My Week in Film (8/17 - 8/23)

The Philadelphia Story (1940)
(Directed by George Cukor)

Very funny romantic comedy about a bunch of dudes getting all up in Hepburn's face defining her, bringing her down and whatnot. It gets depressing after a while. But then Cary Grant opens his mouth and I'm all smiles. The kid sister was pretty hilarious, too. I found it funny that the movie has everyone get shitfaced in order for things to get going - it's obvious things are going to happen but the fact that we get to see a very drunk Jimmy Stewart and a very drunk Hepburn (driving?!) is hilarious. I still have reservations about how much I can like these two actors (although Shop and Holiday/Baby are all pretty good, better than this film) but it doesn't matter at all when you have Grant whom I adore now. This man is amazing and elevates the movie into being pretty awesome. Just now pix was all quoting lines from it and I kept thinking about Cary Grant saying them and I cracked up. It was f-u-n-n-y.

But maybe he should've went gay all of a sudden. Just maybe.


The Awful Truth (1937)
(Directed by Leo McCarey)

Fantastic! Cary Grant's embarrassed facial expressions when the girl he meets at the club starts dancing are a thing of heaven He puts his hand to his face, wanting to laugh, but instead looks to the side in this wonderful way, admitting the ridiculousness of the situation. And there's Irene Dunne who is almost quite his match (specially in the second half of the film where she goes on the attack). The first half is basically the same thing as His Girl Friday only with more class. Grant just stands there talking and looking at the new guy, making fun of him ever so slightly and doing all this hilarious shit. And then there's the dog who is charming as fuck and the dualities, the hats, the doors. Yes, fuck, the doors! The final moments of this film with the business about the door is pretty much as great as movies can get. Fuck everything else. That's all you need.


I Was A Male War Bride (1949)
(Directed by Howard Hawks)

Kind of draggy and slowish comedy with Cary Grant as a French officer and Ann Sheridan as the girl he loves to hate. They get stuck doing a mission together, hilarity ensues (particularly involving a broken doorknob and Grant's inability to sleep soundly - which is the basis for pretty much the last half of the movie). These early scenes are fun and breezy but there's some odd transitions in the relationship between Grant and Sheridan that are kind of hard to swallow. Anyway, the last half of the movie is this procedural (?) comedy that has Grant going around the army bureaucracy and trying to swat away the red tape that blocks him from getting some (and some sleep). It's like the entire US Army is against him. And there's some stuff about sex roles that's interesting and while some of it's fucking hilarious (they wouldn't do this in the French army!), it does get repetitive. It goes without that saying that Grant is brilliant and every inflection of his voice and movement of his body is hilarious.


North by Northwest (1959)
(Directed by Alfred Hitchcock)

It's a total lark (and a very sexy one, at that) but it's a great one. Cary Grant just dilly dallies around while unknown forces basically try to squash him the fuck out. But, Cary Grant is indestructible, so he soldiers on. It's probably the only Hitchcock that I've actually found suspenseful and where I got into not just the things that were happening but the technique that depicts the actual act (wait, reverse that, where I actually got into the things that were happening rather than geeking out over other, dumber stuff). So, narratively + thematically + formally, I was with this film through all of it. Although Eva Marie Saint doesn't hold a candle to Grace Kelly she's still pretty good (although I would've wanted to Grace Kelly to come on so strongly to Grant; doesn't seem right for her). Yeah, very sexy. And Grant drops great innuendo as if he was in a different film. Basically, it's awesome. Sari Notorious, there's a new #2 in town.


Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)
(Directed by Toshio Matsumoto)

This didn't do much for me. Maybe I just don't enjoy watching Japanese drag queens dance around naked for 10 minutes while tripping on drugs or whatever. It struck me as very Godardian with onscreen quotations, very little structure (that I can make out), scrambled chronology, playful formalist type things, you know, the works. That's stuff I find fun to an extent if done right. But, in here, I didn't find the cohesion between any of these things. It just felt ramshackle. None of these things helped me understand more and the weird chronology just threw me off (and when you actually do find out when things are taking place, it doesn't really make things better for me). I did find parts of the film very funny such as a confrontation between Eddie and Leda (they use fake guns with flags inside them and then thrash around like in a cartoon) but when the film I guess wants me to take things seriously with its Oedipal nonsense, I balk. There's nothing here that suggests any connection with the characters or what they're going through so to pull something like the film does at film's end is just annoying. I'll just stick with Go Go and Throw Away Your Books, thanks.


