Monday, 24 April 2017

The Pier (La Jetee) (1961)



La Jetée
Older movies often have a problem with pacing. Often they move slowly, too slow for our modern tastes, and drag out a story unnecessarily. “La Jetée” has the opposite problem. It is way too short.

“La Jatée” is a bit of an oddity as it consists exclusively of still and I cannot help thinking that I am looking at a storyboard of a half-finished movie. Fleshed out this would be an excellent movie, but as it is it is way too short and merely a skeleton of what it should be.

A ma has a memory from his childhood of a woman on the pier of Orly airport in Paris. A man rushes towards her and is killed. The world is ruined in an apocalyptic world war and Paris is a radioactive desert. Survivors live underground divided in a master and a slave segment. The masters are making experiments on the slaves in order to send them forward or backward in time to get help. The man with the memory is a successful test subject and manages to get back in time and meet the woman. He befriends her and spends a considerable time with her. Confident in their success the masters now send him to the future where humanity grant him an energy source. Mission accomplished the masters prepare to terminate their test subject, but he is saved by future humanity. He can join them, but asks instead to be sent back to the woman. He finds her on the pier and rushes towards her. As he is killed by an agent of his masters he realizes that this is exactly the scene he remembers watching in his childhood.

This sounds familiar, no?

Years later Terry Gilliam actually fleshed out the story in his “12 Monkeys”. Technically I suppose it was a remake, but can you remake a sketch? Anyway, the similarities are so striking that it feels like the movie “La Jetée” should have been and it is also acknowledged by Terry Gilliam.

Even in its half-finished look “La Jetée” is an interesting little piece of work. The pictures are striking and the apocalyptic feel is exquisite. This mix of slum and high-tech, misery and hope is so well developed that Gilliam in his quirky mind hardly had to improve on it. The black and white photography is reminiscent of concentration camps and with the Nazi doctors and the German mumblings I do not think that is coincidental.

I also like the story a lot. Time travel, as silly as it is, is a favorite theme of mine because of its paradoxes and this is an early example of those paradoxes in play. The position of the “movie” is that ultimately time has a single stream and you cannot really change it, only create loops. No multi-verse or alternative time lines here and philosophically it is also more satisfying. Time travel is such an interruption on reality that it really should be limited.

The biggest problem of “La Jetée” is the short running time. Only 27 minutes! Of those Chris Marker, the director, decided to spend a considerable part idling around on a museum. I could see time running out and they were just looking at animals! I feared that the ending would be rushed and it was. Almost anti-climactically so.

In a sense I do not mind the still image format. It serves its purpose, but maybe for a longer movie it would have been too much. Even then, had the movie spend 15 minutes more on key points this would have felt like a complete movie. The potential for greatness is so big that missing that last step feels almost criminal. Still, I enjoyed it a lot, as I had a feeling I would, and I would definitely recommend it. As introduction in a double feature with “12 Moneys” it would be perfect.

     

Friday, 21 April 2017

Last Year at Marienbad (L'Annee Derniere a Marienbad) (1961)



Ifjor i Marienbad
In 2004 I was in Marienbad and it looked nothing like this…

“Last Year in Marienbad” is a movie I have heard rumors of for a while. It is often mentioned as one of the worst or most challenging or even pointless movies on the List. Certainly not as one of those I should look forward to watch. Going in to this I felt quite a bit of trepidation and my expectations were not high.

Having come through to the other side I can certainly see why this would not be to everybody’s taste. To call it polarizing is probably to give it too much credit, but actually I am not as negatively inclined as I thought I would be.

“Last Year in Marienbad” is an art movie, no doubt about that. It is in fact so arty that at surface value it makes absolutely no sense. A synopsis is virtually impossible and I cannot really go any further than saying that this is a about a man trying to convince a woman that they had an affair the year before, something the woman denies.

So what does the movie actually do for 90 minutes?

There is a lot of narration of the poetic, sort of stilted, kind, about memory and corridors and emotional imprisonment, although much of the narration is lost as it does not seem to make a lot of sense and often does not even match the pictures. All the scenes are inside or outside a baroque castle, sumptuous but cold with a lot of straight lines. The castle is populated by what appears to be guests (a hotel?), but they are immobile or on auto pilot and do not seem to be alive. The only actual characters are two men and a woman. The first man is the one who keeps imploring the woman to remember their affair, while the second, a scary skull like dude, looks like he could be her husband. He is always looming on the side.

The picture is constantly jumping, even when narration or dialogue is continuing. The chronology is random and there is no start nor finish. Well, there is sort of a finish, but I am not sure that is the last we see. Cloths change, especially hers between white and black dresses and we often watch people playing some sort of game with cards, dominos or sticks.

As I said nothing here makes any sense at surface value and trying to perceive some sort of story is a frustrating experience. Art films however is all about what is happening beneath the surface, what it is all supposed to mean and “Last Year in Marienbad” is only different in the sense that it has entirely given up on the surface narrative.

What does it mean then?

I can only guess. According to the extra material there is no official or even majority interpretation of the movie. Instead various people have offered their interpretations and who is to tell which is right?

The crazy thing is that this is what I like about art films. The weirder and opaque the better and this is certainly one of the most mystifying art films I have ever watched. Going through the process of watching it I am helped by stunning photography to get me through to the point where I can start to make my own guesses.

While my interpretation is in no way completely thought through I believe that the woman is the only real character. The first man is a memory lurking just outside conscience, something she may have blocked or repressed and the castle with all its corridors and repetitions is her mental prison. In the extra material they talk about that she could have been a victim of a sexual crime and that sounds plausible to me. The second man certainly looks menacing and capable of terrible things. She seems to have to make a choice between something that may liberate her or staying in her mental prison and her escape depends on remembering.

If I have the patience to watch it again I might completely discard this rough skeleton or be able to flesh it out, but for now it will have to do.

I am certain David Lynch watched “Last Year in Marienbad” before he made “Mulholland Drive”. Those two movies are like siblings, equally frustrating and open to interpretation, but also fascinating to watch.

In a harsher state of mind I would call “Last Year in Marienbad” a very pretentious movie and there is certainly something exclusive and snobbish about it. I know several French teachers from my high school days who would just love it. Yet, I cannot help thinking that this is a very interesting watch and definitely something you are not going to see every day. Recommended? Not to everybody.

