Sunday, April 06, 2014

Jean Renoir: Nana (1926)

Jean Renoir's 1926 silent film Nana, based on Émile Zola's 1880 novel of the same name, takes place in the 1860s near the end of the the reign of Napoleon III. Nana has risen from a state of poverty to one of financial promise in the music hall, immediately (during a performance of The Blonde Venus) drawing a diverse set of men into her orbit. It's not long before all of them fall into "The Burning Ring of Fire," as the song goes. 

The key players in Nana are stellar, expressive in a way that silent films demand in order to hit their mark, particularly Catherine Hessling (Nana), Werner Krauss (Count Muffat) and Jean Angelo (Count de Vandeuvres).
Overall, Renoir's version of Nana is quite absorbing, which leads me to wonder about other stories of obsession that are also compelling. 

Do these endure because tales of awe-struck obsession are so human and recognizable through the centuries, or because these stories take things all the way to their conclusion, amped to the max, as it were?

I'm sure you can think of others and will gladly share, but here are some other obsession stories that pop to mind:

The Iliad (Homer, not Simpson)
David and Bathsheba
Paul on the Road to Damascus
The Quest for the Holy Grail
Candide, ou l'Optimisme (Voltaire, 1759)
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (Herman Melville, 1851) 
Carmen (Georges Bizet, 1875) 
Der Tod in Venedig / Death in Venice (Thomas Mann, 1912)
Un Amour de Swann /  Swann in Love (Marcel Proust, 1913) 
Zorba the Greek (Nikos Kazantzakis, 1946)
The Caine Mutiny (Herman Wouk, 1952)
Wise Blood (Flannery O'Connor, 1952)
The Blue Max (Jack D. Hunter, 1964)
Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo / The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
Cross of Iron (Sam Peckinpah, 1977) 
Bill Maher and religion (ongoing)
True Detective (Nic Pizzolatto, HBO, 2014)
Joyce Carol Oates ("The three saddest words in the English language," Gore Vidal supposedly quipped).

Clearly, I'm obsessed, haha. What else you got out there?

Here's a little something by Jean Renoir's painterly father, Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Le Déjeuner des canotiers / Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881; original in The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC). See it in person, if you dare!

Today's Rune: Fertility. 


Erik Donald France said...

Another: Der blaue Engel / The Blue Angel (Josef von Sternberg, and Francine Prose did a novel inspired by it, Blue Angel).

Charles Gramlich said...

Did you hear that Peter Matthiessen died? I wondered if you had read him. I've talked about him on my blog a fair amount.

jodi said...

Erik-I think that my obsession with obsession is just my interest in the human condition. It's amazing how we can be so different yet so alike!