Juliet of the Spirits (1965)

The title character in Juliet of the Spirits begins to suspect her husband is cheating on her, so she hires a private detective, who confirms that he is having an affair. However, she is trapped in the marriage because she loves her husband so much that she is afraid he will leave her. But her real problem is that she is trapped in a Federico Fellini movie for over two hours, which was produced under the assumption that if you have a lot of strange people in a movie saying weird things, and then fill the movie with all kinds of symbolic stuff, people will think it is profound and deep. She thinks that it is better to have a husband who does not love her and who cheats on her than to have no husband at all. And I guess she believes it is better to be in a Fellini movie than no movie at all. Wrong on both counts.

Diary of a Country Priest (1951)

The title character in Diary of a Country Priest is in ill health. He cuts out all meat and vegetables from his diet, which consists of wine with sugar in it and stale bread. So we wonder, Is he unable to eat because he is sick, or is he sick because he does not eat? Another priest tries to get him to eat more, but to no avail. At one point in the movie, he sees God. It made me think of Bertrand Russell’s remark to the effect that one man will get drunk and see pink elephants, while another will fast for a week and see God: both are abnormal perceptions arising from an abnormal physiology. We wonder why he does not go to a doctor, and finally he does. It is stomach cancer. He dies.

L’Avventura (1960)

Are people as weird in foreign countries as the movies that are made in those countries?  If so, I am sure glad I live in America.  L’Avventura would still have been a weird foreign film even if it had been shorter, but at least it would have been a better movie because there would have been less of it.

A bunch of people get on a boat and end up on a small volcanic island.  After they walk around for a while, they decide to leave and discover that Anna is missing.  They search everywhere, but she is gone.  There is only one possibility:  she drowned and her body drifted out to sea with the tide.  Of course, we can still wonder if it was an accident, suicide, or murder.  But one thing is certain:  she didn’t just vanish into thin air.

Wait a minute!  What am I saying?  This is a weird foreign film by Michelangelo Antonioni.  When you enter the theater to watch one of these movies, you have to check your reason and common sense at the door, or it will just get in the way of experiencing existential wonder, if that’s what you’re into.  So, of course she might just have vanished into thin air or teleported off the island or was abducted by aliens or whatever.

In any event, Anna’s friend, Claudia, and Anna’s boyfriend, Sandro, don’t have much reason and common sense either, because they leave the island and start looking for Anna.  I mean, they actually think she might be wandering around Italy, visiting museums, staying at a hotel, or anything that someone might do who wasn’t last seen on a small island with no way off except by boat.

They recognize that she might have drowned, but that doesn’t stop them from knocking off a quick piece, because though they just met, yet they are wildly in love with each other and just have to have some right in the middle of an open field.  Of course, that doesn’t stop Sandro from knocking off a quick piece the next day with some woman on the couch in the hotel lobby.  When Claudia catches him, he cries.  He shed not one tear for Anna, but this is different.  No problem, because Claudia still loves him.

And Anna?  You mean you’re still wondering what happened to her?  What do you think this is, an American movie?

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)

Sometimes a book or a movie gets more praise than it deserves because it was banned somewhere.  And what could be better for a movie than to have been banned by Joseph Goebbels himself, the Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany!  Other than that, there is no explanation for why anyone thinks this movie is any good.

If Dr. Mabuse:  The Gambler (1922) was over the top, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is absurd.  The title character went insane in the first movie and was confined to an insane asylum.  Then, Hofmeister, a criminal who once was a police detective, but was cashiered for bribery, goes mad out of fear of Dr. Mabuse.  By the end of the movie, Dr. Baum, who runs the asylum, goes mad as well and has to be confined.  But it does not stop there.  The plot is so outrageous as to make one think the movie itself was produced by a madman.

For starters, while Dr. Mabuse is in the insane asylum, he still manages to run a criminal organization, planning crimes down to the last detail.  His motives are as mad as he is.  Whereas in the first movie, he simply wanted power and the pleasure of manipulating the lives of others, in this movie he wants to drive the whole world mad by getting people hooked on drugs, which he supplies for free, and by causing so much terror and destruction that civilization will collapse, leaving nothing behind but crime as a way of life.

