Eclipse Series 4: Raymond Bernard

Discuss DVDs released in the Eclipse and Essential Art House lines and the films on them.
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jbeall
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#76 Post by jbeall » Wed Aug 29, 2007 10:38 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:For those who dug this set, rush out and grab his CHESS PLAYER from 1927. It's utterly sublime, and you'll note that this man is completely consistent. His style seems to have jumped out of hi fully formed and remained firm despite the variances in material, and when moving from silent to sound.

Now how about Gremillon?
How about Le Miracle des Loups?

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Tommaso
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#77 Post by Tommaso » Thu Aug 30, 2007 7:06 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Oh how I wish I had the time for a traditionally schreckian tome on this release, but I've got shit to take care of
Now that you're back for a moment, I'd LOVE you to read this...

I have to chime in on the praise everyone has for these films. I only got the set last week due to the cd-wow debacle and me waiting to get it solved (got the set from amazon now), but once I started watching "les Miserables", I wasn't feeling like watching anything else before I had seen every second of these films. I'm completely blown away, even more by "Wooden Crosses" than by "Les Miserables". "Crosses" must be one of the greatest war films ever made. It's amazing to see how Bernard managed to make the landscape reflect the dreary proceedings: every tree is barren, also the way the sky looks (painted I believe). Amazing use of stylistic elements coming straight from German silent cinema: think of that extraordinary scene with the dead soldiers going to heaven through the church top with their living comrades parading down on earth (am I wrong in smelling some Dreyer here?), or the very end of the film.

As to "Miserables", almost the same feeling of excitement, and a deep sense of humanity. Here again some curious feelings of stylistic reference: the barricade scenes in the third part with their harsh sidelighting in places reminded me very much of the Russians, most notably "New Babylon" perhaps. And such wonderful acting, with Javert's hunt for Valjean taking on an almost mythical, fateful character, like a dark inversion of Juve's hunt for Fantomas.

So, all praise to Criterion for bringing us these films. I only wished they'd have released them in the main series with some good audio commentary or other extras that would have helped to appreciate them even more.

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HerrSchreck
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#78 Post by HerrSchreck » Fri Aug 31, 2007 12:26 am

Much similarities between our sentiments here. Temptations to admire the compacted perfection of shorter materrial (CROSSES) versis the way the brilliance of his style sorta "sinks into an overshadowed status quo" via the length and power of the melodrama in LES MIZ (i e "Okay here we go w another tilted skewed composition... any particular reason for it this time, or just cause it's 'cool'?"). But the herculean achievement is just that in MIZ, and for me the style is even more astonishing because it never truly does sink into becoming 'routine'. He holds back his impressionist blasts, and yet the overall beauty of the main center chunks of each third is so breathtaking it's just impossible to take for granted owing to the length. The man was just an incredibly talented, consistent artist... a master actually.

I took the "spirits into heaven" drill a direct rhyme/tribute to ALL QUIET with the procession of spirits at the end of the film off into the sky. Admittedly there is a bit more painterly art in Bernards technique. And the scenes of war, the monstrous blasts of artillery in endless rapid succession, the thunder and lightning of his mise en scene, it's like an enraged devil shot and cut the film with supreme fury. For tempo of violence, the percussive devastation, combined with expressionstically exaggerated tone of dreary grey/brown emptiness and doom, it's just in a class by itself.

And what was done with those clips in the US via that seedy contract for distrib is about as nauseating as it gets. God bless this Eclipse box. It is sublime, even without the extras. Fuck Malles docs, we need more of this. G R E M I L L O N!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Tommaso
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#79 Post by Tommaso » Fri Aug 31, 2007 6:26 am

