One of the most exciting pivotal moments in film history, a really iconoclastic moment for film geeks, is reduced to the level of soap opera in a film that somehow manages to be the most un-cinematic representation of cinema in an age.
The narrative reduces a complex artistic process, fraught with personal, sexual and creative politics to a black and white, reductive conversation that never feels emotionally resonant or dangerous. Now, think about Hitchcock’s work and all those themes are present and correct throughout, even in his lesser works, all of which outstrip this tawdry tosh.
This is the objective stuff. The subjective is that I don’t like Hopkins, and found his performance shallow and unimaginative although to be fair to him, watching this directly after I saw Lincoln made for an impossible task, but still.
Although, I thought Scarlett Johansson was superb as Janet Leigh, and the Touch of Evil quip made me giggle. Oh, and bonus points for Ralph Macchio cameo as Josef Stefano.
Blu Ray Release: Monday September 10th 2012
This will be a shorter piece, as I recently wrote about this film in a bit of depth here.
The fact that it is on Blu Ray though, thanks to the Studio Canal UK is a thing of joy and wonder that needs further celebration.
The Trial is a masterpiece in my opinion, one of the finest films by one of the finest ever filmmakers, if not the finest. It’s second only in the Welles canon to Touch of Evil. It’s daring, it’s frustrating, it’s beautiful, it’s unique. It’s pure cinema. Watch it on Blu Ray, go on, do it.
Along with Paths Of Glory this is probably one of the most infuriating and rage inducing films I’ve ever seen. I adore it, easily one of my favourite Welles films sitting just below Touch Of Evil, and I’ve watched it a lot. It never fails to anger me with how raw and real and plausible it feels. It helps that like Paths Of Glory it is a work of supreme cinematic art.
Seriously, where is the daring in cinema now? This looks spectacular, each composition is peerless, flawless, flooring me with its power and depth of meaning.
Perkins is sublime, perfectly cast and the film moves along at such a slow pace that it all becomes confusing, and drawn out. Welles is storming, as usual and Romy Schneider is wonderful as the pale, callow, institutionalised maid/nurse/object of Welles’ beguiling, brusque and confounding Advocate.
I showed it to my students this morning, I am not sure how it went down, but one afterwards said she got confused, and wanted it to be over.
I told her that is the point. That’s what the system, what society be it corporations, bureaucrats, bullies, the government want. They want us to give up, to lose hope and resign to control. Most would say they don’t want a film that makes them feel that way, I say I want a film that reminds me life feels that way sometimes, if we let it.
I railed, in my mind, against screening Psycho for film studies, thinking that a 50 year old black and white film won’t speak to 17 and 18 year olds but then I remembered just how good it is. Watching it again, its influence seeping out for people to absorb, its brilliance in everything that makes cinema dear and exciting to me made me question my original reluctance.
I remember travelling to London to see a remastered print when I was 18 and I thought hey, if it meant so much to me at 18, maybe it will connect with some 18 year olds now.
There is so much to love in this movie, cinematically and from a story and character point of view. It’s so lean, what you think is preamble suddenly changes from feather to tonne in the drawing of a blade.
When looking at film studies from zero - mise en scene, sound, composition, editing, history, it really is a logical place to start as you can go before it easily, to silent film, montage, expressionism, the studio system and right up to now in terms of horror, screenplay structure, auteur theory and semiotics.
Perkins is incredible too. One of the finest screen performances ever, no debate.
I’m glad I showed it, even though a few of the cooler kids laughed at and chided the end moments, but I guess over the coming weeks we will see if they were paying attention or if I should have shown them Kick Ass or something.
Either way, I loved sitting at the back of a dark room as this masterpiece unfolded and my eyes discovered it anew, even though I’ve seen it umpteen times. I tried to fight it, but I can’t, it’s a masterpiece of cinema and everyone who claims to like movies, want to work in movies or is studying movies, has to see it.