Go on, admit it. You thought the Siren gave up on her foreign-film resolution. No way. She's behind, mind you, but she hasn't given up. We're nine weeks into her resolution so the Siren should have seen nine films. She has seen seven. Still catching up.
From the Mizoguchi set the Siren bought herself as a birthday present:
Women of the Night, Kenji Mizoguchi (1948)
"In Women of the Night (1948) a band of prostitutes gathers in a bombed-out church to administer a brutal beating to Fusako (Kinuyo Tanaka), one of their own who has dared to dream of going straight. These women are not saints or martyrs — for Mizoguchi, there is no next world in which they might receive their reward — but, more concretely and more movingly, mere human beings whose strength of character sets them apart, the true aristocrats of a fallen world."
--Dave Kehr, The New York Times
Street of Shame, 1956 (This was cheating a bit because the Siren has seen it already, but she couldn't resist. Such a great movie.)
"Kenji Mizoguchi's Akasen Chitai (Red-Light District, 1956) had the misfortune of being tagged with the silly title Street of Shame on its first American release, and it has stuck. Doubtless meant to imply a far more salacious treatment of its subject than Mizoguchi intended, the title has also promoted the prevailing view that he was making a political statement about the class of women he had so tenderly treated through more than 30 years of filmmaking. And while it was probably inevitable that Mizoguchi should return to his favourite subject in his last film-–courtesans and their floating world--Street of Shame is one last, devastating look at how life's cruelties are especially hard on women in Japan."
--Dan Harper, Senses of Cinema
This next was on TCM during 31 Days of Oscar. More movies like this one would really justify that whole month. Now March is, so help me, Ronald Reagan month, and the Siren wonders if TCM is actually mocking her. "Hey Siren, you thought last month was barren, huh? Try and find something here besides Kings Row, Santa Fe Trail and Dark Victory! Mwahahaha!" Anyway, on to
The Burmese Harp, Kon Ichikawa (1956). The real revelation of this go-round. Astonishingly beautiful and moving. The Siren wishes she had seen it on a big screen.
"The Burmese Harp is a haunting, poignant and serenely indelible examination of the aftermath of war. The film opens with the spare, enigmatic words: In Burma, soil is red, so are rocks. Using landscape as a metaphor for the isolation and suffering of the soul, Kon Ichikawa contrasts the chaotic, harsh realities of war with the tranquil expanse of nature: the mountain fortress attack; the discovery of a body leaning against a tree in the jungle; the mass burial of soldiers along the shoreline. Symbolically, Mizushima's spiritual transformation is reflected in a scene where the troop assembles for choral practice at a religious site, as Mizushima rests inside the hull (the figurative soul) of a Buddha statue. It is a reflection of his own enlightenment and sense of purpose after witnessing a great and senseless tragedy - a transcendence beyond his spiritual captivity - towards a lonely, indefinite journey, guided solely by humanity and personal conscience."
--Acquarello, Strictly Film School
I own this one but hadn't gotten around to watching it.
Day for Night, François Truffaut (1973)
"This really may be the Ultimate Opening Shot in many ways, because we actually get to go back into it and critique it in the movie itself. The whole thing looks perfectly random and natural (I don't want to know how many takes it really took), as if the eye (camera) were just alighting upon one thing and then another as its interest is piqued. But we soon see how carefully and precisely it's all choreographed. Day for night. Illusion for reality. Artifice in the service of art. Notice, too the use of strong colors like red (dress, car, little girl, etc.) and white (car, overcoat, etc.) -- the alternating colors of the awning in the background -- and black (suits, car roof, etc.) to focus our attention. Doesn't this just make you want to go out and make a movie?"
--Jim Emerson, Scanners