HerrSchreck wrote:But the herculean achievement is just that in MIZ, and for me the style is even more astonishing because it never truly does sink into becoming 'routine'.
Well said, and this might be applied to the other two films (i.e. "Crosses" and "Chess Player") as well. It's admirable how Bernard manages to USE these stylistic devices without ever dropping into pure 'formalism' for stylistic sake. In "Caligari" everything is skewed, in "Chess Player" only in those scenes where it makes emotional/symbolic sense. Style in Bernard underlines what is going on, but never IS what is going on. That's perhaps why I was reminded of Dreyer in places. One thing that came to my mind with "Les Miserables", that hunt through the catacombs at the end of the third film: I really wonder whether that was an inspiration for Carol Reed, in any case the emotional impact on the viewer, the identification that one feels with both Baur and Welles respectively, is very similar. And it's all done just by the way these scenes are lit and played. The claustrophobic quality here is something that informs the whole of "Wooden Crosses", of course, the marvellous way how Bernard manages to make a small room even smaller by just putting wooden bars in the center of the frame (not to speak of the symbolic meaning that one might read into it here).
HerrSchreck wrote:I took the "spirits into heaven" drill a direct rhyme/tribute to ALL QUIET with the procession of spirits at the end of the film off into the sky.
Might very well be, but I've never seen "All quiet on the western front", so this allusion went unnoticed by me.
HerrSchreck wrote:Admittedly there is a bit more painterly art in Bernards technique. And the scenes of war, the monstrous blasts of artillery in endless rapid succession, the thunder and lightning of his mise en scene, it's like an enraged devil shot and cut the film with supreme fury. For tempo of violence, the percussive devastation, combined with expressionstically exaggerated tone of dreary grey/brown emptiness and doom, it's just in a class by itself.
Not just in that final scene, I found the graveyard sequence perhaps even more impressive, where these stylistic treats almost border on surrealistic effects.
As to those clips you mention: indeed a deplorable way to tread this film, but it would have been interesting to see these clips in that new context, just for historical sake. There would have been so many good possibilities to stack these discs with extras... but no complaints, we must be thankful that we have the films at last. And apart from Gremillon, we need a second box with Bernard silents. Urgently.

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tryavna
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#80 Post by tryavna » Fri Aug 31, 2007 2:25 pm

Tommaso wrote:I've never seen "All quiet on the western front", so this allusion went unnoticed by me.
You must remedy this ASAP, Tommaso. All Quiet is a great film that flies under many folks radars precisely because it's so famous. It's also one of the key anti-war films ever made, so apart from simply expanding your appreciation of Crosses and Pabst's Westfront, you'll find all sorts of references to it in dozens of subsequent anti-war films. It's as important to its subgenre as, say, Cat People is to the modern-day horror film.

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Tommaso
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#81 Post by Tommaso » Fri Aug 31, 2007 3:36 pm

Sounds like I really missed something...hmm... If only war films held a little more interest for me...hmmm.....that new Universal Cinema Classics disc seems to be very good, and rather cheap as well. I guess I will trust your judgement, and after all its a major classic,anyway. So as I'm trying to fill in my gaps of early sound films at the moment anyway (but they are pretty huge gaps, I have to admit), I'll get me a copy of that disc soon. :)

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tryavna
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#82 Post by tryavna » Fri Aug 31, 2007 4:19 pm

Yes, the new Universal disc is very good -- and extremely cheap, so even if you hate the film, it's only a few bucks. But I don't think you'll hate it. Milestone was a solid director, and while the acting can be a little overdramatic (in the way that only early Hollywood talkies can be), that's partly due to the fact that Milestone actually cast actors who were in the appropriate age-range. That gives the film a sincerity and effectiveness that most Hollywood war films lack. And of course, it's immediately apparent just how much Lew Ayres identified with his role; he is Paul Baumer.

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zedz
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#83 Post by zedz » Mon Sep 10, 2007 9:05 pm

I watched Wooden Crosses and it's just phenomenal: one of the all-time great war films, with, at its centre, one of the greatest battle sequences.

One of my favourite shots in The Chess Player was a battle scene in which an entire hillside suddenly comes alive with rifle fire, and Bernard has the same sense of scale and overwhelming action throughout this entire long sequence. It makes you realise just how easy the heavily montaged route taken by so many similar scenes can be: where this sequence gets its power is in the absence of cheats. We don't just cut from a long shot of men in battle to a close-up of an explosion, back to the long shot with the men falling down amidst smoke. Instead, we get men, smoke and multiple explosions all within the same shot. The visual impact of a barrage of explosions going off in every part of the frame, dwarfing the human figures in the midst of them, is stunning, and there are several shots that make you gasp at the proximity of the pyrotechnics to the actors.

