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Eric Rohmer (#110 of 14)

Walerian Borowczyk’s Immoral Tales and The Beast

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Walerian Borowczyk’s <em>Immoral Tales</em> and <em>The Beast</em>
Walerian Borowczyk’s <em>Immoral Tales</em> and <em>The Beast</em>

Many who acquaint themselves for the first time with the bawdy joys of Walerian Borowczyk’s Immoral Tales will take a mental note of the title’s echoing of Eric Rohmer’s “Moral Tales,” a striking similarity that would nonetheless be like comparing a Harvard valedictorian to a pay-by-the-hour prostitute. That said, these two otherwise binary—in style, tone, and intended audience—objects share something more than just a naming convention and episodic strategies: If Rohmer’s series of chatty comedies use the word “moral” less as a value judgment than as a circumstantial fact, the same can be said of Borowczyk’s period-spanning provocation with regard to the use of “immoral.” Rohmer’s archetypal narrative is of a male protagonist rigorously questioning his own moral compass in the midst of a romantic tangle, his own perspective never to necessarily be confused with that of the director. Immoral Tales, meanwhile, tells four short stories depicting acts considered immoral within their respective milieus, even as the overriding worldview of the film is that morality is relative.

Cannes Film Festival 2014: Winter Sleep, Wild Tales, and Amour Fou Reviews

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Cannes Film Festival 2014: <em>Winter Sleep</em>, <em>Wild Tales</em>, and <em>Amour Fou</em> Reviews
Cannes Film Festival 2014: <em>Winter Sleep</em>, <em>Wild Tales</em>, and <em>Amour Fou</em> Reviews

With his latest, Winter Sleep, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s characteristic obsession with his country’s variegated topography takes him to Cappadocia, a remote stretch of the Anatolian countryside whose strange mound-like formations provide the backdrop for an intimate tale of marital take-and-no-give that’s been stretched (for no apparent reason other than indulgence) to over three hours. Much like the lead character, a charismatic former actor who now runs the Hotel Othello, Ceylan’s film doesn’t know when to let an argument rest. The obvious analogue here would be Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage; the key difference lies in Winter Sleep’s absolute refusal to let anything be at emotional stake. The husband expounds, his wife or sister rebuts, and then he uses his considerable rhetorical acumen to put them in their place. A subplot dealing with a dispute between the hotelier and his tenant farmers seems left over from an earlier film. And in case there were any doubt as to the fatuousness of Ceylan’s approach here, look no further than an excruciatingly protracted scene involving an envelope stuffed with money and a crackling fireplace telegraphs its inevitable conclusion from the start. Perhaps such inexorability is Ceylan’s true theme. If so, he still has to answer for taking nearly forever to get there.

SXSW 2013: Prince Avalanche and Drinking Buddies

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SXSW 2013: <em>Prince Avalanche</em> and <em>Drinking Buddies</em>
SXSW 2013: <em>Prince Avalanche</em> and <em>Drinking Buddies</em>

For those afraid that David Gordon Green had completely abandoned the lyrical style that marked such early films as George Washington and All the Real Girls for the crude stoner-comedy mode of Pineapple Express and Your Highness, well, it’s back in his latest film, Prince Avalanche, though perhaps not in the way one might have expected.

Simply on the level of tone, the film, a Judd Apatow-like bromance elevated to the realm of near-myth, is an extremely odd, deliberately jarring work—the kind of film where a tossed-off fart joke coexists with a mournful montage of a man, Alvin (Paul Rudd), contemplating the burned-out ruins of an old woman’s house. But the film has even weirder angles to it than that: how the old woman eventually turns out to be a ghost of some sort, and the how the leavening mysterious female presence offers a counterpoint to the broadly macho old-man ghost that offers Alvin and his fellow road worker, Lance (Emile Hirsch), drinks and, by extension, tempting them to indulge in their inner macho selves.

New York Film Festival 2010: Oki’s Movie

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New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Oki’s Movie</em>
New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Oki’s Movie</em>

It’s official, say critics: Hong Sang-soo’s repeating himself. Here comes another movie where the protagonist’s a stifled filmmaker, where the men get drunk and embarrass themselves in public, and where a younger man and his mentor duke it out for a girl. The director of the gorgeously melancholy romance Woman on the Beach and spiky comedy Like You Know It All isn’t just reproducing tones—he’s mixing them. His new film, Oki’s Movie, is at once abrasive and sweet.

The movie is actually made up of four short films, each introduced with the same garish blue background and “Pomp and Circumstance” blaring on the soundtrack. The hero of the first short is a student filmmaker who can’t live up to his mentor. Adam Hartzell has written that Hong’s heroes “are not antiheroes as much as they are exercises in humiliation,” and this proves true when our man shows up drunk to a screening of his film. An audience member asks why he dumped her friend, he says he doesn’t remember (and besides, what business is it of hers?), and the handheld camera stays on them, moving back and forth between accusations. Writers often compare Hong’s films to Eric Rohmer’s, with the way they focus on a relationship’s changing dynamics by highlighting small, precise, delicate movements, but the spiky, nasty, very-funny scene here lies much closer to Albert Brooks.

