Archive for the ‘Classics’ Category

La Jetée – To call past and future, to the rescue of the present.   Leave a comment

La jetée – 1962
Director: Chris Marker
Country: France
Runtime: 28 mins
Cast: Hélène Chatelain, Davos Hanich, Jacques Ledoux

La Jetée – Un photo-roman de Chris Marker (a photo novel of Chris Marker) is a highly influential science fiction film. Communicated in the form of still images, it is a tale of time travel having a central objective of describing philosophical issues relevant to time. The film’s runtime is only 28 mins and has poignantly served as a benchmark and reference point for several of the distinctive filmmakers of unique caliber to delve deeper into uncharted territory, into unfathomable flight of the imagination.

In the book: Sculpting in Time, Tarkovsky describes the transcending propensity of an Image, its composition and effects, “The image is an impression of the truth, a glimpse of the truth permitted to us in our blindness. The incarnate image will be faithful when its articulations are palpably the expression of truth, when they make it unique, singular – as life itself is, even in its simplest manifestations.” And the same is reflected in La Jetée which is profoundly and irrevocably, a true work of art.

La Jetée is the story of a man marked by an image of his childhood. A looped narrative, which kick offs with a stunning image of a child standing on the main pier at Orly, Paris Airport, the kid sees a man dying which deeply upsets him whose meaning he grasps only years later. He distinctly remembers the scene; the sight of a frozen sun, Of a stage setting at the end of the pier and of a woman’s face. Soon after, World War 3 grips the nation and Paris is reduced to rubble. The survivors stay underground because above them everything is rotten with radioactivity. The woman’s face is his only hope which brings him peace which he carries with him through the whole of wartime.

Nothing tells memories from ordinary moments.
Only afterwards do they claim remembrance…
On account of their scars.

Due to high toxic levels, Human race is on the brink of extinction. Space is off limits, for that reason, the prisoners who stay underground are subjected to time-travel experiments in order to reach food, medicine, energy. The purpose of the experiment is: to throw emissaries into time… to call past and future to the rescue of the present. The outcome of these experiments are disappointing, for some leading to death and for others madness, because “To wake up in another time meant to be born again as an adult and the shock would be too much”. Consequently, the inventors start to spy on prisoner’s dreams; their ulterior movie is to select people who have very strong mental images.

Finally, they select a person who is glued to an image of his past. They begin their experiments on him, initially it leads them to nothing and the hero neither dies nor gets mad, he only suffers. On the 10th day, images begin to ooze like confessions. On the 16th day, he is on the pier at Orly. Empty, but he recollects an image in which he notices a girl who could be the one he is looking for, also he sees another image, her face in a car, smiling and On the 30th day, they meet.

He is in the middle of dateless world, which first stuns him by its splendor.
Around him, only fabulous materials: Glass, plastics, terry cloth.

The hero provides the inventors with superior experimental result; therefore they persistently send him back to the time. With series of tests, he regularly meets her at different times. They go on countless walks, that which manufactures an unspoken, unadulterated trust between them, with no memories and no particular plans Time builds itself painlessly around them. She calls him her ghost. As for him he never knows whether he moves towards her, whether he is driven, whether he has made it up, or whether he is only dreaming.

On 50th day, they meet in a museum filled with ageless animals , he is now in the right moment and decides to spend it in a very relaxed fashion, in which he decides to move without any trouble from the inventors. But sooner or later he is transported back into the laboratory and owing to brilliant test results, the experimenters decide to send him to the future.

When he lands in the future, he realizes that it is better protected than the past and the people of future bluntly turn down his offer to be a component of their present. However, he successfully reminds them “since humanity had survived, it could not refuse to its own past the means of its own survival.” Therefore, they award him with a strong power plant that would put all human industry in motion again and will help the humanity to bring the life back to normal.

The inventors are now capable, knowledgeable of withstanding and surviving a nuclear war and therefore the hero is thrown into other camp where he waits to be executed because his services will not be required any longer. He had been a tool in their hands. His childhood image had been used as a bait to condition him. Deep in his limbos, he gets a message from the future world that they are ready to accept him as one of their own but he requests them to transport him to his childhood, to the woman who is waiting for him at the Orly Airport, only to know that this haunted moment he had been granted to see as a child, was the moment of his own death.

Colored by poetry, and stirring our souls like a revelation the movie clearly derives its inner strength from its simplicity of images that are expressed in unique, actual facts. It clearly elucidates that, you do not need to have any modern gizmos or incorporate any surplus hitech technology to create an aura that corresponds science-fiction. It also throws light on the special quality of our own memory- about its capacity of investigating, discovering unexplored areas. The movie also lays emphasis on how overwhelmingly the childhood experiences adversely impact the later life, shape the persona.

Attached with ascetic narration and with infinitesimal details, the movie manages to reverberate the soul with elevated emotions, setting of impulses that automatically inquire on the authenticity of its concept, thus stemming the discussion: ‘what is real’?


