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 The Miscellany Crusade 
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Which came first: the thread or its contents?

In order to answer this question, I have decided to begin what is either a catalyst for the generation of new thoughts or a convenient receptacle for pre-existing ones. Consequently, I shall find out which of these two descriptions better reflects reality, in addition to attaining a revelatory insight into the human condition.

It's a thread for random shit that I have written about films, basically.


Fri Mar 07, 2014 9:04 am
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Ok, good.


Fri Mar 07, 2014 9:09 am
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I just saw this at the hirshhorn, what do you think 'bout it?



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Fri Mar 07, 2014 9:23 am
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I will read any thoughts you have to share <3

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Fri Mar 07, 2014 9:27 am
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I have no idea what's going on here.

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Fri Mar 07, 2014 7:56 pm
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ugh

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Fri Mar 07, 2014 8:57 pm
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Circus Freak wrote:
It's a thread for random shit that I have written about films, basically.
This is very good news. :)

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Fri Mar 07, 2014 10:25 pm
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Moonlighting (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1982)

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Not knowing what the film was about before I watched it, I was immediately put on tenterhooks by the insinuations made in the opening scene, my mind conjuring up images of illegality far more severe than unlicensed building work. Even when the purpose of the Poles' visit becomes clear, the film is heavily infused with suspense. The possibility that they might be caught never disappears, turning benign events such as the first visit to a supermarket into tense affairs, as I am liable to mistake something innocuous for a suspicion or a threat.

Yet what is great about the film is that it's not actually interested in the question of whether or not the Poles will be caught. Indeed, despite all the tension, they seem to be genuinely immune from capture by the authorities. When Nowak's resourceful method of larceny is about to be cracked and uncovered by a supermarket employee, a nameless tramp is introduced in order to inadvertently save him. It's a deus ex machina so blatant that it must have been deliberately employed, perhaps to imply that external forces cannot, or should not, intervene in order to topple arrogant autocrats. The hermetic enclave that Nowak has constructed inside the city of London is so airtight that it can only be destroyed by those already within it, and the tramp's convenient appearance preserves this paradigm.

Does Nowak deserve such a fate? Skolimowski and Irons help to create a complex character who is difficult to sort into a simplistic category. On the surface, it appears that this story might be a case of a well-intentioned lie got out of hand, Nowak instinctively attempting to ignore the turmoil in his home country and hope that it vanishes, for the sake of himself, his fellow construction workers, his boss and the enterprise. The apartment in faraway London offers the Poles a sanctuary, protected from the dangers of the outside world they call home. This core metaphor is almost identical to that of Emir Kusturica's Underground, in which the characters are temporarily concealed underground as a wartime measure, then find themselves kept down there as part of a cynical lie.

Skolimowski complicates the matter by illustrating the contempt that Nowak has for those he is working with. While his narcissism is explicitly revealed in later voiceover, it's already discernable at the beginning of the film. One of the first phrases uttered between the Poles is Nowak's "idiota Banaszak" at the airport; it wasn't until the film's halfway point that I definitively established that "Banaszak" was the person's name and not some generic Polish expletive routinely aimed at clumsy idiots. That I would see Banaszak as an idiot myself is a testament to the way in which Skolimowski encourages the viewer to identify with the film's protagonist. The casting choices help to maintain the contrast between Nowak and his co-workers, the familiar face of a famous Englishman set against non-actors who Skolimowski hired after they'd carried out building work on his own Kensington apartment. The three supporting characters are effectively anonymous and mute, and in consequence it's hard not to sympathise with Nowak, since the film forces the viewer to rely on him for guidance.

It is, however, all an illusion. As Nowak himself realises late in the film, he's not as different from the others as he'd like to believe. His proficiency in English is more or less the only advantage he has over them, and it's a superficial one, as he eventually acknowledges that when English people speak, he does not truly know what they mean. With this admission, his sense of intellectual superiority, which had been the underlying cause and justification for his behaviour, is eroded to the point of failure. By the time he is seen screening and then burning incoming letters, he must be viewed for what he is: a little dictator, driven by jealousy. My attitude comes to mimic that of the silently oppressed. I now find it fitting that Nowak ends the film alone in the dark, his Anna remaining as remote and unattainable as he had tried to render the spouses of his supposed comrades.


