|The Gospel According to St. Matthew
|Pier Paolo Pasolini
|À bout de souffle
|Taste of Cherry
|HABLE CON ELLA
It's the first Chaplin talkies. Nevertheless, the Little Tramp is still faithful to silent cinema by making a film without dialogue. The love story between the legendary wanderer and the blind flower seller (Virginia Cherrill) is just powerful and very touching. I found amazing that Charlie Chaplin himself composed the music of the film and devoted a theme for each character. The soundtrack of the film is an artwork in itself and a true masterpiece. I loved also in how Chaplin deals with the Great Depression of 1929, as he did in Modern Times, and produces a very moving and touching narrative. In the way he merges comedy and gravity, he is definitely one of the greatest genius of all time in the art of painting the human soul.
One of my favourite films in Fellini's filmography. What I liked the most in this psychedelic film is its exploded narration, the banished borders between dream, phantasm and reality, and the importance of fantasy in the creative process. This is the magical side of Fellini's cinema. I have been touched by the story of this film director, lost and fragile, a bit depressive and melancholic, plagued by doubts and questions, brilliantly portrayed by Marcello Mastroianni. The character of Guido Anselmi (it is not forbidden to think that he is the Fellini's double) is the incarnation and the perfect metaphor of the artist devoured by his demons, alone and helpless in front of his artwork.
The last film by the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, released shortly before his death in 1986. Like all Tarkovsky's films, it's a marvel of visual object. This melancholic film with dystopian overtones is like a meditation on life, on the fragility of human civilisation and on the power of speech. We strongly find the themes dear to Tarkovsky, namely the end of man, mysticism, and what art can do in the face of death. But it is especially on the aesthetic level that this movie, as well as the other works of the author, is so fantastic. By its oneirism, the epic lyricism of the images, and these breathtaking scenes which will remain as some of the most powerful in the history of cinema like that of Alexander's memories and reminiscences in black and white (performed by Erland Josephson, the director's favourite actor), or the scene of the burning house, or the long sequence-shot of the child and the tree that opens the film. These long shots reinforce the contemplative character of the film and its incredible melancholic beauty.
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
One of Pasolini's most iconic films. It embodies the poet-director's attachment to the sacred. And also his passion for ancient and biblical history which he never ceased to revisit with his so-peculiar visual language. Pasolini is often reduced to the violence and cruelty of his images as illustrated by his Oedipus Rex or his latest movie, Salo or the 120 days of Sodom. And we are almost surprised to discover a film about Christ, faithful to the real life of Jesus, especially that Pasolini is known for his proclaimed atheism. But beyond the restitution of the life of Jesus from nativity to resurrection, the core of the film is elsewhere. He delivers a vision of the world, deeply mystical and imbued with spirituality, and above all, it is through the poetic power that irrigates his shots that Pasolini touches us the most, through his subtle staging, through the way he directs the actors and the moving expression that he manages to draw on the faces as in the opening scene of the young Mary or the procession of Jesus (brilliantly portrayed by a non-actor, Enrique Irazoqui). An expressionist Christ in the strongest truth of his visual incarnation.
À bout de souffle
The film is one of the major cinematographic works that will announce the French New Wave (La Nouvelle Vague) at the same time as The 400 Blows by François Truffaut and Hiroshima mon amour by Alain Resnais. If the plot suggests a classic thriller, a story of gangsters including a toxic passion between a criminal (Jean-Paul Belmondo's Michel Poiccard) and an American student in Paris (Jean Seberg's Patricia), the form is just revolutionary. The film's narration, its editing, the dialogues, the way the shooting interacts with the city and the people of Paris, the real life, all this spontaneous side, the part of improvisation, all this language shapes an experimental object and prefigures a new cinema that breaks the codes of classic movies and raises it to the rank of film-manifesto, establishing a true aesthetic revolution and a counter-cinema.
