Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser

I don't know why I'm thinking of this movie now. I saw it by pure chance several months ago. We were staying at a friend's house, before our new apartment in Philly was ready, and the movie was on top of her DVD player. I'd seen a couple Werner Herzog movies before, and remembered liking Fitzcaraldo very much. The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser is a great, nearly perfect, movie. It's superficially simple plot seems a fantastic contrivance, but is based on a true story: a young man is found in a German town, barely able to speak, barely able to walk. He has apparently lived his life in chained in a cellar, with little or no human interaction. The movie follows the attempts to teach Kaspar how to live in society (and also attempts to exploit him). The performance by Bruno S. as Kaspar is remarkable, and the movie never stoops to the maudlin level one would expect from an American movie of the same subject. Indeed, the facts of the case of Kaspar Hauser are laid out quite frankly, with no attempt to explain many of them, or to tie up the story into a neat package. The movie's unexpected ending left me puzzled by my brief encounter with Kaspar, but deeply affected. I don't know the answer to the mystery of Kaspar Hauser, or even which one of the mysteries in the movie I thought most needing explanation, but I'm glad I got the chance to puzzle over them.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Le Cercle Rouge

Alain Delon plays Corey, a thief released after five years in jail. At approximately the same time Corey gets out, Vogel (Gian-Maria Volonte) escapes from the custody of the aging Commissioner Mattei (André Bourvil). What Vogel has done we do not know, but Mattei is sure Vogel is guilty. Through a series of coincidences, Vogel becomes part of Corey's plan to rob a high-class jeweler. As in other films by Jean-Pierre Melville, the story is told with a minimum of dialogue and lots of stylish mise en scène. The criminals--including Yves Montand, in a outstanding performance as Jansen, a police sharpshooter lost to the underworld and alcohol--are threatened by their loyalty to one another. The police are discernible from the mob bosses only in that their lies and manipulations seem less principled. Francois Perier, who played the best character in Le Samourai--the policeman Frank Costello--returns here on the other side of the law, as the underworld boss Santi, whom Mattei tries to pressure into turning snitch. Mattei is the only one shown with a life outside of crime, feeding his cats after chasing around after Vogel and Corey. He is steadfast in his pursuit, but seems weary, and perhaps too conscious of how his own actions may have hurt the innocent. It is only Corey and Vogel who appear to do any good in the movie, as their need for a sharpshooter gives Jansen renewed purpose in life. Is it a good purpose? Who can say. But it is thrilling to watch it unfold.

[edited to remove some poor phrasing]

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Is It Even Enough

I think I'll have another beer,
It's only seven o'clock.
I wonder what do we have here,
Is it even enough?
Why didn't the goddamn snow rain down? Maybe's a better question...
O'that delicious yummy beer,
It's making my tummy in love.
I think I'll have another beer,