Archive for July 7th, 2010

Screencap from Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 masterpiece ‘Persona’

 Copyright © 2010 by James Clark

      The truly startling thing about Ingmar Bergman’s cause célèbre, Persona (1966) (in addition to the startling beauty of its unfolding of intent in fabulous grey tones), is not the widespread (and, by now, decades-long) perplexity it arouses, but an also extant widespread comprehension of its innermost thrust. The doctor treating “Elisabeth,” an A-list actress who, to everyone’s surprise, has become mute (without any physiological cause), declares, “I understand your silence and immobility. And I admire you for it.” David Lynch, in casting, strictly on the basis of photos, the lead roles upon actresses Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring, for his Mulholland Drive (2001), without ever seeing them in action (beyond an interview; Watts, showing up in jeans, being told to come back next day, in a dress and make-up), was totally preoccupied about their coinciding with the physical presence of actresses Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman (who plays Elisabeth), the leads of Persona. He certainly knew his way around the issues of Bergman’s work, as we shall presently see. Elisabeth and her personal, full-time nurse, Alma, come to deal with that “silence and immobility” at the doctor’s summer home, by the seashore, with terrain very similar to that of the Sicilian island where enigmas are struggled with, in Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960). Antonioni would definitely have seen in Persona a distinguished variation on themes of compelling interest to him. That Elisabeth fell silent during a performance of Electra and its revelations about a vengeance-prone protagonist, brings forward potential embraces of this film by two work stations of contemporary expression, namely, the struggle with resentment, as primed by Nietzsche’s inroads concerning dynamics as pertaining to human intent; and the struggle with motion, as primed by quantum electrodynamics. That Elisabeth comes, after a dramatic interplay with Alma, to be swamped by the price of preciousness in her warring that struck a responsive chord in her doctor, a psychiatrist and a woman, links profusely with Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 (2004). Alma, frantically trying to recoup the gains with Elisabeth hitherto, cries out, “I’ve learned so much from you!” This tribute follows closely her spitting out, “I know how rotten you are!” And so Beauty and the Beast, and its wide constituency trailing out from Cocteau to Wong Kar Wai, constitute the remarkable level of investment which that popularly avoided item attracts. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 2005/2008 178m) DVD1

It was just a dream

p  Sarah Green  d/w  Terrence Malick  ph  Emmanuel Lubezki  ed  Richard Chew, Hank Corwin, Saar Klein, Mark Yoshikawa  m  James Horner (including W.A.Mozart, Richard Wagner)  art  Jack Fisk

Colin Farrell (Capt.John Smith), Q’Orianka Kilcher (Pocahontas), Christopher Plummer (Capt.Newport), Christian Bale (John Rolfe), David Thewlis (Wingfield), Jonathan Pryce (James I), August Schellenberg (Powhatan), Wes Studi (Opechancanough), Noah Taylor (Selway), Irene Bedard (Pocahontas’ mother), John Savage (Savage), Ben Chaplin (Robinson), Eddie Marsan (Eddie), Janine Duvitski (Mary), Roger Rees,

Come, spirit, help us sing the story of our land.”  The opening words to Terrence Malick’s fourth film, which in its extended version can now perhaps be seen as his greatest, evoke in themselves images of Homer, evocations and invocations of the Muse to tell of Odysseus far from Ithaca.  The parallel is not idly evoked, and there are similarities to be gleaned, but to label Malick’s odyssey as Homeric is merely one interpretation, like looking at an object through a prism from one particular angle in one particular light.  Turn the prism round, wait for better and darker light, and see other images, other dreams one might say, floating through the ether of the subconscious.  Flashes, almost subliminal, of Heidegger, Thoreau, Wagner (themes from whose ‘Rheingold’ mix with those of Mozart to form a hypnotic musical accompaniment) and John Milton, are glimpsed.  Milton may be the most telling, bearing in mind the film’s setting.  Milton was alive, if only a child, when Pocahontas was alive in England, and alive when her legend began to grow.  It’s a legend we all know, of the native American girl who entrances an English captain John Smith, comes to believe he’s dead, marries another Englishman, John Rolfe, only to find out when accompanying him back to England that Smith is still very much alive. (more…)

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