Fri Mar 07, 2014 11:32 pm
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Good, thought-provoking read. It’s been a while since I watched this, but I think I assumed Nowak feels as trapped as the others, whether from lack of imagination or (possibly) fear. (There's sure to be some kind of criminal organization in the background that arranged this job, no?) Right or wrong, he thinks he has no choice. Or, at least it’s a bit more complicated than forced sympathy for the protagonist. What I mostly remember, of course, is the unbelievable tension... like a heist movie, with drywall!

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Sat Mar 08, 2014 2:47 am
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You could say there's a hierarchy that goes: mysterious background force -> Nowak -> the others. And as in all hierarchies, you can't be too hard on the guys in the middle. Nowak's sort of like Irimiás and Petrina in Sátántangó , who appear all ominous and powerful until you see their own place in the hierarchy ruthlessly exposed. But in both cases these 'middle men' seem to enjoy treating those below them badly, since through that they get a taste of the same power that's exerted upon them by their superiors.

I think the part with the tramp is so important because up until then I was swept up in the unbelievable tension and instinctively sympathised with Nowak because I was so desperate to see them all complete the job without getting caught. But then once that deus ex machina happened I realised that they couldn't get caught anyway so I was missing the point. It feels like even Nowak starts to sense what's going to happen to him after that, but it's too late for him to change anything. It's a really clever narrative structure.


Sat Mar 08, 2014 9:46 am
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Circus Freak wrote:
But then once that deus ex machina happened I realised that they couldn't get caught anyway so I was missing the point. It feels like even Nowak starts to sense what's going to happen to him after that, but it's too late for him to change anything.
Yeah, that makes sense. It's a different kind of tension at that point.

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Sat Mar 08, 2014 10:54 am
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Ah! At last, some of that miscellany I've been waiting for. And well worth the wait, too.

I haven't see the film in question, though. You make it sound worth my time, at some future date.

I enjoyed your analysis of the film, especially the confession that you were unprepared for what you saw, and yet it gripped you.

For me (a part-time ESL tutor) this observation was my favorite:
Circus Freak wrote:
His proficiency in English is more or less the only advantage he has over them, and it's a superficial one, as he eventually acknowledges that when English people speak, he does not truly know what they mean. With this admission, his sense of intellectual superiority, which had been the underlying cause and justification for his behaviour, is eroded to the point of failure.

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Sat Mar 08, 2014 8:47 pm
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Excellent film to open with!

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Sat Mar 08, 2014 9:42 pm
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Death By Hanging (Nagisa Oshima, 1968)

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When it began with a page of statistics and a provocative question posed to the audience, I presumed that what I was seeing was a simple polemic against the death penalty. It's more complex than that because Oshima drew inspiration from a real life case in which an ethnic Korean murdered two Japanese girls, and the film is as much about prejudice and ethnic tensions as the theoretical question of whether or not capital punishment is justifiable.

Its various facets are balanced extremely well in the film's first half. R, the Korean cipher, finds himself being prodded by a bunch of Japanese officials, who are trying to get him to remember who he is so that they can have him promptly executed without feeling guilty about it. The absurd re-enactment of R's life, in which the assorted actors implore each other to "act more Korean", trading demeaning stereotypes in the process, is its best sequence.

The film becomes more difficult to comprehend towards the halfway point, when it briefly departs the death chamber and then introduces R's supposed sister. She is initially implied to be an apparition before each character in turn becomes convinced of her existence. This seems to be, in keeping with what came before, a demonstration of the importance of perception, with the Japanese characters required to invent and define a specific identity in order to justify a potential state killing.

At one point, the sister suggests that R's crimes can be justified on account of the Japanese government's 'imperialist' policies. It's an argument so ridiculous that I instinctively want to interpret it as satire, but satire of what? R himself tempers the argument to the point of coherence, stating that his horrible life as a distrusted member of a minority group forced him to retreat into his own imagination for solace, causing him to fail to see the difference between reality and his twisted sexual fantasies. These attempts at explanation, combined with the increasingly buffoonish manner in which the accusers are portrayed, give the film the appearance of a polemic against the entirety of the Japanese state and public, as opposed to just its use of and support for capital punishment.

