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Archive for October 28th, 2011

 by James Clark

      The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) seems to be a simple and exquisite tale of the vicissitudes of young love. A then-unknown Catherine Deneuve seems to carry the whole show on her perfect, stately and fragile shoulders. Jacques Demy has given her the name, “Geneviève,” likening her to the fair maiden of the lore of Camelot with its complement of brave warriors whose care for beautiful presences seems never to have been surpassed. The setting, the French port city ofCherbourg, comes to us in the first shot as all misty, watery, and antiquated. Some time into its actions, Geneviève has a crown placed upon her head by her and her mother’s dinner guest, “Roland Cassard,” whose fortune comprises impressive numbers of high-quality jewels. The crown is golden in color and paper in substance.

There is nothing frivolous about that moment crowned by a party favor. (Having arranged for her daughter to find the “bean” in her dessert, no-nonsense Mom chirps, “Pick a King and make a wish.” Geneviève, lovely and poised as propelled by an actress/prodigy in creating that impression, more than gratifies the already-smitten visitor by gazing into his eyes a quietly declaring, “You are my King.”) It comes at a point when the girl’s protracted anguish at being separated from her lover, “Guy,” due to his having been drafted to fight in the Algerian War, takes on the even darker hues instilled by her pregnancy, and his virtually breaking off communication. The two women, both of whom eke out their living from retailing umbrellas in a snug little shop situated directly beneath the dining room table, had very recently come to a meeting of minds on the subject of where their interests lie. But that concurrence has been struck only after a monsoon-like evocation of pain from seventeen-year-old Geneviève, translating directly into songful declarations of love and lamentations about its being shattered. That situation provides the memorable musical heart of the narrative, but it comes nowhere near exhausting the musicality of this remarkably complex and subtle film as a whole. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK/Netherlands 2007 135m) DVD1/2

A frozen moment of theatre

p  Kees Kasander  d/w  Peter Greenaway  ph  Reinier van Brummelen  ed  Karen Porter  m  Wlodzimierz Pawlik  art  Maarten Piersma

Martin Freeman (Rembrandt van Rijn), Emily Holmes (Hendrijcke), Eva Birthistle (Saskia), Jodhi May (Geertje), Nathalie Press (Marieke), Adrian Lukis (Frans Banning Cocq), Gerald Plunkett (Engelen), Michael Teigen (Carel Fabritius), Michael Culkin (Herman Wormskerck), Toby Jones (Gerard Dou), Kryzsztof Pieczynski (Jacob de Roy), Agata Buzek (Titia Uylenburgh),

Peter Greenaway hadn’t made a decent film in years.  The heady days of the Film Four financed eighties as distant a memory as the Thatcherite years they erupted from.  He was always there, though, like a demon that couldn’t be killed, banished into a bottle like a genie.  All it ever took was someone to uncork the bottle.  That someone had been formulating in his mind for some time, a film not just about the greatest of all Dutch masters but about his most chilling secret. 

            The time was right, too.  Dutch masters were all flavour of the month again after the success of the book and film of The Girl With a Pearl Earring, and while that was more about the artistic process than the artist’s lot, it brought the era back into focus with a never before seen clarity.  Simon Schama chipped in with an episode on van Rijn in his masterful The Power of Art, but his focus was largely on another conspiracy, the fate of his ‘Claudius Civilis’ in that most fateful of years, 1666.  The ignominy of having to butcher one’s own masterpiece – at least Von Stroheim and Welles didn’t have to perform their hatchet jobs personally, June Mathis and Robert Wise played the role of Judas for them – and the parallel is not lost when one looks at the dimly-lit fragment surviving fragment of that particular masterpiece.  (more…)

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