Dedicated to classics and hits.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Judex (1963) d. Georges Franju

Francine Berge is striking as the criminal Diana Motti in Judex (1963) d. George Franju

Movie Review
Judex (1963)
d. Georges Franju
Criterion Collection #710
Criterion Collection edition released June 17th, 2014.
Francine Berge is striking in her cat suit in Judex (1963) d. George Franju

  This recent Criterion Collection release is also a point of intersection between the Criterion Collection and the 1001 Books Project, as well as an intersection between 19th century pulp fiction, 20th century film and surrealism. Judex is a kind of remake of a much longer, rarely seen serial of the same name, both of them based on the French pulp fiction character from the early 20th century.  That original pulp fiction character Judex is part of a group of French proto-super heroes whose best known member is Fantomas , and they are both stylish, amoralistic anti-heroes masked avenger types whose closest New World avators would be Zorro and the Lone Ranger.

  The accompanying essay to the Criterion Collection edition of Judex points out that director Franju would have preferred to have done a remake of Fantomas, but the rights lay with another party.  Fantomas (1911) is part of the 1001 Books Project, so if you read that book and watch this movie you could good insight into a kind of alternate pop culture where the masked superheroes kidnap corporate executives, and ruthlessly murder the innocent

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sunset Song (1932) by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Terence Davies is making a 2014 movie based on Sunset Song (1932) by Lewish Grassic Gibbon,
starring Agyness Deyn as Chris Guthrie.

Book Review
Sunset Song (1932)
 by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

  Widely acknowledged as the first important Scottish novel of the 20th century, Sunset Song is part of a trilogy of novels written by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.  It's hard to argue that Gibbon in any way started the tradition of the Scottish novel, since Scottish writers like Sir Walter Scott and Tobias Smollett played a role in inventing the novel itself.  However, Gibbon is the first author to attempt to portray the "common folk" of highland Scotland in a realistic manner.  His trilogy of A Scots Quair, of which Sunset Song is the first volume, combines modernist technique (dialogue integrated into the text, stream of consciousness), a strong female hero (Chris Guthrie, who is the central figure of all three novels) and regional dialect (complete with a glossary.). to excellent effect.
  It is the interaction of these three features that make Sunset Song/A Scots Quair classic, and they outweigh the limited invention of the plot, which has the strong scent of earlier nineteenth century novels from other northern countries like Sweden and Norway.   A plot point dealing with a triple infanticide/suicide by Guthrie's mother can't help but recall the rural infanticide of The Growth of the Soil (1917) by Knut Hamsun.   The earlier chapters of the novel, describing the history, courtship and marriage of her parents reminded me of The People of Hemso (1877) by August Strindberg.  Which is to say that Sunset Song isn't necessarily breathlessly original aside from the technique, but it is first in the field, and at 195 pages makes for a quick read.



   

Monday, November 10, 2014

To The North (1932) by Elizabeth Bowen

Author Elizabeth Bowen




































Book Review
To The North (1932)
by Elizabeth Bowen

  This is Anglo-Irish author Bowen's second book within the 1001 Books projects.  Her first was The Last September, published in 1929.  In To The North, Bowen has moved on from her rural Irish homeland to the fast times of post World War I, pre Great Depression London.  Any discussion of To The North needs to address the role of technology on the characters of To The North.  Opining that technology has changed our lives in many way is beyond a common place in 2014, but it's interesting to see how long it took Art to absorb and reflect the way technology and innovation changed the way we lived.

  For example, To The North is one of two books in the 101 Books project up until this point that uses the automobile as an active element in telling the story, and maybe one of five books where the characters use a telephone.  Both this novel and The Last September deal with  a changing world where the characters struggle to adapt.  The difference is that in The Last September the changing world is of a recognizable type: political upheaval brought about by the English colonial adventure in Ireland.   In To The North, the change is stranger, less familiar to the author and the characters, but infinitely more familiar to a present day reader.

  The female protagonists of To The North are sisters in law, Cecilia, 29, was married to Emmeline's brother Henry, but Henry died.  During the novel Cecilia does not much of all, while Emmeline has a travel agency with a partner and tools around town in her own car.  Emmeline is involved with a brilliant but decadent barrister who goes by "Markie."  Emmeline and Cecilia are a kind of mid point between the heroines of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters and those of Bridget Jones and Sex & the City.

  And while no one is likely to mistake the chaste description of the interactions between Markie and Emmeline for a Sex & the City episode, the modernity of Emmeline with her car, business and lack of interest in marriage and children is impossible to miss.  

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