Thursday, July 06, 2006

Smoldering Catholic Love!

I almost always gloss over Criterion titles as part of my phobia of A List "Pure" cinema. It's reactionary, I know. But more often than not, if they release a film of interest it is a greatly established offering from a particular filmmaker. (regard the BRD trilogy by Fassbinder, for instance - the safest bet, but certainly not the best) Every once in a great while, they surprise me. Their release of Fat Girl was a treat. Their Sirk films are true gems. And last night, my understanding of the world, as I knew it, was shattered by Black Narcissus! Black Narcissus is, for those who have not already had the pleasure, an erotic Nun thriller from the forties! Yes, you read correctly. Deborah Kerr is Sister Clodagh, a young nun who leads a group of sisters to start a convent nestled in the Himalayan mountains.

Oh the Exotic Himalayas! Not to mention those dark skinned savages who inhabit them! Remember, the film was made in the latter end of a decade whose escapist genre was ruled by Maria Montez. Exotic was our fantastic. Racism ran rampant, as every non-Aryan race could fit into the category of "Not Us." Techincolor was not naturalistic but saturated, lurid and tempestuous. Red burned with the flame of every desire in the world. Just like our nuns! Poor Sister Clodagh. I've never seen nuns so given to temptation! (I imagine there is nun porn, but this seems so much more thrilling!)

From the get go, the film enthralls in the same spectacular way as the Montez movies yet carries a more brooding austerity than Montez's frivolity. It would seem that an attempt to make serious (or at least infuse a little purpose into) the vacation epics was realized only in part, as the lusty melodrama which the film becomes denies any true interpretation of the insane events that the film would seriously document. Instead it's all bursting reds and infectious - imagine if Ken Russell made The Devils in the forties without any serious text on which to validate it. Now, paint every shot like a Caspar David Friedrich, teetering on the ledge of some immeasurable chasm. You kind of get the idea. Now get the DVD.


Blogger Richard Gibson said...

I've seen this film on the big screen and it's awesome.

4:41 PM  
Blogger beingboring said...

my god, I can only imagine!

8:58 PM  

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