For Reel

Breaking the Waves (1996)
November 14, 2015, 9:03 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Lars von Trier
4 Stars
Breaking the WavesTwo points of reference that Emily Watson had in interpreting the character of Breaking the Waves‘s Bess McNeill were Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc and Giulietta Masina in La Strada. Fittingly, she plays the modern saint with an appropriate mix of Falconetti’s reserve and piousness and Masina’s childishness. In her two-way conversations with God, Bess prays with high-pitched, pleading tones, and in his responses she takes on a patriarchal inflection. As with Masina, Bess seems too good and innocent for this world, ultimately succumbing to the corruption of modernity and the increasingly blurred line that separates love and cruelty. While Lars von Trier’s films sometimes play as existential jokes that revel too heartily in the outrageous and masochistic, Breaking the Waves is challenged by its converse relationships between faith and logic, as well as the aforementioned relationship between all-consuming love and self-flagellation. It’s an ugly film, but it feels all too appropriate as a modern portrayal of saintliness.

Three Lives and Only One Death (1996)
February 27, 2012, 5:05 am
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Director: Raúl Ruiz

Featuring the penultimate performance of Marcello Mastroianni (that is, the penultimate four performances), Three Lives and Only One Death is discussed as the most accessible effort of Chilean master Raúl Ruiz, though that is not to say that it is in any way orthodox. It is, in fact, a thoroughly imaginative compendium, familiar of Ruiz for its rich, complex narrative, as well as its metamorphose sense of identity. Mastroianni plays a different man in four seemingly disparate stories, however characters cross-over from segment to segment and, in the end, the omniscient narrator suggests that each personality exists within the same being. So many anthology films are a waste of the technique – Jim Jarmusch’s best and most consistent efforts, for example, lack a convincing, reasoned suggestion of the thematic purpose behind the structure. For Ruiz, he playfully uses the form to not only suggest the inevitable role-playing that occurs within contemporary society, but he whimsically conceives a narrative that folds in on itself, making the audience consider the potential for elasticity within character. In Ruiz, nothing is rigid. The first of these segments – in which Mastroianni invites a companion to an apartment that he claims to be infested with fairies who spatially morph the environment and quicken time – is a masterful, drolly humorous episode, concluding with a bizarrely delayed death following a murder.