Friday, July 6, 2007

It's a Sad, Beautiful World

We watched Jim Jarmusch's wonderful Down By Law this Tuesday night at L'abri (L'abri worker Jim Paul is a big Jarmusch fan). I like Jarmusch, but often feel impatient with his slow, rich, minimalism; because of this, I think I have passed over this film in the past. I am so glad that I finally watched it--it was much more rich than slow. Roberto Benigni's frenetic energy (hiccup, hiccup) alongside Waits' smooth coolness was a consistent treat. The sleek, stylized black and white photography, especially in the opening shots of gritty (yet somehow romanticized) New Orleans life, are wonderful. We had an excellent discussion after the film (I was surprised--how do you discuss a Jarmusch film?!). My favorite line of discussion concerned Jim's comments about Benigni's character (Bob!) playing the role of the Shakespearian "holy fool" who brings a reality of sorts (through communication, childishness, joy in life, true statements about life) to the other fumbling characters. This is quite evident after thinking through his relationship with Zach and Jack, his prison cellmates, who are lost, whose characters are, in some ways, interchangeable. Bob is the only one truly guilty of the crime he has been convicted for (murder) while the other two have been framed. Ironically, the story of this most "real" of characters, the jester who infuses playful reality into the lives of the other two men, ends like a fairy tale. His story is complete, romantic, both true and untrue--while the other two are left to wander. Anyway, the film is hilarious and beautiful--well worth watching.
Other films that have been shown this term at L'abri:
1) Heaven--Tykwer's beautiful realization of Kieslowski's vision
2) As It is in Heaven-(notice a theme here?!) fascinating, yet extremely and annoyingly melodramatic Swedish film about a famous musician returning to the town of his youth and becoming the choir director in the local church.
3) The Return--Breathtaking cinematography, heartwrenching story. It was beautiful but a bit too much for me--very hard to watch.
4) Jesus of Montreal--did not actually watch this one but have been curious for ages. Lots of negative comments from folks about it.
5) Blue--one of my very favorite films of all time--never loses its beauty or emotional impact. I do want to mention that only last year, after rewatching it in a British cinema, did I realize that the text of the film score is I Corinthians 13. The American film version does NOT subtitle the music text for the final montage sequence, but European versions do. This changed my entire reading/experience of the film--absolutely stunning.


William said...

Great films! Your discussion of them makes me think you guys should watch Blade Runner or The Sacrifice (I think that's the name--the Tarkovsky one shot in Scandanavia) or Blind Chance (my new favorite Kieslowski film) next. Oooh, or the Seventh Seal. Oooh, or Lang's _M_. OK, I have to stop.

Thanks for the information on Blue's score--I had no idea . . .

god-free morals said...

might i suggest watching 'children of men' as it would be appropriate to your theme i think and is a fantastically moving film on many levels, urg how i dislike that phrase - anyway, its a visually stunning if disturbing film (hence, dyslopia no?) and leaves you either full of despair or full of hope, depending upon your mood.

great blog. cheers, chris.

Mary said...

Hey Bill, those are all great suggestions. I still need to see Blind Chance, The Sacrifice, and M myself. Did I tell you that I just taught the Seventh Seal in my film class? Great for discussion--what a masterpiece.
Hi Chris--thanks so much for your comments. I have seen and really did enjoy Children of Men. In my then mood I found it both hopeful (moving--yes) and despairing. I need to see it again. Have you seen the comments by Zizek on the DVD extras--excellent. That alone made me want to push play and watch the whole thing again.

Michelle D said...

Blue has been in my top five favorite films for ten years or more. Every time I see it it has something new for me:) Thanks for the info on the music - I didn't know about that either.