Monthly recap: What have I been watching in September?

A Trip to the Moon (Le voyage dans la lune) (1902)
Iconic 14 minute silent film. A group of astronomers go on an expedition to the moon. For its time, a landmark achievement for special effects. Be cautious of youtube, many videos don't include the ending. A restored hand-tinted version was presented at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival with a soundtrack by the French band Air. Music by Air works well with the images, in fact I perfer the album combined with film. Having watched color and black & white versions, I have to admit the color version was easier to follow what was going on. The first known science fiction film.
Rating 8.0

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2012)
Average, watered-down adaptation of a supposedly superior novel. Why would Blunt cry over some guy she's known for 5 minutes? Best moments are in the trailer in my opinion. My low rating is mainly because none of the characters felt like real people to me. I struggled to finish this one.
Rating 5.5

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)
Watched in August. Won Grand Prize of the Jury at 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Turkish crime drama, which for the first hour included highly original nighttime cinematography, lit only by moonlight and headlamps. I had never seen that done before. The remainder of the film had a few gorgeous panoramic shots in daylight.
Characters seemed to have secrets or memories that are only hinted at. The story left me confused. Probably it was explainable, it didn't make sense to me, maybe I wasn't smart enough? In order to figure it out, the audience must act as detective and try and solve a case based on incomplete evidence, which is not easy to do.
As blogger apotpourriofvestiges writes: "One very unique feature of the movie is the striking yet consistent difference that exists between what the characters try to project, and what actually is going inside their diabolical minds, something that only the viewer is made aware of, but not always."
In fact it's not just about the crime case, we are analyzing the police work as well. I've got nothing against Turks, but what is obvious is that the Turkish police (at least in this film) are incompetent and many of them don't do their job properly. I mean why work at night, and why not bring a body bag for the body? Is it a satire of Turkey? Maybe. More about what is unsaid than said.
A film I at times found tedious to sit through, the pacing is slow, yet is fascinating to think about. I'm looking forward to giving it a rewatch in future!
Rating 7.7

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Based on a play, this film is widely hailed as among Tennessee Williams' finest achievements. Sadly there wasn't much for me to connect with. Elizabeth Taylor was mostly annoying, and Newman a drunk. The couple have marital problems. How an unloving father can raise a son who also becomes unloving. The children at the party are also irritating. The most moving scenes I thought were between father and son.
Saving grace for me were the terrific performances. I mean for acting it's a 10/10, for likeable characters a 4/10.
Favorite quote: "I've wasted so much time, you know, I've got a million different kinds of feelings left in me, and I want to use them. I want to use them all."
"Heroes in the real world live 24 hours a day, not just 2 hours in a game"
"The truth is pain, sweat, and paying bills, and truth is making love to a woman that you don't love anymore. Truth is your dreams not coming true and nobody printing your name in the paper till you die"
Rating 7.4

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope (2011) (documentary)
I like how they have guards to protect $500.000 comics :) I have never been to the event, so watching was somewhat of an eye-opener. I was expecting the main Comic-Con logo to be explained, alas. Doesn't feature Morgan Spurlock in person, or his voice-over, he took a backseat, which was a tad surprising. I don't think it delved as deeply as it could have done, but it was a quite entertaining watch. Don't think I was key audience.
Rating 7.0

Visions of Light (1992) (documentary)
Cameramen and women discuss the craft and art of cinematography and of the "DP" (the director of photography). A journey through American classic films. A little shallow because so much ground is covered.
I prefer to watch a documentary about a specific film, rather than 20 different ones. If you are interested in cinematography, a must-see.
Rating 7.4

It's A Gift (1934)
Comedy classic starring W. C. Fields. The couple seemed pretty old to have children, they looked more like grandparents. Very funny in a Fawlty Towers kind-of-way.
Rating 8.0

Purple Violets (2007)
Recommended to me by blogger friend Alex Withrow from And So It Begins. Edward Burns directed drama. I often find his movies whiny and mediocre, Purple Violets is among the Edward Burns films that stayed with me.
I liked the main characters, but there were a few things that held me back from loving it. Several relationships at the beginning of the story didn't seem realistic, that they would be living together.
Another issue was how they gloss over the writing process, and make writing a novel look like a piece of cake, something you just sit down, write in a a short period of time, and mail off to be published. Writing a book is not THAT easy Edward Burns, sorry. But then again, in his defense, it's tough to make the art of writing cinematically interesting to observe.
The main theme is about doing what pleases and is expected, or taking the difficult path and following a dream, which may not be as popular. If you like Edward Burns or Woody Allen, its worth the time.
Has the distinction of being among the first movies to be premiered via iTunes.
Rating 7.3

