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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:04 pm 
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I just started spinning THE MI RACLE OF MORGAN CREEK for the (laugh at me now) very first time and am hooked.

I'm laughing too hard to drill back down into our subject at hand. I promise to jump back into it tomorrow.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 11:37 pm 
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Sausage, would you distinguish between the concept of Christ's sacrifice as it's presented in Last Temptation and as it's presented in Gibson's film? Both clearly view the crucifixion as a vital part of Christ's path. Obviously, Gibson's focused relentlessly on the physical aspects of it while Scorsese's much more interested in the choice between human and divine it represented. Nevertheless, your argument about Gibson's film and why it's problematic would seem to imply to any work that regarded Christ's martyrdom as a conscious or necessary facet of his life, rather than a horrific and unnecessary tragedy.

For that matter, there is explicitly the idea that Joan's martyrdom comprises a 'great victory' in Dreyer's work- and as it's one of the few elements he added (rather than deriving it from documents relating to the trial) it's surely not incidental.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 12:13 am 
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I'm just done defending a movie I find offensive and don't really want to get into the huge discussion of theodicy or divine agency addressing what 'accidental' salvation (a concept I have never come across) would mean.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 12:22 am 
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matrixschmatrix wrote:
Sausage, would you distinguish between the concept of Christ's sacrifice as it's presented in Last Temptation and as it's presented in Gibson's film? Both clearly view the crucifixion as a vital part of Christ's path. Obviously, Gibson's focused relentlessly on the physical aspects of it while Scorsese's much more interested in the choice between human and divine it represented. Nevertheless, your argument about Gibson's film and why it's problematic would seem to imply to any work that regarded Christ's martyrdom as a conscious or necessary facet of his life, rather than a horrific and unnecessary tragedy.

It's been a while since I saw Last Temptation, but what's key about that movie is that the importance is not laid on the fact that Christ is tortured and murdered, but that he is allowed to be tempted, to experience indeed a true fall into sin just as humanity experienced one (which deemphasizes his actual torture in that moment). Far from being an atavistic return to the most primitive element of the Christian religion, it does a very modern thing: it attempts to understand Christ's humanity and bring us closer to him through that shared frailty. It wants to worship Christ through a human connection, not through torture and murder and human sacrifice. And it's a lovely movie.


matrixschmatrix wrote:
For that matter, there is explicitly the idea that Joan's martyrdom comprises a 'great victory' in Dreyer's work- and as it's one of the few elements he added (rather than deriving it from documents relating to the trial) it's surely not incidental.

Joan's 'great victory' is to turn her victimization into a victory for the self, with its personal and private convictions, against those who would undermine or debase that self. Where Christ in Gibson's movie is being scapegoated to atone for the sins of others', making it a positive for humanity (scapegoating is always seen as a positive for the community), Joan's martyrdom involves no one else. It is a private and personal victory, but one which we can admire since we see the hypocrites and bullies fail to corrupt Joan. The fact remains that the film is not trying to convince us that Joan ought to be murdered or that her murder is a benefit to anyone. It is a tragic story, whereas Christ's story is a comic one, in the generic/archetypal sense of being a fall followed by a rise (Christ descended from heaven to live in the fallen world, suffered trials and tribulations, before ascending again to his original place, achieving unity. This parallels humanity's comic story where we fall from Eden into the world, suffer trials and so forth, and then ascend again to our place in Eden through the intercession of Christ). Meaning, in the comic structure, Christ's torture and murder causes the return to unity and is therefore a necessary part of the whole order. Joan's death isn't necessary in that way, and we are not invited to see it as being part of how things ought to be.

Joan is great, not because she is murdered for our behalf (which we would then have to appreciate, approve, worship), but because she does not allow her suffering and her eventual murder to rob her of her greatest, most vital, most admirable traits. It is a human victory in the face of inhumanity.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 1:10 am 
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Mr Sausage wrote:
It's been a while since I saw Last Temptation, but what's key about that movie is that the importance is not laid on the fact that Christ is tortured and murdered, but that he is allowed to be tempted, to experience indeed a true fall into sin just as humanity experienced one (which deemphasizes his actual torture in that moment). Far from being an atavistic return to the most primitive element of the Christian religion, it does a very modern thing: it attempts to understand Christ's humanity and bring us closer to him through that shared frailty. It wants to worship Christ through a human connection, not through torture and murder and human sacrifice. And it's a lovely movie.

