Friday, October 14, 2016

THE SMILING MADAME BEUDET (1923, FRANCE), LAND WITHOUT BREAD (1933, SPAIN), THE MAD MASTERS (1955, FRANCE), NIGHT AND FOG (1955, FRANCE), DOG STAR MAN (1962), THE HOUSE IS BLACK (1963, IRAN)

I looked at the 1001 list and saw that I still had a few short films that I haven't looked at yet and were readily available on YouTube and decided to try to run through all of them this week. After viewing, I must conclude that it's a interesting lot of films, but for the most part not exactly uplifting.

Clocking in at 38 minutes is The Smiling Madame Beudet, which dates back to 1922. This French silent film is given credit by some as being the first feminist film. The plot has a wife abused verbally by a boorish husband who likes to play a gag where he has a gun with no bullets that he mockingly puts to his head and pulls the trigger. At some point, you know Madame Beudet is going to put bullets in the gun. When she finally does, he turns the gun on her and pulls the trigger. Luckily, the bullets miss her and he feels regret for the way he has treated her and declares his love for her and embraces her. The fact that Madame only reacts with indifference to his embrace is a most appropriate ending for a film with a feminist approach.

The Smiling Madame Beudet

Clocking in at 27 minutes, Luis Bunuel's docudrama, Land Without Bread, is about a remote village in Spain called La Alberca. The inhabitants are poor. Really poor. Food is at a minimum and bread is unknown.The film includes children we know aren't long for this world, real life village idiots, goats falling off cliffs and some other scenes that were rumored to be largely staged. This film is most bleak and depressing and quite the contrast to Bunuel's An Andalusian Dog.

Land Without Bread
Clocking in at 28 minutes is The Mad Masters, Jean Rouch's film about French colonial Africans going through some truly dramatic religious rituals. This film has been criticized for being culturally racist of Africans on the one hand, and mocking of British colonialists on the other hand. Either way, the rituals are just so damn odd, that I had trouble looking away even though I often wanted to.

The Mad Masters

Clocking in at 32 minutes is Night and Fog, Alain Resnais's 1955 film that compares contemporary abandoned concentration camps to clips of the time they were used for nefarious purposes during the 30's and 40's. These horrifying images were seen in this film by many for the first time. Maybe an attempt to escape this kind of content is what led Resnais to make very artistic films such as Last Year at Marienbad in subsequent years.

Night and Fog
Clocking in at about 30 minutes is Stan Brakhage's Dog Star Man, a 1962 experimental film which featured a bearded man climbing a mountain with his his trusty pooch interspersed with clips of the ferocity of nature...the universe...and...man, sometimes I wish I still did drugs! The book just lists the first Dog Star Man movie, but the "story" is continued in other films in this series. I do think there's a method to this madness, but I'm not sure if I should watch part one again, watch the whole series of films or just forget the whole thing and move on! Of maybe I could just watch Mallick's Tree of Life again instead?

Dog Star Man
Clocking in at 22 minutes is The House is Black, an Iranian documentary from 1963 about a leper colony. It intersperses poetry, biblical and Koranic references and I found it to be an overall effective work, though extremely disturbing.
The House is Black
I must tell you that after all these bleak short films, I do need a break in tone. I think I'll take a look at the MST3K short film A Case of Spring Fever featuring the adorable animated Coily!... I feel better already.

Coily "No Springs!," from MST3K's A Case of Spring Fever.
I may just have to order the t-shirt

6 comments:

  1. No springs!

    I say order the shirt. And I say this as someone currently wearing a "many names of David Ryder" shit.

    Big McHugelarge forever!

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  2. That is a sad bunch of movies. The fact that you are still alive and breathing after this is nothing short of a miracle.
    Misery, misery, misery.

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  3. "The Smiling Madame Beudet" should be noteworthy for being the worst gun safety PSA ever made.

    I had trouble working up any sympathy for Madame Beudet as soon as she gave up her chance to go to the opera. I would love to go to the opera!

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  4. Steve: I need to download the Rifftrax app ASAP. TSorensen: Yes, the book doesn't seem to include many upbeat shorts. And the ones that aren't depressing seem to make up for it by being totally confusing! Tony: Pretending to shoot yourself in the head seems like a strange fetish, but to each his own.

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  5. In my opinion »Dog Star Man« was a waste of time, I will probably never watch the ensuing parts.

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