The Fugitive Kind (1959)
From the Criterion Collection. Recommended by Timothy Spall, part of the Five Favorite Films series on Rotten Tomatoes.
I think Tennessee Williams is a talented writer, but this was not among his best. Neither is it Sidney Lumet's finest moment as director. There wasn't enough story or conflict for a two hour running time. Good performances, unconvincing story. As another critic notes: Funny how much Brando goes on and on about how much he loves his guitar, but never really plays the damned thing!
The story of a snakeskin jacket-wearing Marlon Brando and a confused young woman (Joanne Woodward) may have been the inspiration for David Lynch's road movie Wild at Heart (1990). The bird in the tree(screenshot above) reminded me of Blue Velvet (1986) and Twin Peaks intro.
Rating 6.0

My Brilliant Career (1979)
Rewatch. Probably not the most groundbreaking of films, and not quite as good as first watch. I like the struggle of the young woman to break free of family chains and become an artist. Times have obviously changed since early 20th century Australia, but there are comparisons to contemporary life of finding your path in life.
Favorite quote: "There's any amount of love and good in the world, you know. It doesn't just come to you, you have to search for it. Being misunderstood is a trial we must all bear. You have a wildness of spirit which is going to get you into trouble all your life, so you must learn to control it..."
Rating 7.4

Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
Widely considered a horror classic. Never having watched it before, I liked it quite a bit. The second film made in Romero's Living Dead series, but contains no characters or settings from Night of the Living Dead (1968).
I thought the first 30 minutes were disorientating with all these different characters being introduced, slowly I began to get into Dawn Of The Dead. The special effects and action sequences were pretty good, considering the budget, though the grey makeup the zombies are wearing is at times a little too obvious.
Didn't scare me as much as I thought it would, but there are creepy moments. Maybe if I had watched it late at night as a kid, it would have freaked me out then.
Here's my interpretation: Certainly is disturbing to see braindead zombies in a mall. A social commentary, that there is little difference between zombies, and mindless consumers wandering aimlessly from shop to shop hypnotized by mall music. Killing these mindless creatures presumably is a statement about regaining our individuality, but the irony is the normal humans are equally as mindless by wanting stuff from the shops in the mall.
Perhaps another message is, that it's very difficult to avoid mindless consumerism, because like the zombies, it's a "virus" that's everywhere and is still spreading. The mindless consumer will infect you, and turn you into a mindless creature too. A consumer who selfishly hides from chaos and social injustice. Scary thought.
Actually, the whole film could be viewed as Francine's dream, considering the opening scene. In any case, the conversation: "I'm still dreaming." "No you're not" is an indication of the nightmare scenario we are about to witness.
The zombies are victims. As another reviewer writes, the real villains are humans who are cunning, mean, selfish, and unable to work together towards a common goal.
Director George Romero has said in a BBC interview that the repetition of the violence means you sort of become immune to it, and is about how audiences were getting desensitized to what they were seeing on television, when the movie came out. Romero also talks in interview about how the main characters live in separate quarters "over here", while there is violence and the world is exploding "over there", a parallel to peace or war in different parts of our real world.
Despite being barricaded in a mall, and living hedonistically, they're still prisoners.
Favorite quote: "You're hypnotized by this place, all of you, it's so bright and neatly wrapped, that you don't see that it's a prison too. Let's just take what we need and keep going"
Rating 8.2

Hunger (2008)
A powerful film about brutal prison conditions, an uncomfortable watch, that can allow you to acknowledge how these guys suffered in jail (and even the guards had a rough time). We are a fly on the wall in the prison. Good performances, but I had difficulty understanding the Irish accents.
The reasons for jail time and hunger strike were not elaborated on, only briefly hinted at, and this frustrated me a little, I felt I wasn’t given sufficient historical context.
I’ve subsequently read prisoners were protesting the treatment at the hands of British prison guards, and refusing to eat, until Irish officials are willing to acknowledge the IRA as a legitimate political organization. This could have been made clearer during the film. In my opinion, a film should stand on it’s own, and not need a wikipedia page to tell me things afterwards. Nevertheless, the film is well-made and memorable, and apparently I’m in the minority having an issue with the storytelling. McQueen was a first time director, so maybe I should cut him some slack.
An extreme film of this nature will no doubt be loved or loathed. Hunger spoke to me on a visceral and emotional level, not a historical.
Rating 7.5

