cinemaspeak59

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Everything posted by cinemaspeak59

  1. Jean -Pierre Melville is one of France's most celebrated film makers. A contemporary of New Wavers Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, Melville directed crime classics such as Bob le Flambeur, Le Samourai, and Le Cercle Rouge. Le Deuxieme Souffle opens with a title card that reads: “A man is given but one right at birth: to choose his own death. But if he chooses because he’s weary of his own life, then his entire existence has been without meaning.” That's pretty heavy stuff. One could spend wonderful hours in a cafe with Sorbonne philosophy students debating the merits of such a statement. The film's protagonist, Gustave "Gu" Minda (the superb Lino Ventura), shows signs of weariness. Saying he's tired of living may be going too far. Having escaped from prison, after being locked up for many years, Gu wants three things out of life now that he's free: to reunite with Manouche (Christine Fabrega), his equally weary lover, make enough money to retire from gangster life, and settle a score with rival mobster Jo Ricci (Marcel Bozzuffi). All of these goals, as Le Deuxieme Souffle shows, are connected. Gu has a face that's kind and menacing at the same time. The character precedes Don Vito Corleone, Michael Corleone, and Tony Soprano as a tortured and complex individual, as opposed to an archetype. Melville has no interest in romanticizing gangsterism. Gu has no qualms about killing, and he's quite good at it, as the film makes clear. Melville shoots Le Deuxieme Souffle in a monochromatic black & white. He relies on natural light, and dispenses with studio atmospherics. The sets, with the exception of the night club scenes, are quite austere. The film, in appearance, is the opposite of the magnificent high contrast black & white used by Warner Bros. and RKO in the 1940s. Jo Ricci is a big shot in the Paris underworld, due in large part because he functions as an informant for the unscrupulous Inspector Blot (Paul Meurisse). Rather than being uncomfortable acting as a police stool pigeon, Ricci is quite proud of it. Indeed, he makes sure a bottle of cognac and beautiful young women are ready for when Inspector Blot pays him a visit. Jo Ricci resembles Michael Corleone in that he's a sociopath, willing to betray his own family in the interest of business. Manouche serves as a mother figure to Gu. She's made enough money from the cigarette racket, in partnership with someone named Jacques the Lawyer. Jacques was killed by a partner of Paul Ricci (Raymond Pellegrin). Paul owns a night club and traffics in cigarettes. He is also Jo Ricci's brother. Manouche is still alive thanks to Alban, a Gu loyalist and expert marksman. Gu is too proud to live off of Manouche's money. He ignores her plea to not pursue one last score. A golden opportunity arrives thanks to a shadowy mercenary known as Orloff. A truck is scheduled to transport platinum worth hundreds of millions of francs through Marseille. Orloff backs out when he discovers the robbery involves killing police. Orloff recruits Gu instead, who gladly accepts the chance to make 200 million francs. The heist includes Paul Ricci, who Gu trusts, and two other lower level hoods, Pascal and Antoine. Antoine is unstable and trigger happy; he reminds me of Wilmer in the Maltese Falcon, played memorably by Elisha Cook Jr. Le Deuxieme Souffle is heavy in plot twists and double crosses that, thankfully, are not distracting or gratuitous. Inspector Blot relies on his vast supply of mobster informants to trap Gu into confessing to the platinum robbery, and also in naming Paul Ricci as an accomplice. Gu is on tape, but sections of the recording are left out, so that Gu appears to rat out Paul. For Gu, this is an unforgivable offense. Thus, in the film's third act, Gu has a new, and more important calling, think of it as goal number four: to clear his name, and make certain everyone knows, most importantly Manouche, that he, Gu, is many things - assassin, robber, cop killer - but above all, he is absolutely not someone who squeals on his colleagues. As for the police, Melville doesn't let them off the hook. Marseille's dim local inspector, Fardiano, uses brutal torture and denial of due process to extract information from Gu and Paul Ricci. Le Deuxieme Souffle clocks in at 2 hours and 24 minutes., with very little dead space. The narrative moves smoothly in a tight procedural fashion. The robbery of the platinum truck is thrilling, right up there with any Hollywood action sequence. There's a beautiful logic to the film's ending, and to Gu's fate. Through hard work and determination, Gu has secured 200 million illegally gained francs, exacted his bloody revenge on Jo Ricci, ensured the safety of his beloved Manouche, and cleared his good name. This last accomplishment, ironically, was made possible by Inspector Blot, whose self-satisfied expression, as he leaves a blockbuster story for the press to write about, while lighting a cigarette, closes Le Deuxieme Souffle. P.S. I saw the Criterion restored edition. The sub-titles in English were very clear and easy to read.
  2. cinemaspeak59