This is not to say that montage is insignificant to the sequence: Bernard is masterful at matching a range of dynamic imagery, including thrilling tracking shots alongside advancing troops (anticipating some of the best shots in Paths of Glory), backwards tracks in the path of running grenadiers, handheld soldiers-POV footage, punctuating inserts of artillery fire, and beautifully composed static images of the battlefield at momentary rest, in which drifting smoke creates the kinetic effect. The entire sequence is a masterpiece of carefully paced sensation and shock. And there's another sequence, in the graveyard towards the end, that's nearly as good, and makes use of a different visual and stylistic vocabulary.

Bernard also makes use of complex multiple dissolves and superimpositions at key points to approximate the characters' mental states (an Impressionist touch, but I don't think Bernard was ever particularly strongly aligned with that movement). And this is one of those precious films in which the lighting of almost every scene is a key expressive element: simply beautiful work from Jules Kruger (also responsible for Napoleon).

It's a filmmaking tour-de-force, but it's also a compelling - if brutally straightforward - narrative, with great acting. Charles Vanel is absurdly reliable, and he's as good here as in his work with Gremillon and Clouzot. I should recognise Gabriel Gabrio from a couple of his other roles, but he was a revelation here, giving a lively, charismatic performance that personalized the pointedly schematic plot, in which the deaths of major characters came suddenly, arbitrarily and often.

Can't wait to get into Les Miserables, but so far this may well be the best film Criterion or Eclipse have released this year. Easily the greatest discovery for me.

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domino harvey
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#84 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 10, 2007 10:15 pm

I wonder if the forum is even going bother to include a Best Eclipse category in the year-end list, since (though no disrespect to some of the other Eclipse titles) I can't imagine it going to any other release.

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The Elegant Dandy Fop
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#85 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Mon Sep 10, 2007 11:05 pm

domino harvey wrote:I wonder if the forum is even going bother to include a Best Eclipse category in the year-end list, since (though no disrespect to some of the other Eclipse titles) I can't imagine it going to any other release.
Ummm.... Ozu?

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domino harvey
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#86 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 10, 2007 11:06 pm

The Elegant Dandy Fop wrote:
domino harvey wrote:I wonder if the forum is even going bother to include a Best Eclipse category in the year-end list, since (though no disrespect to some of the other Eclipse titles) I can't imagine it going to any other release.
Ummm.... Ozu?
Like anyone from that thread is going to stop bitching about the colors long enough to cast a vote

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zedz
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#87 Post by zedz » Tue Sep 11, 2007 1:08 am

Ozu would probably win on points, but Bernard definitely delivers on the Eclipse core values. If Les Miserables is anywhere near as good as Wooden Crosses, even that 'winning on points' might be in doubt. Surely the relative availability of the Ozus and unavailability of the Bernards is a relevant consideration as well.

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HerrSchreck
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#88 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Sep 11, 2007 12:22 pm

zedz wrote:... we get men, smoke and multiple explosions all within the same shot. The visual impact of a barrage of explosions going off in every part of the frame, dwarfing the human figures in the midst of them, is stunning, and there are several shots that make you gasp at the proximity of the pyrotechnics to the actors.
Can't wait to get into Les Miserables, but so far this may well be the best film Criterion or Eclipse have released this year. Easily the greatest discovery for me.
There is an explosion that occurs at 66 minutes 22 seconds which COMPLETELY envelops a number of men... a blast which appears to be much more than some innocuous flash/smoke smoke effect. You can see the percussion, see bits & pieces of rock go blasting out, see all the dirt kicked up via the shock wave. For gods sakes I swear I'm seeing at least two dudes get blown to pieces right there on the "set".

Z, I was going to reply to your PM in PM but as it's relevant to the thread as regards the significance of the Milestone as a sort of "precursor" film, and Tom, who hasn't seen ALL QUIET, I'll put it out here (with a slight digression about the legendary dp of QUIET):

Crosses definitely took many pages from Milestone & Art Edison's playbook from ALL QUIET.... the procession of the spirits into the sky (or heaven "if you like your Bible Stories" as Praetorious would mutter), the digging of full scale outdoor trenches covering the actors in the grit and slime of the reality of trench life (brilliantly touched upon in abbreviated degree in the magisterial END OF ST PETERSBERG), and most specifically the devastating tempo of artillery simulating the incredible blizzards of ordinance chewing up the battlefield (turning men, stones and trees to dust) in ww1. The amount of shells fired in ww1 was just unbelievable. No other war even comes close. There's a famous quote from Hitler sitting in the bunker towards the end, discussing his artillery supply lines-- feeding the 88's no doubt-- and he remarked "we had artillery quotas that would make all of your hairs stand on end." Zones of France were just like the moon. Men went nuts on both sides as the deafening storms just went on forever, with each side firing all size of howitzer cannons in unending shifts. CROSSES builds on the awful presentation of this fact in FRONT, and takes the tempo of the explosive percussion and visuals to a new level of violent expression unmatched since, in my view. The logistics and fact of the technique of firing live blank ordinance on the set which was an actual outdoor battlefield was not new, but the incredible tempo & huge expression of the mise en scene is just breathtaking.

