While I’m finishing my TIFF notes, I thought I’d mention a few unrelated, but exciting tidbits.
ï The films ofCarl Dreyer are currently airing this month on TCM, and it’s always fun to make new converts; on Monday, a coworker came into my office and asked if I’d ever heard of a silent film called The Passion of Joan of Arc, a movie she glimpsed on TCM and is now planning to buy her first DVD player simply so she can own the Criterion disc. And Image Entertainment has just released Dreyer’s The Parson’s Widow on DVD this week. My friend Russell Lucas, mild-mannered lawyer by day and adventurous cinephile by night, sent in these interesting comments about the film and its marriage themes:
“I enjoyed The Parson’s Widow. It’s a funny movie. My wife snorted when I told her beforehand that the film was Dreyer’s comedy, and I was a little unsure of what to expect myself. It’s actually kind of Chaucerish without the bawdy, as there’s some mistaken identity, some thwarted and misplaced affections and some clergy characters that either fit into easy boxes, or which seem to have chosen the profession as a means to an easy income.
Dreyer’s different film stocks or filters or whatever to create the outside/inside contrast was innovative, and actually quite pleasant to look at once I understood his design. It made me want to look a little into the early history of shooting nighttime scenes.
The way that marriage is treated forms a nice companion to Dreyer’s Day of Wrath (1945), which was shown before. There’s so much going on in Day of Wrath, but I’ve always admired the way the unnatural art of witchcraft is juxtaposed against the unnatural art of making marriages that ignore the passion the young rightfully feel for each other. Its common form is the older patriarch and the young maiden, so it’s nice to see that reversed in The Parson’s Widow.
The way that Dreyer treats these unequal marriages or marriages of convenience was also interesting in light of Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, which I also finished this weekend. The moments when Aparna drops her shyness and Apu comes to love her are really spectacular and well-acted. I fear that Aparna’s fetching vitality and alacrity to accept the life of a clerk’s wife is largely there to make us feel all the more deeply the loss that Apu
feels when she is lost. Or maybe that’s not fair; it’s also sometimes the case that narratives which portray the tragedies and hardships of life and the inability of the life of the mind to transcend those hardships use ill-conceived or arranged marriages to worsen the situation–I’m thinking particularly of Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. The outcome of Apu’s marriage is a wonderful human touch here. Apart from the contrast between his Western learning and his getting ensnared in an irrational tradition, there is presented the possibility that something good and redeemed can come from the accidents and vagaries of superstition and misfortune. A marriage arranged by frantic and desperate strangers can end up bettering any other.”
ïAt Robert-Bresson.com, we’ve added large scans of Nouveaux Pictures’ upcoming DVD releases in the UK (region 2) of Au hasard Balthazar and Mouchette, two of Bresson’s greatest and most poorly-distributed films. The discs are due October 25.
ïAnd more wonderful news from the UK, Fnac.es has announced that on October 7 it will exclusively release Victor Erice’s mesmerizing Dream of Light (El sol del membrillo [Quince Tree of the Sun]) on DVD, a movie that was voted the best film of the ’90s in an international poll courtesy of the Cinematheque Ontario. Apparently, this release has been personally supervised by Erice himself and will come as a two-disc set with more than two hours of extras, subtitles in six languages, and a 40-page booklet.