Skip’s Quips: Christmas Confessions of a Nice Jewish Boy

Blog Sketch 082813I love watching the 1951 A Christmas Carol with Alistair Sim during the holiday season.

Does it matter that I’m Jewish? I don’t think so. It’s a timeless story, with thrills, chills and a wonderful moral sensibility. Religion, methinks, is irrelevant when it comes to the cinema.

I do think it’s a shame that there aren’t that many films around that celebrate the Hanukkah holiday by telling the story of Judah Maccabee and his brethren. It’s a fascinating tale that would be most conducive to celluloid.

But I’m not at all against the trappings of Christmas on the telly. In fact, I welcome them. They bring a festive air to the season, which is much needed when the snow falls and the wind turns cold.

Viewing A Christmas Carol is one of my annual holiday traditions. I equate it to having turkey on Thanksgiving. You just can’t do without it.

And a great film is a great film, no matter what the subtext suggests. So I’m going to continue to watch Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge this season. And enjoy it. Until next year, of course. When the time for it comes around again.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Thinking About ‘Ugetsu’ and Other Flicks

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I like Kenji Mizoguchi’s films. I think he’s a top-class director.

Is he greater than Akira Kurosawa, though? I’m not sure. I will admit, I’ve been thinking about Ugetsu more than The Seven Samurai recently, and I don’t know why.

There’s a haunting moment in the former flick that has stuck in my mind. After the potter Genjuro escapes from the clutches of the ghost of Lady Wakasa, he finds himself in a field bestrewn with the ruins of her mansion. A song she once sang for him is played as he wanders, stunned, among the skeleton of the house.

What a sad, wonderful, evocative moment. So eerie. It’s part of what makes Ugetsu the best ghost story put on film … next to Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan. But where the latter movie was daring in its use of color and sound, Ugetsu is relatively conservative, using stately, composed shots and wistful music to move the action, as well as provide tangible atmosphere.

I’ll be debating for a long time whether Mizoguchi is better than Kurosawa. With pictures such as Ugetsu, however, I wonder if there really is any debate.