    Dead Reckoning(1947)

    This is an excellent, but underrated Film Noir. Lizabeth Scott is terrific as the lethal femme fatale. I find Dead Reckoning to be more coherent and atmospheric than The Big Sleep.
  3. cinemaspeak59

    Golden age: Roll call

    Emma Thompson, indeed, has that same aura. As for younger actresses, I like Felicity Jones, with that lovely overbite, and Keira Knightley, who always gives it her all. Alicia Vikander, although Swedish, could also step into a 1934 film set and fit right in.
  4. cinemaspeak59

    Golden age: Roll call

    Jolly good stuff. Great pics. I loved Valerie Hobson, along with other great British actresses from the 1930s: Margaret Lockwood, Madeleine Carroll and Heather Angel, to name a few. They had talent, style, elegance. I never get tired of watching them.
  5. cinemaspeak59

    Laura (1944)

    I bought Webb's performance and his unmasking as the killer. Noir by nature is twisted; the human psyche defies rational explanation. He may have been humiliated by Laura's rejections. Perhaps he was fighting within himself to embrace and accept (or not) he who was.
  6. Sawdust and Tinsel (1953), directed by Ingmar Bergman, reminded me of Variety Lights (1950). VL was Federico Fellini's directorial debut; in actuality, he co-directed with Alberto Lattuada, a respected filmmaker in his own right. Both films are about traveling impresarios struggling with mercurial performers and financial troubles. VL follows the challenges of a vaudeville-like troupe as they travel throughout Italy entertaining a populace not fully recovered from WWII. Sawdust and Tinsel examines a traveling circus. Whereas VL maintains an optimistic and light-hearted tone, Sawdust and Tinsel is completely different: Grim, violent, decadent and fatalistic, it was Bergman's first collaboration with legendary cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Åke Grönberg plays Albert, owner of Alberti Circus, a crude, overweight unsophisticated man with a child-like innocence. His mistress, Anne (Harriet Andersson), is lusty and ambitious; she fancies herself as too good for the circus. Anne reacts angrily to Albert visiting his ex-wife, Agda. Correctly, she thinks Albert will reconcile with Agda, and leave her stranded. Anne, perhaps to spite Albert, makes a surprise visit to the local theatre company, to seduce the handsome lead actor, Frans (Hasse Ekman) into giving her a job. She bashes the circus in front of Frans, proclaiming herself too beautiful for such a dirty place. Her calling is in the theatre, where her talent can be appreciated. She's obviously fishing for compliments. Bergman is unsparing in his depiction of Frans. He's portrayed as a dilettante, fraud and misogynist. Frans humiliates Anne; he prevents her from leaving his room; he may have even raped her. His parting shot is giving Anne a worthless medallion he tells her can fetch a valuable sum. Meanwhile, Albert's visit home makes him realize how happy he was with Agda. He misses the comfort of domesticity, and asks Agda to take him back. She politely declines, knowing all too well any structure with Albert will be short-lived. She has moved on, while Albert's daughter barely acknowledges him. Thus Albert and Anne's efforts to liberate themselves from the circus, and from each other, end in failure. When Albert visit the theatre to borrow costumes, the director, Mr. Sjuberg, initially refuses. He tells Albert circus people are a lower form of humanity. The director doesn't exempt himself. He explains to Albert that, perhaps, the theatre is looked upon with more prestige, but this judgment is false. Entertainers and artists deceive themselves into believing the public needs them. The applause and adulation they receive is illusory. It's a fascinating exchange. Was Bergman including himself with Albert? Was he agreeing with Mr. Sjuberg? Was Bergman saying even a well-respected film maker and theatre director, like himself, is nothing but a worthless poser, non-essential in nature's grand design? Sawdust and Tinsel closes with Albert and Anne walking back to their caravan in pious resignation, as a lovely twilight sky makes way for nightfall. Alberti Circus is on the move.
  7. cinemaspeak59

