Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mai 68 Grands Soirs et Petits Matins

(Movie Reviews)

So last week I wrote about how a 1997 French Documentary about Che Guevara had made its way over to the new release section of my video store here in Japan. What marketing considerations were behind this I'm not sure, but I didn't complain.

This one has got me scratching my head even more. This documentary on the May 1968 Revolution in Paris was originally released in 1978, but showed up in the Japanese video stores as a new release this week.

There's surprisingly little information about this movie on the internet (at least in English). It consists entirely of footage shot during May and June of 1968, but for some reason wasn't released until 10 years later. Apparently it has never been subtitled into English or officially released in America, but as of this past week it has been subtitled into Japanese and is in now in all the major video rental chains over here. Why is it being released now, and why in Japan? I have no idea. If anyone out there in Internet land has anymore insight than me, feel free to enlighten my ignorance.

(If anyone is interested in this movie, it has been posted in its entirety on-line here. It begins with what appears to be some sort of interview with the director, but you can skip that part easily enough. The actual movie begins at the 13 minute mark.)

As for me? Since I don't speak French I relied almost entirely on the Japanese subtitles. Which is what I usually have to do when I watch a foreign film in Japan. It's not a very relaxing way to watch a film, but I put up with it if it's something I want to watch bad enough.
My Japanese is still far from fluent (and in fact I think its been getting worse recently since I stopped actively studying). My track record watching foreign films subtitled in Japanese is much like my track record watching Japanese films: very hit and miss. I will watch a Jackie Chan movie with Japanese subtitles, feel like I understood it almost perfectly, give myself a pat on the back about what a genius I am, and then rent something else and not understand it at all.

Recently I watched "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days" in German with Japanese subtitles and felt like I was able to follow it pretty well. However with "Mai 68 Grands Soirs et Petits Matins" I felt like I was about 50% comprehension. Maybe even a little less.

I would have loved to understand the speeches in the movie a bit more, but at a certain extent if I wanted to know the details about the May 68 Revolution I could read a book. The point of a documentary is to see the images. And this movie does a great job of doing that. The movie exists entirely of footage from the May 68 Revolution. (No commentary, talking heads, voice overs or graphics). As such, watching the footage in this movie is the closest thing to being actually there.

The camera in this film seems to have the ability to get anywhere and everywhere. We see the marching in the streets, the overturned cars, and the street barricades (if there is a category for the most times "The Internationale" is sung in one film, I'd say this film has got to be a shoe in for the record)...
But we also see the heated conversations on the street corners between ordinary people, the speeches in the crowded theaters, and the student planning meetings. The legendary Daniel Cohn Bendit is shown giving a speeches and answering questions.

The title of this film apparently translates to something like "Big nights and small mornings". And most of the rioting appears to have taken place at night, which doesn't always show up very clearly on the screen. Consequently the director focuses most of his attention not on the riots , but on the discussions happening on the streets and in the theaters, which occupy by far the majority of the footage in this film.

In closing, I suppose what I said about the Che Guevara documentary is also relevant here. If you're a history geek like me, you will seek this movie out on your own without my prompting. If you don't like history, then you won't. But I personally found it a fascinating two hours.

Link of the Day
Wasting Time on Youtube:
You already knew "The Family Guy" was ripping off "The Simpsons", but someone out there on youtube put together a damning clip show shows the similarities side by side.

Also since I'm in Japan (and since I'm no longer living in the college dormitories) I don't watch "The Simpsons" as much as I used to. I had almost forgotten how funny they were during the golden years, until I rewatched this "Homer Swearing" clip.

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