Foreign May: Day 7, 8, and 9

May 7th: Belle de Jour

I’ve always been skeptical when it comes to Bunuel. His films are so often a chore to watch and think through, and then, sometimes, after you’ve put in the effort, you realize you’ve probably learned nothing at all because this guy’s just above you. That’s how I usually feel at least. Not so, Belle de Jour. I love love loved this movie. It’s accessible yet deep and thought-provoking. There are just enough departures from traditional linear narrative. And Catherine Deneuve is so sexy.

I’m going to bring up A History of Violence again because the discussion of female desire in Belle de Jour reminded me of the sex scenes with Maria Bello in the Cronenberg movie. It’s such a touchy, controversial subject because we assume that women who enjoy violent sex have something inherently wrong with them, brought about, more than likely, by a patriarchal system. I don’t know about where these desires come from – and, I think, neither does Bunuel – but they’re there and they’re used as a form of control. So fascinating.

May 8th: I’m Not Scared

I tried to keep my expectations low on this one, but it was hard. The story of a little boy whose parents have kidnapped another child and put him in a well. Terrifying! And the concept continues to frighten me, but the film only had a couple frightening moments. Of course, it’s not supposed to be a horror movie, or even a thriller, really, more like just a tense drama. But after the initial scares, I was pumped up for horror, or at least…strangeness. And the movie doesn’t deliver that unconventionality. Everything just seemed very bland by the end.

May 9th: The Class

Scott makes me watch a lot of ghetto high school movies – which is fine, because he’s seen his fair share of comic book adaptations. Damn theses! – so I was all geared up for the same old same old with this new French release. But the public high school François Bégaudeau teaches at isn’t really ghetto at all, more like typical. And Bégaudeau, playing himself, brings a level of realism to the film that someone like, say, Morgan Freeman, doesn’t. Because this experience was so close to my high school experience, I felt a deep connection to the students. And then, as a teacher, I felt a connection (and sympathy) with Bégaudeau.

I like that the film doesn’t make any arguments on how to fix the education system, merely points out the problems and leaves them as problems. Because there aren’t any of those “savior” teachers in this school – just like more schools – and everyone has flaws. With thousands of brilliant minds trying to figure out what to do with education, this movie doesn’t claim to have all the answers.

3 Comments

Filed under Movie Marathons, Whitney

3 responses to “Foreign May: Day 7, 8, and 9

  1. Bunuel a chore? That’s so foreign to my experience of him. His films are so playful, so delightfully strange, always confrontationally funny in the way they upturn expectations and poke fun at the bourgeois. I think his films, though they certainly have serious themes and serious intentions, have to be approached with more of a whimsical, lighthearted openness to his dark humor, his satirical wit and even his penchant for broad mockery. I mean, films like *Discreet Charm* and *The Phantom of Liberty* are practically surrealist Monty Python-style sketch shows making fun of all the staid, conventional forces in society.

    Anyway, I do agree that *Belle du jour* is great, obviously. And like you, I love how opaque the motivations of the heroine are left. She’s a bit of a mystery, and that’s how it should be.

    • You’re right. But I guess I was thinking more along the lines of Nazarin, Viridiana, and even Los Olvidados. Even though I acknowledge that all three are excellent films, they take so much out of me. So depressing and thick.

  2. Heather C.

    Nine days in and so far I’ve only seen one of these films — The Class. I really liked the movie, as well. The film highlighted a lot of great social and political issues (says the social scientist). For instance, I liked how the film touched on the issue of ethnicity/immigration and the conflicts that can arise from that. That is a growing problem in France right now. It’s an issue I’ve been following and I was glad to see that covered in the film.

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