"Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo."
- From 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Pufrock' by. T.S. Eliot.
The title says it. I take a favorite director and pick my three favorite films he's done or did. Then I write something though sometimes off topic and not necessarily about all three films. I'm calling this part one which suggests that there will be parts to follow. When I don't know. Who can know such things. Truly.
Ingmar Bergman. The Seventh Seal (1957), Winter Light (1963), Fanny and Alexander (1982). I started with my favorite of my favorite directors and immediately see that three is not enough but that rules are rules. I could have a dozen easily for Bergman. Woody Allen called The Seventh Seal one of the few perfect films and I make it a point never to argue with Woody Allen. Winter Light is a small picture could say bleak -- very black and white -- which could say about god's silence. While. Fanny and Alexander is a huge picture full of color and people and drama and laughter and life and villains and heroes. Opposites attract. Bergman films don't make me think they allow me the option of it. They do make me feel. Feel good. I love the depth and the humanity and oh the faces.
Amarcord (1973), La Dolce Vita (1960), Nights of Cabrira (1957). The broken record is saying there are so many that could have should have would have been here. His films so Felliniesque you might say. The drama never too heavy but inescapable. The humor never blaring just there to find and to hold. The characters so rich and wonderful. And life so very much on display and never gray. Just touchable. Films like a great meal with many courses. Faces again. The greats appreciate them.
Woody Allen. Manhattan (1979). Midnight in Paris (2011) Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Wry smiles and broad jokes and the sound of Sidney Bechet or Benny Goodman or Cole Porter for crissakes. Pathos. The distracted love of the pixilated. Pondering the imponderable but always. Discordant but happy. Keaton Farrow Johannsson Cruz Cotillard. Beautiful vulnerable soft but strong. Bergman made the most great films but Allen has made the most good ones. That opening of Manhattan with Gershwin announcing and the skyline and the narration and then to the restaurant and oh my.
Michelangelo Antonioni. L' Eclisse (1962). Red Desert (1964). L'avventura (1960). Enchanting miles of drivers distracted confused by unspoken poetry. Lyrics of songs dying as the vipers in their engines devour large swaths of deaths for them. We linger on moonlight nights in soft winds of our fingers. Feelings not spoke only hinted at by the obtuse. So long the days of our splendor and the wonder of our confusion. Everyday. To be beautiful. Distracted. And thinking. All at once. So lonely. So ill-timed the forgetfulness of our sated sorrow. And still yesterday approaches.
The 39 Steps (1935). Notorious (1946). Foreign Correspondent (1940). Wow what a list you could make what arguments you could have what fun it is to discover Hitch and then re-discover him. Master of Suspense is somewhat limiting a moniker. There is suspense created sure but there is also character and content and a camera that surprises titillates and amuses and dramatizes and captures. We start from the top of the stairs as we take a long trip to visit a key in a woman's hand. Masterful.
John Ford. Grapes of Wrath (1940). The Searchers (1956). Stagecoach (1939). Soliders of dignity. Women of valor. Horses. Monument Valley. Tough guys with dimensions. Stories well told. Never angry stories never preachy stories. Always so wonderful to look at and regard. Maybe the ultimate maker of American stories. Exposing what's under the rock without stating that its there just the showing of it. A genius with a goddam camera if there ever was one. Placing it just so and just so wonderfully. Mmmm. Grapes of Wrath a film worthy of a great book -- that's a rarity. Stagecoach the ultimate Western of the first half of the 20th century and The Searchers the ultimate Western of the second half of the same century. But his stories are more than Westerns. Yeah. They're fucking great.
Jean Renoir. La Grande Illusion (1937). Rules of the Game (1939). The Lower Depths (1936). Grand Illusion is another film Woody Allen said was perfect. The man knows a perfect film when he sees one. How Renoir slaps classism in the face. How unafraid he is of his audience -- but how he respects them -- how faithful he is to ideas. Good ideas. That ennoble us by tearing down what is facile and corrupt and depraved. The flourish is not evident but the precision is and the craftsmanship and the message and the story. Always the story. Glory.
Goodfellas (1990). Raging Bull (1980). The Aviator (2004). Look at me everybody. I put The Aviator ahead of Taxi Driver and Mean Streets and for that matter The King of Comedy. I'm a nut! But I say and write what I think because to do otherwise is lying. Scorsese at his best does not lie. He is an honest filmmaker telling true stories. True in the sense that they are meant to be.....A man who loves loves loves films and loves loves loves to make them and does so with verve and panache but most of all with honesty. Sometimes brutally so. The violence in Goodfellas the anger in Raging Bull the brilliant madness in the Aviator.