He seemed to court the laureate inheritance of Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman, among others, packaging “it” into something salable to young film school aspirants everywhere. Not a small part of his seductive, autodidact aura is the story of how he ditched NYU film school after two days. Perhaps more surprisingly, he survived insuperable expectations – earned by the one-two punch of Boogie Nights and Magnolia – and spent the goodwill, faith, and high visibility on licking one of the knottiest problems facing artists in all media: what to do after you’re a wunderkind. His subsequent output tended to wear lightly (if at all) the body armor of nimble, overachieving virtuosity, yet movies like The Master and There Will Be Blood share with the first films a forceful, productive impatience with traditional means of telling stories, eliciting audience identification, and conveying information. Above all, he takes care that even his most laudable technical flourishes are grounded by purpose and meaning.
Tag: Martin Scorsese
Top Tier, 1947
[Note of introduction: this is a reprint from an unexamined/essentials post from last year, after a third or fourth viewing of Black Narcissus – the first on Blu-ray]
Black Narcissus has inspired much well-deserved cooing over its potent and complex images, and much well-earned discussion over what we may take as its thesis. (The consensus, of which I’m a part, seems to be that the nuns represent our inability to escape our natures, and that physical spaces can have non-physical essences.) I don’t feel encouraged to throw any more coins into those two fountains, at least not with traditional means. What I’d prefer to do, what I like to do every now and then, is post the notes I took – hurriedly – during the course of the film. They have been edited and sometimes completely re-written for presentation, by which I mean I have tried to turn each blast of the pen into a proper, grammatically correct sentence that contains a full thought.
Why notes? Because there are reams of critical/appreciative essays on Black Narcissus. My intention is not to go through the film, but to nibble at the edges; to stick pushpins into specific moments that caught my eye, my ear, and my thoughts.
The following roughly corresponds to the film’s timeline.