Monday, January 23, 2012

Another couple of movies out of the cupboard, seen before but well worth watching again. We seem to have accumulated quite a collection of DVDs since moving to Crete and of course brought out from England a few hundred video tapes embracing all manner of programmes from mainstream film, opera, ballets, to ‘Carry On’ movies to comedy shows, documentaries, odds and sods that interested us at the time. Some of these tapes have deteriorated which is a shame. I would have liked the other night to have watched again the Merchant/Ivory film ‘A Room With A View’ but this tape was one of those no longer viewable, the flickering and jumping of frames was jut too irritating. One of Douglas’s favourite films is ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ which he must have watched at least twenty times and knows off by heart.

I love Japanese period films, especially the work of Kurasawa, ‘Seven Samurai’ ‘Rashomon’ ‘Throne of Blood’ ‘The Hidden Fortress’ ‘Ran’ and a wonderful movie called ‘The Burmese Harp’ directed by an equally brilliant Kon Ichikawa, and I particularly like what I call small movies, ‘Tea With Mussolini,’ ‘Ladies In Lavender,’ ‘Maurice,’ ‘Death In Venice,’ ‘The Madness of King George,’ ‘The History Boys,’ the films of the Spanish director Pedro AlmodĪŒvar for example and the two we watched the other night fall into that category. Firstly that beautiful Italian film that won any amount of awards and quite rightly too – ‘Cinema Paradiso’ I can’t remember how many times we’ve watched it but this time it was the director’s cut which added three quarters of an hour to the film. I still loved every minute of it. Douglas said he could do without the extra three quarters of an hour thank you. Too many lingering shots.

The other one we watched again was ‘Total Eclipse’ with David Thewlis as Verlaine and a young Leonardo DiCaprio (well he had to be young playing a sixteen year old) as Arthur Rimbaud. Marvellous casting if one looks at photographs of Rimbaud and beautifully played by diCaprio. He really is a very fine film actor. The only performance of his I have seen and haven’t taken to was his Romeo but then I didn’t rate the film highly and not everyone can play Shakespeare.

The spiel on one of the many posters for ‘Total Eclipse’ reads –

‘Touched by Genius

Cursed by madness

Blinded by love.’

DiCaprio certainly doesn’t shy away from controversy. In an earlier film ‘The Basketball Diaries’ he plays a young junkie who in order to get money for his habit allows himself to be fellated in public toilets. Now he has just played J. Edgar Hoover, reputed drag artist and homosexual.

Rimbaud had a four year old affair with his mentor, the poet Verlaine who was married and a father, and in ‘Total Eclipse’ the physical aspect is not shirked hence, I suppose, the ‘Blinded by love,’ for who knows where love will take one?

Rimbaud, who evidently changed the face of French poetry at that young age – ‘Touched by genius,’ was it seemed a total iconoclast with little respect for anybody and anything – ‘Cursed by madness.’

Verlaine, whilst they were in Belgium, bought a revolver and shot Rimbaud in the hand. He was arrested and then accused of unnatural practices, something not to be encouraged in Belgium. Having been examined by doctors none too gently the verdict was that he had committed ‘acts of sodomy both active and passive’ and sentenced to two years in prison. Now I might not be up on medical procedures, I can understand how passive intercourse can be ascertained, but how on earth can active be proved?

Anyway, having served his prison sentence Verlaine and Rimbaud met one last time, Verlaine wanting to resume their relationship but Rimbaud having none of it. He gave up writing at an early age and the rest of his life was travel and adventure until he died of cancer at the age of 37.

The film’s screenplay is by Christopher Hampton and is based on his stage play. It is a gem.

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