Saturday, 22 September 2007

Joseph Wren Reviews His Ten Favourite Films, Part 5

France 1934
Director: Jean Vigo
Screenwriter: Jean Guinee, Albert Riera, and Jean Vigo
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Certificate: PG
DVD Distributor: Artificial Eye

I saw this gem of a film a good number of years after my love affair with the French directors Renoir, Godard, and Truffaut, all whom claim owe a great deal of gratitude to Jean Vigo. I am in love with this film, though I find it to be the toughest one to include on this list.

The script is scarily simple for a film held in such high regard, and does not fully develop the relationship between newlyweds Juliette and Jean. The mastery of Vigo transcends the flawed script with a breathtaking artistic vision. The dialogue is almost an afterthought, as the music and images convey all of the emotions here.

For as good as Vigo was at filming this movie, it may not have worked without Dita Parlo’s Juliette. Her face expresses genuine excitement as the country girl in Paris for the first time. Quickly she is seduced by the city, and just as swiftly is destroyed by it. Her relationship with us is at times very intimate, as Parlo looks into the camera with such a heartbreakingly palpable vulnerability.

The clincher, the one scene that makes this movie so fantastic, is the very short yet memorable “love” scene. It’s only about sixty-eight seconds long, but the montage sequence toward the end of the film that cuts between the newlyweds in separate beds is about the most sublime example of longing that one could imagine. Whenever I revisit this film it is the scene that I anticipate most. I still get short of breath and feel a slight burn behind my eyes for this gorgeous, timeless moment of cinematic magic.

Before Sunset
USA 2004
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenwriters: Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Certificate: 15
DVD Distributor: Warner Home Video

A lot can happen in that decade from twenty-something to full-blown adulthood, and I think this selection on my list is the most personal one; the kind of film that I would want to make, because it deals so closely with the hopes and fears within me today. For any number of reasons – Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s relationship to the script, to the director, to each other, or to the audience – this film feels like it is genuinely grasping for the truth – that unknown question that we’re always struggling to answer.

Whereas 1995’s Before Sunrise made such a romantic impression on me that I actually ventured on my own to Vienna with hopes of meeting Delpy’s Celine (which I did not), 2004’s Before Sunset enhanced the fear that if I get married, it won’t be to Julie Delpy, and I will regret it forever. Hawke’s Jesse sure regretted it. But he wrote a book about it…but he’s still not happy. But his book led him to meet Celine again, and they walked around Paris and laughed and there was great chemistry. And there was pleasure and there was pain, and than there was Celine with her flat singing, her waltz and dancing to Nina Simone shaking her cute ass, and Jesse was going to miss his plane and change his life…
This concludes Joseph's Top Ten, thanks for reading!

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