The Hurt Locker (2008)
(Directed by Kathryn Bigelow)

I kind of wish the inbetween scenes were a little better (or not there at all or something) so it could be a completely depiction of just these dudes doing their job. Each set piece is so well put together that you just kind of marvel at them for a second before something unexpected happens and you have to reorient yourself (along with the characters) in your environment. I think my favorite scene is the nearly wordless interlude in that one building (where they find the kid). That shit is exciting as fuck because all you need to know is expressed through movement and action. It's pretty sublime. I think the film does a pretty damn good at job at characterization thru the set pieces where the personalities are expressed thru how well each character does his job/deals with the situation. Whatever. It's exciting as fuck and it's some rad DIRECTION. boink!


Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
(Directed by Frank Capra)

This is a charming film about some old ladies who just happen to be insane murderers Cheesy Cary Grant marries on Halloween returns home to find out that his aunts are insane! The film feels kinda stagey cuz it mostly takes place in one setting (the living room in the aunts' place) but there's so much going on at all times that the players pretty much overwhelm it (at one point, they basically tear the place to shreds). Cary Grant is Cary Grant so he just runs around trying to fix everything, ignoring people until they get annoyed and then wondering who the hell they are. The film kind of drags after it introduces the Boris Karloff brother since he's kind of too serious in a way (although Peter Lorre pretty much livens every scene he's in) but by the time random cops start showing up and Cary Grant is tied down, this shit becomes cold. It's as if the insanity in the air becomes so much that Grant just shuts down and starts mumbling to himself. It's hilarious. Plus you gotta love a movie that makes Grant work to get his woman in the bedroom. It was a long day but I bet it was worth it!


Where The Sidewalk Ends (1950)
(Directed by Otto Preminger)

A tough as fuck noir resembling Dana Andrews' bitter brand of police work - one that favors brutality and utter damnation. Shit is real. Dana Andrews plays a cop who accidentally kills a man. He spends the rest of the film covering up that mistake. It's fascinating to watch him maneuver these people. His face reveals nothing. Only coiled and bruised emotions raging inside him. Gene Tierney is great, duh, but she doesn't really do much here and is kind of wasted. This is Andrews' show. And he hits it out of the park with his tough and steely demeanor. The ending is interesting, too, in the way that Andrews denies himself and you get the sense that there's no other way it could've ended.


Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
(Directed by Howard Hawks)

OH MAN, this was so good. It reminded me a lot of The Hurt Locker actually with its men who are constantly in the face of death and every day go out there and face it again. It's such a goddamn beautiful film. These characters whose sole solace is having a laugh after flying and drinking with their friends. Cary Grant is so damn good in this film (though that goes for pretty much everyone in the cast) but it's his non-emotional (but so emotional) reactions to the things that go around him that are so heartbreaking. I can't think of a sadder (or more beautiful) moment than when the Group is together at the end drinking and there's two dissolves - one to a clock (time is passing) and the next one to an Argentinian (?) singing this incredibly beautiful song. What follows is one of the most sublime endings ever. I just couldn't even describe it. It made me so fucking sad/happy. UGH. Jean Arthur is so damn wonderful. . . Oh, yeah, Cary Grant flies planes. ZOMG.


My Favorite Wife (1940)
(Directed by Garson Kanin)

Damn, am I just watching these movies for the people in them? Am I enjoying them solely because of them? Damn, Irene Dunne and Cary Grant are so awesome together. Just the way that Dunne teases him and punishes him and orders him around. So funny. Probably the funniest part of the movie is when Grant gets all fascinated with Randolph Scott's hot bod and can't help stop thinking about him. Scott is a good presence, actually, and it's too bad the movie sort of drops him after a while. I didn't really like the character of Grant's 2nd wife - she's way too strict and with no sense of humor. Yeah, it shows that she's no comparison for Dunne, but she's just a boring character overall with nothing to add, just dragging the scenes she's in. Grant's hilarious. When he finds out that Dunne was with Scott on a deserted island for seven years, it's priceless. The movie's fine enough as is but the final moments with Grant (a delivish look square upon his face) exiting the frame, ready to get it on, are fantastic. Bigamy is hilarious.


