Tuesday, 27 July 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 313

385 - Napoleon - 1 star
The closer I get to the end, the more I start to realise that I might have mad an error in my strategy. So keen was I to get through the majority of the list that I would spend some days watching 4 or 5 90 minute long films. So while I now have only one film to watch each day, the films that I do have to watch are 3 hours + long, like Napoleon.
Nearly four hours long and not even subtitled but a silent film with title cards to narrate the action.
I would have to give major props to anyone who actually managed to sit through the whole of this back in 1927, even with an intermission, because this film feels as long as every single one of its 224 minutes.
With only title cards to use to keep track of who is who and what exactly is going on, when the film covers such a huge amount of time and features such a range of characters who come and go, I found myself getting a little lost.
It didn't help that I found this history lesson to be incredibly boring. I couldn't believe that even at 4 hours, it didn't even cover his whole life, only getting up to victory in Italy, with Abel Gance wanting to show Napoleon in a positive light.
The only stirring sequences was the first public singing of the Marseilles (Why is it that France, and the USA, have such great national anthems but the UK has the rather boring God Save The Queen?) and the triptych final battle sequence that used three cameras to capture the action and screened side by side, an impressive technique for such an old film.

44 - Schindler's List - 4 stars
Shock. That was my initial feelings watching this for the first time today. Shock, because other than Munich, I've never seen Spielberg produce such an adult, grown up, dare I say it "proper film", as opposed to the excellent "popcorn" family friendly fare that he usually makes (E.T., Indiana Jones, etc).
The brutality of the first raid on the Jewish ghetto in Krakow is when it really hit home how had matured as a filmmaker. Women and children are shot at point blank range and with no mercy by the Nazis. Spielberg proves that he will not shy away from the harsh reality of the Holocaust.
On one side of the struggle is Liam Neeson's Oskar Schindler, a war profiteer who becomes a saviour to the Jewish workers in his factory at great personal cost to himself, and on the other side is the man he has to befriend in order to get them into his employment - Amon Goeth.
Ralph Fiennes has recently been forging a career for playing camp villains like Voldemort or Hades in Clash Of The Titans, but Goeth is pure evil. There are several examples of his loathing for the Jews, whether it be picking them off at random with a sniper rifle or listening to a Jewish architect's advice while building the camp before shooting her because he didn't like to be talked back to.
Fiennes is compelling but I found Neeson's performance to be to slightly too withdrawn and so his final breakdown at not being able to help more comes slightly too late. True he had been helping them but more for himself to begin with.
The most powerful moment in the film is where a train full of women heading to work at Schindler's factory end up at Auschwitz instead. After being stripped and shaved, they are herded into the shower room. The screams of fear are unbearable as they wait for the inevitable, but the screams turn to tears of joy when the taps are turned on and it is just water spraying down on them. An incredibly moving scene but yet again not enough to make me cry.
I truly must be dead inside that even the Holocaust isn't enough to bring tears to my eyes.

Days remaining - 52 Films remaining - 52

No comments:

Post a Comment