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Archive for February 24th, 2021

 © 2021 by James Clark

      Early on, in my tenure with Wonders in the Dark, I delighted in the films of Jacques Demy. In those days, I guess I was easier to please. In time, I realized that only two of his films transcended sentimental melodrama. Strangely enough, the two I came to embrace were his first two. The first, Lola (1961), had deftly threaded the needle of wit, disappointment and gallantry. The second, Bay of Angels (1963), pertaining to gambling on the roulette wheel, is a diamond-hard saga of a woman, Jackie, plunging into seducing the universe itself. How, then, did Demy become a student of ontological reflection, only to quickly abandon it? His paradigm, filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman, was made of stronger stuff.

Jackie, being not only a pariah but a poet, can (somewhat) bring to the table much of the emotion of what is lacking in civilization as we have come to know it. “We’ll live the high life.” (That latter phrase, many years later, becoming a title of a film by Claire Denis, another—more tenacious player—in the orbit of Bergman.) “Happiness makes me versatile… No! Voluble…” (Both terms having their value.) “The mystery of numbers… I often wonder whether God rules over numbers… The first time I entered a casino I felt as if I were in a church… He got custody of the baby… Lucky Strike… This display of flabby flesh makes me sick… Why deny this passion.?”

“Versatile”/ “Voluble.” The latter term can mean, “rolling effectively,” clearly the sense of a mystery which Jackie clings to as her only purchase upon planet Earth. Her disinterestedness, however, has sadly underestimated threading a needle of wit and gallantry. Going the extra mile, and then some, we have, first of all, however, the makings of confusion in the form of satire toward Christian  foibles. We are nonplussed by an apparition purporting to be the Devil, dressed as a contemporary corporate leader, spending much of his time admiring his face in a mirror. Make no mistake, this presentation is a challenge to discover those who are alert enough to see something discreet, very rare and crucial. Bergman’s film, The Devil’s Eye (1960), is a filmic treatise of the phenomena of bathos and pathos, and its stairway to the elements. Let’s see if this daunting puzzle can open your eyes. (more…)

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