Winter Light (1962) – Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, starring Gunnar Björnstrand, Max von Sydow and Ingrid Thulin.
My G-d this is a bleak film. Powerful. Important, perhaps. With tremendous acting from all three principals. And interesting and excellent direction from Bergman. But incredibly bleak. Even Sven Nykvist’s cinematography, which can be so beautiful and poetic, cuts sharp, harsh and without mercy. There’s not a single frame of this film that offers any comfort. There's no way out, which is what I think Bergman was getting at. People often discuss his existentialism or atheism, but it struck me after watching this that there's actually something Buddhistic in his outlook. But, oh man, it's tough going. We really enjoyed the first part of Bergman’s Silence Trilogy, Through a Glass Darkly, (see previous Recent Screenings) and were looking forward to this one. In the end, I don’t think Winter Light is as complete a film as the previous one. And it’s certainly not as enjoyable. But it has lingered with me for two weeks, and I respect that. And Bergman is one of the very few directors who truly and deeply probes the tougher spiritual questions. Oh man, if you want to spend a dreary winter afternoon with a Lutheran priest in a dead parish as he loses faith in the Almighty, offers no help to a suicidal parishioner and treats cruelly the one person who loves him, then this is the film for you. Thank G-d Bergman keeps it to 80 minutes. Another half-hour of this and I’d have been listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Dress Rehearsal Rag” and fingering my safety razor. RECOMMENDED (But Not for Everyone). 8/10
I Married a Witch (1942) – Directed by René Clair, starring
Brooklyn girl Veronica Lake was on quite a roll in 1942, starring in the great Sullivan’s Travels, two excellent film noir efforts with Alan Ladd - This Gun for Hire (based on a novel by Graham Greene) and The Glass Key (based on a novel by Dashiel Hammett) - and this delightful supernatural comedy about a witch who entangles herself in the life of a Gubernatorial candidate, played by Fredric March. As good an actor as March was, and he was very good and deserves to be remembered more than he is, Veronica steals the show. She somehow manages to be mischievous, innocent, hilarious and sexy all at the same time. Directed by the great French director René Clair (The Italian Straw Hat, Le Millon) during his sojourn in
Syriana (2005) – Written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, Amanda Peet, Christopher Plummer.
In scope and style, this reminded me of Steven Soderberg’s Traffic, and it turns out to have been written by the same guy. It’s a good film in many ways and does an excellent job showing the interconnections (obvious and not so obvious) of global petrol politics. But it’s incredibly hard to follow at times. We stopped the DVD on several occasions, trying to figure out who was who and what exactly was happening. Probably would have worked better as a mini-series, something along the lines of those BBC efforts to tackle John LeCarré’s complex works. As it stands, I came away a bit frustrated, but I also wanted to read the book it was based on. And I want to see the film again at some point, which is a good sign. So, we'll say it's problematic but worthwhile. You won't get many films talking about global politics as well as this on does. Clooney does a fine job, but I’m not sure why he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Oh, right, because he wasn’t going to get Best Director for Good Night, and Good Luck. RECOMMENDED. 7/10
The Farmer's Daughter (1947) – Directed by H.C. Potter, starring Loretta Young, Joseph Cotten, Ethel Barrymore.
What a pleasant surprise. La Reina was a bit down one Friday, so I worked overtime to find something she’d like. I did an advanced search on IMDB for all comedies produced in the
Portrait of Jennie (1948) – Directed by William Dieterle, starring Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten and Ethel Barrymore.
If you’re noticing a pattern here, you’re right. I re-kindled La Reina’s crush on Joseph Cotten, so we had to do a little Joseph Cotten film cycle. Cotten’s next film after The Farmer’s Daughter, actually won him an award for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival in 1948. He was at the peak of his career in the late 1940s. The film after this one turned out to be one of the all-time greats, The Third Man. In Portrait of Jennie, he plays a down-on-his-luck artist who encounters a quirky young girl in
Ingrid won an Academy Award for Best Actress for this role, and the film was nominated for seven Oscars altogether, including Best Picture, which it lost to the tepid Going My Way. (The nominee that should have won that year, hands down, was Double Indemnity.) Boyer was nominated for Best Actor (losing to Herr Bing) and Angela Lansbury, in her first role, received a
The White Countess (2005) – Directed by James Ivory, screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro, starring Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, and Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave.
Good Night, Constance Ockelman