As a fan of impressionistic filmmaking, I watched both this year’s “The Tree of Life” and “Last Year at Marienbad” from 1961. The Tree of Life, directed by Terrance Malick, proved to be an incredible journey across time and generations, full of moments that create uneasiness about reality and make the viewer question the journey. Last Year at Marienbad, directed by Alain Resnais, takes place at a chateau where the camera moves from room to room and event to event while the 2 main characters — a couple who might have met and had an affair the previous year — debate whether they even know each other.
Since I’ve been discussing the San Francisco Silent Film festivals program this year, I also want to mention “Il Fuoco,” an Italian film directed in 1915 by Giovanni Pastrone. The program organizers wanted to point out the affected acting style of the film’s star, Pina Menichelli, so they used a female singer and a piano as a musical accompaniment. The plot revolves around a wealthy poetess who seduces a poor painter and drives him to madness. As she works her magic, using wild theatrical motions, the singer produced eerie sounds. I think the music negated the impressionistic effect of the story, but it did intensify the outrageousness of Menichelli’s performance. Film historians often mention the lack of the naturalistic acting style in silent films. It’s strange to see the affected style so emphasized by the music choice.