 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Splendor in the Grass (1961)



Feber i blodet
The first movie of 1961 is Elia Kazan’s ”Splendor in the Grass”. The movies I watch are now “only” 56 years old, technically, so I am approaching modern times and accordingly expect more modern movies. “Splendor in the Grass” seems to fit the brief being as it is a movie concerned with youth culture, filmed in high quality Technicolor and employing the latest in Method Acting. I should be in for a treat.

There is no arguing the qualities of Splendor in the Grass. The production quality is just about as good as it gets and with all the… not so technically accomplished movies I watched from 1960, this feels like a great leap forward. The colors are super crisp, the settings are nice and detailed and the acting is wonderful. Of course it helps that we get actors like Nathalie Wood and Warren Beatty (in his first movie and yes, he is the very same man who presented the wrong Best Picture winner at the latest Oscar show, though not by any fault of his). Youth culture movies was a new phenomenon at this time and Hollywood was still feeling its way into a genre that would eventually become a staple.

In 1961 (or 1962, if you lived far away from Hollywood) this would have been the movie teenagers went to the cinema to watch and I get the impression that its influence was significant.

In fact that there is a lot to love about this movie. Then why is it that I am not completely sold by it?

The problem with “Splendor in the Grass” is that you have to accept the premise that teenage love is the end-all and be-all of everything and being prevented to get the one you love is devastating on all accounts. This is a very romantic notion that Hollywood has endorsed unrestrained for half a century or more and convinced several generations of teenagers is true. Call me terribly unromantic, but I do not buy that premise and stories that depends on this premise tends to leave me cold. Instead I tend to get a bad case of eye-rolling, which means that I would not be your favorite pick to accompany you for a classic tear-jerker.

In the case of this movie it helps that there is a second theme in the form of sexual repression. The young couple are denied not just each other, but also the sexual release. In fact it is hammered through to them that sex is a bad thing, something bad people do, so stay off it. It is far more believable that this denial of human nature would lead to aggression, rebellion and mental collapse. In 61 we were just embarking on the sexual revolution and by setting the clock back some 30 years the movie sets up an environment with enough repression to engender the drama and the crisis, not unlike what Ophüls did by displacing his stories to the 19th century. I doubt this trick was really necessary though, sexual repression exists in many environments to this day, but it may have made the story easier to digest.

Deanie (Natalie Wood) is told that sex is what bad girls do and she can see that the boys want sex so she wants to be a bad girl, but both Bud (Warren Beatty) and her parents want her to be a nice girl, so she gets confused. Bud is coached into distinguish between sex and love and it does not really help him much.

Sexual repression is a powerful agent and had the movie dared go all out on it I am sure I would have liked the movie a lot better than I did. Instead it only goes halfway in that direction and never leaves the crushing teenage love theme. Both Deanie and Bud eventually find their release, but we constantly have to struggle with the ghost of all-encompassing teenage love and it sabotages the movie for me.

That annoys me a great deal because of the potential there is in this movie. The scenes with Deanie and her parents, the best in the entire movie, are so promising. They are so entrenched in their world view that, especially the mother, is constantly misreading her daughter. She means well, but is poison to Deanie. This, far more than the relationship between Bud and Deanie, is the heart of the movie.

“Splendour in the Grass” is not what I would call my kind of movie. It does a lot of things right and has seeds for something great. In the end however it choses another kind of audience than me and for them I have no doubt that it works.

 

Monday, 10 April 2017

Spartacus (1960)



Spartacus
”Spartacus” is one of those movie I am quite familiar with. I watched it back in high school when we had a Roman theme and I remember it as being an exciting movie to watch for a teenage boy with a penchant for antique history, though also that I was disappointed by the ending. I mean, they killed our hero!

It has been many years since then and revisiting “Spartacus” is a mixed pleasure. On some accounts it is better than I remember, but on others I cannot help being disappointed and that surprised me. I did expect it to confirm all my happy memories.

“Spartacus” belongs to a category of sandal and sword monster productions in vogue in the late fifties and early sixties. It was, I suspect, the recognized recipe for a blockbuster and as such it is firing on all cylinders to provide a magnificent spectacle, keeping in mind that all those invested dollars have to be earned back again. It is a long movie, around three hours, in splendid colors and hosting thousands of extras in truly impressive battle scenes. The sets are spectacular with elegant Roman villas, a gladiator school and grand battlefields. Costumes and equipment all look authentic and not least, the cast is first class.

Kirk Douglas is of course the central figure as Spartacus. No wonder, as that is the title character and Douglas was the man behind the movie. He was executive producer and it was his own production company, Bryna that made the movie. However, the actor that steals the picture is Laurence Olivier as Crassus, the Roman senator. Olivier was known as one of the best actors of the era, but I have often been underwhelmed by his appearance and felt his pretentiousness to be in the way of the roles he was playing. Not so in “Spartacus”. Laurence Olivier IS Crassus. I saw a statue of the man and he even looks like Olivier. The Roman arrogance is dripping from him, but not in the sycophantic and effeminate fashion normally associated with arrogance, but from sheer power. This is a man who knows he is better, stronger, richer and more deserving than anybody else. He is Patrician with capital P. Not a small feat, but for Olivier is perfect.

Peter Ustinov, Jean Simmons and Charles Laughton are all excellent and had it not been for Olivier I would have devoted more space to their praise. Tony Curtis and John Dall seem miscast, Curtis is not believable as a very young effeminate singer and Dall just resembles a country bumpkin from the Midwest, not a Roman general.

Anyway, this is all good, so what is my problem?

The problem is that “Spartacus” is far more interested in promoting a cause than telling an actual story. Never mind all the gimmicks included to please the perceived interests of an audience, that goes with the territory in a big production. I am pleased that for once this is a sword and sandal movie without biblical aspirations. The cause here is the struggle for freedom from an oppressive power. This was the crusade of the western world during the cold war and in 1960 we are right smack in at the height of that conflict. It is not difficult at all to see Spartacus’ slaves as oppressed people in the east block rebelling against the tyrannical and inhuman power of the Soviet. The slaves are freedom loving every-men and women of valor but low birth with a just cause and the Romans are evil, arrogant powermongers with no regard at all for subhuman slaves. This sort of black and white painting is typical Hollywood and ensures that the message gets received, but the actual story suffers greatly because of it.

