Weekly Film Recap #11 (European Art Films)

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What is European Art Cinema? Is it a genre? Is it a style? Well, this week we took a look at some important films associated with the movement, as we try to answer that question for you!

Since the beginning of the history of cinema, European filmmakers have always approached the art a little differently than the Americans. While we seem to view film as entertainment, the Europeans have always seen it as one of the most powerful mediums in the art world. Since the early 1920’s, European filmmakers have approached film from a more literary standpoint than their American contemporaries.

Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Robert Bresson, are just a few of the European filmmakers we looked at this week, and they are also among the most influential directors of all time.

Now, if you’ve been following a long with us each week, starting with Roger Corman’s B Movies, you might be starting to see the trend in our weekly recaps. A lot of the filmmakers who got their start in what we’ll call the “Roger Corman School” gathered a great deal of influence from the French New Wave as well as from the European Art Film world. Next week, we’ll be diving into The Hollywood New Wave, which hosted a few Corman ‘graduates’. But until we get there, let’s take a look at some of the notable European films that have influenced those New Hollywood filmmakers who changed the status of Hollywood and cinema forever!

Summer with Monika     (dir. Ingmar Bergman)   Ingmar Bergman is one of the most revered European filmmakers of all time and one of his first hits was  Summer with Monika ! It’s a film about young lovers and indulges in all the reckless decisions and thoughts that revolve around the heads of a couple of love-strung teenagers.  The young couple, played by Lars Eckborg and Harriet Andersson (a Bergman favorite), are sick of all the talk in town that isn’t in support of their love. They escape away to the beach where they spend their days lost in time with each other until they run out of money, get pregnant, and are forced to return home and face reality once again.  This film actually had quite the significance for Sweden, besides it being a great film. It helped establish Sweden as a country that was sexually liberated very early on thanks to a pretty blatant nude scene in the film that would have been considered pretty out of pocket by standards at the time.  While Bergman was known more for his religious takes on films, we can’t deny the excitement in  Summer with Monika , especially since it holds so many of the qualities that attracted young aspiring filmmakers and aficionados around the world.    4/5     WATCH: iTunes

Summer with Monika

(dir. Ingmar Bergman)

Ingmar Bergman is one of the most revered European filmmakers of all time and one of his first hits was Summer with Monika! It’s a film about young lovers and indulges in all the reckless decisions and thoughts that revolve around the heads of a couple of love-strung teenagers.

The young couple, played by Lars Eckborg and Harriet Andersson (a Bergman favorite), are sick of all the talk in town that isn’t in support of their love. They escape away to the beach where they spend their days lost in time with each other until they run out of money, get pregnant, and are forced to return home and face reality once again.

This film actually had quite the significance for Sweden, besides it being a great film. It helped establish Sweden as a country that was sexually liberated very early on thanks to a pretty blatant nude scene in the film that would have been considered pretty out of pocket by standards at the time.

While Bergman was known more for his religious takes on films, we can’t deny the excitement in Summer with Monika, especially since it holds so many of the qualities that attracted young aspiring filmmakers and aficionados around the world.

4/5

WATCH: iTunes

La Strada     (dir. Federico Fellini)   Fellini is one of those rare people in history who hold a certain mythological stature in history. A head figure of the Italian Neo-Realism movement, he’s considered a favorite filmmaker by many other filmmakers such has David Lynch and Martin Scorsese to name a few.   La Strada  was among Fellini’s first few films and is widely regarded as one of his best works. It follows Gelsomina, a young girl who pretty much gets sold away by her mother to a strongman named Zampano who takes her around the country doing circus acts.  Fellini fully indulges in the surreal worlds and characters he’s made commonplace in his films with  La Strada  and it also acts as a portrait of Italy in the post-war era, which is one of the defining attributes of the Italian Neo-realism movement. Fellini’s masterful work at creating unique characters brings us into a world that we feel we’d normally get to experience, but we’re met with emotions and feelings that we’re all too familiar with.    4/5     WATCH: YouTube, iTunes

La Strada

(dir. Federico Fellini)

Fellini is one of those rare people in history who hold a certain mythological stature in history. A head figure of the Italian Neo-Realism movement, he’s considered a favorite filmmaker by many other filmmakers such has David Lynch and Martin Scorsese to name a few.

La Strada was among Fellini’s first few films and is widely regarded as one of his best works. It follows Gelsomina, a young girl who pretty much gets sold away by her mother to a strongman named Zampano who takes her around the country doing circus acts.

Fellini fully indulges in the surreal worlds and characters he’s made commonplace in his films with La Strada and it also acts as a portrait of Italy in the post-war era, which is one of the defining attributes of the Italian Neo-realism movement. Fellini’s masterful work at creating unique characters brings us into a world that we feel we’d normally get to experience, but we’re met with emotions and feelings that we’re all too familiar with.

4/5

WATCH: YouTube, iTunes

Vampyr     (dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer)   Carl Theodor Dreyer is often seen as one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live. His use of the camera is so beyond it’s years, it’s hard to imagine that certain moments of  Vampyr  were filmed in 1932.   Vampyr  follows a young wanderer who stumbles upon a village inn. Once inside, he starts seeing dancing shadows, hearing strange noises, and more. He comes to find out that the village is under the ‘Curse of the Vampyr.’  Dreyer’s film was actually released to pretty poor reviews, but now looking back,  Vampyr  is a breeding ground for inspiration that pretty much every horror director has taken from. The use of shadows and disorienting camera work are now pretty much staples of the horror genre, but Dreyer’s use is still the most exciting to see.  There are so many great moments where Dreyer has choreographed these shadows along the walls to work off the actors in front of the camera. Even the movement of the camera is flawless. It’s constant movement are now classic staples for guys like Scorsese and De Palma, and Dreyer uses it beautifully to unravel the layers of this cursed inn.    5/5     WATCH: YouTube

Vampyr

(dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer)

Carl Theodor Dreyer is often seen as one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live. His use of the camera is so beyond it’s years, it’s hard to imagine that certain moments of Vampyr were filmed in 1932.

Vampyr follows a young wanderer who stumbles upon a village inn. Once inside, he starts seeing dancing shadows, hearing strange noises, and more. He comes to find out that the village is under the ‘Curse of the Vampyr.’

Dreyer’s film was actually released to pretty poor reviews, but now looking back, Vampyr is a breeding ground for inspiration that pretty much every horror director has taken from. The use of shadows and disorienting camera work are now pretty much staples of the horror genre, but Dreyer’s use is still the most exciting to see.

There are so many great moments where Dreyer has choreographed these shadows along the walls to work off the actors in front of the camera. Even the movement of the camera is flawless. It’s constant movement are now classic staples for guys like Scorsese and De Palma, and Dreyer uses it beautifully to unravel the layers of this cursed inn.

5/5

WATCH: YouTube

Pickpocket     (dir. Robert Bresson)   Legendary screenwriter and director, Paul Schrader defined a style in filmmaking he termed “Transcendental.” Among three directors he associates with the style are Carl Theodor Dreyer and French filmmaker, Robert Bresson. Bresson’s  Pickpocket  is possibly his most acclaimed film and it establishes a beautiful sense of visual literacy that directors constantly find themselves going back to for inspiration.   Pickpocket  tells the story of a young man who begins pickpocketing the people of France in order to make enough money to put him in a better situation. His intentions are genuine, I suppose, but you still get a sense that the young man, Michel, gets a real thrill out of pickpocketing.  Roger Ebert reviewed this film and made a great point when he said that the whole act of pickpocketing, specifically the way Bresson photographed it, is very sensual. It’s intruding and it’s like a dance, the way these guys steal the possessions of unsuspecting bystanders.  Schrader’s Transcendental style works by the director using ‘boredom as a technique.’ They create dead time with still shots that hold forever and through it, condition the viewer’s expectations. In  Pickpocket , Bresson uses the fast paced cutting during the pickpocketing scenes to create that rhythmic dance that attracts the viewer to this illegal act. He then contrasts it with dead still shots in silence before finally coming in and blasting Mozart at the end of the film. This sudden introduction of music floods you with emotion and allows you to see the emotion you have for the most normal, every day events. Bresson allows viewers a way to learn how to love the little moments of life.    5/5     WATCH: iTunes

Pickpocket

(dir. Robert Bresson)

Legendary screenwriter and director, Paul Schrader defined a style in filmmaking he termed “Transcendental.” Among three directors he associates with the style are Carl Theodor Dreyer and French filmmaker, Robert Bresson. Bresson’s Pickpocket is possibly his most acclaimed film and it establishes a beautiful sense of visual literacy that directors constantly find themselves going back to for inspiration.

Pickpocket tells the story of a young man who begins pickpocketing the people of France in order to make enough money to put him in a better situation. His intentions are genuine, I suppose, but you still get a sense that the young man, Michel, gets a real thrill out of pickpocketing.

Roger Ebert reviewed this film and made a great point when he said that the whole act of pickpocketing, specifically the way Bresson photographed it, is very sensual. It’s intruding and it’s like a dance, the way these guys steal the possessions of unsuspecting bystanders.

Schrader’s Transcendental style works by the director using ‘boredom as a technique.’ They create dead time with still shots that hold forever and through it, condition the viewer’s expectations. In Pickpocket, Bresson uses the fast paced cutting during the pickpocketing scenes to create that rhythmic dance that attracts the viewer to this illegal act. He then contrasts it with dead still shots in silence before finally coming in and blasting Mozart at the end of the film. This sudden introduction of music floods you with emotion and allows you to see the emotion you have for the most normal, every day events. Bresson allows viewers a way to learn how to love the little moments of life.

5/5

WATCH: iTunes

Ivan’s Childhood     (dir. Andrei Tarkovsky)   Ingmar Bergman has cited Tarkovsky as his favorite film director ever. He was actually quoted saying: “Tarkovsky, for me, is the greatest director ever, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.” Wow, now if that’s not a co-sign, I don’t know what is! It’s a little extra meaningful too, because Tarkovsky’s debut film  Ivan’s Childhood  came out almost 20 years after Bergman started making films!   Ivan’s Childhood  is a film about a 12 year old boy whose Russian village has been over run by the Nazis. Ivan escapes from a German military camp to avenge the death of his family.  If you’ve seen any of Tarkovsky’s films, you know that they can be particularly dense. But, with  Ivan’s,  it actually works with a fairly brisk pace that’s a complete 180 from other films of his like  Stalker .   Ivan’s Childhood  displays Tarkovsky’s flawless eye for angles at the earliest point of his career. His movement of the camera is untouched, and Bergman was not lying when he said that Tarkovsky invented a new language. I say it again and again, but the camera is like a brush to a painter and Tarkovsky is one of the undisputed artists behind the lens.    4.5/5     WATCH: iTunes

Ivan’s Childhood

(dir. Andrei Tarkovsky)

Ingmar Bergman has cited Tarkovsky as his favorite film director ever. He was actually quoted saying: “Tarkovsky, for me, is the greatest director ever, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.” Wow, now if that’s not a co-sign, I don’t know what is! It’s a little extra meaningful too, because Tarkovsky’s debut film Ivan’s Childhood came out almost 20 years after Bergman started making films!

Ivan’s Childhood is a film about a 12 year old boy whose Russian village has been over run by the Nazis. Ivan escapes from a German military camp to avenge the death of his family.

If you’ve seen any of Tarkovsky’s films, you know that they can be particularly dense. But, with Ivan’s, it actually works with a fairly brisk pace that’s a complete 180 from other films of his like Stalker.

Ivan’s Childhood displays Tarkovsky’s flawless eye for angles at the earliest point of his career. His movement of the camera is untouched, and Bergman was not lying when he said that Tarkovsky invented a new language. I say it again and again, but the camera is like a brush to a painter and Tarkovsky is one of the undisputed artists behind the lens.

4.5/5

WATCH: iTunes

Blow-Up     (dir. Michelangelo Antonioni)   Antonioni’s  Blow-Up  is an insanely influential film, so much so that guys like Coppola and De Palma have both made their own version of the film:  The Conversation  and  Blow-Out,  respectively.  The basic premise of the film is that a fashion photographer named Thomas, takes a photo of a couple in a park. The woman in the photo seems very secretive about her photo being taken and Thomas later discovers a man in the corner of the photo, hiding in the bushes with a gun…  However, this film goes far from where you might expect it to go. There isn’t some deep conspiracy or plot against the couple’s life. In fact, I don’t think we really know if what Thomas sees, is even there. My issue might be that, I watched both De Palma and Coppola’s versions before seeing  Blow-Up  and what those two offer (especially  Blow-Out ), is a far more exciting journey that takes the basic concept Antonioni laid out and turn it into a full blown thriller. Seeing those films first altered my expectations going into  Blow-Up  and actually left me feeling genuinely upset.  Antonioni had a more methodical approach to the selling point of the film. He treats it as just another moment in Thomas’ life. It happens, he explores it, but he goes on with his life and spends most of his time doing other things than looking into this blown up photo.   Blow-Up  is intended to be an exercise in how peoples experiences or values only have meaning within particular contexts. His film goes missing before anyone can confirm what he saw. Even the dead body disappears before any other witnesses can see it…  This is a real slow burn film, that to me, just felt like an excruciatingly long First Act that never climaxed into anything. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it, but I have a feeling that now that I understand the context of it better, I’ll enjoy it a lot more the next time around! But, until then…    2.5/5     WATCH: iTunes

