Bergman Through A Glass Darkly BeforeWeDieFilms.com

#393 Through A Glass Darkly (Såsom i en spegel) (1961)

Cracks in a family gathering emerge over the span of twenty-four hours in Bergman’s Through A Glass Darkly. A family descends on an island for a vacation. Unwanted gifts are unwrapped, and a father leaves a picnic to break down in an isolated room. This relatively simple tale examines the desperation surrounding the effects of mental illness on a family. An “immaculately wrought drama…allows nothing to dilute the force of its emotional and philosophical thrust” in a film that is simple, stark, striking, and even terrifying at times (Andrew). A masterpiece of existential confusion.

We watched Through A Glass Darkly on Criterion DVD (#209).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Through_a_Glass_Darkly_(film)

Jennifer

A surprisingly small cast and sparse setting deliver an emotionally powerful and honest portrayal of mental illness. For me, this film reminded me a great deal of Splendor In The Grass, even though this film predates it. Both of these films capture a unique brand of hysteria and its effects on the day to day lives of family and friends who love the victim. Even though the film was shot entirely in black and white with English subtitles, this did not detract from the universal experience of loving someone who is suffering.

Garrett

An absolutely beautiful film that would work just as effectively on a stage as it does on the screen. Having a lot of firsthand experience helplessly witnessing loved ones suffering from the effects of mental illness as it transforms their persona in terrifying swings, I found a lot of beautiful accuracy of the pain and frustration that this film portrays. This helplessness is incredibly and beautifully rendered in both the literal and figurative aspects of this film, from the simple script to the striking sets around the island. As the terrifying reveal approaches to present the extent of Karin’s illness (impressively captured in Harriet Andersson’s performance), we feel as drained and exhausted as the men in her life who care about her. This film was hard to watch at times, but certainly captures the “silence of God” that Bergman set out to bring to the screen in his story (Andrew).

#500 Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Clocking in at the exact halfway point of Schneider’s original 1001, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is the French-Polish director’s first Hollywood film and one of four of his films on the list. Mia Farrow’s performance as a soon-to-be mother careening toward uncertainty is utterly spectacular, switching her audience’s belief of whether she is suffering severe pre-partum paranoia, a reasonable distrust and crumbling allegiance of friends and family, or the terrifying question as to whether the Dali-esque rape sequence was a dream or reality.

This film’s early horror genre is in amazing hands with Polanksi’s interpretation of the pulpy book, “weaving together…(a) taut, focused, building sense of dread…(still keeping audiences of today) in awe of (his) detail, his rhythm and pacing, his skill with his actors, and the fine script he adapted for the screen” (). A magnificent flick that features Ruth Gordon in her much-too-delayed Oscar-Winning role as Best Supporting Actress, Rosemary’s Baby is a film that by all standards shouldn’t hold up today, and yet does so with such energy and gusto that it can only be credited to Polanski’s vision and its striking observation of the horrors and uncertainty of the mysteries of even the most perfect modern pregnancy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary%27s_Baby_(film)

This is also officially the first time one of our regular posts has been able to crossover with Movie Posters By Me! Check out Episode 18 below…

Jennifer

Well… I am very glad I didn’t watch this movie while I was pregnant. In my opinion, this movie is pretty perfect from start to finish.  There is a slow but steady build up of dread that compelled me to watch more as the feeling of more and more bad terrible things are coming. The genius of this movie, besides its remarkable actors, is a breathless waiting for the “gotcha” part. At so many different points I was positive something terrible was going to happen – but didn’t.  Most of the movie leaves one to guess about what is and is not real or imagined. Who is sinister? Who is pretending? How much of it is in Rosemary’s head?  The last 20 minutes of the movie are a perfect roller coaster dive of action and revelation.  After watching it, I realized how perfectly every little moment of the film is – so many things I barely noticed at first ended up being significant to the ending of the film. The location and the mood of the movie are perfect, with Rosemary’s apartment itself established in the very first scene of the movie as being that significant prison that the atmosphere of the piece as a whole rests upon. A great film.

Garrett

I really enjoyed Rosemary’s baby. I am not one to get scared by any paranormal entities at all, especially those surrounding religion, but what sets this film apart from much of the hype that surrounds those tropes is the fact that Polanski has directed a film that puts its weight on questioning the pregnant-hysteria of his protagonist, the structure of her social and emotional support systems, and almost in hindsight, the possibility that this is the child of some horrific devil-entity. I think Polanski did an incredible job in structure and execution, the various surreal scenes being edited in such a way that they generally didn’t feel as ridiculous as I am sure they could have been in any less capable hands. When it got to the end, in my opinion, the reveal was a little disappointing for me, however, I can easily blame that for my brand of 2017 skepticism. Still, from dialogue to editing, camera work to performances, it is easy to understand what makes this film have such staying power – and for something made in the late sixties to early seventies, it is easy for something like this to age poorly. This is certainly credited to Polanski’s adept filmmaking. Finally, just as Jenn mentioned, there was a point where we turned to each other and said, “imagine what it would have been like to watch this pregnant?” Mine was at the line where the doctor told her not to read any books and talk to any friends about her pregnancy. If there is anything I can say that this film nails the most (and I sincerely mean this without any irony or the hyperbole the film clearly contains), it is the confusing, complicated, bizarre, troubling, and terrifying process of modern pregnancy… for everyone involved.

#484 Week End (1967)

Week End is easily the most bizarre of Jean-Luc Godard’s films. A strange satire rife with paint-blood contrasted with striking real violence, this radical film presents an episodic, loose, audacious storyline that moves from “a mundane phone conversation becom(ing) an absurdly charming musical number, (to) our heroes encounter(ing) fairy-tale characters in the woods, (to) main characters meet(ing) grisly ends at, really, any time at all….(and a) traffic jam-interrupted by Godard’s irrepressible penchant for didactic, elliptical intertitles…(featuring) zoo animals, boats, an occasional picnic, and a hell of a lot of blood (that) the director once famously said, its nothing to worry about: It’s really only red paint” (de Seife).

What we are left with is a sharp satire that breaks many rules of filmmaking. The result is a piece that was relatively divisive between the two of us. No matter what the opinion, it’s absolutely clear that this film made a striking impact on Before We Die Films.

We watched Week End on Criterion DVD (#635).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weekend_(1967_film)

Jennifer

So, wow.  The first half of this film I found very disorienting and disconcerting. Godard’s piece is another film from the mid-1960s (we’ve seen a few from our list, recently) that turns traditional movie narrative structure on its head by inter-cutting somewhat mundane scenes with shockingly graphic and gratuitous chaos.  This is not a film that you can relax with some popcorn. There’s no relaxing. No part of this movie is predictable except for the fact that every scene seems to have more shock value than the last.

I can’t say that this is one of my favorite films on our list or even one that I’d watch again, but it is also like no movie I have ever seen. I can appreciate the bold and quite ambitious message this film delivers to its audience.

Garrett

I thought this film was pretty innovative and amazing – but the caveat is, it is pretty innovative and amazing for what it is. This isn’t a film with a clear linear narrative structure, nor is it a film whose job it is to make the audience feel. As a matter of fact, I think its job is to do quite the opposite, that is, to make the audience aware of their own desensitization and laugh at our own ignorance of what life truly is via his narrative. As the characters are desensitized in the film about everything from traffic to cannibalism to extreme violence to magic, miracles, music, colonialization, exploitation, and even the what little remains of story itself, it is clear our reaction (mirrored by those of our two main protagonists) is meant to be that this is simply a film that is a statement and realize that we shouldn’t look beyond the surface. It exists as a statement through its strange sketches, overt and confounding use of the Godardian jump cut, extreme color, and fictional characters evoking other real-life and fictional characters, and then literally setting fire to everyone and every thing.

