52 Poems, Week 45: Bridge Morning (Sally Thomas)
52 Poems, Week 46: The Parable of the Old Man and the Young (Wilfred Owen)

Sunday Night Journal, November 11, 2018

This is the 100th anniversary of what used to be known as Armistice Day. God help us, what a century of slaughter that war began. What do we make of the fact that the modern era has seen both a greater awareness of and sensitivity to injustice and suffering of all sorts, not to mention a supposed flowering of reason via the sciences, and killing on a scale never before seen in history? We can say that the body count of the wars has been so high only because we have such wonderful technology for accomplishing it, and that may be true. But that doesn't account for the killing that was mass murder by any definition, planned and executed with modern organizational and technological methods, for the specific purpose of eliminating whole populations in the name of one of the big totalitarian ideals. I think of C.S. Lewis's observation that both good and evil seem to advance simultaneously in history.

Nobody much wanted to listen to Pope Benedict XV at the time, but he looks pretty good in retrospect. As does Blessed Karl of Austria. I am sure he is in many ways an unacceptable figure to the contemporary mind, but a bit of very casual reading about him from secular sources (e.g. Wikipedia) seems to support the idea that he was a ruler who genuinely sought the common good, in particular the end of that terrible war.

It was not the end of civilization, but it was the end of a civilization. What followed has yet to find an order that seems likely to last. Our most widely agreed-upon principles, foremost of which is individual freedom, do not tend toward stability. I used to say, back before the fall of the Soviet Union, that we were heading for either 1984 or Brave New World. The former doesn't have nearly the constituency it used to. But something like the latter is even more now the logical end point of Western consumerism, hedonism, and technocracy.


So FilmStruck, the artsy/classic movie streaming service, will be no more after the 29th of this month. I have an absurd feeling of slight guilt about that, because although I subscribe I haven't used it very much at all. I know that makes no sense. 

I was excited when it appeared, and immediately subscribed. But I was disappointed to find that a basic subscription didn't include access to the Criterion Collection, which was the big attraction. That was part of the reason we didn't use it very much; the other and probably more significant part was a heavy diet of the mystery/crime dramas available on Netflix and Amazon. And when I did look at FilmStruck, it seemed that everything I wanted required the upgraded subscription.

I finally took that step a few weeks ago, just in time to hear that it's shutting down. So I'm trying to make time to watch some things I had put on my watchlist. To wit:

The Asphalt Jungle. This is a film noir classic, according to a wonderful book my wife gave me a few years ago, Into the Dark. (Unfortunately most of the movies listed in the book aren't available on either FilmStruck or Netflix.) Made in 1950, this was John Huston's fourth film. He already had several classics to his credit and while I wouldn't rate this one quite up there with, say, The Maltese Falcon, it's a very good one, and anyone who likes noir will probably like it. It's a "caper" story--about the planning and execution of a complex theft, which of course does not go as planned. 

Summer Interlude. Early Bergman, though "early" in this case means his tenth film. I had never heard of it before. I agree with FilmStruck's description:

Touching on many of the themes that would define the rest of his legendary career—isolation, performance, the inescapability of the past—Ingmar Bergman’s tenth film was a gentle drift toward true mastery. In one of the director’s great early female roles, Maj-Britt Nilsson beguiles as an accomplished ballet dancer haunted by her tragic youthful affair with a shy, handsome student (Birger Malmsten). Her memories of the sunny, rocky shores of Stockholm’s outer archipelago mingle with scenes from her gloomy present, most of them set in the dark backstage environs of the theater where she works. A film that the director considered a creative turning point, Summer Interlude (Sommarlek) is a reverie about life and death that unites Bergman’s love of theater and cinema.

 It's definitely worth seeing, even if you're not especially a Bergman fan. Those sunny summer scenes are very beautiful and worth it by themselves. I'll watch it again.

From the Life of the Marionettes. Also Bergman. I had seen references to it and was under the mistaken impression that it was another early one, but it isn't. It's from 1980, which makes it actually quite late. In 1976 Bergman got into trouble with the Swedish government over some tax-related matter. I say "into trouble"--he was actually arrested, and though the charges were dropped he left the country and lived mostly in Germany until 1984. This movie was made in Germany, with German actors speaking German, which is a little disconcerting to this fan: Bergman's people are supposed to speak Swedish.