Mabuse communicates with his henchmen by willing his thoughts onto a record, which plays when he so wills it, while a cardboard image of himself sits behind a curtain, casting a shadow.  Do you dare ask how this curtain, cardboard image, and record player came to be set up in this room where criminals go to get their orders when commanded to do so by a piece paper with a typewritten message on it?  Why, Mabuse just wills it all into place!

Things get a little easier for Mabuse when he dies and wills his spirit into Dr. Baum, so now he has another body to occupy that can leave the asylum.  But he loves the record gimmick so much that when Dr. Baum wants his servant to think he is in his quarters, the record player is turned on whenever someone wiggles the door handle, causing it to play the message, “I don’t wish to be disturbed.”

Kent, a man who killed his girlfriend and her lover and went to prison for it, is forced by economic circumstances into Mabuse’s criminal organization.  Together with Lilli, the woman he loves, he decides to go straight.  But before he can make it to the police station, he and Lilli are captured and brought to the room with the curtain, the cardboard image, and the record player.  After the door is locked behind them, the record tells them they will never leave the room alive.  Eventually, Kent and Lilli pull back the curtain and discover the setup.  Then they hear ticking, the sound of a time bomb.  What better way to have a couple of people killed than to blow up your own headquarters!  But when you can will yourself into another body, will your thoughts onto a record, will your thoughts through a typewriter onto a piece of paper, and will an entire setup consisting of record player, curtain, and cardboard image, and finally will a time bomb into existence as well, then I suppose it is child’s play to will the whole setup into existence somewhere else after you destroy it with that time bomb just to kill two people.

But all is not lost.  We can just say to ourselves that this movie was an attempt by Fritz Lang to warn us of the danger of Adolf Hitler and that will make the movie profound somehow.

Dr. Mabuse:  The Gambler (1922)

At its longest running time, Dr. Mabuse:  The Gambler is almost five hours long, and it really overstays its welcome.  Long movies should be epics, spanning many years, accompanied by stirring music.  This movie is just a crime drama taking place over a matter of weeks, perhaps months.  It might have been more palatable had it been presented today as a television series, divided into weekly segments of forty minutes each, allowing for commercials, but just barely.

When the movie begins, our credulity is strained by the elaborate conspiratorial network that has been set up to do what could have been done in a simple, straightforward manner.  For example, when Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), the mastermind of a criminal organization, wants to meet secretly with one of his henchmen, does he just have the guy come over to his apartment where they can talk in private?  It would seem reasonable enough, inasmuch as Mabuse’s henchmen can often be found at his apartment where he gives them instructions.  But no!  Mabuse puts on a disguise and pretends to have an automobile accident with his henchman, who then offers his car to Dr. Mabuse, as if he is just giving him a lift out of courtesy.  Inside the car, Mabuse then gives his henchman the secret instructions.  And how did they arrange to have this accident at just that time and at just that intersection, you ask?  Why, they probably discussed it over at Mabuse’s apartment the day before.

The point of the secret meeting in the automobile has to do with the creation of a panic in the stock market concerning a stolen trading agreement between nations, allowing Mabuse, in disguise, of course, to sell high and then buy back low when the trading agreement is found, still sealed, just as Mabuse planned.  That might have been interesting, had not the whole thing been rendered silly by the automobile accident nonsense.

Before going over to the stock exchange, Mabuse, in another disguise, goes over to a secret apartment where he has a counterfeiting operation going on.  Does he keep the key in his apartment until he needs it?  Of course not.  He has a woman sit outside the apartment with the key hidden in a ball of twine, which he extracts when he wants to go inside.  Once in the apartment, we find five blind men counting the counterfeit money and putting it in bundles.  Presumably, all the bills are of the same denomination.  They are never allowed to leave the place, and since they are blind, they don’t know who it is that runs the operation.  We never see the money being printed, just counted.  Perhaps it is being printed in another room by five deaf men who cannot hear Mabuse’s voice and thus do not know who runs the operation.

