List List Bang Bang

July 5, 2010

2010 (July to September) – Screening Log

Filed under: 2010,Screening Log — misterjiggy @ 3:00 pm

September 2010


 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated: September 30, 2010

  • A River Called Titus (1973 – Ritwik Ghatak) pro(-) (DVD-R)
  • Masques (1987 – Claude Chabrol) pro (DVD)
  • The Maid (2009 – Sebastian Silva) pro (DVD)
  • Le combat dans l’île (1962 – Alain Cavalier) pro(-) (DVD)
  • Greaser’s Palace (1972 – Robert Downey Sr.) con(+) (cable)

A wild, crazy, occasionally disturbing and rarely funny low rent hodgepodge of a film.  While the foundation to the story is a parable on the life of Jesus Christ (played by a zoot suit clad Allan Arbus) that familiar tale is quickly rendered incoherent and grotesque by Downey’s various manic digressions or, more accurately, skits.   I once described French New Wave fringe filmmaker Luc Moullet’s 1971 film A Girl is A Gun (aka Une aventure de Billy le Kid) as a psychotronic riff on Westerns, a sort of improv dinner theater El Topo – I think I should have saved that description for this kooky “Western”.  Prefer Putney Swope by a wide margin.

  • Brewster Mcleod (1970 – Robert Altman) mixed(+) (cable)
  • Distant Thunder (1973 – Satyajit Ray) pro(+) (DVD-R)
  • The Prowler (1951 – Joseph Losey) pro(+) (cable)

One of those films where the loosely applied film noir label offers little descriptive value as to what’s really going on. The film is more of “homme fatale” character study than a genre crime thriller, with the crime and related plot machinations being secondary to the trouble mind set of the villain (an anti-hero almost). While Evelyn Keyes plays the notional protagonist it’s the Van Heflin show all the way, with Heflin playing an unhinged beat cop named Webb Garwood who aggressively courts (read: stalks) a lonely housewife married to a radio show host who works nights.  Garwood’s misanthropic world view is almost Uncle Charlie (Shadow of a Doubt) like, spewing rants full of bile revealing his bitter disappointment in failing to meet various milestones towards achieving the elusive American Dream. Garwood’s motivations seem rather complex – equal parts cold criminal calculation and amour fou.  An edgy film and as the narrative progresses from the posh LA suburbs to an arid and rocky ghost town the story becomes increasingly implausible; but this distracts little because Heflin’s performance and his character’s predicament are so compelling. The finale is captivating, with Keyes’ suspicious character in labor about to deliver the couple’s love child while a paranoid Garwood acts as mid-wife, all to the sound of the voice of the man he murdered playing over the phonograph. Certainly seems a more personal and focused film than the other pre-blacklist Losey noir efforts like The Lawless and The Big Night (solid as they are).  This was one of Robert Aldrich’s last assignments as an assistant director, soon sliding over to the big chair and a fruitful helming career.

  • A Prophet (2009 – Jacques Audiard) pro (DVD)
  • The Cloud-Capped Star (1960 – Ritwik Ghatak) PRO (DVD-R)
  • Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932 – Robert Florey) pro(-) (DVD)
  • The Story of a Cheat (1936 – Sacha Guitry) PRO (DVD)
  • The Secret in Their Eyes (2009 – Juan José Campanella) pro(+) (DVD)
  • Youth in Revolt (2009 – Miguel Arteta) mixed(+) (Blu-Ray)
  • Dark City (1950 – William Dieterle) pro(-) (DVD)
  • L’enfance nue (1968 – Maurice Pialat) pro (DVD)
  • Storm in a Teacup (1937 – Ian Dalrymple & Victor Saville) mixed(+) (cable)
  • The Black Cat (1934 – Edgar G. Ulmer) pro (DVD)
  • Barney’s Version (2010 – Richard J. Lewis) pro(-) (Theater)
  • Saint Joan (1957 – Otto Preminger) mixed (DVD-R)
  • Dust Be My Destiny (1939 – Lewis Seiler) mixed ( cable)
  • Foolish Wives (1922 – Erich von Stroheim) pro (on-line)
  • Humanity and Paper Balloons (1937 – Sadao Yamanaka) pro(+) (DVD-R)
  • The Spiral Road (1962 – Robert Mulligan) mixed(+) (DVD)

