Ten recent views

To Be Or Not To Be -Delightful. Funny and serious but mostly funny, as one would not necessarily expect of a film ridiculing Hitler in 1940. But that's before the full scope of the Nazi horrors had been revealed to the world, so it makes sense. Anyway, Lubitsch does a great job finding a narrow line with this film about a Jewish Theater group operating in Nazi-occupied Poland that lets it be thriller, love story and above all, comedy all at the same time. Brilliant writing, acting, direction.

The Leopard Man -Another Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur quickie heavy on shadows and sound effects and effective atmosphere. Characters are drawn quickly and sharply and fleshed out well by the cast and for a cheap little B-movie, it's damn fine, like all the other Lewton/Tourneur vehicles. I'm also fond of the New Mexico setting; just wish they'd put a Mexican actor in more than a tiny supporting role here.

Greetings -Another DePalma from back when he was way out along the left's counter-culture. Plot is minimal - three friends avoiding the draft in 1968 - and it gives DePalma excuse to wander around the young hipsters and comment on what they're doing. Like they say, no one over 30 is to be trusted and that's the starting (and ending) point of the film, but like Frank Zappa with We're Only In It For the Money he's quick to point out the bullshit in the scene and the way the kids Romanticize their struggles. I didn't like it as much as the follow-up Hi, Mom!, but it's pretty interesting regardless.

The Crimson Rivers -Decent cop thriller with two cops tracking what seems to be a serial killer. Naturally there's more to the case than meets the eye, and naturally there's some gruesome violence (though not on-screen) and though I tend to think of the genre as a very American, it's French, with Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel as the cops, the setting a provincial French mountain town - enough to differentiate things visually, if not in terms of how it's actually played out. Kinda fun, but nothing that knocked me out.

I Could Never Be Your Woman -Amy Heckerling wrote and directed this enjoyable little film about a TV sitcom writer (Michelle Pfieffer) who's forty(-something) and starts to fall in love with the new actor on her show (Paul Rudd) who's a twenty-something playing a teen-something. It went straight to video for whatever reason, but it's charming and funny and has lots of good lines. So what happened? I don't know, but I can just imagine that the funding had to have fallen out on it - there's nothing in the content that I can imagine causing a problem. As it stands, there are problems with the final product -nothing crippling, but some distractions like subplots that aren't fleshed out and a sound mix that made me double the volume for dialogue scenes and then rush to turn them down when music kicked in. This is about one rewrite and a final sound mix from being really good.

'G' Men -Cagney as government agent closing in on the gangsters he grew up with. It's probably less exciting by a notch than Cagney as gangster, but it's not bad even though it makes a point of moralizing more than I typically like. Strangely though, it doesn't fall into the trap of having bad guys a hundred times more interesting than its heroes are - something I attribute mainly to Cagney and one of the main reasons it endures and is worth watching even now.

Footlight Parade -Busby Berkeley, oh man. That shit is craz-ee! The story leading up to the dazzling finale is pretty generic - not bad, but not quite as sharp in the dialogue and wit as the 30's films I like best. But oh, man, that finale. Berkeley could've been a genius or could've been nuts (maybe both), but the spectacles he created for this film are absolutely fantastic, especially the water scene. Really great stuff and highly recommended.

The Wild Child -I've been skeptical of the later Truffaut I've seen - until this one. The early New Wave stuff is classical, but the films of the later 60's and 70's that have come my way haven't knocked me out - once you help break the accepted language of cinema, there's nowhere to go but back toward more conventional means and it's how I've felt with Day for Night and Small Change and Fahrenheit 451 - all enjoyable enough, none as incredible as his first three films. But now this film comes across my radar with its stylized photography, terrific supporting role by Truffaut himself and more importantly, the amazing central performance by "the wild child" (Jean-Pierre Cargol) that's truly a wonder of screen acting and perhaps equally a tribute to Truffaut's skill with actors, especially younger ones. I'll be watching it again, for sure.

Les Enfants Terribles -I was assigned by a friend to review this film, chosen from three options because i've liked almost all the Melville I've seen and almost none of the Cocteau I've seen. I have to say that no matter who dominated the set, it's Cocteau's presence that I feel throughout it, and not just because of his narration. I'm not a fan of films that romanticize youth or destructive impulses and this does both. I'm gonna have to give it some more thought to see how Melville fits in with things, but as it stands, it's feels like yet another "poetic" excursion of Cocteau's that's left me cold.

Queen Christina -Greta Garbo stars as a woman who ascends to the throne of Sweden, succeeding her father who was the country's most beloved leader of his time. At no point is her authority questioned or disputed as a woman and I like that in the film, regardless of whether it's true to history or not. It's certainly true to this era of woman's roles in American film, where we started to see tons of female leads in powerful roles about women's self-fulfillment and not buckling to societal pressures of what a woman is supposed to be/do in the wake of the women's suffrage movement. They often ended in tragedy in the films, but the movement itself was strong and a film about a woman's intellectual awakening and right to self-fulfillment - however disguised as historical drama it may have been - is always gonna be right up my alley. The ending does not seem sad to me, it seems like her fucking destiny.


Joaquin said...

I full-heartedly agree Les enfants terribles is much more a Cocteau film than a Melville. In fact, it was difficult for me to find any trace of Melville. If you decide to write a full "review" of the film, I'm especially interested in your analysis between its Cocteau qualities and its Melville qualities. It's the tug-o-war (if any) between the two filmmakers that's interesting to me.

nervenet said...

I intend to. It was the assignment I chose over Powell/Pressburger and (what was the third one again?). The paragraph I wrote is the crux of my review that'll be expanded out though.