Imo btw, Edeson of the 20's & early 30's was then the Freund of the USA... lensed so many masterpieces including Walsh's sumptuous THIEF OF BAGDHAD, LAST COMMAND (his handling of the trench scenes led him to the FRONT gig) FRANKENSTEIN, ALL QUIET, OLD DARK HOUSE and so many others too numerous to recount here.

Back on topic I hope everyone caught the fact that (I havent seen it mentioned in any "official" reviews for the film or any posts here) the lead performer of CROSSES-- Pierre Blanchar-- is the lead in THE CHESS PLAYER (***WARNING/CHESS PLAYER SPOILER***: he plays the central character, the Polish patriot/hero Boleslas Vorowski.. the cat what gets wounded and hides in the "automoton").

Once again, tributing the incredibly pure vision and force that this filmmaker had, note the amazing stylistic consistency and individual purity running thru CHESS PL, CROSSES, LES MIZ... the fact that they were made over a span of 7 years, and with a total of 5 different cinematographers working on and over the course of these three films. Factorovich, Bujard, and Mundeville on CHESS PL, and the team of Kruger & Ribault on CROSSES & MIZ. Yet the stylistic force and clarity is entirely individual and consistent thru all 3 films (reminds me of Murnau who varied his cinematographers constantly yet his films always Looked Like Murnau)-- really a very unique straining out of the useful conceits of Impressionism, with a faint touch of the later Weimar German camera ie a touch of the new objectivity of Pabst, the moody yet big budgeted stimmung of THE BLUE ANGEL, the painterly setups nonetheless very alive, a camera very sumptuous and very pictorially rich yet ready to burst into completely unpredictable motion at any moment, and yet for all it's truth and fierceness it has taken in the accessibility of the higher quality, though stylized & occasionally brutal, Hollywood studio spectacle. James Whale, Lewis Milestone, Rouben Mamoulian, West, and to some extent via the heavy content the early WB's of Wellman, LeRoy. Heavy and serious, yet smoothly flowing and universally acceptable. And accessible. Not material for the Ursuline or Coloumbier Parisian experimental cinemas-- big budget, profit making pieces of deeply felt art that walked hand in hand with the other absolutely fantastic (though a bit more topically uncompromising, at least during these years in particular) Pathe-Nathan French pioneer flirting stylistically with pure impressionism, but desiring to weave more conventional narratives: Jean Gremillon.

In mood and a Certain Something, I feel these films, a similar blending of elements, albeit in a stripped down and more formulaic fashion, in the four or five most expressive "poetic realist" (an absolutely absurd phrase) films, say of Duvivier and Carne. I see a slightly more predictable, and less technically challenging i e stripped down look and mise en scene in a film like LE GOLEM, or PEPE, or BANDERA, or QUAI DE B. Watching LES MIZ put me instantly in the mood to watch LES ENFANTS DU, though in the mechanics of the performance of the melodrama (and the conceits of the script) they are very different. Yet at the same time the latter is the number one son of the former.

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zedz
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#89 Post by zedz » Tue Sep 11, 2007 5:55 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:There is an explosion that occurs at 66 minutes 22 seconds which COMPLETELY envelops a number of men... a blast which appears to be much more than some innocuous flash/smoke smoke effect. You can see the percussion, see bits & pieces of rock go blasting out, see all the dirt kicked up via the shock wave. For gods sakes I swear I'm seeing at least two dudes get blown to pieces right there on the "set".

I think this was the shot where I emitted a loud yelp: some guys standing in front of a ruined wall, and an explosion goes off right at their feet, obliterating them. And it's not the climax of the sequence or anything, it's just another momentary, did-I-really-see-that? visual impact.