Sound of My Voice (2012)
From August. It did get mixed reviews, better than expected, though, and I could easily watch it again in future. About a documentary filmmaking team who infiltrate a mysterious cult led by an enigmatic young woman named Maggie. Creates a certain unsettling tension and atmosphere. For me, equally as powerful as the other movie about a cult Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011).
Rating 7.7

My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Watched in August. I don't think M Williams looks especially like Monroe, though she definitely gave a good performance here. It's tough to match the magic of the real Marilyn Monroe, and I think whoever it was that portrayed her would fall a little bit short. MM was quite a character off the screen, as well as on it. This film has made me curious to watch Monroe's movies, which for me are a blind spot. Or even read her biography.
Rating 7.2

Breathless (À bout de souffle) (1960)
Rewatch. Influencial Jean-Luc Godard film from the French New Wave. I didn't like the characters the first time I watched it a few years ago, thinking it was more style over substance, but I was willing to give it a second chance. My verdict hasn't really changed. Jean Seberg was cute, and the dialogue and use of camera is still vibrant. The girl finds aimless main character Michel to be dangerous and mysterious, I find him to be shallow and unlikeable. A light-hearted film about casual characters. Overall, the film is not as good as it's reputation in my opinion. I mean, Godard's film is good, but I'm hesitant to proclaim it great. The story of the making of Breathless seems to receive more attention than the movie itself.
In the defense of the movie, my favorite scene is when Jean Seberg is walking up and down the street selling the New York Herald Tribune, she is adorable in that scene.
The director has said: I realized that Breathless was not at all what I thought, I thought I had made a realistic film...but it wasn't that at all."
Rating 7.4

Mouchette (1967)
Directed by Robert Bresson, and nominated for the Palme d'Or. Mouchette is a sad and moving coming-of-age story of a confused, naive and lonely teenage girl. She has to take responsibility for the baby at home, her mother is sick, and her father uncaring. Mouchette wants to be loved, but struggles to find it. About alienation and quiet despair. Outstanding performance by Nadine Nortier in the lead role. The minimalistic, restricted point-of-view is comparable to the Dardenne's brothers The Kid With A Bike (2011). Surprisingly, Nortier never starred in another movie. If you're interested in watching the films of Robert Bresson, this is a great place to start. A candidate for my top 100 films list(that I'm working on)
Rating 8.5

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
French drama directed by Robert Bresson. Deceptively simple story of a group of people seen through the eyes of a donkey. I hope no animals were harmed in the making of this film.
More complex and with more characters than Mouchette (1967), but I think lacks the emotional impact of Bresson's 1967 film. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) is a little cold and without feelings in my opinion, but Bresson was known to cast non-professional actors and use their inexperience to create a specific type of realism in his films. Kubrick's work that I love is often reported to be cold, so...
The film is unique for the way it tells its story. The only constant is the donkey Balthazar, which the director has said is a symbol of faith. I would say the film needs a second watch to appreciate the layers. About the dark side of human nature.
Perhaps this film should have been longer with more characterization?
Rating 7.3

Bernie (2011)
A word of warning, avoid the tell-all trailer. I was not convinced actor Jack Black could carry a dramatic movie, I guess I was wrong. His performance is superb as Bernie, which does have moments of comedy, but you really can't take your eyes off him. I watched it mainly because I'm a fan of the director Richard Linklater, and actually forgot after a while he was behind the camera.
I was entertained, despite the morbid and unusual story. I was amazed this was based on a true story, wow. The audience can also get involved and make up their own mind what they think of Bernie and the community.
Favorite quote: "He made everybody look so beautiful, too bad you were dead"
Rating 7.5