Love Affair (1939)
(Directed by Leo McCarey)

I wasn't very convinced by this film for most of the duration. There's something very old-fashioned about it and its plot contrivances kind of rubbed me the wrong way (seemed artificial, like something bad has to happen for the things at the end to mean more, you know?). There were a couple of spooky perfect moments where the film just got me to groove on its beautiful old-timey poetry. The part at the beginning where Boyer and Dunne speaking from different sides of the wall, and Boyer tries to catch up to her and look for her and the music swells and the camera movement and the synchronization is fucking perfect. The other moment is like this beautiful interlude where they go inside the chapel which is like the epitome of art or something, it's so damn beautiful. Then there's some dumb stuff and some pretty stuff and some other stuff and those final moments (that fucking mirror killed me!) that somehow make me swallow all the drama (it helps that Dunne is incredible) and I'm a little girl swooning. BOINK.


The Thin Man (1934)
(Directed by W.S Dyke)

Boy, these people drink a lot! That's kind of the fun of the movie, just watching Powell and Loy drinking their way thru life, trading lines so damn naturally, it's great. There's a plot around them and I could care less about it. Sure, it makes possible a great ending, but I was honestly just interested in watching Powell be amazing, it's just the way he handles the glass when he's drinking or a slight change in his facial impression. Watching Powell and Loy act together is a damn treat, you can sense the fun they're having, making faces at each other, drinking martinis, it's a lush life. Some of that fun is contagious and I ended up having fun, too, just not as much as I had hoped to have. oh, yeah, Asta is awesome.


Le jour se lève (1939)
(Directed by Marcel Carne)

oh man, this is brimming with this wistful feeling all throughout. Even the scenes of beautiful courtship are tainted with the knowledge of what's bound to happen. Jean Gabin walking around his room, smoking a cigarette, checking the mirror, is all that's great about movies right there, and then come the flashbacks full of love that's complicated and working man emotions of the greatest kind. Gabin is frankly just amazing. I can't even describe his performance other than it's just about the most winning thing ever. He communicates so much just by sitting on his bed, but then you got all these other different things going on in the film and those awesome dissolves and WHATNOTS, coupled with the film's tender treatment of burgeoning happiness and love contrasted with Gabin's complaints that all he does is work day in and day out. I don't know. Something about it broke my heart. Maybe I'm just an old man now. Softened by sweet sighs.


Life Partner (2009)
(Directed by Rumi Jaffery)

This movie's pretty ridiculous. I could just call it crap and whatnot and move on but after a while I just kind of tried to let it persuade me into liking it. It didn't totally work but I still had fun. For one, I was mesmerized all throughout the wedding dance scene in this film. It's like this totally illogical explosion of color - kind of incredible. I don't really have any useful comparisons for that scene, it's just kinda amazing. There's a lot more singing and dancing that there was in Luck which I dug a lot. So, I guess Bollywood treats its dance numbers as ways to insert music videos into their films. I dig that. There's total disrespect for temporal or spatial nonsense in the dance scenes. Characters are here in one part and then the next cut has them somewhere else, wearing totally different clothes, but still affecting the film's narrative. I kept wishing the film would just do away with its odious narrative and just keep doing the music videos, but it wasn't to be. The movie kinda dealt with old-fashioned views of marriage and how each couple must find their own way to true happiness while still honoring the family or something. There was a man sitting in front of me who kept laughing at everything. I kinda started wondering about the things he was finding funny - it was mostly the jokes where one of the characters ended up doing something that violated the traditional rules of the family or something. Like, one character was contemplating shaving off his moustache and then his Father showed up right next to him and nodded disapprovingly. I'm like, "huh?" So, it was weird and not very good and the ending is incredibly terrible and if this was a Hollywood movie I would probably trash it but I found the differences in approach and the different details interesting enough where I found worth in the movie, even if it was incidental worth. Whatevers.