You might think that between these market manipulations and counterfeiting operations, Mabuse has all the money he needs, but as we later find out, money is not Mabuse’s ultimate motive.  He does not want money so that he can live in comfort and luxury.  In fact, he cares nothing about happiness, and indeed, his moods range from morose to grouchy to angry.  What he wants is power, of which he can never get enough.  Money is simply one manifestation of his power.  Another is his ability to manipulate people.  Finally, toward the end, he says he regards himself as a state within a state, with which he is at war.

Regarding his desire to manipulate people, we discover a new aspect of the movie that makes the counterfeiting and stock market machinations almost seem realistic by comparison.  It turns out that he has mesmeric powers so great that he can compel people to do things from across the room simply by concentrating his gaze.  Such are his powers that he compels several people to commit or attempt suicide.  Also, his mental powers enable him to create illusions.  In one case, in a different disguise, he puts on a performance displaying such skills, which includes making the entire audience see people emerge from a desert and enter into the aisle, only to vanish before their eyes.  I found myself saying, “Mabuse gestures hypnotically,” in allusion to Mandrake, the Magician, a comic strip I never cared for.

At one point in the movie, another motive arises for Mabuse, lust for Countess Told.  He kidnaps her and takes her to his apartment, but she keeps refusing his advances, saying she wants to return to her husband.  As an act of revenge, Mabuse compels her husband, Count Told, to slit his throat with a razor.  Why Mabuse didn’t just use his mesmeric powers to make the Countess get naked and hop in bed, I don’t know.

Prosecutor von Wenk finally figures out that Mabuse is the evil super villain behind all the bad things that have been happening.  He gets an armed force together to arrest him, leading to a big shootout.  But it doesn’t make sense that Mabuse would resist being arrested, because he could mesmerically compel the judge and jury to find him innocent, or, in a pinch, compel the guard to open the prison doors and let him go.  And then he could gesture hypnotically to make it appear that that he was still in his cell.

I guess the people who made this movie realized that Mabuse’s powers could exceed any brought against him by the state, so they stooped to a deus ex machina.  They made Mabuse go mad, seeing ghosts of those whose deaths he was responsible for.  Reduced to a blithering loony, he is carted off to jail, or, as we find out in the sequel, to an insane asylum.

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

In Eyes Without a Face, mad scientist Docteur Génessier, whose specialty is transplanting tissue from one person to another, is working to overcome the tendency of the recipient to reject the foreign tissue.  He also has a practical purpose, which is grafting a new face on his daughter, Christiane, who was disfigured in an automobile accident that was his fault.  His Igor is Louise, played by Alida Valli, whose disfigured face was restored by Génessier, for which reason she is extremely loyal to him and willing to aid him in his evil doings.  In particular, Louise picks up young women who look the way Christiane did before her disfigurement, takes them to Génessier’s house so he can remove their faces and transplant them onto Christiane.  Unfortunately, he has thus far been unsuccessful, the result of which is that a bunch of dead women’s bodies without faces keep turning up, all of whom seem to be of the same physical type.  In fact, we see Louise dump one such woman into a river at the beginning of the movie.  One way in which all the women are similar is that they all have blue eyes.  Now, this makes no sense, because Christiane’s eyes are fine, hence the title:  she has the eyes; what she needs is a face.  So why the women whose faces are being removed have to have blue eyes is a mystery.

Génessier identifies the woman found in the river as his daughter so that people, including her boyfriend Jacques, a doctor who works in Génessier’s clinic, will think she is dead and not wonder where she is, for only Génessier, Louise, and Christiane know of her horribly burned face.  In the meantime, Christiane wears a mask around the house so as not to gross everyone out including herself.  The mask is an immobile version of what she used to look like.  One of the amazing things about this mask, which allows us a clear view of her eyes, is how expressive her “face” is.  We have all heard the expression, “The eyes are a window to the soul.”  This movie really demonstrates it.  We get a good sense of what Christiane is feeling and thinking as she walks around the house owing only to the expressiveness of her eyes.

