Archive for February 9, 2023

Parsifal’s Progress

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , on February 9, 2023 by dcairns

Behold, and also Lo! The magic mirror or shield or what have you enables these two gadges to keep an eye on the progress of Parsifal, who has trotted into his self-named Italian epic rather later than his equivalent does in Rohmer’s PERCEVAL LE GALLOIS, but that’s OK. Nifty special effect, anticipating the Wicked Witch’s crystal ball and Mabuse’s spy-cams.

If you open up two YouTubes you can have one playing Mario Caserini’s movie and another playing Wagner’s opera. And everything will just synch up perfectly all by itself — you will be ASTOUNDED. You can just play the overture on repeat if you find the German singing distracting. Since I don’t know what the German libretto is saying nor what the Dutch intertitles are saying, I don’t find it distracting. I just wallow in my ignorance/negative capability and enjoy the mixed-media show.

I dig the interiors lit with exterior daylight: I knew, via Brownlow, that the filmmakers in Scandinavia-land were doing this kind of cunning thing, but I don’t think I’d appreciated how ahead of the game the Italians were. No giant sets here, no moving camera, but really lovely use of scenery and depth composition. Caserini’s mind is seemingly always on the scene in front of him, so he’s not able to join shots together smoothly or dramatically, or plan reveals, as Donald Benson pointed out when I looked at this film’s opening. But where his attention does land, it gets nice results.

An interesting phenomenon of the period movie: when Parsifal and the Bishop of the Holy Grail (I think) ride along beside a crumbling wall, we’re in the middle ages, movie-style. When they ride among some trees and rocks, we’re in the same kind of poverty row cheapscape as THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GALAHAD. You need either bits of architecture or ragged extras or atmospheric details like mist to evoke period. Just woods and stones won’t cut it.

Crucifixion flashback — the big cross against the sky is historical epic material — Joseph of Arimathea (I think) wandering about in the weeds is back to George Reeves movie serial terrain again. Cool how this movie can segue from HOLY GRAIL to LIFE OF BRIAN though. Even when two angels teleport in by dissolve, the setting still feels non-epic.

Caserini has one advantage over later filmmakers: Paul Verhoeven complained that when you’re shooting a period movie, you’re faced with problems like not being able to pan an inch left or right for fear of getting a bit of modern architecture into your shot. I’ve certainly been there, and have even resorted to blotting out the modern stuff with my cast — Simone Lahbib was particularly helpful in this regard, But Caserini is working in an age when nobody expects the camera to pan one way of another, and he’s working in a country that has preserved more of its architectural heritage than most. (How did they do that while taking part in two World Wars?)

Really cool magical transformation — not just a jump cut, but a match cut on movement — much like a modern TikTok costume change thing.

And the bad guys summon some mini-Ghandis:

When next they appear, these adorable little guys are MASSIVE, and Parsifal has to do a swordfight at them, but since they’re a double exposure nothing ever connects. But they do go away, and then he has to fight a whole army, which also vanishes by jump cut, and then there’s a happy ending. This will all be clearer when I’ve watched the Rohmer or the Syberberg, no doubt. but I was pleased to see King Arthur actually appearing in this one, even if he’s basically an extra.