Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Cinematheque presents Faces and the Cinema

I normally get a bit crusty about the reliance on canonized classic cinema - the films of Akira Kurosawa, for example - at the Pacific Cinematheque, but it's hardly an objective position. It's not that I think the Cinematheque shouldn't play canonized film fare - it's just that I want them to play the canonized film fare that I want to see.

However, there's a very exciting film series this spring, Faces and the Cinema, that gets a lot closer to my areas of interest - canonized, great works of film art that I suspect will remain bottomless cups for me.
Ingmar Bergman's Persona is not exactly one of those, frankly, but it's certainly his most visually ambitous, purely cinematic film. People interested in the juncture between experimental and narrative cinema who have not seen it - and I'm thinking of a couple of you in specific! - should probably see it at least once, and seeing it projected in 35mm is hardly the worst way to do that. It's rather grim and cerebral, mind you - without the enjoyably self-pitying psychic handjob provided by my favourite Bergmans, like A Passion (incorrectly titled The Passion of Anna in North America), which is the best film in the world to get drunk and feel sorry for yourself to, if you feel so inclined. Still... uh... everyone's got their limitations, and y'all might be smarter'n me, right? If you've never seen it, for God's sake, amend thy ways.

One of those Great Masterpieces of Cinema whose status as Great Masterpiece I have not the slightest quibble with, and certainly on the shortlist of films I would consider choosing as the greatest film ever made - and I'm hedging a bit there, because I imagine I'd be obliged to place it right at the top - is Carl Theodor Dreyer's silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc. An amazing use of faces makes it highly relevant to this series, but the emotional impact - telling the tale of one woman's trial and martyrdom - owes to a great deal more than that. The Cinematheque program makes much of the powerful performance by Renée Falconetti, in her only film role, and while I don't disagree in the slightest, we might also mention - particularly if we're fans of Ejaculation Death Rattle, who take their name from his works - that Antonin Artaud is in it, as an earnest young priest who tries to offer Jeanne solace. For me, the astonishing images of Joan's burning at the stake at the end are also a locus of the film's great power. And yes, folks, the film will be projected with the very moving 1994 oratorio inspired by it, Voices of Light, by Richard Einhorn.
There are a couple of films I haven't seen in the remainder of the series, and a few (like The Passenger) that I don't particularly need to see again just yet - but if I lived in Vancouver, I'd probably make it out to a bunch of these (especially the Teshigahara, which I don't know). I won't even make much of the non-inclusion of Cassavetes' Faces on the bill, which seems obvious in its relevance. I'd further recommend the creepy French film Eyes Without a Face for fans of classic horror and suspense cinema - as far as I know, the title of that film was the origin of that phrase, which has continued to resonate through popular culture (as I'm sure Chris D. fully knows, tho' I've got my doubts about Billy Idol). There's a corresponding show dealing with faces at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.

What, you don't know who Chris D. is? Get away from me.

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