Posted 16/07/2012 by 6thstation in Classics, World Cinema

Tagged with , ,

.. And they all go to the seashore….   1 comment

Pote Tin Kyriaki – Never on Sunday – 1960
Director: Jules Dassin
Country: Greece
Runtime: 91 mins
Cast: Melina Mercouri, Jules Dassin, Giorgos Fountas

Pote Tin Kyriaki (Never on Sunday) is a greek satirical comedy movie directed by American director, actor Jules Dassin which tells the story of a bubbling, no-strings-attached, vibrant, life-embracing prostitute named Ilya (Melina Mercouri) who makes no prices but goes out with someone only if she likes the person.

She lives in a small port town of Piraeus in Greece and almost every person in the town is acquainted with her. Homer Thrace (Jules Dassin) an amateur (textbook) philosopher, Grecophile and in his quest of finding definitive truth lands in Piraeus, he goes into a bar and shows his appreciation towards the male dancer, who gets really infuriated at his gesture because in Greek culture when a man dances, it’s for himself, it is for his soul. Ilya rescues Homer from the angry mob and explains to them that he only applauded because he liked the boogie.Homer further explains why he came to Greece; he is really intrigued for the fact that Greece being the cradle of culture was a very happy country.  What made it fall? What happened to it? He wants to find the truth. He becomes aware that she is a prostitute who likes Greek tragedies also one who does not believe in Aristotle because of his low opinion on women. Out of the blue, he becomes conscious that Ilya who is beautiful and corrupt is the personification of the whole world. She becomes the symbol of his quest, and the answer to the mystery.

Its Ilya’s birthday and she invites all of her friends to party and each one of them loves to hear Ilya tell the stories esp on greek tragedies, the irony is that even she has no idea of what the story is all about. She voices story of Medea in her own fashion, whatever in the play is unpleasant, she changes it , she rejects anything that to her is ugly and for a Greek tragedy, she gives it a happy ending. Homer finds it impossible to believe in her logic, decides to educate her, he wants to place Reason, in place of fantasy. Morality, instead of immorality. They watch a play and Homer decides to enlighten Ilya about logic and attempts to clear Ilya’s elegant ignorance on Greek tragedies, to bring her back to harmony. Ilya gets very uncomfortable and exchanges a few words to him that he is making her unhappy and doesn’t like him because before she met him she was crazy about the Greek tragedy.

Disillusioned, discouraged she enters the bar and all the regulars are worried because they’ve never known Illya with a gloomy face. Jorgaki (Titos Vandis) hums a charming song for her which lifts her spirits to which Homer expresses his conjecture of so called elementary psychiatry in regard to Jorgaki’s persona in which he states “He’s a man with a deep problem, There’s a profound inner it because all his life he has associated only with a certain kind of woman. The real reason is that he hates all women because He hated his mother”. Jorgaki gets very angry that he wants to cut Homer’s throat. Homer, embarrassed by the recent events meets the local don who also wants lllia to retire purely business reasons. It’s a win-win proposition that he offers to Homer who gladly accepts where in he has to prove to her that his way of life is better than hers.

Homer musters up courage to talk to Ilya and asks a basic question to her that what exactly is it that makes her happy? To which Ilya replies with a great deal of simplicity
The sun, he shines on me. He makes me happy.
I eat a good fish, he makes me happy.
I touch you. If you feel good, I’m happy.
Homer gets annoyed with this answer and explains to her that she lives by Stoic, Epicurean philosophies. Watching, experiencing happiness that is sensual, physical and further quotes Aristotle the true happiness comes from the pleasure of the mind. That the greatest happiness is the joy of understanding. He asks her two weeks of her life and assures that she will change her attitude, her outlook towards life. He teaches her basic Geography, Politics, Arts, Literature. Though she feels very alienated she sticks to the routine which bores her to the core. She may have changed a little but her passions remain in one piece, she gently hums “Ta Paidia tou Peiraia” (The children of Piraeus) which clearly expresses her authenitc identity. This song won the Academy Award, the first one to do so for the Best Original Song category. Ilya becomes aware of Homer’s treachery via her friend Despo. She throws him out of her place and succeeds in leading the prostitutes on a strike until the rents are cut. The scene shifts into the bar where Homer has again exposed his intellectual psychotherapy , this time on Taki the bouzouki man. Homer’s analysis is that if Taki couldn’t read music, he was no real musician and he never would be. Taki is disgusted, horror-struck and vows never to play bouzouki again. Ilya butts in, gracefully explains to taki if birds were to read music? So should the birds stop singing? She brings smile on his face and they all sing, dance and in the end they all go to the seashore! :)

Pote Tin Kyriaki is a simple wonderful feel-good movie which lays more emphasis on the individualism and also on different principles, approach towards understanding of Life, Happiness. Melina Mercouri plays a challenging role of being a prostitute with a golden heart, she effortlessly creates a special impression with the character of being a fiercely independent, self-made woman who has no shame and is so unique that she has inherent magical abilities to bring peace and comfort to everyone associated with her.

