Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Eclipse Series 2 - The Documentaries of Louis Malle |
Vive le Tour / Humain, Trop Humain / Place de la République / Phantom India / Calcutta / God's Country ... of Happiness
Director: Louis Malle
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Over the course of a nearly forty-year career, Louis Malle forged a reputation as one of the world?s most versatile cinematic storytellers, with such widely acclaimed, and wide-ranging, masterpieces as Elevator to the Gall... more »
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M. Williamson | 05/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This collection is really terrific -- definitely one to buy, rather than rent. (For one thing, the total run time is something like 13 hours.)
The first full-length film in the set (it also includes a fun short about the Tour de France) is a subtle, quietly thought-provoking take on the dehumanizing effects of industrialization. Wait -- that sounded pretentious. It's a movie about factory work. And it's brilliant. It's tedious in spots, to be sure, but that tedium is an essential part of the way the film works. Many of the scenes are initially intriguing, then boring, and finally horrifying; the workers appear to have become clockwork components of the assembly line's machinery. I physically ached when this film was over.
The second one, "Place de la Republique," was my least favorite, perhaps because experiments like Malle's (hanging out for ten days at a busy intersection interviewing people at random) have been repeated so many times since he made this movie . . . but even this one had many surprising moments and insights, and it's fun to get such a detailed look at the Paris of the early seventies.
"Phantom India" is the masterpiece of the set. A lot of people expected this to be released separately, in the standard overstuffed and overpriced Criterion package, but the people at Criterion have thrown us poor folk a bone and included it in the "bargain" Eclipse set. Oh, boy -- this movie is just awesome: a hypnotic, totally engrossing portrait of the most deliciously weird -- and relentlessly "contradictory" -- country on Earth. There are so many highlights here. Two early scenes -- at a dance school, and at a temple festival -- were so breathtaking that I actually had to rewind an hour and watch them again before moving on.
One caveat: the sound quality is terrible for the first half-hour or so. (Apparently, the original elements were so damaged that the restorers couldn't perfect some of the audio.) If the buzz and hiss of the first few scenes is driving you crazy: trust me, it gets much better.
If "Phantom India" was full of surprises, its sister film, "Calcutta," was not; it's more or less what I imagined "Phantom India" would be like: a beautiful, thoughtful, very serious film about poverty and human misery, man's inhumanity to man, etc. It's really good -- but in 2007, these kinds of images of suffering have become so ubiquitous that they've lost some of their power to shock (which is obviously a sad statement). My favorite parts of "Calcutta," then, were the other moments: the singing and dancing, the wrestling in the park, the religious festivals.
Malle's last two docs -- "God's Country" and the unfortunately titled ". . . and the Pursuit of Happiness" -- were shot in Malle's adopted home, the U.S.; both are quite warm and humane, resisting caricature. In fact, there were times when I felt Malle was going too easy on the folksy Minnesotans of "God's Country" -- but every time I had this thought, Malle came through with a challenging interview question, exposing the homophobia, racism and anti-Semitism of this isolated farm community. He never does this in a shrill, reductive, predictable, or demeaning way, however; in the end, it's not just his affection, but also his sincere respect for his subjects that comes across.
Malle is one of the most underrated filmmakers of all time, I think. He's praised -- and was praised throughout his career -- but not enough, especially when you consider how his critical reputation compares to that of directors like Resnais, Truffaut and Godard.
Malle's reputation may actually be a victim of the director's own versatility. Instead of carving out his own niche, repeating the same exercise again and again and again, he tried jarringly new projects throughout his career, usually pulling them off with dazzling success. You'd never know, unless you were told, that "Elevator to the Gallows," "Zazie on the Metro," "Lacombe, Lucien," "Atlantic City," "My Dinner with Andre," "Goodbye, Children," "Damage" and "Vanya on 42nd Street" (to name just eight of his best movies -- there are many more) were the work of the same filmmaker. And all of the movies I just named are so wonderful, so assured; you never sense that Malle is stretching.
This set -- along with the DVD release (soon, I hope) of his Palme D'Or- and Oscar-winning collaboration with Jacques Cousteau, "The Silent World" -- may make it impossible, finally, for anyone to get away with denying Malle's greatness. What a body of work this guy left behind."
