January 25, 2008

Death and Despair in the Netflix Queue


We hate to admit it, but it's sort of been stagnant city on the Cinecultist Netflix queue lately. Do you ever do this? Put a movie you know you should see in the queue, move it down the list as long as you can, and then once it comes in the mail, leave it to sit, unwatched, for weeks on end? That was CC with The Seventh Seal and Cranes Are Flying which have been at our house for nearly three months. But in a fit of mid-winter cleaning, we watched both of them this week. It was a real triumph over laziness.

The two films don't really have much in common, in terms of country of origin or story line, but Cinecultist was struck by their use of stunning black and white photography. Even without color, there's so much richness in each image. Check out that still above from Cranes, as our tortured Veronica contemplates throwing herself Anna Karenina style in front of a rushing train because she's betrayed her soldier lover Boris. It's a really evocative and intense moment. You can practically feel yourself rushing headlong down the snowy street with Veronica, the camera work is that good.

Both discs are out on Criterion Collection so you know the transfer looks great too. 1957 was obviously a good year for international cinema. Although if CC had to choose a painful ye olde era we had to live through, the plague in Sweden seems to have been much worse than World War II Russia. Whenever you see production stills from The Seventh Seal, it's always of that iconic tableau of Max Von Sydow playing chess with Death. But we found the images of self-flagellators parading their desiccated bodies past the fearful kneeling villagers equally as memorable. To live in a world without the security of logical science explaining most things would be really scary.

Also, on a less serious note we'd like to mention that young Max Von Sydow was h-o-t-t, in a freakishly tall, Nordic sort of way. We used to just know him from his middle-aged The Exorcist or Hannah and her Sisters days, when he'd already become a kind of parody of the pretentious Swede. But as an intense young man struggling with issues of love and faith, he's just great. We've already added a bunch more of his films made with Ingmar Bergman in the '60s to the queue. Hopefully, we'll still be inspired to watch them when they move to the top of the Netflix list.

Posted by karen at January 25, 2008 10:24 AM
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