It absolutely is a lovely movie, but as much it de-emphasizes the physicality of Christ's end, it nonetheless places great stress on the importance of the Passion (and implicitly, the Resurrection) as the defining event of his ministry- it is a fate he knows awaits him throughout the movie, and clearly part of a larger plan to which he is privy, and Judas's eventual heroic role in the movie is to be a morally strong figure upon whom Christ can rely to help him do what he must.

One of the obvious metaphorical uses to which the movie puts Christ's story is an examination of the choice between the life of an ordinary man and that of an extraordinary one, where to be extraordinary requires one to sacrifice the the common comforts and connections of humanity- and Christ's great work, his great achievement, is crystallized in his voluntary sacrifice of his own life and his overcoming of death. Scorsese emphasizes the choice (and the frailty that causes Jesus nearly to relent from his choice) rather than the endurance, but both posit that the crucifixion is a central part of Christianity- and Scorsese mentions in the commentary that his own parish priest's comment on the film was that it was "too much Good Friday, not enough Easter", that Scorsese had also focused too much on the end and not the beginning.

I guess my point of contention is that it seems as though you are arguing that the belief that an undeniably evil act- in this case, torture and murder- can be a necessary part of a larger good means automatically that one approves of and supports that act. If that is the argument you are making (and I may be misunderstanding you) I'm not sure that I agree, and I'm not sure that Scorsese's film does not fall into that argument.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 2:25 am 
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matrixschmatrix wrote:
I guess my point of contention is that it seems as though you are arguing that the belief that an undeniably evil act- in this case, torture and murder- can be a necessary part of a larger good means automatically that one approves of and supports that act. If that is the argument you are making (and I may be misunderstanding you) I'm not sure that I agree, and I'm not sure that Scorsese's film does not fall into that argument.

No, not a bad thing in a larger good, but itself the larger good, indeed the greatest thing to ever happen and that will ever happen. It is the great redemption. Every blessing humanity receives comes directly from this act, by design, and therefore it demands our thanks and our praise (certainly Gibson thinks so). This must be so, otherwise to condemn the act is to condemn the being that thought it up, god. Such a concept forces you to take an undoubtedly wicked act that in any other circumstances you would reject, and think of it in terms of being beneficial to you and your family, of righting the wrongs of the world, of being righteous--ie., something you should be thankful for. This is malforming; the inquisition and the witch hunts are its corollary. It's the belief that torturing and murdering a human being can bring good things. Here Gibson seems to agree, as he has made a movie in which we are to find love, hope, and faith exclusively in pain, suffering, and murder.

It's worthwhile to define what worship means (from the OED): "A. To honour or revere as a supernatural being or power, or as a holy thing; to regard or approach with veneration; to adore with appropriate acts, rites, or ceremonies. B. To regard with extreme respect or devotion; to 'adore'."

Let us say that both movies ask us to venerate and adore Christ. Let's even say that both movies use Christ's Passion to do this. How do they approach their veneration? Gibson's movie attempts to induce its audience ultimately to overcome its negative reactions and associate positive emotions with the torture and murder they just witnessed. The veneration they feel for Christ is produced by a focus on the suffering of a sacrificial victim. You feel awful about it so that you can feel wonderful about it. Last Temptation, on the other hand, has no interest in making you venerate Christ for being tortured. You venerate him because in that moment you see his humanness, his frailty, his difficulty; you sympathize; but you also see him make a choice we face every day, between doing the easy thing that gratifies ourselves and the difficult thing that helps others. His Passion becomes, not a reason to venerate him for being tortured to death, but a reason to venerate him for making the hardest choice in the world and finally reconciling himself to it. It's dramatically satisfying, it's thematically appropriate, and it distances itself from the primitive human sacrifice element of the story in favour of asserting human values. It turns Jesus from a man being sacrificed (as a lamb might be), to a man making a sacrifice: refusing marriage, a family, and a blissful life for a horrible end. We venerate his choice, because we see what he gives up; we do not venerate his torture because it was really bad or something.

Christ's Passion itself may always be an uneasy aspect of the religion, but not all approaches to it are equal. Scorsese approaches it in a very sophisticated, thoughtful, and sensitive way, and in the process allows us to do the same. It gives us a new perspective on the moment. Gibson approaches it in the basest possible way, and emphasizes everything that is negative and brutal about it, and in order so that we can come out feeling love and hope and other things which ought not to be associated with a gruesome murder.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 3:09 am 
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I can certainly see where the warped conclusion aspect of that view of the Passion comes in- the Left Behind world of a murderous, brutal God bringing about an Apocalypse which tortures and slaughters the vast majority of mankind, which the reader is evidently supposed to regard as a good thing, seems a logical fulfillment of the view you posit of Christ's death.

