jueves, 31 de julio de 2008


Coronación (2005 DVD)
Dirigida por Silvio Caiozzi
Chile, 2000
En español con subtítulos en inglés

Después de haber leído tantas reseñas en alabanza de esta película, tengo que confesar que la obra me decepcionó. Basada en la novela de José Donoso, Coronación cuenta la historia de Don Andrés, un solterón burgués de 58 años que se enamora de Estela, una joven "morena" de 17 años, después de contratarla para cuidar a su abuela senil. Cuando Estela se enamora de un tal Mario y se queda embarazada, la envidia y la obsesión sexual de Don Andrés se convierten en las causas de un colapso psicológico. Una especie de lucha de clases sigue, acompañada por varias escenas de embriaguez por parte de los ricos y los pobres.

Aunque no conozco el libro de Donoso, me imagino que él debe haberlo manejado el tema de "decadencia" mucho mejor que el guión de Caiozzi lo hace. Si la actuación de Adela Secall como Estela y María Cánepa como la abuela (juntas, arriba) es impresionante, otros entre el elenco parecen venir del mundo de telenovelas en cuanto a su nivel de "talento". No hay mucha sutileza por lo que se refiere a los personajes, y al fin y al cabo estos "estereotipos que andan" son aburridos. Muy, muy aburridos. (Cinemateca, distribuido por Facets Video: http://www.facets.org/)

sábado, 26 de julio de 2008

The Leopard

Il Gattopardo [The Leopard] (2007 paperback)
by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
Italy, 1958
ISBN 978-0-375-71479-5

"Tancredi and Angelica were passing in front of them at that moment, his gloved right hand on her waist, their outspread arms interlaced, their eyes gazing into each other's. The black of his tailcoat, the pink of her dress, combining formed a kind of strange jewel. They were the most moving sight there, two young people in love dancing together, blind to each other's defects, deaf to the warnings of fate, deluding themselves that the whole course of their lives would be as smooth as the ballroom floor, unknowing actors made to play the parts of Juliet and Romeo by a director who had concealed the fact that tomb and poison were already in the script. Neither of them was good, each full of self-interest, swollen with secret aims; yet there was something sweet and touching about them both; those murky but ingenuous ambitions of theirs were obliterated by the words of jesting tenderness he was murmuring in her ear, by the scent of her hair, by the mutual clasp of those bodies of theirs destined to die." (Di Lampedusa, 225-226)

Of the four books I've read so far for the Back to History Challenge, The Leopard is both the first novel and the only text consciously chosen for its status as a classic of world literature. It didn't disappoint on either count. While nominally concerned with a 19th-century Sicilian prince, Don Fabrizio di Salina, who foresees the old aristocratic order and way of life coming to an end with the annexation of Sicily and unification of Italy, its graceful prose and penetrating behavioral insights elevate it into something much more profound than that. Although most of the posthumously-published novel concerns events that take place in 1860, the closing chapters move forward fifty years while descrying an epic arc that seems due less to the literary machinations of the author and more to the inexorable hand of fate guiding the characters' lives. You don't have to know anything about Garibaldi or the Risorgimento to appreciate the Prince's concerns, and Di Lampedusa--himself a Sicilian prince writing nearly 100 years after the main events in question and basing his fictional Don Fabrizio on a real-life great-grandfather with the same name--does a masterful job of describing the essential "otherness" of Sicilians in relation to their cousins on the mainland. With characterizations much more vivid and fleshed-out than what you might expect from such an old school novel, don't be surprised if the sense of loss and the perfume of death that permeate the latter stages of The Leopard haunt you when you're done reading it. An outstanding work worth all the accolades it's earned over the years.
Giuseppe di Lampedusa, 1896-1957

Las 10 mejores películas chilenas

Queridos Lectores:

Había pensado ver la película chilena Coronación hoy, pero voy a inaugurar la nueva etiqueta de "cine chileno" con esta lista en lugar de eso. Si alguien está firmemente en contra de esta decisión, puede encontrarme al café en el otro lado de la calle. Seré el guapo con un iced latte, un libro y mucho tiempo libre. ¡Hasta pronto!

