Saw Les Diaboliques and Psycho.
Here are my impressions:
Les Diaboliques (1955)
Henri-Georges Clouzot film that inspired Hitchcock to make Psycho.
As a movie intending to play with the viewer's nerves it's a much more accomplished than Psycho and has all the merit in the way it achieves so.
Very sagacious, it never runs into the error of predictability nor does it give too many clues contrary to Psycho, I even felt a guilty pleasure from it's genially diabolical final, lol, it left me with a grin on my face.
It's cinematic style, however, is a bit dated and less fleshed out than the beautiful Psycho, so it has less aesthetic appeal.
If it had the same fleshed out aesthetics as Psycho, it would be perfect.
It is not accomplished like Les Diabolique as an horror movie and to it's detriment is very popular already so has less power of persuasion.
But, it is a more pleasant cinematic experience because it's filmed in a trully wonderfull fashion.
Very fleshed out aesthetics, great photography, beautiful scenes, excelent music score (appart from the awfully excited parts) and all around acting.
The opening scene, for example, from a panoramic view of the city to the picking inside the lovers room through the window, culminating with Marion Crane lying in bed is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen and heard.
I get the feeling that Hitchcock knew how to take shots better than necessarily create suspense or horror... at least in the few movies I've seen from him, some are filmed like true masterpieces of classic cinema... but all this beauty could prove to be counterproductive on a horror movie, dunno...
In Psycho, Hitchcock wanted to explore the psychological aspect of crimes and I think that Anthony Perkins acting was perfect to give credibility to the movie premisse.
Acting, in general, is pretty good, but once in a while some characters seem to force a certain mood or to give clues in an unnatural way. This is congruent with my acting impressions of most Hitchcock films I've seen, sometimes it's all too much denounced and given away, in my opinion this shouldn't be desirable nor is the best way to create suspense because it just makes the film more predictable.
And here are my impressions of The Seventh Seal and The Ascent:
The Seventh Seal (1957)
I haven't seen an Ingmar Bergman movie in a long time, oh how I missed it!
I highly apprecciate the cinema produced by the swedish director, philosophical themes, poetic and human sensibility, intelligence and captivating characters - on this last point, one of the things I specially like about his cinema is the way how he seemed to give attention to women feelings and thoughts, I feel he knew how to express the feminine psyche like very few others, but I don't know for sure if any woman would agree with me.
This is not so much the case in The Seventh Seal, but one can see here the direction that Bergman wants to follow in several aspects.
I admire this work since the first time I saw it, it always gives me the funny feeling that I'm watching a theatrical play maybe because The Seventh Seal is actually based on a theatrical play written by Bergman himself), it has great poetic and human quality, the whole story is a metaphor for life and focuses on applying an existentialist scrutiny on numerous themes, Death, Faith in God, Destiny and Art itself. It culminates by proposing an optimist view on Art.
Bergman is able to essay about complex philosophical subjects through a poetic and human cinematic language, to me this is what demarks him from other directors. I mean that his flms are intelectual but not cold nor devoid of feeling, emotion or humour.
Bergman Cinema thrives with tenderness.
The Seventh Seal plays with my emotions, it's a bittersweet movie, one of the rare kind that manages to break my heart and break me up (laughing genuinelly).
The obvious technical limitations in it's production can be slightly distracting, that's the only reason why I don't rate it higher, but it doesn't matter, this work transcends the sum of it's parts... cliché statement but it's true for The Seventh Seal IMO.
Beautiful movie from one of the greatest masters of Cinéma d'auteur.
The Ascent (1977)
Second time I see this film directed by Larisa Sheptiko.
This is possibly the most singular war movie I've ever seen, mostly due to the contrast between the poetic beauty and enchantment it often displays and the cruel and harsh reality of the story.
Action is set during World War 2, a whacked and hungry group of soviet partisans wanders on a white frozen desert somewhere in Belarus. After escaping a german attack they lay down and rest on a forest. Two members of the group leave to search for food trying not to be spotted but end up captured by the germans and then taken to a small village under the enemy control for interrogation purposes and to have their fates sentenced.
This is a very brief resume of the story but this is not the most important aspect of this movie.
Larisa Sheptiko uses all the choreography of events to make her ideological message about Soviet Union come across to the viewer. Unfortunately she takes it a bit too far, up to the point where it does detract from what could had been a true masterpiece of soviet cinema.
The acting, the camera work, the Black & White cinematography and sound work are all fabulous and display the artistic merits of the director but her urge to express the ideological message results in some cheesy scenes that do no good for the cinematic experience, clear overkill, it's a pity.
The cinematography and camera work are jaw dropping, at times giving a surreal atmosphere, almost fairy tale like enchantment (reminds me some of Yuriy Norshteyn's animation work), and at times giving a very raw and dramatic display of the reality, the picture always displays great expressive momentum.
The acting is top noch and the characters have great human depth, which contributes to the emotional and intelectual power of the movie, but sometimes it can look a bit corny.
The Ascent will leave it's mark in the minds of a lot of first time viewers, it has great poetic beauty and enchantment but it depicts a cruel and heartbreaking reality.
I just wish that Larisa Sheptiko had left the ideological aspirations out of it, or at least tried to make them more subtle or simply lend it a more suggestive nature, the film would benefit with greater reach and more integral cinematic experience.
Not that I have anything agaisnt her stance per se, it's not particularly bothering or uncomfortable to me, but it will inherently deprive the movie from a certain degree of artistic latitude and I did find some of the scenes, particularly towards the end, a bit too melodramatic as a consequence.