Louise’s next victim is Edna.  She tricks her into getting into the car with her, and the next thing you know, Edna is strapped to the operating table having her face lifted, so to speak.  We actually get a glimpse of her face after the skin has been removed, squarely placing this film into the category of Grand Guignol.  At first the transplant seems to be a success, but eventually it becomes necrotic and has to be removed again.  Back on goes the mask.  For some reason, Génessier keeps Edna alive, as if he is doing her a favor, but she leaps to her death.  Adding to the creepiness of this movie are all the big, howling dogs Génessier has locked up in small cages to be used for his transplant experiments.

One of Edna’s friends reports her missing.  She tells the police about the woman that Edna said she was going somewhere with, but all she can say by way of identification is that Edna said the woman wore a pearl choker (Louise wears a choker to hide the scar on her neck).  Later, Jacques receives a strange phone call from Christiane, who misses him terribly.  She only utters his name, but he recognizes her voice.  He goes to the police, and when Inspector Parot mentions the pearl choker in passing, Jacques thinks of Louise.  As a result, she and Dr. Génessier become suspects.

A woman named Paulette, who fits the profile of missing girls, blue eyes and all, is picked up by the police for shoplifting.  Parot and another inspector threaten her with prosecution unless she acts as a decoy.  She agrees to go to Génessier’s clinic and fake an illness.  And here is the point in the movie where police incompetence becomes so absurd that it is laughable.  Do they have a plainsclothes officer watching the clinic to see what happens to her when she is discharged?  No.  And so, when Paulette is released late at night and walks down the street to get a bus, she is offered a ride by Louise and accepts.  Too bad nobody is around to see her get in the car.

Jacques calls Inspector Parot to let him know Paulette has left the clinic.  Parot concludes that this puts Génessier and Louise in the clear, since they obviously did not kidnap Paulette, but let her leave the clinic instead.  However, Parot decides to make sure she got home all right.  Gosh!  She never got home.  So the two inspectors drive out to Génessier’s clinic just to be sure.  They ask Génessier if Paulette was released from clinic.  Yes she was, he tells them.  The inspectors shrug and go home, concluding it was just a false trail and the choker was just one big coincidence.

Before Paulette’s face can be peeled off, Christiane releases her from the table, stabs Louise in the neck right through the choker, and releases the dogs, who then go after Génessier, ripping half his face off.  Christiane wanders off into the woods with one of the doves she also released perched on her hand, just to give the movie a little symbolism.  You see, this is a French film, so you can’t expect it to make sense the way a Hollywood production would.

The Virgin Spring (1960)

Being an atheist, I have always found it challenging to review a religious movie, because I worry that my criticism will be more about religion than about the movie.  This difficulty is compounded if it is not clear what the attitude of those who produced the movie is toward that religion, whether they intended the movie to be a criticism of religion or a defense of it.  In other words, it is not clear to me whether The Virgin Spring, a movie directed by Ingmar Bergman, looks upon the simple faith of some fourteenth century peasants in the same way that parents will smile at their child’s belief in Santa Claus, or whether the movie actually shares that faith in God and encourages us to do likewise.

Anyway, as I said, there is this fourteenth century family of Swedish peasants headed by Töre (Max von Sydow).  His daughter is Karin, who is a blonde virgin.  Well, her body may be pure, but her soul is not.  She is lazy, vain, and spoiled, smug in the fact that she is so cute and adorable that she can do as she pleases.  She has a foster sister, Ingeri, who is a brunette, a bastard soon to give birth to a bastard of her own.  The two of them set out for church to do something or other, and on the way it turns out that the other night Karin was flirting with the man that got Ingeri pregnant.  Though there is no hope that he will marry Ingeri, yet Karin’s dalliance with him infuriates Ingeri.  Just to rub it in, Karin taunts Ingeri for no longer being a virgin, while gloating over the way she will someday be married in all her virginal purity.

They get separated, and soon after Karin comes upon three goat herders that rape and murder her.  The men strip her body of her beautiful clothes.  Later, they ask for lodging at Töre’s house, not realizing he is Karin’s father.  That night, they present Karin’s clothing to her mother as a gift, saying it belonged to their sister.  She tells Töre about it.  He asks Ingeri what she knows, and she admits that she witnessed the rape and murder and feels guilty because she wanted Karin to get her comeuppance.  Töre then murders the three goat herders, one of whom was just a boy, who had nothing to do with what happened to Karin.  Then Töre feels guilty for having committed murder.  The whole family goes out to where Karin’s body lies dead.  When they find her, Töre raises the ancient problem of evil, asking why God let this happen and then let him commit murder, while at the same time saying that he begs God’s forgiveness.

