Tears in the dark

7 maio

People somtimes ask me if, when I am about to see a picture, I promptly take on that distant and cold attitude of a professional critic who observes, analyses and judges.

My answer always surprises those who ask me: when I am at the movie-house – or at home, playing the DVD set – I take off completely my “critic´s uniform” and surrender to the movie, body and soul, for whatever comes up. And what comes up may be any human reactions, including those too human.

Only later, as the English poet says, “recollected in tranquility”, I mentally recall the movie and, if by any chance, it was worthwhile, I do concentrate to analyze and evaluate.

I did not mention, above, the list of reactions I may have to a movie, but, I do feel the moral obligation of saying that those are the same that occur to the most naïve and unable spectator.

One of them, for instance, is crying. Yes, some movies make me cry, so much that the tears flurry, not only my vision, but also my supposed ability to discern.

Fellini´s "Nights of Cabiria": a tear and a smile in the final scene.

Fellini´s “Nights of Cabiria”: a tear and a smile in the final scene.

If you want an example, I could never watch the final scene in “Nights of Cabiria” (Fellini, 1957) without pouring tears, and even now that I recall it to write about, I do feel like crying.

I think Fellini was pretty mean to conceive that kind of denouement; mean to Cabiria and mean to the viewer. The poor woman had suffered blows after blows, and this final scene is totally unbearable. It should have been the sublime moment when, despite the blows, she had come to believe in love again, and, however, her “charming prince” proves to be a thief who, in the dark forest, near the abyss verge, runs away with her belongings. Next morning, when Cabiria meets those gay young people who play, sing and dance around her, she still can show a smile, but…

In Frank Capra´s “It´s a wonderful life” (1946) George Baily is a householder who, a Christmas Eve, can see no way out of his debts except committing suicide. As he tries it, someone else enters the scenery and the whole story takes an unexpected and strange course. Bewitched by the angel Clarence, George looks for his relatives all over town and can not find any: in this unfamiliar, gloomy new world, his wife, Mary, had become a neurotic spinster, his mother is the owner of a whorehouse, and his brother is just a name in a tomb… In a moment of total despair, not knowing what to do or where else to go, he runs towards the screen (yes, towards us) as if to ask for help. This moment chokes me and…

Un unifamiliar, gloomy new world for George Baily: Capra´s "It´s a wonderful life"

An unifamiliar, gloomy new world for George Baily: Capra´s “It´s a wonderful life”

In David Lean´s “Brief encounter” (1945) Laura is a simple housewife, with two kids, a mind-limited husband and an unimaginative life ahead. Every Thursday she takes the train to a neighboring town, where she finally meets this also married doctor who… The scene in which this woman in love is forced by circumstances to return back to the husband she does not love, and, sitting at the sitting room, after recalling a whole love story, hears the husband thank her for getting out of this “nightmare” and come back to his arms: all this under Rachmaninoff´s sound track…

I never wrote critical essays on these movies, and if I ever did, I was not at all satisfied with the results. My emotional reaction inevitably interferes with the analysis and, after all, I would rather leave them untouched. By the way, I do not even see these three movies very often, for, in my religion of cinephile, they are sacred icons for whom a constant visitation might sound like profanity.

Back into an unimaginative domestic life: David Lean´s "Brief encounter"

Back into an unimaginative domestic life: David Lean´s “Brief encounter”

Actually I should say very few movies make me cry, and the ones who do are all old movies, from the first half of the twentieth century. Modern cinema never pulled out a tear from my eyes, I wonder whether the problem is mine or its. I do not even know if it is a problem.

The crying effect is connected to a special genre, the melodrama, a genre that lost prestige with the coming of modernity.

I do not know how far the three movies I mentioned may be called melodramas, but, there is one thing I know: they are too big to fit any genre.

3 Respostas para “Tears in the dark”

  1. Vitória Lima maio 7, 2014 às 5:41 pm #

    Very good, João. I liked your undressing the critic’s uniform.

  2. Ana Elvira maio 7, 2014 às 8:18 pm #

    Without borders. That’s it. Just smile.

  3. Glória maio 7, 2014 às 8:55 pm #

    Dear Johninho, I am so happy that the films you’ve mentioned are part of that list of mine, remember? Beautiful and touching article. Congrats!

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