Godard said, “if it would have been possible to make the film dirtier pornography, then I would have.” Every frustration he has comes out in this film. Frustration with form and expression, frustration with war, fascism, and violence, frustration with sex, frustration with consumerism. Every aspect of these frustrations with the world he lives in is illustrated in Weekend, from the senseless, violent slaughter of a pig on camera to a terrifying car accident from which our female protagonist emerges and screams, “my bag! My Hermes bag!” as it burns in the inferno along with several other motorists. The transference of meaning and lens of commentary then transitions to us, the audience. The film begins with a long description of an orgy, and ends with a question – was it a dream or reality? And our character doesn’t know. This statement leads to the literal burning of society in traffic punctuated by miles of bloody car wrecks – sex, violence, frustration, exploitation. The dirtiest pornography that, of course, ends in a literal slaughter and characters feasting on the meat of other characters.

I really enjoyed this film – but the problem with Weekend is that it is what it is… A beautiful museum piece whose ‘end of cinema’ occurs precisely in 1966. It is a commentary on humanity that remains frozen in a specific social time and place, and while it is extremely successful at what it is and we still struggle with the same issues today, it lacks the heartbeat of a narrative that awakens our hearts. But the thing is, to Godard, that is precisely the point.

I read the collected essays that came in the Criterion release book, and they were fantastic studies. Gary Indiana’s analysis breaks down what the film means in its most elemental forms using bookmarks of events to steer his reading of the piece. Bergala’s excerpt from his book feature behind the scenes interviews and rundowns from the cast and crew, and this is a further dissociation from the final product that offers interesting insight into how their performances and choices transferred to the screen (my two most fascinating ones were Darc’s improvisation of the Hermes line and the fact that she was originally slated to do the opening psychoanalysis scene nude and Godard changed his mind last minute so they had to go out and buy her underwear). Finally, Godard’s interview with Jonathan Cott was fascinating. His genius bleeds through what few sentences come straight from his mouth in twenty-five or so answers. It is easy to be mesmerized by the way his mind makes connections as well as his various responses that work on the micro scale of his film, but also the macro scale of his career and his work’s place in and commentary of the world at large. A beautifully curated collection.

#469 Come Drink With Me (Dà Zuì Xiá / 大醉俠) (1966)

How about a little Shaw Brothers and a little Shaw Scope for your eyes? Can’t handle it? Go find some of your fake kung fu, because we’re buckling in for a ride on the King Hu train, losers. Tonight we watched Come Drink With Me (Dà Zuì Xiá / 大醉俠), and what an absolute blast this film was. King Hu “revolutionize(d) the martial arts costume drama…(showcasing a) mastery of all aspects of the medium, especially his inimitable approach to editing” (Peña). His portrayal of the merciless Golden Swallow waltzing into town to deliver some much-needed justice is a thrill ride from beginning to end, and the touching, slow scenes with Drunken Cat are just as wonderful as the action-packed, bloody, quick, precise action sequences.

This film was a lot of fun, and the production quality truly accentuated a genre thirsty for work like this to pave the way for directors like Ang Lee’s work decades later.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_Drink_with_Me

Jennifer

This movie was very entertaining!  Lots of great choreography, bloody battles, settings, and costumes. A classic 1960’s martial arts film. The heroine in this movie fights some bad guys to rescue her kidnapped brother.  She inadvertently falls in love with a martial arts master. They go on to kick major bad guy butt together. This movie is visually stunning and leaves little room for boredom.

Garrett

I really enjoyed this film. From its opening sequence, it was clear that the director was going to take us on a ride through a valley of danger, double-crossing, and intense, bloody swordplay. Knowing nothing about this film ahead of time, I had few expectations, but it was a beautiful joyride through the narrative. The costumes, excellent performances, and obsessive attention to detail transported us to a world of martial arts high adventure. Come Drink With Me is truly a fun hour and a half diversion that fully encapsulates the audience in a striking, magical, dangerous land.

#404 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Lawrence of Arabia is a true epic Hollywood film that brings audiences to another time and place while also managing to be in-your-face with its production value balancing a subtle art and metaphor in a super-long, super-technicolor manner that you don’t seem to mind even though several hours have passed. Lawrence “epitomizes all that motion pictures can be…from Maurice Jarre’s sweeping score to Robert Bolt’s literary script to Freddie Young’s Gorgeous desert cinematography to the literal cast of thousands,” Lean’s beautiful film presents “the follies of colonialism and the hypocrisies of war” as a “true epic with the scope and scale of great literature” (Klein).