    Deanna Durbin - Femme Fatale

    Deanna Durbin never got the chance to play a femme fatale - a bad girl, conniving, duplicitous etc -- and this is a shame. Christmas Holiday and Lady on a Train stylistically were noirs, particularly LOAT. And style goes a very long way in noir. I would have loved to see her play a part that could stand alongside Mary Astor, Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Greer, Ava Gardner, and Rita Hayworth. The question is, did she have it in her? Critics questioned her range as an actress. Sure, she was good in light comedies, but dark, twisted dramas, probably not. The one noir I think she would have been perfect for is the Postman Always Rings Twice, and perhaps Ivy from 1947 (she would have looked great in Edwardian costumes). The chemistry between her and Garfield in Postman would have been perfect. Garfield was tough and hard-boiled, but not to the degree of Bogart or Mitchum. It's also entirely plausible for Durbin's character to marry an older man, like Cecil Calloway, who played Lana Turner's husband. Deanna was often paired with much older men, for example Franchot Tone in His Butler's Sister and Walter Pidgeon in It's a Date. Her facial expressions tended toward a blank opaqueness, quite suitable for a femme fatale. LOAT offers some hints of what we would have been in store for. In particular, is her rendition of Silent Night. Turn down the volume; you would never think she's singing a reverential tune. She does something quite extraordinary: she eroticizes Silent Night, conveyed through tantalizing eye and mouth gestures. It was as if Ms. Durbin were laying down the gauntlet, staking claim as one of Hollywood's most seductive seductresses. Of course this is pure conjecture. Lana Turner was one of MGM's biggest stars. Casting Deanna Durbin on loan from Universal, in all likelihood, was never part of the discussion. And Lana Turner was very good in Postman; perhaps the finest acting of her career.
  8. cinemaspeak59

    Deanna Durbin - Femme Fatale

    I think her calling in the mid to late 1940s was in film noir. Again, this is in the eye of the beholder. Lana Turner was never regarded as a great actress. Jane Greer, mantis-like as she was in Out of the Past, is not in the pantheon of screen thespians. The same goes for Lizabeth Scott. I guess we can leave to the force of circumstance, i.e. bad luck, that we didn't see more of Deanna Durbin.
  9. cinemaspeak59

    Deanna Durbin - Femme Fatale

    Very good points all around. Durbin was anxious to transition to adult roles. Did she make demands on Universal? Did she refuse films that did not challenge her as an actress? The answer is probably "no" to both questions. Even Bette Davis had to take Warner Bros to court for better roles. I agree with your reference to Garbo. She had a certain visage, allowing viewers to read into it whatever they wanted. Durbin, at least to me, showed glimpses of hidden depths, demonstrated by the musical numbers in Lady on a Train, particularly Silent Night. Perhaps this range was, indeed, limited to her singing.
  10. cinemaspeak59

    2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

    Kubrick's A Space Odyssey does not need to be remade. I won't be narrow-minded and say it's impossible to produce a quality remake, but why bother. The dazzling imagery of the original, and the ambiguity, will continue to attract new viewers and discussions. The philosophical questions the film posed -- What is existence? How do we acquire knowledge? Is artificial intelligence a threat to humanity? -- are more important today than in 1968. I recommended A Space Odyssey to a friend in his twenties, an Xbox gamer with high standards for special effects, and he loved it.
  11. cinemaspeak59

    The Story of Temple Drake

    The Story of Temple Drake is quite a powerful film. Miriam Hopkins, early in her career, excelled at playing the high society, wealthy party girl the papers loved writing about. Her rape by Trigger is not portrayed condemningly, as if somehow her lifestyle caused it. Every gesture and movement by Hopkins captures the horror of what happened. Her ghost-like stare following the incident, when she's in the car with Trigger, is rather devastating. It's an excellent performance. The film makes quite clear Temple Drake was the victim. I have to agree with Sister Rose Pacatte in her introduction to the picture, that Temple Drake's only crime was for being a woman.
  12. cinemaspeak59

    The Story of Temple Drake

    I agree with your theory about reshoots and editing. We are left to fill in the blanks as to her feelings about Trigger. The film establishes Temple Drake as a sort of libertine. She comes across as the type of woman who could feel comfortable at a boxing match with all the rough language and shady characters, i.e. gangsters at those events, as well as at an Ivy League soiree, befitting her aristocratic upbringing. And Hopkins could play these women as well as anyone.
  13. cinemaspeak59

    Your top ten favorite noirs.

