‘film:1940s’ Category Archives
by jacicita in considine paddy, film:1940s, film:2010, film:2011, powell michael, pressburger emeric, tykwer tom
* It’s a good thing we liked Three, because oh my giddy aunt the Neptune is uncomfortable. New seats are apparently arriving Friday morning, and I can’t wait. But, the movie was lovely. It’s a German film about a couple in a long term relationship. They each wind up having an affair… with the same guy. It violates all the conventional film wisdom of adultery films and queer films, and hooray for that! Recommended.
* I know a lot of people avoid the archival selections because there is so much else to see, but I can’t resist a sure thing. First one this year was Black Narcissus, the 1947 film about nuns attempting to establish their order, complete with school and hospital, high up in the Himalayas. Deborah Kerr is the Sister Superior with a past, Kathleen Byron is her nemesis, Jean Simmons in bronzer is the native girl taken in by the sisters, and Sabu is the attractive young general who draws a little too much attention from all of the ladies. It’s beautifully shot, acted, everything. There’s a Criterion edition out, so you should see it.
* Paddy Considine’s feature directorial debut, Tyrannosaur is hard to watch, but for me it was worth it. Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, and Eddie Marsan are all familiar faces for their more character work, as it were, but here they are given a chance to shine as the leads of this brutal but powerful film. Trigger warnings for pretty much all of the things. Also, it is another strong feature that had support from the already-missed UK Film Council.
* I perhaps made an embarrassing noise when C announced the title of Secret #1. It was great. I am curious to know more about the production. That is all I can legally say.
by jacicita in baker roy ward, bernhardt curtis, film:1940s, film:1950s, heisler stuart, noir city, preminger otto, schuster harold d, siodmak robert
We learned a number of lessons at Noir City 5. We learned that it really is best for doctors not to get involved with patients, we learned that one twin is always evil, we learned about caffeine intake and anger management, and we learned what happens when felons don’t learn about Stop, Drop, and Roll. See? Film can be very educational.
I love the series for the films, of course, but also for Eddie Muller’s introductions. The world of classic noir intersects with the creative challenges of the Hays Code, the personal and professional tragedies of the Hollywood blacklist, and the current race against time that is film preservation, and Muller does a fantastic job of bringing that all to us.
The series brings me back to the good bits of junior high: watching commercial-free black-and-whites on AMC in the early 90s, with introductions by Nick Clooney & Bob Dorian. Looking at my life now, they have a lot to answer for!
I made it to thirteen of the fourteen features, which is a new record for me. My favorite feature this year, unsurprisingly enough, was Don’t Bother to Knock, starring Marilyn Monroe as a babysitter with a tenuous grasp on reality, and classic noir lead Richard Widmark as a pilot looking for a little distraction. Bonus: a gorgeous young Anne Bancroft (in her first film role!) as the lounge singer who’s just dumped Widmark.
All of the action takes place within a hotel, and more-or-less in real time, both of which add to the terrifically claustrophobic noir feel. It’s available on DVD, and is one of the better introductions to noir from this year’s series.
Other notable features:
* Angel Face, with Robert Mitchum as the ambulance driver-turned-chauffeur who gets caught in Jean Simmons’ web.
* High Wall, where Audrey Totter is a doctor convinced of Robert Taylor’s innocence and commits several ethical violations to prove it.
* Loophole, your classic story of an average-Joe getting caught up in the underworld; in this case, being framed for a bank robbery. Other viewers seemed frustrated by a lot of bad decisions he made, but it made sense to me. When you don’t have a devious mind yourself, it’s hard to anticipate what folks with devious minds will do.
* The Dark Mirror, featuring brilliant performances from Olivia de Havilland as the sisters, some unfortunate pop psychology, and a few more ethical violations; and Among the Living, which is an entertaining (granted, ridiculous) flick featuring bloodthirsty villager-types in what might easily be Brooklyn or Queens, and a barely legal Susan Hayward setting her cap for the murderous twin. Of course.
I already can’t wait for next year, fourth row center with my Americano from Caffe Zingaro. Bring it on.
by jacicita in asch kevin, donen stanley, fellowes julian, film:1940s, film:2009, film:2010, gyeney nicholas, kelly gene, siff 2010, yonfan
Nevermind the backlog, here’s the SIFF capsules. That is, if I don’t skip everything else and post about SIFF now, I might as well just give up. Obligatory background: this is my 14th year attending, I’m only planning on about 30 films*, and I currently have tickets to about 20, including the Secret. Let’s get this party started!