Duelle (Une Quarantaine) (1976)

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Duelle (Une Quarantaine) (1976)
Duelle (Une Quarantaine) (1976)

“There were brought together under the Empire and in Paris, thirteen men all equally possessed by the same sentiment, all of them endowed with sufficient force to remain constant to one idea, sufficiently honorable not to betray one another, even when their individual interests conflicted, sufficiently politic to conceal the sacred ties which united them, sufficiently strong to maintain themselves above the law, courageous enough to undertake anything…”
— Honoré de Balzac, History of the Thirteen

Lichman and Rizov “Live” at Grassroots Tavern: Season 5, Episode 4, “Vadim Rizov’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula”

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Lichman and Rizov “Live” at Grassroots Tavern: Season 5, Episode 4, “Vadim Rizov’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula”
Lichman and Rizov “Live” at Grassroots Tavern: Season 5, Episode 4, “Vadim Rizov’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula”

Hello Michigan!

Summer is officially over and all the kids are going back to school. Such is the case with friend of the podcast Akiva Gottlieb, who is off to make Ann Arbor his new home for some graduate program in thermonuclear dynamics and relating to Eric Rohmer. I’m not really sure.

But before that we discuss the nature of geographic cinema—in that how does one leaving New York for Michigan and continue to watch rep cinema? Do they wait for an IFC release to trickle out there, or do they resort to the Internet and torrenting? Does such a thing upset a director, as we ask Preston Miller (God’s Land), whose movie will play at the Buffalo Film Festival next month.

Film Comment Selects 2010: The Aviator’s Wife

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Film Comment Selects 2010: The Aviator’s Wife

Film Society of Lincoln Center

Film Comment Selects 2010: The Aviator’s Wife

When I learned of Eric Rohmer’s death this past January, I didn’t feel sadness so much as soft, lingering melancholy, like the characters in his films do when they lose their new loves. I’d pegged the oldest of the French New Wave directors as a fuddy-duddy, the man who insisted on staying behind to edit Cahiers du Cinéma once the boys had left for the world. He was 47 years old when he directed his first feature film, 1967’s La Collectioneuse—almost a decade older than his peers, and unfurling on screens nearly a decade after their films had boldly proclaimed themselves. Rohmer’s were quieter. Unlike Godard, Truffaut, Rivette, and Chabrol, who changed styles like hats in the name of reinventing cinema, Rohmer’s approach stayed relatively constant: a sun-dappled medium or long shot, a man and a woman toying with each other in the frame.

Understanding Screenwriting #40: Police, Adjective, The White Ribbon, Invictus, Sherlock Holmes, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #40: <em>Police, Adjective</em>, <em>The White Ribbon</em>, <em>Invictus</em>, <em>Sherlock Holmes</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #40: <em>Police, Adjective</em>, <em>The White Ribbon</em>, <em>Invictus</em>, <em>Sherlock Holmes</em>, & More

Coming up in this column: Police, Adjective, The White Ribbon, Invictus, Eric Rohmer and Natalie Carter, Sherlock Holmes, In Which We Serve, O. Henry’s Full House, How I Met Your Mother, but first:

Fan mail: Since this is the first column I have written since we moved over to Slant, I want to welcome any new readers we have picked up. When I started the column in August 2008, I said that the purpose of the column was to Bring The Gospel of the Importance of Screenwriting to the Heathen of New York City. I must say the Heathen have been very hospitable, and usually weigh in with interesting comments. I notice that so far there have been no comments on US#39, which I hope is just a temporary glitch, because the comments from readers make the column a lot more fun for me, even when the readers give me a hard time about something I said. So log in, folks. And here’s some stuff you can log in about:

Police, Adjective (2009. Written by Corneliu Porumboiu. 113 minutes)

Time, Romanian style: I was a big fan of Porumboiu’s 2006 film 12:08 East of Bucharest, which deals with a group of Romanians recalling how they were all involved in the revolution that overthrew Nicolae Ceauşescu in 1989. The film ends with a spectacular sequence. No, not a recreation of the revolution, but a long scene of a television talk show in which three of the characters we have followed discuss which of them got involved when and which should really be considered hangers-on of the revolution. Porumboiu, who directed, just sets his camera down and looks at the trio in almost a single take as they rewrite their own and others’ history. The sequence is typical of what is called the Romanian New Wave, which includes such films as The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005) and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007). All three of those films, as well as Police, Adjective, play around with the prolonging of time. The Romanians are not the only ones of course. Jonathan Romney in the February 2010 issue of Sight & Sound calls the films that play with time in this way “Slow Cinema,” and he gives several examples, none of them Romanian. American films, with a few exceptions, try to move as quickly as possible, but the Romanians are perfectly willing to let a film or a sequence run not only in real time, but in longer than real time, if such a thing is possible. It can be frustrating for viewers used to American tempi, but it can also be hypnotic.