Edgar Cochran (ElCochran90)Mexico City, Mexico
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Existentialism is just the topping of this pessimistic, black-and-white cake. Kaurismäki knows that the genre of the source material he adapted is drama, but when did some splashes of humor hurt anyone, especially if you have a very rich character development justifying your directorial plot management?
Even if that was not enough, we are offered two sides of a tragedy: the one that comes from the ingratitude towards art when such profession is your profession, and the one that comes with the package called life. Whereas I agree that art in general is a greatly underappreciated profession, La Vie de Bohème suggests between lines that the true art in this life is the art of living and facing such aforementioned tragedies.
Rohmer accomplishes the ridiculously difficult task of putting into coherent (sometimes sophisticated, but never sophistic) words the complex mentality that drives men's impulses into scandalously immoral actions. Maybe our fathers saw scandal in the age difference issue; today, it doesn't bother us that much anymore because society is, in some respects, more degraded than before. Hence, Le Genou de Claire arises new questionings today.
I use the word "scandalous" because Jerome's ambitions are truly perverted. The direction is impeccable and accurate because only all of us men are capable of understanding the powerlessness caused by a gorgeous female figure in an instant, no emotional attachments involved. In that way, everything suddenly becomes elements that conspire against you: the landscape in which you are in, the climate, the people around you when all you want is to find the golden opportunity of being alone with the source of your obsession, the lovers like if they were your personal competitors... everything becomes a conspiracy against you. A vacation can turn into a nightmare, but us men can find the fun in such disturbing experience.
A substantial amount of scenes in Le Genou de Claire needed to resemble an "interview style", so that both genders have the opportunity to make efforts to express the reasons behind their actions. Truth is, we do not know the reasons behind our actions. Jerome's marriage does not matter at the end of the day. What should really capture the audience is how, while trying to explain our actions, we build complex sentences as coherent as possible to justify what we do while pretending to know that we understand the complex psychological processes involved, and that is what Jerome stands for as a character. That is why Laura's presence occupies the first half of the film and her participation in it turns out to be funny and ironic, but paradoxical: she understands better why she does what she does (the "lack of parental figure" observation was spot-on) than Jerome, even better than Aurora, whose experimental reasons remain unexplained and that makes it all the more mysterious... just like human nature is.
Watching this film is like watching a mirror for men. The situation, even though improbable, is very realistic towards our unfortunately primitive male nature, and most of us have been in that situation with a close relative. Age does not matter, I reiterate. But it is ashaming to accept that our so-called "freedom" (in the context of "I am a free man/woman", like stated in the film) does not represent more than slavery to our passions. Damn it, I've been there, it is extremely difficult to handle, but why is it that we want to be the #1 guy in the lives of every single woman we meet? Rohmer, audaciously, circles around this particular question with challenging delicacy and, let's say, "diplomacy", making you realize that moral is relative, and the roots of your decisions and impulses are much more disturbing than what you realize.
Edgar's Favorite Movies
"Not that human life was so highly valued. Keeping order appears to be the business of the authorities, but in fact it's the business of all. Order. Freedom, however, has nothing human. It's something divine, something... our lives are too short for us to know properly. If you're looking for a link, think of Pericles, order and freedom are linked by passion. We have to believe in both, we suffer from both. Both from order and freedom. But human life is meaningful, rich, beautiful and filthy. It links everything. It mistreats freedom only... wasting it, as if it was junk. People don't like freedom, they are afraid of it. The strange thing is there is nothing to fear about freedom... order, on the other hand, can often be frightening."
