The Sunday Intertitle: That Happy, Sexy, Sax-Playing Prince

I’ve accepted the new Sight & Sound top twenty as a welcome nudge to see some films I’ve neglected. But, happily, I had just watched IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE so I feel I’m catching up. Since most of my BA1 students at Edinburgh College of Art are Chinese, I thought I should include some Chinese film and I was way behind in my Wong Kar-Wei viewing. Of course, it turned out this was the one film in my season most of them had seen, even though it was made before they were born, I think.

And it has intertitles! Already at the beginning I was thinking I might make use of the first caption, but since it’s right at the front end of the movie it’s not really inter-anything. But then the film ends with a trip to Cambodia and a flurry of titles.

It’s a film I’ll need to see more than once. WKW’s endings often seem a little mysterious — those I’ve seen, anyway — and this one is particularly evocative, tying together the historical past, and a country that was almost eradicated in Year Zero, still in this story’s future, with a romance that’s been tragically sundered by time and circumstances.

And I was absurdly pleased to recognize the name of Prince Sihanouk, “that happy, sexy, sax-playing prince,” from Spalding Gray and Jonathan Demme’s SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA.

Now I just need to watch JEANNE DIELMAN and properly revisit BEAU TRAVAIL to get my cinephile badge back.


8 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: That Happy, Sexy, Sax-Playing Prince”

  1. Grant Skene Says:

    Can you give me a nod when you plan to discuss Jeanne Dielman and I will give it another go. I watched it as a part of the 2012 list and found it utterly boring. She actually seemed to want to deliberately bore the audience as a comment on the mundanity of female existence in the patriarchy. I would have walked out of the theatre had I been in one.

  2. Grant Skene Says:

    Needless to say, does anyone really think that movie is the greatest or most significant of all time? But I am glad to see the list is a little less pretentious than 2012. It acknowledges that Hollywood did make some good movies.

  3. Sudarshan Ramani Says:

    I’ve seen Jeanne Dielman thrice, and the third time in a 35mm print at Pacific Film Archives and I will say that like a lot of “slow cinema” it actually gets faster on repeated viewings if that makes any sense. I also think it works best if you see it on a big screen in film because it really casts a spell.

    Chantal Akerman made Jeanne Dielman when she was 24 years old. It was her second feature and for me, relatively speaking, it’s more impressive an accomplishment for her to have made Jeanne Dielman with her resources, than for Welles to make Citizen Kane at 25 on RKO’s dime. For all his subversiveness, Welles was working within the established popular film conventions (leaving aside its commercial failure and political sabotage) whereas Akerman worked without a safety net and stitched her own film language (which she didn’t really use again…her later fiction narratives are more legible and linear).

    I find the kvetching over Akerman’s masterpiece a bit absurd. Okay, so it got in because of split-voting and some people wanting to vote a female film, as if people didn’t put CK or a Fellini or Bergman in earlier ballots because they wanted to sound fancy. This is a movie that was championed by Manny Farber, and cited as an influence by every European and American indie film-maker of the last six decades, so it’s long had that pull.

    And ultimately this is about 2022. It’s about cinema today, and a movie made on low budget with limited resources, no safety net, and no guarantee of an audience but with the hope of an adventurous style to ultimately be lasting…is the state of cinema today. It’s no longer possible to make Citizen Kane or Vertigo today in any commercial cinema, when Spielberg himself can’t sell a movie on his name but it’s possible to make Jeanne Dielman if you have the talent and grit.

  4. Beautifully put.

    I don’t want to read any more about the film before I see it, I think I have enough warning of the challenges and I want to still get some sense of surprise. Even if it’s a slow-motion surprise.

    It’s perfectly arguable that Kane and Vertigo weren’t their respective male maestro’s best works, let alone best of all time, so the top spot is always going to be controversial. I think so long as cinema is a living thing it should always be a contested position — and always more or less meaningless.

  5. Grant Skene Says:

    When a friend and I went through the top 50 from the 2012 list we started at 50 and worked our way up. I think that’s the way to go about this. It is truly an education in world cinema. I am dying to vent more about the #1 and also open to have my mind changed after a second viewing. Your points are all valid Sudarshan Ramani and I certainly applaud the push for diversity in the films and the voters. The only value in lists, imo, is in encouraging discussion and pointing people like me to art they may never have seen or heard of. Provided the list has enough heft and intellectual honesty to be worth my time, and that certainly is true here.

  6. Sudarshan Ramani Says:

    You know when the S&S 2022 list came out, I was a bit disappointed that there were basically 10 films on the list I’ve not seen. I really felt the whole “Alexander wept for he had no worlds left to conquer” feeling. So I’m envious for people getting to discover Jeanne Dielman for the first time.

    The 2022 list is what it is, there’s not enough silent films, no Bunuel (but he’s been neglected for some time I’d argue), none of the Cahiers 50s favorites save Hitchcock. But given all that, Jeanne Dielman making it to #1 isn’t something to get bothered about, in my opinion. It could well have been, I dunno, Blue is the Warmest Color or something.

  7. John Seal Says:

    Let me know if you make it through BEAU TRAVAIL. God, what a dull movie.

  8. It has a lovely dance at the end, I remember that.

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