29 December 2008-4 January 2009

January 7 2009 at 7:47 am (The list)

black-narcissusBlack Narcissus (1947)

Or nuns on the pull. Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) and four other nuns are sent to run a convent in the Himalayas. What starts out as an innocent tale of the daily life of the sisters gradually becomes more sinister as the isolation gets to them and lusts of the flesh begin to take control. Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron) gets deeply jealous when rude government agent Mr Dean (David Farrar) seems to be keener on Clodagh and goes a bit potty. Sexual repression in members of the clergy is not exactly groundbreaking and this is somewhat innocent (stolen glances and a hug is about as saucy as it gets) but there’s a fiery passion burning beneath all the saintly stoicism and it’s just aching to burst forth. What marks the film as special, however, is the way it looks. The Himalayan scenery was all created in the studio with glass shots and hanging miniatures. The use of colour is also particularly powerful, juxtaposing the virginal white of the nuns’ habits against the vibrant colours of the rest of the villagers. In one scene, Ruth finally gives in to her innermost desires and (gasp!) wears a red dress. As she puts on her red lipstick very slowly, Sister Clodagh immediately opens her Bible. Created with infinite care, it really is a stunning piece of cinema.


Rating: 4/5


Shame list total: 1,225


Also watched last week was a hidden gem:


king_of_california_ver3King of California (2007)

Produced by Alexander Payne (which is a good sign), King Of California is a charming little hidden gem. Charlie (Michael Douglas, almost unrecognisable in a hobo beard) has just been released from a mental institution and goes to live with his daughter Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood). Charlie is clearly not ready to deal with the outside world and starts behaving strangely and looking for Spanish gold. When he decides that it’s buried beneath their local Costco, Charlie ropes Miranda into helping him find it. While the film suffers from some tonal problems (it shifts sharply between warm father/daughter drama to madcap caper), it is nice, fun, easy watch and benefits from a brilliantly wide-eyed, manic performance from the always great Douglas.


Rating: 3/5


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