A movie screen named desire
1895: the Lumière brothers are doing the first public screenings of their invention, the cinematographe, while Freud is publishing his studies on hysteria. The complicated and evolving relationship between psychoanalysis and cinema is analysed in this French documentary directed by Élisabeth Kapnist.
This movie is very dark, not only in subject matter, but also in atmosphere. Regularly, we are taken back to a movie theatre, where the camera captures the impressions of the viewers, completely engrossed in the screen in front of them. This contributes to the overall unsettling mood of the documentary, which is further accentuated by the deep and almost creepy voice-over.
The problem with this movie is not lack of intrigue. It is the fact that it is too long, and therefore tends to go into different directions. While the need to create a fitting atmosphere is understandable, it feels overdone. Also, even if this documentary was made in 2006, because of the film excerpts it features, it lacks a contemporary feeling.
Marylin Monroe: Still Life
For many, Marylin Monroe still represents the definition of a sex-symbol: a woman who is in control of her image, her sexuality, her life. She would have been 81 years old in 2007, but her early demise helped seal her status.
Gail Levin directed this 2006 documentary that explores the life of Monroe through her photo shoots and through interviews with those who captured her on camera. Through it all, we are taken aback by the intensity of this young woman, and the luminosity she casts. Our eyes are drawn to her, no matter how many other people are around.
This is the idea behind the documentary: to understand Monroe’s appeal. Watching her movies are not enough,. her essence, her true self is only visible in photography. The testimonies of the artists behind those works remain, many years later, still under her spell. The film is a PBS presentation, part of a series called American Masters. It has all the appearances of a television program and when presented in a movie theatre, loses its rhythm. It would have been interesting to go deeper into Marylin’s life, and not simply observe her photographs. It is still, however enough to remind us of the extraordinary appeal of one Norma Jean Baker.