Archive for February 19th, 2010

Sylvie Testud in Jessica Hauser’s ‘Lourdes’ at Film Forum

by Sam Juliano

Wholly original in its concept and execution, Austrian director Jessica Hausner’s Lourdes is a cross between the austerity of Bresson and the deadpan minimalism of Aki Kaurismaki as the film broaches issues of faith and celestial power without offering any concrete answers.

Filmed at the Catholic holy site of Lourdes, a once hidden enclave in the extreme southwestern part of France, just miles from the border with Spain just above the Pyrenees, this is as observational and non-committal a film we’ve seen in some time, yet it’s aesthetic beauty and art house underpinnings make it alluring for the eyes and the ears, while simultaneously raising questions that had their origin all the back in 1858, when a young 14 year-old village girl, Bernadette Soubirous made claim to getting visits from the supposed Blessed Virgin Mary on eighteen occasions at the nearby Grotto of Massabielle.  It was subsequently argued by theological figures that ‘miracles’ happened in the town, and that a number of people were cured by disease and illness.  The story was written for a novel and a subsequent Hollywood film starring Jennifer Jones appeared in 1943, winning Ms. Jones the Oscar for ‘Best Actress.’  The town attracts millions of tourists each year, and religious zealots seek the ‘cleansing by holy water’ that was long believed to be the method of healing.

As a work of religious custom and orthodoxy, and as a showcase of the somber, almost intimidating meditative beauty of Christian rituals, Lourdes is unquestionably an arresting film, right from the opening scene where visitors are gathered in a holding area, while Franz Schubert’s ravishing “Ave Maria” is sung on the soundtrack with an entrancing spirituality, through it’s adherence to tradition and reverence, beautifully lit by cinematographer Martin Gschlacht, in a number of stationary shots.  But Gschlacht wisely lets the magnificence of the settings stand on their own.  The painterly compositions are often underscored by some of J.S. Bach’s most spiritually captivating organ works. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Sweden 1921 95m) DVD2

Aka. Korkarlen; Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness

Death rides by

Charles Magnusson  d/w  Victor Sjöstrom  novel  Selma Lagerlöf  ph  Julius Jaenzon  art  Alexander Bako, Axel Esbensen

Victor Sjöstrom (David Holm), Hilda Bergstrom (Mrs Holm), Tore Svennberg (Georges), Astrid Holm (Sister Edit), Concordia Selander (Sister’s Edith’s Mother), Olof Âas (Korkarlen), Einar Axelson (Holm’s brother), Nils Aréhn (Fängelsepredkanten), Lisa Lundholm (Sister Maria), Tor Weijden (Gustaffson),

There is a reaper and his name is death” we were continually told in Berlin Alexanderplatz.  Well, here’s the first appearance of the Grim One in person, a film whose influence still reverberates in Scandinavia.  Ingmar Bergman made a point of watching it every New Years Eve and one can easily see why.  The source of so much of his early inspiration is here (where would The Seventh Seal have been without it?), its director Sjöstrom given one grand last hurrah by Bergman as old Professor Isak Borg in Wild Strawberries. (more…)

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