Saturday, February 02, 2008

Week in Review - oo8/5


Criss Cross - The Burt Lancaster original directed by Robert Siodmak which Soderbergh remade as The Underneath. I liked Soderbergh's version better. Siodmak's version was kind of noir lite. To tell you the truth not much has stuck with me. Interesting little trivia bit that I noticed - Tony Curtis was unbilled in Criss Cross as a guy seen dancing with the female lead. Ten years later he played opposite of Lancaster in one of the last film noirs made in Hollywood, the great Sweet Smell of Success.

This Is England - The performances and the art direction in this film are amazing. Especially the main kid. The script is a bit of a mess, it lacks a spine sending the story this way and that like some sort of fictional documentary of the director's miscreant youth. I also found the music really overbearing. The oi, soul and ska music of the period used as a source music was great. But the score was too manipulative, used to drive narrative moments to the extent that I wondered what was going on. It was obvious that a decisive moment was happening but the camera work and music made such a fuss, extending the moment to the extent that I thought something else was going on. Like hey did I miss something, no we're just staying with this moment for a while. Very strange choice.

Mon Oncle - One of those films that you see on best ever lists and you see the simple cover design on the DVD and you know it's in French and you just think, man I got to get around to watching that because I should. Like it's going to be a chore. So I popped it into the DVD player yesterday because it's due back at the library today and next thing you know I'm totally charmed. My kids who usually have no patience for subtitles, in part because two of them can't read, were totally into it. Partly because like all great cinema you could take the dialogue away and still have a great film. I was even taking notes about making a contemporary version set in Portland. I greatly admire Jacques Tati's light touch and the love he shares for those he parodies. It opened my eyes to how powerful it is when a director loves everybody in his films even if they're hateful.

The Savages - Watching this movie was like watching Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors play pingpong. Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman were so much bigger than the story. They just didn't have enough to do to fill out the overlong film. Don't get me wrong, their performances were excellent as were the supporting cast's. And I appreciate great actors taking on roles in small films. As I appreciate small films with slight stories. But this one left me bored and mostly cold. The tacked on epilogue didn't substitute for the lack of a journey. I was bored by about two thirds of the way. If I would have walked out at that point I wouldn't have missed a thing. In fact, if I would have waited to see this on DVD, I wouldn't have missed much seeing this very visually bland film on a small screen.

Port of Shadows - Now here's a small simple story that works. I adore Jean Gabin. He's one of my favorite actors of all time. His co-star is the stunning Michele Morgan. Oh la la. When it was over I wanted to watch it again immediately. I didn't but the desire is telling. The film is rough, steamy, passionate and dark. It's like the music of Edith Piaf - poetic realism. The very French idea that nothing in life is more important than passion expressed during the time that decadence and purity were polemics that divided the world. It's an amazing film.

Annie - Yeah, sure, why not. Not your typical John Huston movie. I have kids.


Underneath It All - Traci Lords's auto-biography. I burned through the three hundred page book in less than two hours, so it wasn't a big investment. It's not a bad read. She's lead an interesting, and in many ways inspiring, life. I particularly enjoyed the chapters devoted to her work on Cry-Baby - a turning point for her. Her story is a good example of the forces that make us objectify one another while reminding us of the deeper things that bind us together.

The Last Picture Show - Larry McMurtry I don't know if he learned something from seeing Horseman, Pass By made into a film, but this novel is much more like the film bearing it name than his earlier novel was like Hud. I feel such a close, living relationship to the film that reading the book seems like reading the diaries of the characters more than anything else. I certainly can't think about the book on its own. There is no separation for me. Which is what it is. It doesn't even feel like I'm reading fiction.

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