Anthony Wolfe | Sierra Vista/Tucson, AZ | 01/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After viewing a small portion of Louis Malle's fictional films (the well known films, "Au Revoir Les Enfants," "Murmur of the Heart," and "Lacombe, Lucien.") I became interested in the director's complete body of work. A subsequent search led me to the Harvard Film Series website which profiled not only Louis Malle's fictional works, but also his diverse and numerous documentaries (the most intriguing being his work in India and the television series he later worked on regarding the country). \
It Should be quite interesting to see what Criterion does with this new Eclipse line, as it will bring a number of previously unattainable films and directors into the library of film buffs around the United States. This series of diverse documentaries, as well as the early Bergman (an announced set which consists of the films; Torment, Crisis, Port of Call, Thirst, and To Joy) and Raymond Bernard (Wooden Cross and Les Miserables, announced on the Criterion blog) films will provide a great backbone for the Eclipse series. Looking forward to more greatness in the future."
Paco Rivero | Miami, FL | 10/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The centerpiece of this Criterion Collection box set (Eclipse Series #2) is Louis Malle's "Phantom India," a landmark seven episode docu-series made for French television in the 1960s. Malle seeks the India not usually seen by foreigners, the secret temples and dusty byways, the street festivals, the remote tribes and hidden cities full of beggars, mystics, and madmen. Malle's narration (in French) gives information about the country and its people, its hierarchical and complicated caste system, its politics, its tribes, its culture, and its polyglot religious reality. Malle's impressions and observations, given in voice-over, make it a very personal journey into the heart of India. At first you feel how shocked and repelled Malle is by the country, but, as the film flows on at its leisurely pace, it becomes a spiritual journey for him, one that Malle allows you to share through the rhythm of his shooting and editing. Malle tried to capture India's rhythm in how he edited the film, which takes some adjusting to since most of the 363 minutes are shot in long takes that really immerse you in what you are watching, steeping you in its atmosphere. For the most part, Malle eschews British colonial India to discover regions untouched by the West. Alternately glorious and horrific, banal and mesmerizing, the series made me run the emotional gamut, including, I must confess, disgust. Having recently seen Chris Marker's "San Soleil" (another excellent documentary released by Criterion) it seems obvious to me that Marker was influenced by Malle's "Phantom India." At one point in "San Soleil" the narrator says, "Frankly, have you heard of anything stupider than to say to people, as they teach in film school, not to look at the camera?" Malle shoots "Phantom India" in the same spirit, engaging with the country's people, inviting furtive glances, penetrating stares, filming their holiness as well as their degradation not with the cold eye of a clinical observer but with the empathy of a fellow human being.
"Vive Le Tour" is a 19 minute study of the Tour de France. It focuses more on the cyclists struggling to finish the race than on the winners.
"Humain, Trop Humain" is a look inside a French automobile plant. There is hardly any narration or speaking. Malle uses very long, sometimes exasperating takes, of workers doing their job. If you ever wondered what work inside a car plant is like, this is your film. Some might be bored because the film seeks to convey the monotony, the endless repetition, of these jobs.
In "Place de la Republique" Malle stands in a crowded square in Paris and films people at random, asking them questions and eliciting reactions. It's an absorbing study of street life. Malle focuses on the quotidian rather than the extraordinary, on the banal rather then the spectacular, but he gets at the hidden truth of everyday life.
The last two documentaries are delightful observations about America. In "God's Country" Malle travels to a small German-American town deep in the heart of Minnesota. He chronicles life during the 1980s in this small rural community. Almost to a person, these people are Republicans who voted for Reagan, yet, as the Reagan years grind along, we see the increasing poverty and dissatisfaction of these heartlanders. Malle began shooting in 1979 and did not set out to make an anti-Reagan film. But by 1985 the dissatisfaction of the farmers was palpable.
The last docu, "And the Pursuit of Happiness," is a delightful look at immigrants who have come to the United States from all over the world. Malle has a way of getting into people's lives so that you are not watching clinical case histories, or mere subjects, but real people living their lives and talking about their fears, hopes, and dreams. I was surprised to see poet Derek Walcott pop up amid the seemingly endless stream of immigrants. Malle (himself an immigrant) shows what it's like to be a newcomer to the U.S., whether you are an ousted Nicaraguan dictator, a family of Chinese peasants who just got off the plane, or a Cuban exile drinking a "cortadito" outside a popular Cuban restaurant in Miami."