PD: Gracias a Antonio Martínez de El Mercurio por las sugerencias (desgraciadamente no he visto ningunas de las cintas sobre su lista, pero Chile, la Memoria Obstinada de Patricio Guzmán es un documental excepcional).
2009: Lo siento mucho, pero el enlace de arriba se ha quitado para siempre.

viernes, 25 de julio de 2008

Diary of a Lost Girl

Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (2001 DVD)
Directed by G.W. Pabst
Germany, 1929
Silent with English intertitles

Pabst and screenwriter Rudolph Leonhardt might have sacrificed all subtlety to deliver their pitch ("With a little more love, no one on this earth would ever be lost!"), but this anti-juvenile delinquency message movie is still quite a spectacular follow-up to the director's Pandora's Box. Louise Brooks is once again astounding as the naive protagonist Thymian (with her diary, below), a pharmacist's daughter who's ordered to give up her baby and is then sent away to a reform school after her dad's reptilian-looking assistant (Fritz Rasp) forces himself upon her one night--while she appears to be unconscious. Other indignities that follow eventually lead to Thymian's stint in a brothel, a not totally unexpected turn of events given the circumstances but one that Pabst ingeniously seizes on to suggest that there's more of a sense of community for Thymian among the other lost souls there than in the typical bourgeois home of the time. Along the way, this scathing moral critique is amplified with unusually vivid visual references to rampant sadism and sexual abuse at the reformatory and a narrative condemnation of capitalism and male philandering as two of the true evils at work in society. And lest you ever forget that desperation is the order of the day, twin suicides frame the action with motives both "understandable" and not. A flawed masterpiece but a masterpiece nonetheless.(http://www.kino.com/)

miércoles, 23 de julio de 2008

Cine, cine, y más cine

Queridos Lectores:

Tengo un montón de DVDs para ver que crece cada día, y estos dos tipos no están ayudándome en cuanto a la adicción.
  • Paxton @ the Movies: Tengo odio a la cadena Blockbuster (la tienda típica te ofrecerá 101 copias de Legally Blonde y el último fracaso de Mel Gibson e un único ejemplar de cualquier cine de autor extranjero que buscas...en un video VHS desde los años 80), pero me reí como un loco cuando leí lo que el bloguero Paxton Hernandez escribió acerca de su experiencia a una Blockbuster mexicana. ¡Qué chistoso, carnal!

  • Dave Kehr.com: Entre los pros, sigo con frecuencia este crítico de los New York Times. Un especialista en los nuevos DVDs que lleguen a las tiendas estadounidenses cada mártes, el blog de Kehr incluye enlaces a su trabajo para el periódico y atrae una cantidad sin número de comentarios por parte de otros cinemadictos. Los que leen inglés pueden pasar por aquí para el blog y por aquí para un vínculo a las reseñas de esta semana : Vampyr de Carl Theodor Dreyer (en la lista de cosas para comprar) y La Momia de Karl Freund (ídem). ¡Parecería que 1932 fue un gran año!

PD: Se pueden encontrar otros enlaces interesantes a la derecha bajo las rúbricas de "Otros blogs que me gustan", "Cine, cine y más cine" y "El canal de cine".

martes, 22 de julio de 2008

Classe Tous Risques

Classe Tous Risques (2008 DVD)
Directed by Claude Sautet
France and Italy, 1960
In French and Italian with English subtitles

Yet another lovingly-constructed French gangster film. While the DNA of the plot--a career criminal trying to pull off one last score before settling down for good--will be familiar to anyone who's seen more than one crime movie in the last fifty years, Sautet and co-screenwriters José Giovanni and Pascal Jardin depart from form by cultivating a neorealist/noir hybrid that subverts expectations. An early scene's daytime robbery and escape through the streets of Milan would be a nice way to kickstart the action no matter who was behind the camera, for example, but here it takes on an even grittier tone than the norm since Ghislain Cloquet's documentary approach cloaks the city in a grainy black and white that just feels more real somehow. On the narrative front, the film's genre-friendly dissection of friendship and loyalty among criminals likewise takes an unexpected turn when fugitive Abel Davos (star Lino Ventura), who's been "sentenced to death in absentia," gets stuck dragging his two kids from Milan to Nice and on to Paris in the sort of existential "tourist class" hinted at by the title. Finally, while no cast member is disappointing in the least, Ventura and Jean-Paul Belmondo are particularly winning as the two gangsters thrown into an uneasy but believable friendship when things start to go sour. In other words, another keeper. (http://www.criterion.com/)

