Last week’s movies

The Chess Players (1977) aka Shatranj Ke Khilari, Satyajit Ray

Persona (1966), Ingmar Bergman

The Ballad of Narayama (1984), Shohei Imamura

The Kid with a Bike (2011), Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne

Movie of the week: Persona.

The Kid with a Bike. Each of the Dardenne brother’s films never disappoint. A couple of actors recognized from his previous films; Jérémie Renier – Lorna’s Silence, and Fabrizio Rongione – Rosetta. As with their other films I’ve seen, a young person negotiates life in and around adults.

The Ballad of Narayama. I remember this film being the first one listed when you call up Roger Ebert’s [Great Movies]( site. So after seeing Shohei Imamura’s Vengeance is Mine (1979), I thought I’d check this out next. It seems Imamura is the only Japanese director to win two Palme d’Or the Cannes; this film and The Eel (1997). Here’s to  hoping that Netflix dvd eventually gets The Eel. I like the modern Japanese films depicting ancient times. Yôji Yamada’s The Twilight Samurai (2002), Koreeda Hirokazu’s Hana – the Tale of a Reluctant Samurai (2006), and Beat Takeshi’s (Takeshi Kitano) The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2003), to name a few (Ballad of Narayama is not a samurai film). They seem totally authentic to historical living, dress, shelter, food. The Ballad of Narayama is truly a modern film, with its birds eye view tracking shots of the village. One scene reminded me of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes (1964), with its group mentality acting out against the isolated. Next Imamura film up and working its way up the queue: Pigs and Battleships (1961).

Persona. I may have to purchase the Criterion Collection release for a better view, as Netflix has the MGM disc. For some reason, I thought of Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, with the duality of characters, and of course, [the spider](/spoiler). Watched it the second time with Marc Gervais’ commentary. There’s a scene with Liv Ullmann where she’s reading a book with what looks like a compact letter opener, or pen knife. She seems to read a page after cutting it free – like the pages are folded over, and instead of needing a bookmark, you keep track of what you’ve read by the cut, separated pages. Pretty neat. I’m curious to know what kind of book binding this actually is, as I couldn’t find anything on it from a search. I would love to see this on the big screen. Regardless of how you interpret this Bergman masterpiece, you can’t help but sit in awe as you watch his beautiful images.

The Chess Players. Stars Richard Richard Attenborough as General Outram, Saeed Jaffrey (The Man Who Would Be King, Gandhi, A Passage to India), Victor Banerjee (also in A Passage to India). The inevitable question – which solo dance by an Indian girl – Jean Renoir’s The River, or The Chess Players? Both are so beautifully done it’s too close a call for me. I’m still brand new to Satyajit Ray’s filmography – only his Apu trilogy before this film. I can see his maturity and mastery at story telling with The Chess Players’ parallel storyline. In one scene, when Victor Banerjee (Prime Minister) is meeting with General Outram, instead of a simple cut, he does a slow pan from Richard Attenborough to the Prime Minister, who is obviously distraut. He pays equal attention to each story – especially apparent during one of the players row with his wife, since he pays more attention to the game than to her. The echos between each player and their wives were expertly done, leading to the neutral location. While the players are described as Gentry, they smoke their hookahs and their snacks are too interesting. One is in a covered container, folded into what looks like an origami like loose square, small as a bottle cap, and each attached by what looks like a gold chain with equal lengths. Like the pointy eared one would say: fascinating.


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