Monday, February 2, 2015

The Long Goodbye, Madame De. . ., Andrei Rublev

The Long Goodbye (Altman, 1973)  Rating: 8/10

My third Altman. Like Many New Hollywood films, it's a reworking of a Classic Hollywood genre, updating the worldview for the cynical, censorship-free 1970s. But wasn't film noir always cynical? Isn't it always the point of movies like Out of the Past, The Maltese Falcon, Touch of Evil, that corruption is everywhere, that death waits at the end of the road, that the girl will betray you, that nothing ever quite makes sense? So what does the whole "Rip Van Marlowe" conceit really have to say? I dunno, I haven't read any Chandler, maybe Marlowe's different--I suppose The Big Sleep has sort of a happy ending. But it seems a bit weird for The Long Goodbye to say its describing the passing of old values when that was what the previous stories were about in the first place.
It's obviously influential. The Coens' version of a drunken Faulkner in Barton Fink was pretty clearly taken from Sterling Hayden's drunken Hemingway here. And The Big Lebowski is basically updating the whole thing to the '90s for comedy. And Inherent Vice, book and film, clearly wouldn't be here without it.
A fascinating film, plenty of details to think about. But I am not sure it is a great one.

The Earrings of Madame de . . .  (Ophuls, 1953)  Rating: 8/10
My first Ophuls. As gorgeously shot as advertised, filled with breathtakingly elegant camera-movements (and people). The dancing montage is dizzyingly smooth and beautiful. Yet there is something contrived about the plot and the tragedy that is oddly distancing. The film is like a piece of jewelry etched with a tragic figure--one can admire its beauty with the eye, but it is still cold glass to the touch, not flesh. An exquisite bauble.
(Incidentally, Davies' The Deep Blue Sea seems an attempt to climb inside the same plot, ask the characters how they feel, and excavate the emotions until they overwhelm--and it's filmed just as elegantly. And I don't think this can be entirely attributed to the difference between a modern film artist and a classical one.)

Andrei Rublev (Tarkovsky, 1966)  Rating: 10/10
Second viewing.  Got to see it on the big screen at the IU Cinema. Even with an old print, and a brief breakdown in the middle when the sound went out, still awe-inspiring. I remembered the beginning and end very well, but there were great stretches in the middle that felt almost brand new. I had forgotten what an epic it is--the sheer scope of the battle scenes is just stunning, and magnifies the horror of it all even more.
This movie is more than a "you are there" experience--somehow it has captured raw scenes from the Middle Ages and Medieval art and they are manifested before your eyes. It is a massive monument, a historical pageant, an epic history, a single fresco. You start to wonder if everything there is to know about art, faith, and civilization is contained within it. You start to feel that all other movies are just noise and frivolity--THIS is what Art is FOR.

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