Director: Béla Tarr
Country: Hungary / Germany / Switzerland
Length: 450 minutes
Before starting to construct a modest, fully developed essay about Béla Tarr's Sátántangó, let's make a nostalgic resume about some of the most wonderful experiences cinema has offered throughout its history. German Expressionism represented the pinnacle of Berlin's technical vision and resulted in the most visually captivating and thought-provoking classic masterpiece up to a hair-rising degree. After the Second World War, the emotional, physical and financial devastation and crisis the world was facing had a cinematic reaction in Europe and, latterly, in Mexico. The Italian neorealism is born as a form of expression that was meant to be so strong, so modest and so pitiful in nature that its resulting effect created a cathartic effect. It was a movement that, for some audiences, was released at the most inappropriate, hurtful time, but it had an everlasting effect nonetheless. New branches of filmmaking, including mere experimentation, are inevitably born and establish a trademark that would either result in a landmark way of making films or become successful failures, especially concerning films that would miserably fail because of predominant pretentiousness, dullness or missed marks. Finally, cinema became in an almost completely referential art, making homages to the beautiful stillness of the Soviet Union thanks to Andrei Tarkovsky, the black-and-white art that the film-noir genre would offer principally through the United States and the United Kingdom, and the melodramatic and clichéd touch that was completely accepted by audiences that belonged to the Golden Age of cinema, a characteristic that helped a lot to the success of the most famous American classics. Combine all of those elements in a single feature film and add approximately seven-and-a-half spoonfuls of French surrealism, mix the cinematic bowl, let it rest for four years and disseminate it through the audiences around the world before the new millennium begins. 1994 was the year that cinema itself witnessed the finest forms of cinematographic and artistic expressions combined in a single film that slowly passes as life itself. What are the main characteristics of the film? It is from Hungary, it was directed by Béla Tarr, it contains one of the longest average shot lengths in any motion picture (approximately 2.43 minutes), it has the longest shot ever filmed, which lasts around 620 seconds (excluding the films that are composed by one single take such as Timecode  Russkiy Kovcheg , PVC-1  and Nokta ), it is one of the longest films ever made without being separated into episodes, reaching the length of 450 glorious minutes, and it is the best film ever made, a movie consisting of nearly 185 shots throughout its length. There is no director, cinema fan or critic that can wholeheartedly affirm that such masterful mammoth was released at the right time. No one can fully assure that Sátántangó rescued cinema. Bad films are still being made and Sátántangó did not precisely become an extraordinary landmark event for the arts. Does the film have the ultimate ability to achieve such massive task on Earth? Yes, it does. However, on my humble and literally insignificant opinion, not all human eyes are ready yet to digest 27,000 seconds of symbolisms and dozens of life lessons in a single sitting. The purposes and motivations within Béla Tarr's mind are the least clear things that remain. However, he is entitled to avoid giving away any explanation whatsoever. The remaining thing is this magnum opus that is as big, perplexing, captivating, gorgeous, spellbinding, orgasmic, exciting, haunting, hypnotizing, masterful, extraordinary, unparalleled, visionary, skeptic, delicate, gigantic, grandiose, wonderful, tear-inducing, breathtaking and marvelous as life itself.
Seemingly, the film takes place in a remote village of 1980's Hungary. All of the residents are eagerly expecting to receive a considerable cash payment and to embark on a personal, independent life journey with such material support as their life-jumping mattress. Greed is naturally an obvious characteristic of man's ego, so some of them even plan to receive larger amounts of money earlier. An odyssey of self-reflection as enormous as the size of the Universe is about to begin when gossipy concerning Irimiás' return to town, a man everybody thought dead, is propagated. His brilliant manipulation and calm voice and attitude are the main personality characteristics that alarm all of the residents since the suspicion of him getting away with all the money through a giant scheme becomes an idea that start to haunt both their heads and their consciousness. The main purpose of Irimiás may even go beyond controlling the community with a supposedly convenient, financial plan. The only award this miscomprehended giant won is a Caligari Film Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Sometime in the future, perhaps some decades from now, it will finally receive the recognition it deserves. Genius directors are never properly recognized until its effect is proved to have remained through the decades. Nowadays, we have one genius on our hands going severely unnoticed. His name is Béla Tarr, and he is a poet.
Sátántangó provides the ultimate, definitive cinema experience. There is almost no other experience that can surpass the epic magnitude and colossal amazement Sátántangó does without being pretentious, slow, and tedious and without Béla Tarr fancying himself. He may not even fully recognize the brilliance and striking poetry that govern his mind just like Jodorowsky had no idea if his films were particularly good or not. He is an expressionist and arguably the most faithful portrayal of the time relativity of life and of the human condition. Tarr congregates the thoughts and the emotions that some people, those people who are capable of processing and creating thoughts during every single second of consciousness regardless of the specific action they are performing at the moment, own while personally thinking that nobody can see the world nor understand their mentality. That mental attitude is completely truthful. Federico Fellini understood it. He urged the world to see life like he did. Consequently, considering the aforementioned aspects, what is the most accessible and complete art that could fully express their vision? The language of cinema is the means they resorted to, including other outstanding, timeless directors, and tried to translate it through images. Tarr used images, Fellini combined images with dialogue, Tarkovsky mixed stillness with poetry and philosophy, Buńuel mostly offered surrealism for symbolisms to be interpreted and contrasted with real life. Moreover, Tarr achieved to make the audience look at life itself without even reportedly confirming such aim.