Now, this is what I was talking about.  Are we supposed to approve of Töre’s attitude or should we be disgusted?  I mean, I’m disgusted.  In fact, it is even a little disgusting that he had to wait until his daughter was raped and murdered before questioning how an all-powerful, loving God could let this happen.  After all, God has been standing by and letting girls get raped and murdered for centuries, and it is only now, when his daughter is a victim, that he takes exception to God’s indifference.

It gets worse.  Töre promises to build a church on the spot where Karin died, in hopes of being worthy of God’s forgiveness.  Then, when they lift up her body, water begins to gush from the ground where she lay, becoming a spring.  The family treats the water as if it is a miracle, a replenishing gift from God.  That’s right.  Karin’s rape and murder have been worth it, because now we are going to get a church with a little spring nearby.  Perhaps I should point out that there is no shortage of water in that area, the family having crossed a large stream on their way to get to Karin, so it is not as though the spring will bring needed water to a parched region.  It’s just more water.

Here we go again.  I don’t know whether we are supposed to regard that spring as a real miracle or not.  If it is a miracle, then we have to wonder:  as long as God was willing to perform a miracle, why didn’t he miraculously save Karin instead?  If it is not a miracle, are we supposed to despise or admire the family for thinking it is one?

I give up.  I’ll have to let someone who actually believes in God tell me what I am supposed to make of this movie.

Fellini Satyricon (1969)

There are certain works of fiction, be they in the form of novels or movies, that are much acclaimed by critics and connoisseurs of the avant garde, but which leave most of us completely bewildered as to what those people see in them.  We don’t enjoy them, and we don’t learn anything from them.  We force ourselves to get through them just to see what the big deal is all about, and we end up feeling we have endured an unpleasant experience that has wasted our time.  Whenever you come across a novel or a movie like that, ask yourself this question, “Does the work of fiction involve a lot of sex, especially the kind that is vulgar and obscene?”  If the answer is “Yes,” then the mystery is solved, especially if the work of fiction was censored or banned somewhere.  In this lies the reason for all the undeserved praise for novels such as James Joyce’s Ulysses, Marcel Proust’s In Search Lost Time, and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, and for movies such as Man of Flowers (1983), Belle de Jour (1967), Last Tango in Paris (1972), and, of course, Fellini Satyricon.

Why do some people praise novels or movies like these?  One reason may be that they actually enjoyed them or learned something from them.  That’s a horrible thought!  The other may be that expressing their appreciation for these novels or movies gives them a feeling of superiority over those of us who condemn them:  they come across as enlightened, cosmopolitan aesthetes, while we look like prudish, parochial philistines.

Fellini Satyricon is mostly about a couple of pederasts fighting over a catamite, who silently sits there with a big, shit-eating grin like Harpo Marx.  The catamite is Gitone (Max Born), who prefers Ascilto (Hiram Keller) over Encolpio (Martin Potter) for his lover.  And this is only the beginning of Encolpio’s woes in this picaresque tale in which Encolpio always ends up as the butt of whatever deviance is at hand, while Ascilto is there to gloat and have a laugh at Encolpio’s expense.  Interspersed with that story is a lot of other stuff that will make you want to take a bath when the movie is over.  Even the way these people eat is perverted and will leave you feeling queasy.

So, you know who you are.  If you are the type who loved reading Ulysses or watching The Last Tango in Paris, then Fellini Satyricon is the movie for you.  If not, then you have been duly warned.

The Apu Trilogy (1955, 1956, and 1959)

The Apu Trilogy consists of three movies made in India.  For some reason, a lot of people like these movies, not the least of which are the professional critics.  My suspicion is that the movies are given a foreign-film handicap, for if something of this quality had been produced in Hollywood, I suspect it would have met with a very different reception.  In any event, this review is not intended for those who admire these movies, for if this is what entertains them, why should I object to that?  Rather, this is a review for people like me, for those who feel pressured by film critics to watch these films, but who dread the prospect of doing so and keep putting it off.  Perhaps this review will help them decide if these movies are worth the effort.