I struggled to understand how the film could conclude by stating that R represents all of us, when it seems to have spent the majority of its running time fixated on the Korean question and the way R's ethnicity differentiates him from the majority of the population. How can he represent everyone when it's his status as a minority that's paramount? On reflection, I think Oshima is suggesting that we all become, in effect, powerless minorities if we invest in the state the legal authority to kill us. In a world where the state has that much power, we might as well all be Koreans.


Fri Mar 21, 2014 8:44 am
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Maboros(h)i (Hirokazu Koreeda, 1995)

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I struggle to describe this film without resorting to cliches. While watching it, I felt that I was observing the work of a master filmmaker, primarily due to its exquisite use of cold and remote cinematography. This is all the more surprising to me given that other Koreedas I've seen contained nothing of the sort.

The early part of the film constitutes little more than an extended bit of scene-setting: first a flashback sequence depicting an incident from Yumiko's childhood, then a series of scenes portraying her first marriage, leading up to the event that precipitates a jump forward in time to the film's main section. It's the artistry that elevates it. There's the shot right at the beginning in which a main road with its speeding cars is restricted to a tiny square in the background, a precursor to the trains seen rushing along tracks as background objects in the film's second section. There's the shot on the bridge that concludes the opening flashback, which helps to make Yumiko's last meeting with her grandmother memorable even if its significance is not yet entirely clear. There's the prolonged fade in onto an ageing bike that beautifully conveys the passing of a great deal of time.

The film's main section is bewitching from beginning to end. It's also rather uncomfortable to watch at times, in spite of the lack of obviously uncomfortable content, purely because of the cumulative effect of its sparse, perfectly constructed shots, which hammer home feelings of disconnect and isolation without requiring words to further emphasise them. Its characters are incompatible enough for a certain awkwardness to exist between them, but this problem is not discussed or resolved at any point. It's apparent that they've been brought together in what is effectively an arranged marriage, compelled to accept this fate by the combined forces of societal pressure, insecurity and grief.

Towards the end, one stunning shot places Yumiko in a position equidistant from her two husbands, the first represented by a small fire. With Yumiko having confronted her past and attained some degree of closure, this looks to be a positive conclusion to her story, particularly when she begins to move towards her second husband, literally leaving behind her torturous past. As she does so, however, he moves away from her in order to retain that distance between them. Whilst on the one hand he gives her some advice that might help her complete the process of conquering her grief, both characters leave the shot without making any physical contact with each other, and the extreme distance of the shot precludes the possibility of catharsis for the viewer. This reinforces the feeling of coldness and the lack of a close connection between the two characters.

That is the tone with which the film concludes. The last line of dialogue in the film has Yumiko comment, in the final scene, on how beautiful the weather is today, a positive statement that suggests she might have come to terms with her earlier loss. On the other hand, she's saying it from a position of isolation, while her husband and children play by the sea without her. It’s a fitting ending to the film: dissatisfaction is not immediately apparent, but Yumiko finds herself doomed to an ambivalent existence, true happiness set to remain eternally elusive.


Thu May 22, 2014 6:56 pm
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some days i think it may be the best film ever

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Thu May 22, 2014 7:09 pm
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(H)i, Circus Freak.

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Thu May 22, 2014 7:41 pm
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the h is corect

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Thu May 22, 2014 8:03 pm
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It seemed strange to me that the 'English' title is just a word from the original title spelled wrong. Then I thought there's no such thing as 'spelled wrong' in Japanese, so whatever. Then I vaguely remembered snapper saying that the removal of the h was stupid, so there.


Thu May 22, 2014 9:20 pm
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it's an attempt at romanisation that really makes no sense because maboroshi isn't a loanward to begin with. it'd be like changing all the 'r's to 'l's and 'b's to 'v's or something. take it to its full extent and the title becomes Mavolosy no Hikaly

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Thu May 22, 2014 9:27 pm
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Woman is the Future of Man (Hong Sang-Soo, 2004)

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As of right now, this is the closest I can get to liking a Hong film. Crucially, it's the only one I've seen thus far in which the repetition intrigues rather than bores me. Here, repetition sets the scene, as the connections between the two men and Sunhwa are revealed in flashbacks arising from almost identical sequences in a café, where the prominence of a particular waitress allows further information to be inferred about the attitudes and traits of the characters.