It is an extremely dark story about a man who murders a prostitute for reasons having to do with his very unhappy marriage.  As the title suggests, the general theme is that people are puppets in the hands of forces they can neither control nor understand. I didn't much care for it, not because of the darkness but because it doesn't seem to me to be all that well executed. The acting is excellent, but the cinematography, which is so often such a big part of the appeal of Bergman's work to me, is dim and fuzzy. I assumed as I watched it that Sven Nykvist, Bergman's usual cinematographer, was not involved, but I was wrong. According to Wikipedia (plot spoilers at that link) it was originally made for television, so maybe that's the problem. I speculate also that Bergman was just not at his best at this time in his life.

It's not worthless by any means. There are some good moments, moments when the Bergman gift for putting profound philosophical and psychological  insights into the mouths of his characters emerges. One that especially struck me comes from a psychologist who is counseling the man who commits the murder. He suggests that the notion of a soul is a problem, and that one should simply get rid of the whole idea. "No soul, no fear" is the way the subtitles translate his rationale, but my bit of German enables me to say that it's better in that language: "Keine seele, keine angst." Maybe that will be the motto of that still-forming new order that I mentioned earlier.

I was going to say that I won't watch it again, but as I think about it more I think maybe I will, though I would recommend it only to dedicated Bergman fans. It's very fixated on sex, and I should warn you that one scene, in a peep show (I guess that's what you'd call it) where the murderer meets the prostitute, is pretty much pornographic.


I don't know the name of this plant. The way a few of its leaves turn bright red while the others remain green is interesting.




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From the Life of the Marionettes and its "keine seele, keine angst" makes me think of Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors.

I subscribed to filstruck and used it exactly once. I doubt that is any consolation but I put it forward

So our actual watching habits don't necessarily coincide with our avowed tastes? I guess as I implied in the post I suspected that was happening with me.

I saw Crimes and Misdemeanors around the time it came out but don't really remember much of it.

There are a lot of interesting memories of WWI in this post of Rod Dreher's and the comments on it:


My paternal grandmother served in the Red Cross in the war but she died when I was 12 and there wasn't a lot of family lore about her time there. I do remember that she was said to have know Sergeant York.

I watched it a lot. The Criterion Collection only costs a couple of dollars more a month. I will miss it because I know that it cost the same thing to get two months of Filmstruck that it cost to buy one of those CC movies at half price, and a lot of them just aren't available elsewhere.

My mine problem with not watching as many movies on FS as I would have liked is that Bill has no interest in them, so I have to watch them when I'm here alone, and when I'm here alone, I mostly want silence, although I do admit to watching some other stuff. I like to knit while I watch movies, and I can't knit and read subtitles.

I'm pretty sure, Maclin, that if you had popped for the extra two bucks a month, they wouldn't be going out of business. I understand your guilt.

When I look down a brown-gray hedgerow on a gray winter day, and there is a cardinal in one of the bushes, I think, "That is why God made red." Your picture makes me think of that. I really like those leaves.


I used to watch movies in the evening but since I got hypothyroidism I a m too tired To stay up and watch a movie. I’m not watching something different I’m simply not watching or very very seldom. I go to bed ridiculously early

I subscribed to FilmStuck for a couple of months, but rarely found anything to watch - I probably should have paid for the Criterion Collection. Another problem was that the web site was badly designed. If I wanted to browse on my computer, I couldn't open the details for a movie in a separate tab. So I had to go to a movie, and then when I would go back, it would take me to the beginning of the list. Also, the few times I tried to watch movies on my Roku, they kept pausing to buffer.

I have to say I disagree with your assessment of The Asphalt Jungle. I thought it was amazing. You compare it to The Maltese Falcon, and it's hard to compete with Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre (and Elisha Cook Jr), but I think the Asphalt Jungle is a much better movie. The tragic endings of Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, and Sam Jaffe were much more powerful than anything in The Maltese Falcon (though it's been a long time since I watched either of them).

Matter of personal preference, I think. As it happens I also saw The Maltese Falcon again not too long ago, and I'm partial to it, but they're both really good.

I've found FilmStruck's streaming to be a bit of a problem, too. It never stopped working but there are a lot of little hesitations that can be pretty annoying. I don't have that problem with Netflix.

Gosh, Grumpy, it seems to be one thing after another with your health. They can medicate that, though, can't they?

I'm sure you're right about my two bucks making the difference, Janet. Also, the fact that I hardly watched anything undoubtedly disheartened them and contributed to the decision to give up.

I've had a similar thought about cardinals. I need to find out what the plant in this picture is. It's pretty enough to be an ornamental but it's growing wild.

