Friday, July 26, 2019

A cinematheque in your own computer

It’s a wonderful world we live in when we can have our own cinematheques right in our very own computers. Of course, there’s Netflix, but for the real art house experience you have to go to the Criterion Channel. Here are some of the films I’ve been watching….At long last I saw the 1968 Cuban film Memories of Underdevelopment by  Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. This is a Cuban and art house classic that is a reflection on the Cuban Revolution through the eyes of one man, Sergio (Sergio Corrieri). I didn’t know what to expect – was the film a documentary, agitprop? In fact, the film unspools as a personal narrative or drama that combines observations of Cuban society with aspects of the protagonist’s own life. Though released in 1968 most of the movie seems to have been shot in the early Sixties, right after Castro seized power. This is not just a compelling personal tale but a peek into what Cuban society was like as it transitioned from dictatorship to communism….Then there was Girlfriends,
Claudia Weill’s 1978 film, which I’d caught back in the day but barely remembered. Melanie Mayron as Susan Weinblatt is an aspiring photographer trying to get by in New York, dealing with frustrated career ambitions, friendlessness, and the unpredictability of romance. Some of the acting is stilted but the low budget feature starring Eli Wallach, Christopher Guest and Bill Balaban nevertheless is an absorbing look into the ebb and flow of personal relationships…..From the French we’d expect stories about the subtleties, charms and unpredictability of romance. And I watched two gems from the French New Wave of the early 1960s – François Truffaut's Antoine and Colette (1962) and Éric Rohmer’s The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963). Both are relatively short; why aren’t short films screened before feature films in theatres? In Antoine and Collette, Francois’s famous actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud, who appears in numerous of his films, plays Antoine, who has the hots for Colette
(Marie-France Pisier). They seem to have a lot in common – classical music, the arts generally. He makes a move for her after a concert and she warms to him. But it’s not as he expects. Anyone who’s had a crush on someone that seems reciprocated will identify with this sad emotional truth. The Bakery Girl of Monceau is about a kind of romantic ruthlessness. A young man on a Paris street keeps crossing paths with a young woman and decides to one day to approach her. She tells him they could get together but right now she’s busy. But weeks go by and he never sees her again. Meanwhile, a clerk in a bakery takes a shine to him. Not his type but he agrees to go out with her anyway. Then the first woman reappears.

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