Day 300: ‘David Stratton’s A History of Cinema – Week 11’ 2018

Day 300

Thursday 26 April 2018 11.26pm

‘David Stratton’s A History of Cinema – Week 11’   2018

Tonight was the second last week of my twelve-week film course. I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to get to it because my wife had taken some leave from work and booked us to have three days and two nights in Sydney’s beautiful Blue Mountains at High Garden, a lovely house on Air Bnb. I contacted Mr Stratton – explaining my situation – to ask him what the film was going to be this Thursday evening in case it was something that I had already seen and knew well [like The Ipcress File (1965) and The Bedford Incident (1965)] as my wife would prefer it if I stayed in the Mountains with them instead of going to my course.

His response was that he was exploring Eastern Europe this week and that he’d chosen a Czech film, but it was not Milos Forman’s Lásky jedné plavovlásky (The Loves of a Blonde, 1965). He hoped that was enough of a hint to make it worthwhile for me to attend. What surprised me, however, was that by chance he knew someone driving down to the course that afternoon who would be able to give me a lift down and back. I jumped at the chance and had a wonderful opportunity to chat with him about the films in our lives. For ninety-minutes down and ninety-minutes back we talked film non-stop.

I was glad I accepted the ride because the film clips Stratton showed from Mexico, Poland, Sweden, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Hungary, the USSR and Czeckoslavakia were very interesting. Amongst others, we were treated to clips from Luis Buñuel’s Simon del desierto, Karlek 65, Konchalovsky’s Piervij Utchitelh (The First Teacher), Bundarchuk’s Wojna I mir (War and Peace), Makavejev’s Covek nije tica (Man is Not a Bird), and Skolimowski’s Walkover.

Stratton did something unusual tonight and chose to show an episode from a film called Perlicky na dne (Pearls of the Deep). It ran about 20-minutes and was called The Restaurant at the end of the World. It’s one of the most surreal pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen. A bar is closed because there’s a wedding function going on upstairs. A crowd of people are spread out on the street across the door and windows begging to be let in for a beer. The manager refuses. It’s surreal because it involves an unusual congregation of people, a surprising death and the bride makes an unexpected choice at the end. She goes out into the rain and runs and turns around and around, shown in a series of slow-motion images shot with what appears (to me) to be a very slow shutter-speed giving it a blurred, other-worldly, quality.

The main film, Intimate Lighting, Ivan Passer’s only Czech film, was a film that I would almost certainly never have the opportunity to see again, so I’m very happy I attended.