I disagree with your preference, but I can agree it's personal preference. Not like someone preferring the stuff they make these days :)

Mac, I'm not sure if it's something you'd be interested in, but the other day I watched a documentary on Netflix - "They'll Love Me When I'd Dead" - about Orson Welles' last unfinished movie. There are some somewhat pornographic scenes (though not by today's standards - if you can call them that) - but it's an interesting movie. Welles is a great character.

Funny, I was just thinking about Welles, looking for Touch of Evil on FilmStruck. It's not there but it is on Netflix. I saw it 20+ years ago and thought it was really good. That doc sounds interesting, thanks.

To me that plant looks like it might be from the rhododendron/azalea family.


I think that since Filmstruck made their announcement, some of their films have been showing up on Netflix. When I looked, ALL the Kurosawa films were streaming, and some of the Uzo, but by no means all.


Some of the things I've looked for on FS are on Netflix, but only on dvd.

Looks like that plant is in fact a rhododendron:


I sort of think it flowers in the spring but I can't remember for sure.

That has been my experience up until very recently, but it seems to be changing a bit and I wonder if Netflix is attempting to profit from Filmstruck's demise.


Then again, everything Japanese is very popular with the young.


Criterion's email about the end of FilmStruck mentioned that they are actively seeking another way of making their stuff available for streaming.

Hmm, just did a search for filmstruck and see several stories expressing unhappiness about this. Maybe some company will take the opportunity.


I don't think we have Filmstruck in Canada; I've never heard of it before this discussion. We do have Netflix, but it's a poor cousin to the US version. Slim pickings. But they will have the new Coen brothers film later this week!

Speaking of online services closing up shop, does anyone else here have a membership at eMusic? I've been a member for years, but in the last month or two a bunch of labels pulled their music, including all the best classical labels (Naxos, Harmonia Mundi, BIS, Chandos, CPO, Alpha, etc, etc). Apparently because of non-payment by eMusic. So I've decided to cancel my membership. It's the end of an era.

Yes, it is. I'm still technically a member but that will end when my yearly subscription runs out soon. "Technically": I was going to cancel last year, but they offered a deal where I could pay a flat yearly fee and download music at member prices. It was dumb of me to take it but I did. There was no way I was going to buy enough music from them to make it worthwhile. They've been losing labels steadily for a couple of years, and there's just not much there that I want. I'll be a little sad since I think I first subscribed in 2001. I had an eMusic fleece that they were giving away with memberships then. I didn't realize those labels you mention had gone, too. Not surprised though.

Have you been reading their hype about their new blockchain platform that's going to revolutionize the music industry? Yeah right.

They sent me the hype in an effort to dissuade me from leaving.

I am sad to leave, though. I understand that companies like Spotify have the same music, but for me there's something about having "my" music collection, rather than just borrowing somebody else's. I still buy the music I really like, and eMusic was a good and economical way to do that.

I feel like however you buy your music, before long it will be difficult to find the devices you need to listen to it. I hate this.


You should hear librarians and archivists talking about this. It is a really big worry for them. I recall probably 20 years ago listening to a sales pitch from a company wanting to transfer all the school's academic records to electronic media. "The software is all based on Windows so it won't become obsolete." I laughed in his face. I think he may even have said Windows 3.1.

Regarding owning music and movies, from the LA Times article I linked to above:

'“Sometimes friends of mine are bemused by me still buying dvds and BluRays, clinging on to physical media,” Wright wrote on Twitter. “But here’s why: these streaming libraries can be gone in a flash.”'

They certainly can, and probably will.

I have mixed feelings about owning more music. Because I already own so much, and because I'm now undeniably Old, it wouldn't be that big a deal if I never again had access to anything that I don't already own. Still, I don't rule out buying something even though I probably have access to it via streaming. The question becomes "How much would I miss this if I could never hear it again?"

The thing is that you really don't know if you would miss some things. I have given away some things that I would really like to have. I suppose it's good for me. I was thinking about a book just the other day.

Right now I am trying to decide whether or not to give away All Hallow's Eve. I read it recently for CSL Society--I can't believe how much I had forgotten--and I doubt I will read it again, but who knows.


Very true--that you don't know if you would miss things.

I would certainly hold on to All Hallow's Eve.

You want to hold on to mine until I need it again? I'm sure you have lots of empty space on your shelves. ;-)


I would but I'm afraid my copy might be jealous and they would be squabbling all the time, trying to push each other off the shelf and stuff.

If that happened, I'm sure it would be your copy's fault. Mine is very well-behaved.


Oh, I'm sure. Mine is quite rowdy.

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