music, morality, revenge and redemption ...
Lady Vengeance, Au Hasard Balthazar and The Page Turner
Several people asked, "What's up with your current film slate?" It's not that an eclectic mix is something new -- CWC is the same organization that brought you Rivers and Tides, Bubba Ho-Tep and The Battle of Algiers, all in the span of a few months. Predictable, tried-and-true is not part of our mission – you can find that elsewhere.
The three CWC films screening in May and June have more in common than one might imagine, particularly in concept and theme. And, the contrasts, in tone, execution and net impact, are noteworthy as well.
The first film, Lady Vengeance (May 25), deals with righting horrible wrongs, atonement, redemption and the ethics and consequences of violent revenge. The second, Au Hasard Balthazar (June 12+13), is the epitome of great filmmaking. It suggests that fate prevails - wrongs are seldom righted, and then mainly "au hasard" - by chance; and Bresson's film deals with grace and purity in a unique, wonderful way. The third film, The Page Turner (June 27), shows us that retribution does not have to be physically violent, as suspense, tension, plot twists and a sterling performance by two female leads keep us on the edge of our seats.
All three films feature female protragonists – Lee Yeong-Ae, Anne Wiazemsky and Catherine Frot respectively, yet all are directed by men, each bringing unique perspectives to their work. Park Chan Wook grew up in an era of violent political oppression in Korea; Frenchman Robert Bresson survived the prisoner-of-war horrors of World War II, while younger filmmaker Denis Dercourt grew up in the contemporary world of classical music in France.
Two of the films address spirituality, one with irreverent humor (Lady V) and the other most profoundly (Balthazar). In the third film (Page Turner,) the classical music concert milieu is portrayed as virtually a religion unto itself.
None of the three filmmakers are household words in the U.S. and their works seldom appear on the big screen. Park Chan Wook has a huge following in Asia and Europe, but mainstream American audiences have yet to embrace his Eastern mindset (except for the blood-lust devotees of Oldboy, who seem to find Lady V too complicated, too subtle and insufficiently violent). One of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century, Robert Bresson is well-known to American film students, critics, festival programmers and cinephiles, but not by everyday filmgoers. Denis Dercourt has made five films, well-received throughout Europe, but has limited exposure in the U.S.
Two of the filmmakers, Park and Dercourt, have been strongly influenced by Hitchcock and others of similar ilk. Bresson has always followed his own path, with a unique directorial style that makes him one of the most revered and respected of all filmmakers.
Classical music has an integral role in all three films. Park employs the baroque strains of Vivaldi and Paganini as counterpoint to what we see on screen, in one of the most striking film scores ever created. Bresson uses Schubert's piano Sonata No. 20, punctuated with occasional vocal interjection from Balthazar. And director Dercourt - a classically trained musician who performed with the National Symphony Orchestra of France - features works by Dimitri Shostakovich, Franz Schubert and Johann-Sebastian Bach along with original compositions by Jerome Lemonnier.
In a perfect world we would show all three films concurrently, but spread out over thirty days, even the most casual viewer will note the similarities and contrasts in how these directors state and execute their themes, use production techniques, music, tension and violence to make their points, and how the core issues in each film are resolved. Although Lady V, Balthazar and Page Turner are clearly stand-alones, experiencing all three films in sequence allows the viewer to see and compare the elements of mastery in each film.
Should you consider attending all three films? Absolutely!! That's why we bring them to Cincinnati -- CWC is YOUR portal to important films not normally available in this market.