Thursday, May 24, 2007

May 24th Log

2006, Steven Soderbergh
1st Viewing, DVD

The Good German is a well made experimental film. What Steven Soderbergh and his talented cast and crew make is a film with interest as an experiment, which is ultimately a dull film. Really the idea and the sheer technical magic of the filmmaking and performances are something to enjoy, as is the nostalgic romanticism of the Hollywood studios days. Soderbergh shot the film as if it were made by a major Hollywood studio in 1945. He shot the film in a studio using the classic equipment and shooting techniques of the studio days (single shot by shot takes; bright backlighting; and boom microphones). Of course it is also easy to see the marketing direction of the film, which seems very much to be in Casablanca mode (just look at the poster!). The Good German also features a star-studded cast with two of my personal favorites (Cate Blanchett and George Clooney) leading the way. Blanchett is my favorite actress and I don’t think I’m being biased when I say she is terrific again here. This was one of three major highly acclaimed “Oscar-buzz” films Cate Blanchett starred in at the end of 2006, and while she was fine in all of them The Good German may have been her best performance of that year. Blanchett's accent combined with the way in which Soderbergh lights her face, easily brings to mind the legendary German born Hollywood star Marlene Dietrich. Soderbergh gives the film his own sensibility (as well as a post-Production Code/Rated R film) through the editing which mixes together the stories of the three characters (played by George Clooney, Tobey Maguire, and Cate Blanchett). In this sense the film is a blending together of two eras of filmmaking, and while an interesting and perhaps bold experiment it fails through a lack heart. Clooney is a great and versatile actor, but here he seems so artificially posed under Soderbergh’s direction (much in the way he was in Soderbergh’s other failed “experiment” Solaris). It all looks good but lacks the magic of its intentions.

1962, Jean Renoir, France
1st Viewing, DVD

The Elusive Corporal was the last theatrical film Jean Renoir directed. Adapted from a novel by Jacques Perret, many considered this film to be a World War Two Prisoner of War remake of his internationally acclaimed 1937 masterpiece The Grand Illusion (often citied among the greatest films in French cinema history). Here the great humanist master again centers around the characters of his film, resulting in an intelligent and sophisticated film that is both funny and compassionate in its emphasize on the pointlessness of war. This is a very light-hearted and comic war-themed film, yet in trademark Renoir fashion there is an irony that makes it a thoughtful and even a sad film underneath the surface. Not one of Renoir’s best, The Elusive Corporal is still a great film with an outstanding lead performance by Jean-Pierre Cassel as the French Corporal trying to escape from the Germans.

1954, Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan

1st Viewing, DVD

I plan on watching this film again on Monday and will comment more at that time. This is another one of the landmark masterworks that I must reflect upon and immediately revisit and continue to revisit. Kenji Mizoguchi is one of the worlds all-time greatest filmmakers and one first viewing of this beautifully newly released Criterion DVD (for the first time on DVD!) I can only say this is a masterwork that I would rate alongside Life of Oharu as his finest that I’ve seen. The initial viewing left me speechless to describe but perhaps after a repeat viewing on Monday, I can elaborate more thoughts.


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