A far from perfect but an often fascinating film set in the Dutch East Indies circa 1936, a sort of The Nun’s Story meets Heart of Darkness.  The overarching theme, set against the backdrop of a tropical and primitive leper colony, is science vs. faith.  The spiritual side represented by Salvation Army do-gooders and a veteran doctor played by Burl Ives (with typical “Big Daddy” bluster); and the science side by a newly minted atheist doctor played by a quite effective Rock Hudson (his character is not just a mere non-believer but a jaded Minister’s son who as a child defiantly dared God to strike him dead).  Hudson spends most of the movie suggesting his pre-transformation character from Magnificent Obsession – that of an arrogant, opportunistic, self-interested man; and the story of The Spiral Road, like that in Magnificent Obsession, is driven towards his ultimate psychological transformation.  The only suitable resolution being a worn down Hudson pleading for help to a God he has routinely denied.  Though wisely the story steers clear of backing a specific formal religion opting for the suggestion that “God” is merely derived from a vaguely Christian goodness in other people, all which was to me a little suggestive of, though presented in a far less mystical fashion, Frank Borzage’s Strange Cargo.  Robert Mulligan’s direction is staid and unfussy with long takes and centered compositions, which was to me surprisingly effective though I imagine most would slot in under uninspired.  Still for Mulligan, a former divinity student, this must have been a very personal project, even in the year of his greatest triumph (To Kill a Mockingbird).  The final portion of the film involving the attacks of an invisible enemy and shades of the psychological thriller genre in some ways prefigures Mulligan’s more stylishly directed Western The Stalking Moon.    The Spiral Road is overlong and tends to plod where it needs narrative momentum, and, as in so many films of the era, the native people are treated little more than one dimensional props.  Gena Rowlands supports in a fairly thankless role as Hudson’s wife and her performance, while by no means inept, offers a gentle reminder that small window dressing roles in studio films of this era (see also Lonely are the Brave from the same year) were not best showcase for her unique acting talent.  Flaws aside I found that this film displayed some sensitive and intelligent filmmaking and explored some interesting themes.

  • Dark Journey (1937 – Victor Saville) pro(-) (cable)
  • Downstairs (1932 – Monta Bell) pro (cable)
  • The Pagan (1929 – W.S. Van Dyke) pro (cable)
  • The Outlaw and his Wife (1918 – Victor Sjostrom) pro (DVD)
  • Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler (1922 – Fritz Lang) pro(+) (DVD)
  • Love Happens (2009- Brandon Camp) con (cable)
  • Verboten! (1959 – Samuel Fuller) pro (DVD-R)
  • Nana (1926 – Jean Renoir) pro(-) (DVD)
  • The Circus (1928 – Charles Chaplin) pro(+) (DVD)

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2010


Last Updated: September 1, 2010


 

 

 

 

 

      • Chloe (2009 – Atom Egoyan) con (DVD)
      • A Woman of Paris (1923 – Charles Chaplin) pro(-) (DVD)
      • The Merry Widow (1925 – Erich von Stroheim) pro(+) (cable)
      • The Last Command (1928 – Josef von Sternberg) PRO(-) (DVD)

      Perhaps it’s because I watched them back to back; but when the train in The Last Command shockingly plunges from the bridge to the icy river below presumably killing a slew of rowdy drunken Russian revolutionaries including the merciful Natalie (Evelyn Brent); I couldn’t help but think of the seemingly redeemed Felicitas’ (Greta Garbo) beautifully absurd icy death plunge in (the very good) Flesh and the Devil as she rushes to Friendship Isle to stop a needless duel between lifelong friends made romantic rivals. The once devilish Garbo’s martyrdom willed upon her by another character’s prayers, the more sympathetic Brent’s by some sort of cosmic anti-communist joke.  Based on the lead character’s fate in each of The Last Command, The Last Laugh and The Blue Angel, Emil Jannings must have been some sort of masochist (in silent cinema terms he’s the acting equivalent of Chaney’s character in He Who Gets Slapped).  At least in Faust Jannings gets to spend most of the film with the upper hand.  Jannings, who more often than not played to the back row of the audience, is magnificent in The Last Command and in the end he’s rewarded with his pathos drenched pre-Sunset Blvd. Norma Desmond moment – a last delusion hurrah for a noble but broken man. I was patting myself on the back for linking this film to another from 1928 – Robert Florey’s avant garde short The Life And Death Of 9413, A Hollywood Extra – but lo and behold the booklet the comes with Criterion von Sternberg DVD set makes the same observation.

      • Flesh and the Devil (1926 – Clarence Brown) pro(+) (cable)
      • The Big Parade (1925 – King Vidor) PRO (cable)
      • The Docks of New York (1928 – Joseph von Sternberg) PRO (DVD)
      • The Show (1927 – Tod Browning) pro(-) (cable)

      Budapest circus side show set intrigue that has more than a few elements prefiguring both Browning’s legendary Freaks (1932) and The Unknown (also 1927).  John Gilbert is a charismatic and caddish carnival barker (a Liliom type, form fitting striped shirt and all) and here he woos a glorified hoochie coochie dancer that goes by the stage name Salome (as part of an act involving the beheading of John the Baptist).  Gilbert is reunited, with less romantic effect, to his The Big Parade love interest Renée Adorée.  Lionel Barrymore, who would later star in the late period Browning film The Devil Doll is a suitably diabolical villain known as the Greek.  He gets up close and personal with a deadly gila monster.

      • Underworld (1927 – Josef von Sternberg) pro(+) (DVD)
      • 10 Rillington Place (1971 – Richard Fleischer) pro (cable)

      Perhaps its serial killer film fatigue that stops me from completely gushing about this film; but I’ll admit that this deliberately paced authentic but grim film really is perfectly executed by Fleischer with a far more subtle, if not “invisible”, style than he earlier brought to his true crime killer films Compulsion (Leopold and Loeb) and The Boston Strangler (Albert DeSalvo).  A disturbing, without being exploitive (Mandingo this is not), film featuring standout performances by Richard Attenborough (in sort of downtrodden Séance on a Wet Afternoon mode) as rather banal cold blooded killer John Christie and John Hurt as the dim witted miscarriage of justice victim Timothy John Evans.  While it’s ultimately a message movie (anti-capital punishment) it never strains to hammer the message home.

      • Desert Nights (1929 – William Nigh) pro (cable)
      • He Who Gets Slapped (1924 – Victor Sjostrom) pro (cable)
      • The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927 – Ernst Lubitsch) PRO(-) (cable)
      • Daughters Courageous (1939 – Michael Curtiz) pro (cable)

      I’ve seen this referred to as a loose remake of the 1938 Curtiz film and a personal favorite of mine Four Daughters; but that’s not really at all accurate.  Despite largely the same cast (Fay Bainter & Donald Crisp the most significant additions) there are key differences in plot and characters; particularly in the Claude Rains character, here playing an estranged patriarch susceptible to wanderlust instead of the devoted and reliable widower and musician of Four Daughters. The Epstein brothers’ episodic script crackles under the capable hands of the cast (particularly the always terrific Priscilla Lane and John Garfield), but still the superior Four Daughters hovers over the proceedings revealing the limits of the charms of Daughters Courageous.  Garfield again effectively plays a rebellious bad ass – but by the final act he’s a tad neutered, yielding to the Rains martyrdom story line.  Overall Daughters Courageous is a fairly entertaining film and a step up from the real Four Daughters sequel of 1939, also directed by Curtiz, Four Wives.  The directing assignment of the final and weakest film in the series (1941’s Four Mothers) would fall to lower profile Warner Bros. workhorse William Keighley, the man Curtiz once replaced on The Adventures of Robin Hood.

      • The Tarnished Angels (1958 – Douglas Sirk) pro(+) (cable)
      • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923 – Wallace Worsley) pro(-) (cable)
      • Polly of the Circus (1932 – Alfred Santell) mixed(+) (cable)
      • Northern Pursuit (1943 – Raoul Walsh) pro(-) (DVD)
      • Throw of the Dice (1929 – Franz Osten) pro (cable)
      • Bank Holiday (1938 – Carol Reed) pro(-) (cable)
      • Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928 – Charles Reisner)  pro (Blu-Ray)
      • Inception (2010 – Christopher Nolan) pro (Theater)
      • Ben-Hur (1925 – Fred Nibilo) pro (DVD)
      • Alambrista! (1977 – Robert M. Young) pro (DVD-R)
      • Canyon Passage (1946 – Jacques Tourneur) pro (cable)
      • Cry of the Hunted (1953 – Joseph H. Lewis) pro(-) (cable)
      • So Dark the Night (1946 – Joseph H. Lewis) pro(+) (cable)


       

       

       

       

       

      July 2010


      Last Updated: July 31, 2010


       

       

       

       

       

      • Crime in the Streets (1956 – Don Siegel) pro(-) (DVD)
      • Armored Car Robbery (1950 – Richard Fleischer) pro (DVD)
      • Whirlpool of Fate (1925 – Jean Renoir) pro(-) (DVD)
      • The Love Parade (1929 – Ernst Lubitsch) pro(+) (DVD)
      • Flight (1929 – Frank Capra) pro(-) (cable)
      • Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010 – Chris Columbus) con(+) (Blu-Ray)
      • Faust (1926 – F. W. Murnau) PRO (DVD)
      • Sex in Chains (1928 – William Dieterle) mixed (DVD)
      • Greenberg (2010 – Noah Baumbach) pro (Blu-Ray)
      • Blackmail (1929 – Alfred Hitchcock) pro (cable)
      • The Younger Generation (1929 – Frank Capra) pro(-) (cable)
      • The Wedding March (1928 – Erich Von Stroheim) PRO(-) (on-line)
      • Diary of a Lost Girl (1929 – G.W. Pabst) pro(+) (DVD)

      In Pandora’s Box Louise Brooks is the predator (though rather inadvertent, almost benign in intent if not consequence); but here, in the same year for the same director, she is the prey.  A little something is lost in the difference; Brooks, while remaining wholly magnetic, seems a shade less enigmatic.  Still, this is a truly winning late silent episodic melodrama with hints of comedy; and the array of fallen woman / mother martyr / reformatory injustice/ redemption tropes are so perfectly executed that they remain forever fresh.  Pabst’s dynamic staging doesn’t hurt any either.