"She wanted to warn him to be careful. But what was the point?"

jueves, 17 de julio de 2008

Der Letzte Mann

Der Letzte Mann (2006 DVD)
Dirigida por F.W. Murnau
Alemania, 1924
Silente con un intertítulo en inglés

Dos años después del éxito de Nosferatu en 1922, F.W. Murnau triunfó de nuevo con otra película mucho más introspectiva. El último hombre (o La última risa como se llama en inglés gracias a un traductor poco escrupuloso) tiene que ver con lo que sucede cuando un portero, envejecido y débil, pierde su empleo al hotel de lujo dónde ha trabajado por años. Otros traumas siguen este primer asunto desmoralizador en la vida del anciano (protagonizado por Emil Jannings con convicción), nos proporcionando un retrato sobre la pobreza y la vejez que me parece una especie de antepasado cinemático del gran Umberto D. (1952) de Vittorio de Sica. A diferencia del clásico neorealista all'italiano, el alemán Murnau libremente mezcla toques naturalistas y expresionistas en el momento de enfrentar esta situación. La historia se narra con un único intertítulo, una proeza excepcional que llama la atención a la poesía visual del cineasta y de su cinematógrafo Karl Freund. En una escena, se usa el trucaje para distorsionar las caras de los vecinos cuando se burlan del portero luego de su "caída". En otra, las casas de vecindad del barrio parecen hundirse al frente de la figura solitaria del hombre avergonzado. Aunque el "guión" de Carl Meyer hace hincapié en los vínculos entre el dinero y el prestigio social de manera sorprendente para aquel entonces, irónicamente mi única queja hoy es que el inesperado final felíz parece representar una forma de capitulación artística al nivel argumental. Sea lo que sea, esta obra queda un buenísimo ejemplo del splendor de otrora que se pueden encontrar entre los nitratos de plata. ¡Un filmazo! (http://www.kino.com/)

La cara de desgracia (Herr Emil Jannings)

lunes, 14 de julio de 2008

Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw

Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw (2001 paperback)
by Mark Bowden
USA, 2001
ISBN 978-0-14-200095-3

A riveting account of the sixteen-month manhunt for former Medellín drug cartel leader/one-time Forbes magazine-certified "seventh richest man in the world" Pablo Escobar. Fans of Bowden's earlier Black Hawk Down won't be surprised by the frenetic pace of the narrative or the reporter's agile reconstruction of events based on interviews with many of the key participants involved, and those new to his work can look forward to a solid piece of investigative journalism that reads very much like a thriller. While primarily a painstaking reportage on the operation that led to Escobar's 1992-1993 downfall at the hands of a US-trained and supported Colombian secret police "Search Bloc" employing state of the art eavesdropping devices and an alleged shoot first/ask questions later methodology, there's much more here than meets the eye. Bowden does a magnificent job at recounting the grim parade of assassinated political leaders, judges, reporters and others who spoke out against the violence during Colombia's reign of terror, but to his credit he doesn't shy away from questioning whether the end actually justified the means in this case either. Recognizing that Escobar might have avoided justice indefinitely but for the counter-terror campaign against him waged by an equally violent vigilante group with other drug cartel ties called Los Pepes, Killing Pablo ends with the uncomfortable suggestion that this rival death squad's spree of targeted assassinations and intimidation bombings probably worked hand in hand with the Search Bloc in going after human targets knowingly or unknowingly provided by US intelligence personnel--with little or no ultimate impact on the flow of cocaine into the United States.