One of the things I look forward to most about the festival is the opportunity to see Asian film. First up, the Hong Kong/Taiwan film Prince of Tears is understandably indulgent, being a composite of memories from the director’s childhood, but is all-around gorgeous: cinematography, costumes, and the cast are all beautiful. The perspective is that of a fairy tale, the traditional kind containing true horror, as beloved adults surrounding two sisters are arrested & accused of being communist spies. I’m looking forward to seeing star Joseph Chang later in the festival in Au Revoir Taipei.
I believe From Time to Time is my only Films 4 Families selection this year. Adapted from a novel & directed by Julian Fellowes, it’s a charming fantasy/ghost story. It’s very mildly cheesy in spots, an effect of being a children’s film, but even though you know more or less how it’s going to end, it’s a lovely ride getting there. Maggie Smith is delightful as ever as the grandmother, and Dominic West is a classic, sneering villain as the evil butler from the past. Also, I have to say, it was solid Jaci-bait, what with the present of the film being the end of WWII, and the past being Age of Sail/early Regency. I would very much like to read the original series.
Holy Rollers was my first totally crazy over-sold screening of the festival, and even starting a half hour late (on an already late screening) it was a great time. I have yet to meet a Jesse Eisenberg film that I do not enjoy. Here his character is a Hasidic Jew who gets caught up in an ecstasy smuggling ring. Based on a true story, and definitely my recommended feature of the weekend. I don’t know why the current IMDb rating is so low. Save it to your queues!
All I will say about Secret #1 is that it was full of failures of communication. Also that I enjoyed it. Shhhh. This is my second year doing the Secret Festival, and I only wish I had started sooner. It is absolutely the only time that I can have the experience of viewing a film with zero preconceptions. Such a unique thing, and very much worth getting up for an 11am Sunday screening.
We’ve been excited about On the Town for weeks, and deservedly so. Musicals on the big screen are such a fabulous treat. I am looking forward to the Grease sing-along (and still think SIFF missed a chance — a sing-along Everyone Says I Love You would have been a great addition to the Ed Norton tribute series. I know at least two people who would have gone. Um. Including me.)
The weekend finished off with a Northwest Connections feature, The Penitent Man. It’s a low-budget time travel piece in the tradition of Primer (which is far and away the better film, so if you haven’t seen that, please do.) I found it to be a great example of the importance of casting; the film is largely conversation, so much that the concept would have been better served by the novella format rather than a feature film. However, Lance Henriksen was great, elevating the material he had to work with. Bonus: street scenes shot in my neighborhood. See my supermarket & my walk home immortalized on film! Or, I suppose, on digital.
* Not very many, I know, in a festival of 250 features. But I am poor. So it goes.
by jacicita in 69 series, cantet laurent, downey robert, film:1940s, film:1950s, film:1960s, film:2008, hitchcock alfred, sturges preston
I was doing so well for a while there, but I guess when I wasn’t seeing something every other day I forgot to keep this up. But SIFF is coming — the schedule is out next week! — so this is a good time to clean up this file.
* Putney Swope was another one of those 69 series movies I wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t have the full series pass, so I’m glad I did. It was interesting as a cultural artifact, and I did laugh, but I also spent a lot of time thinking “I see what you did there, but I’d be more interested if the writer-directer wasn’t white.” Maybe that’s just me.
* Sullivan’s Travels, however, was unquestionably great. It’s a meta-picture about the Hollywood system & the Depression (timely, that!), though I must admit a large part of why I wanted to see it is that the film Sully wants to make all through it? O Brother, Where Art Thou.
* The Class was fantastic, and yet another movie to make me Very Bitter that I speak about three words of French. You *know* that the subtitles left out about 90% of the material. It’s a year-in-a-classroom film based on the book by François Bégaudeau, who also plays a version of himself. The setting might make it easy to dismiss, but it’s not just Les Minds Dangereuses. I was particularly interested in the immigrant make-up of the class and the tensions that creates, and I loved how complex François was — he makes mistakes & decisions that could turn the audience against him. Finally, it’s interesting that the entire film takes place within the school, within the year. As an audience you experience the same frustration the staff does of only knowing a fraction of a student’s life.