Romans always gets to be the bad guys in movies. I suppose the Bible and Christian traditions have given the Romans so much bad publicity that they are forever stained in the eyes of the modern public, but when you get down to the core of things the Romans were not worse than anybody else. In fact much of what we admire and strive for are of Roman origin. Trustworthiness, legal justice, peaceful trade, religious freedom and civil comfort are all Roman virtues. Every society in antiquity held slaves. Everybody waged wars and blood-sport was not a Roman invention, tasteless as it is. Frankly, bull fighting is not that far removed from gladiator games.

I found the political battle between Crassus and Gracchus far more interesting this time round and while this is presented as callous political plotting with the slaves as pawns, this is also a window into the Roman conflict between patricians and plebeians and, even more interesting, the struggle between the pluralistic rule of the Senate and the dictatorial rule that eventually would become the empire. This is a super interesting era in Roman history and I gobble up every bit of it and find that the taste of what “Spartacus” serves us is often foul.   

But then again that is not the mission of “Spartacus”. This is about the struggle for freedom and to that end sentiments and aspirations are given to the slaves that I seriously doubt they had. In reality the slave army was not betrayed by Cilician pirates, but chose to stay in Italy to plunder. How is that for noble, freedom seeking every-men?

“Spartacus” is a spectacle and that is what we get. It is entertaining, but it is also hamfisted. I do not see Stanley Kubrick here at all. This is so different from anything he did. But I see a lot of Kirk Douglas and that is also okay. And for the performance of Laurence Olivier I can forgive “Spartacus” anything.

 

Friday, 31 March 2017

The Apartment (1960)



Nøglen under måtten
I am on a roll, 1960 has become a much better film year lately. Enter Billy Wilder and good becomes great.

Billy Wilder has become one of my favorite directors. I cannot remember ever being disappointed by his movies. On the contrary, I see his name on the credits and I know I am in for something different in the best sense possible. Lübitch may have had the Lübitch touch, but Wilder had a keen eye for thinking outside the box and present stories or genres we may think we know in way we did not expect and just nail it. Take “Sunset Boulevard”, “Ace in the Hole”, “Some Like it Hot”, “Double Indemnity” and on and on. This is all brilliant stuff.

I am not sure “The Apartment” is his best movie ever. With a list like the above that is a tall order, but it is on par with a lot of the good stuff and that says a lot.

“The Apartment” is Billy Wilder’s take on the classic romantic comedy. In such movies there is a boy and a girl and usually some other boys or girls involved. The boy and a girl go through a lot of misunderstandings, but always gets each other in the end and in the process, we get a lot of laughs. It never gets really dangerous. In Wilder’s hands it gets a lot stranger.

C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is working on the floor of a massive insurance company. He has somehow gotten involved in a scheme where his bosses borrow his apartment for their extra-marital activities. Baxter is a push-over and the bosses are holding out the prospect of promotion and as a result Baxter is a stranger in his own home. This could easily be pathetic or sycophantic, but Jack Lemmon presents a character who is quite innocent and just happen to be that unlucky guy who got rolled into this and cannot get out again, although pressure from health (spending a night out in the cold) or disapproving neighbors is making him utterly sick of this arrangement. Yet Baxter has enough integrity to play along and be discreet.

The scheme is fun and weird and leads to a lot of laughs as we watch Baxter struggle to cope with his predicament.

This whole arrangement moves up a notch when top dog Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) enters the scene. He also needs an apartment for his dates and raises the stakes significantly. Baxter gets promoted off the floor and decides it is time to make a move on his own crush, the elevator girl Miss Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). Unfortunately Kubelik is the very girl Sheldrake is currently dating. This can only go completely bananas and of course it does. To whom does Baxter own his allegiance? The girl he loves or the boss who patrons him?

There is a lot of old school screwball here with confusions, mistaken identities, rapid and witty dialogue and so on, but Wilder takes it so much further. It is never a secret to us what goes on in that apartment. This is not for children, though they all have a swell time doing it. We have a suicide attempt and sleazy nepotism and I am pretty this was all more than the audience was used to in 1960. And in the midst of all this Baxter still comes out as a nice guy we want to care for.

Shirley MacLaine is also perfect as the girl who is caught up in this scheme. She can be tragic and comic at the same and that is a rare skill. When the movie turns from comedy to romantic comedy it never gets as sweet and cloggy as the story suggests, but actually rather painful. Here are two people who are used to be pushed around realizing that this is the end of the line.

Analysis aside, what really matters here is that I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish. I normally chop up a movie to fit into an otherwise busy schedule, but I could not do that with this one, I had to watch it to the end and that tells me more than anything else that this is top notch. The last time I succumbed to that was also Wilder. Hail Wilder, Hail the King!

 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Black Sunday (La Maschera del Demonio/The Mask of Satan) (1960)



Djævelens maske
I love it when a movie I have heard nothing about and have absolutely no expectations for blow me away. That is one of the main reasons for doing the List, to be forced to watch movies I would not have picked myself and get that totally unexpected wow experience. I must have mentioned this so many times by now that it forms a lame and repetitive introduction, my apologies, but it still holds true.

The “Mask of Satan” (or “Black Sunday” or “La maschera del demonio”) is not the best movie I ever saw by a long shot, but it was refreshing and very much a surprise. Who said Italian movies was synonymous with neorealistic, arty and depressive films? Probably me until I saw this one.

What works in “The Mask of Satan” is that it is a gothic horror movie that takes itself serious enough to go all the way and does not pull any punches en-route. This is not a movie that winks at its audience or admits to any cheese and that is a rarity in this sort of movies. We get it all, demons, gothic dracula’esque castles, ghost carriage ride through the night, the dead awakening and lots and lots of gore. It would be so easy to laugh at this or call cliché, but the movie believes in its story, even its weaker parts, and I love it for it.

The film opens with an angry mob lynching a man and a woman as warlock and witch, in league with Satan. As part of the prosecution they ram a terrible nailed mask onto their faces, but not before the witch, Asa Vajda (Barbara Steele), has cursed her family in all future generations and vowed to return.

Two centuries later, in the nineteenth century, two doctors, Professor Kruvajan (Andrea Checchi) and his assistant Dr. Gorobec (John Richardson) are travelling by coach through this region. Halfway through a forest the coach loses a wheel and the doctors pass the time exploring a nearby crypt. This happens to be the very crypt where the witch is entombed. Kruvajan does all the things he really should not do. He breaks the crucifix keeping watch over her, removes her mask and drips blood onto her face. Now literally all hell breaks loose.

