Gilda (dir. Charles Vidor, 1946): The tagline read, “Was there ever a woman like Gilda?” Indeed. Upon a more recent viewing of this long-been favorite, it appears much less textbook Mulvey than previously alleged. Gilda’s sort of the pawn, the tennis ball; but she’s also got more power than the two men/players combined. Would make sense to consider her the substitute for the phallic (or is it?) sword-cane that Ballin wields before Gilda’s arrival and once she’s given him up for Johnny. So the instrument only makes appearances when Ballin is sine-Gilda. She has her breakdown(s), of course, but so do the men, losing their cool in a dual of male compensation. The previously commented-upon facets remain strong and interesting, but this film as a whole stands out for defying simple genre categorization and containing what are easily some of the sauciest and sassiest scenes from 1940s American film. The above clip constitutes perhaps the best female entrance ever in cinema.
Andrei Rublev (dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966): Second viewing of this one, and words continue to fall flat next to such images and the ideas, feelings, and thoughts they represent and suggest. After all, the narrative concerns an icon painter whose doubts about what lies on the other side of the images paralyze him from creating said images. How a film, above all other forms of art, could do justice to such a theme seems impossible. Something about the animals in this film, too. Horses, cows, birds – majestic, transcendent, beautiful; bruised, injured, set aflame. 205 minutes, but not a superfluous moment.
Côte d’Azur or Crustacés et Coquillages (dir. Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau, 2005): In many ways this is Feast of Love but in France and done by the French; certainly superior to the U.S. film by its relative lack of pretense. Summer vacation on the Riviera with a Parisian family who is anything but repressed in the broadly moral sense but each of them keeping and suspecting the others of keeping some illicit secrets, a number of them homosexual in nature. Has some very fun moments that seem to be inspired by Bollywood style song-and-dance routines showing up a couple times without warning. Despite the amoral element, a familial cohesion and ultimate optimism reigns that isn’t particularly true to “reality,” but in this little world the film has created, it works okay.
Rhapsody in August (dir. Akira Kurosawa, 1991): Would prefer to devote extensive length to this, but alas, time again forbids. Kurosawa is back in classic form here following a string of tragedies (especially Kagemusha and Ran) and then the exquisite Dreams. Rhapsody in August has moments of The Lower Depths and Red Beard that is as “Ozu” as Kurosawa ever gets, and some aesthetic insertions that recall both Dodes’ka-den and Dreams. The outcry that this film was “blaming” the U.S. for dropping the bomb is exceedingly naive and uninformed. Of course, we did drop the bomb, twice, on hundreds of thousands of civilians. But also, this film isn’t wrestling with anything very “American,” per se, but rather with (as is very customary in Kurosawa’s oeuvre) what it is to be Japanese at this particular time in history. Being the late-2oth century, that now means dealing with the post-industrial, postwar, Westernized Japan and the ramifications of having so may of one’s progeny living in the U.S. and mixing blood with Americans. The fact that it isn’t simply “the U.S.” here but Hawaii in particular pointedly alludes to Pearl Harbor, for all those who think Kurosawa was negating any Japanese culpability in the war. Kurosawa highlights the horrific and the heavenly, the ugly and the beautiful, with an amplified and otherworldly palette of textures and colors.
Sleeper (dir. Woody allen, 1973): Still funny, still biting, still smart.