We're in the middle of a trilogy of films that claim influence from Dostoevsky with the most straightforward adaptation of the lot in being the only one not loosely inspired by a half-remembered scene from The Idiot. Instead Luchino Visconti, who we last saw with the phenomenal film The Leopard last year, does a fairly faithful take on Dostoevsky's 1948 short story White Nights which turns out to be better representative of my psyche than The Idiot ever really was. My relationship to Dostoevsky's work gets meta this week and I learn some things. Hurray!
Two movies for the price of one with this week's outing. In 1902 Maxim Gorky debuted his play The Lower Depths about a group of people living in a flophouse in Russia. It was an international hit of a character study, leading to localizations around the world. In 1957 Akira Kurosawa made a version that was fairly faithful to the source material except transported to 19th century Japan. In 1936 Jean Renoir made it into a romantic comedy.
Reportedly, Gorky actually liked Renoir's version, but even Renoir recognized that Kurosawa made the better adaptation. They're both wonderful movies and are both included in the Criterion Collection's The Lower Depths double disc.
There's an old theater superstition that you should not utter the name Mackers, er, MacB. The Scottish King? MacBeth.
If we shadows have offended
Akira Kurosawa seems to have taken the Scottish Curse a bit too literally, transposing his adaptation of the Bard's play into his usual feudal Japanese setting, infusing it with Noh theatre tropes, and editing profusely, the last of which everyone needs to do when adapting Shakespeare to film.
Good thing, too. Because if 1957's Throne of Blood had been cursed, our beloved Toshiro Mifune definitely really would have died during his final scene.
Oh, and friend of the show Donovan Hill stops in for this episode, as well. What a treat!
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Following the death of Josef Stalin in 1953 the Soviet Union had a bit of a defrost -- not by any means a melt -- but a bit of a thaw. Within that relaxation came a number of films about World War II, many of which made it into the Criterion Collection for good reason.
The first on our docket is Mikhail Kalatozov's The Cranes are Flying. Released in 1957, the film takes a critical look at the psychological toll of World War II. Well, at least a lot more critical than anything I can think of released west of the Iron Curtain. It won the Palme d'Or in 1958, the only Soviet film to win the award, thanks in no small part to the brilliant cinematography of Sergey Urusevsky. So amazing.
Ingmar Bergman had a busy 1957, releasing The Seventh Seal in February and then running along to make a television film and Wild Strawberries. Inspired but his Bergman's own memories of childhood -- and with a name meaning "an underrated place" -- Wild Strawberries is the story of a grumpy old man who takes a trip back in time as he travels to his hometown to be honored by his Alma Mater, though his actual mater isn't quite that alma. But hey, he learns an important lesson.
Giulietta Masina has often been called the "female Chaplin" and Nights of Cabiria is a prime example why. Federico Fellini's 1957 Oscar-winning drama showcases her bright and playful spirit far more than any movie about a prostitute who is almost murdered twice probably should.
Stephen Goldmeier joins us once again for this week's discussion, the last of a month-long series with him. Show your gratitude by checking out his website, Enchantment Under the Sea, home of a couple of entertaining podcasts he's part of as well.
I feel like I need to apologize for this one. I don't like to do that -- it makes it feel like I somehow don't believe in our work -- but this episode has some issues I'd like to lay out.
Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal is an amazing and complex classic, incredibly heavy and heady. Pat and I recorded this at the height of last August, the heat doing nothing to assuage our fatigue, and none of it helped by my being a bit sick. All in all, we actually do pretty well, but neither of us are firing on all cylinders and it shows. I hope you enjoy listening to it anyway. I know I did.