Saturday, August 26, 2006

movies i've recently watched

Withnail and I

Terrific: terrifically hilarious, terrifically melancholy. Five stars; five thumbs up. It chronicles the dissipation of a pair of down-and-out young actors who decide what they need is a weekend in the country. There are piquant glimpses, overall, of the pain or despair (or something) that is said to underlie great comedy. And in the meantime we get some of the funniest lines in cinematic history. "These are the sort of windows faces look in at!"

The Phantom of Liberty

Luis Bunuel's penultimate film. Surrealist. Solipsistical. Depressing. Avoid other than for historical reasons. The worldview of this movie reminds me of the last lines of Philip Larkin's poem High Windows:

...And immediately
Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowehere, and is endless.

(Only The Phantom of Liberty lacks the sun-comprehending glass and, thanks be to God, is not endless.)

Lost Boys of Sudan
A documentary that follows the progress of a group of Dinka Sudanese young men, all orphans, from a refugee camp (in Chad? Kenya? Uganda?) as they make their way to the United States under a program whereby the US government admits 3,000 or so such refugees as immigrants each year. A heart-warming and fascinating story. It makes you angry at the Sudanese government, and frustrated with everyone else (the US, the UN) who sit fairly idly by while yet another African genocide rages right under their noses.

Not particularly memorable for its technical merits, it is nevertheless an engrossing documentary.

Aguirre: the Wrath of God

I think I'm more interested in Werner Herzog than I am in his movies. This one is his take on an episode from one of history's more secluded coves: a conquistador from Castile named Lope de Aguirre who set out in 1536 to search for El Dorado, inspird by the tales and treasure of Hernando Pizarro, who had recently returned to Spain from Peru. Aguirre turned into (or maybe already was) a murderous megalomaniac, killing several of his superiors, some of his own men, hundreds if not thousands of natives, and eventually his own daughter. In 1561 he declared himself to be "the wrath of God, the Prince of Freedom, Lord of Tierra Firma and the Provinces of Chile." Shortly afterward he was shot, drawn and quartered.

This movie is typical of Herzog's obsession with obsession. More interesting than the film itself (I thought) was the commentary by Herzog in the "extras" section of the Criterion Collection DVD.


First Apostle said...

Right on, Father. You're into some great stuff. Withnail, by the way, is one of the key pieces of art in my life.

"We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now!"

MM said...

Ditto on the Lost Boys of Sudan, Fr. Thanks for sharing it with me!

MD said...


Indeed! Withnail and I. I just had a long chat about this film with yet another Anglican priest (well, an ordinand). Indeed, you are living the good life in your spare time. It's been 4 yrs. since I've seen Withnail, but it won't be long again. LL and I are due to view it shortly in fact. Carry on...