The warlock rises from his grave and starts haunting the old castle where the decedents of the Vajda family lives and when he strikes at the old Prince the doctors are called in to help the son and the daughter. Particularly the daughter is interesting because she bears a stunning resemblance to the witch (guess who is playing her).

What follows are murders, ghosts, undead demons and a luscious temptress. This is like Dracula but with more action and a very hot witch.

The visuals are great. You can tell that this is a movie made by a cameraman. I have not seen anything as goth as this since “Frankenstein”. Sets, effects, costumes, make-up (especially the gory stuff) is very well done. The acting is more mixed. You can tell that not all the actors are pro’s. Steele is good and so is professor Kruvajan, while Richardson is too much of a dandy.

The one thing that did not work was the sound. What I got was a dubbed version (I actually first bought a DVD with the original sound, but no subtitles and I speak neither Italian, nor Catalan…) and that worked poorly. Much worse was the soundtrack. That was just cheap and apparently very far from the original score. I may want to sit through the original version just to get the right soundtrack.

Towards the end the movie loses some of its strength, mainly I think because Richardson gets more space. Had the demons killed the whole bunch this could have been a 10/10 movie.

Despite that I loved this movie. It rushed by as only good movies do and I had a great time. It just does not get any more goth than this.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Peeping Tom (1960)



Fotomodeller jages
Quite by coincidence I am on to another psychopathic killer movie. “Peeping Tom” follows right on the tail of “Psycho” last week and it is entirely fitting. Those two would make an excellent double feature.

Where “Psycho” was leading us to believe that the nice guy at the motel is actually a nice guy and not a mad killer, “Peeping Tom” goes the completely opposite way.  Right from the opening we know that Mark Lewis (Karlheinz Böhm) goes around killing people. Only then do we learn that Mark is actually a nice and gentle boy who struggling with some personal demons that makes him kill people. It sounds like an impossible task. How can you make a crazy killer sympathetic? A man you would actually root for? But Michael Powell, director and producer, actually accomplishes just that and that is in my opinion what makes this movie special.

Gradually through the movie we are let into Marks world, a truly strange and horrifying place. We see how he was ruined as a child by a sadistic father who did fear experiments on him and filmed it all. The result of that upbringing is an obsession with filming anything, everything really, and hunt for that perfect image of fear as people watch themselves die. It is clear that Mark get off on those images. Even the thought of them makes him sexually aroused and the murders seem to be orgastic release for him. This is seriously weird stuff, way beyond dressing up as a dog or hanging out with plastic dolls and a perversion far ahead of its time.

Personally I have some problem following the logic of his particular affliction. It does not really make sense and it gives me the nasty suspicion that his condition is deliberately gory and extreme, but then, I am not a psychiatrist, I have no idea if this sort of psychosis is a real thing. It bothers me because repelling as it is we get to like Mark and I want to understand why gets suck a kick out of filming people watching their own death.

Between working on a film set and going around killing people for kicks Mark meets a nice girl. Helen (Anna Massey) is a tenant is the big house Mark’s father left him who is endeared by the shy and gently boy. She wants to get to know him, but has clearly no idea what she is walking into. Mark falls in love with Anna immediately in part because he is desperate to reach out for someone to help him, yet, understandably, afraid what such a person would think of him. This part is quite interesting, both because we learn a lot about Mark, but also because I get strangely torn between hoping Anna can help him and urging her to get out of his reach that he does not kill her too.

Mark is of course a lost cause. The police is closing in on him and his relationship with Anna can only end in disaster. His secret is not something you can just learn to live with. The question is merely which disaster will happen first. However Mark has planned that moment and know exactly how he wants to check out.

There are a number of interesting elements to this movie. First of all why choose an actor with a distinct German accent as Mark? It is never explained, but I think it is with the war in mind, that at this time the British public would associate a German accent with a sadistic nazi villain.

Another element is the theme of voyeurism. Mark is not the only one who gets a kick out of watching. There is a great scene in the newsagent shop with an older man eager to buy pornography, but shy about it when a school girl enter the shop. Maybe a way of saying that voyeurism is a common thing, though in my book there is a big step up from porn to murder.

Then the movie has a whole meta thing going with the film set Mark is working at. A film about the process of making a film.

Powell has sprinkled humoristic elements over the movie, particularly on the film set, but also in scenes involving the police. I am not sure I like that levity. Mark’s affliction deserves to be taken serious and the silliness attenuates some of the bite. Normally I like that break in depressive movies, but here I find it unfitting.

My favorite character of the entire movie must be Anna’s mother, Mrs. Stephens (Maxine Audley). She is blind and therefore cannot be a voyeur and perhaps therefore she possesses more clarity than any other character. Also she is one sharp woman with a dry wit.

All in all “Peeping Tom” is a daring movie that does thing we are not (or were not) used to watching. It is cleverly made and swings itself up to an impressive level of suspense. It is impossible not to compare it to Psycho and in that comparison I think “Peeping Tom” falls short. I understand intuitively what is happening to Norman Bates and why he thinks as he does, but Mark is simply too far out. I simply cannot relate to his sexual obsession. But then again, I would hate to have another end sequence with a psychologist lecturing on his condition. Mark’s spectacular demise must and should speak for itself.

 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Psycho (1960)



Psycho
I cannot say I have been terribly impressed with last batch of movies I have been through. They generally have not struck a chord with me, even if some of them have been famous and admittedly influential. Maybe that is why I felt so relieved and energized watching Psycho.

“Psycho” is not the best Hitchcock movie I ever saw. It may not even be top tier. But even an average Hitchcock movie is a great watch and “Psycho” is a movie with a lot to offer.

At first it may seem disappointing that “Psycho” is in black and white. Come to think of it all the movies in 1960 so far have been in black and white and I am longing to some glorious Technicolor, but “Psycho” must have that noir’ish black and white cinematography. It simply would not work in color. This is something I only get to realize much later in the movie when the story takes some dramatic and unexpected turns. Yet the disappointment quickly fades as I am snuggled into the familiar comfort (or discomfort if you will) of a Hitchcock production. The score, a Hitchcock hallmark by now, is eerie and haunting, maybe one of his best scores, and the framing of each scene expertly made. Best of all we get some spectacular acting right from the get-go.

