By David Romano
As promised last time, I will talk about “The Mother and the Whore” (1973) and “The Role of Her Life” (2004), the last two on Mick LaSalle’s list of the the first 10 films that came to mind when he was asked by a reader what he would include in a “masterpieces of film” festival. Both are in French with English subtitles.
I could not locate these films on Roku except in excerpts and honestly, the excerpts were enough. I wouldn’t watch them even if I could. The excerpts show both of these French films are dated and dull. Life is too short to suffer through films like these.
Film critic Roger Ebert, like Mick, thinks “The Mother and the Whore”is a great movie and gives it 4 stars. Really? I defy you to watch it.
“The Role of her Life” is just silly. I fail to comprehend why this is even a good film let alone a masterpiece.
“Jeanne Dielman,” a film I talked about in my first column, and one that “has become required viewing for informed cineastes, after topping the most recent Sight and Sound poll of the greatest movies of all time,” is even more monumentally dull than “The Mother and the Whore,” and “The Mother” is very dull. “Dielman” and “The Mother” fail because they share an inability to fully engage with life. The first has almost no dialogue at all; the second, so far as I can judge, is mostly dialogue. What they share is an unremitting focus on the trivial. These films seem to lack a basic humanity, a sense that life is worthwhile, that our living, breathing, flawed yet heroic human existence is worth living. One is always on the outside observing with detachment the petty routines and concerns of these peculiar humans; a kind of voyeurism that delights in the boring and mundane.
When I think of French films, “Amelie” immediately comes to mind; a film that celebrates life, that will make you laugh and feel deeply for the characters and make you feel life is a wonderful adventure. “Amelie” is not just a masterpiece, but one of the best films of all time.
What films would make my list of masterpieces? It’s overwhelming to consider all of moviedom, so I’ll restrict myself for now by looking at films from the 1940s and ’50s. There are so many great films from that period that a list of 100 would be needed.
My list includes: “Separate Tables” (1958), “Brief Encounter” (1945), “The Best Years of our Lives” (1946), “On the Waterfront” (1954), “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946), “Casablanca” (1942), “Picnic” (1955), “The Southerner” (1945), “Les Enfants du Paradise” (1943-45), “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942) and “Rear Window” (1954).
If you love movies and haven’t seen these films, you owe it to yourself to discover them. Next time I’ll list more of my favorites and explore some of them. Until then, happy viewing!
David Romano is a graduate of San Francisco State University and has lived in the Outer Richmond since 1992. When he is not watching films, he likes to attend the San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Symphony, go for walks around the Richmond and practice Tai Chi in Golden Gate Park.
Movie Review: SF Chron’s Mick LaSalle’s ‘Masterpiece Film Festival,’ Part 1.
Movie Review: SF Chron’s Mick LaSalle’s ‘Masterpiece Film Festival,’ Part 2.
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