Thursday, February 22, 2007

February 22nd Log

1978, Terrence Malick, United States

Repeat Viewing, DVD

Continuing with the films scored by Ennio Morricone, with what very well be his finest achievement in cinematic music: 1978’s Days of Heaven. This is a film I love and absolutely consider a personal favorite for many reasons, but I’d like to briefly share some reflection on the films visionary filmmaker, Terrence Malick. His transcendent use of imagery and sound, unconventional use of voice-over narration, symbolic visuals (which usually feature elements such as earth, fire, water), lush and rhythmic editing, absorbing use of nature, lyrically complex counter-pointing narratives all embody and define the artistic visionary world of Malick’s work. Malick is a filmmaker who explores his environments through exact, poetic and breathtaking compositions. The characters of his films are often presented in a way that they are part of, or inescapable from, a historic moment or a certain time and location. They are films of feeling in the purest form of cinema, through images and sound. His films are about senses, which is why they transcend intellectual examination as well as transcend genre or narrative form. Malick’s films counterpoint reality and fiction through the sheer purity of cinematic images. Nature or more importantly humanities harmony with nature lies at the very heart of all his films. The essence of Malick’s cinematic world is like a river of water in several ways. For one nothing in his films are steadily attached to itself (either in subject matter or in appearance). Rather everything flows together like a river and Malick works as the rivers guide towards a flowing movement. Of course the use of repetitive symbolic imagery and especially voice-over is most definitive of Malick. In a way Malick’s use of voice-over becomes a film onto itself and takes on it’s own meditative experience. Such is the case with Days of Heaven (which concludes with a beautiful voice-over saying: "This girl, she didn't know where she was going, or what she was gonna do. She didn't have no money. Maybe she'd meet up with a character. I was hoping things would work out for her. She was a good friend of mine."). Days of Heaven is perhaps Malick’s greatest and certainly most quintessential film. In it’s most basic concept, Days of Heaven defines Malick’s philosophy of film in that everything (be it humanity, nature, or spiritual) exists and has an identity. Days of Heaven is a cinematic experiences and that is the very essence of Malick’s films. Though they transcend analyzing, Malick’s films still become a means for meditation and thought of the composition and expression of the film images and the sound. They are poetic journeys that transcendent time and place while equally haunting and obtaining spiritual, imaginative, and philosophical thought. His four films stand among the most memorable artistic achievements in film. I love every one of Malicks films, but Days of Heaven may be his most perfect masterwork.

1940, Robert Z. Leonard, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

This 1940 adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel is surprisingly good in both it’s execution and detail. The novel has since been adapted to the screen with superior work (be it the 1995 BBC version, as well as Joe Wright’s brilliant 2005 adaptation). This version, directed by Robert Z. Leonard is pretty standard MGM studio fare, but the performances and especially the elegant set and costume designs keep this film lively. Greer Garson gets a dream role here playing one of the great woman characters in British literature Elizabeth Bennet. She is really required to carry the film (especially with MGM’s reign over the film) and Garson shines especially when on screen alongside legendary Laurence Olivier, who is playing Mr Darcy. Mary Boland, Edmund Gwenn, Edna May Oliver, Maureen O'Sullivan, Ann Rutherford, and Karen Morley provide nice supporting roles. Maybe I love this story and Jane Austen’s work too much, but I found myself involved in this throughout. Not the most memorable work (patricianly considering there are far better film versions of the novel available today), but this is a good film with a great cast and beautiful set design work.


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