In our second Moral Tale we find another jerk being mean to another woman, but this one has a bit more substance perhaps. It still doesn’t really work for us, but hey whatever. The Criterion releases for each Moral Tale just full of material and Suzanne’s Career also brings us an opportunity to watch and discuss Nadja in Paris (1964), a short clearly meant to encourage American high schoolers to study abroad. Star Nadja Tesich is a delight, and the film is the first collaboration between Rohmer and cinematographer Néstor Almendros who will bring a certain watchability to the rest of the Moral Tales.
We kick off a boxset of Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales with one starring Barbet Schroeder (who produces the entire series) as a jerk who mistreats a woman while his heart belongs to another. This is largely the basic plot of each of the Moral Tales, and if you find that statement reductive or dismissive then boydog are you not going to like any episode in this series. Still some of them connected better with Pat and I than others. But Bakery Girls wasn’t one of them.
It's been 4 years since we last saw a Seijun Suzuki film.
It's been too long.
Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter were early favorites for Seijun's ridiculous sense of style and clear disdain for being told what to do. Made a few years and a few dozen films earlier in 1963 is Youth of the Beast, a Yojimbo-tale of an ex-Cop investigating his former friends death. Of course that plot synopsis glosses over the Seijun flare that makes it a film worth watching. And it is very much worth watching.
We return to Italian/Sicilian history with The Leopard, an historical epic about one rich man's family and political life circa Unification. Luchino Visconti's 1963 film is based on posthumously published 1958 novel of the same name by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa who now has an asteroid named after him.
The story follows an aristocrat -- played by Burt Lancaster so that the American distributors could feasibly have a chance at making any money -- who recognizes that his kinds' time is coming to an end and his nephew who will go wherever the political wind blows him as long as it keeps him in power. It's been called the Italian Gone with the Wind, but as we have seen that just means it's an historical epic. It's also really good. Like better than Gone with the Wind by a lot.
In 1963 a fresh-faced Vilgot Sjoman asked Ingmar Bergman if he could watch his process, then Sveriges Television asked Sjoman if they could tag along. Of course Bergman only half said yes. The documentary is mostly true to life, and fascinating in that regard, though it's also a bit fake, with some sequences not exactly showing what they claim and at least one interview wholly reshot after Bergman didn't like the results. Well, not as bad as Nanook.
We finish of the Three Films by Ingmar Bergman boxset next week with a documentary by Vilgot Sjoman, but the three titular films come to an end and a head this episode as we talk The Silence from 1963. While we praised Through a Glass Darkly and Winter Light for being the most straightforward Bergman films we've experienced, the third is a bit more obtuse unless the titular Silence of God is the fact that religion just isn't mentioned anymore. But it takes place at a hotel, so Adam gets to share some hotel stories!
Another great episode where halfway through talking about it we finally start to understand it fully. I Fidanzati (1963) is a film about memory: how memories shape what we’re perceiving in the present, and how our feelings in the present affect how we remember things. Ermanno Olmi is brilliant, no doubt, and the way the flashbacks in this film playout were extremely influential. (And also entertaining, which is just bonus I guess?)
This week's episode is a long one solely for the plethora and variety of material we're tasked with talking about. Stan Brahkage was an experimental filmmaker and a long-time film professor at the University of Colorado, who principally focused on non-narrative film. By Brakhage covers work from six decades of his career. With over four hours of material in 26 pieces ranging from 9 seconds to 74 minutes long, there's a lot to digest: a lot to love and some, well, not to.
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In 1963 Jean-Luc Godard decided to try his hand at commercial cinema by creating a film about creating a film (though not about creating the film we're watching, mostly) in a way only Godard could manage. Unlike Fellini in 8 1/2, Godard may be working autobiographically but isn't out to absolve himself of his own shortcomings. It work a lot better for us than our last foray into Godard-dom, despite a maddeningly incomprehensible car accident.
Federico Fellini's 1963 navel-gazing comedy-drama 8 1/2 -- named for how many films he'd reckoned he'd made at the time -- may prove that Fellini is self-aware but it also prove that knowing and acknowledging your problems doesn't automatically absolve you of them. Still, Fellini's acknowledgement that he -- or at least his stand-in character Guido -- is really not very good at life is pretty entertaining.
Billy Liar (1963), the film, not the song, has an interesting pedigree that starts with someone reading James Thurber's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and thinking "that's a really great story, I should steal that." That implies that I've something against author Keith Waterhouse or director John Schlesinger or their work. I totally don't. Stealing plot devices and reimagining them in new settings is a valuable creative tool.
Stanley Donen's 1963 romcom/thriller Charade is often called "the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made," which may be true but is always put in quotes as if it was from some official review even though no one seems to know who originally said it. Whereever the ghostquote came from, Donen, directing from a script by Peter Stone (1776, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) and Marc Behm (Help!), manages to craft a film as suspenseful as the best of Hitchcock's work that never loses it's sense of humor.
Interestingly, Universal Pictures failed to meet the criteria for copyright notices in 1963, so the film entered the public domain upon it's release. As such it's been remade a number of times, always to less impressive results. Arguably the worst was in 2002 when Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) remade it as The Truth About Charlie, which also functions as a tribute to Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player, with Mark Wahlberg of all people in the Cary Grant role. Peter Stone was so enamored with the results that he refused to let them credit him as a writer. Most interestingly, the original Charade was included as a "special feature" on DVD releases of Charlie, which at the time was the only way Universal had ever released it on DVD.
Peter Brook's 1963 adaptation of the William Golding novel about how frightening unsupervised children are. Oh wait, or humanity or something? Anyway.
Shot in stark black and white and edited down from hundreds of hours of footage -- the filmmakers left the cameras running while they coaxed their young cast into performing to save time -- Lord of the Flies is one of the most literate and literal book-to-film adaptations ever put together.
Unfortunately, that doesn't stop Adam and Pat from misidentifying the character of Jack as "Roger" (a wholly different character) and simply not realizing their mistake. Come listen to two fools talk about a great movie.
As our resident Kurosawa obsessive Donovan Hill joins us again to talk about the director's 1963 crime drama High and Low. The first hour is a morality play taking place in a shoe company executive's living room. The next one and a half are a police procedural that feels like Law and Order. I'm not selling this right.
Great and interesting movie. Fun conversation. Always glad to have Donovan around. If you'd like to join us for any conversations talk to us on Facebook.
This week we're watching Shock Corridor, Sam Fuller's 1963 tale of a so-so journalist's ill-advised plan to get a Pulitzer. It's not as good a movie as his next one, The Naked Kiss, which we watched last week, mostly due to Constance Towers being featured less prominently and in a much more subdued (in a lot of senses) way. We posit that The Naked Kiss is an apology for how she gets treated in this movie.
Anyway, still enjoyable pulpy goodness.