L’enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot
L’enfer is the story of Clouzot’s ill-fated inferno. It was a great disaster and never released but it resulted in some great footage, a lot of it experimental footage of spinning lights and water flows to recreate the sensation of a psychotic state, one brought on by jealousy in the movie.
Serge Bromberg does a good job of telling both the movie and the story of the movie in one continuous flow, filling in with actors some of the key unshot scenes and mixing that with the beautiful footage shot on location in France.
The actresses in the original movie were gorgeous and the two leading ladies, both stunning beauties of their time, were performing a lesbian scene in bathing suits and gave Clouzot a heart attack, not surprisingly, which was the last blow to the troubled production.
Slovenka (Slovenian Girl)
Slovenka (2009) is the story of a young girl trying to make her way through college who finds easy profits in sex work given the endless flux of E.U. representatives visiting during Slovenia’s entry period.
Here income was so good that she managed to make a down payment on a new apartment, much to the amazement of her friends. But all was not well in the world: her studies suffered and she has to cajole professors into passing her; she tries to manage her relationship with her father and hide her life from him and his friends from a small town outside of the capital; and she comes into conflict with local pimps who want a piece of her profits.
While the movie was very well acted, compelling, nicely paced, funny, and well written, the conclusion left unanswered many of the drivers of the plot. While realistic and not a fatal flaw, the subplots seemed interrupted and left unfinished and the arc of the story didn’t quite achieve a satisfying conclusion.
Dogtooth (2009) is a Greek movie about a strange family where the parents create an alternate universe full of danger and mystery to confine their teenage (at least) children and control their exposure to modern life.
The movie is fully of amazingly clever premises: teaching children through the Naughty Hungarian Phrase Book technique to hide the meaning of any difficult (and many random) words; terrifying them of the world outside the estate walls with tales of terror and a lost brother (to whom they throw food and other things); the horrible terror that cats pose, ripping the unwary apart; that airplanes are actually very small and plastic and now and then when they fly over head just drop into the yard to be found by the winning child; and contests to decide the best of the children at every turn.
And then there’s the woman who is paid to have sex with the son and manage his urges who seduces the sisters and pays them with knicknacks from the outside world they treasure. And the porn she brings for the father to watch with his wife after the children are asleep, that ultimately goes astray. And lastly, the title, which refers to the K9 tooth, the adult one, which is the indicator of adulthood when it comes out.
There is so much promise in this movie that could have been a real pleasure to watch, could have been hilarious or disturbing. But it just wasn’t. It was slow and stilted and clumsy. The pacing was brutal and ultimately tedious and drained the humor out of the most absurd situations – like where the father released live fish in the pool as some sort of miracle and then went to catch them for dinner with a spear gun that should have had the audience laughing but were drained of life by the pacing and structure.
This movie was particularly difficult, not so much for what it was but for how great it almost was.
Io, Don Giovanni
We saw Io, Don Giovanni (2009) at a gala opening at the Roy Thompson Hall at TIFF. It is the story of Mozart’s lyricist, Lorenzo da Ponte, and in particular their collaboration on Don Giovanni.
Lorenzo was born in the republic of Venice and was friends with Casanova there. Though a priest, Lorenzo was a libertine and his love of liberty brought him into odds with the Venetian Inquisition and Lorenzo was exiled. Casanova gave him a letter of introduction to Salieri in Vienna but he ended up paired with the upstart Mozart by the Austrian Emperor Joseph II and so the two collaborated on the opera that would chronicle Casanova’s life.
The movie works very well. The music is woven into the story and livens it, the acting is excellent. The cinematography is excellent, the movie is shot as if on the set of an opera using painted sets and scrims and brings engravings to life in a way that effectively blurs the boundaries between the opera being performed and the story of its creation.
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