We watched the film over several nights, and we were surprised how often we found ourselves gasping out loud, pointing out something huge and amazing to one another, and finding ourselves swept up in the scale and brilliance of a film that deserves every single accolade that has been heaped on it. We promised that when the opportunity to see the film in 4k or 70mm arises that we will drop everything and make the trip. This film is simply definitively moviemaking – tell an original story with a message in a unique way that only cinema can capture. Lean’s film is unparalleled, human, global, and timeless. O’Toole’s performance of the enigmatic and troubled Lawrence is stunning, with his bright blue eyes cutting through the screen the entire film. Just as remarkable was Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali. Lawrence of Arabia is a masterpiece.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_of_Arabia_(film)

Garrett

I was absolutely floored that I had never seen this film. I knew little about it going into it, and frankly, I was ignorant to what O’Toole was doing in the costume and perhaps that wasn’t dust but unfortunate makeup and a hundred other unfortunate casting decisions right down the line as early Hollywood was wont to do. That said, I was incredibly surprised at what Lean and O’Toole delivered – and I went on to do some research about T.E.Lawrence and learned some really interesting political, social, and personal details about a man whose life was cut way too short.

This film was spectacular. I loved every moment that I spent watching it with Jenn. It is moving, it is huge, it is spectacular, it is exciting, and it is perfect in so many ways. I love that Lean spared no expense, and the fact that it was cast so well with thousands of real actors, it was shot on location at real locations, and there were hundreds of tiny deliberate decisions to make the most perfect film, one can really appreciate that this was a real film without any CGI to pad any aspect of what we were watching in 2017. Everything felt true, from the scorching sun to the horses to the costume and palatial sets, and nothing replaces that.

A magnificent film I wouldn’t mind watching again and again – like a book, it feels like I could toss this DVD in and pick it up wherever I please and watch for twenty minutes or the full three and a half hours, and find the same awe and wonder as the first time I saw it. Looking forward to catching it when it hits theaters again, as it inevitably will.

Jennifer

This movie is majestic in every possible way. I have never (and probably never will again) see a movie like this. Every part of this movie revolves around the desert. It’s the main character, it’s the major problem, and the solution in the narrative.The ability to view the desert of Arabia and so many authentic actors at this time in history is fascinating. I wish I could have really seen this movie in the theater.

Lean brilliantly casts Peter O’Toole, who delivers an impressive performance. The way his character evolves from the beginning to the end of the movie was captivating. Omar Sharif delivers an equally captivating performance.

Omar Sharif perfectly sums up this movie:

“If you are the man with the money and somebody comes to you and says he wants to make a film that’s four hours long, with no stars, and no women, and no love story, and not much action either, and he wants to spend a huge amount of money to go film it in the desert–what would you say?”

In our time, this area of the world is again in the spotlight so there was an added level of relevance to this movie. I really knew nothing about this region at this time in history, and I did a bunch of research on the real Lawrence after watching the film. His story is fascinating on its own. Combined with the authentic setting and perfect casting, the four hours of this film felt like mere moments.

#383 Splendor in the Grass (1961)

Splendor in the Grass is a classic Hollywood melodrama featuring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty (in his first film). The tone of this piece begins with a sweetness that is too hard to ignore in terms of a silver screen romance – something difficult to believe until a third of the way through the movie when French New Wave techniques are mashed up with method acting and an incredible screenplay that sends the characters hurtling dangerously toward a reality of the consequences of repression that “twists people in monstrous, dysfunctional directions” (Martin). This ultimately makes the audience perceive motion picture cliches that never arrive – as we kept guessing the next beat in more and more ridiculous soap opera tropes, Inge’s screenplay begged us to ignore them with each new, more believable, more realistic twist. Ultimately, we ended up with what was simply an unexpectedly great film for the ages, and the performances kept up with it as it neared its tragic and acceptable conclusions.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splendor_in_the_Grass

Jennifer

This was a movie where the narrative you think is unfolding takes a very unexpected turn.  It begins as a typical teenage love story, a Romeo and Juliet from different sides of the tracks (rich vs. poor).  From the beginning of the film, Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood’s performances are captivating.  Their characters are endearing and innocent.  Wood’s transformation from the beginning of the film to the end is captivating.  My heart broke for her. I found the treatment of teenage sex and mental illness throughout this movie to be very interesting, with multiple plot points occurring with both the main characters and the minor characters (Bud’s sister)

The film’s title is taken from a stanza from ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality‘ by English Romantic poet William Wordsworth.