Pather Panchali (1955) is the first movie in this trilogy.  Notwithstanding the emphasis given to the character Apu in the title of this trilogy, this first movie really seems to be about his mother, Sarbojaya Ray, who is so beset by grinding poverty that she has a hard time being nice to her family.  Her elderly cousin, Indir, also called “Auntie,” is an old woman who can barely see or walk, and Sarbojaya treats her miserably, eventually driving her away and forcing her to die in the woods.  Sarbojaya’s husband, Harihar Ray, comes across as a slacker and a dreamer (he thinks he can make money by writing plays), but maybe he is just a victim of the caste system.  Her daughter, Durga, is a thief, but she is likable.  Finally, there is Apu, who will play a larger role in the sequels.  After his sister dies, Apu destroys something she stole so no one will know, even though everyone really knows anyway.  While Harihar is away for months without sending money, a storm hits and destroys their house because he never got around to making the needed repairs.  This forces them to move to the city.

Aparajito (1956) is the second movie in this trilogy, which picks up the story a few years later.  The first part of the movie has a strange subplot that goes nowhere.  Nanda is the upstairs neighbor of the Ray family.  The first time he shows up to give Harihar a calendar, Sarbojaya pulls her head scarf over more of her hair and leaves the room. The second time he makes an appearance, she hears him coming, pulls the scarf over her head, and hides until he has gone upstairs.

When she needs some matches, she asks Apu about him, and then tells Apu to ask him for just two matches, as if she dreadfully feared being in his debt for an entire box of matches. Apu goes upstairs and watches him surreptitiously, as if Nanda were doing something of significance, but all he does is unwrap a bottle of booze. Apu asks for just two matches, but Nanda gives him the entire box, saying he has plenty and that Sarbojaya needn’t return them.

Then, while Harihar is sick and Sarbojaya is preparing food, Nanda enters her kitchen to ask her if she has some paan, something that is chewed for pleasure in India, sort of like tobacco. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is filmed as if his approach is ominous. She is fearful and then turns on him, furiously telling him to get out, holding some kind of utensil as if it were a weapon. When he leaves, she breathes heavily, as if she just escaped being raped.  Of course, if she had given him some paan, it would have been a way of paying him back for the matches, thereby discharging that sexually compromising debt.

Seriously now, how paranoid would she have to be to think Nanda is some lascivious lecher, trying to sneak a peek at her hair when he comes to visit Harihar, and then trying to take advantage of her on account of those matches, intending to have his way with her right there in the kitchen amongst the pots and pans?  Or has Nanda violated some terrible taboo, like, “Thou shalt not ask thy neighbor’s wife for paan”?   Of course, if this is such a big deal in India, maybe it would help if they had doors they could close to keep neighbors from just wandering in without knocking.  If they are too poor to afford doors, how about one of those velour ropes and a couple of stanchions?  With all that buildup, we expect some great climactic scene, or at least some explanation at to what this is all about, and, more importantly, what it has to do with the rest of the movie.  However, the entire subplot comes to an abrupt, unresolved end.

Anyway, once we get past that, Harihar dies of a fever.  Sarbojaya’s daughter, Durga, died in the previous movie, and soon Apu wants to do more than be a priest like his father, which means going away to be educated.  Sarbojaya is terribly lonely, but she does not want to remarry.  Apu, on the other hand, wants to live his own life, which means not spending as much time with his mother as she would like.  He lies to her in a letter, telling her he cannot come visit her on the holidays, even though he did get a couple of days off.  Hoping against hope that he will come see her anyway, she imagines hearing his voice and runs to the door, but sees only fireflies in the darkness.  Shortly thereafter, he gets a letter telling him she is ill, and by the time he gets home, she has died.  I guess we are supposed to feel sorry for her, but I can’t help but wonder if she ever thought about how Auntie felt, having to starve to death, alone and unloved, after Sarbojaya drove her away.

