes themselves too seriously, you should be fine. For example, if you find the following situation to have the potential to be funny, you should be fine:
Imagine a living room with pristine white carpet (recently cleaned) and furniture only to be soiled by having doggy-doo spread all over it!

If you aren’t too offended by that, please give this film a chance. Also, Drop Dead Fred’s outfits are to die for and he has the most amazing hairdos! His hairdo in the second screencap is by far the best I’ve seen in any film. And of course, that is one of my favourite scenes, along with the scene when he also looks between Lizzie’s mother’s legs and makes a hilarious comment.

IMDb Link: Drop Dead Fred
Where to buy: Amazon.com