Movies


The newest wave of Miyazaki DVDs was released yesterday, and my package from Amazon arrived this afternoon. This wave includes “Howl’s Moving Castle”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, and “Whisper of the Heart”. Joy is super excited about Howl, and I have to admit that I am also very much looking forward to watching it again. However, I think I’m more excited about Totoro.

I’ve had the Fox release of Totoro in the past, which is cropped to 1.33 and only has an English dub, but this new release is a two disc version presented in the original widescreen, and you can choose between a brand new English dub or the original Japanese. So only having seen the Fox version before, I’ve been waiting for this new release for a long time.

Joy and I watched “The Passion Of Joan Of Arc” (1928) last night. When the movie ended, I just sat there motionless, staring at the black screen for several minutes. This is definitely one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen. In fact, there is a good chance that it is the most powerful movie I’ve ever seen, period, but I’d have to watch it a couple more times to sure.

The film is a stunning portrayal of remaining faithful to God in the face of great opposition and hardship. The resolve of Joan of Arc and her steadfast perseverance is inspirational. Renee Falconetti, who plays Joan of Arc, gives a breathtaking performance. The film is further enhanced by the transcendant “Voices of Light” music track included on the Criterion Collection DVD release.

I cannot begin to adequately describe the beauty of this film. It has my highest possible recommendation.

Last night Joy and I watched “The Fall Of The House Of Usher” (1928). As with Metropolis, this was another strange movie. The thing that really threw me for a loop is the fact that the ending of the film doesn’t match up with the original Poe short story.

The film is very successful at setting up a foreboding and tense atmosphere. The actor playing Roderick achieves an almost palpable sense of dread and insanity. I particularly liked the scene where the men carry Madeleine’s casket to the tomb with her white veil trailing off and blowing in the wind. The musical soundtrack was also excellent, though it was not the original and was specifically prepared for this DVD release (All Day Entertainment).

Overall I can’t really say that this film is a “must-see”, but I can certainly appreciate a good number of scenes, as well as the overall visual style and camera work.

Joy and I watched “Metropolis” (1927) tonight. I do have to admit that it was a fairly strange movie, but I also enjoyed it quite a bit. The plot was pretty mind-boggling and didn’t always make logical sense, but some of the scenes were simply fantastic. As examples, I would point out the scene with Freder operating the clock machine, the scene where Rotwang the inventor transforms the robot to look like Maria (if that’s the first mad scientist depiction in film, it has since been copied countless times), the scene where the robot Maria incites the workers to destroy the machines, and the scene with the robot Maria laughing maniacally as she is burned at the stake.

It’s pretty amazing to me how a movie made almost 80 years ago so clearly captures several aspects of our modern world. One thing that stands out is the division between the rich and the poor and how neither group really understands the lives of the other group. In addition, the film highlights the fact that the rich basically make the poor invisible (by where they choose to live, travel, etc.) so that they don’t even have to think about them. The film also manages to capture the futility that many people seem to find in their work.

I’m not entirely sure what the director was going for with the religious imagery and Biblical allusions. However, despite the fact that most of the Biblical quotes come from Revelation, I think the robot Maria pretty accurately portrays how the book of Proverbs describes lady Folly, which I thought was interesting.

Tonight Joy and I watched “Broken Blossoms” (1919). Well, I watched it and Joy watched part of it (she was tired and fell asleep part way through). This is the oldest film I have in my DVD collection, and I found it very moving for a silent melodrama that’s almost a century old.

The film certainly stereotypes the Chinese character by today’s standards, but in 1919 the film was considered quite progressive and contains what may be the first portrayal on film of an interracial couple. The ending of the film is devastatingly sad, and there are numerous scenes throughout the film that convey a great deal of emotion. A scene that comes immediately to mind is Lillian Gish, locked in a closet, utterly terrified as her father breaks down the door with an axe. It is simply amazing to me that so much tension can be created in a film without sound.

A while back I ordered the out of print art book for “The Lion King”, but I neglected to write about it at the time. TLK is one of my favorite movies, so I was excited to get the book.

I didn’t know the book even existed until fairly recently. I found out about it because of the of the anime art books I’ve been buying, and it got me wondering whether any of the other non-anime movies I like had art books, and sure enough they did. So I waited around until someone on Amazon had a used copy for a reasonable price and then placed my order. While not in perfect condition, which is perhaps to be expected for a used book this old, the book is good shape, and for the price it was a very good deal.

The content of the book is great. I especially like the large multi-page fold-out sections spread throughout the book. The concept sketches are neat and I particularly liked seeing all of the test sketches for all of the various animals that appear in the film. I guess the only real problem is that the book is so oversize that it doesn’t fit on my bookshelf, but that’s hardly something to complain about.

Joy and I watched the original version of “King Kong” (1933) this evening (thank you, Joy!). I really enjoyed watching it after seeing Peter Jackson’s remake about a week ago. It’s amazing to see how far special effects have come in 72 years.

It was also interesting to see the changes that Jackson made for his version, some of which work very well (the relationship between Ann and Kong, Jack as a screenplay writer) and some that don’t work quite as much (the introduction of so many side characters that don’t get quite enough time to develop, natives launching themselves on poles to reach the ship (seriously, what in the world is up with that?), the dinosaur stampede, three tyrannosaurus rex dinosaurs (was one not enough?), the spider pit). I was also struck by the drastic difference in the treatment of the natives on skull island.

Anyway, despite its age, I think this film really holds up well, largely due to a good sense of pace and action. I enjoyed watching it, and if you see the new version, you should also watch the 1933 version if you get the chance.

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