I think it's conceivable that one could make a film like Gibson's, one that is just hours of outright, sadistic cruelty with the intention of pushing the audience past what they can endure and forcing them to understand at some level how ugly and unbearable torture actually is (though I don't know that it would be a good film.) But from Gibson's own comments, he evidently expects one to see something redemptive in the movie, and I think you are right that the logic of the filmaking seems to insist that the redemption must come from the torture itself- his Christ makes no decisions, and seems to have very few characteristics beyond a body to be violated. Even the Satanic visions Gibson interpolates seem to have no purpose other than further cruelty to Christ, and a further sense of the grotesque about the whole thing.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 2:26 pm 
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Ok, I'm back.

Anyhow, I think that you're doing two things MrSausage.

First, by applying your own substantial intelligence and logic to the ideas inherent in the kind of Christianity under discussion here, you're seriously overlooking something that's very very important-- a 'something' that is particularly noxious, and even (somewhat, at least) responsible for the death of millions, if not billions... that something is the capacity for many Christians to maintain a set of beliefs not only filled with contradictions but that in fact make little to no consistent sense.

Take a guy like Gibson... You say essentially, if I understand you correctly, that since he believes in the ransom, via the crucifixion, of humanity's salvation, he must therefore and by extension necessarily believe that that very torture and execution of jesus were the most wonderful things, in and of themselves, ever to happen in the history of humankind... therefore worthy of celebration and visual reproduction in minutest detail.

Here is where I want to stop and chat for a bit, because I think you're missing a great capacity for Christians to part company wIth the kind of ironbound extrapolating logic that you're applying to their thinking.

Christians (or at least tons of them, historically) are quite capable of believing in their salvation by the means of Jesus' suffering and dying, while at the same time expressing hatred for that suffering and those who inflicted it upon him. This is where I believe youre wrong about Gibson, when you say he must positively love the violence, worship the suffering in and of itself for the sake of itself. . because if hes glad that Jesus died for our sins, he must needs by extrapolation ALSO love the suffering and death itself.

That's far too sensible and neat for many many Christians. Gibson and billions of other Christians throughout history have-- simultaneous to their love of Jesus and belief that he saved them from eternal damnation by means of his suffering and crucifixion-- maintained a deadly venomous and never ending blood libel against those that they believe are responsible for inflicting that suffering and death... namely the Jews.

In reference to your earlier post, I do in fact believe that many many people walked out of the theater thinking "Wow isn't it terrible that this happened...?" indeed.. in fact newly fired up with a reinforced conviction of contending versus their perception of a world of evil, onward Christian soldier, etc. These christians require their eschatological enemy. Not only do they need non believers to proselytize, but they need them for the mapping process, to place themselves firmly within the ranks of the Saved. To them Christianity is it a great heavenly war that never stops being waged against the non believer, with the score to be tallied up on judgement day. And the crucifixion was a despicable act of war, with Judas its drummer roasting in the first circle of hell, never to be forgiven.

. . .and yet these Christians will at the same time believe wholeheartedly in the idea of god's master plan, the mystery of the universe in god's hands, there are no accidents in life, etc... a belief that should see them love the Jews for playing their part in the drama that resulted in the salvation of the world. But-- no such luck.

Their contradictory feelings toward the crucifixion are (somewhat) echoed, for example, in the reaction to the loss of a child via hit and run car accident: they'll announce solemnly "The lord called my child back, who can understand His mysterious ways?" while at the same time nursing a murderous hatred for the person who committed the crime and the desire to literally murder them if caught. Inconsistency and hypocrisy are, sadly, the neverending historical hallmark of a particular kind of Christian. Gibson's antisemitism, if I remember correct, is pretty well established.

The second thing I think you're forgetting (or perhaps simply not acknowledging) is that there is a variety kinds of belief in Christianity; many simply follow Jesus' teachings without subscribing to the more supernatural, Johanine/Pauline aspects of eschatology. Many of these Christians simply carried into their adulthood bits and whiffs of what was pounded into them from childhood, discarding what isn't useful, not really thinking anything through to insure it all holds up and makes much sense. My second oldest brother is like this: went to 1960's Bronx catholic elementary school, ivy league masters, graduated, early 50's, two kids (neither went to catholic school which he hated), happy, considers himself catholic today, but in no way reacts to the crucifixion, or Gibsons film, in any of the ways discussed. There are many of these kinds of christians and indeed people of all religions who sort of drift along on autopilot.

