…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “1960

Bergman’s The Virgin Spring


The Virgin Spring seems to ask: Why are teenage girls perpetually dumber that we expect them? Tore (Max von Sydow) sends his daughter Karin (Brigitta Pettersson) out on a simple errand but within her little pilgrimage she does things that common sense would tell the audience not to do.

Why would she go into a dark forest without hesitation or go on without her escort? Why would she let herself get distracted by suspicious looking men?

This movie seems different from Ingmar Bergman‘s later, more excellent films because of its straightforward approach towards storytelling, but he comes up with a great formula nonetheless. He compartmentalizes every part of the narrative, the script firing off one section or character evenly.

And I know that Hollywood rules don’t apply to him but I also somehow applaud his decision to show a graphic sexual assault but not a murder. In 1960.

It has a straightforward enough of a message but we can also dig for the complexities within this cautionary tale. We can say that this movie exposes the arbitrary and cruel nature of violence, as she’s taken away without warning.

Instead of saying ‘bad things happen to people,’ we can say that God punishes a girl for her lack of judgment, innocence, gullibility, altruism and obliviousness.

They aren’t necessarily vices but I assume that contemporary audience’s eyes see her qualities as flaws working against her survival. We’re not looking at her merely as a victim because a victim is a blank slate and she is not.

And as much as it is about Karin it’s also equally about the people around her, and through them Bergman finds room for complex character studies within this simple movie. An example is Karin’s more beautiful yet pregnant escort Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom).

In the earlier part of their journey they argue about Karin dancing with the father of Ingeri’s child, being doubtful of anyone’s purity. She leaves Karin for a while, making a pit stop at a cabin and then running away to follow Karin from a distance.

Ingeri inadvertently watches as Simon and his cohorts assault her. Keeping her pregnancy in mind, she also behaves as if constantly troubled, and being a constant survivor doesn’t help her guilt and powerlessness.

There’s also Tore and his reactions towards the news of her daughter’s violent murder. As luck would have it, Karin’s murderers would ask to lodge in his home. He avenges her but his act doesn’t satisfy him.

The titular spring appears where her body is found, a sign of her family’s redemption. But since the movie has gotten to the point in depicting Tore’s part of the story, it shows a family with one less child, a community broken from a future that could have been.


Psycho stories and shots


Sorry for the short blog hiatus! There’s more of that to come, unfortunately.

Instead of talking about my favourite shot from Psycho – that’ll come later – or my long-ass history with arguably Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, or my veneration for the woman with the coolest CV in Hollywood (Janet Leigh) and the man with the coolest CV in Hollywood (Martin Balsam) I’ll talk about a shot and a story that I’m probably not supposed to tell. This story also means that I can’t talk about what school I went to, although I probably can’t keep my mouth shut for that long. And that despite the slight Schadenfreude, I feel bad about telling this story because the same things that I might imply on this person might also be said about me.

As a background, in my college, there is a great film professor pushing into his emeritus years. If you wanted an introduction to ways of thinking and philosophy from the 20th century and beyond, he’s your guy. He is much beloved by the earlier classes but the dissent against his has been coming stronger as new generations of students come. My ambivalent opinion towards him doesn’t make the fact that I’m unemployable because I like talking shit any less true.

So me and an alum were talking about B film ‘Hobo With a Shotgun,’ that recently had its Canadian première. I hesitated on saying that I hated it, he was talking about its merits and deeper nuances, about how the film treats. “So, like, the Drake character is Stephen Harper and Rutger Hauer is some guy in some other political party or ‘the people’ or something?”

“No, not that deep.”

“Sorry. I guess it’s the _ _ _ _ _ _ _ training in me that make me over-analyze things.” Although I do believe that every film is political and social, a belief that will lead to a story that I will never tell unless we meet in person.

“Oh, God. Him. It’s like every film to him is about the economy. Like for Psycho. For genre class he made a shot-by-shot analysis of the shower scene. At the end he showed the shot of the drain, and asked the class ‘What do you see?’ You know what he said?”

“The swirling of the water is reminiscent of the dollar sign,” I asked sarcastically.

“ZERO!”

“NO!”

“And I shit you not, _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ yelled ‘Bullshit,’ walked out of the room and never took his classes again.”

“That is kinda funny. I have _ _ _ _ on my Facebook. I should write on his wall sometime.”

I’m haunted by that sequence because the chunky blood that comes out of Marion Crane (Leigh), eventually being diluted in the water for that ‘zero’ moment.

What’s also ironic is that while I’m talking out of my ass, I’m using one of my prof’s shot-counter shot analysis that he intended for Vertigo – another clue – and how in the earlier scenes, the backgrounds used for Jimmy Stewart’s character had clean geometric borders while the Barbara bel Geddes character worked around a hot mess.  The same thing happens here in Psycho, where two characters are literally a few feet away from each other yet the spaces are clearly bordered. Marion sits in front of a relatively blank wallpaper while Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) chooses to sit with his creepy stuffed birds. The clutter around him shows his conflicted, angry mind while she’s fine if a bit delusional.

Despite Marion’s blood and her effects, the  bathroom feels clean when Norman enters. It’s as if doing the deed is a method of purgation for him. The clouds and the fog hours before seem to disappear for him, the dead trees making way for his brooding face.

Or to a lesser extent, there’s one particular shot with Lila Crane (Vera Miles) and Sam Loomis (wooden John Gavin). It’s a little bit smoky on Lila’s side while the downtown buildings serve as a background for Sam. We can argue which parts of the mise-en-scene make one more troubled than the other, but I like this shot because it’s pretty.

Then there’s the last scene, showing Norman imprisoned around the ultimate void, when the battle’s been won.

This has been part of Nathaniel Rogers’ “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series.


Fellini’s Women Don’t Walk, They…


This is a part of Nathaniel R’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot series, starring Anita Ekberg, CEO of LOLCats, and Marcello Mastroianni, curator of cool.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Federico Fellini‘s work, mostly on the love side. There’s like one or two films of his that seem insipid and enforced schoolboy attitudes. But for the most part, he’s the guy that the stereotypically pretentious cineastes like, which is ironic because he’s so fun and silly and childlike and playful. This week, Nathaniel’s doing La Dolce Vita. I try my best in writing the most intelligent film criticism I can, but do you really want erudition out of a movie about Italians in their thirties partying it up?

This movie was also my introduction to Anouk Aimee. I like her better here than in 8 1/2, but then I always like the flirt over the neglected wife.

The picture above will also be the gayest moment in a Fellini film, second to all of Satyricon. Although someone correct me if I’m wrong.

Nonetheless, here’s my favourite shot/sequence is the last one. It’s the morning after a party, two of the women spot a commotion on the beach. And of course, Fellini women don’t walk, they saunter. I don’t even remember the shots being like this. I remember them all walking to the beach from the right hand side of the screen. But really they walk through the forest area from the right hand side of the screen and they walk on the beach with their backs facing the audience. And of course I don’t remember how much the forest looks like a backdrop, but then those ‘painted’ trees look like they have dimension. I’m not gonna cheat and look up on iMDb whether Fellini filmed this in a studio or not. I just love how surreal the shot is. Not Bunuel surreal, no offense to him, but fun, playtime surreal.

This one

Here’s Marcello (Mastroianni) looking as fresh as an 18-year-old. I also don’t remember the film being almost three hours long, but if I was having this much fun, this movie could have gone on all night long.

La Dolce Vita is playing today at October 10 and November 9 at the Bell Lightbox, but I kinda wanna see Rules of the Game too.