Videodrome (1983)
Loved it, my favorite by this director so far, and another 100 favorite films candidate. Could be David Cronenberg's most important, visionary, and ambitious work. A cult film that is disturbing and visually grotesque, so not for the faint of heart.
Thought-provoking, not least because the film is a window into the future: Freely available information, avatar names, the limits of satisfaction and entertainment, the effects on your surroundings and on the mind of watching violence, sex or torture, and whether entertainment is at the expense of something more worthwhile. Does viewing kill our brain cells, the brainwashing of consumers, the nature of reality, etc, etc.
Full of ideas, the film was in some ways not ready for audiences in 1983, but today is more relevant than ever. Open to multiple interpretations, Videodrome has somewhat taken on a life of its own beyond the filmmakers intentions. A conversation starter you feel you want to talk about after watching, you can draw your own conclusions of what it is about. The more I think about it, the more I admire it. A remake is planned for a 2014 release.
In the making of from 80s, Cronenberg said: "it's very hard for me to say what Videodrome is about in a sentence, because I think it's totally misleading to say it's a criticism of television, or that it is an extention of Network, or something like that. It really is exploring what I've been doing all along, which is to see what happens when people go to extremes in trying to alter their total environment, to the point, where it comes back, and starts to alter their physical selves."
David Cronenberg recalled how, when he was a child, he used to pick up television signals from Buffalo, New York, late at night after Canadian stations had gone off the air, and how he used to worry he might see something disturbing not meant for public consumption. This formed the basis for the plot of Videodrome.
Rating 8.6

Prince of Darkness (1987)
John Carpenter horror/suspense film which received mixed reviews. I noticed on letterboxd it was called underrated, so gave it a shot.
You won't forget the catchy score in a hurry, especially the opening credits played in my mind the rest of the day:

The film does build in suspense, though the story was not entirely believable, that the college students would put up with all that supernatural mumbo jumbo from the teacher, and even stick around to help with some bizarre underground project. Starts out promisingly, (spoilers) but gradually goes down the familiar horror route of crazy, infected characters, and we never care enough who lives or dies. Alice Cooper turns up in a cameo. Unintentionally funny in places. Not recommended.
Rating 5.5

My top 5 of September:
(I realize it's weird ranking new films ahead of classics, but I'm listing them by how much I personally liked them, not based on reputation in the history of film.)

1.) Videodrome (1983)
2.) Mouchette (1967)
3.) Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
4.) It's A Gift (1934)
5.) Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)

6.) A Trip to the Moon (Le voyage dans la lune) (1902)
7.) Bernie (2011)
8.) Sound of My Voice (2012)
9.) Hunger (2008)
10.) Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
11.) My Brilliant Career (1979)
12.) Breathless ((A bout de souffle) (1960)
13.) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
14.) Visions of Light (1992) (documentary)
15.) Purple Violets (2007)
16.) My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Agree? Disagree? Have you seen any of the above? What are the best films you saw during the month of September?

10 Favorite Director Quotes Relay Race

David Zou at Taste of Cinema has thought up a new blog-a-thon relay race, and was kind enough to pass the baton over to me... I love director quotes, so fun to take part!

Here's how it has gone so far:
David at Taste Of Cinema
Chris at Movies And Songs 365

The idea in David's own words:
People love wisdom words from great minds,as a cinephile,I prefer director quotes than words from any other group of people in the world.Their thoughts on cinema not only provide insights into deep understanding of cinema,but also open the window to their own films,their genres,their filmmaking methods,thus need to receive more exposure as their films did.

The rules of the relay race:
I will list 10 of my favorites quotes from directors and comment on each of them in my post,then I will pass the baton to the next blogger.

Each of the participants should first add all the post links in the relay race history,then list the 10 quotes with all the comments in the previous blogger’s post,then you can do it in two ways:

1. Remove 2 comments and add 2 comments

2. Remove 1 quote +1 comment and add 1 quote + 1 comment

then pass the baton to the next one.

I will update this post every 10 days by adding the post urls of those who participate in this blog-a-thon.

I bring this up for 2 major purposes:

1. More director quotes can be shared and appreciated by bloggers

2. Bloggers’ ideas about cinema can be shared and appreciated by each other

Let’s hear their voices!

“I steal from every single movie ever made. I love it – if my work has anything it’s that I’m taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together. If people don’t like that, then tough titty, don’t go and see it, alright? I steal from everything. Great artists steal; they don’t do homages.” – Quentin Tarantino

David's Comments:

Bold and honest statement from a guy who surely knows how to steal.I bet the video renting shop experience must have helped Tarantino a lot to become an important director in modern cinema,I remember seeing his interviews in Reservoir Dogs DVD and he makes a long list of films he “steals” from,this must have happened in all his films.

Homage is a beautiful word invented by film critics,steal is a much more proper word,but I don’t care what it’s called as long as the director steals “stylistically”,I like finding these hidden “homages” as a test to my cinephile quality.