In the café, Munho makes a more outlandish request of the woman, and yet is bold enough to ask to exchange phone numbers before being rebuffed, whereas Hunjoon timidly accepts her negative response despite the innocuous nature of his own question. In the flashbacks, the awkward Hunjoon contrasts markedly with the womaniser Munho, although the latter hilariously admits at the end of his flashback that he never realised that women shaved their legs.

If there's a problem here, it's that Munho is a lot more interesting than Hunjoon. All the funniest and most memorable parts involve him, and the film works best when seen as a suitably dry and subtle take on a superficially silly romcom plotline, in which the married man hasn't got over his attraction to the girl whom he's supposed to be helping his friend to hook up with. Ultimately, it appears that Munho is indeed the film's central character, since the final act concerns his attempted sexual encounter with a female student, the interruption of which leaves him loitering, aimless and alone, in the last shot, his wife having been deliberately kept off-screen for the entirety of the film. As I watched it, however, the middle section dragged, as the pacing felt screwed up by the continued inclusion of Hunjoon and Sunhwa, whose meeting ends in a bafflingly abrupt manner having never engaged me at any point.

But then it wouldn't be Hong if it wasn't occasionally abstruse and bogged down in impenetrable scenes of nothingness that break the narrative flow and bore me, and I'm increasingly inclined to not give a shit. The more I think about this film, the more I like it.


Mon May 26, 2014 6:06 pm
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One doesn't merely "like" a Hong film, though one can sit languidly at a table and contemplate its existence favourably.

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Mon May 26, 2014 6:14 pm
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Circus Freak wrote:
As I watched it, however, the middle section dragged, as the pacing felt screwed up by the continued inclusion of Hunjoon and Sunhwa, whose meeting ends in a bafflingly abrupt manner having never engaged me at any point.
It's been too long since I've seen it, but I remember that final confrontation between Hunjoon and Sunhwa as pretty important. I never could see those early Hongs as comedies, though... at least in part because the women never get to be more than victims of self-centered schlubs. Depressing!

snapper wrote:
it's an attempt at romanisation that really makes no sense because maboroshi isn't a loanward to begin with. it'd be like changing all the 'r's to 'l's and 'b's to 'v's or something. take it to its full extent and the title becomes Mavolosy no Hikaly
Haha. But, it's not like that at all. Doesn't the transcription waver between s and sh because the sound is somewhere in between? Whatever the reason, the same sort of inconsistency is seen many other places, for instance: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1954713/. There's no insidious logic behind the other spelling; someone just preferred the other transcription. It's the same word!

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Mon May 26, 2014 9:43 pm
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Il Posto (Ermanno Olmi, 1961)

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Olmi likes his parties. The most memorable scene in I Fidanzati was perhaps the opening party sequence, which sets the scene into which the eponymous fiancés wander. In Il Posto, the corresponding sequence is positioned much closer to the end of the film, when the protagonist is already known, and the party functions instead as a transitional event.

By that stage, the process of young Domenico's search for a job has already been observed, complete with dry humour. A guy who looks about 12 turns up for the assessment accompanied by his mother, who causes confusion by even answering the register on his behalf. No matter, he's guaranteed a place anyway, the mutterings suggest, on account of his 'connections'. The absurdities don't end at the assessment stage. In one scene, Domenico is prevented from entering a lift by the 'four-person rule', and responds by racing up the stairs and most likely getting there quicker than those who had beaten him to a coveted spot in the lift in the first place.

The point, I suppose, is that those people who stood idly in their moving compartment without considering the possibility of running from floor to floor were not always like that. They might once have behaved as Domenico did, but the years have sapped them of spontaneity and they've settled for routine. In the aforementioned party sequence, Domenico has to share a social setting with these bland, habitual creatures. He arrives early and sits awkwardly at a table, as detached from his elders as he was when he left them behind to go sprinting up the stairs. He waits for the arrival of Antonietta, his kindred spirit, to make it all palatable. By the end of the night he's forgotten about her and has blended into the crowd, happily enjoying what appeared to have the makings of the worst party ever. Hoping for better was his only mistake.

I prefer the romance angle in this one to that of I Fidanzati because these characters stop well short of fidanzati status. Domenico's longing is conveyed only through glances and decisions, and it's almost as if he's immediately attracted to the first person with whom he can have a real conversation, such is their scarcity. No sooner have they met, however, than they're being separated again, sent away to contrasting departments of the company where they'll be shorn of just enough personality to make them forget why they liked each other to begin with.

In the middle of all this, the film's most surprising move sees Domenico left behind for a while as the focus shifts towards the lives of his future colleagues. This was rather bewildering at the time, and it was tempting to view it as superfluous, but the ending adeptly brings everything together. That earlier diversion provides the final scene with one of its most galling moments, when the deceased writer's loose collection of manuscripts – which could comprise a masterpiece, for all we know – are flung around the office with complete indifference. The last brilliant touch is the speed with which the employees exploit their colleague's death to lever themselves up the hierarchy. I find myself feeling sympathy for some guy complaining about how his eyesight has been ruined by 20 years of sitting in the back row, which makes it all the more depressing when Domenico takes up the same position seconds later. He'll be a bitter, bespectacled moaner by the time he gets to take his next step up the ladder, unless another suicide's forthcoming.


Sun Jun 01, 2014 12:29 am
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Now an essay on party/dance scenes in Olmi and Tarr, please.

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Sun Jun 01, 2014 1:15 am
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The party scene in La Cotta would be great for the trio, as well. But I want to marry the girl in Il Posto. I think the director did instead.

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Sun Jun 01, 2014 5:54 am
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LEAVES wrote:
I think the director did instead.

Frightening how often this happened.

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Sun Jun 01, 2014 6:19 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Now an essay on party/dance scenes in Olmi and Tarr, please.

Prefab People, The Outsider, Damnation, Sátántangó...

There are enough of them.


Sun Jun 01, 2014 7:36 am
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The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)

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What was that I was saying about parties? Oh yes, that they're just about the only thing connecting the efficient, streamlined narratives of Olmi with a mess of excess like La grande bellezza. I have a strange and unprecedented problem with this film, which is that the first ten minutes so perfectly encapsulate its essence as to render its remainder obsolete.

In the first ten minutes, a simple juxtaposition takes place between the serene elegance of a tour around classical Roman architecture and the hyperactive hedonism of a headcrushing party. The party scene is not only hypnotic and technically perfect; it also has, woven into it, references to the Pope, drug addiction, television showgirls, socialites and Marcel Proust. These references are repeatedly echoed and emphasised later on, only in ways that aren't as satisfying as what the first ten minutes hinted at. Several characters make the point that they're rich and therefore don't need to do anything, but none do it as succinctly as the pointed "nothing, of course" with which the fat woman bursting out of a cake is greeted in the first ten minutes. Somebody remarks that only the Ethiopian jazz scene is worth paying attention to, an absurd statement underlining that all these people are pretentious twats, but the Proust reference did it better in the first ten minutes.

This is not to say that there do not exist occasional scenes that rise above the monotony. In particular, I really liked the sequence concerning the child painter who is forcibly dragged out into the open so she can conduct a painful abstract art performance in front of said pretentious twats. The punchline to this scene is expected, but it carries more weight this time, having been fleshed out effectively rather than dropped as a throwaway reference.

The cumulative effect of this is quite odd. It's not a bad film, but after about 90 minutes of it I felt that I'd been there for 3 hours, such was its relentlessly repetitive depiction of decadence. It's like the anti-Turin Horse. It also has too many endings. There are numerous scenes in the second half that have the scent of resolution about them. It begins when the protagonist gives an elaborate speech about how one mustn't cry at a funeral so as not to steal the attention from the grieving family members, before himself bursting into tears during the event. The blackly comic alternative sees him denied closure by the loss of his ex-girlfriend's secret diary and compelled to extol the virtues of hedonism through gritted teeth in close-up. There's the quirky ending, which features a giraffe for no apparent reason. And there's the one that reminds me of La Notte, where he tries to ask for advice from a bishop and gets ignored just as that other guy did in the first ten minutes. This is without even mentioning the section involving the ascetic nun La Santa, which functions as an extended conclusion all by itself, building to its crescendo in which the mute deploys her croaky voice to offer a pithy putdown of the protagonist.

It surely would have been more sensible to use one or two of these endings and build a more coherent film around them, but then it would have been more sensible to do a lot of things that this film never did, and its better parts might have been lost in the remedial havoc. So who cares, really?


Sun Jul 20, 2014 7:38 pm
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Circus Freak wrote:
It's not a bad film, but after about 90 minutes of it I felt that I'd been there for 3 hours, such was its relentlessly repetitive depiction of decadence. It's like the anti-Turin Horse.
Ha. Thank you for seeing this so I don't have to.

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Mon Jul 21, 2014 3:11 am
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Circus Freak wrote:
The point, I suppose, is that those people who stood idly in their moving compartment without considering the possibility of running from floor to floor were not always like that. They might once have behaved as Domenico did, but the years have sapped them of spontaneity and they've settled for routine. In the aforementioned party sequence, Domenico has to share a social setting with these bland, habitual creatures. He arrives early and sits awkwardly at a table, as detached from his elders as he was when he left them behind to go sprinting up the stairs. He waits for the arrival of Antonietta, his kindred spirit, to make it all palatable. By the end of the night he's forgotten about her and has blended into the crowd, happily enjoying what appeared to have the makings of the worst party ever. Hoping for better was his only mistake.
Aw. I finally watched Il Posto (my first Olmi, because of this thread), and I had a slightly warmer take on it than you did, I think. Stairs or not, Domenico is hardly a free spirit. He's just a likable, ordinary kid who smiles when others take him under their wings (even old, boring people, haha), and who appreciates the idea of a "job for life." Little things make him happy. If he and Antonietta get together, they'll marry and have kids, and look just like their parents in a few years. It's not soul-crushing, just very, very ordinary. Maybe the writer's story hints at something different (more ambitious, more tragic), but we don't really get to find out, do we?

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Thu Jul 24, 2014 11:10 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
Aw. I finally watched Il Posto (my first Olmi, because of this thread), and I had a slightly warmer take on it than you did, I think. Stairs or not, Domenico is hardly a free spirit. He's just a likable, ordinary kid who smiles when others take him under their wings, (even old, boring people, haha) and who appreciates the idea of a "job for life." Little things make him happy. If he and Antonietta get together, they'll marry and have kids, and look just like their parents in a few years. It's not soul-crushing, just very, very ordinary. Maybe the writer's story hints at something different (more ambitious, more tragic), but we don't really get to find out, do we?

I agree with your description of Domenico, but not with your description of the film. For one thing, I thought it was made clear that he and Antonietta weren't going to get together. Unless I'm remembering it wrongly, once they get their respective jobs in the company they barely see each other again and her non-appearance at the party confirms this, doesn't it? Also, Olmi is critical of the idea of the "job for life". The writer's suicide is the darkest illustration of this, but even his colleagues are portrayed as bitter and disillusioned with their careers, which suggests a mental or "spiritual" deterioration that's reflected in the physical deterioration of their eyesight caused by poor working conditions. These are the people whom it's implied Domenico will look like in a few years, which isn't a particularly pleasant thought.


Fri Jul 25, 2014 9:10 pm
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Circus Freak wrote:
For one thing, I thought it was made clear that he and Antonietta weren't going to get together. Unless I'm remembering it wrongly, once they get their respective jobs in the company they barely see each other again and her non-appearance at the party confirms this, doesn't it?
When she invites him to the party, she says something like, “I’m hoping my parents let me go.” I don’t think her not showing up means she’s out with another guy or something. But, if he doesn’t end up with her, he’ll end up with someone.

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The writer's suicide is the darkest illustration of this, but even his colleagues are portrayed as bitter and disillusioned with their careers, which suggests a mental or "spiritual" deterioration that's reflected in the physical deterioration of their eyesight caused by poor working conditions.
It seems much more likely that the writer’s suicide is related to his lonely home life. And I didn't take the complaints about the lamp seriously for a second.

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These are the people whom it's implied Domenico will look like in a few years, which isn't a particularly pleasant thought.
You could just as well say that about his parents, with their ridiculous mimed communications. This is a comic portrait of silly people, who, nonetheless, treat our hesitant hero with kindness. Would they all be happier with higher salaries and fulfilling careers? No doubt, but that’s not the point. This isn’t some neorealist portrait of struggle, despite the elements of pathos. Everyone except Domenico and Antonietta is a caricature (some more grotesque than others) to emphasize the absurdity of adult life to the young.

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Sat Jul 26, 2014 3:33 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
Everyone except Domenico and Antonietta is a caricature (some more grotesque than others) to emphasize the absurdity of adult life to the young.

I didn't really see it that way, perhaps because I'd seen I Fidanzati first, which is similarly absurd despite its protagonist being older and the young/old dynamic not being present. Take the two films as a pair and it seems clear to me that the purpose of Olmi's use of comic absurdity is to highlight the dehumanising effects of industrial capitalism; it isn't just silliness for the sake of silliness.


Sat Jul 26, 2014 5:11 am
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Circus Freak wrote:
Take the two films as a pair and it seems clear to me that the purpose of Olmi's use of comic absurdity is to highlight the dehumanising effects of industrial capitalism; it isn't just silliness for the sake of silliness.
Ah. I guess I need to see more Olmi. But, I've worked in a lot of borderline absurd situations, where individual quirks compete with bureaucratic nonsense, yet I never thought of it as dehumanizing. Humans are just naturally ridiculous!

And now I'm reading that Olmi is considered a neorealist. Huh. I guess I found this movie funnier than most do?

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Sat Jul 26, 2014 5:33 am
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Shieldmaiden wrote:
Aw. I finally watched Il Posto (my first Olmi, because of this thread), and I had a slightly warmer take on it than you did, I think. Stairs or not, Domenico is hardly a free spirit. He's just a likable, ordinary kid who smiles when others take him under their wings, (even old, boring people, haha) and who appreciates the idea of a "job for life." Little things make him happy. If he and Antonietta get together, they'll marry and have kids, and look just like their parents in a few years. It's not soul-crushing, just very, very ordinary. Maybe the writer's story hints at something different (more ambitious, more tragic), but we don't really get to find out, do we?

Aw. Make sure you watch I Fidanzati soon; the two go together well. I agree that Domenico is ordinary and somewhat impressionable, but do you really think he wants a "job for life". What kid really wants that? All I see in his character is a kid pushed along by the conventions of society: leave school, get a job, earn some money, go to a dance, meet a girl, get married, etc. I don't think he necessarily looks at such things as a means of happiness or a means to an end; just that they are expected of him. He is dominated by his surroundings - see the office chair scene, the door window and the corridors - just as he is dominated by the expectations of society. I do like to think that Olmi has something else in mind for Domenico, however - the name means Lord, after all - almost as though he is destined for greater things, but none around him even notice let alone appreciate his potential.

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Sat Jul 26, 2014 11:32 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
I agree that Domenico is ordinary and somewhat impressionable, but do you really think he wants a "job for life". What kid really wants that?
Sure, he doesn't quite know what it means, but I bet he does know that he wants to be out of his father's apartment, and able to marry Antonietta (or her equivalent), and this is the door that happens to be open for him.

"Domenico" = irony.

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Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:13 pm
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Late Marriage (Dover Kosashvili, 2001)

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The use of two minor characters to open the film is the first illustration of how skilfully constructed Late Marriage is. The only narrative purpose of the couple in the first scene is to contact the family of the protagonist, Zaza, and inform them of a potential match for him, a 17-year-old girl who lives nearby. As soon as Zaza himself is introduced, these two characters disappear from the film.

Thematically, however, their role is essential, as they represent a perfect archetype. The first scene presents not a relationship between two equals, but rather a relationship between a powerful man and a submissive woman, founded on traditional ideals that lead to a grown man being washed by his wife as if he's not fit to do it himself, having the gall to complain that his wife's not doing it correctly and throwing around derogatory descriptions of women to anyone who walks through the door. This is how marriage functions in this society.

How and why such a relationship came about is made clear in the following sequence, the meeting between Zaza and the possible match, which is similarly archetypal. The image of a 31-year-old walking nervously into a teenager's bedroom to lay the groundwork for an arranged marriage has a certain comic absurdity to it, and the conversation that follows is a strange one. The two of them are granted a degree of privacy, but the parameters of the conversation have been set by their family members, who are not content simply to allow the spectre of their nearby presence discomfort their descendants, but place a spy in the bedroom too in the form of the smallest of their number. Zaza and the girl seem to get on quite well, but only in the context of an introductory chat between two strangers. They don't feel much like eternal partners in the making.

The question of what that would feel like is soon answered, as Zaza meets his lover, Judith, in an encounter presented so naturalistically that it's like a cathartic release of reality after thirty minutes or so of farce. In a lesser film, there would be little left to do from here except linger upon this stark dichotomy, as genuine emotions clash with a forced adherence to tradition. In one of the most memorable scenes, the sacred space of Judith's apartment is invaded by the family members and a perverse parody of the earlier get-together ensues, in which Judith is threatened and intimidated in order to destroy an existing relationship that lacks orthodox approval. At this point, Zaza's father seems the more diplomatic of the two parents, while his mother is rude and uncompromising, but this isn't because his father is nice and his mother isn't. Instead it's a natural consequence of this society's traditional practices and the warped values it creates.

Sex outside marriage carries no particular stigma for a man, but any woman engaging in said behaviour is immediately rendered a whore. As both Zaza's father and uncle had extra-marital affairs earlier in life, they equate Judith with their own 'whores'. Thus, the father sympathises with Zaza only insofar as he thinks they have a common problem when it comes to resisting pleasurable commodities, just as you'd sympathise with somebody who eats too many chocolate cakes if you had a sweet tooth. Although Zaza's father is softly-spoken and polite, whereas his uncle is rude and aggressive, their fundamental points of view are the same. This interchangeability of males is emphasised when Zaza's uncle threatens Judith with the same sword once brandished by her abusive ex-husband (incidentally, the Judith character might well have been named in reference to the biblical widow who saved her town by beheading an invading general).

Meanwhile, Zaza's mother is repulsed by Judith because she sees her as a walking reminder of the other 'whore' who almost broke up her own marriage. Deep down, however, she appears to recognise the irrationality of this belief, as she soon arranges for a private meeting with Judith. The precise contents of their conversation remain a mystery, but Zaza's mother emerges from it with some awkward questions for her husband, having seemingly realised how alike herself and Judith are as neglected wives. Not that this realisation will alter anything; groupthink combined with a subconscious envy of the young will prevent even the smallest of concessions from materialising. Zaza's mother and her contemporaries were forced to follow the instructions of their elders, so for them to now relinquish control and allow the young a privilege that they themselves never had would require a swallowing of pride so huge that they'd surely baulk at the mere prospect of it.

All of which means that Judith is the only independent character in the entire film. She is the only one who has exercised her right to reject the marriage she was given, even though it has condemned her to a life of loneliness. Zaza may be intellectually free, but financially he remains tied to his parents and therefore unable to resist them. Whatever independence he thought he had was fake, nothing but a hypocritical arrangement whereby he showered Judith with money earned by those who disapproved of her.

In the brilliant final scene, Zaza puts on an exaggerated display of virility and it's not clear whether it's a sign of acceptance or a drunken attempt to subvert the traditions to which his family are wedded. When it's revealed that it's the latter, the scene becomes unbearably awkward, but only for a short while before the awkwardness gets smoothed over. These traditions wouldn't have lasted so long if they weren't capable of handling the desperate death throes of dissent. The only remaining question is how long they'll continue to survive for. Will Zaza let them fizzle out? Or will his simmering resentment transform him into a facsimile of his predecessors? His wife had better make sure there are no spare swords lying around in the marital home.


Mon Jul 27, 2015 6:44 pm
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Circus Freak wrote:
These traditions wouldn't have lasted so long if they weren't capable of handling the desperate death throes of dissent.
Ha, well put! That final scene is brilliant, and the whole movie is so ruthless it's hard to watch.

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Tue Jul 28, 2015 12:52 am
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