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Archive for July 17th, 2019

 © 2019 by James Clark

      These days, an old black and white film about God will find few takers. However, there is a still-practicing filmmaker, namely, Claire Denis, who pulls out all the stops to revisit such a vehicle. Is she a nun? Nope. Is she a God-fearing militant in favor of aid to the distressed? Nope. Is she a social scientist, tracking religious consequences through the ages? No, no, no. What Denis’ excitement pertains to, is the work of that mostly shunned movie, called, The Seventh Seal (1957), created by notable-no-longer filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007), whose output engages the intrinsic disaster of piety and smarts. (The word, “intrinsic,” is crucial here. And as such, her perspective is problematic, not formulaic.) In addition to piety and smarts, that film spotlights a young couple of itinerant circus performers in the 12th century, the husband, Jof, agog with the possibility that their baby boy could become a dazzling acrobat, or a juggler, pulling off an “impossible” trick, the kind of trick only an oracle would imagine.

Intrinsic in the travelling folks’ itinerary, is the sentence of being left out of the lives who, if not making the world go round, making the world theirs. 35 Shots of Rum (2008) contemplates the hopes of Jof, almost a millennium shot forward. As such, our film today carries the special bonus of catching up to, once again, the bittersweet world of Jacques Demy and the musical muse of Demy’s soulmate, Michel Legrand (setting out the latter master’s magical transcendence by way of those deft swallows, the Tindersticks).

Diminutive Jof comes a cropper with the salt of the earth in a medieval beer hall, and, by way of putting a less embarrassing story in the mix, he tells a gathering at his caravan that he “roared like a lion” against the mob. Our protagonist today, Lionel, a Paris commuter train driver (far from Jof’s open road), is an African immigrant-widower who dotes on his adult daughter, Josephine, still living with him. The action here is pensive in a puzzling way. Whereas Jof and Marie are on the hook to circumvent various substantial evils (the plague, for instance), Lionel and Jo seem to lead a rather uneventful, mundane existence. Their reticence to speak (a less extreme strategy of the vow to silence, in Bergman’s, Persona [1966]), counting upon face and body language, becomes a form of poetry you could study for years. (more…)

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