These thoughts, ways of thinking and spiritual, even soulless sensations are the ones that compose the premise of Sátántangó. It is, obviously, a very possible consequence to be amazingly hypnotized by its visual style rather than to be convinced to pay attention to the plot. The director, voluntarily or not, homages the styles that cinema had given birth to for a hundred years, considering it was filmed in a period of four years (1990-1994). Each hour of the film coverts us to one more resident, a resident that is offered the opportunity to live the rural lives held by the habitants and to witness it from different points of view. That nostalgic and typically felt sensation of wanting to be in several places at the same time is one of the divine opportunities that Béla Tarr has the mercy of offering to the viewer. It is not precisely treated as stories that intertwine, but that there is a superior force that acts with the sole, predestined intention to gather either self-centered or confused souls and make them live the exact same situation. The psychological background suddenly disappears with its importance dimming slowly. It is the aftermath that matters. It is how, each one of the characters, intentionally trying to mirror the persons that form the base of the cinematic audience, to feel empathetic, thus causing a devastating and even frightening cathartic feeling. Alcoholism, solitude, atheism, greed and arrogance bring devastating results to the perspective characters that suit one of these human defects. It is inevitable: life is life.
The attention to detail is not exaggerated. The cinematography by Gábor Medvigy may be one of the most spellbinding in the entire history of cinema!!! The technique of following a character for several big lengths is a technique that was directly influenced by Greek filmmaker Theodoros Angelopoulos and Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. However, Tarkovsky emphasized the stillness of a well-balanced take, and Angelopoulos was more mobile. Either partially (Martin Scorsese, Alfonso Cuarón, Kenneth Brannagh and dozens others) or totally (Gus Van Sant), Sátántangó is an influential piece of filmmaking from wherever it may be seen. It diminishes the physical size of the human race and ennobles the spiritual qualities that distinguish it from above any other animal species. Have you ever wondered or even wanted to know what if feels like to stand still in the middle of the rain and looking towards the sky without the concern of being sick? Have you ever wished to know what it feels like to be the last one to leave a party that ends until the latest hours of the night? Have you ever been awed by the skill and delicacy implied in the work of a spider? The spider seems to be floating in the air, suspended by an invisible force. Yet, it is a thread so thing that it sometimes can't be seen, but it is strong enough to support its weight. Have you ever loved the visible and graphical chain reactions caused by a series of events? Have you ever stared at an amazing spectacle of nature, such as a waterfall, a flower waking up in the morning, a snake eating a rat, a seagull hunting a fish, or a mystical display of fog landing on the earth? Have you ever experienced a déjŕ-vu, or being internally struck by an epiphany of dramatic proportions? Those tiny little details of life, seen through the right, trained, experienced, artistic and harmonious eyes are depicted in the exact same way. A master's lens is converted into a replica of reality despite the black-and-white use, a fact that strictly convinces the viewer that the film is a colossal homage to classic films. However, these small, tiny details that praise the five senses God gave to us in his infinite wisdom are not the only ones that are glorified. Vast landscapes, the beauty of walking a straight road surrounded by fields in a balanced way with a complete view of the sky, the art that a symmetrical construction seen from the right angles involves, among other aspects that form part of the roads we daily drive through and walk on are present. The second chapter of the film titled "Raising from the Dead" has one of the most spellbinding, harmonious and beautifully realistic, suburban shots ever put to the big screen. Even so, several sequences throughout seven-and-a-half-hours are easily included into a list of the most staggering and creative, not to mention poignant sequences in the history of the motion picture.