“Psycho” is about a woman, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) who is involved in an affair with a man who is in debt and still tied to a woman he is trying to divorce. The relationship as it is is too distressing for her, but if only they had a lot of money…

That money suddenly appears when a client of her boss deposits 40.000 $ with her. She makes a quick decision and runs off with the money. Marion however is a terrible thief. She has guilt painted all over her and it seems to be only a matter of time before she is caught. Her attempt at shaking a curious policeman by changing car is simply pathetic and useless and as she stops for the night at a motel she starts having second thoughts. Especially after talking with the young and sympathetic owner of the motel (Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates) who seems to be even more trapped than she is.

This is where the movie changes completely. This movie is not about Marion Crane and the 40.000 $, but about a psychopathic killer lurking at the motel. Marion is stabbed to death in the legendary shower scene and disappears out of the movie. A private detective appears, looking for the woman and the money, but he is also killed.

If you did not know the story already this would be one of the greatest plot twists in movie history. The entire premise of the movie is turned upside down and we are plunged into something a lot darker than a romance and a theft. Problem is we know this plot twist already. “Psycho” is one of the most iconic movies ever made, the shower scene is more famous than anything I can think of and we know Norman Bates is a psychopath. I feel robbed really. I wanted that surprise, the spectacular twist that people back then in 1960 would line up in long queues for and promise not to tell anybody about (another legend of the movie), but I can only guess how they most have felt. It is like watching “Sixth Sense” knowing that Bruce Willis character is already dead. Ufff…

Sure, I did enjoy it, how can you not. Anthony Perkins is absolutely perfect, both as a nice and shy young man, as a terrified and angry man and as a psychotic villain. Even knowing what he will eventually be doing it is difficult not to be sympathetic towards him. He may be one of the most interesting bad boys in movie history.

A second reason for liking it despite the surprise having been spoilt is the expert composition. “Phycho” is a case where cinematography, score and editing complements each other perfectly. The view from the motel towards that ominous house with the all-strings score is genius and so is the famous shower scene.

The one thing I did not like was the psychologist appearing in the end. I do not understand why we need a 7-minute lecture on Bates’ sickness at this point. It is pretty obvious what has happened by then and these things usually work better unexplained. On top of that the actor doing the lecture is absolutely awful. It is lecture as a show, posing for the camera and it looks ridiculously stupid. Cut this part and I would make “Psycho” a top tier Hitchcock.

At the end of the day it is difficult not to be impressed by this movie. I liked it a lot and probably more than I normally would thanks to the mediocre fare I have been offered lately, but objectively the parts of this movie that are famous deserve their fame. This is a movie you must see… from the beginning.

    

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Housemaid (Hanyeo) (1960)



Hanyeo
I have a certain affinity for Korea and Koreans. Through work I have visited Seoul many times and come to like it a lot. Going around is Seoul it is strange to think that this was not always a glitzy and modern place, that there was a time where Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world and that is not even that many years ago. Korea started this century as an occupied country and only just earned its freedom when it was thrown into a devastating war. Those were harsh times and it is no wonder that the first Korean entry on the List is as late as 1960.

At this time Koreans where eager to get out of the poverty and were very inspired by the West, most notably America. In that light Hanyeo, today’s movie, is an American thriller transplanted to Korea with a lot of focus on the necessity of earning wealth. Makes sense, no?

Hanyeo is a very effective movie. With obviously cheap tools (few sets and mediocre actors) the director Kim Ki-young is able to wrench an insane amount of intensity out of his ludicrous story. This is a horror thriller with a true monster who does not hesitate to kill and wreck to get what it wants and all that inside the home of a small family.

Dong-sik Kim (Kim Jin-kyu) is a musician teaching a class of women at a factory to sing. For some reason the women are madly in love with him. One girl sends him a love letter and is summarily dismissed from the factory and kills herself out of grief. A second one tries to get piano lessons from the musician and so enters his home.

At home Dong-sik Kim has a wife and two children. They just moved into a new house they can barely afford, but they are eager to get a high living standard and so the wife (Ju Jeung-ryu) sews at home and Dong-sik Kim accepts to take in the girl for piano lessons. However the wife is heavily pregnant so they decide to take in a housemaid and ask the piano girl to find one. And so she does… Myung-sook (Lee Eun-shim), the housemaid, is a monster from the nether realms of hell. While Dong-sik Kim managed to deflect the first girl and barely manage to deflect the piano girl (although she is pretty) Myung-sook is not so easy to get rid of. She forces Kim Jin-kyo to have sex with her (she practically rapes him) and then use that as a tool against him and his family. She starts to kill them off and their attempts to get rid of her are hampered by their unwillingness to lose their hard-earned wealth.  

The problem with this movie is that it is way over the top. Everything is super exaggerated, there is always thunder when Myung-sook appears, she will typically be looking in through a window when it is least opportune and she is raving mad. All the while the conflict is in fact entirely unnecessary. The family have plenty opportunity to get rid of her early on and there were plenty of signs that she was very unstable. Even later when she starts killing off the family members their excuses for keeping her sounds hollow and lame. Yet depite these issues it is still a very entertaining movie because of the nerve mentioned above and because Lee Eun-shim is great as the demonic housemaid. She goes way further than you would normally see in an American erotic thriller and even in European one. She is raw lust and need and completely controlled by her animal instinct.

Had the story been tempered with a less ludicrous script this could have been a great movie. As it is it is fun despite itself and I found myself laughing out loud several time. That is great, I love that kind of movies, but this could have been a different and far more sinister movie with a bit of care.

Also the ending is one of the weirder ones…

Friday, 3 March 2017

The Cloud-Capped Star (Meghe Dhaka Tara) (1960)



Meghe Dhaka Tara 
The year 1960 seems to be particularly heavy on depressive movies. I certainly feel I am caught up in a flood of them. I do not mind tragic stories, but this is starting to wear me out. I could really do with a bit of feel-good, but that will not be today, because today we are going to India again and India is, based on these old movies, just about the most depressive place in the world.

“Meghe Dhaka Tara” or “Cloud-Capped Star” is the story of a Bengal refugee family who probably used to be well off, but fled what is now Bangladesh and is now eking out a living in a refugee camp outside Calcutta (now Kolkata). It is not to be confused with the 2013 movie of the same name, which I found by mistake and got an hour into before I realized my error (it is also black and white and takes place around the same time). In any case in this family the father and the elder daughter Neeta (Supriya Choudhury) support the family, him by running a small school and her by tutoring children and students. Neeta is clearly gifted and was supposed to do a master degree, but she has become caught up in the job of supporting the family. As her father tends to waste away the money the family is completely dependent on Neeta’s income.