“Actually, I can’t stand watching violent scenes in films; I avoid watching horror films. I don’t tend to watch action films mainly because I find them boring, but I watch the films of David Cronenberg and Martin Scorsese, usually in a state close to having a heart attack. I’m a complete coward. I make violent films as a result of my sensitivity to violence—in other words, my fear of violence.” - Park Chan-wook

David's Comments:

It’s interesting to call David Cronenberg and Martin Scorsese films as action films,but let’s focus on the last sentence,it sounds unconvincing first but the more you think about it,the more you find its philosophy.Directors make films based on their own feelings,if something can cause them fear,they know it can do the same thing to the audience.That’s why Hitchcock projects his fear of murder and police in his childhood experience to the big screen,he knew we would feel the same,or even more fearful then he felt.

“An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before?” – Francis Ford Coppola

David's Comments:

We can understand this quote much better from a director who made Apocalypse Now,which probably is one of the most risk-taking picture ever made in cinema history.So many directors had encountered the tragedy of short of filming budget for the next project,the most famous example is Tati,who spent all his money on building the Tativille for the shooting of Playtime and became broke after the film’s box office failure,this disaster almost killed his career. Coppola took the risk few directors would dare to take and it was paid off,Apocalypse Now is so beautiful and unique,arguably the best war picture of all time,if you have no idea what hell Coppola had been through,check out his wife’s documentary – Hearts of Darkness.

“Unlike all the other art forms, film is able to seize and render the passage of time, to stop it, almost to possess it in infinity. I’d say that film is the sculpting of time.” – Andrei Tarkovsky

David's Comments:

We ain’t talking about “bullet time” here,we are talking about the feel of Tarkovsky films.”film is the sculpting of time” ,what a beautiful metaphor,just like his poetic films,when I watch Nostalgia and Mirror,I can’t feel time,it was like I was going to stay in the dreams or memories of the protagonist forever,the view of another different world is so beautiful that I wouldn’t want to leave.

“A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” – Stanley Kubrick

David's Comments:

Forget about these arguments about film and fiction,which is a more powerful form BS,sometimes an image of film can speak 1000 words,but can a word speak 1000 images? Definitely NO.Moods and feelings always hit you in the heart first than anything else,and film is all about emotions and psychology,that’s why we shouldn’t care too much about the plot and that’s why such a highly emotional film Vertigo can hit No.1 in the Sight&Sound list.

“I am a typed director. If I made Cinderella, the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach.” – Alfred Hitchcock

David's Comments:

Are you sure the audience is not looking for your cameo,Mr. Hitchcock? Being typed is not a bad thing if you can be the greatest in the niche,Ozu is a even more typed auteur than Hitch,but he still is directors’ favorite in the Sight&Sound director poll.Cinema is about breaking new grounds,but it’s also about consistency,after the auteur forms his own style,his own cinematic language,all he need to do is stick to it for the rest of his/her career,sometimes the consistency is more precious than invention in filmmaking.

“Why make a movie about something one understands completely? I make movies about things I do not understand, but wish to.” – Seijun Suzuki

David's Comments:

I think Pedro Armodovar’s quote below is exactly what I want to say here.

“I don’t like the idea of “understanding” a film. I don’t believe that rational understanding is an essential element in the reception of any work of art. Either a film has something to say to you or it hasn’t. If you are moved by it, you don’t need it explained to you. If not, no explanation can make you moved by it.” – Federico Fellini

David's Comments:

Just as what Kubrick said,film is more about feeling than understanding.I often fell in love with films I can’t fully understand,like my favorite film 2001:A Space Odyssey,I still can’t understand it and I firmly believe nobody in this world can,but I can feel the beauty and profoundity in it.People always like to ask Gordard fans if they truly understand his films,that’s nonsense,even to a guy like me who is not a Gordard enthusiast,how do you suppose to appreciate his cinema by understanding it?

“When I make a film, I never stop uncovering mysteries, making discoveries. When I’m writing, filming, editing, even doing promotional work, I discover new things about the film, about myself, and about others. That is what I’m subconsciously looking for when shooting a film: to glimpse the enigmas of life, even if I don’t resolve them, but at least to uncover them. Cinema is curiosity in the most intense meaning of the word.” – Pedro Armodovar

David's Comments:

This is what exactly I’m looking for when watching a film too,to see life in microscope,to see minor things we usually won’t pay attention to in real life.I need films to feed my big appetite for knowledge and life experience,thanks to those directors,they are the magicians who reveal another world to us.

