Millenium Mambo & On a Clear Day You Can See Forever & Werckmeister Harmonies

16 Jul

We watched two movies yesterday. The first, “Millenium Mambo” by Hsiao-hsien Hou is a Taiwanese film that opens with a lovely slow-motion shot. It’s a girl walking through a tunnel. It’s night-time and she’s happy. The camera follows her from behind while a female voice-over begins to tell a story in second person. The film is about despondent youth in the Taiwan club scene. Vicky, whose life we follow for a time period is always either angry or drunk, but for a few scenes in the snow. Somehow, my favorite part was the happy trance music that the film opens with, and that continues in and out during the film. I don’t know what it is about progressive trance that I like, but I do. Overall I was a little bored by this film, but there were parts in it that were worth the viewing, in particular the ending had a really beautiful closing shot of a snowy street. I like to guess when a movie is showing it’s last shot, and on this one, I was right.

The second film we watched was “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” which is directed by Vincente Minnelli. This movie has Barbara Streisand in it. This movie is completely wacky and also totally enjoyable. As I have been obsessing over fabrics again, and the notion of sewing my own clothes, I found myself watching her outfits with an eagle eye. In one particularly nice scene, she wears pajamas the same fabric as her bedsheets and pillowcase (disappearing pajamas) and I love it. Jack Nicholson shows up as one Tad Pringle wearing a bright yellow, cable knit sweater. Oh, did I mention this one’s a musical? It is. I actually confess that I enjoy musicals, for the most part, and this one was witty enough to make Streisand’s nose bearable.

Last week we finished watching “Werckmeister Harmonies” by Béla Tarr. Béla Tarr made a 7-hr film (“Satantango”) that I want to watch now, after reading Jonathan Rosenbaum’s article on it and my husband thought I should watch this one first to see if I like his work. I DO! This film is a luscious black and white symphony of working class in Hungary, plus a big fat whale thrown in for symbolism. The film opens on a wonderful bar scene that I am sure we all wish we could have partaken in, one of those drunken Saturday nights of our past. The man who acts as main character, a young, mildly naive and wide-eyed János, enters the bar and, upon request, begins to place the men in the room as moving parts of the satellite system.  With one man in the center as the sun, he shows another how to rotate in circles to imitate the earth, and then uses a few more men to illustrate how an eclipse is throwing them into darkness. Tarr ends this scene with some really beautiful music by Mihaly Vig, which is what makes this movie for me. After this, I find out that Tarr likes to film people walking, a giant stuffed whale comes to town, little boys jump on beds and refuse to go to bed, and no one lets János sleep. More importantly, there is a political uprising in the town and we get to see the action from this, which results in a really beautiful scene involving a naked old man. It’s the music by Vig that kicks in here, at just the right moment, that makes this scene so poignant. My husband just turned some Vig on for me, and I think I may go friend him on Facebook now.

János Valuska: “You are the sun. The sun doesn’t move, this is what it does. You are the Earth. The Earth is here for a start, and then the Earth moves around the sun. And now, we’ll have an explanation that simple folks like us can also understand, about immortality. All I ask is that you step with me into the boundlessness, where constancy, quietude and peace, infinite emptiness reign.”


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