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Archive for the ‘TRAGICOMEDY’ Category

The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp

14 Dec

The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp – written, directed, produced by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger. Comedy. 2 hours 43 minutes. Color 1943.

★★★★

The Story: Sixty Years of advancing pig-headedness in the life of a British military professional and his loyalty to love of every kind.

~

How privileged I am to watch another super-duper movie in a row. This Pressburg/Powell offering was controversial in its day because it envisioned a friendship with a German military officer while WW II was being waged at the same time as it showed an old-fashioned British military professional who had a hard time adapting to modern warfare who was friends with him.

The Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger Siamese Twins wrote, produced and directed collectively The Red Shoes, The 49th Parallel, Stairway to Heaven, Black Narcissus, I Know Where I’m Going, and a number of other remarkably watchable pictures. This was Emeric Pressburger’s favorite and is among their best. It has on some lists been called the best English film ever made.

Martin Scorsese, whose style was influenced and informed by Michael Powell’s style, introduces the film and appears in the documentary on Powell. Powell’s wife became and remains his editor. Every director in the world has learned from P/P.

Scorsese says Roger Livesey is his favorite actor and Anton Walbrook is his next favorite. My favorite is Anton Walbrook and my next favorite is Roger Livesey. And every actor in the world has learned from these two.

Livesey plays a young, virile, rash officer whose adventurous spirit takes him to Germany, where he meets the love of his life, played by Deborah Kerr, aged 22.

He also meets his future best friend, a German Officer played by Anton Walbrook.

If you want to know anything at all about acting and how it is done, watch Walbrook here deliver a long monologue in one shot, no interruptions, no outside dialogue. Simple, internal, and both slow and quick simultaneously. He does not milk it. He exists inside the shell of a hopeless situation, which nothing he can do or say can change. Pressburger wrote it just like that. And just like that Walbrook delivers it. I watch it nearly falling off my chair for fear Walbrook will not be able to negotiate it. And in that complete him and become him.

Roger Livesey is lovely as the Colonel Blimp character, an old duffer in his nonage, a romantic husband in his middle age, and a bashful fool in his youth.

The cameraman on the picture was the great Jack Cardiff, the Michelangelo of Technicolor, so you are ravished by eye. The script remains consistently witty and endearing. And, despite the title, Colonel Blimp never dies. Thank goodness!

I don’t tell plots or stories of film because it spoils the surprise. Be prepared for this one to go on a bit after you thought it would end, and then go on some more. But its length turns out always to be agreeable, sufficient, and necessary. Don’t miss it, my dears.

The extras that go with it are tops.

 

Irrational Man

09 Aug

Irrational Man – written and directed by Woody Allen. Perfect Crime Comedy. 96 minutes Color 2015.

★★

The Story: While deciding on an affair with a student, a philosophy professor decides instead to better humanity by killing someone.

~

The story does not work because the main character, the professor, is stunningly miscast.

Joaquin Phoenix cannot articulate the role at all. That is to say, he cannot get his mouth around the words he is asked to say.

One wonders what Woody Allen had in mind in hiring him. Phoenix is a great actor, but devoid of imagination for any style that does not correspond to his own intestinal depths. In brain-damaged roles, those depths are wonderful, but he is an actor incapable of a thought. He cannot imagine how to play an intellectual, because his acting instrument is not tuned for it: a respected, highly accomplished, well published full philosophy professor working at a New England college such as Bard.

Phoenix is a master-musician of the crude but sensitive soul. But Allen should not ask him to dally in a realm perfect for Jeremy Irons blindfolded. In his mouth every line Allen has given him sounds ill-written, phony, off-key. He cannot act them, that is to say, he cannot get his nature around the expression of a character whose life is of the mind.

So, unwittingly, he turns into a platitude what might, for Allen, have been an interesting excursion into rash land. Phoenix doesn’t mean to, of course; he’s not mean spirited or doctrinaire; he’s just not bright in the way required. For in his life he has chosen an engine for acting which forbids his operating in any other style save the one he has already installed. He runs on diesel, not gas.

He is not helped much by Emma Stone who appears to be a rather ordinary young actress playing a rather ordinary young woman. She’s a good actor, but her efforts batter against the brick wall of Phoenix’s technique like custard pies hurled at a Richard Serra wall.

The film is beautifully mounted by Santo Loquasto as usual. The music is tops. The costuming is questionable, since, in class, it keeps Phoenix in the same dull shirt for weeks, and it keeps Stone in skirts so short she looks like a toddler in didies. When she gains wisdom, the designer covers her legs, duh, in slacks.

The supporting people are darling. We even have Parker Posey, who almost turns her character into a substitute for the main interest– a stand-in waiting to go on. None of this salvages the film. You cannot mount a Perfect Crime Movie with the perpetrator played by Goofy.

 

Oblomov

09 Aug

Oblomov – Directed by Nikita Mikhailkov. Tragi-Comedy. A young eligible Russian aristocrat just won’t get out of bed. 142 minutes Color. 1979.

* * * * *

It contains the most heart-rending love scene ever put on film. Oh yes, it does. It’s a film version of the famed Russian novel about a fat Hamlet who won’t take action, or even take the action of contemplating taking action. Oblomov is a character I began by finding infuriating and ended up finding endearing. Mikhailkov is the director of Burnt By The Sun and other masterpieces of typically Russian stories and characters. Unlike Tarkovsky whose work has universal subjects, Mikhailkov brings you Russians of all stripes and conditions. Odd, funny quirky and with great particularity of Russian place and manner and costume and detail. Oh, well, I rattle on. This piece is beautifully acted; its scenes are perfectly poised in terms of camera and point of view. And my heart broke, and I loved it. Oscar nominated, of course. Sometimes hard to endure because the comedy and the tragedy is that we are all Oblomov.

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