Making (new) waves

Ancient wall, Chengdu

Mea culpa. I’ve spent a lot of time at the computer lately, but precious little of this time writing. Of course I have a good excuse; classes started again last week and I’ve been preparing lessons, creating PowerPoint presentations, and – oh yes, downloading movies and music. I’ve discovered sites such as The Pirate Bay and BitComet, where you can find virtually any movie that your heart desires. That’s how I happened to have a French Film Week.

Like all truly compulsive people, when I latch onto a desire I pursue it with a one-track mind. To satisfy a craving for French New Wave films, I began (illegally) downloading films in earnest a couple of weeks ago. This is not a simple procedure; the less demand there is for a film, the more time it takes to download; one film took almost 12 days, but was well worth it.

My French Film Week began with Agnes Varda’s Cléo de 5 a 7 – a delightfully atmospheric slice-of-life film that takes place in (almost) real time, during the two hours that Parisian chanteuse Cléo spends leading up to her appointment with a doctor, to discover the results of a biopsy for cancer. Then there was Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie (To live one’s life), an almost agonizingly depressing film the first time around. On second viewing I was more able to appreciate the wonder of Anna Karina’s performance as a woman who takes up prostitution to, um, makes ends meet. Finally there was Alain Resnais’ L’année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad), which for some unexplained reason I had never seen. One of the most visually stunning films ever made, it’s maddeningly perverse in its manipulation of time and the blurring of the imaginary and the real.

L’année dernière à Marienbad


I’m rather proud to say that I watched each of these films with NO SUBTITLES, something like performing a high-wire act without a safety net. My adventure isn’t over – coming attractions will include Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player, Godard’s La Chinoise, and, for a change of pace, Antonioni’s Red Desert in Italian. And you thought I came to China

to learn Chinese!

One response to “Making (new) waves

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