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Tommaso
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#90 Post by Tommaso » Wed Sep 12, 2007 5:41 am

HerrSchreck wrote:Back on topic I hope everyone caught the fact that (I havent seen it mentioned in any "official" reviews for the film or any posts here) the lead performer of CROSSES-- Pierre Blanchar-- is the lead in THE CHESS PLAYER (***WARNING/CHESS PLAYER SPOILER***: he plays the central character, the Polish patriot/hero Boleslas Vorowski.. the cat what gets wounded and hides in the "automoton").
Yep! And that "Chess Player" performance is probably even more stunning. What I didn't get at my first viewing of "Crosses" is that Antonin Artaud has a role, I only noticed when I looked at the cover blurp afterwards. As I'm terribly bad in remembering character names and won't have the time to watch the film again any time soon, which character did Artaud play? I didn't recognize him at all in the film.
HerrSchreck wrote: Watching LES MIZ put me instantly in the mood to watch LES ENFANTS DU, though in the mechanics of the performance of the melodrama (and the conceits of the script) they are very different.
I had precisely this same feeling, and I think that "Les Miserables" is indeed much closer to this and the other films you mention than to the sometimes quoted "Gone with the wind" (which I indeed find melodramatic, quite unlike "Enfants du Paradis", which can only be described as 'poetic', in the sense of pure lyrical transcendence emanating from these images...)

As to the Year's End Lists: I don't think any other CC release should even come close to this Bernard set in importance, not even "Alexanderplatz" and "Sawdust and Tinsel" (though reading Schreck's ravings about the Pabst it sounds there's a strong competitor there). But what I would wish for would be a true best of all year's releases from all companies, and here I think CC would have very strong competitors this year, not only if I think of the forthcoming MoCs in November. But it would only be fair to recognize that other companies do work as great as the CC.

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GringoTex
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#91 Post by GringoTex » Mon Oct 22, 2007 12:19 pm

Thoughts on Les Miserables:

Bernard has a way instilling density into landscape, setting, and movement that is as great as von Stroheim's. I literally felt as though I had been dropped into a post-Napoleonic French reality. This made Parts 1 and 3 masterpieces of epic cinema.

That said, Part 2 was embarrassingly bad. It's essentially a farcical comedy of manners, and instead of applying the necessary light touch, Bernard gives us a drunk sledgehammer. He should have outsourced Part 2 to Renoir or something.

I'm not sure what material was cut out of the truncated releases of Les Miserables, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if the bulk of it was from Part 2.

(I followed this up with Truffaut's The Story of Adele H., which made for an incredible all-day double feature.)

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zedz
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#92 Post by zedz » Mon Oct 22, 2007 4:31 pm

I finally watched Les Miserables, and though magnificent, it's definitely a step down from Wooden Crosses. For me, this is largely a problem with the source material, with its overly convenient coincidences and the way the characters have of stumbling too blindly into the traps of fate (and thereafter acting implausibly for the sake of dramatic effect). I also found that, while the two central performances by Baur and Vanel were magnificent (the more I see of Vanel, the more I love him - just look at the range he exhibits in this film, Le Ciel est a vous and Wages of Fear), much of the rest were somewhat inadequate, reducing already thin characters to fractional dimensions. Again, this is a hazard of the material.

But much of Part One is brilliant, gaining strength from focussing so strongly on Baur, and Part Three demonstrates Bernard's genius for staging action scenes. Boy, does he know how to rig an explosion! I love the freedom of Bernard's camera, plunging into handheld direct engagement with the action, though the relentlessly canted angles got a little wearing. Was Carol Reed a big fan of this film? It's easy to imagine him watching it for pointers immediately before shooting The Third Man or Odd Man Out.

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tryavna
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#93 Post by tryavna » Mon Oct 22, 2007 5:23 pm

zedz wrote:For me, this is largely a problem with the source material, with its overly convenient coincidences and the way the characters have of stumbling too blindly into the traps of fate (and thereafter acting implausibly for the sake of dramatic effect).
Well, it is based on a mid-19th century novel, and those coincidences and downright dumb characters were pretty much de rigueur. Do you like Lean's two Dickens adaptations? If so, perhaps it's a case of Bernard not being ruthless enough in telescoping the plot of the novel into a more manageable/cinematic form for you.

And I don't mean that as a criticism of your position, Zedz. I'm just curious because I also tend to prefer the more brutal types of literary adaptations. (We could probably start a whole 'nother thread about how folks like Lean adapt the narratives of Victorian literature in such a way as to give them a more "modern" sensibility, thereby making them more suitable for film.)

