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Archive for November 14th, 2012

by Jon Warner

Groundhog Day was the summative collaboration between Harold Ramis and Bill Murray that spanned 6 films. Ramis wrote and/or directed for several of Bill Murray’s best and most loved early outputs, from the gross-out classics MeatballsCaddyshack, and Stripes, to slightly more “intelligent” fare like Ghostbusters, but it was with Groundhog Day that a certain key balance was found, eliminating most of the petty and stupid and swapping in the thoughtful, the existential, and the bittersweet. That’s not to say that this film isn’t funny, cause it’s absolutely hilarious. But it’s also something else…..a parable, a morality play, an examination of our humanity.

Unless you’ve lived in solitary confinement for the last twenty years, you already know this film well, and for some of you, you know it by heart. Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a TV news weatherman based out of Pittsburgh who is slated to cover the festivities of Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, in Punxsutawney, PA. He travels via van with his new producer Rita (Andie McDowell), and his cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott). It does not take long for us to realize what a smug and arrogant man is Phil Connors. From his constant putdowns of Rita and Larry, to his complaining about the trip, to his hitting on Rita, to his sarcastic coverage of the event itself, it is clear that he has alienated himself from others to the point of no-return. Always on the lookout for himself, his day is one big me-fest. After covering the event, the crew tries to return to Pittsburgh, but is halted by a blizzard (which of course Phil failed to predict), forcing Phil, Rita, and Larry to return to Punxsutawney for another night. Phil wakes up the next morning at the B&B where he’s staying and finds that it’s Groundhog Day, Feb. 2 all over again. This occurs the day after…..and the day after…..and again…..and again. Feb. 2, Feb. 2, Feb. 2…….. (more…)

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© 2012 by James Clark

The film, Balthazar at Risk (1966), by Robert Bresson, envelops us in a flood of the most intimate cares of consciousness by reason of the donkey/protagonist’s constancy of cherishing his life and its myriad implications with others. The rewards of that work consist of revealing what pinnacles of grace, beauty and excitement inform conscious existence. Its currency factors down to a loving embrace of the infinite problematicness of carnal sensibility.

One cannot overestimate the importance of that filmic offering. But, on ushering in this freeing of primordiality, Bresson was in no mood to rest on such laurels. Quentin Tarantino approached, with great verve, in his Reservoir Dogs, something important that Balthazar could not have covered (but, which Bresson proves subsequently to recognize), namely, a retaliative motive with which to possibly overcome the vast distemper of intent besetting all players in world history. However, he was at one with the Bresson of Balthazar in presupposing entities in the game who could bring startling and photogenic resolve to the deadness of history. In Mouchette (1967), Bresson began to address the chilling reality of large territories completely devoid of that resilience indispensable for major historical efficacy. That would bring into the transaction with his audience a significantly different protagonistic ignition of the warfare that had kept those few stalwarts in their seats. In the later work, we no longer weigh the ordeal of a figure showing some life on the screen. Instead, in a late work like, The Devil, Probably (1977)—that phrase chording with Balthazar’s, “Besides, he’s a saint…—we’re in for a seamless web of studiously maintained enervation, from out of the details of which to embrace a figure not straightforwardly present but looming in the past (here the past of cinema), who can evoke for the viewer privy to this film’s antithetical heart, a route by which to see about the matter of becoming equipped for the open road. (more…)

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