Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Joseph Wren Reviews His Ten Favourite Films, Part 2

The 400 Blows
France 1959
Director: Francois Truffaut
Screenwriters: Francois Truffaut & Marcel Moussy
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Certificate: PG
DVD Distributor: Cinema Club

In 1957, French film critic Francois Truffaut lambasted the state of cinema, and proclaimed that the films of tomorrow would be “made from love” through the “personal” vision of its director. After being fed up with poor filmmaking, Truffaut took it upon himself to make the films that he hoped to see. His first feature was The 400 Blows, in which he wrote and directed the story of his troubled childhood.

Aside from being credited as one of the most powerful films about childhood, a perennial Top 10 film, the hallmark auteurist film, and having arguably the best final shot in the history of cinema, The 400 Blows features perhaps the greatest childhood performance in history. Audiences so fell in love with Jean Pierre Leaud’s Antoine Doinel that the Doinel character, originally based on Truffaut’s own life, took on a life of its own. Leaud played Truffaut’s alter ego in four features and one short over a twenty year period – intertextual continuity at its greatest. Truffaut, who fittingly coined the “auteur” term, understood the character in such intimate detail, challenging an entire generation of filmmakers to explore the balance of art and reality.

Wild Strawberries
Sweden 1957
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Screenwriter: Ingmar Bergman
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Certificate: 15
DVD Distributor: Tartan Video

Autumn Sonata, Persona, Cries and Whispers…the trademark theme of Ingmar Bergman’s greatest films is his acutely profound examination of the human condition…which can be a bit much to digest for many viewers. Wild Strawberries, though perhaps the most human of all of Bergman’s films, is, of his most highly regarded works, also the most delicate and measured. There are no dying women, no sadistic clergy members, and the protagonist of this film, though in the twilight of his life, does not need to confront death in such a literal sense. And though death is feared in Wild Strawberries, life is remembered and cherished.
It is a rewarding experience to know about Swedish cinema and watch Wild Strawberries. In 1957 (his second film that year, following The Seventh Seal), Ingmar Bergman was 39 years of age, and made this film starring his hero, Victor Sjostrom, who died three years later, and is widely considered to be the pioneer of Swedish cinema. Fifty years later, now recently departed, Ingmar Bergman gets my vote for greatest filmmaker in cinematic history. To watch Wild Strawberries is to watch Bergman’s utter respect for his hero; the perspective of one God of cinema onto another.

Read Part 3 tomorrow!

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