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#94 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Oct 23, 2007 11:41 am

I agree that its a hazard of the material, and tryavnas invoking of Dickens is absolutely appropriate. The man was an absolute king of inserting incredibly banal coincidences to conveniently tie his melodramas into a bow, OLIVER TWIST being a perfect example of this. I find it exceptionally cruel to readers in the underclass, and perfect balm to those in the bourgoisie.. particularly those of his time.

I e: "Don't worry poor boy-- you'll turn out to be graced with a wonderful surprise which will solve all of your nasty little Hunger Problems in the end: you will soon be revealed an Heir to a great fortune! It was your mama's great secret!"

Whereas the impoverished reader, finding out that the key to Ending Starvation and Class Immobility is the sudden revelation of Hidden Birthrights promptly hangs himself for lack of hope.

Whereas the wealthy baronial reader softly rests his leatherbound volume on a plush ottoman nearby, lighting his pipe.

"Social action.. hah-- spoil't tripe, 'tis. Bosh on all of that: it's a matter of not being lazy and being willing to work. And those very few who are truly in need are promptly cared for by Fate, as is clearly proven by this Work of Genius" (thumps book).

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#95 Post by tryavna » Tue Oct 23, 2007 12:01 pm

Schreck, have you ever read George Orwell's brilliant analysis of Dickens? I believe it's reproduced in its entirety here. Basically, despite Orwell's admiration for Dickens as an author, he calls Dickens out for a disquieting lack of political commitment, despite his obvious distaste for social inequalities. Probably the most famous passage from the essay is this one:
George Orwell wrote:If you hate violence and don't believe in politics, the only remedy remaining is education. Perhaps society is past praying for, but there is always hope for the individual human being, if you can catch him young enough. This belief partly accounts for Dickens's preoccupation with childhood.
Of course, as a number of critics and scholars have pointed out, the development of what we tend to think of as the "novel" in its modern form is indeed a middle-class phenomenon. And the vast majority of 19th-century novels are little more than middle-class wish-fulfillment -- with Dickens being the most obvious (and, speaking in terms of literary aesthetics or just downright reading pleasure, one of the best).

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HerrSchreck
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#96 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Oct 23, 2007 12:20 pm

Well, yes, and the cop-out angle was the key to my post. Dickens gave evidence in his life of social commitment, both in the old and new worlds (see his visit to the Five Points), and was determined to use his (absolutely gigantic) literary gifts to paint a picture of contemporary suffering, as well as its omnipotence.

Yet at the same time plot devices like the aforementioned coincidences turn much of the better known works into-- in terms of underlying truth, and the quiet (or potential for disquiet) left in the readers ears-- canned peaches in syrup. He came off as a nice man with a nice heart and a huge talent, rather than a great man with big balls and stinging genius.

But Dickens is Dickens, and by his own means (which got him such a gigantic readership and social voice), and by reaching so so so many of the bourgoise, he very cleverly got them into the habit of starting to care for the underclass.. very much like LES MIS. They'd develop feelings for them while the covers were opened, which they'd to some degree take with them after closing the covers and seeing Whitechapel, the Five Points, etc, with Dickensified eyes.

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zedz
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#97 Post by zedz » Tue Oct 23, 2007 4:55 pm

tryavna wrote:Well, it is based on a mid-19th century novel, and those coincidences and downright dumb characters were pretty much de rigueur. Do you like Lean's two Dickens adaptations?
Yes, I do. Although Dickens had many of the same plotting habits, I think his work survives the transition to film much better than Hugo's. One of the issues with the stock characters in Les Miserables is that they're really no more than stock characters (the impossibly bland Cosette in Part Three leaps to mind, and Marius could have been replaced with a cardboard cut-out with little impact on the film). At least in Dickens the secondary characters are exaggerated into memorable grotesques or given cinegenic satirical quirks. This tends to draw some heat away from the schematic plotting.
And I don't mean that as a criticism of your position, Zedz. I'm just curious because I also tend to prefer the more brutal types of literary adaptations. (We could probably start a whole 'nother thread about how folks like Lean adapt the narratives of Victorian literature in such a way as to give them a more "modern" sensibility, thereby making them more suitable for film.)
There's a real art to literary adaptation, and nothing makes my teeth ache worse than a ploddingly 'faithful' adaptation of 'great literature'. Many of the best adaptations are the ones that take the most liberties (or ones that tackle less prestigious sources), but maybe the rarest and greatest are those that manage to carefully transpose a major work from one medium into another, barely spilling a drop. I've never read Berlin Alexanderplatz, but I certainly get the sense from Fassbinder's film of a full, satisfying literary experience, and Ruiz's Time Regained is a simply phenomenal reimagining of its source volume that manages to convey so much that's essential to the entire Recherche.