       

       

      • Poil de Carotte (1925 – Julien Duvivier) pro (+) (DVD)
      • Speedy (1928 – Ted Wilde) pro (cable)
      • The Patsy (1928 – King Vidor) PRO(-) (cable)
      • The Kid (1921 – Charles Chaplin) pro(+) (On-Line)
      • The Man Who Laughs (1928 – Paul Leni) pro(+) (DVD)
      • White Hell of Pitz Palu (1929 – Arnold Fanck, G.W. Pabst) pro (DVD)
      • The White Ribbon (2009 – Michael Haneke) pro(+) (Blu-Ray)
      • The Navigator (1924 – Buster Keaton) pro(+) (DVD)
      • Waxworks (1924 – Paul Leni) pro (DVD)
      • Slightly French (1949 – Douglas Sirk) mixed(+) (cable)

      This frothy semi-musical Pygmalion lite romantic comedy was quite a departure for director Douglas Sirk when one considers his noir tinged late 40s output.  It seems the film’s reputation is rather weak due to the routine and familiar plotting and lower tier stars of limited overall ability (Don Ameche and Dorothy Lamour – though not without their charms). Yet Sirk’s famed knack for space, composition and integration of architecture still emerges to elevate it all above its bottom half of a double bill station.  There’s a mild temptation to prop this up from obscurity as some sort of an unsung classic; but that might be pushing the auteurist envelope a little bit.  Overall a breezy trifle of a film that has some occasional wit and number of rewarding visual moments particularly for the hardcore Sirk completists. A remake of Columbia’s 1933 Ann Sothern vehicle Let’s Fall in Love and it appears that main plot switch was that Ann Sothern played a carnival performer masquerading as a Swedish movie diva whereas Lamour plays a carnival performer turned faux French movie diva.

      • The Last Laugh (1924 – F.W. Murnau) PRO(-) (DVD)

      This bold technical marvel is justly legendary for probably a dozen or so reasons; but I must admit I can’t see the original intended miserabalist (it’s beyond downbeat) ending in the hotel lavatory actually being effective, let alone satisfying.  While the “tacked-on” or “cop out” epilogue section presents a seismic tonal shift that’s more absurd than cathartic; it still, to me, works overall with only the pre-epilogue inter-title disclaimer irking me.  A better compromise would have been to turn the final portion into some sort of illusory death dream for Emil Jannings disenchanted former doorman, like that in Renoir’s 1928 take on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl.  Between despair and elation there is always the opportunity for the bittersweet.  A happy ending need not appear a contrivance or mere concession to popular taste.


      • Bed and Sofa (1927 – Abram Room) pro (DVD)
      • Alice in Wonderland (2010 – Tim Burton) pro(-) (Blu-Ray)
      • Hotel du Nord (1938 – Marcel Carne) pro(+) (DVD)
      • Night Train to Munich (1940 – Carol Reed) pro (DVD)
      • Erotikon (1920 – Mauritz Stiller) pro (DVD)

      This famed Swedish silent lauded for its performances and modernity is a sophisticated adult comedy of manners that has been said to inspire the likes of Lubitsch and Chaplin with plot traces and attitudes that would later be found in Renoir’s La Règale du jeu and Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night.  (Though based on evidence in Lubitsch’s The Merry Jail (1917) it seems to me that Lubitsch was well on his way by this time to establishing his own personality and thematic concerns.  Perhaps Stiller and company inspired some refinement).  The lead female role of the married libertine Irene who teases both an aviator and a sculptor is memorable played with great wit and depth by Tora Teje.  Critic David Thomson went so far as stating that Teje may have given the best performance by a woman in all of the movies up until the time of Erotikon’s release.  Director Stiller, in addition to being a mentor to Greta Garbo and directing her in the famed Gosta Berlings Saga, was along with Victor Sjöström one of the giants of early Swedish cinema.  Unfortunately the musical score included on the remastered DVD is horrible match for the film, it’s far too ponderous, almost dirge like, more fitting for an elegy than a drawing room comedy.  Surely there is a middle ground between melancholic and frivolous.

      • The Little Match Girl (1928 – Jean Renoir) pro(+) (DVD)
      • Company Limited (1971 – Satyajit Ray) pro (DVD-R)
      • Asphalt (1929 – Joe May) pro(-) (DVD)

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