Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Saturday, October 11, 2008  

A Night at the Movies

(Lots of links)

We have been watching Alberto Sordi movies, courtesy of Netflix. I'm not a big fan of European movies. Most of them are depressing and too slow. They are called MOVE-EEES because you are supposed to MOVE in them. I do not like sitting for long lugubrious minutes, staring at a huge face that takes up a whole screen while some homely actor tries to tell me what he is feeling by twitching an upper lip. One ought to call them Stillies. And while I can understand that a whole continent that tried to commit suicide twice in the same century would tend to be a little dark, that does not make it either sophisticated nor artistic. In fact, I have instructed BD to lock me in a closet if I ever say the words French and film in the same sentence again! I feel much the same way about German Art films (The tin drum) and don't get me started about Bergman. Just shoot me. And so. And so I tend to be a grumpy European film watcher.

This is not true about Chinese films, which I tend to love. Oh, not those Flying Dragon Slashing Ninja movies that are so popular, but the ones that take you out to a yurt in the barren wastelands where nomadic camel herders brave the winter snow. (Weeping Camel) ((actually a German doccumentary, and not in China, but truly worth watching)) Or the tender love story between a peasant girl and her school teacher husband, (The Road Home) all told in subtitles. I have never minded subtitles and do not like dubbed movies anyway – I like to hear the actors' voices. And these movies are not chirpy happy Hollywood light-motifs either. They might be filled with the poignancy of human nature up against human construct. But their pacing is appropriate for 2 hours of entertainment. They get you from point A to point B and they never make you sit for 10 minutes examining the pores on the nose of a homely man with a greasy wig on. (Tout les matans du monde)

I suppose I really oughtn't to say I don't like French films or European films. What I don't like are bad films – and what I do like are good ones. I really bring the same deeply personal judgment I use to evaluate novels to my movie viewing experience. I'm a little easier on movies because they take less time and manage to grasp my attention through the music of voice a little more swiftly .. and hold it a little longer. But if the pace is wrong I am enough of a musician to reject a movie much in the same way I reject the modern recordings of baroque and classical symphonies performed at break-neck speed just because, I suppose, the musicians can. If they're in that big a hurry to get through a piece, really, they ought not bother to play it at all!

So – enough grousing about other cultures. Especially because I really can't claim any expertise – only experience. I loved Babbette's feast which has a dark, bleak, windswept setting, a slow pace, and unfamiliar actors in it - and is totally delightful. And I simply adore Alberto Sordi. We have watched 4 movies by him – one I didn't care for and slept through, but that was a movie about looser men and quite frankly, I am not interested in that topic. Two nights with Cleopatra was silly beyond belief – like something out of a Jack Benny comedy with Sophia Loren playing both Cleopatra and a slave girl with Sordi as the nightly guard who is supposed to be put to death in the morning. It's worth watching for the 1960 Italian version of ancient Egyptian clothes alone! But The white sheik and Mafioso – oh my. Stunning portrayals of human nature, human folly, even human tragedy, but skillfully wrapped in enough light or tender or funny layers to give them depth and truth. The White Sheik is a comedy with a happy ending, so silly, yet so true. It also stars an amazing actress in the female lead, Brunella Bovo. She completely convinces me that she's a star struck innocent caught up in something she can't comprehend. It is Frederico Felinni's first film. Mafioso is a tragedy with so many cute light touches, and the most poignantly sad ending it is still resonating with me weeks after watching it.

So – the purpose of this meandering post – as close as I've come to a rant in a long time – is to tell you that if you haven't seen Alberto Sordi and you have a netflix account, treat yourself to a wonderful cinematic experience.

posted by Bess | 9:35 AM