Foreign May is more than halfway over! I’m actually a little sad about that. There are still a billion foreign films I want to watch, but when there are two of us trying to choose a movie, chances are we’re going to talk each other into watching Lethal Weapon 2 again instead of Revanche or something.
May 15th: Knife in the Water
I’m still reading about Polanski’s debut feature, but it’s been hard to find anything substantial in the more accessible reviews. Most people are writing about the DVD release, which means they get away with two sentence observations about the entire movie and a list of the features. I feel like I need to read some deeper analysis before I really comment on the movie because I may be missing something. It’s one of those movies that are so simple and uncontrived that I don’t trust my understanding. I loved the performances. I loved the slight build of tension when you put three people on a boat together with no where to escape. And I loved the suspicion that underlies every action and phrase. I was most impressed by the way Polanski increases the tension without the aid of eerie music or, even, behavior. The characters almost seem at ease with each other on the surface, but we feel their distrust in the silences between what they say. Each light of a match or play of a card feels sinister. And yet nothing very “sinister” ever happens. Sure, an affair isn’t ideal, but nothing nefarious ever takes place besides the potential betrayal of trust that no one has for each other in the first place.
To me, Knife in the Water seemed like a very accessible, straightforward film without any hidden Freudian undertones, and that’s where I’m getting hung up. There must be something more that I’m missing because this is Polanski and Polanski operates just under the surface. So I’ll get back to this one.
May 16th: Smiles of a Summer Night
Here’s another film that seems uncharacteristic of the director. But apparently, Bergman was going through some personal hard times and his producer told him that if this movie didn’t succeed financially he wouldn’t finance any more of the director’s films. As a result, Smiles of a Summer Night is far more accessible than any other Bergman I’ve seen, and while I love anything and everything this man has come up with, the humor of this movie was totally welcome.
The relationships are as complicated as a Shakespearian comedy and character development isn’t lost in all the twists and turns. Everyone is fairly likable and no one has deep-seated issues with God. The men are, of course, somewhat inefficient and impotent – not that they realize it – and the women must plot around male egos to get what they want. I have to go back to dog walking now, so just read Pauline Kael’s review for the Criterion disc.