Apu cries over the death of his mother, a death made all the more painful by the lie he told her.  On the bright side, he will finally be free to live his own life.  An elderly relative does his best to prevent Apu from so doing, however, telling him it is time to become a priest, same as his father, but Apu knows how well that turned out, so he ignores these admonitions and just leaves.

The World of Apu ( 1959) is the final installment of this trilogy.  Having dodged his duty to become a priest, Apu thinks he is finally free to live his own life, but wouldn’t you know it, he gets invited to a wedding by Pulu, a friend of his, and ends up having to marry the bride himself, because the groom turns out to be crazy, and if she does not marry by the appointed hour, she’ll be ruined for life because no one will ever marry her.  Apu should have just sent a gift with a note saying he would be unable to attend.  That’s what I always do.

Her parents are rich, so you figure that since this is India and everything, there should be a sizable dowry.  But no, not a brass farthing.  However, Apu and Aparna, for that is her name, end up being poor but happy.  She gets pregnant, and so, after about the seventh month, she goes home to her parents to have the baby.  When one of her relatives shows up to tell Apu that she died giving birth, Apu punches him right in the mouth.  Well, everyone grieves in his own way.

Apu writes to Pulu that because he is now free to live his own life, he intends to travel.  Of course, we wonder how free he can be, inasmuch as Aparna’s baby lived.  No problem, he just dumps the kid on her parents.

Apu contemplates suicide, standing near the tracks as a train approaches, apparently planning on flinging his body onto those tracks at the last minute.  But the train runs over a pig instead, which puts him right out of the mood.  In the end, he settles for just throwing away the manuscript of the novel he had been working on, presumably because he realizes that he was no better at writing than his father was.

While Apu wanders around aimlessly for five years, his father-in-law becomes increasingly upset that Apu is not taking care of his own son, Kajal.  Pulu, who was Aparna’s cousin, goes looking for him.  Apu says he cannot take care of Kajal (whose name he did not even know) because Kajal would remind him of Aparna.  Of course, Kajal probably reminds Aparna’s parents of their dead daughter every day, but Apu thinks only of his own grief, not what others may be feeling.  Five years is a long time to grieve, but Apu still thinks it is a good excuse for not doing his duty as a parent when Pulu reminds him of it.  Being so reminded angers Apu, and knowing how Apu has a way of punching people out when they tell him something he does not want to hear, we wonder if Pulu will also get a smack in the mouth.  He doesn’t, so I guess Apu has grown wise in his years of travel.  Or maybe he just figures Pulu is big enough to give him the ass-whipping he needs.

Apu finally relents and goes to see his father-in-law, not to take care of Kajal personally, but to make arrangements for Kajal to go to a boarding school so that Apu can continue to live his own life, wallowing in the great suffering of his soul.  But then, just like your basic Hollywood melodrama, there is a total narrative rupture at the last minute, when Apu decides to take his son with him and care for him himself, the two of them living happily ever after.

A Day in the Country (1936)

In the movie A Day in the Country, a man, Monsieur Dufour, his wife, Juliette, his daughter, Henriette, her fiancé, Anatole, and the grandmother go the country for some fishing and a picnic.  Two men, Rodolphe and Henri, take one look at the wife and the daughter and decide to knock off a quick piece, although they have some disagreement as to who gets which one.  They manage to distract the husband and the fiancé by lending them fishing poles while Rodolphe and Henri each take one of the two women out on the river on a couple of rowboats.  Henri, the one who paired up with the Henriette, had some misgivings about getting her pregnant and ruining her life, but he finally decided to screw her anyway.  And it didn’t take him long, about five minutes after he pulled the boat to shore and sat her under a tree.

It must have been pretty steamy for the both of them, because they are still thinking about how good it was years later.  For some reason, Henriette marries Anatole, whom she no longer loves once Henri has had his way with her.  In fact, we wonder if she ever loved him, because she sure didn’t seem to.  But maybe she finally had to marry Anatole anyway, for the same reason that Henri feared.

The word is that Jean Renoir, who directed this movie, never got to finish it, so maybe that is why we never find out how Rodolphe made out with Juliette.  But as Rodolphe pointed out to Henri earlier on, when women are married, you don’t have to worry about getting them pregnant.