* I haven’t seen Rear Window in years, so I was pleased about the opportunity to see it on the big screen in a full theater. It’s still a great movie. Obviously. And now I will use my icon of Kris Marshall in the Rear Window episode of “My Life in Film.”
In other news, due to total calendar reading fail, I missed Fellini’s Satyricon & The Damned. I am totally bitter about this, which is ridiculous in the grand scheme of things.
by jacicita in allen lewis, farrow john, film:1940s, film:1950s, film:2008, film:2009, jenkins barry, lang fritz, levin henry, noir city, selick henry
I’m about to dive into another run of movies this week, so let’s finish off Noir City, etc, before that happens and I get even more behind!
* Chicago Deadline suffered from the fact that I had had a very long day, but is worth checking out if only for Donna Reed as a fallen woman. Ace!
* While the City Sleeps was a great alcohol-soaked flick, with Vincent Price as the son of a deceased media magnate, manipulating all his employees to make the most of a serial killer story, and Dana Andrews as the ace reporter.
* The series finished off with Alias Nick Beal & Night Editor. The first was a Faust story, worth it for Ray Milland’s crazy eyes as well as breathtaking cinematography, particularly when Beal appears from and disappears into the fog. The second was unapologetically trashy, and required viewing for anyone who thinks that the Golden Age of Hollywood was a time of great moral purity.
* Back in the 21st century, we saw Coraline in 3D, and I am not sure if that helped or hurt my experience of it. Would I have felt more connected to the story if there wasn’t an extra layer of technology? Or was that extra zing to the visuals required? I do not know. I do know that I recommend seeing it in the theater, because it is beautiful, but I wonder if I would have liked it better in 2D.
* Medicine for Melancholy is a terrible title for a great movie. I had pretty much no interest in seeing it based on the title alone, but luckily elements of Seattle media (by which I mostly mean the Slog) went on and on about it, so I gave in. At this rate, I really should get a membership to the Northwest Film Forum in addition to my SIFF one.
But! The movie! It’s about a couple spending the day together after a one night stand. It’s also about San Francisco, and a few other things I won’t tell you. Just see it, if you have the opportunity. It’s funny and awkward and true, and a beautifully shot, desaturated, unromanticized view of the city. Plus, the soundtrack is awesome. And the director is cute. Hey, all of these things are important.
by jacicita in brooks richard, farrow john, film:1940s, film:1950s, film:2008, karlson phil, lewis joseph h, mccarey richard, noir city, reichardt kelly, wilder billy
Friday Deadline USA & Scandal Sheet kicked off the third Noir City series down at SIFF Cinema. I preferred the first for its several great women, particularly the reporter, but the second is the closest to straight-up noir. Both made for an awesome start to the festival.
Saturday I was eaten by the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival & didn’t make it back to the city in time for any noir. Woe. (I watched a little Dexter season 2, which certainly has its elements of noir. Well-lit, neo-noir maybe.)
Sunday brought Ace in the Hole, which was easily one of the most cynical movies I have ever seen. It certainly lived up to its billing. If it were released today, the script could be essentially unchanged, except maybe tidying up the portrayal of Native Americans (though, really, that was very much another point criticizing the majority) and the addition of a Twitter hashtag for Leo. Very good, unsurprising as it’s Billy Wilder, but I don’t need to see it again any time soon.
If Cry of the Hunted, the B reel, were to be released today, it would instantly have a LiveJournal community and a ficathon, and I would be on the sidelines of fandom complaining about how there weren’t enough stories about the women. It was basically on crack, but a lot of fun.
Sunday night I took a little break from noir, crime, and the freezing SIFF Cinema. Wendy and Lucy was picked up by the Northwest Film Forum for a week after its original Seattle run ended, so taken were they with it. And deservedly so. Michelle Williams (a criminally underrated actress, in my opinion) plays Wendy, a woman traveling from Indiana to Alaska with her dog Lucy. We meet her in Oregon, where things start falling apart. Some people are helpful. Some people are assholes. It’s a beautiful slice-of-life film, heartbreaking & true. I need to put other work by the director in my Netflix queue now.
First up on Monday was The Big Clock, which was great. It’s a pretty traditional noir, with an innocent person getting caught up in someone else’s nefarious plot or sleazy circumstances. It was also the second film in this series with
Sherman Potter Harry Morgan (ahaha IMDb pulls up “Dexter” stories on his page). He was a cigar-chomping photographer in Scandal Sheet, but here he was a heavy with no lines at all, which is interesting for an actor with such a distinctive voice. Anyway, The Big Clock is available on DVD and definitely worth a watch for Charles Laughton’s twitchy media mogul & Elsa Lanchester as a totally loopy artist.
It was followed by Strange Triangle, which I have nothing to say about at all. It was very formulaic and it’s been a long weekend. So be it.
by jacicita in alvi suroosh, film:1940s, film:1991, film:2003, film:2004, film:2007, gillespie craig, jarmusch jim, leiner danny, maddin guy, moretti eddy, strouse james c, ulmer edgar g
* Lars and the Real Girl. I queued this mostly because Patricia Clarkson & Emily Mortimer are basically always worth watching, and I was curious what drew them to the project. I still don’t know. It required suspension of disbelief that eluded me, and I am, honestly, a pretty credulous viewer. In this case I was constantly irritated by the things I was supposed to believe and the questions I wasn’t supposed to ask… or at least the questions the filmmakers weren’t going to bother to answer. Skip it.
* Night on Earth was a surprise arrival when Netflix decided to pass up the five ‘available now’ discs ahead of it. Which is fine, because it’s a great movie that I should have seen a long time ago. It’s totally my sort of movie, being basically five vignettes of cab rides all starting at the same moment around the (Western) world. Stick with it past Winona Ryder’s overacted LA segment for New York & Helsinki in particular.
* When I was on the east coast, friends made me watch Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. And I laughed. A lot. I feel compelled to admit this to you, the Letterboxed reading audience. Judge me if you must.
* I missed Heavy Metal in Baghdad at the film festival, but that was okay because it just came out on DVD. It tracks Iraq’s only heavy metal band, Acrassicauda. (There’s a heavy metal scene, but holding a band together, as you’ll see in the doc, is nigh on impossible.) It’s about living in Iraq, about being a refugee, about wishing you were home and that home is what it used to be. And it’s about metal. Rock on.
* Grace Is Gone is, so far as I can tell, the first decent movie John Cusack’s been in since High Fidelity. He’s the husband of a soldier killed in Iraq, and the film follows his initial grief as he tries to figure out how to tell their daughters what has happened. It’s a little unavoidably sentimental, but I also bought it enough to tear up a bit, so there you go.
* In preparation for seeing Ann Savage in My Winnipeg next week, I picked up Detour. It was really a terrible transfer, but the movie itself is classic noir — an average Joe getting caught up in a web of troubles to put it lightly — and she’s the ultimate femme fatale, hard and manipulative. Good times!
* While I was at it, I got Maddin’s Cowards Bend the Knee, which is an essentially silent film. It’s funny and weird (v weird) and includes hockey and a wax museum, which is pretty much win so far as I am concerned. I have to get it out again at a later date so I can watch it with Maddin’s commentary. Delicious!
by jacicita in dassin jules, film:1940s, film:1950s, film:1960s, film:1995, film:2002, film:2003, film:2007, giordana marco tullio, harvey anthony, hathaway henry, karslake daniel, lasseter john, sturridge charles
* First off, did I forget to post about For the Bible Tells Me So? I am thinking I did! Fail. Every year at the film festival there are movies I hear about in line, but never manage to see. For the Bible Tells Me So was 07′s, and now I understand why. I’ve seen a lot of queer-themed documentaries, and even a few others on gays-and-religion, but this one was easily the best. American-focused, of course.
* On a recommendation from a friend, I queued Shackleton, the story of the 1914 trip of the Endurance to the South Pole. Beautifully filmed & acted. It is long, yes, but I thought it was well-paced. I have to admit I was particularly taken with all the scenes including the men singing, showing how they passed the time at sea. Also, I have to give a shout-out to Matt Day who played the photographer Frank Hurley. He’s in one of my favorite comfort movies, the criminally underrated Love and Other Catastrophes (which seriously needs to come out on DVD soon, before my VHS wears out.) Oh! It was also neat to see it after going to the Maritime Museum in Greenwich this summer — they have the replica of the James Caird used in the film.
* The Lion in Winter was utterly delicious. I’m just sorry that there wasn’t a revival of it to pair with last winter’s big screen adventure with Becket.