(NB: This is an alternate choice for one of my Back to History Challenge selections. The original list of books to be reviewed can be found here.)

viernes, 11 de julio de 2008

Encounters at the End of the World

Encounters at the End of the World
Directed by Werner Herzog
USA, 2007

With Herzog's Grizzly Man, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, and the incomparable My Best Fiend already entrenched on my list of all-time documentary favorites, I needed very little persuasion to check out his new doc on the big screen last Sunday night. While seemingly more straightforward than any of those efforts, Encounters still rates high in the entertainment department, blending the director's usual questioning of man's relationship to nature with some simply spectacular footage taken aboveground and underwater in Antarctica. Herzog gets off a couple of trademark blasts at "tree-huggers," "whale-huggers" and the makers of cute penguin movies during the course of the film, but most of the time this most idiosyncratic of humanists wisely chooses to let the images and the interviewees speak for themselves. Not that this is all fun and games. Since many among the scientists and support staff on camera confide that they're resigned to man's impending doom on the planet or suggest that they wound up on the icy continent because they didn't want any part of civilization as we know it in the first place, the result is a blend of the ethereal and the apocalyptic that's much more unsettling than its humble G rating would lead you to believe.

Viewed at the Kendall Square Cinema (Cambridge, MA) on 7/6/08.

miércoles, 9 de julio de 2008


Asphalt (2006 DVD)
Directed by Joe May
Germany, 1929
Silent with English intertitles

While Joe May's nowhere near the household name that Lang, Murnau and Pabst are among silent movie aficionados (at least not outside of Ferdinand von Galitzien's Teutonic household, that is!), it's hard for me to imagine a much more satisfying nitrate from the era than Asphalt in terms of the sheer entertainment value on display here. From its dazzling opening scenes of a bustling Berlin shifting from daytime to nighttime right before your eyes to its claustrophobic finale depicting one character's lonesome walk into an uncertain future, this is just a joy to behold on both the visual and narrative planes. First-time viewers of the DVD should be prepared to be seduced.

It helps that Betty Amann and Gustav Fröhlich are perfectly cast as the vivacious jewel thief and no-nonsense traffic cop who seem to fall for each other after he's arrested her, but shots like this clever mirror image above do a nice job of complementing the script's tendency to keep the characters' emotional connection uncertain. Does Amann's Else Kramer really fall in love with Frölich's Officer Holk or is she just trading on her undeniable good looks to beat the rap? Could there be such a thing as love at first sight between a career cop and an unrepentant criminal? And given this temptress' Lulu-like combination of charm and sensuality, would it be fair for any man to blame Holk for putting the possibility of love with her ahead of his ethical responsibility to enforce the law? May and ace cinematographer Günther Rittau manage to entertain all these questions while entertaining you, the viewer, but I was actually hooked like Holk as soon as Amann walked onscreen. Good thing I'm not a cop with a conscience!

femme fatale
(noun, see Betty Amann in Asphalt)

lunes, 7 de julio de 2008

Ina Caro's Languedoc

Carcassonne: Cité Médiévale et Pont vieux

Although I've only spent two days in the Languedoc [Occitan: Lengadòc] in my entire life, the region has had a hold on my imagination out of all proportion to what you might make of that. Ina Caro's chapter on the area in The Road from the Past: Traveling Through History in France (1994) was one of the first books that got me hooked on the subject, a point I was reminded of while rereading the section in question over the weekend. Essentially a collection of six mini-travelogues on visits to Saint-Roman, Narbonne [Narbona], the Abbey of Fontfroide, Carcassonne [Carcassona], Albi [Albi], and the "pilgrimage churches" of Conques and Rocamadour, this spotlight on Languedoc obviously benefits from Caro's graceful prose and pleasantness as a travel companion. However, her novel approach to the genre--deciding to "visit these sites in the order they were built" in order for the reader to "feel almost as if you are traveling through the past" (Caro, p. 2)--adds an historical dimension to the writing that makes the reading experience so much richer. A lack of footnotes and at least one overly-confident assertion of a disputed 13th century "fact" (Caro claims that Simon de Montfort murdered Raymond-Roger Trencavel of Carcassonne, a point not in agreement with contemporary source Guilhelms de Tudela nor accepted by all modern historians either) tarnish the historiographic value of the work to a certain extent, but this is otherwise a great place to read about modern touring in the Languedoc région informed by a narrative that also travels from Roman times to the aftermath of the Albigensian crusades. Cool!

