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Louis Malle (#110 of 3)

True/False Film Fest 2014: Rich Hill, Happy Valley, & Killing Time

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True/False Film Fest 2014: <em>Rich Hill</em>, <em>Happy Valley</em>, & <em>Killing Time</em>
True/False Film Fest 2014: <em>Rich Hill</em>, <em>Happy Valley</em>, & <em>Killing Time</em>

In his essay from the late 1940s entitled “Manners, Morals, and the Novel,” literary theorist Lionel Trilling, a member of the famed New York Intellectuals, stated that “pleasure in cruelty is licensed by moral indignation,” and would go on to claim the middle class as the group of people where such a strange aesthetic relationship often takes hold, designating moral indignation as their “favorite emotion.” Rich Hill exists in this space; detailing the lives of three separate, impoverished teen boys living in Rich Hill, MO, directors Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos allow their camera to probe and linger in spaces of disorder and grime, but without any discernible purpose other than gaining access to lower-class spaces—another popular pleasure created through middle-class distance. Rich Hill is poverty porn, and this isn’t simply because the film examines poverty, but because it does so with pity as its operative mode, engendering little more than a space for viewers to leave the film acknowledging its sadness.

Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2013: The River

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Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2013: <em>The River</em>
Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2013: <em>The River</em>

Jean Renoir’s The River demonstrates with intoxicating lyricism the confluence of apparent contraries: past and present, innocence and experience, permanence and change—even Hinduism and Christianity. This gorgeously lensed coming-of-age tale, Renoir’s first film in color, opens with a montage that sketches out the rhythms of daily life along the eponymous Bengali river. The ruminative voiceover, delivered by an adult version of the film’s teenage protagonist, ushers the audience into a milieu that’s as precise in its spatial orientation as it is vague about its temporal setting sometime “after the war.” Self-professed “ugly duckling” Harriet (Patricia Walters) lives with her parents and five younger siblings near the jute factory run by her father (Esmond Knight). The family spends most of their abundant spare time in an idyllic garden. But, as Harriet’s father rather bluntly points out, there’s a serpent in every paradise, as well as the seductive temptation of forbidden fruit. The snake proves to be quite real, and the temptation is supplied by the arrival of one-legged war veteran Captain John (Thomas E. Breen), their neighbor Mr. John’s (Arthur Shields) American cousin. Captain John’s attentions are equally desired by Harriet and her older, more aggressive friend Valerie (Adrienne Corri).