I bid farewell to:

“To me, watching a movie is like going to an amusement park. My worst fear is making a film that people don’t think is a good ride.” – Darren Aronofsky

Why above quote has to go: I quite like the analogy of an amusement park. What Aronofsky says is important, but compared to other quotes, it doesn't really blow me away. Probably I need context for it to really speak to me.

Say hello to:

“All my movies are about strange worlds that you can't go into unless you build them and film them. That's what's so important about film to me. I just like going into strange worlds.” - David Lynch

Chris’ Comment:
I thought about going with a quote about how important final cut and creative freedom is to David Lynch, but I think that statement speaks for itself. The quote I picked is also about having an artistic vision, creating an imaginary universe only available as cinema. For me, Lynch’s films take you to a unique world that is beautiful, nightmarish and atmospheric.
You could also apply ”can’t go” to historical events, for example experiencing sailing on the Titanic in James Cameron’s 1997 film, or the battle of Normandy in Saving Private Ryan (1998). You wouldn’t want to die of course, but the movies are so believable, that the filmmakers trick you into thinking you are right there.

I’m gonna pass my baton to Alex Withrow at And So It Begins, look forward to seeing what he has in store for us. Have fun!

The Decalogue (1989) Episode 6

The Decalogue 6

Spoilers occur about the ending, this review is intended for those who have already watched the film.

19-year-old Tomek has for some time secretly spied on his beautiful 30something neighbor Magda in the opposite building using a telescope, especially when she has male company, which is not a rare occurrence. He knows it’s wrong. However, for Tomek, observing her has become an obsession, and he even allows himself to interfere with her life, phone calls, delivering milk, and withholding mail (he is employed at the local post office). His new gimmick, to send her messages in the post, leads him to confess it was him all along spying on her. As the initial irritation wears off, she invites him to visit. She wants to demonstrate to him, that love is nothing more than a physical act. He hurries home to commit suicide. Magda becomes obsessed, possibly not with Tomek, but with his welfare and her guilt. She regrets her conduct, more than that, she discovers a lost feeling. A feeling which in her opinion doesn’t exist.

Analysis and interpretation:
Magda has a cynical view of love, the physical act of love dominates her life, she doesn't allow herself to become emotionally involved, and claims not to believe in emotional love.

In this case, love evolves from sexual perversion. Lust and voyeurism are connected. Tomek realizes he is observing areas of a personality, which rarely are seen by others, because the person thinks they are alone. He thought she was strong and insensitive, but he observes her crying (screenshot above), he sees a glimmer of her true self, and this is likely why he starts to fall for her. A theme of the story is also loneliness. There are many windows between people. Everyone suffers in their corners. Episode 6 is a cat-and-mouse game of voyeur and victim, with an exchange of roles between the two about 2/3 of the way through.

Tomek is a voyeur, an onlooker, he seeks sexual gratification by watching a woman having sex in the opposite building. Through his telescope he makes the sexual activities a threesome, and some viewers might even call it a foursome, as we are watching the watcher. He feels pity for Magda, when she cries following a fight, in her loveless frame of mind, he can put himself in her place. But you couldn't claim what he is feeling inside is a healthy love, he has not yet had the chance to get to know Magda, her attributes and needs. Tomek naively puts her on a pedestal without knowing who she in fact is on the inside.

As Deciphering The Decalogue writes: “Tomek and Magda really need to reflect on what it really means to love someone, because both of their views, whether it be spying on someone or just engaging in sexual relations, were blinding them to see what love really is.”

We know very little about Magda's childhood, but her actions suggests someone who has led a loveless upbringing. Her behavior implies she doesn't really know what love is, and doesn't understand the difference between emotional and physical love. Or perhaps she was hurt so deeply that she never wants to experience that emotional pain again. She doesn't express that she loves herself, let alone other people. Her sexual life is an ever-changing mess, and maybe that's the way she wants it, but the price to pay is no meaningful, emotional relationships to others. Despite all the sex, she is a tragic woman, which the crying Tomak is witness to. Magda seeks to fill the empty emotional void by having various men admire her for her sexual favors. This is why she has no problems with being observed by Tomek, she can't get enough acceptance and confirmation from men, a deficit she can never satisfy.

As with other characters during The Decalogue, Tomek does not have a father figure, and his mother is not there, the most important role models in his life are absent. He grew up in an orphanage, and lives with his friend's lonely mother. Tomek tells Magda during a conversation, that he prefers to repress thoughts of his mother, probably because it hurts so much to remember her betrayal.