  • Caro, Ina. "Languedoc." In The Road from the Past: Traveling Through History in France. San Diego and New York: Harvest, 1994, 55-111.

sábado, 5 de julio de 2008

A Séance with Countess Dusy Told

As some of you already know, I have another blog, Gambling with Countess Dusy Told, that I started last month with the idea that it'd be an all-movie sort of thing free of the "distractions" of languages, literature and the like. While I now ponder killing that blog off Dr. Mabuse style and bringing all the movie reviews back home to Caravana (their ancestral home before my recent caffeine binge anyway), here are some links to the non-French/non-Spanish films viewed for Gambling in June. In the meantime, is it really cold in here or is it just me?

viernes, 4 de julio de 2008

La Voie lactée

La Voie lactée (2007 DVD)
Dirigida por Luis Buñuel
France, 1969
En francés con subtítulos en inglés

La Vía Láctea es una sumamente divertida road movie sobre dos mendigos franceses que van con rumbo a Santiago de Compostela en Galicia. Aunque el objeto de su viaje no es lo de ir en romería sino lo de estafar la plata a la gente, Luis Buñuel usa el camino como una plataforma para dirigir varias flechas al dogmatismo de los fanáticos, a la hipocresía de algunos creyentes, e incluso a la barba de Jesús. Entre la serie de imágenes y escenas provocadoras a lo largo del camino, se destacan un debate sobre la transubstanciación decidido por el hecho de que un conejo puede nacer y convertirse en el quintaesencial ingrediente de un pâté a la vez; un ensueño acerca del fusilamiento del Papa por parte de revolucionarios a Tours; un duelo de esgrima entre un jesuita e un jansenista cerca de Bayona; y la aparición de dos Virgenes (o sea, la Virgen y otra virgen menos conocida) en el País Vasco. No voy a decirles lo que pasa en Santiago de Compostela al final de la película, pero ¡cuidado! porque esta comedia pícara también incluye camafeos por el diablo, los albigenses, y el marqués de Sade. Genial.
The Milky Way is a highly entertaining road movie about two French beggars who are on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Although the real object of their trip is hustling money out of people and not making a pilgrimage, Luis Buñuel uses the camino as a platform for launching various barbs aimed at religious fanatics' dogmatism, the hypocrisy of some believers, and even at Jesus' beard. Among the provocative scenes and images along the route, standouts include a debate about transubstantiation settled by the fact that a rabbit is capable of being born and of being transformed into the main ingredient of a pâté at one and the same time, one character's daydream about the Pope being executed by revolutionaries at Tours, a sword fight between a Jesuit and a Jansenist near Bayonne, and the appearance of two Virgins (or rather the Virgin Mary and another less famous virgin) in the Basque country in Spain. I won't tell you what happens in Santiago de Compostela at the end of the film, but be careful because this picaresque comedy also features cameos by the Devil, the Albigensians, and the Marquis de Sade! Genial. (http://www.criterion.com/)

Fue un día negro para el Papa/It was a bad day for the Pope

jueves, 3 de julio de 2008

The Pilgrimage to Santiago

The Pilgrimage to Santiago (2001 paperback)
by Edwin Mullins
UK, 1974
ISBN 1-56656-371-2

"That evening, talking with Padre Agustín, there was no doubt at all in my mind that the cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos was among the most radiantly beautiful places on earth. Should I perhaps have been disturbed by my own very peace of mind? Here was I, after all, an atheist, brought up tepid C of E and now standing in a Roman Catholic monastery chatting to a monk who referred to my home city of London (albeit chucklingly) as 'Babylon,' and I dared to experience such a thing as peace of mind. But the thought did not disturb me. I merely became aware of how few secular buildings in the world were capable of inducing such a condition of peace. Why, asked General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, should the Devil have all the best tunes? And why, I felt, should God have all the best buildings?" (Mullins, p. 159)

OK but occasionally uninspiring account of the "long journey to heaven" (120) also known as the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. While I didn't bond with Mullins quite as much as I would've liked to given the vividness of passages such as the one cited above, his hybrid travelogue/art history work/historic overview of the camino does a nice job of looking at its subject from the point of view of someone enamored of all the art and architecture along the various routes. I use the plural here because Mullins spends a good deal of time--a little too much for me, in fact--celebrating art finds on and off the beaten track of all four of the main pilgrim roads out of France. One problem with this approach is that it took the frequent use of a car to make visiting all these sites possible, something that seems to have prevented the author from conveying the first-person passion of a quality backpacker's account like Conrad Rudolph's engaging Pilgrimage to the End of the World: The Road to Santiago de Compostela (University of Chicago Press, 2004). In the final analysis, this may be less meaningful a book for those wanting to understand the pilgrim experience (medieval or modern) from an insider's perspective than it would be for those merely curious about architectural-oriented travel in France and Spain near the end of the Franco era.

