So I was watching a movie the other day that will not be named because it will be featured in this post, and I was thinking, "If you've never seen a European movie, this is exactly the movie you'd think of when you thought of European movies." This got me thinking to other European movies that seemed, when I first saw them, weirdly familiar, if in an unspecific way.
This isn't a list of the movies that got parodied the most or created the most iconic imagery - so no Seventh Seal or Jules and Jim or La Dolce Vita here - but rather of the movies that would appear to have just followed "How to Make an Artsy Foreign Film" textbook to a T if they hadn't, you know...kind of done it first.
I don't consider myself a huge expert on European cinema, but, you know...I've seen my fair share. Feel free to chime in with your own, but know that I haven't seen nearly everything.
Oh, and for what it's worth, I love all these films.
Persona - You know what's so much fun about this film? It doesn't make any God damn sense. It's a meditation on what makes a person a person and the eternal question "why am I me and not you?" Which is to say it's pretentious as hell (what truly original, groundbreaking film isn't?), as well as completely mystifying, uncomfortably erotic, and blanketed in depression.
The Double Life of Veronique - This is the movie I mentioned in the first sentence of this piece. Like Persona, it's pretty baffling on the first pass (cannot wait to revisit it), but there's unmistakeably something there, out of my reach at the moment. So stereotypical European traits include hints of metaphysical questions, subversion of expectations and structure (like L'Avventura, it's sort of the art house version of Psycho in this respect), and a lot of nudity.
Bicycle Thieves - Life's a bitch and then you die. Okay, so Antonio doesn't actually die at the end. But, because I was stupid, that was the only thing I got out of this the first time I watched it, which felt to me a staple of "those Europeans and their despair." But it truly is a brutally depressing film; spare and relentless, and watching this film is a downward spiral into hopelessness...best in the best way (see, American filmmakers who could be working wonders with our current economic crisis - you don't need massive tragedies to get us to cry).
Last Year at Marienbad - Even if you figure out what it's all about, it doesn't explain what all of it is about. Additionally, we have very mannered performances, stunning black-and-white, widescreen photography, and eliptical, disjointed (but oh-so-perfect) editing.
And now, special guest writer and my girlfriend, Julie from Misfotune Cookie Blog, because Lord knows I've said enough about this one.
Contempt - Here's a movie that just goes through the motions of European film stereotypes without serving a greater purpose or making a point. It's definitely not a parody of those conventions, but to me they weren't utilized to a good effect either. So I was left with overlong scenes, blase attitudes and unmotivated actions that just didn't add up. It was like watching mannequins interact. Flat characters are obviously never desirable, but they generally work okay in comedies, , musicals - really, any genre where there's enough going on to distract from their deficiencies. In a drama, however, where essentially you're just stuck with these people, they need to have more to them and be more engaging.
I could go on at length about how very wrong she is in processing those conventions, but I'm afraid we're all out of time! Come back next time, when I'll invite another blogger on and completely dismiss their opinion!
(Those last two sentences were written in Sarcastica)