For them it is indeed possible to view the Jesus passion narrative in the same personally victorious terms as Joan.. the basic tale of the canonical gospels (or Q) cleansed of ex post facto add ons, ie of a generally good and peaceful itinerant who quietly took his execution rather than surrender his principle. For these the quote unquote Historical Jesus represents an ideal to be worshipped, and an investigatory pursuit (one that book companies are delighted can and never will end).


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 4:01 pm 
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Well I'm happy to see that I can agree with most of what you say. I should also point out that I owe a tremendous debt to Sir William Empson for my understanding of the negative impact of human sacrifice on christianity.

HerrSchreck wrote:
that something is the capacity for many Christians to maintain a set of beliefs not only filled with contradictions but that in fact make little to no consistent sense.

This is no doubt true, and I would guess that most Christians do not, in fact, spend much time contemplating the fact that Christ's death as a human sacrifice was a good thing (as, say, a Mayan would think that the sacrifice of this or that community member on the altar was a good thing since now the crops would grow). So what I think Gibson's movie does is try to force Christians to once again contemplate the absolute goodness that was the torture and murder of christ, and to do so by showing them exactly how it was torture and murder. Whatever most christians believe, this is the effect of the movie, I think.

HerrSchreck wrote:
Christians (or at least tons of them, historically) are quite capable of believing in their salvation by the means of Jesus' suffering and dying, while at the same time expressing hatred for that suffering and those who inflicted it upon him. This is where I believe youre wrong about Gibson, when you say he must positively love the violence, worship the suffering in and of itself for the sake of itself. . because if hes glad that Jesus died for our sins, he must needs by extrapolation ALSO love the suffering and death itself.

That's far too sensible and neat for many many Christians. Gibson and billions of other Christians throughout history have-- simultaneous to their love of Jesus and belief that he saved them from eternal damnation by means of his suffering and crucifixion-- maintained a deadly venomous and never ending blood libel against those that they believe are responsible for inflicting that suffering and death... namely the Jews.

No one seems to care much that the Romans did all the dirty work. Nor do they hate god the father for having decided to use a human sacrifice to forgive mankind. So I think it's safe to say that the charge of deicide was an excuse for, rather than a cause of, anti-semitism. They would have persecuted the Jews anyway. I think it's fair to say hatred of the Jews far outstripped hatred of christ's torture.

I don't know that I can argue what this or that random Christian thinks, but I can at least say that there is a capacity within the religion to approve of and worship a human sacrifice in a rather barbaric way, and that a movie like the Passion of the Christ is more likely to induce people to feel that way again than it is to further distance Christians from it.

HerrShreck wrote:
Their contradictory feelings toward the crucifixion...

If there are contradictory feelings towards the crucifixion, it is probably the result of it clashing against people's common decency. On the one hand, their decent natures make them dislike suffering and torture; on the other, they feel that they should be thankful for a particular torture and murder and rejoice that their deity made it happen. I think any normal person is going to feel a conflict about this on a deep level, and in many cases this causes people not to dwell on the human sacrifice element and focus instead on "god is love" and whatever else. Gibson's movie wishes to shove people's faces back into it all over again, and I don't think it's healthy to force people to contemplate the idea that a human sacrifice may have been a truly great and blessed thing.

HerrShreck wrote:
In reference to your earlier post, I do in fact believe that many many people walked out of the theater thinking "Wow isn't it terrible that this happened...?"

If they did, there was a "but..." that followed. As you pointed out earlier, Gibson wanted us to leave the theater filled with positive emotions. The effect of Gibson's movie is to say: "This was a deeply horrendous thing, but wasn't it also a deeply wonderful one?" Christ's sacrifice is indeed a wonderful thing in Christian theology. As you say, most Christians try to overlook the fact that what they're feeling good about is a torture and a murder. Mel Gibson's movie very much wants people not to overlook that fact. So whether he is conscious of it or not, Mel Gibson is trying to get people to once again worship torture just like they did when they were pagans making human sacrifices. "Jesus died for our sins! Wasn't that wonderful of him? Now appreciate that fact in every howling, grue-soaked detail!"


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 4:11 pm 

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Dang, every time I see this thread at the top of the recent post board, I hope to find some news about when we might see the new blu from Criterion. I'm PRAYING for this to come out by the end of 2012!