As reviewer at damaris notes: “It is one thing to recreate a kind of fantasy world not unlike the fairy tales about love we heard as a child, but once we enter into a relationship, we soon realize that creating intimacy with another human being is often difficult and messy, and requires a lot of effort and care.” (…) “Both Tomek and Magda are in some ways contemptible, some ways pitiable, and some ways admirable. As in Decalogue V, Kieslowski loves to create complex characters about whom we feel conflicted. Tomek is initially presented as a creepy, voyeuristic teenager who has nothing better to do with his time than to spy on the intimate life of his female neighbor. As the film goes on, however, we see that Tomek is actually a very sensitive and caring individual who holds a very admirable (if naive) view of love and relationship. Likewise, Magda is initially presented as a promiscuous, cynical and lonely woman, but we later see an affectionate, almost maternal side and someone whose heart has been awakened to new possibilities in relationships. Characters like these demonstrate Kieslowski’s commitment to present characters that are fully human; not one-dimensional but reflecting the ever-present complex interaction and tension between human dignity and depravity. “

Kieslowski on the longer version, A Short Film About Love (1988): “The interesting thing about it is the perspective. We always look at the world seen with the eyes of a person who loves. Not with the eyes of someone, who is being loved. To start with we see it from the boy’s perspective, Tomek, who is in love with the woman, Magda, but we know nothing about her. We only see her, as he sees her. A moment happens where we see them together; then the perspective changes completely. When Magda starts to have feelings for him, first pity, later a matter of conscience, and later on also a sort of affection, we start to see the world through her eyes. And we don’t see him anymore. He disappears, he slits his wrists and is transported to the hospital. We are never at the hospital with him. Everything is now seen from her point of view. The change of perspective 2/3 into the film is an interesting structural intervention. We share the point of view with the character, who loves, not with the loved one. The loved one has gone to pieces and become an object. Love is so difficult, for the young man, but later also for the woman. (…) and this love is always connected to some form of suffering, a kind of impossibility. Tomek spies on Magda. Then Magda attempts to locate Tomek. Due to guilt, but probably also because she is reminded , that she also at an earlier time behaved much like him. When she was his age, or maybe younger, her behavior was similar to him. Pure of heart and convinced of the existence of love. But then she got burned. She has touched something red-hot, which hurt terribly, and decided to never love again, because she realized, that the stakes were too high. But then this situation occurred.”

Episode 6 is very well edited, a lot happens in the hour it lasts. Connected to the sixth imperative of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not commit adultery." you could argue that the longer theatrical edit, entitled A Short Film About Love (1988) was a more fitting title. The Commandment confuses more than anything for Episode 6. Magda is violating the commandment, though she is unmarried. The 6th commandment is not only about adultery, but also improper conduct.
I have to admit age difference in a relationship depicted on screen I have grown a little weary of, but this is one of the most powerful dealing with that issue I can remember. The main theme is voyeurism, observing and secretly spying on other people’s lives. But Kieslowski has also been looking at us (in all ten) and showing us ourselves. Another theme is emotional love and physical love, and how it can be difficult to figure out, when the person you desire may not have compatible ideas about love.
Episode 6 deals expertly with the matter of naïve, vulnerable feelings of youth, and cynical, world-weary experience. So much of the story is told without dialogue, and is about longing and unspoken desire, rather than words. Tomek is basically violating Magda’s privacy, we know it’s wrong of him, but we somehow become fascinated by Magda’s life in the same way Tomek does. There is a certain thrill in the forbidden. However, you could question the realism in 19-year-old Tomek’s actions.
Tomek and Magda have now seen what is possible within a relationship, and though it may not happen between themselves, there is hope that they will offer genuine love and intimacy to someone in the future. Sex does not equal love, but love can include sex as one of its expressions.
I never figured out what the spilt milk symbolizes, anyone? Happens when she is crying in screenshot 7, and again outside Magda's door, when Tomek visits her.

Next time, I'll look at Episode 7. Readers of this review, any thoughts on Episode 6?

Kieslowski on Kieslowski / Danusia Stok


Deciphering The Decalogue


American V: A Hundred Highways - Johnny Cash (2006)

American V: A Hundred Highways is a posthumous album by Johnny Cash. The quality of the vocal is all the more remarkable because Cash was in very poor health.

