Archive for December 19th, 2009

by Allan Fish

(France 1924 11m) DVD1

A French straw hat

d/ed  Fernand Léger, Dudley Murphy  w  Fernand Léger  ph  Dudley Murphy, Man Ray  m  Georges Antheil (Paul Mercer DVD)

Kiki of Montparnasse,

Very few short films were as influential as cubist painter Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique.  Indeed very few short films could dream of being so influential.  There were other avant garde films of note made at around the same time, from René Clair’s Entr‘acte to Man Ray’s Le Retour à la Raison, yet Ballet is more fundamental than either of them.  One can see the traces of so much that was to come in its mere eleven minutes.

            It’s primarily lauded as the birth of cinematic surrealism, though a case could be made for Georges Méliès’ trick films really providing that, but this is undoubtedly where the style perfected by Buñuel and Dali, as well as numerous others at the end of the decade, was first born.  It has no plot, as one might have gathered, existing merely as what the title suggests, a mechanical ballet, a symphonic juxtaposition of images – mainly of mechanical devices and workings – frantically, and seemingly randomly spliced together.  Yet these individual shots and effects hark inexorably and unerringly forward to so many films. (more…)

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by Joel Bocko

Arnaud Desplechin’s Kings and Queen (2004) places just inside the top 50 on my “guide” list. That means that enough critics rated it in the year-end Top 10, or even their all-time list, to merit placement over such critical standbys as Pan’s Labyrinth or Russian Ark (it’s only a few notches below the widely beloved City of God). Not bad for a French film which lacks those other works’ narrative or formal gimmicks – Kings and Queen‘s dual (and eventually merging) narratives don’t quite provide the “hook” one usually associates with such wide acclaim, fairly or not. At first glance, Kings and Queen appears underwhelming, its high praise somewhat mystifying. (more…)

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