Thankful for World Cinema- Son Frère

When looking for a theme in which to select films from the start of November until Thanksgiving being literal is not the best option. Films centered around Thanksgiving tend to be overly obsessed with dysfunctional families. So in thinking about the nature of the day which was initially a celebration of survival in the New World, I thought why not focus on foreign films.

Son Frère

Bruno Todeschini and Eric Caravaca in Son Frère

This is quite an interesting French drama about the difficult relationship that two brothers have. One of whom is gay and receives his brother one night as learns he is fighting a mysterious and seemingly incurable disease.

One thing that is interesting about this film is that while it does deal a lot with treatment of this illness it goes out of its way to say that the disease even has a name but never says what it is. It insists on being about the patient and the care-taking brother and not the disease itself.

Aside from being a relationship film that doesn’t take the traditional route of dealing incessantly with whatever relationship it addresses. It also deals with death obviously, but moreover with being a patient. In examining those with chronic illnesses it casts an eye on the hopelessness of it all and the fear of surgery.

In that vain there is an amazing one-scene performance by Robinson Stévenin in which the brother witnesses the fear very sharply by seeing someone else in pain.

The film works very sure-handedly and keeps its pace steady but don’t let it fool you in that regard because there is a climax coming and it might even fool you in that regard. You may miss it or its impact immediately but it is one that leaves you thinking.

It is a very intimate and taut drama that is worth looking up.

8/10

Advertisements

Thankful for World Cinema- The Passion of Joan of Arc

When looking for a theme in which to select films from the start of November until Thanksgiving being literal is not the best option. Films centered around Thanksgiving tend to be overly obsessed with dysfunctional families. So in thinking about the nature of the day which was initially a celebration of survival in the New World, I thought why not focus on foreign films.

The Passion of Joan of Arc

Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc (Gaumont)

The first thing that needs to be said about The Passion of Joan of Arc in the state it currently exists is that it’s a miracle we have it at all. Several cuts vanished through the years and this one suddenly surfaces in a Norwegian mental hospital 25 years ago. Truly, the salvaging of some of these older films is at times miraculous and lends even more credence to the importance of film preservation. These works of art shouldn’t be lost and we can’t leave it to chance to find wonderful cuts such as these.

Second, is if you’re watching the Criterion collection version of this film opt for the Voices of Light soundtrack. Again an interesting note is that even though music clearly, according to all the records, was played when this film was screened Dreyer has nothing in his notes to indicate what that music should be, which is odd if you see his other work you know how exacting and precise he could be. So this is as close to an “official” score as you get and it is truly wonderfully done and moving and while it claims not to be a score it syncs beautifully with the images and story.

This film should be viewed for the performance of Maria Falconetti alone. It is often cited as one of the greatest in the history of film a fact which is also unique to this film considering how infrequently Falconetti acted on camera, however, this is no rote repetition of consensus. She is marvelous. It can truly be said this performance is well ahead of its time and reads like one of the greats of the 40s who had the benefit of sound. Falconetti needed no sound, no words and carries this film single-handedly in the rare performance that can be called a tour-de-force.

Lastly, there is the story itself and how it unfolds. I think it is likely one that transcends religion. Whether you’re inclined to believe Joan or Arc’s claims or not you see someone being horribly mistreated, you see one of the judges hurting because he believes her and you witness the tragic outcome of the tale.

This film is a masterpiece of silent film. You’ll note as you watch very few titles are actually needed. It manages through it’s unique visual style to communicate its tale very effectively. It is a must see.

10/10