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Archive for March 16th, 2011

 Copyright © 2011 by James Clark

      We are so accustomed to having films speak to us by way of players whose physical presence is, if not awesomely attractive, awesomely repellent, that, when we are confronted with a predominant protagonist like Sylvie Testud’s “Christine,” in Lourdes (2009), we become somewhat squelched. Writer-director, Jessica Hausner, has remarked that in preparing and producing her film, “I also thought about Jacques Tati a lot;” and in this she reminds us that although in works calling for heavy lifting we tend to rely upon eagles, in comedy the sparrows come into their own. (Her contrarian casting would, thereby, also tend to revere the similarly disconcerting holdups of Robert Bresson.)

    Hausner, like Tati, in M. Hulot’s Holiday (1953), plants a comprehensive misfit in a setting aspiring, with mixed results, to grandeur. But whereas Hulot is a devastating buffoon tearing to shreds, despite matey intentions, widespread hopes for a taste of the sublime, Christine is a squashed-in paraplegic and excursion-relief junkie whose schedule gently confronts the titular French spa/casino-like Catholic shrine nestled into the lovely Pyrenees. On a number of occasions she candidly avers to preferring “cultural” junkets, but that does not preclude her quietly appreciative engagement of the profoundly stimulating excitements on tap. “Excitements” brings us back to the sharp dose of sensory privation she has booked us into. (Here we are as far removed from laugh-a-minute comedy as we are from shock-a-minute violence.) As it happens, Christine travels in a large convoy of wheelchair-confined invalids, and their laying down a world of inertia takes nightmare proportions in dovetailing with thousands more of their ilk, converging on that centre of belief-therapy and its break-the-bank (long-shot, to be sure) promise of miraculous transformation. (more…)

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Director: Fritz Lang

Producer: Walter Wanger and Fritz Lang

Screenwriter: Dudley Nichols

Cinematographer: Milton R. Krasner

Music: Hans J. Salter and Ernie Burnett

Studio: Universal Pictures 1945

Main Acting: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea

Let’s get right down to the black heart of this film and begin at the end. Chris (Edward G. Robinson) has lost everything. Having murdered his mistress and framed her pimp boyfriend, he stands by as Johnny (Dan Duryea) gets the electric chair and is dispatched permanently. At first he thinks he could live with himself, but as the man on the train says, “Mr. Cross, nobody gets away with murder. The problem just moves in here (pointing to his heart) where you go on punishing yourself.” In the brutal 5-to-10 minute finale, Edward G. Robinson’s character not only goes through the emotional ringer but is also shown the cruelest hand of fate. As a suicide attempt fails, he must live with his overwhelming guilt and be humiliated further by seeing the paintings he created for Kitty (Joan Bennett) become important works of art with expensive price tags. Oh Come All Ye Faithful plays in an almost-mock amusement as the man’s fortune is destroyed in a most horrific fashion. There is no happy ending, just crushing resignation. (more…)

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