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A curious film. All at once it is complacent, compassionate, daring, overly melodramatic, and by the end rather affecting. Two English Girls feels as if Truffaut has remade Jules et Jim from a less immediate point of view. This time the triangle consists of two girls and a guy and, perhaps appropriately, the film is more careful, less reckless, and, since I don't know how to put it another way, less alive than Truffaut's towering masterpiece Jules et Jim. The last comment does not relate to the gender commenting implied in the previous sentence. The film boldly addresses masturbation and religion although it all might have felt just a bit more shocking back in 1972 than it does now. Muriel's childhood still raises eyebrows but at the same time if the conlusion of it all was that she learned how to masturbate its a bit anticlimatic. However, it does fit nicely in with the theme of religious morality and virginal purity built into Muriel's character. You can still tell Trufautt's heart is invested in the story, its just a little harder to point out. I have just learned that Jules et Jim and Two English Girls were written by the same author; which would go a long way towards explaining their similarities. A good Truffaut fillm.
Tonight we found the coolest hole in the wall place that screens alternative films for free. It's run by a spanish guy named Josee (not sure how to spell it, but it's pronounced ho-sway) and his wife who is a spanish flamenco dancer. It has strange art all over the place and tonight they were holding a Bunuel double feature of Un Chien Andalou and L'Age D'Or. Un Chien is great, I'd seen it before, but L'Age D'Or was just as good or better. Bunuel's early films are so purely artistic. The way he transforms the idea of narrative is fascinating to watch, he, beyond all other directors I think, feels like a true artist who has simply chosen cinema as his medium. The film was a surreal attack on bourgeosie life with plenty of humor and extremely visual interpretations of things Bunuel wished to convey. L'Age D'Or put a smile on my face for it's entire duration. Especially the part where Jesus walks out of an orgy, ha!
Must one of these dinner-party/society-criticising films be released by a different master director every thirty years? Renoir's The Rules of the Game in 1939, Bunuel's The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie in 1972, and Robert Altman's Gosford Park in 2001. Luckily they are all pretty great films in my mind. Maybe I'm just a sucker for this kind of thing. I love watching directors balance mass amounts of characters. Renoir does it so well in The Rules of the Game that the social commentary running along side the action feels so imbred and natural to the story that the viewer never gets the feeling that Renoir is stretching the story to achieve thematic ends. The Rules of the Game is a funny, entertaining, and highly enjoyable film that packs with it timeless social commentary in the vein of Gustave Flaubert and does so in a manner that is both wholly original and organic. All of these characters are so trapped within the social rhetoric of their time and place in society that they have lost all notions of what proper conduct really is. Quick to backstab their friends and even develop friendships on the basis of backstabbings, Renoir's cast of characters are, as he puts it, simple minded. They are all clearly defined early on in the film and more or less stick to their traits throughout. Character change is present in The Rules of the Game, but as a classic tragedy would have it, its not the focal point of the narrative. Instead Renoir allows the various connections between his characters do the work for him. It all culiminates in a fully satisfying conclusion of great irony and appropriate tragedy. My first Renoir film did not disappoint in any way.
An Autumn Afternoon, despite some pretty terrible subtitling on the print we watched, was a poetic meditation on the heavy responsibilities of family life and a changed country after the war. I felt so much for the father in this film. He wants what is best for both himself and his daughter and its hard to watch as he tears himself between the two. All of the characters here are remarkably likeable, much like the film Yi Yi which I also loved. I'm really warming to this asian sensibility in film. While all the characters are all likeable, they are not without their faults. They (or maybe their culture) objectifies women and trivializes the concept of love. Maybe this is just my biased eye looking too far into things though. The ending was profoundly sad and beautiful. Ozu's static shot composition really builds a mood apt to portray honest human emotions and Autumn Afternoon thrives upon these. The juxtaposition of the old drunk solitary man living with his daugher and the father who becomes more like the old man when he gives away his daughter was striking and telling about Ozu's feelings on loneliness. An Autumn Afternoon portrays deep pathos. These are a real characters, and we feel for them across cultural boundaries because they display the same faults we can find in ourselves. Remarkable, depsite the bad print I had to watch. Criterion treatment? That would be very nice.