Producer Rick Rubin, in linear notes of album sleeve:
“I could always tell how Johnny was feeling each day from the sound of his voice and his breathing. Some days his voice was weak and he sounded like he was panting, trying to get enough air. Other days his voice boomed with power and gravity. You can hear the difference on some of these songs…Sometimes he booms and other times he sounds weaker and more vulnerable”

After your mum (June Carter Cash) died, he (Johnny Cash) went back to recording pretty quickly.
John Carter Cash: He (father) went back into the studio ten days after she died, and really started working hard. It’s a life lesson that a parent’s motto is “Press On”. That was the title of mom’s record, Press On.

Yeah, and your dad wrote a song called “Drive On”
Yeah, Drive On”. There’s a lot to say that in the face of pain and misery or struggle, you don’t stop”
He recorded up until two weeks before he died.

Rubin: “I think of songs for him all the time. There was one that we were planning to do for the next album, that we hadn’t gotten to yet, and I’m sick about it “A Place in the Sun” by Stevie Wonder. I envisioned that as the greatest Johnny Cash song ever. I played it for him, and he was down for doing it when he got to California. But he died the week before he was going to come”

The album takes its name from a lyric on the track "Love's Been Good to Me" by Rod McKuen; the opening verse begins (emphasis added):
I have been a rover
I have walked alone
Hiked a hundred highways
Never found a home

Even in death, Johnny Cash topped the Billboard 200 with the album American V: A Hundred Highways. It is his first No. 1 album since 1969's Johnny Cash at San Quentin with 88,000 copies sold in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Stand-out tracks:

God's Gonna Cut You Down - Johnny Cash

If You Could Read My Mind - Johnny Cash (Lightfoot cover)

Further On Up the Road - Johnny Cash (Bruce Springsteen cover)

Love's Been Good to Me - Johnny Cash (Rod McKuen/Frank Sinatra cover)

What did you think of the music? Any thoughts?

Cash - by Rolling Stone Magazine (2004) (biography)
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
Unearthed boxset booklet
Album sleeves
Johnny Cash: The Last Great American (2004) (documentary)

Monthly links from the blogosphere: September

New running feature on my blog...

Ryan, CS, Duke, Shala, Courtney, and others have been covering the Toronto Film Festival. I'm disappointed about the lukewarm reviews for Malick's To The Wonder, but happy to see positive buzz for Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha (2012), which is so under-the-radar it didn't even have an official IMDB entry a few weeks ago.

Bradley Cooper seems a bit old for Jennifer Lawrence, and the trailer I think gives too much away, but Silver Linings Playbook won the People's Choice Award in Toronto, and looks to be a possible contender at 2013 Academy Awards. From what I'm reading, the film is quite conversational, which is something I like from a movie.

Bonjour Tristesse celebrated his two year anniversary. Happy blogiversary, BT! He also looked at the recent Venice Film Festival, sharing review cuttings. The Master appears to have been the highlight of the festival.

Sati shares her honest thoughts on why she didn't like the new HBO show Girls, which has made me uncertain if I would enjoy the show, because I value her opinion. I think I'll just have to watch a few episodes, and see if it's for me, because I also listen to Alex Withrow's viewpoints, and he praised the show Please Permit Me to Rave About Girls. Maybe a love it or hate it kind of thing?

SDG at U Me and Films reviews Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy. I loved The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), my favorite western so far, and I'm looking forward to finally watching the other two in the series very soon.

Andina at Inspired Ground shares Memorable Movie Moments #1 : Pools

Josh at The Cinematic Spectacle provides us with his September Oscar predictions

SJHoneywell at 1001plus reviews under-appreciated Smoke (1995)

Dan at Public Transportation Snob reviews Before Sunrise (1995), one of my favorites.

Steven at Surrender to the Void warms up for The Master by watching There Will Be Blood

David at Taste of Cinema lists his 21 Useful Tips For Being A Better Movie Buff, and writes an interesting article on Why Chinese-language Films Are Ignored by the West

Chip at Tips From Chip loved A Fish Called Wanda, one of my favorite comedies.

Stephanie Ward from On Page and Screen writes about 10 Book to Movie Adaptations I Read But Never Watched

Mette at Lime Reviews discusses A History of Boredom. Slow movies she loves, and slow movies that she finds boring.

3guys1movie ask what is your favorite TV show?

That's all folks! In a few days I'll post my monthly what have I been watching in September


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