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind…

This poem is featured toward both the middle and the very ending of the film, emphasizing that we “find strength in what remains behind.”

 

Garrett

I really enjoyed this, and I was quite surprised as the film progressed. Where at the beginning I expected the same things to happen that I have seen countless other times in film, it became clear as the horrors of the character’s choices unfolded that this was going in a direction that stripped it of the Hollywood tropes and led us down a road that delivered the audience to a conclusion structured in deep realism. This striking compromise seems revolutionary for the era, and to witness its American gestation in this film was splendid.

In many ways, with the exception of the middle of the film, this movie was a lot like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – a favorite of mine that is also on the list. I was surprised to find that Cherbourg was made after Splendor; after watching this it felt like I had wished it was made first since the themes and structure are so similar. Regardless, it was a pleasure to see how Inge unfolded these realistic elements to balance the audience’s expectations with reality. A well written, well-performed script that can easily be considered an American classic.

#483 Young Girls of Rochefort (Les demoiselles de Rochefort) (1967)

The Young Girls of Rochefort is Jaques Demy’s follow-up to his moving, and absolutely stunning The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (one of our favorite films of all time). What he manages to achieve is something no other film has ever done: create a musical with a compelling upbeat and positive momentum that drives the entire film in color, song, and splendor – a “tone of unmitigated joy and exuberance – bordering, for the two lovers of the film, on something close to rapture…(a) happiness, buoyancy, and a joie de vivre that is unmatched in cinema” (de Seife). This movie has the bizarre and unmistakable power to instill a true joy onto whoever watches it, and unlike any other musical ever captured on film, Demy’s costumes, execution, and Legrand’s score deliver something unique (and arguably unparalleled to this day). A remarkable, fun piece of filmmaking that explodes from the opening shots to the end credits.

We watched The Young Girls of Rochefort on Criterion #717.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Young_Girls_of_Rochefort

 

Garrett

Man, do I love musicals. I love them in the theater, and when they are stellar, I love them in the movies. The Young Girls of Rochefort is another film from the writers and director one of the greatest movie musicals of all time, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Unlike Cherbourg, Jaques Demy and Michel Legrand infused The Young Girls of Rochefort with a primarily upbeat, swingy, and optimistic storyline – as a matter of fact, no matter how hard your brain tries to find something that will drag us into a hell of sobbing despair by the end (one never gets over Dancer In The Dark, RENT, and Hamilton), one learns nothing comes of the soldiers marching in the streets nor does “Chekov’s gun” ever fire at anything other than a balloon of paint. Demy cast some big name American musical actors to appear in this film riding on their own successes in West Side Story and many, many other famous musicals. Rochefort’s resulting positive wonder powerhouse cemented a smile on my face and tap in my toes for its duration and truly added itself as a staple of my movie musical favorites list – almost as the yin to Cherbourg’s yang. Not only is it a brilliant film I will watch over and over again, I am angry at myself for never having watched it sooner.

Jennifer

Having watched (and loved) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, I was surprised and entertained by The Young Girls of Rochefort.  It is all rainbows, sunshine, and glitter without any deep dark twists. Unexpected. No need for the umbrellas here. This movie is brilliant with joy.  Young and beautiful to watch, Catherine Deneuve plays opposite her real-life sister, Francoise Dorlac. The dancing, music, and the colors of this film go strong and steady till the end.  It’s impossible not to smile or sing along.  Many parts of this movie were just as visually beautiful as Umbrellas but not nearly as soul wrenchingly depressing.