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#98 Post by evillights » Sat Dec 15, 2007 4:44 pm

Continuing from some remarks over at the "Delirious Fictions of William Klein" thread --
HerrSchreck wrote:craig I haven't done it in a while but I did once have some repute as a gag hypnotist, and once helped a kid (I'm not joking) get over his stage fright so he could become a functional performer. Within a couple months he got a principal part in Tony & Tina's Wedding on Broadway. And I once hypnotized a friend of a friends sister to laugh so hard at my friends' sister's feet that when I snapped her up and she started laughing so hard it got really really scary because she was crawling around gasping trailing spit streamers behind her stabbing and pounding at the floor her face a giant hot waterbottle of suffocation and spit. I hadta evacuate quick and snap her back down and reset her to "pre-feet" mode, if you will, whereby when we brought her back up and we explained to her how close to gagging she came she freaked out (remembering none of it) and refused forthwith to ever be in the same room with me ever again.
If only we could get Putin to sit down for a bracing session of gag-hypnosis!!
HerrSchreck wrote:I repeat these Genuinely True Tales as a sort of advertisement for Breakthrough... as a possibility. Even though I havent done it in a while, I mention it because there is such a sense of seething tremorous anger raging through your post I kind of get the sense you want to Punch folks for digging the Bernard Masterworks. As a routine I see you going through a violent posting system which seems to involve 1) identifying the reviled enemy-- Tradition of Quality, 2) attaching it to your target film, and 3) snarling and sinking your teeth into the skin (hairy!) into the film and those who love them..
I certainly didn't feel "seething tremorous anger" while writing the post, nor does the end-result really read that outrageous. Clearly you're obviously a die-hard Bernardine, with a yen for zapping your reality-distortion-phaser on a dissenting post after the fact, with the hope that declaring it "seething" will make it so. Possibly in the same way how hollering about how Bernard's films are such [juice-/spit-/excretion-/New Flesh-metaphor here + "fuckin'"] masterpieces will make-them-so.

