Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #29


End Of The Week Shorts #29

Today's shorts: The Big City (1963), People On Sunday (1930), Baby Driver (2017), A Moment Of Innocence (1996), What Happened To Monday (2017), Queen (2014), Cinema Libertad (2010), The Man Who Sleeps (1974)

A beautiful film, and another masterpiece by Satyajit Ray, The Big City follows a wife of a struggling family into her first job as a saleswoman. And in such, this narrative encompasses, somewhat abstractly, an idea of a new-marriage or a re-marriage between a couple leading traditionally structured lives that are in jeopardy. This re-marriage re-defines the rules of their relationship and family life and its purpose is ultimately to reconcile a separating family in changing times - times defined by the developing cityscape around them. 
For the way in which this change, as represented by the microcosm of a middle-class family, is projected with perfect mise en scène, realist (though sometimes expressionist) direction and framing that exudes powerful photogénie through Madhabi Mukherjee's features alone, The Big City is a definite must-see and an unquestionable 'great' of world cinema.

People On Sunday is an example of one of the numerous cinematic movements that sprouted out of Germany in the 20s and 30s. This is a Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity or New Sobriety) film which was opposed to Expressionism and so was focused on a documentary aesthetic and realist storytelling. In such, this follows the lives of a handful of non-professional actors on a loosely scripted weekend with a key statement of the film being that they (as the film was being shown in cinemas) would be back at work in their depicted jobs. This is then seen as a significant, pre-Nazism, depiction of German culture in a somewhat truthful manner, but is also made note of because of contributions made from to-be significant Hollywood filmmakers such as Billy Wilder and Robert Siodmak amongst others. 
So, though this lacks focus and doesn't really provide a memorable story, People On Sunday is a successful experiment in realism that seemingly captures life, formally, with a good degree of truth and beauty.

An ok film with significant problems in regards to character and story that left everything feeling rather hollow. 
With Baby Driver, Wright constructs an action-romance-musical with strong sound montage, highly stylised camera movement, some impressive chase scenes and mise en scène that is in constant conversation with the striking cinematography. For this, Baby Driver is a fun movie from a pretty good director. Unfortunately, Wright fails to integrate his style into story and character like he did so well in Scot Pilgrim. In such, the exposition and backstories are annoying, the dialogue is often grating, the bit-part caricatures are sometimes exasperating and the main characters are all throw-away meat sacks who carry no real presence. Dotted throughout are a few nice moments of comedy, but nothing pays off - especially the plotting. I thought there'd be more to this in terms of plot twists that'd make up for bad character writing, and hoped for some kind of substance in the story, but the script failed to deliver. 
All in all, not worth complaining about too much, it's just a shame that this couldn't work better as the approach to the action-musical was sometimes ingenious.

A Moment Of Innocent is a film that falls in the ranks of other movies such as The Chinese, 8 1/2, Day For Night and Interior. Leather Bar. in that it is a film about making a film, and so has many levels to its story bound together by questions of truth. 
Makhmalbaf takes this idea one step further by basing this film about making a film on his own life (possibly both past and present). In such, this is about recreating the moment in which he stabbed a police officer as a young man as to 'save the world'. This narrative then contemplates rebellion under the guise of naivety with sprinkles of comedy and much confusion throughout by contrasting the ideals and inner motivations of both the policeman - both young and old - and Makhmalbaf (who stabbed him) - also in his younger and older forms. This is done through the veil of cinema and other actors and so a network of emotion and subjectivity is constructed, leaving one confounding final frame that exudes ambiguity and a film that needs to be seen.

What Happened to Monday is your average political sci-fi picture with a tyrannical government and corrupt capitalist infrastructure which needs to be overcome that is spruced up with a high-concept and numerous performances by Noomi Rapace. 
Whilst this has some clear commentary on individuality, collectivism and family in face of corrupt conservatism, What Happened to Monday lacks worthwhile characters and provides no substantial answers to its antagonist's terrible solution to a population problem. The story then has no punch and, despite the effort put into the action scenes, everything feels weightless and empty. 
Ultimately, though this isn't a mindless and ill-constructed film, it only barely manages to pass the threshold of mediocrity.

Second watch: still absolutely love it. 
There's not too much to say about Queen other than it is just oozing with personality and character. This could be 5 hours longer and I'd still not feel the run time. From the moment Southall (a pretty cruddy suburban area not too far from where I was born and raised) is mentioned to the second the credits roll I'm locked in and grinning like an idiot. As with Amélie it'd take a long-winded essay to explain why I truly like this film, but suffice to say that it just resonates with my bones for some reason. 
So, though this has a few technical problems, the heart of Queen overwhelms everything anyone may claim is at fault. To me, this is just a flawless piece of cinema that rests comfortably in the soft spot of my being. Perfect.

Cinema Libertad is a well-designed short film about young love and cinema itself. In such, this owes much to Cinema Paradiso (and it seemingly accepts this with a direct reference) with its exploration of cinema as an equal ground of non-verbal expression that can not just unite people, but bring them together in one emotional atmosphere. 
Though this is a simple idea, it is brought to life brilliantly by the light-hearted sound track which perfectly resonates with the free camera movement and brisk editing. Further to this, the direction is impressive for the way in which the El Salvadorian location is captured with low angles and wide mise en scène that consistently gives the fame rich colour and texture. 
So, though this isn't flawlessly performed, Cinema Libertate is well worth the 25 minutes:

The Man Who Sleeps is a brilliant cine-poem about existentialism, indifference and nihilism that, through images and prose, captures a hopeless emptiness in both Paris and a young Parisian man. With beautiful direction and evocative imagery, this can be seen to be the French (slightly) non-narrative Taxi Driver. However, to compare this to Taxi Driver is somewhat ironic as, though both films explore nihilism and anarchy, it was the cultural evolution of America (and its cinema) that would begin to overshadow French cinema and its romanticised, idealised culture in the 70s. The emptiness of Parisian culture that is projected through this film would then be ironically exhausted with a comparison to Taxi Driver as, in spirit, this is what the film is seemingly commenting on: the perceived decline of Paris through a hopeless young man. 
Just about as dismal and dark as films can get without being miserably masturbatory (thanks to the ending), The Man Who Sleeps is a great film well worth the watch - especially for anyone who's feeling particularly nihilistic.

Previous post:

Every Year In Film #28 - That Fatal Sneeze

Next post:

The Wolf Of Wall Street - Constructions Of Cinema: Exploitation?

More from me:

No comments: