A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Tin Drum (Volker Schlöndorff, 1979)


I've never read Günter Grass's novel, in part because satiric grotesquerie isn't to my taste. (I'm one of the few people I know who hated A Confederacy of Dunces.)  But I gave the film version a second look (I watched it once while writing my Oscar book) because it came around on TCM and I thought maybe my indifference to it on the first viewing might have changed. It did, after all, win not only the Cannes Palme d'Or but also the foreign film Oscar. It's still true that 11-year-old David Bennent gives an astonishing performance as Oskar, who has consciously chosen to remain a 3-year-old for the rest of his life. I still find some of the scenes in which Oskar makes love to Maria (Katharina Thalbach) are queasy-making, with Bennent and 24-year-old Thalbach going through the required, if discreetly filmed, motions. And I still find the acting in the film overstated and the thematic coherence of the story wobbly. This time I was able to appreciate some of the comic sequences more fully, such as the one in which Oskar sabotages a Nazi rally by playing a waltz rhythm on his drum, confusing the brass band and making the participants dance with one another. But as a fable about German history, which Grass's novel is said to be, the movie lacks focus.

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