Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #55


End Of The Week Shorts #55

Today's shorts: To Be Or Not To Be (1942), Sister Act 2: Back In The Habbit (1993), Orgy Of The Dead (1965), Fellini Satyricon (1969), Julie & Julia (2009), The Coward (1965), The Holy Man (1965)

I've always felt lukewarm about Lubitsch. It's hard not to like Ninotchka. Going into To Be or Not To Be, supposedly Lubitsch's best film, I was hoping for something at least as good as Ninotchka. What I got, however, was... ok. 
Lubitsch's brand of comedy is quite dry and subtle, and with To Be or Not To Be it emerges as dark in an almost absurd way. However, I don't think it's absurd enough. There's a stiffness about this film that has you stop and question who, what and why a bit too much. For instance, this is a film that is ultimately satirising actors, actresses and celebrity affairs. In turn, this is trying to be a screwball comedy. However, it distracts itself with war and Nazis with jokes that are few and far between - and ultimately not too funny. Pushed to the ironic extremes of something such as Duck Soup or The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, this would have worked. As is... well, let's say I'm still not sure what the Lubitsch touch is.

For what it is, Sister Act 2 is pretty awesome. 
The first movie had a clever premise that was executed brilliantly. However, it felt very much so like a spoof of an crime-drama within a musical. And that is to say that you could feel tropes and structural formulas typical of a Hollywood movie. I won't fault the movie for that, but, Sister Act 2 exists under the shadow of its predecessor quite comfortably, relinquished from having to set up a genre and a premise. Using this to its full advantage, Sister Act 2 is plain fun. We get to see characters from the previous film reprised and put in a place where they support the new set of characters wonderfully. And we also get one of the best numbers of both films. Overall, however, Sister Act 2 is pretty cheesy, but near-impossible not to like. At least, that's how I feel having grown up with this.

Orgy of the Dead is as dumb and hackey as the title suggests. It follows a couple (a writer and his wife) who get in a car crash and somehow end up in the realm of the dead. More specifically, however, they end up in a graveyard where a blonde... guy (he looks a little like a vampire) spends his night watching semi-naked women dance. For some reason. Each woman dances to a theme (cats, money, prostitution, weddings, etc) and every now and then cutaways remind us that the blonde guy, his big-breasted assistant, the annoying couple and even Wolfman and The Mummy are suffering through these boring-ass dances. And, spoilers, there's no orgy. I don't know what purpose this is supposed to serve. You'll fall asleep before you soil your underwear.

Satyricon is a film that has you ask "Why am I watching this?" for the entirety of its overlong run-time - seemingly intentionally. 
A visual spectacle on one level and a narrative mess on another, Satyricon is incomprehensible; primarily a test of how fast you can read subtitles and follow a set of visual non-sequiturs. Upon reflection, however, Satyricon begins to make sense as a film reflective of its time. Just like the original work this is based upon satirise its times (the Roman Empire, 1st century A.D) through extravagance and degeneracy, so does Fellini's film. Satyricon is then seemingly a reflection of an Italy in chaos (entering its Years of Lead). It then uses a vision of Italy's ancient past in a way that Italian politicians have, but without promise or any pretence of sense. 
I'm still not certain whether or not this is worth the watch. But, it is certainly an experience.

A nice little movie. A really nice movie. 
I suppose it would be fair to say that this is a study in narcissism - the good kind. And such is recognised in a way, but simultaneously built upon. A movie about idols, humans as statuettes of our imagination's own creation, ourselves imperfect, everyone else around us perfect, Julie & Julia juxtaposes fantasy with reality. There is then something in you that may yearn for more of Streep as you watch this film, but, what Streep's narrative represents is the fantasy. Adams in her quirky, slightly annoying narrative represents reality. We are lucky to be able to dream with Julie, but the meaning and weight of this film comes from realising that we are Julie. The archetype projects from within the type, the typical, the you, the us, the everyone else. The archetype is who you could be if only you weren't so... you. Relish what is slightly off and annoying about this movie; it's a good one.

Kapurush, or The Coward, is a film about the pain and draw of nothing; about emptiness in a dream. In such, it follows a writer whose car breaks down, and is helped by a man who happens to be married to a girl he once loved, but let leave his life. Whilst a Bollywood musical would be 3 times longer, full of tears and see the boy and girl come together before, probably, choosing to stay apart because of duties, but then pulled together by the forces that be, The Coward takes a realistic form to simply see seemingly real people interact. And, in turn, we see hubris and we see weakness through our own desires and expectations. We are asked to question when we are worthy of a second chance, and even when we are worthy, if a second chance will be granted to us at all. 
Simple, yet brilliantly conceived and so deeply enticing, this is more than worth the watch.

A brilliant film. 
The Holy Man is often shown as an accompaniment to The Coward, and both films speak to one another through the theme of honesty in action. Both are romances of sorts, one is about action and direction the other is about inaction and confusion. Dishonesty catalyses and propels all conflicts in both films with a lack of commitment to ones own words defining the forces that protagonists must confront. What Ray then formulates through these films is a commentary on the present moment as an opportunity to engage the depths of honesty within ourselves and act them out; the past, the future and the grey are left abstract, almost reduced to satirical or comedic elements, and so what comes to define Ray's realism is a philosophy of simplicity. Be who you can be, and do so forthrightly. Maybe then the life you want will reveal itself to you.

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