Inglourious Basterds (2009)
(Directed by Quentin Tarantino)

There's a couple of moments in this film that rank as pretty much the greatest thing that Quentin has ever done. The first is the shot where Melanie Laurent is standing next to the mirror with all that light and shadow and it's just incredibly beautiful (I'm pretty sure that screenshot is incorrect or reversed or something, i don't remember it that way). The next part of that scene with Laurent putting on her (war) makeup is fantastic. The lighting and the way that Tarantino illuminates her radiant face is about the most lovely and graceful image that I've ever seen in a Tarantino film. The second part of the film that could possibly rank as the greatest thing he's ever done is the climax of the film. I don't want to get into spoilers but it's honestly just incredible. That shot where Jacky Ido is framed behind the screen in front of, well, you know. Everything about that scene is fantastic. These two scenes probably present the polar opposites of the movie (and maybe of QT's cinema) and find him at his very best. The rest of the film is lots of fun. It's basically just a bunch of really long scenes, driven by smart editing, great dialogue that serves as much to meander as it does to raise the tension to unbearable levels (that scene in the basement is lots of fun). Some of the more anachronistic touches didn't sit with me, like the font used to point out the big shots at the cinema screening (or most of the on-screen text, actually). And I kept wondering if QT's use of chapters and stuff is his own way of trying to avoid narrative cohesion. And I kept wondering why that was because he shows he can pull that shit off by the 5th chapter. The film has probably too many film references and it reaches a point where it's almost a joke (and the final line of the film goes maybe a bit too far in to self-indulgence). It's as is every character in the movie is a film fan or expert (everyone talks about Pabst, Aldo Raine says watching The Bear Jew have his way with the Nazis is as close to the movies as they can get, one of the film's heroes is a suave film critic!). It's kind of ridiculous in a way, but then it sets up the movie's final audacious stunt which basically posits that film (actual celluloid) destroys the 3rd Reich. If that ain't cinema, I don't know what is.


Lorna's Silence (2008)
(Directed by Dardenne Bros)

Just as good as their other films. It's a little bit different in that their plotting is much more visible here than in their other films (maybe because of the crime element?). What I found most interesting were the elisions in their narrative. One key moment of the narrative is skipped over and we only see the aftermath. And it's a pretty big moment, too, so we wonder about the reasoning. The performance by Arta Dobroshi is fantastic (filmspots!). She basically sold me on everything; even those final moments which are markedly different from anything that the Dardennes have done before (non-diegetic music? wtf?!). I don't really have much to say about the film other than just like all their others, it's very moving and all that stuff, one of the year's best, blah blah blah.


Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle (2006)
(Directed by Douglas Gordon + Phillippe Parreno)

You basically follow Zidane for an entire game. There's an overwhelming focus on his feet. He adjusts his socks once or twice. The most impressive aspect for me is the sound design. The way that the ball sounds when it's kicked, the stampede of shoes, the knocking of bodies against each other, it's incredible. Plus you got a soundtrack done by Mogwai that kicks in every once in a while. It's superb stuff. Zidane is an interesting figure to watch; his profile is rather well-suited to this kind of investigation or portrait or whatever. He suggests things although all you see him do is basically walk around, speed up a bit and whatever. This is the extent of the film's focus on the narrative of the game - I didn't even know that the other team were winning until a really long time into the movie. Whenever you do see Zidane be Zidane, it's kind of incredible. When he has the assist for the 1st goal, it's just genius. But, most of the time, it's just a fairly atmospheric experience, if a tiring one. I can only take so much of this kind of stuff, you know? But, still, it's a very interesting film. Glad I watched it.


The Story of Marie and Julien (2003
(Directed by Jacques Rivette)

Strange, strange. I guess it tells a love story of sorts. But the way it's done is enigmatic and you're never really sure of exactly what you're watching. Actually, I'm finding it very hard to describe the film. It's filmed mostly in the same way as Ne touchez pas la hache was with the same sort of interiors and the wood-floor filmmaking (I really love that sound. . .). I also dug how Rivette invests this sort of metaphysical story with a tactility that's weirdly becoming (it also reminded me of some of the stuff I dig in Bresson and Le Monde Vivant) and, not only that, but also a very passionate core (Beart's pretty great). It took me a while to really get into the film. I'm not entirely sure what did it for me (maybe it was the visit of that hotel room?) but I really loved that final last half hour or so when everything starts to come together in the most perfect way. These films are baffling. So baffling. What codes, what signals, what lives!


Jhon's Movie of the Week is... Only Angels Have Wings

No comments: