Monday, July 19, 2010

Snippets: Black Narcissus and Armond White

The films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger have been a blind spot in my film watching for years, so when my local Best Buy slipped up and put both THE RED SHOES and BLACK NARCISSUS on the Blu-ray shelf for sale a week early, I had to indulge myself in the name of furthering my film education.

I'm still reeling from my viewing of BLACK NARCISSUS, which will be written up over the next week as a quasi-Binder Challenge (I cheated and bought something new, but it's too damn good to review in a quick write-up), but I wanted get out there that the new print courtesy of Criterion (which, btw, is having a 50% sale over at Barnes & Noble) is absolutely stunning: as much as is discussed about the erotic overtones of the film and the lush visuals, I think there's so much there that addresses the old saying, "you might be through with the past, but the past's not through with you."  Just all around a great film, and one you should check out if you're unfamiliar with Powell and Pressburger's work*.
I wonder how many people are familiar with Armond White's actions and controversies as a film critic without actually having read any of his reviews?  Over the past few weeks I've been catching up on his work to better understand his point of view.  At this point I'm no closer to understanding the man, although I did laugh out loud to see him favorably compare the Adam Sandler comedy GROWN UPS to Jean Renoir and Paul Mazursky.  I do think, however, that he shouldn't be as easily dismissed as I often see him him be in comments and posts online.  I'll be writing a little more clearly about him in the next couple of weeks, but first I'll be listening in as he's tentatively scheduled to be on the /Filmcast tonight to discuss INCEPTION.  Knowing the tone of Dave Chen and the gang over at /Film (which I love), this might be the closest we get to a direct confrontation between White and those typically aligned against him.

*A lot of people might be inclined to recommend a different P&P film as a good starting place - please do so.  I chose BLACK NARCISSUS for the simple reason that unlike THE RED SHOES or THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP, it's reasonably short - so if you don't like it (although how could you not), you won't feel like your day's been wasted


  1. White lost me when he said Precious was bad because it failed to do what great black films like Norbit did. He seems to me to, instead of shedding new light on a work or taking a new angle, to simply just say the opposite of what everyone else does. He's a good writer but what he writes isn't of much worth.

    A Canterbury Tale is an early and wonderful P&P film.

  2. The main thing I see is that he doesn't provide a whole of context for his slanders (or those things he champions). I'd be reluctant to say that what he writes isn't of much worth - one thing I think he does provide is a little perspective on films that are so showered with praise we become blind to the actual film. But I agree his role as a Contrarian could be a lot more refined.

    As for P&P, I can't wait to dive into more - I've heard great things about A Canterbury Tale and plan on getting to it sooner rather than later. If you haven't seen Black Narcissus, though - do yourself a favor. It's breathtaking.