Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #18


End Of The Week Shorts #18

Today's shorts: The City Of Lost Children (1995), Zabriskie Point (1970), Forbidden Games (1952), Pickpocket (1959), The Black Pirate (1926), The Mummy (1932), One A.M (1916), Beauty And The Beast (2017)

The City Of Lost Children is a complex mish-mash of fairy-tale and fantasy with astounding world building, off-the-wall writing and a completely unique aesthetic. By far, my favourite part of this movie is Dominique Pinon, who plays around 6 different characters. He is the shining co-star, alongside director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, of The City Of Lost Children that brings so much off-beat magic to this story. 
The only critique I could issue this film would be that Jeunet doesn't handle the logistics of his action scenes (or moments) very well at all. He is much better at building characters and constructing a strange world than he is at capturing adventure or tension that is connected to physical conflicts. 
With that said, this is a movie I want to talk about at greater length, but will have to give another watch before I can. So, maybe in a few days I can return to this film and better decipher its narrative subtext.

A meandering, boring and rather cumbersome film, Zabriskie Point is understandably labelled Antonioni's biggest failure. 
There are a handful of impressive sequences in this film that combine music, montage and a plethora of formal techniques, but citing these few and far between scenes only reveals Zabriskie Point to be worth a few moments of spectacle and controversy. But, on the note of controversy, an orgy in a blistering hot and dusty desert doesn't seem all too appealing to me - I'm not sure about you. That said, much of this movie is bloated with emptiness; every single character, statement and beat of this story is painfully meaningless, staggeringly pointless or plainly awkward - the scene with the low-flying aeroplane being a particularly nonsensical scene. 
There's really not much to say about Zabriskie Point. If you have to, maybe seek out clips from the best scenes of this movie. Beyond that, I wouldn't recommend Zabriskie Point.

Forbidden Games is an emotional tour de force. There's no other film I know that manages so many serious themes - war, death, lies, poverty, family - and so many varying emotions simultaneously. In such, it's very difficult to define the genre of this film. Is it a historical film? A drama? A tragedy? A dark comedy? A romance? A family film? There are elements of everything mentioned in Forbidden Games and Clément manages each detail almost perfectly. The only hiccup of this film, in my view, was Paulette's, the littler girl's, initial reaction to her parents death. Beyond this, this narrative weaves and meanders between emotions and themes whilst it explores the idea of death and how a child copes with such an idea to sometimes absurd, yet sometimes profound, effect. 
I think it'd be safe to say that Forbidden Games is something of a masterpiece, if not, a great film with an uncanny ability to emotionally guide you through its story.

So perfect, so precise, so simple, so subtle, Pickpocket is Bresson just being Bresson. 
No other director comes to mind when I think of precision and control over cinematic language. And within Pickpocket Bresson puts on a true masterclass as he asks us to follow eyes, hands, slumped shoulders and all that they hide - and it cannot be understated just how excellent Martin LaSalle is in this film. But, all of this funnels into an impossibly expressive and striking exploration of immorality and nihilism at a very minute, realist scale. It is then without any flashing lights or loud noises that a film that defies articulation, to a certain degree, has been constructed. Whilst I could outline the themes and the possible ideas within, no essay could do this film much of a service; Pickpocket is a silent vacuum of a masterpiece.

A spectacular adventure and a story of heroism unique to the silent era and Douglas Fairbanks. Rife with iconic imagery - the descent down a sail with a knife, swashbuckling of various kinds, the mass movement of bodies across the brilliant sets, the special effects swimming sequence and the wonderful shot of Fairbanks being raised up the levels of the ship by his men - The Black Pirate is sequence after sequence of classic spectacle cinema. Imbued into all of this is a tremendous sense of romantic fantasy, which seals this narrative as not just archetypal, but genuinely captivating. And, of course, the two-colour Technicolor, as Fairbanks designed this narrative around, adds further aesthetic wonder to the spectacle of this narrative. 
Having had a great time with this iconic film, I was only left wishing the score on the version I watched was a little better. As more an adventurous thrill-ride, less a profound piece of art, I highly recommended The Black Pirate - especially if you can find a good score.

A very clunky classic, The Mummy is a film I would only recommend to anyone seriously interested in old horror pictures. 
I myself didn't have a good time with this film and only watched it to delve deeper into the classic Universal Monster movies. Whilst Frankenstein would be the most interesting of these films in my view, The Mummy falls through the ranks and below the likes of Dracula, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man and The Creature From The Black Lagoon. This all comes to the fact that this film relies on atmosphere, but only has one shot - the one iconic shot of Karloff's face - that actually captures an immersive aesthetic and mood. With clunky everything - writing and acting especially - The Mummy then felt quite a lot longer than 70 minutes. 
I'm sure there are some out there who could really appreciate this film, but, I think most would agree that The Mummy has not aged well at all.

More a platform from which Chaplin puts on display his astounding physical comedic creativity than anything else, One A.M is mightily impressive and very amusing. 
Every time it seems that Chaplin has sapped every ounce of comedy out of a prop or section of a set and things are about to get boring, he finds new grounds and new jokes. So, through this almost entirely diminished art form of slapstick, Chaplin seems to form a plot of jokes, making call-backs and devising twists on subjects and props like a stand-up comedian would juggle topics - which really has me considering slapstick in a completely new light. 
Whilst I must say that I prefer Chaplin when he merges comedy into narratives, One A.M is very much so a testament to his imagination and physical capabilities. To then see a side of Chaplin concentrated and projected to screen in a way you may have never seen before, certainly find and watch One A.M.

I spent far more time complaining about and distracting myself from the sight of this film than actually watching it, so I probably shouldn't be doing a review of it. Nonetheless, there is absolutely no good reason for this film to exist. The performances all suck, the movie looks terrible, it sounds terrible and the pacing... terrible. I don't just mean the pacing of the overall narrative, but the manner in which scenes play out and are paced leaves no tension, no drama, no emotion - nothing. This film is just scene after scene of underwhelming, disinteresting, sub-par slop. 
I have so far refused to see The Jungle Book and Cinderella - I didn't want to watch this movie, but it was on - and so I remain without any confidence in these ridiculous live action remakes. Even if these movies are half-decent and I'm talking out of turn, I really can't see a good reason for Disney to be doing this - it just seems cheap and shameless. If you want to see a live action Beauty And The Beast please watch Jean Cocteau's 1946 masterpiece.

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