Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Catching up


Two I saw over the weekend:

A Man Escaped. Robert Bresson's 1957 drama could not be simpler: a Resistance fighter is imprisoned in Vichy France, and uses all the means at his limited disposal to plan a elaborate escape. Bresson always liked keeping things lean and uncluttered, making sure every shot is vital, and all the neccessary information is perfectly visualized. The prisoner Fontayne (Fran├žois Leterrier), who lives in a world where even owning a pencil can get you killed, works diligently and patiently to save up every available bit of wire, cloth, goodwill, intuition and luck to make his getaway. Very "McGyver," very Shawshank Redemption, and a lesson in precision filmmaking from a master.

Love of a Blonde. Milos Forman's 1965 debut was heavily indebted to the Italian Neo-Realist films of DeSica, these very tender films where the little guy who is just trying to get by finds himself caught in the gears of cold, heartless modern society. In Forman's story, the little guy is a girl, Andula, and the society is a factory town in Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia, where the men are few, the restrictions are many, and the options for happiness are pretty limited. Ardula thinks she may have discovered the key to happiness when she spends a night with a traveling musician; he, on the other hand, has different plans, and domestic life -- particularly the kind shared by his bored and bitter parents -- likely isn't among them. Made during Czechoslovakia's destalinization period, which liberalized the arts -- and would all-too-briefly blossom three years later with Prague Spring -- this is a subtle satire on the prospect of love during Soviet occupation, and a captivating slice of life.

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