Tuesday 31 July 2018

Self-delusions: Persona and 3 Women

Perhaps part of why I love Persona so much is because I have always been interested in the idea of self-delusion. Ingmar Bergman’s film has many layers, and multiple meanings—the core of it is the concept of persona, the mask, the social role; persona vs the true self; individuality; the changing of masks and merging of identities, but the film is also about falseness, lies, and truth; about self-delusions and self-deceptions. Elisabet (Liv Ullmann) rejects acting; she discards the masks she has to wear as an actress, as well as the masks in life—her personae, as a wife and as a mother, by putting on another mask—the refuge of silence.  She cannot escape. But Alma (Bibi Andersson) too has her persona and self-delusions. She convinces herself that she is happy and has what she wants, only for the falseness to be stripped away in her chattering to the patient, revealing her uncertainties and unhappiness. 

Shelley Duvall in 3 Women.

Persona inspired 3 Women, a film that I like a lot more than the overrated Mulholland Drive. Like Persona, the film feels like a dream, and has a swap of identities—the 2 main characters are Mildred “Millie” Lammoreaux (Shelley Duvall) and Mildred “Pinky” Rose (Sissy Spacek). Robert Altman too tackles the subject of self-delusions, but goes further—Millie creates a persona for herself out of what she has read in women’s magazines, and perceives herself to be attractive, fashionable, and popular. She is the most deluded female character I’ve ever seen in cinema—she is always seen preparing for dates that never happen, and she never notices that others are uninterested or even laughing at her. Millie’s awkward failures make us cringe and then pity her, but should we feel bad for Millie when she herself does not realise it? 
The ironic part is that when Pinky “steals” Millie’s identity and the 2 characters switch positions, so to speak, she becomes the person that Millie sees herself as. She becomes a better Millie than the real Millie.

Monday 30 July 2018

My new 10 (+1) favourite films; 30/7/2018

Persona by Ingmar Bergman 
Citizen Kane by Orson Welles 
Nights of Cabiria by Federico Fellini 
Yojimbo & Sanjuro by Akira Kurosawa 
Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie by Luis Buñuel
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring by Kim Ki-duk 
Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese
The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola
Casablanca by Michael Curtis 


Once in a while I make a new list of favourites to see what has changed and to keep notes over time. 
Now there have been only a few changes since last year:
Ran is replaced with Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Choosing a favourite Kurosawa is difficult. I love Ran. I love The Bad Sleep Well. I love High and Low. The Bad Sleep Well is a perfect film, and a great example to learn from about the geometry of the scene—about staging and creating a shape in the frame. But finally I chose Yojimbo and Sanjuro (for how do you separate them?) for their dynamic quality and humour, and Toshiro Mifune’s charismatic hero, over the tragic The Bad Sleep Well.  
Persona and Citizen Kane, I love to the point of obsession. They are masterpieces, and I keep coming back to them for inspiration. Citizen Kane has everything you need to learn about cinema, especially in terms of blocking, cinematography, and editing; whilst Persona in particular and European art films in the 1950s-60s in general have changed my view of the possibilities of cinema and had a huge influence on me, especially with the idea of film as dream.


On this date in 2007, Ingmar Bergman passed away. 
Today is also Emily Bronte's 200th birthday. 

Monday 23 July 2018

On finishing White-Jacket

I’ve finished reading White-Jacket. What can I say? 
White-Jacket has its delights. Take this line from chapter 23: 
“The Neversink had summered out her last Christmas on the Equator; she was now destined to winter out the Fourth of July not very far from the frigid latitudes of Cape Horn.” 
In my previous post about the book, I wrote about the heat. Melville also wrote about the cold: 
“Here we lay forty-eight hours, during which the cold was intense. I wondered at the liquid sea, which refused to freeze in such a temperature. The clear, cold sky overhead looked like a steel-blue cymbal, that might ring, could you smite it. Our breath came and went like puffs' of smoke from pipe-bowls. At first there was a long gauky swell, that obliged us to furl most of the sails, and even send down t'-gallant-yards, for fear of pitching them overboard.  
[…] He who possessed the largest stock of vitality, stood the best chance to escape freezing. It was horrifying. In such weather any man could have undergone amputation with great ease, and helped take up the arteries himself.”

Such striking descriptions. 
But overall, reading White-Jacket only makes me think of Moby Dick, and how much better Moby Dick is, which is never helpful. White-Jacket should be read as journalism, as an insight into the conditions and rules of American men-of-war, as well as Melville’s thoughts and fundamental values (democracy, liberty, equality, and human dignity). In that regard, it is an interesting read. 
As a novel, there is hardly a story, and the book is full of rage. There is some humour, and now and then there is some light, but anger permeates the book, and would make it dry and unbearable if not for Melville’s prose and imagery. 
A very good book, and Melville is great, but I don’t think this is a book I’d like to read again.

Saturday 14 July 2018

14/7/1918- 14/7/2018

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Ingmar Bergman's birth, the best film director of all time.