But yeah, I make no apologies about generally buying into the arguments behind: (a) what defined the Tradition of Quality, and (b) why its narrowly and broadly defined tenets are antithetical to a certain idea of "cinema form" or "cinema aesthetics," and all the evaluations that make one personally feel something is "good," "less good," "not bad," "brilliant," etc. There's always wiggle-room, though, and just because x films by a particular director rub one as resplendently vacuum-sealed/wax-work objets which take nothing in and radiate nothing outward, doesn't mean the same filmmaker might not at some point make, or have made, an interesting film or two or three. Clouzot was once decried by some within the same Cahiers-of-the-'50s quarters, but I have no problem finding a lot to like in his work -- with the only exception being Les Diaboliques, which nevertheless still contains some interesting stuff.
HerrSchreck wrote:I'd suggest you are Way Too Hung Up On Tradition Of Quality. You're calling a director whose masterpieces resided in the silent and early sound era Tradition of Quality, which came to be associated (by vastly overrated dudes from the Vague) with Franco Italian agreements connected with cinematic market sustenance in the immediate postwar era but more likely 1949 thereabouts into the 50's. SO there is no way that Mr. Bernard could be a card carrying member of the CNC. A typical film would be Casque D'Or perhaps?
I think you're way too hung up on understanding some narrow historical "in-the-books" definition of Tradition of Quality ("it lasted from this year to this, and when the 'vastly overrated dudes from the Vague' stopped talking about it, either because they had moved on to their own work or because its polemical value was by that point diminished, its conjectures upped and vanished"), and not the reality of what the term suggests, outside of an inherent call-to-crucifixion of Aurenche, Bost, etc. -- that is, a staid conception of what makes a 'cinematic' (n.b., not cinematographic) literary adaptation and in the execution of which prizes an economy in moving the story among plot-beats, such that "character" becomes "mechanism," and "actor" becomes "dialogue-declaimer." Also, that mise en scène (also 'outmoded,' and not relevant anymore as an 'expletive'?), in T.O.Q. terms, not necessarily 'make manifest' a director's personality, and world-view, and discover/create meaning by way of spatial relations, movement, light, color, -- but rather that it: "set mood" and get no more complex than: "the chiaroscuro across the battlefield communicates that war can be such a ghostly thing, and it can look beautiful in doing so."
HerrSchreck wrote:Forget that term. It's outmoded and it's not 1960's France anymore where young unemployed writers needed to yell at the insular old folks to get jobs in the biz. It's not relevant anymore as an "expletive". The young men all duly shocked the industry, got jobs, and became the Tradtion of Quality themselves essentially.
This is asinine.
HerrSchreck wrote:It's now a historic term in it's neutral sense, describing a planning tool hoped to level off markets, not defame late silent and early sound masterworks (!!!??) Calling the Bernard films "formula films" (the essence of the industrial needs viz TOQ) is about the biggest howler on the board. Hypnosis can wash that Truf right outa your hair, and you will see the poetry in Bernard and leap up screaming and throw your fist right thru your glass window, smiling as you shake your bloody knuckles out in the sunlight "Free at last, free at last.. thank godomighty-- I Am Free At Last!!!"
For all of your bluster about Bernard here, you haven't drawn attention to one concrete element of any of these films that could convince me they were "good," never mind "great." You repeat that they've got "poetry" and basically look nice. What's so complex about what Bernard is saying about humanity, or war, or camaraderie in Wooden Crosses? That it's "bad and ghostly," and that "grim irony may befall these characters"? -- the grimmest irony being that the ironic formulation of: "wooden crosses = the soldiers themselves" gets super-ironized by the fact that the conceptions of the characters on the scenaristic level, and the way Bernard directs the actors, transforms them very much into "wooden things."

If you enjoy him, go on enjoying him! But since you're tossing "seething, tremorous" stones of your own at my initial post, then I'm going to respond, and call you out on his "greatness."

Thanks, too, for bringing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered to and for a race and nation of embattled millions, into my imminent conversion to the glories of Raymond Bernard. The touch of minstrelsy in "godomighty" made it doubly tasteful.

craig.

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Kinsayder
Joined: Mon Oct 10, 2005 6:22 pm
Location: UK

#99 Post by Kinsayder » Sat Dec 15, 2007 9:07 pm

evillights wrote:One might never know from the deluge of unmitigated enthusiasm on the Criterion Forum, or the copy on the back of the actual Bernard set, or any (or just many?) of the reviews of Bernard's films, but -- and I'm writing this as a warning for the cinephiles -- the real revelation for me [...] is that Bernard turns out to be a card-carrying member of the "tradition of quality".
Only in his later films like La Dame aux camélias. Wooden Crosses and Les Misérables have very little in common with the impersonal, heavily-lacquered studio productions of the 50s by Delannoy, Christian-Jaque, Le Chanois, etc, that Truffaut et al were churning against.
evillights wrote:For all of your bluster about Bernard here, you haven't drawn attention to one concrete element of any of these films that could convince me they were "good," never mind "great."
If you find yourself totally unmoved by Wooden Crosses, and need to ask to have its greatness pointed out to you with footnotes, then, in the words of J.J. Hunsecker: "You're dead, son. Go get yourself buried."
evillights wrote:What's so complex about what Bernard is saying about humanity, or war, or camaraderie in Wooden Crosses? That it's "bad and ghostly," and that "grim irony may befall these characters"? -- the grimmest irony being that the ironic formulation of: "wooden crosses = the soldiers themselves" gets super-ironized by the fact that the conceptions of the characters on the scenaristic level, and the way Bernard directs the actors, transforms them very much into "wooden things."
Like Bresson, then, that other great exponent of "Tradition of Quality"?

yoshimori
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 2:03 am
Location: LA CA

#100 Post by yoshimori » Sat Dec 15, 2007 10:30 pm

Kinsayder wrote:Like Bresson, then, that other great exponent of "Tradition of Quality"?
Are you seriously suggesting Bernard's treatment of actors somehow pre-figures Bresson's?
Last edited by yoshimori on Sat Dec 15, 2007 10:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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