Archive for April, 2012

The Hospital (1971)

“The Hospital” (1971)

IMDb

the big character

I’ve been having a growing interest in George Scott. He is something of a unique kind within film actors. He never embraced the Method revolution as deeply as so many of the American actors of his generation, but also he is not old-fashioned. His acting, even when he is closer to go over the top is always fluid, and his films, if dated on any respect, always work still today, because of him (at least). He is theatrical in that words, and not anything else, command his performance. His phrasing bends the text and delivers us all the nuances he requires for it. He carries a film.

Here we have his talents summed up to a clever script, and a wonderful use of space, in a cinematic way. What we have is a goofy detective story, mapped into the troubled life of an undesignated detective, mapped into one single well explored set. On top of everything, we have native American mysticism, thrown under the disguise of an interesting screen woman. So this is an accidental police story. Some murders happen, few clues are given. We follow these murders from a clueless point of view which, nevertheless, does not coincide with the point of view of the tormented doctor, who will partially act as a detective, to the point of bending the outcome of the story. So the curious narrative trick here is how the narrators eye is anchored on the space of the hospital, even though the story has to do with how the doctor deals with the facts. We watch the doctor’s version of the world from an point of view external to him, this is interesting.

**spoilers** Than a woman gets into the story, a sexy mystic beast, who deviates us from the back story, only to the point in which we learn she has (unaware) the key to the enigma. And than we have the story of the burnt out doctor, suicidal, hopeless. This 3 threads start as separate lines that we follow, bound together by the action of the doctor. The beauty of the script i show in the end these threads have one single conclusion: the murder is the woman’s father, and the woman is the healer for the doctors depression. So he protects the insane murder and intents to run away with the woman.

Oh, but we have the hospital. Now we know that was the ultimate character, all the time. The doctor understands this, so he can’t leave it. His existence as a character depends on the existence of that hospital, as a space. It’s that space that bends everything that happens inside, as the character of an horror film which you never see even of you know he’s there.

Notice how this is underlined by the protesters. All the time they are outside, wanting to get in, and as the film ends and the story unfolds, it’s their invasion of the hospital that makes us aware of how much we are into that character now. It’s the hospital, all the way.

My opinion: 4/5

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The Artist (2011)

“The Artist” (2011)

IMDb

the smile

We’ve seen things like this before, haven’t we? Films that are not about films, but instead a love letter to other films.

I’m not nearly as fascinated about such incursions as i am for anything really new that comes out. As far as i know, the most fascinating referenced cinema is the one that captures the lessons of great previous films, and extends its notions a little bit. Or break them. You have people, like the Coens or de Palma, who made a career twisting the ideas of people before them. If we talk about silent films, than Guy Maddin is someone who really picked up what we stopped caring about with The Jazz singer, and twisted every notion to create something new. That’s the kind of reference that i’m looking at with passion.

This one enters the Cinema Paradiso drawer: expansive genuine passion for a certain type or moment of cinema history, poured into a vessel of nostalgia. You will understand these films if you understand that nostalgia, not necessarily the films that it addresses. Unashamed sweetness tops these attitude. You decide to play in that world or not. I’ve entered it several times. But i don’t stay there more than a few moments without feeling that i’m bypassing something really important, in other films being made.

That said, this one is a pretty good homage, in that flat sense. Some elements work amazingly well here, and one is even interesting from a cinematic point of view:

the one thing that works incredibly well is the main male actor: Whoever chose him understood his potential, he understood what it took for a silent actor to live on screen, and the director definitely understood his face, every angle of it. He smiles in a way that i’ve seen very few times. That smile carries the film, when he doesn’t smile, we easily enter the depressive mood of the character represented by the absence of its actor’s smile. Actors representing actors is something always interesting. To do it pretty much with a smile alone, makes him worthy of the Oscar. By the way, he is always an actor on the film. When he is acting for the silent films in the film, he has a similarly camera aware attitude as when he is in the real world of the film.

The narrative unfolds around and is finished with films, of course. That’s why our on screen lovers get together making a film, and his love for her is reaffirmed by the scenes of another film they made together. It’s the necessary self-reference, required for films like this to work.

And there is one remarkable scene. The “sound” dream. Our silent character dreams the world gains sound, objects, everything starts to produce sounds, except his own voice. This is remarkable because nothing is explained, everything is in the eye. The mere editing of simple sounds in an other than that silent scene makes us understand the drama of this character on verge of extinction. That was a cinematic moment.

My opinion: 4/5

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