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IN MY BEATNIK PHASE (which lagged into the 1960s) I was into foreign films, the sort that lingered on pensive closeups and raindrops clinging to a leaf. Now, apparently into my third beatnikhood (see “Ah, Those ‘Good Old Days’,” for the second), I’m enjoying foreign flicks on Turner Classic Movies.
This started awhile back at TCM with Federico Fellini’s La Strada, 1954, featuring the elfin Giulietta Masina. More recently, I’ve been enjoying François Truffaut’s Day for Night, Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, and Sergei Bonderchuk’s War and Peace. Here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow are tidbits about these three flicks and their talented directors.
François Truffaut’s Day for Night, 1973. This inside look at movie-making is funny, poignant, and dramatic. Director François Truffaut portrays Ferrand, the director. Natalie Baye is Joëlle, his assistant and my new throb, c. 1973. She’s still a dish at age 73 today.
An entertining take and retake has a kitten investigating a breakfast tray left outside a room. Needless to say, the first kitty does everything but.
Then Joëlle comes to the scene’s rescue with the studio cat, which performs admirably. I’ve known kitties of both dispositions.
As noted at Wikipedia “Author Graham Greene makes a cameo appearance as an insurance company representative, billed as ‘Henry Graham.’ On the film’s DVD, it was reported that Greene was a great admirer of Truffaut, and had always wanted to meet him, so when the small part came up where he actually talks to the director, he was delighted to have the opportunity. It was reported that Truffaut was unhappy he wasn’t told until later that the actor playing the insurance company representative was Greene, as he would have liked to have made his acquaintance, being an admirer of Greene’s work.”
Day for Night, French title La Nuit Americaine, refers to the filmmaking process in which outdoor sequences filmed in daylight are shot with techniques that render them appear as if taking place at night. The movie Day for Night won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1974.
Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, 1960. This one is a dark medieval tale of rape and revenge. It’s also a history lesson on 13th-century rural Swedish life based on the ballad, ‘Töres döttrar i Wänge‘ (‘Töre’s daughters in Vänge’).
Wikipedia notes, “New influences came from Japanese cinema, with Bergman particularly being a fan of Rashomon (1950). He later referred to The Virgin Spring as ‘a wretched imitation of Kurosawa.’ ” Bergman and his screenwriter Ulla Isaksson “explored a number of themes in The Virgin Spring, questioning morals, vengeance, and religious beliefs. The rape scene was also subject to censorship in screenings in the United States.” Though certainly violent, it’s modest by modern film standards.
Prosperous farmer Christian Per Töre sends his daughter Karin to take candles to the church. She’s accompanied by pregnant servant Ingeri, who secretly worships the Norse deity Odin.
Come to think of it, many of the interior scenes remind me of Wagner Ring Cycle settings.
The girls’ travel has ominous overtones. Then Karin shares her lunch with a boy and two herdsmen. The two rape her, kill her, and steal her fancy clothes.
Later, the boy and herdsmen seek shelter at the Töre farm and, worse, attempt to sell the murdered girl’s finery. Töre, his wife, and Ingeri discuss matters and he prepares for a ritual slaughter.
Later, Wikipedia recounts, “Töre breaks down on seeing Karin’s body and calls upon God. He vows that, although he cannot understand why God would allow such a thing to happen, he will build a church at the site of his daughter’s death. As her parents lift Karin’s body from the ground, a spring emerges from the spot where her head rested. Ingeri proceeds to wash herself with the water while Karin’s mother cleans the dirt from her daughter’s face.”
Wikipedia observes, “Much of the religious themes centre on conflict between paganism and Christianity, recalling the misery Sweden experienced as the two religions struggled for predominance.” The Virgin Spring won the 1961 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Let’s reserve War and Peace for tomorrow, if for no other reason than this film’s running time of 7 hours 11 minutes. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022