Rear Window, The Conformist & In the Mood For Love

I’ve watched some good to average to crap films over the last few months. Drive was smooth but not brilliant. The Debt and Contagion were crisp but formulaic. Johnny English Reborned was slightly amusing while The Devil and Daniel Johnston, a documentary about the freakishly talented songwriter and his family’s battle with his bi-polarity was engaging.

I’ve stated before I’m not much of a film watcher in many ways. They get too much adoration when they lack the accessibility, portability and pathos of music and lyrics. But that’s not to say I don’t like them. I got paid to watch Up! the other night. Getting paid is always nice but Up!, a Pixar animation has one scene near the start, an emotion montage through the life of the main character, focusing on his relationship with his lost wife that’s genuinely moving.

Later in the week, that’s this week for reference, a week in which I’ve been paid for having fantastic fun, I was reading some Zizek, the mildy crazy, Slovenian critical theorist. He comes from the Brecht ‘school’ of argument; Nothing is more important than learning to think crudely. This means being direct and to the point rather than hiding behind semantics and often inaccessible academic language. Zizek is a writer you understand and who amuses you. He tackles the modern subjects of politics and economy informing through Marx and Lacan on the underlying power structure and relations in our societies. In short, he tells you things you only suspected.

He also references modern culture to inform you of these subtleties. He admires Hitchcock and in one passage, just after using Psycho to explain the ego, id and super-ego (quite successfully too), he moves onto Rear Window, another Hitchcock film, this time starring Jimmy Stewart. After briefly reading the analysis, I downloaded it (oops) to watch.

And that I did, straight through and without my usual distracted nature. I won’t explain the plot, you likely know it. But with a small cast including Grace Kelly, one set and a simple premise, it builds tension into an obvious but incredibly menacing and exciting ending. And as a friend said Grace Kelly might be the most beautiful woman you will ever see.

A friend Barry, not generally known for liking films that require thought (sorry Baz but its true!) put me onto an Italian film he’d watched. The Conformist is an early Bernardo Bertuloucci film and confirmed his reputation. Its the story of a man tasked by with assassinating his former University professor (we’ve all felt that way!) in fascist pre-war Italy. The cutaways reveal what brought him to this stage but maintain the momentum but what’s really striking is the cinematography. The use of colours, shadow and sunlight immerse you deep into the complex and troubled characters and the finale is truly grand and innovative.

I followed The Conformist up a few days later with Wong Kar-wai film In the Mood for Love. Again I’ve seen this before. The plot and the pace may be different but it’s equally engrossing as neighbours come to the sad conclusion their partners are having affair. The music, the colours and attention to emotional detail stays with you. Tony Leung’s quiet eyes tell many a tale worth coming back to.

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