Daily Archives: July 4, 2019

Die Marquise von O… (1976 review)

This review appeared in the December 1976 issue of Monthly Film Bulletin. For whatever it’s worth, my favorite among Rohmer’s features remains, alas, his most unjustly neglected — Perceval le Gallois (1978), the feature he made immediately after Die Marquise von O… –J.R.

Marquise von O…, Die

West Germany/France, 1976
Director: Eric Rohmer

Probably the most faithful of all the disciples of André Bazin, Eric Rohmer has shared his mentor’s philosophical fascination with “ambiguity” in his criticism and films alike. A position derived from Catholic existentialism which adheres to a “realist” aesthetic whose prime model is the naturalistic novel as exemplified by Dos Passos, Hemingway and Hammett, this orientation is clearly at the root of his version of Kleist’s masterpiece, which subtly betrays the awesome energies of the original while maintaining an overall fidelity to its plot and characters that is rare in contemporary cinema. Widely and justifiably praised for its immaculate direction, acting, and visual sophistication, it can none the less be regarded as a Jamesian re-write of the novellas that dims the passion of the latter with a form of delicate detachment quite in keeping with the tenor of Rohmer’s Contes Moraux. A minor omission like the very Kleistian blood “gushing” from the mouth of a would-be rapist whom the Count “smashes” in the face with the hilt of his sword — a detail which the film tastefully keeps off-screen -– reveals this strategy on a rather trivial level; and the splitting in half of the Count’s childhood anecdote about the swan of which he is reminded by the Marquise -– so that its conclusion now comes at the end of the plot -– can easily be defended as a sensible dramatic expedient.… Read more »

Declarations of Independents: History Lessons

From The Soho News (February 25, 1981). One can trace some updates on my thoughts about Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One over 17 years later and Killer of Sheep over 26 years later by following the links provided here. — J.R.

Feb. 16: A double feature of two class-conscious films directed by Carol Reed , The Stars Look Down (1939) and Kipps (1940), at Theater 80 — my first look at either movie. Trying to arrive at a plausible reverse-angle for the first movie — that is, a precise sense of its audience and context in early 1940, when Graham Greene wrote for The Spectator, “Dr. Cronin’s mining novel has made a very good film — I doubt whether in England we have ever produced a better” — I find myself hopelessly hamstrung, stuck in a narrow sort of timewarp called the present.

The problem is, I can only come up with a romantic, movie version of an English movie audience three years before I was born, a Thomas Pynchon fantasy à la Gravity’s Rainbow (whose sexy, existential London is itself very much a pungent blend of remembered movies from that period). Admittedly, Greene’s oddly familial use of first person plural tells me a little something, too.… Read more »