Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on February 19, 2020 by dcairns

I was confusing the little I knew about Helmut Kautner’s THE LAST BRIDGE with the little I knew about Bernhard Wicki’s THE BRIDGE, so Fiona got initially annoyed that this WASN’T a film about Nazi boy soldiers, but instead about a German nurse torn between her national and personal loyalties and the alliance she makes with Yugoslav partisans. But, after a restorative cup of coffee, she got well into it.

Maria Schell is bloody good in this. Her face displays exactly the sickened terror I would be experiencing if I were in a combat situation.

Perhaps surprisingly, Kautner, who started making films in Germany during wartime but was never popular with the regime, doesn’t seek to emphasise Nazi perfidy. What evidence we get of it is curiously indirect. The heroine’s lover announces he’s off on a “punishment mission.” When the partisans arrive at a town that’s always welcomed them, they find it destroyed and only a tiny child alive. But the audience is left to work out the possible connection and consider what this implies about the handsome leading man’s character.Bernhard WickiBernard

Fiona was most impressed by a brief flashback “narrated” by a deaf-mute partisan, the main opportunity Kautner has to engage his ludic, experimental side. First he pans to the wall of the cave where the tale is being told, where we can see the shadow of the silent narrator’s hands as he gesticulates, the lap dissolves through to the flashback, keeping both images onscreen. I really like HK’s eccentric side.


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on February 18, 2020 by dcairns

Bong Joon Ho’s first feature, BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE, which flopped, arguably has more in common with his superhit PARASITE than any of the films in between, though he’s certainly an ideal auteur in terms of both stylistic and thematic consistency. This one is about class, too.

It’s kind of a “network narrative,” but the discreet plot threads turn out to be woven into a tight plot.

There’s a graduate who ought to have become a professor but hasn’t greased the right palm. Also his pregnant wife bullies him and he’s driven crazy by barking dogs in his neighbourhood, leading to a covert campaign of canicide.

There’s an office girl who wants to be a media hero.

Actually, those are the main strands, really. They seem separate, but they keep brushing together without quite intertwining. But there really are two protagonists, though one is also the villain, or at least an antihero. Both are trying to get somewhere and using the wrong methods, but the film’s great grace note is to reward the villain, ignore the heroine, but allow her to be happy and him not. It’s now sort of a familiar Bong trope, giving with one hand and taking away with several others, allowing for an ending which seems hopeful — isn’t depressing — but the uplift crumbles when you hold it to the light. Think about the hero’s masterplan at the end of PARASITE…

I imagine this one didn’t do well since it shows quite a lot of bad stuff happening to cute dogs, to the extent that the Korean equivalent of the Humane Association seal of approval appears right at the start. If not for that, we might not have been able to stomach it, and one still finds oneself wondering HOW they achieved, for instance, the suspension of a Peke by its collar and leash, without at least distressing the poor pooch. And then, Bong also violates Hitchcock’s dictum about not threatening the audience with a bad thing, then allowing it to happen. He doesn’t let us off the hook, which might be his own dictum, actually.

Amazing bit where, during her heroic act, a whole tribe of doppelgangers appears, lining the rooftops, cheering our heroine on. They’re a fantasy, of course. Sort of her fantasy, but not quite. They’re not presented as her POV, she doesn’t notice them, and we can’t quite imagine her taking the time to dream them up during her life-and-death struggle. So it’s as if they’re the film’s fantasy on her behalf, or something.

The film also contains a ghost story, recounted by a pretty unreliable narrator, which crashes into the main narrative at the very end, triggering a delightful ah-hah! and a bone-chilling uh-oh at the same instant. Bong’s good at those, isn’t he?

Barbara O’Neill and the Little People

Posted in FILM with tags , on February 17, 2020 by dcairns