Neeta has a brother, Shankar (Anil Chatterjee), who dreams of singing. He does nothing all day but sing and beg money of Neeta for silly things like a shave. At least he is sympathetic if useless. Neeta’s sister Geeta (Gita Ghatak) is equally spoilt. She does nothing but complain about poverty and all the things she cannot get and of course beg money of Neeta. I believe there is another, younger brother as well who is studying. Their mother is one on those wailing mothers who does nothing but complain about everything while she toils for her useless children.

This is the story about Neeta. It starts bad and gets progressively worse. Her farther gets sick so she is now alone bringing home an income. She has a nice boyfriend, Sanat (Niranjan Ray), but when she insists that she cannot leave her household since they are all depending on her he gets frustrated and in steps Geeta and steals Sanat. Geeta does not mind leaving the household and Sanat promises to get decently wealthy. Did I mention that Geeta is a snake? Then the younger brother drops his studies and takes a job only to have a bad accident. Hospital treatment is not cheap and again it is Neeta who has to take care of it. Finally she contracts tuberculosis…

Basically the story is about Neeta’s sacrifice and suffering. When her family finally starts being grateful and a bit ashamed it is too late. Neeta’s life is washed out.

Such an uplifting story is exactly what you need on dark, winter nights…

Actually despite the obvious melodrama and Neeta’s intolerable family this is not a bad movie. It does have a progressive story and it is not as prone to stalling as other movies I have recently watched. Supriya Choudhury as Neeta is surprisingly good and her growing frustration and loss is felt more than seen as only good actors can do. This means that you cannot look away from the story and it moves surprisingly fast.

I am always struck by the poverty and grittiness of life in India in these old movies and this is no different. Neeta is of course a victim of that poverty, but more than that she is a victim of her own family. She willingly sacrifices herself for them and thereby she is also guilty in that exploitation. She could have objected and had a good education and a very good and dedicated husband, but she is caught up in her obligations and as a result she loses everything.

Add to that the irony that Shankar does become a famous and rich singer who buys the family a new house with two stories and that Sanat and Geeta gets beautiful children and prosper and Neeta can see that her sacrifice is thankless and did nothing for herself.

“Meghe Dhaka Tara” is a blow to the stomach, a movie intent on making you cry or get angry, but it is also a surprisingly well made movie. I am just not sure I can handle any more depressive movies right now.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Adventure (L'Avventura) (1960)



De elskendes eventyr
I frankly have no idea what to write about ”L’Avventura” (The Adventure). It felt like a very long and empty shell and I still have no idea what this was all about.

Let us just start with the story because that is very easy. A group of wealthy Italian people are going on a boat picnic to some volcanic islands off the Sicilian coast. Anna (Lea Massari) is uneasy about her relationship this Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti). I still have no idea exactly what was bothering her, but she seems quietly desperate. On the boat ride she lies about seeing a shark and confides that something is wrong to her friend Claudia (Monica Vitti). Then she disappears. They all go looking for her but to no avail. When the others resign the search and return to their lives Monica and Sandro continue looking for Anna.

They never find her but in the process of looking for her they start an affair with each other. Claudia is suffering guilt, not knowing whether she wants to fall in love with Sandro and that is about it. For 2½ hours.

To say that watching this movie was a frustrating experience is an understatement. Nothing happens. At all. It is a beautifully shot movie and particularly Monica Vitti is a revelation, but considering the critical acclaim of this movie there is clearly more to this movie, but what?

I will venture onto very thin ice and say that this may have something to do with the way Claudia perceives the world. I kept getting this feeling from her that she senses exactly what is going on around her, but lacks the words to express it and the ability to process it. You can see it in her eyes that reveal understanding or are disconcerted when she catches a wrong vibe. When Sandro hits on her she feels both guilt and that there is something not entirely trustworthy about Sandro.

Another possibility, and now I am really guessing, is that Claudia and Sandro are archetypes for men and women and the way the two genders understands and communicates with each other. Claudiu is all erratic and illogical feeling and unspoken needs and Sandro is all about getting into her pants, direct and literal. To me that sounds more like a cliché than archetypes and a tale that has been told a million times before.

Of course there is the possibility that this is not about anything at all, but just a 2½ hours of wasted time, something critics would never admit to not understanding and consequently praise it to the skies. A part of me likes this idea, but I honestly do not think it is that simple. This is Michelangelo Antonioni after all and the prizes it was awarded were quite significant, so I will probably have to resign and admit that it is just me being too stupid to get it.

What did make the movie somewhat bearable was Monica Vitti. Her expressive acting and sense of presence is outstanding and I understand she will feature in several more movies on the list. That is truly something to look forward to.

One of the more or less pointless scenes involves Claudia’s friend obviously having an affair with a young painter. The paintings he was making were quite interesting, sort of a mix of Miro and Picasso. It is kind of sad when this is what I remember from the movie.

Anyway, if anyone can explain to me why this movie is so fantastic please step forward. I am at a loss and very much need some help here.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Under Sandet (Land of Mine) (2015)



Under Sandet
I have just returned from a trip back to Denmark during which I stayed over with a friend of mine who had prepared a few movies for us to watch. We ended up choosing “Under Sandet”, a Danish movie from 2015 which has received an Academy nomination in the Best Foreign Language category. If it sounds unfamiliar it might help to know that it is released abroad as “Land of Mine”. I am not in the habit of reviewing new movies, but both the timing and the quality of this movie is exceptional.

The backstory of the movie is that during second world war the German army fortified the entire Atlantic and North Sea coastline in anticipation of an allied invasion. This included the Danish west coast. The hulking bunkers are in many cases still there as silent, grim reminders of a violent past, but a more immediate problem after the war were the millions of mines buried just under the sand. These had to be removed.

The sentiment was that those who placed them there could please remove them again so some two thousand German soldiers were sent to Denmark to clean the beaches. From an outside perspective that sounds reasonable enough. However the German army in 1945 was a rag-tag collection of children and old men. Hardly the gruesome Nazi’s that people loathed. The movie follows such a group of children dressed up as soldiers who is sent to do mine cleaning service. Remove 45.000 mines in three months and they can go home.

Their supervisor Sgt. Carl Rasmussen (Roland Møller) hates the Germans. We see that in the opening where he assaults and beats some German soldiers in a convoy simply for being German. Sgt. Rasmussen receives his troop of German “soldiers” in the same spirit and openly declares that he does not care if they all die clearing mines. The same goes for Karin (Laura Bro), the farmer who is paid to feed the soldier. She takes her revenge by simply not feeding them while Lt. Ebbe Jensen (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), the pioneer of the engineering corps in charge of the operation, takes a sick pleasure in killing as many as possible.

And a deadly task it is. Even for skilled minesweepers this is tricky business and with an average of six mines per hour it does not take a genius to figure out that from time to time something will go wrong. The movie has this slow pace that almost lulls you into complacency and then, boom, somebody blows up and every time it happens the simple brutality is shocking.

As already mentioned the troop consists of boys, not men. They hardly need to shave, they are shaking with fear of their task and they are completely out of place. The only army training they seem to have gotten is to do what they are told and to reply correctly to shouting. Beside that they are just big school children. There is a quiet despair to them as if they are accepting their lot, but at the same time do not understand why fate has placed them where they are. Soon, very soon, they are transformed from German soldiers to individual, gentle characters. Sebastian, Helmut, Ludwig, Wilhelm and the twins Ernst and Werner (Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Oskar Bökelmann, Leon Seidel, Emil and Oskar Belton) and so on. We, the audience soon find it difficult to hate them and gradually Sgt. Rasmussen must recognize them for what they are. It is that phenomenon that it is easy to hate people as a group but very difficult to hate them as individual human beings that is at the heart of the movie. As the boys are broken down, reduced both in number and spirit they come into focus as human beings even to cold hearted Karin.

This is a deeply humanistic message that goes much further than the movie and the shame that is felt by Sgt. Rasmussen and Karin can easily be transferred to other issues where groups are hated collectively and that is why this movie feels relevant today rather than just poking to our bad conscience of something that happened 70 years ago.

“Under Sandet” is a slow-moving movie, but it is a movie that grabs you around the heart and moves you, especially if like me you cannot accept cruelty to children. In a world of fast paced movies, it is an almost shocking experience to watch a movie that takes its time to let you know the characters. And double shocking when it then blows them away.

As far as I can see the movies in the Best Foreign Language category are all strong and I doubt “Under Sandet” will win it, but it is a worthy candidate and I can only recommend it.     

Friday, 10 February 2017

Shoot the Piano Player (Tirez sur le Pianiste) (1960)



Skyd på pianisten
”Tirez sur le pianiste” or ”Shoot the Pianist” is the second installment on the List from Francois Truffault. It is quite a departure from “Les Quatre Cents Coups” in several ways. Gone is the social-realistic pathos and oppressive self-importance to be replaced by playfulness and a mischievous sparkle in the eye. ”Tirez sur le pianiste” is a movie by people having fun rather than burning to tell an important story.

I liked “Tirez sur le pianiste” a lot more than I did “Les Quatre Cents Coups”.

It is a strange movie to describe because it is both very conventional and completely unconventional. The plot is something you would recognize from an American B-movie, but processed in a way that is not quite a parody but questions the very format of the film. I imagine that Truffaut and his team sat down and considered every scene of the movie and said: “Hey, wouldn’t it be totally awesome if instead of doing this or that the characters would do or be something entirely different?” In that sense the very format of the otherwise ordinary story becomes a playground.

Take for example the introduction. A man, Chico (Albert Rémy), is on the run from someone. He meets a complete stranger with flowers, chat him up and is told a lengthy story about a marriage grown from dislike to full blown love. He says good bye and continues to run to find his brother and ask for help. There is an obvious clash here that makes you wonder and even smile, but not enough of a clash to break the illusion. In the bar where Chico finds his brother Charlie (Charles Aznavour) people are dancing and having a great time, but when you look at the couples dancing they are outright bizarre. Again you raise your eyebrow and even smile, but not enough to break the illusion. Then Chico disappears out of the story only to reappear in the end and we now follow Charlie, who has a secret worthy of any B-movie, but taken that step further.

The only movie I can really compare “Tirez sur le pianiste” to is “Pulp Fiction”. Tarantino’s toying with the conventions of B-movies is entirely parallel to what Truffault does here. That makes it fun and entertaining and always surprising, but never so much that it brakes the frame of the larger story. Charlie and Chico are being hunted by two gangsters and it does end in a bloody shoot-out, but the road there takes some very peculiar turns. The gangsters are tough and persistent, but they are also talkative clowns who in the heat of things keep up conversations completely unrelated to what they are actually doing. Again not unlike Jackson’s and Travolta’s characters in “Pulp fiction”.

Another similarity are the sudden jumps in the story timeline introducing plotlines seemingly unrelated to the main plot. The jumps are very sudden and at times dizzying and reflect the play with the format. The situations in these often almost unrelated scenes are detailed and elaborate and I get the impression that much more attention was invested in getting these scenes right than in developing the main story and as such they often feel more like tableaux than parts of a progressive story.

Truffault actually manages to keep it all on track and never lets it slide too far and I think this is why it actually works. This could easily have become a spoof movie or a hopelessly arty movie, but it maintains the balance well enough to become neither.

That is until I saw the interview with Truffault in the extra material. His explanations to the movie were so highbrow and pretentious that I wondered if it was me who had completely misunderstood the movie. According to Truffaut “Tirez sur le pianiste” is an art project. In my understanding, it was a group of movie makers having a great time. I much prefer my version.

I would definitely recommend this movie to anybody with an affinity for early Tarantino movies. He must have watched this movie and been inspired. In its time “Tirez sur le pianiste” was not received well so I guess Truffault was about thirty years ahead of his time.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)



Lørdag aften søndag morgen
Back in the nineties I watched a number of British comedies that had that in common that they were all based in the British working class. Billy Elliot, Brassed Off, The Full Monty and Trainspotting to mention a few of them. They were quite enjoyable, at least I thought so, and I would gladly go to the cinema to watch them. These movies all hark back to “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” as the movie that introduced the working class in British cinema.

In its day “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” was quite revolutionary. I get the impression that British film until this point had little interest in what happened outside middle class and upper class circles, which considering the vastness of working class population was a bit of an oversight. “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” changed that practically overnight with provincial characters from the industrial hubs who spoke the local dialect and did not give a flying fart for the concerns of rich people. As such this movie has a lot of significance, but unfortunately it has not aged very well. Compared to its modern equivalents it lacks the comic levity that makes the harsher messages go down and the protagonist is from our modern point of view not likeable enough for us to root for him. The result is a movie that flounders and fail to engage me as much as it is obviously intended.

