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January Films

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This month with L’Avare, All These Women, War of the Worlds, Rosen für den Staatsanwalt and My Blueberry Nights.

L’Avare

Louis de Funès remains one of my favourite comedians and I just loved watching his films on telly as a kid. While his nervous acting is occasionally on the silly side, it always seems much more graceful and subtle to me than what you usually see in today’s comedies. His 1980 film of Molière’s L’Avare seemed an odd thing at first.

But seeing Louis de Funès as the greedy old Harpagon protecting his fortune and making his children’s and servants’ lives miserable with his stingy scheming just seems totally natural and in-character for de Funès. The film, the only one in which he did some directing, is set with very limited decorations, almost like in theatre. What struck me as odd was that there are pictures of Molière and his book placed on the walls in some scenes.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

All These Women

You grab a random Ingmar Bergman film and end up with All These Women which seems pretty un-Bergman. A bit of a comedy with serious undertones on a music critic who wants to write a biography on a cellist. He invades the cellist’s mansion and meets the various women living there to ‘support’ him. The ultimate point of this being that the critic-biographer mainly writes this for his own benefit and ruins things for everybody else.

The whole film just seems a bit ridiculous and silly. Particularly when compared with Bergman’s other films, their profound storylines and fantastic imagery.

P.S. The film should really be named All These Beautiful Women.

P.P.S the notorious Air from Bach’s third suite (BWV 1068) is played all over the film.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

War of the Worlds

H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds is a classic. And it’s impossible to re-create the awe that the 1938 radio show of the story caused. But still, it remains an interesting story: Earth is being attacked by more powerful Marsians. They seem to win. But Earth’s bugs and bacteria come in as a handy deus-ex-machina to kill the invaders before it’s too late. When overlooking the religious undertones in the film’s abrupt end, it’s highly amusing and certainly one of the better ways to end a story.

The 1953 film based on the story keeps the sweet irony but is a bit more modern and ruthless in throwing whatever weaponry people can find at the invaders. The invaders, by the way, look quite cool and realistic for a 1953 film. That’s quite amazing. Certainly beats the 2005 adaption.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Rosen für den Staatsanwalt

Many old German films are a bit boring and my expectations for Rosen für den Staatsanwalt (Roses for the prosecutor) weren’t too high. But it turned out to be an excellent film. The film begins in World War 2 where soldier Rudi steals two tins of chocolate from the army provisions. He is caught and the efficient administration promptly sentences him to death for that atrocious crime making him think: I wouldn’t have shined my shoes, had I known this when he is led to the fields to be executed. He evades that fate thanks to an air attack and manages to escape.

Many years later he travels Germany peddling things in the street. And one day he encounters the judge, Dr. Schramm, who so eagerly sentenced him to death in the war. He remained in state service and is a prosecutor for the state now despite his Nazi-era past. Both of them know they ‘know’ the other person but can’t figure out why. Over time things transpire and even though Rudi doesn’t long for revenge, the efforts of Dr. Schramm to cover things up and make Rudi leave town lead to him stealing some more boxes of chocolate.

A great story, I think, and told really well both for the drama within it and the issue of Nazi administrators and other persons of influence going straight to similar positions in post war Germany in which they made an effort to cover up history, help their old friends and keep up the old values.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

My Blueberry Nights

Even though some pop star was starring, I was looking forward to Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights coming to cinemas. But the film was a bit disappointing in the end. Not only because the drama in the mainly romantic film seemed rather shallow - both on its own and compared to WKW’s earlier films, but also because it didn’t look right. Well, the film certainly does have a WKW look - with most scenes shot in the dark, with public transport in the night, with shots through café windows that have type on them. Just compare this shot from My Blueberry Nights

Scene in My Blueberry Nights shot through the café window

with this one from Happy Together

Scene from Happy Together shot through glass in a bar door.

The similarity is obvious but in My Blueberry Nights any subtlety - the profoundness if you wish - is lost. It sometimes looked like film students were told to make a film in WKW style and they went on to open their apertures, paint letters on glass, shoot half the film through glass, in the dark with blurry colourful lamps in the background and introduce non-smooth time-flow in the filming. For my taste that went too far - beyond the right measure.

And the story with a café owner meeting a girl who got dumped by her boyfriend and then travels the through the U.S. to change while being all nice and trustful along the way, just ended up being a tad too wholesome for my taste. I suppose it’ll at least enable Starbucks to peddle the DVD when it comes out. My prejudices suggest their customers will jump for the whole Norah Jones angle alone.

I also found that the German synchronisation wasn’t great. Quite frequently sentences sounded like the stuff PR departments translate. I.e. we got to hear expressions from which you could tell they originated from English, something that easily gets on my nerves.

Bonus note: The café’s name seems to be КΛЮЧ which I considered strange because I don’t think that lambda is used in Cyrillic. While I won’t claim I to know all - or any - languages using Cyrillic writing that mixing seemed strange and Google didn’t give any results for the term. Replacing it by Cyrillic el, though, gives КЛЮЧ which means key and seems like a logical name for the café in the film. There are even Films with the name.

Bonus question: What’s the typeface used for posters and credits? Impact? Folio? Did the on-screen version differ from some of the posters?

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

February 2, 2008, 0:36

Tagged as all these women, avare, byron haskin, film, ingmar bergman, louis de funès, molière, my blueberry nights, rosen für den staatsanwalt, war of the worlds, wong kar wai.

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