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Blue Five Diabolique

2005-02-21 17:40:30.684478+00 by Dan Lyke 0 comments

Dang, I think I've seen more movies in the past week than I saw in the previous year. On Saturday evening we watched Blue[Wiki], trying to see if it was the director or the writers that made Heaven[Wiki] so compelling. Based on that we're pretty convinced that it was Tom Tykwer[Wiki]'s direction, and the flaws in Heaven[Wiki] were in the story.

I've been wanting to see The Five Obstructions[Wiki] for a while, and Bill was in the mood for a thriller, so yesterday evening Bill, Dave, Charlene and I gathered at Bill's house to see Diabolique[Wiki] and The Five Obstructions[Wiki]. It was a loooong night to watch those two relatively slow films back to back.

Diabolique[Wiki] was the original black and white 1955 film, not the universally reviled 1996 remake. The tagline is "The Great Suspense Film That Shocked the World... And Became A Classic.", but wht was shocking then is slow now. Only two real turns, largely unsympathetic characters, lots of shots that were held way too long. Nice to have seen for the history, and when people reference it in conversation I now know what they're talking about, but not one I'd say "go out and see".

Similarly, if you hang out with film geeks, The Five Obstructions[Wiki] is a must-see, but is a little too slow and loosely edited for general appeal. The well-known director Lars von Trier[Wiki] takes on one of his inspirations, director Jorgen Leth[Wiki]. Leth made a short film back in 1967 called The Perfect Human[Wiki], a modernist look at two humans, exploring what he could do with the medium and how he could work with his actors. One of those films that makes you say "huh?".

von Trier asks Leth to remake the film five times, with five different obstructions to the way he shot the film the first time. The primary obstruction on the first film is "no shot over 12 frames" (half a second).

We watched The Perfect Human[Wiki] off of the DVD extras first, but that might not be necessary to understanding the film, and we never see any of the remakes in their entirety. What we do see is Leth as he muses about how he's going to work around the obstructions, and enough of the resulting films to see what that process brought.

But as much as it's about that portion of the creative process, it's also a human tale of von Trier trying to goad Leth back into creativity. I don't know a lot about the history of Leth, but it sounds like he'd sunk into an alcoholic depression living on Haiti, and the film is about von Trier trying, in various different ways, to get Leth back into making films.

I don't think this is one I can recommend to a general audience, but if you're a film geek I think it's one to see for a re-imagining of scenes and messages that'll kick your creative juices, and we can only wish that as we go through our humps and slumps there'll be someone as provocative as von Trier in our lives, ready to kick our asses when we slump.

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