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 2:10 am 
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(Sorry, Brian)

I couldn't find a dedicated Dreyer thread- I've just broken the bank and sprung for a copy of the MoC Michael. Apart from that, are there recommended releases of Dreyer's other early work? Is any of it worth watching?


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 2:15 am 
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Dreyer thread

You might place an order with the Danish Film Institute for Præsidenten, the Blu-ray of Die Gezeichneten + Glomdalsbruden, Leaves from Satan's Book, and Der var engang. I'd particularly recommend those first two.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 2:24 am 
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Thanks, swo. I think I'll have to look at the DFI site when I'm not half asleep, I can't figure out how to order anything there.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:47 am 

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matrixschmatrix wrote:
Thanks, swo. I think I'll have to look at the DFI site when I'm not half asleep, I can't figure out how to order anything there.

You can just email them if you have any questions, they all speak English. I actually got my copy of the Blu-Ray in person from the Institute, where the gift shop had flooded the week before, and they were closed. A kind gentleman was good enough to pull it from the back for me, as I was only visiting. It was cheap, but I think the postage might be expensive. The films are both interesting, but don't expect quite the focused genius of his most famous works.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 4:33 pm 
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matrixschmatrix wrote:
(Sorry, Brian)

I couldn't find a dedicated Dreyer thread- I've just broken the bank and sprung for a copy of the MoC Michael. Apart from that, are there recommended releases of Dreyer's other early work? Is any of it worth watching?


The Parson's Widow (1920) and Master of the House are both great Dreyer silents. The former is probably my favorite Dreyer silent after Joan and Michael. There is or was an Image Entertainment DVD of Parson's; I ordered Master of the House from DFI.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:09 pm 
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I was planning on getting the BFI Master since I got their Day of Wrath (for the Casper Tyberg commentary) and I want the My Metier doc- is the DFI the same as the BFI?


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:56 pm 
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matrixschmatrix wrote:
I was planning on getting the BFI Master since I got their Day of Wrath (for the Casper Tyberg commentary) and I want the My Metier doc- is the DFI the same as the BFI?

Sorry, I made a mistake. My Master of the House is the BFI.

If you are interested in the DFI dvds--you would do better to order them through Edition FilmMuseum. If you are in the U.S., they deduct the V.AT., which bring a 19.95 Euro DVD to 16.76 and with three films the FedEx shipping is 13.88 Euros, but then you have saved over 9 Euros on the DVDs, which makes it an attractive option.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:16 pm 
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Cool, I think I'll do that when I get my next paycheck. Do you recommend the DFI Leaves from Satan's Book over the Image one?


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:34 pm 
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matrixschmatrix wrote:
Cool, I think I'll do that when I get my next paycheck. Do you recommend the DFI Leaves from Satan's Book over the Image one?

I own the Image one, and it isn't of the best quality. I haven't seen the DFI.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:27 am 

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matrixschmatrix wrote:
Do you recommend the DFI Leaves from Satan's Book over the Image one?

Definitely - a longer and better print.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:39 pm 
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Eureka releasing on Blu-ray in the UK 11/19

EDIT: Old news evidently. Still, looking forward to this


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:43 pm 
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Weird that Blu-ray.com is only reporting that now. We've known about it all year.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:51 pm 
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I guess, they are reporting this now because Eureka just issued formal press release.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:44 pm 
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Yep, they do it all the time for MoC titles


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 1:25 am 
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As a child, or should I say victim, of the MTV generation I always fancied myself as lacking the attention span to watch a silent film and had to date disregarded them completely. Of these films The Passion of Joan of Arc had always intrigued me the most, 'If I'm ever going to watch any, it's gonna be that one'. When it assumed it's permanent place in this year's Sight & Sound poll it became clear that it was time to give it a go.

Popped it up on Hulu the other day and to my utter bewilderment I was utterly engrossed in it from start to finish. The imagery, shot construction/sequencing, acting, all blew my mind. In contrast to my preconceived notion of not being able to connect with a silent I found myself in complete connection with the film. Frankly, in a complete 180 I can't imagine this film having as profound effect on me if it had sound.

Images like towards the beginning of the film where one of the judges/interrogators(?) yells at Joan and you see the spit from his mouth land on her cheek are jarring. The film is incredibly organic, remarkably fluid that it's a wonder that it was made 85 years ago as it resonates modern. Suppose in a way that's the magic of cinema when done right, it resonates modern no matter when or where it's made.


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