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Friday, February 28, 2014

Les dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945) d. Robert Bresson

Elina Labourdette does her best Cabaret during her whore period in Les dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945) d. Robert Bresson.

Movie Review
Les dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945)
 d. Robert Bresson
Criterion Collection #183

 UM... yeah- when you see a film set in the mid 20th century but adapted from a play by Diderot, even if it's directed by Robert Bresson AND written by Jean  Thatbe,  is because Diderot, member of the enlightenment though he may, wrote plays about court life, and when you transpose that setting into the 20th century come across like manipulative monsters.  See, for example, the teenspoiltation 90s classic Cruel Intentions.

  The plot of Les dames do Bois de Boulogne revolves around the desire of spurned socialite Helene (Maria Casares) and her inexplicable desire for revenge on her younger lover, who she dumps in the opening scene.  He responds to the dumping by saying he also doesn't like her, and I guess that is why she undertakes her insane quest for revenge.  She tracks down the beautiful Agnes(Elina Labourdette) and her mom Madame D.  The mother/daughter pair have recently come down in the world, and Agnes is literally a prostitute, when Helene offers to settle all their debts and get them an apartment in exchange for.... being her pawn in a twisted game she is playing with her unwitting ex.

  So of course the ex falls for Agnes, and Agnes figures out what's going on, and her Mom tells her "tough shit, Helene owns us."  And, I think Agnes dies in the end, but only after Helene has told her secret to the ex. I think that is how it ends.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Buddenbrooks (1901)by Thomas Mann

Book Review
p. 1901
by Thomas Mann

  Looks like I am also 20% through my 1001 Books Project (reading all 1001 Books in the book 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.)  Only 800 additional books to go!  I decided to check because the 604 pages of Buddenbrooks, called "the last and greatest achievements of the European realist novel;" in the accompanying essay to the listing in my copy of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, had me in a reflective mode.

 I would go so far to say that if you can read Buddenbrooks without being plunged into a fit of reflective melancholy, you have a stronger constitution than I, because Buddenbrooks, with its intimate portrayal of the decline and fall of an upper-middle classs German trading family, is fairly designed to evoke contemplative thought.  The main generation in this multi-generational saga of the family Buddenbrooks consists of a "responsible" brother, a "ne-er do well" brother, and two sisters, one of whom marries ok (but dies young) and one of whom marries poorly. Most of the action revolves around the poorly marrying sister (Tony) and the responsible brother (Thomas.)

  Keeping track of every plot detail and personality can be as onerous in Buddenbrooks as it is in a Dostoevsky novel- Mann seemingly delights in the various formalities and intractices of names and titles as a way to draw out the class structure that runs through Buddenbrooks.  To call this the "greatest achievement of the European realist novel" would require drawing such a category extremely narrowly.  I'm assuming it excludes Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and includes Zola and Fontaine.

  There is no denying the incredible artfulness of every facet of Buddenbrooks- even in English translation the careful attention to every detail fairly sings out, but as a book published in 1901 it clearly belongs to the prior century, or the end of the "long 19th century" (ending after World War I) but not to the modern period, and it is hard to say where the Audience for Buddenbrooks exists outside of the PBS/BBC miniseries/Masterpiece Theater crowd.

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