An otherwise great evening at the Owen homestead was marred by late night car troubles, a shortage of gas, and freezing temperatures. Needless to say, a night that began with soup and Buster Keaton concluded with three men hunched around a oil tank with a flash light, lawnmower gas, and a funnel. Film club doesn't get much more raw than that. Sorry for keeping you up, John, but thanks for all of your help.
Anyway, despite this final setback, the rest of the night was the tops. Delicious vegetarian soup, tasty winter gazpacho, good flicks, cold beer, great company. It was real swell. Thanks again to the Owen family for having us (no word on whether we're welcome back yet haha).
I hope Jason and Adrienne had a great time at the Dryden Theater. We're sorry to have missed ya, Ben.
It shouldn't be too surprising that I loved both THE TRIAL OF JOAN OF ARC and THE NARROW MARGIN (oh, and Keaton's THE PALEFACE, of course). They are right up my alley.
I was telling John and Chris after JOAN that one of the reasons I respond to Bresson's minimalistic, terse style of filmmaking so much is because I feel like I would be tempted to do the same if given the chance to make a film. If I could make a film, I would probably make it as simple and unembellished as possible like Bresson or Ozu because that's where I'm at personally right now. Bresson's austere, less-is-more personality perforates every one of his films, and I feel as though I understand him and can relate to him completely. I feel like we connect, which is strange because five years ago I couldn't even get into the guy's work at all. How time ravishes us.
I was captivated by JOAN because it has every trademark of a Bresson film: minimal camera movements, repetition of the same shots and angles, symbolic close-ups, careful attention to what is in the frame and what is being said, no histrionics, no traces of "acting," no overbearing emotional revelations, and no lollygagging. Bresson gives the Joan of Arc trial his subdued wash-over, paring it down to its essential crisis and removing any overt emotionalism. But to me there is beauty to this film and there is emotion that is brought to it even if it's not so prominent within the frames. I've said it before, but I think that the feeling we bring to a Bresson film is a test of our own capacity for empathy. What does it take for us to empathize with a human face? I personally don't need much to elicit empathy for people, especially when they are reduced to their most animalistic forms, as in a Bresson film. I felt something for Joan just as I've felt something for all of Bresson's characters. There is power in simplicity.
I wish I could post a short video of the cross being engulfed in smoke during Joan's burning at the end of the film. That is a simple, strong, and evocative image in a film that I believe is filled with many others.
Anyway, I love Bresson.
I also really loved THE NARROW MARGIN. I, too, am fascinated by train stories, John. A train is just a great, old-fashioned romantic setting for a film, but it particularly works well for suspense films because of confining it is. THE NARROW MARGIN (as the name partly implies) is all about exploring the limited and unique space of the train setting, and like THE LADY VANISHES, it does it extremely well. One thing I love about trains is that they resemble small cities almost. You've got your central population, your diners, your apartments, your streets, your compactness. A lot of noir lives and breathes within a city or urban setting. THE NARROW MARGIN as a noir still feels really urban despite being on a train because of how well it depicts the space of the train and all of its urban resemblances. I'm not really getting at anything profound here. Just saying that I really loved the feel of THE NARROW MARGIN and the way it makes its setting prominent to its narrative. It's a flawless effect. What a great, tough, surprising film with bundles of style this is.
All in all, another fun night in the world of CF5FC. Thanks again John!