Movies about nuns

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jbuck919
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Movies about nuns

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:51 pm

OK, I hereby confess my continued fascination with these, though I am most of a lifetime removed from association with the milieu of the religious life. Recently I happened to watch The Nun's Story for the umpteenth time, this time on YouTube. It is a movie that has fascinated me since I was a teenager (and then still a believer), and it has never lost its allure. It is one of those movies that yield something new every time I watch it. A marvelous Franz Waxman score (which no one else will tell you uses repeatedly a motif from the most common Gregorian setting of Ave Maria), stunning performances by an all-star cast (Audrey Hepburn's own favorite role), a brilliant script based on a true story told in an entirely credible fashion (there is not a single moment in it that is not to the life as it would have been in that day, place, and time, yet it is a remarkable case of truth being stranger than fiction). Great cinematography at both the grand and the subtle level. In truth, a perfect movie, and how often can we say that?

Then the "next feature" on YouTube was Black Narcissus, a classic movie I had never seen, so I watched it. Also a fine movie, but more of an entertainment on the order of a number of movies at the time that put odd people in an exotic setting in a work of entire fiction. Not to be compared with The Nun's Story.

Thoughts on movies about religious life?

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

SONNET CLV
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Re: Movies about nuns

Post by SONNET CLV » Tue Apr 08, 2014 12:55 pm

jbuck919 wrote: Thoughts on movies about religious life?

None.

Tarantella
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Re: Movies about nuns

Post by Tarantella » Wed Apr 09, 2014 5:23 pm

"Black Narcissus" is a 'cult classic' from Powell and Pressburger (aka "The Archers"). I have a restored version in my library. Actually, it's hard to keep a straight face - especially when Sister Ruth goes on the rampage in that red dress and lipstick. Lots of critics have said "she goes mad from sexual frustration". Yep, that's what happens when you live with a bunch of old nuns high up in the mountains of some obscure Himalayan retreat - and when the object of your 'desire' is a dried up middle-aged Englishman with as much sex appeal as the donkey he's riding!!! Deborah Kerr, with her usual melodramatic delivery and barely modulated despair, (and in such impeccable English) is an absolute bore!

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING??!! It's a shocker.

http://www.criterion.com/films/632-black-narcissus

JohnB, here is the greatest film in the 'religious' genre that was ever made, and I'm sure I've discussed it before on CMG - Carl Theodor Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc". This silent MASTERPIECE uses the most sophisticated (often canted) framing, montage editing and monochrome photography from Rudolph Mate who made Hollywood his home in the 1930's (no prizes for guessing why he left Europe). I haven't yet mentioned the stunning performance of the amateur actress, Renee Falconetti, who played Joan. Unbelievable! And I ask myself whether any of this would have been possible in the style used by Dreyer without Sergei Eisenstein and the answer must be a resounding "NO"! The ending is simply shocking!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3Q6FVhqLY0

jbuck919
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Re: Movies about nuns

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:50 am

Tarantella wrote:"Black Narcissus" is a 'cult classic' from Powell and Pressburger (aka "The Archers"). I have a restored version in my library. Actually, it's hard to keep a straight face - especially when Sister Ruth goes on the rampage in that red dress and lipstick. Lots of critics have said "she goes mad from sexual frustration". Yep, that's what happens when you live with a bunch of old nuns high up in the mountains of some obscure Himalayan retreat - and when the object of your 'desire' is a dried up middle-aged Englishman with as much sex appeal as the donkey he's riding!!! Deborah Kerr, with her usual melodramatic delivery and barely modulated despair, (and in such impeccable English) is an absolute bore!

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING??!! It's a shocker.

http://www.criterion.com/films/632-black-narcissus

JohnB, here is the greatest film in the 'religious' genre that was ever made, and I'm sure I've discussed it before on CMG - Carl Theodor Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc". This silent MASTERPIECE uses the most sophisticated (often canted) framing, montage editing and monochrome photography from Rudolph Mate who made Hollywood his home in the 1930's (no prizes for guessing why he left Europe). I haven't yet mentioned the stunning performance of the amateur actress, Renee Falconetti, who played Joan. Unbelievable! And I ask myself whether any of this would have been possible in the style used by Dreyer without Sergei Eisenstein and the answer must be a resounding "NO"! The ending is simply shocking!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3Q6FVhqLY0
Thanks. I knew nothing about that movie. I may give it a watch. And thanks for the back-up on Black Narcissus.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Tarantella
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Re: Movies about nuns

Post by Tarantella » Tue May 06, 2014 6:05 pm

I've just looked again at the opening segments of Dreyer's "Joan of Arc". Those shots are stunning! The film was made in 1928 when sound film had already been used in the USA (The Jazz Singer, 1927). Lang, in his 1927 film "Metropolis", had used a primitive form of (*zoom in to a) close-up in the scene with the Moloch, but I notice Dreyer must have used a brand new lens for close-ups (only 1 year later) as these appear early in the film. "The Passion of Joan of Arc" is a visual triumph, with cutaways of very human characters and their expressions used masterfully. This kind of elision (the cutaway) had been a basic element of film grammar since DW Griffith, but Dreyer (and some others) perfected it into an art.

Please, do yourselves a favour and watch this film!! That is, if you have any love and appreciation for film and film history. Dreyer was a pioneer, autere and artist of the highest calibre.

(*Late '60s-70's films can be readily identified by the astute cinephile for their tendency to fairly rapidly zoom in/zoom out in the most awkward fashion. I mention this because back in the 20's, when it was used with discretion, the effect was far more powerful. When I was at the ABC we had a cameraman who was thrown off documentary films and consigned to News because he was named "Zoom-in-zoom-out Heinz". It was a disparaging term because of his highly unsubtle use of that technique! Some of our better cameramen became international cinematograhers - Dean Semler ("Dances with Wolves") and John Seale ("Witness) being just two of them. And one of our editors, Richard Francis-Bruce - the husband of a colleague - became a celebrated Film Editor; "Shawshank Redemption".)

jserraglio
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Re: Movies about nuns

Post by jserraglio » Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:51 pm

The Dreyer Joan is also for me the greatest silent movie I ever saw. Saw it properly projected in a NYC revival house, deeply moved by this masterpiece.

My favorite movie about religion? Pasolini's The Gospel According to St Matthew.

My fave movie nun is Sister Meryl in Doubt. For sheer humanity, nothing on film can approach the nuns in Poulenc's wrenching opera, Carmelites.

jbuck919
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Re: Movies about nuns

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Oct 31, 2014 7:27 pm

jserraglio wrote:For sheer humanity, nothing on film can approach the nuns in Poulenc's wrenching opera, Carmelites.
Well of course I was excluding that huge masterpiece. I've seen it broadcast, but if it has ever been made into a move, tell me. ;)

The excellence of the Audrey Hepburn movie cannot be exaggerated. Years after, the real "Sister Luke" who had monitored the production nursed the ill Hepburn back to health. There are complications in the estate of Katherine Hulme, the lover of Marie-Louise Habets, "Sister Luke," which have kept The Nun's Story the novel out or print for many years. Unless there is a recent development of which I am unaware, you must look it up in a library. It is worth it. It is a rare case of the novel and the movie being of equal quality (though of course in detail different). Modern, lay, and secular people do not understand what religious life involved prior to, say, 1965. The story is entirely faithful to the reality. Marie-Louise never forgave herself for leaving her order, but while the movie ends with her exit, the novel confirms that she went on to a a role in the underground, an unimaginable task to modern Western people. "She could not have known what a Gibraltar her convent discipline would mean to her in the ordeal to come." (from the novel)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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