The human condition and empowerment ultimately destroy the characters. The lack of control and independence over other people or beings is symbolized in a sequence where a charming little girl tortures a cat in physical and psychological forms. The final destiny the cat faces is the same one the girl decides to face. However, she takes the necessary bravery from witnessing the act and suffering that it would probably involved through making an "inferior being" to suffer the exact same fate before she does. The psychological reasons behind her motivations may me originated from destroyed illusions, lack of attention and constant deceptions. It may be a clear outcome because of how degraded the town already is. Usually, kids are symbolisms of the original innocence the human race originally possesses before being perverted by the surrounding society, perhaps the most important element that drove to the conclusion of another future Béla Tarr film, Werckmeister Harmóniák (2000). Every single character has an epiphany, including Irimiás, and the sequence showing the aforementioned girl is the key hour of the film that suggests the doom of the village. The final sequence of the Doctor having a religious epiphany is the most memorable, surreal and discussed scene of the entire film for the majority of the audience that witnessed the spectacle of Sátántangó. The title of the film is clearly illustrated in a long, extraordinarily built and shot sequence where the villagers are desperately expecting for the unexpected arrival of Irimiás while everybody dance in a considerably drunk state. They are in the "nipples of Satan". To what extent can a remote Hungarian village become a modern Sodom? They require the aid of God, the One and Only. The wisdom and physical resemblance of Irimiás with Jesus Christ is an element that we may be able to throw into the analysis of the film. Even the chronological order of the events is relative. Subjectivity of all arts is present in the film, establishing itself as another art form.
Sátántangó surpasses itself. Is that possible? Can a film surpass itself? That is a direct contradiction! This last statement I made may leave you as perplex as the overall experience of the film. Béla Tarr has reached a pinnacle within the most recent and financially successful art. It can reach such indescribable levels of grandiosity and epic measures that the human eye will even feel destroyed. It is one of those films that are mentioned when coming to a general, impossible discussion of what the best movie ever made may be. This is the best film ever made. You can finally stop the search now; the day has come. In fact, it came two decades ago, but the world wasn't ready to understand it and witness it. It surpasses all expectations, it surpasses the best masterpieces of the greatest directors that could ever have grabbed a camera, and it beats the saintliness of films by Dreyer, Bresson and Tarkovsky, the poetry by Antonioni and Resnais, the human testaments of Bergman, Fellini and Rossellini, the artistic beauty of Kobayashi and Mizoguchi, the literary talent of Truffaut, Godard and Kurosawa. Tarr is a god of cinema and Irimiás is his Jesus who everybody thought was dead, but has come back for our redemption and even having the mercy for letting us have a new beginning. If we deny Him, the eerie music plays its role, ending in the same way the ending scene closes: with darkness... eternal darkness... We should stop creating and imagining the sound of bells, because God is the owner of all. Perdition and an eternal wait for something that will never come are not the best way. They will never become the answers to the prayers we never did.
"Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth and the thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth. Walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes but know that for all these God will bring thee into judgment. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth before the difficult days come and the years draw nigh when thou shalt say "I have no pleasure in them." Remember thy creator before the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken or the pitcher shattered at the fountain or the wheel broken at the well. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. "Vanity of vanities," saith the preacher; "All is vanity.""
ANDREY RUBLYOV (1966)
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Country: Soviet Union
Genre: Biography / Drama / War
Length: 205 minutes
Thanks to the power and humanism of a gripping anti-war manifesto called Ivanovo Detstvo (1962) directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, his next epic project Andrey Rublyov had a considerable amount of high expectations from the Russian audience. Naturally, something that continues happening even nowadays, the film surpassed any possible human expectation, being the cinematic result a politically brutal and violent motion picture with a highly sexual tone. The most obvious consequence was the film being prohibited by the Russian government for approximately three years, complicating a wider worldwide distribution while being subject to several edited versions mostly removing every scene involving profanity, its greatly predominant Catholic influence and the noticeably violent torture and battle sequences. Decades had to pass so the actuality audience could witness the full masterpiece of Andrei Tarkovsky completely restored in its 205-minute length. Objectively speaking, most of the films that are considered too violent, too scandalous and utterly disrespectful in their respective eras worry both partially and totally totalitarian governments for the political ideas it presents, including their particular depiction relying on the filmmaking style and auteur vision. The most honest truth is that Andrey Rublyov belongs to a superior category within the art of filmmaking because of its pure sheer brilliance, its dominative skepticism and, ultimately, because of Andrey Tarkovsky, a cinema master.