The movie focuses on two contrasting facets, Homers text book interpretation of True Happiness vs Ilya’s practical, down-to-earth approach towards Life and being happy, Though Homer knows much about the world he lacks in basic understanding of values and its interpretations with the everyday life, For Ilya it takes only few seconds to know about a person. Ilya’s persistent ignorance towards sadness is her greatest strength, and Homer believes A whore can’t be happy. A whorish world can’t be happy¸and ultimately it is proven false. The movie elucidates that one does not have to read or know what Aristotle said or talked about logic or happiness, nor use extremely intellectual psychiatry terms to understand  love, peace, happiness, they can be found anywhere; you just have to have an open heart to receive it, appreciate it and see the beauty in the small, insignificant things and the one who does comprehend it always go to the seashore.  :)


That’s the way it crumbles… cookie-wise.   Leave a comment

The Apartment (1960)
Director: Billy Wilder
Country: United States
Runtime: 125 mins
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Jack Kruschen

I just love noir films because of its poignant visual style: a minimalistic black and white approach, characterization, dialogue systems incorporated with dark elements which are evocative of the genre and have indisputably brilliant detective themes. I got introduced to noir via Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) which is simply an outstanding film, then followed by Double Indemnity (1944), Witness for the Prosecution (1957).

Billy Wilder’s direction doesn’t just revolve around noirs, he has directed many films of different genres and is considered to be one of the most versatile, prolific directors of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” and after watching films like Ace in the Hole (1951), Stalag 17 (1953) Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960), the above statement is awfully very true. Billy Wilder placed huge importance on the story and visualized characters based on it. I really find his way of operating things to be very enterprising, intriguing, and authentic. Very old-fashioned, but very effective.

Despite his conservative directorial style, his subject matter often pushed the boundaries of mainstream entertainment. Once a subject was chosen, he would begin to visualize in terms of specific artists. His belief was that no matter how talented the actor, none was without limitations and the end result would be better if you bent the script to their personality rather than force a performance beyond their limitations.

 The Apartment is a timeless, simple, absorbing, romantic-comedy-drama that has lot of good dialog, hope, love and the most important of all, an inside look at baxter’s soulful metamorphosis, a journey to feel and be human, to be a mensch!

Calvin Clifford Baxter ; C.C Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is just another aam-aadmi working for one of the biggest Insurance firm stationed in New York. To facilitate his corporate growth, he lends his apartment to his superiors, so that they can quietly maintain their extra-marital affairs without taking many risks. In return, Baxter would move up the corporate ladder without much effort, without doing any conventional hard-work. Most of the times he feels utterly miserable because even when he is sick, he spends night in the park because his apartment is occupied by seniors. In office, Baxter meets his new boss Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) who offers him a promotion and free tickets to musical if he lets him use his apartment. Baxter invites elevator girl, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) who agrees but doesn’t turn up because she is on a regular date with Mr. Sheldrake.

Sheldrake convinces Fran that he loves her very much and also tells her that he is all set to give his wife a divorce, so that he can be with her. Therefore, Fran skips her date with Baxter. Meanwhile, Baxter is now promoted to a new position and during the office party; he accidentally discovers that, Sheldrake is having an affair with Fran and Sheldrake’s personal secretary tells Fran that she also had an affair with the boss, she too fell for his divorcing line. On Christmas eve, Fran and Sheldrake schedule to meet in Baxter’s apartment. Disturbed, depressed and distressed Baxter picks up a woman from the bar. He comes home the next day to find Fran in his bed, overdosed with sleeping pills. With the help from philosophical Doctor (his neighbor) he nurses Fran until she is out of danger. He entertains her; they play Gin Rummy which keeps her mind occupied so that she does travel into a different frame of mind which is suicidal.

Sheldrake secretary meets his wife and tells his affairs to her. Therfore, he decides to break-up with his family and start a new life with Fran. Baxter is now totally in love with Fran and decides to marry her; he decides to convey this to his boss-Sheldrake but his boss speaks the same, he also asks his apartment to spend the rest of the time until divorce but Baxter says NO and quits the job. Fran finds out that Baxter has left his job and on her relation, refused Sheldrake his apartment. On new years eve, Fran ditches Sheldrake and run’s to Baxter’s apartment where they begin playing Gin Rummy again!

The story is simple, very practical, it peeps into the high-speed illusional corporate world and its infidelities, its perks and privileges at the cost of idealism. It shows how nasty people can get if you are submissive and on the other side how special it is to find someone who truly, really cares about you. The Humor is very delicate and often accompanied with metaphorical references, for eg. When Baxter expresses his profound supposition on his lovelife “Ya know, I used to live like Robinson Crusoe; I mean, shipwrecked among 8 million people. “ The movie has such frequent humorous illustrations on life, love. Filled with intricate details, The Apartment is very ingenious and does educate you to be a mensch ! :)

More Reading:

%d bloggers like this: