By Ed Garea
I’m still on the mend, so we’re continuing the bi-weekly format for Cinema Inhabituel. The brevity for the week of November 15-30 is not due so much to my recuperation as to the holiday season.
1:00 am Simon of the Desert (Producciones Gustavo Alatriste, 1969) – Director: Luis Bunuel. Starring Claudio Brook, Silvia Pinal, and Hortensia Santovena.
The last film of Bunuel’s Mexico period, it concerns the story of 5th-century Syrian saint Simeon Stylites, who spent 37 years of his life perched atop a pillar as a show of his devotion to God. As Bunuel tells it, Simon is pious to a fault, which is soon revealed to be a combination of egotistic pride and self-delusion. His reason for sitting on the pillar is to get closer to God while occasionally ministering to the devotees who come to see him in the desert. The miracles he performs oft times have unexpected consequences: For example, he restores the hands of a man who had them chopped off for thievery in order that he may provide for his family. The first thing the man does once his hands are restored is to slap his annoying daughter.
2:15 am The Tempest (World Northal, 1979) – Director: Derek Jarman. Starring Peter Bull, David Meyer, and Neil Cunningham.
Derek Jarman is a director who makes radical interpretations of classical material for his many fans. I am not one of those fans. I find Jarman weird, but not entertaining, which is the point of film. In this reinterpretation of Shakespeare, the mad Prospero is now cast as a struggling artist desperate to transform his bleak world into something more spiritually satisfying. It’s a dark film with little to recommend as it off as just one big orgy.
3:00 am L’Atalante (New Yorker Films, 1934) – Director: Jean Vigo. Starring Michel Simon, Dita Parlo, and Jean Daste.
This film has been recognized over the years as one of the most beautiful romantic films ever made, though not without a little touch of the surrealistic. Juliette marries Jean and comes to live on board his ship sailing the Seine River. Besides the two of them are a cabin boy and a strange old second mate called “Pere Jules.” Juliette is bored by life on the Seine and slips off to see the nightlife when they arrive at Paris. Jean gets so angered over Juliette’s actions that he sets off and leaves her behind. But over time Jean is overcome by grief and longing for Juliette and soon falls into a depression. Pere Jules takes it upon himself to go and find Juliette. Vigo died the year the film was released at the tender age of 29.
11:15 pm Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (Del Duca Films, 1954) – Director: Jacques Becker. Starring Jean Gabin, Rene Dary, Dora Doll, and Vittorio Sanipoli.
Aka Do Not Touch the Loot. Jean Gabin rejuvenated his career with this superior noir about two gangsters that have stashed an incredible 50 million francs in gold bullion only to have one of them kidnapped and held for the gold. Becker has given us film fans an incredibly absorbing, character-driven story and a lesson in what constitutes true loyalty. The black and white photography adds to the overall atmosphere, and Becker beautifully inserts episodes of violence into the most seemingly innocuous scenes. Of course, during the course of the movie, Gabin gets to slap almost everyone around, which is his trademark of sorts, but the scenes where he has to act to save his friend contain some of the best acting he has ever done in movies. And while you’re there, look for young Jeanne Moreau in a small role as Josy.