Shot in my city, Algiers, and the winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1970, Z stills as one of the best political thrillers in cinema history. It was shot shortly after the military putsch of the colonels in Greece on 21 April 1967. Beyond Greece, the movie was released in a context of dictatorial rule in Spain, Portugal, Eastern Europe… Among the strong points of the film, apart from the plot and the screenplay, is the editing which gave it this dynamic narrative and breathless rhythm, and which was also rewarded with an Oscar in 1970. Warm thoughts to Jean-Louis Trintignant who passed away recently and who remarkably played the role of the imperturbable investigating judge.
Taste of Cherry
Kiarostami's film is like a philosophical tale. A magnificent ode to life even in its darkness. Through the desperate quest of the main character, Mr Badii, who is looking for someone to bury him after he’ll kill himself, the director explores one of the major themes of all art: how ward off death. The dialogues are deep and witty. The three characters that Badii meets and invites to help him in his funeral plan, the soldier, the theology student and the taxidermist, offer a subtle portrait of the Iranian society. A scene has particularly caught my attention, the one where the old museum employee reveals how he had tried himself to put an end to his life and how he was saved by a simple blackberry. Visually, the arid landscapes in the suburbs of Tehran, all this tormented topography, seem like a metaphor for the hero’s tortuous quest. The character repeats the same circuit as if he was locked in an oppressive infernal spiral with no way out, and it is at the end, at the twilight of the day, that his path brightens with a soothing light. That only brings peace to Badi and that's so poetic.
Venice Golden Lion-winner for Best Film in 1985, Vagabond fully deserves to be considered as one of the greatest movies ever. The filmmaker remains one of the pioneers of the nouvelle vague. In her own way, Varda brought a breath of fresh air to cinema by introducing ways of filming that borrow from documentary cinema but going beyond the raw realistic side of the genre to offer a cinema that sublimates reality through the freedom that inhabits its characters. This is perfectly the case in this opus which goes far beyond the codes of the social film. The character of Mona Bergeron (Sandrine Bonnaire) embodies a form of rebellion against social norms. I loved certain tracking shots like that of Mona crossing a field while smoking a cigarette before ending with a large shot of Mona's face ravaged by life. Another highlight of the film: the narration process and the voiceover (the voice of Agnès Varda herself) that investigates about this mysterious girl and reconstructs the portrait and personality of Mona through a puzzle of micro-stories. The film thus brilliantly restores their dignity, not only to an anonymous homeless person, but also to the cinema of the real.
With a magic and charismatic Robert de Niro, this film noir is striking by the disturbing fusion between a man and a town: New York City. The oppressive atmosphere of the film plunges us into the gloomy side of New York's nights. Over the performance of Robert de Niro, one of the most captivating things in this movie is the way in which the marginal destinies of America during the 1970s are reflected. Thus, the masterpiece of Scorsese shows up the indelible traumas inherited from the Vietnam War through Travis Bickle's swing into violence. But the dramatic treatment is not Manichean, so that the spectator is sometimes confused when judging the former soldier: hero or antihero? Avenger or justice defender? By following this cracked taxi driver through his nocturnal wanderings, we also follow the dark thoughts that cross his mind. And we note that Travis's slow path to redemption, notably by saving the young prostitute Iris, is beautiful and powerful in the complexity of the character. In the maze of the huge city swarm so many lonely and lost souls exactly like our paranoiac taxi driver struggling for a kind of justice and running madly for an unreachable inner peace.
HABLE CON ELLA
I was immediately touched in this movie by the character of the male nurse, Benigno Martin, and the strange relationship he has developed with Alicia, the dancer who has fallen into a coma and who he loved secretly. I was extremely moved by the connection with the patient through the power of words, and how Benigno symbolically and even physically brings her back to life through speech. The direction of Almodóvar replicates the Benigno-Alicia 'relationship' with that of Marco and Lydia, while Lydia also falls into a coma. But this relationship is likely to be a 'counter-shot' to the first one insofar as Marco's relationship with his beloved is different from that of Benigno establishes with Alicia. I didn't find the script to be forced by this repetition of the same pattern, and even when Benigno himself fells into a coma, this reinforced the melodramatic tension of the film. Through three analogous situations, Pedro Almodóvar explores with an elegant virtuosity the boundaries between life and death, love and life, desire and morality, and reveals the power of speech and narration.