Thursday 28 July 2011

Shall we gather by the river

I love rivers. There's something both calm and mysterious about them, and whenever I see one I want to either dive in to it, or get on a boat to travel upon it. You never know what is behind the next bend.

I'm not alone in liking rivers, and here are some great river-related film clips.

First out is John Ford's Rio Grande (1950).

Two filmmakers who often use the river both as a setting and as a metaphor are Jean Renoir and John Boorman. Here's Renoir's sublime film Partie de campagne (1936):

Here's Boorman's Deliverance (1972), a dark and disturbing film:

Although a very different film Deliverance shares with Still Life (2006, Sanxia haoren) an ecological message, and shows the threat that "progress" can be to both nature and humans. Here's the opening sequence of Zhang Ke Jia's brilliant film:

Then there's of course L'atalante (1934), the only feature film Jean Vigo made before his early death:

One might add A River Runs Through It (1992), Wild River (1960), The River (1951), also by Jean Renoir, Bend of the River (1952) or The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and so on and so forth but this'll do for now. But for one film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), perhaps Peckinpah's best film. You'll have to click on the link since it won't embed.

Monday 11 July 2011

You've Got Mail and Nora Ephron

One reason You've Got Mail (1998) is so good is because it works on several levels.

It can be enjoyed as a typical romantic comedy.

It can be enjoyed as an essential part of Nora Ephron's oeuvre as an auteur. It has got the Ephron-esque combination of quirkiness and melancholia and it is rich with her typical motifs, such as the daily presence of dead loved ones and a strong connection between two people who have never met (compare it with Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and Julie & Julia (2009) for example). It is also filled with links, puns and references to older films, besides being a remake of Lubitsch's magnificent The Shop Around the Corner (1940).

And it is also a good, mature sociological study of city life in an era of neoliberal policies and the corporisation of the city landscape. The changes are hard and uncomfortable, but unfortunately often inevitable, and after we've fought and lost against the force of time, we must mourn and move on.

You've Got Mail can be appreciated on each of these levels, independently of the others, should you so wish, but combined they make the film so much richer.

So have a look if you haven't seen it before. As an example, here's a good scene (that won't embed).

I've written about Nora Ephron before, with focus on Julie & Julia: