Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Random Notes #3

The 400 Blows (1959 - Francois Truffault) - Why yes, this is as good as all the critics say it is...We all have our classics not yet seen, but at least I've finally rectified catching up with this early Truffault. I guess I put it off for so long because I already knew about that final image (which actually comes at the tail end of an over minute long take) and I expected a certain arc for the main character. And if the arc wasn't that different than I expected, the time spent with him was far warmer, funnier and sadder than I could've foreseen.

And the film also contains these great shots:

These are not taken from the recent Criterion release by the way, so the images can only look better...

One Day In September (1999 - Kevin MacDonald) - If you're like me and know only the basics about the 1972 Munich Olympics tragedy (when 11 members of the Israeli team were killed by terrorists), this documentary will likely astonish you. The incompetence and negligence, the sloppiness of the firefight at the airport, the treatment of the Israelis during the siege, etc. Some of the music choices are odd ("Child Of Time" by Deep Purple?), but otherwise it's pretty jaw-dropping and heartbreaking.

Manda Bala (2007 - Jason Kohn) - I suppose I shouldn't have watched this right after "One Day In September". I kinda lost a little faith in humanity...Kohn deftly juggles stories about frog farms, plastic surgery, kidnappings in Sao Paolo, government corruption and police SWAT teams and somehow manages to relate them all. It's highly stylized, but it never detracts from its harsh look at modern day Brazil.

Guatemalan Handshake (2006 - Todd Rohal) - If "Indie quirks" drive you up the wall, you may want to avoid this film. That's not to say that's all it is since Rohal has a real interesting talent for shot composition and there are some characters in the film that rise above the simple patchwork of random characteristics given them. But I was disappointed overall. I'm willing to admit that I just missed the point and didn't get the overlapping stories and what they had to do with each other, but I just got tired of it all by the end. I also have to admit that the precious duet shot in black in white halfway through the film took whatever remaining wind I had right out of my sails...


Ed Howard said...

The few other Truffauts I've seen have not blown me away, but The 400 Blows is really a startling debut feature and a true masterpiece. It's Truffaut's tribute to Jean Vigo's equally sublime Zero de conduite, and what better tribute than to make his own unique film by riffing on his progenitor's themes and setting? Leaud is wonderful even this young, funny and charming and bratty and tragic all at once.

James McNally said...

Haven't seen all of Truffaut's but found Small Change quite charming as well, though more episodic. Truffaut really loves children, obviously.

Too bad you didn't enjoy The Guatemalan Handshake as much as I did. I'd agree with the overload of quirkiness in places, but overall I saw something underneath it all that I can't quite understand, but which kept me thinking about the film.

Bob Turnbull said...

I hadn't heard of the connection between "400 Blows" and "Zero de Conduite" before...I've been meaning to see Zero for awhile, so I'll have to track it down (I have seen Vigo's "L'Atalante" which worked sporadically for me).

The "400 Blows" disc I had (not the Criterion) had a few screen tests from Leaud. He seemed to be in real life exactly as he was in the film.

Though I too have heard that Truffault is up and down, I need to see more of his stuff...The only other I've seen so far is "Day For Night".

James, I knew you liked the film more than me (I actually sought it out specifically because of your positive review), but I just couldn't grasp anything underneath it all. I'm sure there's something there - Rohal seems to have too much talent to not care about all the pieces fitting - but I just ran out of gas trying to figure it out. It frankly started to annoy me (again, I point to that cloying duet - ugh!).