Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Well, I'm sick. Snotty nosed, head pounding, chaffed nostrils, barely-able-to-breath, goddamn sick. And let me tell you, being blindingly sick and trying to power through two and a half hours of Laurence Olivier's Henry V is not an easy endeavor.

In terms of war movies, I'll say this Olivier's Middle Age-version of blustery manliness is a far cry from the sweat, guns, and bloodshed of today's blustery manliness. Seemingly, manliness in the Middle Ages was defined by brightly colored tights, well-costumed horses, and the ability to stare remorsefully in to the early morning darkness as a narrator plods through another lengthy monologue.

Call me a modernist, but I like my war films full of heroic deeds, gory deaths, pitiful cowardice, and a villain with a twirly mustache and a penchant for kicking dogs. That's my kind of war movie, and I'm sorry if the metal-leggings and mud-pile war scenes just don't do it for me. I'm not done with the film yet, and you can blame some of my cynicism towards Olivier and his nancy-pants rendition of one of Big Will Shakespeare's more testosterone pumping productions on trying to view it through crippling sickness, but as of two hours, I'm not a fan.

There's been some argument on how exactly I should address the first forty films I've already watched. I've heard that perhaps I should just start over, watch all forty films again, but unless medical technology improves a lot more quickly, I'd like to be breathing of my own accord when I power through my last Criterion. Thus, for the first 40 days of this blog, there will always be a fairly short, fairly snappy mini-review of an older Criterion I've already watched.

Coincidentally, the two films today touched on similar themes. Grand Illusion was a film I was told by many, older, film folk was one of the greats. It took me three viewings, and several naps, to get through the film, but in the end I also, really enjoyed it. It's also about war, the First World War, but involves a prison escape (the only prison escape I've ever seen that relies almost entirely on, wait for it, flute playing)* and a more classist view of the military. Again, it's representation of war is an almost excessively mannered one, so don't come in to this thinking machine guns and trench warfare. Oh no, this is more cornish game hen or a snifter of cognac, if you get what I'm saying. Jean Gabin is pretty much just the essence of man, but I prefer his brand of sullen manliness applied to thriller-noirs like Rififi.

Thanks for reading!

Next up: the grim finish of Henry V (#41)/Seven Samurai (#2)

* Seriously this is why old movies are hilarious, because cool ways of doing things weren't really invented yet. So instead of having your main character, you know sweatily machine gun a handful of venom-spouting Krauts while saving the bosomy damsel and riding his trusted steed through the streets of Berlin (or something of that accord) the prison escape is based solely on, again sigh, flute playing. I'm not kidding, the whole crux of this amazing escape rests on some mean flute playing. The fact that I enjoy this movie has a lot to say about just how good it really is.

1 comment:

Mark said...

You're such a modernist! Give me flute-playing any day over raucous, meaningless violence. Flute-playing is the epitome of manliness...that's probably why you're sick: you temporarily forgot the old, old adage that real men wear pink and listen to flute-playing all the time. Nice blog. I'll check in frequently and leave dorky comments for you.