Santiago de Compostela
(NB: This is a probable alternate for one of my Back to History Challenge books. Conrad Rudolph, the humble "backpacker" mentioned above, doubles as an art historian/medievalist in his spare time!)

miércoles, 2 de julio de 2008

7 heures du matin

Un video original de cette chanson de 1967 n'existe pas, mais celui-ci sur YouTube "interprétée" par MissVicCherie nous suffit. Jacqueline Taïeb, vous êtes digne de cinc étoiles. Sublime!

Il est sept heures du matin
Faut s'réveiller
Haaaaaaaan, j'ai sommeil
Alors un peu d'musique pour se mettre en train, chais pas moi
Quelque chose comme
Talkin' 'bout my ch-ch-generation
Ouais c'est pas tout à fait ça
J'trouve plus ma brosse à dents
Où elle passée celle-là encore?
Euh, la bleue est à mon père
La rouge est à ma mère
La jaune est à mon frère
Z'avez pas vu ma...brosse à dents?
Tiens on est lundi aujourd'hui
Ah, pour demain j'ai un d'voir d'anglais
Mmmmmmmm, j'aimerais bien avoir Paul McCartney
Pour m'aider
J'ai envie d'mettre un disque pour embêter les voisins qui roupillent toute la journée
Euh, quelque chose comme un bon Elvis Presley
Ah, mais c'est vrai celui-là il en est resté à
Olobopalluba alopempom wa
Un peu d'eau sur la figure pour me réveiller
Le dodo...c'est terminé
Je suis presque prête et ça va beaucoup mieux
Euh, je mets mon shetland rouge ou bien mon shetland bleu?
Mon shetland rouge? Mon shetland bleu?
Mon shetland bleu!
Eu, mon shetland rouge
Oh mon shetland bleu
Mon shetland rouge
Euh le bleu...le bleu...le rouge
Mon shetland rouge...
Grâce à http://www.bide-et-musique.com/ pour les paroles. Jacqueline Taïeb a un site officiel ici.

martes, 1 de julio de 2008

Catalogne, the Magazine

Dear Readers,

Finnish catalanophile Merike of Finès entre tots i totes fame, one of my blog friends, recently asked me for some more information about a travel magazine I had mentioned on her site. Rather than burying the details in another comment box, I decided to post the information here in case anybody else out there is also interested in vacation ideas for Barcelona and other parts of Catalunya.

The magazine in question is called Méditerranée Magazine, a French language publication of Milan Presse , and the Catalogne special issue is from Spring 2008. Since I've only really flipped through the thing at this point, I can't comment on the quality of the coverage--but here's a list of the contents for whatever it's worth.
  • Chronologie
  • Tarragone laisse du temps au temps
  • Sagrada Familia, la cathédrale ensorcelée
  • Le musée total (le musée de la Science)
  • Lazlo Kubala, l'apatride catalan
  • L'ombre du temps (le photographe catalan Francesc Català-Roca)
  • Route buissonière de Port-Bou au delta de l'Èbre
  • D'amour et de vin rouge (Priorat, Penedès, Conca de Barberà)
  • Entre le ciel et la terre (des parc naturels situés dans les différentes montagnes catalanes)
  • Domènech i Montaner: l'autre architecte
  • Des châteaux en Espagne (ou presque...) (la tradition des "châteaux humains")
  • La Bisbal, la mutation des potiers
  • Suivez le guide
  • Agenda
  • Bibliographie
Before I go, here's a link for more tourist/cultural reading about Catalonia with descriptions in French and info in Catalan. And for those interested in a couple of other morsels on France and the other side of Spain from a less touristy perspective, I'll have a bite-sized book review post on the pilgrimage to Santiago and a movie review on Buñuel's La Voie lactée (1969) coming soon. Fins aviat!