Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Films seen recently

I've been forgetting to write about films I've seen lately:

Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo from 1961 is one of the most hardboiled films I've ever seen. Toshiro Mifune in the lead (not "as the hero", since he's quite far from a regular hero) could beat the shit out of any other hardboiled hero. I mean, anybody. The film is effectively edited and photographed and the fight scenes are expertly staged. I seem to remember that the sequel (it was called The Samurai Sword in Finnish, was it so in the English-speaking countries as well?) is even more hardboiled and Mifune cooler than ever before or later. (Well, he doesn't exactly look cool in that picture.)

Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers: one of my all-time favourites. I said to Elina watching this: "You need to remember that when I die you print these words in my obit: "I'm dead today, shutting out all beautiful tomorrows"." That's what Groucho says when he mimicks Eugene O'Neill ("Why, you couple of baboons, do you think I would marry either one of you? How strange the wind howls tonight. It reminds me of poor old Marsden.") The film itself is very, very poor, poorly staged and photographed and clumsily edited. Yet, one of the very best. I haven't been as fond of Duck Soup as many others and I should nominate Monkey Business the best of the Marx films. "If a nightingale could sing like you..."

Aleksandr Dovzhenko's Zvenigora from 1927 was a very pleasant surprise after his abysmal last fiction film, Under the Red Flag (1939), a disjointed narrative that was filled with Bolshevik propaganda. Zvenigora was cryptic, poetic, delightfully and surrealistically stupid, with some great dream sequences. I detected that many people in the audience didn't understand all of what was going on - especially the scenes with Russian emigrées in Paris (or in Prague?) were a puzzle. I'd like to know whether the contemporary audiences knew what was happening.


Ville-Juhani Sutinen said...

Yeah, I think that scene was in Prague (...was the theater-episode in Paris?); well, I really enjoyed Zvenigora (much of the same reason, actually), especially in comparison with other directors of that era, first in Soviet Union and in Germany too, with country's expressionist directors... maybe I'll write about the film more at my Finnish blog Susi rajoilla today... to me suprising detail was that metareflective attitude towards the end of the film - I still can't decide if the comment from Tymish repeated at the Zvenigora hill (it was something like "Thank you for listening. The end.") after the theater was really meanted to be there... but it was great.

Juri said...

Will have to catch your post at Susi rajoilla. The ending was also a puzzle - was it being ironic towards the Bolshevik message that was sent in the scene in which the old guy was picked up by the happy workers in the train? (It was Julia Solntseva, if I'm not mistaken, the director's wife, who offered the old man a cup of tea.)

Hienoa, että kaksi suomalaista jätkää puhuu venäläisestä mykkäleffasta englanniksi!