Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jeff the Christian

I love film club as well, and I'm really happy and honored to be a part of it. It's been amazing getting to share thoughts on films and getting to know everyone. Thanks for telling me I had to create a blog when I merely asked to look at yours, Brandon. Thanks for including me, John, Ben, and Jason, and thanks for joining Lisa and Chris. What a nice little nerd community we have here! You all rule.

Ben, thanks for posting that 2010 list. I didn't rank my list earlier this year and I wasn't pleased about the list of films I had on it. I have since decided to add all the films from 2010 Cannes to that list like CERTIFIED COPY, UNCLE BOONME, and 13 ASSASSINS. I think I'll see enough for 2011 that I won't need to include those, and my 2010 list needs all the help it can get. I'll post that soon.

Looks like TGWADT talk is dying down, and I think that is good for now. I probably shouldn't have said that the material is below Fincher. I think he does a terrific job with the material he has. And, truthfully, the material is not that bad; as Chris and Brandon both pointed out, it has its intriguing ideas and themes. It's just not that impressive to me, or at least not impressive enough for me to love, but merely like. Which is why the film felt quite good to me, but didn't feel great.

I saw BEGINNERS with friends the other night. It's sickeningly cute at times, at other times incredibly cliched, and mostly just annoying and glib. Not worth seeing.

John will either be proud of me or feel I'm being condescending, but the day after Christmas, I, quite unintentionally, watched THE MILL AND THE CROSS, Dreyer's ORDET, and Bresson's THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST. And I read some Flannery O'Connor. All my militant atheist buddies are gonna give me serious shit for this Holy marathon. Especially when I tell them how much I loved all the films (and, of course, how much I love me some Flannery).

ORDET reminds me a lot of the religious themed Bergman films that would come a few years later. I think it's fair to say that Bergman was influenced by this film and Dreyer in general. For all the reasons I love Bergman's meditations on faith, I loved this film's tale of spiritual crisis as well. And I loved the theme of "the word," as we question what good the word of God is for us when he remains silent. The ending is a beautiful moment of transcendence that could only be possible on film...which reminds me why I love film so much.

THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST is my second Bresson film in a week or so. Previously, I had only seen PICKPOCKET (good, but not near his best) and BALTHAZAR (can't remember it at all). I watched both in high school, and truthfully, I don't think I was intellectually or aesthetically mature enough to fully appreciate them or Bresson's style. I've overlooked him as a director for the longest time because I couldn't get into him then. Perhaps I've gained a greater sense of insight since high school (I would hope so), but I've really loved Both A MAN ESCAPED and PRIEST and am starting to really love and admire Bresson. Some things, I guess, are worth holding off for until you are ready for them.

THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST is utterly moving, beautiful, sombre, and somehow incredibly entrancing. Roger Ebert wrote this in his Great Movies review of the film: "The look seems dark and depressing at first, but his films live not in the moment but in their complete length, and for the last hour I was more spellbound than during a thriller." Ditto to that. I was entirely absorbed in the film and in the trials of this poor priest. Also in his review, Ebert talks about how Bresson was agnostic, but he found beauty in the way religion can provide meaning and hope in the face of inescapable death. I may have posted that whole faux attack on religion and God a while back, but I'm entirely with Bresson on this. Whatever you need to believe in to get through life (as long as it isn't harming others), believe in it.

THE MILL AND THE CROSS is visually astonishing and quite unlike any film you will see. John, I liked that you said that it could easily work as a silent film. You are absolutely right; the images tell the story and tell it very well. But I also appreciated the moments of language in it, like the mother's poetic, Malick-esque voiceover ruminations and Brueghal's description of the painting itself. They aren't fully necessary, but I liked them all the same. I especially found the latter to be great because it seemed to express a certain joy over the meaning that can be found in art. I think a lot of the film is focused on bringing cinematic life and meaning to an implied life and meaning on the canvas. In doing so, it celebrates what art can mean for us symbolically in a way only a film could. I thought the film was very genuine about this sentiment and seemed less contrived and more celebratory about the symbolic and imaginative wealth that art and film provide for us. It's simultaneously a love letter to art and film, as well as a meditation on God, Christ, political persecution, and human violence. It also has a great moment at the end where the villagers all do a dance that recalled the dance of death at the end of THE SEVENTH SEAL. Anything that suggests Bergman to me is automatically fantastic haha. But, seriously, this is very unique cinematic experience that is worth having. I'm just jealous that I didn't get to see it on the big screen with you John.

Up Next: Lots more classics and THE KID WITH A BIKE.

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