Blow-Up

(dir. Michelangelo Antonioni)

Antonioni’s Blow-Up is an insanely influential film, so much so that guys like Coppola and De Palma have both made their own version of the film: The Conversation and Blow-Out, respectively.

The basic premise of the film is that a fashion photographer named Thomas, takes a photo of a couple in a park. The woman in the photo seems very secretive about her photo being taken and Thomas later discovers a man in the corner of the photo, hiding in the bushes with a gun…

However, this film goes far from where you might expect it to go. There isn’t some deep conspiracy or plot against the couple’s life. In fact, I don’t think we really know if what Thomas sees, is even there. My issue might be that, I watched both De Palma and Coppola’s versions before seeing Blow-Up and what those two offer (especially Blow-Out), is a far more exciting journey that takes the basic concept Antonioni laid out and turn it into a full blown thriller. Seeing those films first altered my expectations going into Blow-Up and actually left me feeling genuinely upset.

Antonioni had a more methodical approach to the selling point of the film. He treats it as just another moment in Thomas’ life. It happens, he explores it, but he goes on with his life and spends most of his time doing other things than looking into this blown up photo.

Blow-Up is intended to be an exercise in how peoples experiences or values only have meaning within particular contexts. His film goes missing before anyone can confirm what he saw. Even the dead body disappears before any other witnesses can see it…

This is a real slow burn film, that to me, just felt like an excruciatingly long First Act that never climaxed into anything. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it, but I have a feeling that now that I understand the context of it better, I’ll enjoy it a lot more the next time around! But, until then…

2.5/5

WATCH: iTunes

The Plea     (dir. Tengiz Abuladze)   This film was my first introduction into a Georgian film and I’m really grasping at air to come up with a synopsis for this one. Perhaps one of the most “artsy” of these European Art Films,  The Plea  finds itself with various characters in the face of evil as they contemplate how to approach it… Evade or Attack it?  One thing I can appreciate about this film, and this tends to be the case in a lot of art films, is that while the plot seems to be foggy or non-existent, there’s still a noticeable mood and feeling you get by watching it. Now, I don't know exactly what it is that I feel, I just know that I feel it.  Darkness is a major motif in the film and the contrasts from the black to the white are stunning as faces and body parts look to be as if they’re just floating within the darkness that consumes this film.  Dengiz Abuladze is considered a legend in the world of Soviet filmmakers and this film displays his artistic touch behind the camera. He executes picturesque framing and blocking to perfectly ensemble these characters within the frame as we journey with them as they face and attempt to fight evil.    4/5     WATCH: YouTube

The Plea

(dir. Tengiz Abuladze)

This film was my first introduction into a Georgian film and I’m really grasping at air to come up with a synopsis for this one. Perhaps one of the most “artsy” of these European Art Films, The Plea finds itself with various characters in the face of evil as they contemplate how to approach it… Evade or Attack it?

One thing I can appreciate about this film, and this tends to be the case in a lot of art films, is that while the plot seems to be foggy or non-existent, there’s still a noticeable mood and feeling you get by watching it. Now, I don't know exactly what it is that I feel, I just know that I feel it.

Darkness is a major motif in the film and the contrasts from the black to the white are stunning as faces and body parts look to be as if they’re just floating within the darkness that consumes this film.

Dengiz Abuladze is considered a legend in the world of Soviet filmmakers and this film displays his artistic touch behind the camera. He executes picturesque framing and blocking to perfectly ensemble these characters within the frame as we journey with them as they face and attempt to fight evil.

4/5

WATCH: YouTube