* Kiss of Death was in my queue already after Noir City, but I bumped it to the top after the death of Richard Widmark in late March. It’s a solid enough noir on its own, but (as everyone knows) it’s Widmark’s portrayal of the villain Tommy Udo that makes it particularly worth seeing.
* The week after Widmark passed, his Night and the City director Jules Dassin died, so Rififi moved on up the queue. I wrote a bit about Dassin on the ephemeral blog already, but in between the two films, he was blacklisted, which is why Rififi was filmed in France. It’s *the* classic heist film, worth seeing for lots of things, but in particular for the heist itself, something like a half hour with no dialogue but an excellent score. Um. No pun intended. This is not a hijinks sort of heist movie. It’s very dark.
* The Best of Youth was a six hour Italian film, originally aired on television in four parts, and then as an edited version in the theater. I am a total sucker for any sort of epic family history piece, and this was beautiful and satisfying. Also, I might now have a bit of a crush on Luigi Lo Cascio.
* Toy Story, I realize, is sort of a random selection, but I’m in a group on Ravelry that’s working through the AFI Top 100. I actually hadn’t seen it in years, possibly not since shortly after it came out on video, and I was surprised to see how well it stands up. The animation is still strong (my favorite bits being the details like scuff marks at the bottom of doors), the story has a lot of great stuff going on, and probably the use of classic toys helps it feel all the more timeless. But the thing I noticed most about it this time around is that Andy’s is a single parent household. His mom cares for him & his sister, maintains a gorgeous home, plans his birthday and the family move, and there’s never a mention of a father. So cool!
by jacicita in film:1940s, film:1997, film:2006, hitchcock alfred, majidi majid, polley sarah, von donnersmarck florian henckel
I stopped posting Netflix stuff at some point last year because, really, I saw a lot and it was impossible to keep up with. I do want to still post some things I see on DVD, because they are interesting or lesser-known or just old or perhaps really terrible and you should be warned away. Basically, if I have something to say about it, I’ll post, but you don’t need to know that I watched In Her Shoes for the third time this month. For example. Not that I would do that. Do de do.
* Away From Her was a brilliant directorial debut for the astonishingly talented Sarah Polley. I heard a lot about Julie Christie in the (American) press, but Gordon Pinsent’s performance is what I took away from the film. Beautiful.
* The Lives of Others. Gorgeous. See it.
* Children of Heaven. This was so great! It’s an Iranian film about a brother and sister who have to share a pair of shoes (he lost hers, and they can’t afford a new pair). A lovely small film about a family trying to protect each other.
* Rope. Somehow, I had never seen this before! It was pretty cool to see John Dall again so soon after watching Gun Crazy. What a delicious role. I really loved the interview portion of the special features. It’s rare to watch a behind-the-scenes and have people be critical of a film. The screenwriter (if I recall correctly), thought that the murder should not have been shown (so as to increase tension as to whether or not there was a body), that Jimmy Stewart was miscast (his part should have had a sexual undercurrent with at least one of the murderers), and he also questioned the way it was shot. That point is interesting to me, because I think the illusion of seamlessness increased tension. It’s something that could be done better now, but was an interesting experiment then.
by jacicita in dassin jules, film:1940s, film:1950s, film:1960s, lean david, lewis joseph h, losey joseph, negulesco jean, noir city
Being in Seattle, I also get to see Old Stuff on the Big Screen. It RULES.
The Prowler was part of this season’s Noir City festival. I enjoyed it a lot. It’s a corrupt cop story, and I particularly liked that I never knew where it was going, right up to the end. That happens less than you’d think.
It was a double feature with Gun Crazy (with a young Russ Tamblyn in the prologue!) A forerunner to Bonnie & Clyde, with two fantastic leads, and some really great camerawork for the time, particularly with the getaway scenes.
Another night of noir featured Richard Widmark in Night and the City and Road House, the first of which is pretty much the ultimate noir role, and the second of which was a rather strange movie but totally engaging.
Finally, Cinerama ran Lawrence of Arabia again, and how could I resist? The first time I saw it for the whole package, this time I saw it for the visuals. Maybe next time I’ll watch it for the dialogue. It was best not to do that this time, as the sound dropped out for a bit near the intermission. Fail, Cinerama, fail.