Andrey Rublyov unfolds its story in the 15th Century, one of the most tragic and catastrophic periods of Russian history where numerous battles against Tatar invasions predominated. The film focuses on the icon painter Andrei Rublev from the very beginnings of his artistic influence in town, traveling and hiding from the Tatars and being asked to paint a fresco of The Last Judgment in the Church of the Annunciation in Moscow while the scaffolding was still being built. Despite that the audience was prevented from seeing the film, which was screened during very early hours of the morning, the film won the FIPRESCI prize in 1969 at the Cannes Film Festival.
Andrey Rublyov is the film that primarily showed the upcoming filming style of Andrei Tarkovsky for the first time. The political content and the strength Catholicism had already acquired were the principal motors that justified and beautifully unfolded the plot of the film which was abundant in substance and in philosophical depth. Both Andrei Tarkovsky and Andrei Konchalovsky developed one of the most complex, provocative and poetic screenplays that could ever give birth to an epic motion picture. The lack of music can be immediately compared with the lack of inspiration that Andrei Rublev transmitted through his paintings, a possible immediate consequence of such turbulent times, resulting in a struggle for maintaining faith in God. When music is employed, its quiet and mystic beauty and tranquility allow both the protagonists to physically take a break from the events they inevitably were meant to go through and allow the spectator to psychologically be hypnotized with the visual style and the gorgeousness of vast landscapes and the love of God.
Evidently, Tarkovsky utilizes lengthy shots that let the time pass like life itself. The editing is effective enough to guarantee a visually pleasant watch, but the cinematography and the length of every single shot acquire an independent timing that allows the film to offer a skeptic perspective. This is the skepticism that Andrei Rublev has gained through his spiritual journey from a religious point of view, but not necessarily questioning the existence of God and a universal truth that governs the world. The frequent questionings arise from unperceived motives that should guide his actions through the right path. Tatar invasions are raping the peacefulness of the Soviet Union while he, ironically, is asked to paint the Last Judgment in the ruins of a church that has not yet been fully built... nor has he. No matter how inexperienced the performances may seem, it even suddenly transmits a rather odd neorealist feeling, and the most believable reactions one is expecting from the characters clearly should lack exaggerated displays of strong emotions and spiritual perdition.
Andrey Rublyov possesses one of the most interesting and haunting scenes ever filmed. An intentionally historically-inaccurate sequence depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is presented while the main character considers the possibility of His death as being divine plan that was meant to reconcile man. His ideas and interpretation of the meaning and influence of Jesus Christ in the existence of the human race are already torn up; therefore, the inaccuracy of the aforementioned scene is justified, since it is a peculiar characteristic that can be immediately contrasted with how life tribulations tend to weaken the faith we should eternally keep towards God. Andrei Rublev is an individual representation of a personal tragedy and of an almost unstoppable loss of religion because of man's constant and never-ending territorial and political wars. This tragedy is implicitly mirrored with the brutality the whole nation was going through. The consequences of irony are a factor that could not be omitted.
Thanks to all of the characteristics mentioned above, a high display of graphic violence and orgiastic rituals were the elements that caused so much controversy back in the 60's. However, a politically correct film must not necessarily be a kind movie towards its audience. It must clearly show to what band the director decided to belong if neutrality is not part of his main ideals. Tarkovsky fulfilled such task and had enough guts to throw in a very powerful religious perspective that would help in every single artistic, cinematographic and plot aspect. The final outcome is one of the most audacious and provocative magnum opuses ever committed to celluloid.
Andrey Rublyov is not only the director's best film, but one of the strongest candidates for the best film ever made, literally speaking. It is a direct message towards the Catholic worldwide population and an undeniable masterpiece towards atheistic and agnostic people. Captivating epiphanies, a riotous conclusion and one of the most visually beautiful and haunting sequences ever filmed in full color are just some of the elements that the movie presents. It is the trademark of a genius, a brave effort at creating a grandiose testament more epic in philosophical depth than in its mere running time and quite possibly the best foreign film ever directed. Words won't suffice for writing a proper review rather than expressing one's amazement, but it is a film almost as big as life itself and a dream come true for anyone who supports expressive art forms and the complexity of existence itself, subjectively speaking. Finally, it is a masterwork that has the divine ability to transform people and to make them see life differently. I do now.