implicit in the gag is his critique of the bourgeoisie, not simply as a class of people but as a particular type of human being susceptible to such an irrational fear. I just don't find the (alright, dramatic conceit) interesting after a half hour
Does Bunuel even get to the "dramatic conceit" during the first half-hour?
Yes, irrational fear has much to do with it as well. But you can't confine that criticism to the bourgeoisie. Bunuel makes a point of showing us what happens outside the mansion -- where people of all classes are just as paralyzed and unable to go in as those trapped within are unable to come out.
The situation is surreal. The narration of that situation is icily logical. And the types of human beings exhibited inside that room cut across a range so broad that it's pointless trying to understand them solely as members of a class.
Bunuel's human penetration often seems out of place alongside his "political" comments. I tend to value the former over the latter. The satirist who made L'Age d'Or makes me laugh, but he's nowhere near as interesting as the artist who made The Exterminating Angel.
Just finished watching the Pearls of the Czech New Wave eclipse set, while simultaneously working my way through Peter Hames' book The Czechoslovak New Wave. Each film in the set was a masterpiece, one of my favorite eclipse sets so far. I'm also immensely enjoying learning about this film movement and am eagerly looking forwards to all the Czech New Wave films on Criterion's mainline and released by Second Run DVD.
The DVD is part of Criterion's Eclipse series, "Postwar Kurosawa," and features Toshiro Mifune, Yoshiko Yamaguchi, and Takashi Shimura in a story about irresponsible journalism and redemption. Shimura is the real star of the film as a crooked attorney, a role somewhat similar to Kurosawa's Ikiru, released two years later. In fact, this film seems almost a warm up for Ikiru which is a more moving film and a more scathing criticism of hypocrisy and apathy in Japanese society.
I haven't seen "Bad Sleep Well" for a long time but I guess it does fit in with Kurosawa's social critique films. According to Wikipedia we are still in the postwar period and WW2 will probably remain as an historical dividing line until something even more cataclysmic or (hopefully) some major shift in human consciousness occurs. In film, according to this site, the postwar period lasts until 1959.
Geez. Nerves just reminded me of how long it's been since the last entry. And, admittedly, I've watched several CC titles since Sandy struck. Time to catch up.
As I was born the year this film was released it's difficult for me to appreciate how revolutionary it was for its time, that is if film historian Gene Youngblood, who provides the commentary track, can be trusted. I first was this film circa 1980 while enrolled in a class called History of European Film at UCLA. My recollection is that I didn't really enjoy it nor follow it very well. I didn't get much out of it when I watched it on DVD a couple days ago but upon re-watching with Youngblood's commentary I began to appreciate what Antonioni was trying to do and understand what the film is all about. Then I watched it again without the commentary. I can't say I really love this film. It's a bit of a chore. Antonioni tried to approach cinema as an art rather than entertainment. He tried to convey the feelings and psychological states of his characters without the use of "furniture music" as he called it. L'Avventura is the first film of a trilogy by Antonioni, followed by La Notte (1961) and Eclipse (1962). According to Youngblood the latter films are even more austere than the former.
I don't understand the fascination with Antonioni, though I respect and admire his cinematography. Perhaps I need to re-watch this one with Youngblood's commentary. I was just speaking with a friend about his ouevre and he concurred with me that many of Antonioni's themes don't seem to require an entire film to address and resolve. In other words, the problems with which many of his characters are faced don't seem to warrant a two hour examination. Maybe we're just player-hating but I, personally, find it hard to empathize with many of his characters who seem to be caught in a malaise of sorts from which thay are frankly unwilling to extricate themselves.
Saw Bunuel's Exterminating Angel on the shelf and decided to give it another go - Sevorin's admiration persuaded me to revisit it. Never did understand why Bunuel chose the title - perhaps it'll become apparent with another viewing.
This film is a silver bullet aimed straight to the heart of the petty bourgeois. The servants clear out before or as the guests arrive for the soiree, sensing some foul presence descending upon them. Even the working classes (cops, merchants and the like) who are unable to pass the threshold of the mansion feel an aversion to the gathering. Bunuel deliberately isolates these people so that we may examine their everyday behavior intimately.