It's Oscars time. Somebody wake the Grouch.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bergman's Checkmate

As those of you who share my deep, manaical love for the cinema already know, Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman died last week. Even though Antonioni was my favourite of the two, my first thought was of Bergman's Seventh Seal and the knight's chess game with Death.

The film centres around a knight returning from the Crusades who is confronted by Death. Death offers him the chance to save himself by winning a game of chess against Death. This answers the twin questions of why Bobby Fischer has survived for so long, despite being a loon, and also why chess matches take so blooming long.

One imagines Bergman, who lived a long and productive life, sitting at a chess table, deftly manoeuvring his king about the board. He engages in a measured retreat, sacrificing a few pawns along the way. Suddenly, sometime this week, he utters the Swedish word for "Oops!"

Antonioni on the other hand would spend the entire match commenting on how interesting the chess board is. "Is that a maple or oak?" "The veneer of the wood is highly reflective." At other times he'd merely stare at the corners of the board and wonder how they affected the chess pieces, if at all. Finally, he got around to the game, which probably lasted a dozen moves.

Both filmmakers practiced what some would refer to as "depressing European cinema." However, they were truly different kinds of filmmakers. Bergman was literate-minded and had films packed with intense, often self-lacerating dialogue, the exception being the occasional The Silence or The Virgin Spring. On the other hand Antonioni's films frequently contained lengthy silences of the kind that normally occur when someone tells a risque joke at formal religious function. They were intensely visual, cinematic experiences that asked the viewer to participate in the drama, even if the viewer wasn't particularly keen on the idea.

I suppose, if one wanted to narrow them down, you could say that Bergman would make a film about some one who had enormous doubts and anxieties, and spent a good deal of time talking with people about them, sort of a serious Woody Allen without the wanking jokes and occasional narcissism.*

Antonioni woud make the same film, only instead of talking things to death, the characters would stand around staring at each other, waiting to see if the others would seduce them or tire of the whole enterprise and disappear. Maybe they'd be on camera half the time.

Quite amazing that they left this world within hours of each other.

**********

*Yes, I know that Woody Allen actually imitated Bergman, rather than vice versa. It's still a useful comparison.

Blimey, this turned out more serious than I intended.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Naming Bourne Films

Well, I had a bit of a set back with pain management during the weekend, as the arm pain that has limited my blogging is still a factor. It wouldn't be so bad if certain other bloggers, who shall remain nameless in this post (but are prominently displayed in the sidebar) would carry their part of the load. If we ever sell that "Best of DOUI" book, I think my share will need to be at least 50% at this point.

Anyway, the missus and I saw The Bourne Ultimatum last night. I don't wan't to spoil the plot, but I think I can safely pass along that Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) killed several dozen people. Also, he had at least two telephone conversations with people who were hunting him where at the end he revealed he was dialing them up from under their chair or, in one case, from within their lunchbox.

The film made spectacular use of shaky, dizzying handheld camerawork - and by spectacular, I mean the vomiting in the cinema. I can't stand the style myself, even in the hands of a talented filmmaker like Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass. It's all a bit like watching a film that was shot in a giant cuisinart. Every so often, Damon, or the charming Julia Stiles, fly by like the props in Twister.

Ultimatum is the third of the Bourne films, based on the novels of the late Robert Ludlum, but I can't see the series stopping there, even though Ludlum only wrote three of the things and has been dead for seven years. There have been two other sequels, The Bourne Legacy, and The Bourne Betrayal, written by someone named Eric Van Lustbader, which can't possibly be a real name.

Even so, I could see this series going on for quite some time, and they're going to need more titles, especially ones that fit Jason Bourne's coming crises of life. I'm keen to help, despite the cinematography-induced nausea, so here are a few suggestions:

  • The Bourne Repitition
  • The Bourne Full-Collision Motorcar Insurance
  • The Bourne Ice-Cream Brain Freeze
  • The Bourne Elliptical - Three Times A Week at Gold's Gym (Bangkok)
  • The Bourne Hernia
  • The Bourne Psoraisis
  • The Bourne Martini (think of the marketing crossover possibilities)
  • The Bourne Gallstone
  • The Bourne Ham on Rye
  • The Bourne AARP Discount
  • The Bourne 401K Cash-In
  • The Bourne Hip Replacement
  • The Bourne Hair Transplants

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