Central to the movie is Arthur Seaton (Albert Finney). He works at a factory in Nottingham and has only one concern in his life: To enjoy himself as much as possible. In fact his entire existence centers on that objective. The job is the means to it and the girls are the targets that bring him that gratification. He is way to self-centered to be concerned with other people and would mock or harass then without a flinch if it would make him laugh. Much of his escapades takes place over the weekends, hence the name of the move, though are not restricted to it.

Arthur is having an affair with the wife (Rachel Roberts as Brenda) of one of his colleagues at the factory, a nice fellow who Arthur actually likes. Arthur and Brenda does a lot of illicit humping (another first for British cinema!), but that does not stop Arthur for hitting on other girls. One day he meets Doreen (Shirley Anne Field) and he moves straight into action. Doreen is way above his level, not economically, but in terms of integrity and sheer human quality and should by all rights be unattainable for a scumbag like Arthur. Yet Doreen gets charmed and they start a relationship in parallel to his relationship with Brenda.

Then two things happen. Brenda gets pregnant with Arthurs child and Doreen would like to get their relationship more into the open. The seriousness of both hits Arthur like a hammer. To his credit he obliges both, helps Brenda with support to get an abortion (which she eventually does not go through with) and he gets serious with Doreen. The consequence is that he gets caught in his double game. In the dramatic scenes at the fair I am so certain that his entire world will come crashing down spectacularly, but the only thing that really happens is that he gets beaten up by the friends of Brenda’s husband. The rest is handled by some well-placed lies. Doreen seem not to mind, Brenda is out of his life and even her husband is happy to let it pass.

To watch a guy who is essentially an asshole get off so easy is frankly disappointing, not to mention that the climactic scenes actually fizzle. I had expected things to get a lot worse. The real penalty for Arthur seems to be that Doreen has tamed him and let him into a life of home and marriage and some degree of respectability, the antithesis of his previous prerogatives.

If Arthur had been funny or at least his pranks had been fun rather than mean and egoistic this could have been an enjoyable movie in line with its counterparts thirty years later. Instead I get increasingly irritated by Arthur’s irresponsibility and also maybe I also feel it is a bit unfair that he gets a nice girl like Doreen considering that he absolutely does not deserve her. The world is not fair, but it is annoying to be reminded of it.

I admit it is refreshing to see a different population segment than the usual, but that would probably be more appreciated by a local audience, not to mention an audience in 1960, where such things were very unusual. The same goes for youth rebellion. It is a timeless theme, but more of a novelty in 1960.  

All in all this is a movie whose quality is its significance in movie history, for what it set in motion, but not for what it brings an audience today. Everything interesting here really relates to the historic aspect. And then of course Doreen. She is a surprisingly pretty girl.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

La Dolce Vita (1960)



Det søde liv
Me and Fellini are not the best of friends. His movies are highly acclaimed, but generally fails to drag me into their universe. Usually, it would seem, I simply get annoyed with the characters and start shouting at them to get their act together, something I doubt was the intention with the movies. With “La Dolce Vita” I get the feeling that this is exactly the intention.

I would not go so far as to say that I liked “La Dolce Vita”, but at least I see the point and it is a point well made. It is comedic, but so bitter and acerbic that the laughter gets stuck in the throat. The rich and famous, the public and their intermediaries, the journalists, all get skewered in this biting satire, to the extent that I feel sorry for the lot rather than amused.

“La Dolce Vita” has no story arc, at least none that I could recognize, but is instead a 2 hours and 47 minutes tour through the idle depravity of the rich and famous and the sycophantic and parasitic envy of the public. Our eyes are those of Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni). He had aspirations of being a writer of novels, but earns a living as a gossip journalist. In that function he insinuates himself into the lives of the idle rich, but as an outside observer. It is clear from the beginning that a large part of him wants their lives and even pretends that he is part of it. This despite that he has a conventional fiancé at home (Yvonne Furneaux as Emma) burning with frustration that Marcello is out there partying instead of being home with her.

Marcello’s aspiration is pathetic and naïve as demonstrated by his infatuation with the over-dimensioned Sylvia (Anita Ekberg). He is virtually invisible to her, only to be used as a mirror of her own vanity. Later, in the course of the movie Marcello gets sucked into that world so that by the end he is no longer an observer but an integral part of it.

Is it then all he ever dreamt of? Who is to say. Marcello has clarity enough to care for his fiancé and appreciate the life she stands for. He has an encounter with his father that makes him realize what he has been missing in his life and most importantly he and Emma makes a visit to Marcello’s friend Steiner (Alain Cuny), a man who seems to have found all the true values in life: his children, nature, poetry and science. Marcello and especially Emma are full of admiration. Yet Marcello throws it all away for an empty, idle and ultimately stupid life in the fast lane. The glamour is simply too alluring.

The public fascination with the Dolce Vita of the idle rich is represented by the ever-present photographers who like insects swarm around them, latching on to everything they do. They manipulate and they are manipulated in that common interest of providing a show for the public. No more clearly demonstrated than in the scene of miracle in the fields. To me this was straight out of “Ace in the Hole”. The media here has no decency what so ever and it is no coincidence that the term paparazzi was originally a name of one of the photographers in this movie.

Fellini is spot on. History has proven him right except in one point. The depravity of the world was not complete by 1965. It could and would get a lot worse. Yet, I am not entirely sold by the movie. It is an uncomfortable movie to watch. The fun is not fun at all and the movie is so long that I got the point a long time before it ends. It is also rather depressing to watch. There is no redemption for these people. Even Steiner succumbs in the end and in this closed world of Fellini we are all heading straight for Armageddon. From an artistic point of view you cannot but admire Fellini, but this is no Sunday afternoon watch.

If we forget the story a bit there is a lot to enjoy in “La Dolce Vita”. First of all sheer amount of beautiful women. Anita Ekberg is way over the top, but for all the other roles Fellini has really gone out of his way to find quality actresses for this movie. That is of course part of the message. Beauty is surface and surface is all these people have. It is a bitter sweet truth, but quite enjoyable nonetheless.

There is also a strange fascination with all this depraved entertainment. Some of the costumes are really out there and the characters are quite imaginative. In their boredom they are really exploring the fringes of entertainment.

I doubt Fellini and I will ever be truly good friends, but at least with movies like this one I can respect him and that counts for something.