The Siren is still here, and apologizes to her patient readers for leaving them alone with the longest comment thread in Self-Styled history. She did have a small post recently, over at her dear friend Annie's place, Blogdorf Goodman. The post is about Marlene Dietrich's Lipstick, and if that doesn't prick up your ears nothing else the Siren has to say here probably will, either.
The update on the Foreign Film Resolution, weeks 8 through 10:
The Banquet (Feng Xiaogang - 2006)
Is it possible for a film to be too beautiful? There is much to admire about The Banquet, the color, the cinematography, and the score by Tan Dun immediately come to mind. There is much attention to detail, especially with close-ups of hands...So much of the action is seen in slow motion, whether it's knights galloping in battle, or with overhead shots of flowing, billowing robes. This is great looking stuff, but Feng seems unaware of the concept that there may be too much of a good thing.
--Peter Nelhaus, Coffee Coffee and More Coffee
Day of Wrath (Carl Dreyer, 1943)
The Siren saw this one at BAM. Utterly bloody magnificent. The Foreign Film Resolution is not a contest, and the Siren has liked all of the movies she has seen so far, and several she loves very much indeed. But this one...this was a real experience, and the Siren is so glad she saw it in a real theatre.
I can't imagine how it must have felt to sit in a crowded theater, watching Day of Wrath during its original release in 1943. Set in 17th century Denmark, when rising religious fanaticism gave church leaders the authority to execute those of "questionable" morality, the film must have mirrored, much too closely for comfort, the Nazi atrocities being waged just outside the theater door. In his liner notes of the Criterion DVD release, critic Jonathan Rosenbaum suggests that Dreyer cast the blonde actress Lisbeth Movin in a deliberate attempt to diminish the allegorical implications of Anne's plight, thereby diffusing a potentially dangerous situation. As with Arthur Miller's The Crucible (1953), however, it's nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction here. Day of Wrath is a damning critique of hypocritical authoritarian power told in very human terms, a modern fable that interrogates faith and sin, love and family, desire and its consequences.
--Darren Hughes, Long Pauses
Dreyer's camera tracks interior and exterior spaces to convey his characters' sensitivity to this nightmarish climate as well as what I take to be his own sense of the divine. In billowing fabrics and whispering winds, God or Satan or the dead menace the living, yet the way the light falls on suffering and ecstatic faces suggests a higher, more clement power. But far more chilling than this spooky expressionism are the simple pans down scrolls invoking God's word and the state's judgments. It's as if Dreyer was at war with words, answering their punishing certainties and limitations with the humanism of light and shadow delicately applied. Dreyer invites you to find in his flesh and blood friezes something a lot closer to God than those murderous texts. It's the only religion I ever wanted to join: the church of cinema.
--Steven Boone, The House Next Door
Late Autumn (Ozu, 1960)
"Aah, Setsuko Hara," remarked Peter Nelhaus once in comments. "She makes Meryl Streep look like a self-serving harpy."
Ozu is most concerned with generating a particular rhythm and tempo, with giving weight or accent to particular movements. The soundtracks of his films tell us much about this preoccupation. We often hear things gently clanging, lapping or chugging in the “background” of Ozu's soundscapes. These elements – heard particularly instructively at the beginning and ending of Late Autumn – create a gentle rhythm that is intimately related to the overall tempo of the film. The repetition and variation of these sounds – and their rhythmic correlations with the visual field, particularly in shots emphasising reflections of water or foliage moving in the breeze--heightens the experiential awareness of life cycles and seasonal change communicated by the film. Although they may seem conservative, even out-of-date in many of their social and cultural values, Ozu's characters routinely exude an exquisite sense of resignation and acceptance that is intimately related to the overall rhythm and pace of the films they appear in. The more things change in Ozu's world, the more they stay the same.
--Adrian Danks, Senses of Cinema