    In no particular order: The Maltese Falcon Out of the Past Double Indemnity Murder, My Sweet The Killers Dead Reckoning Phantom Lady The Lady from Shanghai The Letter (Bette Davis one) This Gun for Hire
  14. cinemaspeak59

    Out Of The Past(1947)

    Another Noir released in 1947 was DEAD RECKONING, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott. It was not as good as OUT OF THE PAST (arguably the best Noir in film history), but it was still very good. When Jane Greer was interviewed about her role on TCM, she said director Jacques Tourneur told her in the first half of the film, she was to play the good girl. And in the second half of the film, Tourneur told her to be the bad girl. It takes a confident director to so beautifully simplify acting. Mitchum's performance has a fatalism even more pronounced than other noirs. He recognized Kathy's duplicity immediately. Yet the sexual allure was so intense he was unwilling or incapable to set himself free.
  15. cinemaspeak59

    Any fans of the Coen Bros.?

    I saw them both, many years ago when they were first released. Great films, both. I liked the B&W photography on TMWWT Another one I like is Miller's Crossing, an interesting take on the gangster genre.
  16. cinemaspeak59

    THE BIG SHORT

    The Big Short functions as a political thriller, an economics tutorial, and a window into the world of high finance. Such a sprawling canvas could easily unravel into an incoherent, self-righteous mess. Thankfully, it doesn't. Thus, all the praise heaped on director Adam McKay is justly deserved. He has crafted a terrific film, full of visual panache, buttressed by superb ensemble acting. McKay uses rapid fire clips of what consumes an unsuspecting public: news, cartoons, sports, ordinary goings-on. Life chugs along, unaware of what is about to hit. The three main players are Michael Burry, head of Scion Capital, played by Christian Bale; Steve Carell as Mark Baum; and Ryan Gosling portraying Jared Vennett. Brad Pitt shows up as burned out banker Ben Rickert, lured out of retirement by two young upstarts - John Magaro as Charlie Geller and Finn Witttrock as Jamie Shipley - selling stocks out of a garage. Burry is the first to recognize that mortgage-backed securities consist of garbage loans cloaked with good loans to deceive investors. Home owners duped into buying houses they cannot afford will inevitably default, as teaser rates expire and oppressively higher rates kick in. Burry ensures he, and his investors, will profit by locking in credit default swaps, which are insurance for when the bubble bursts. The premiums paid to the big brokerages almost bankrupt Burry's firm. We see his despair as investors abandon ship, only to be astronomically rewarded later. (Burry himself made a profit of $100 million) There's a fascinating scene in the Goldman Sachs Office, in which Burry negotiates a credit default swap deal with three Goldman officials. Two of these are an Asian male, and a white woman. Both appear to be in their twenties. Any cultural differences evaporate in the all-consuming, singular culture of their firm in particular, and Wall Street in general. Fifty years ago, they never would have had a seat at the table. A small, commendable nod to diversity. The viewer is left to fill in the blanks: they went to Ivy League schools, came from wealthy parents. Twenty years down the road, they'll be married with families. They may even attend a gallery opening, in which glasses will be raised to their generous donation. Meanwhile, the only thing occupying their thoughts is the killing they are about to make at the next day's trade. Eventually, Gosling's reptilian Jared Vennett hears from rival brokers that Baum is buying up credit default swaps. It doesn't take the sharp-minded Vennett long to put two and two together. There's a doozy of a scene in which Vennett schools Steve Carell, and his team of relatively innocent brokers, on the fine art of mortgage-backed securities. Carell and his cohorts look on with mouths agape, as Vennett demonstrates what a veritable house of cards the entire system is. They decide to game the system themselves, rationalizing it as payback to the Oligarchic banks. We know how the story ends. The financial tidal wave reaches land. Homes and jobs are lost. Juxtaposed are scenes of a $489 million deposit into Burry's firm, and Jared Vennett admiring his $44 million bonus. Everyone who bet on the crash makes a killing. No one went to jail. McKay tries to not paint with a broad brush: He presents Mark Baum as tortured, blaming himself for the suicide of his brother. Burry listens to heavy metal, plays the drums, and walks around his office in shorts and barefoot. Ben Rickert wants to start a health food revolution; he scolds his two apprentices for excessive celebration. However, all of these outside interests ring false. The Wall Street indoctrination of profit maximization, ethics be damned, has taken its unbreakable hold, and there is room for little else. Only Jared Vennett is unapologetic: He's Wall Street shark and proud of it. The Big Short drips with anger, and a well-placed anger. This wasn't entrepreneurs taking business risks. This was fraud, aided and abetted by Congress, the SEC, and the rating agencies. The Big Short ends with a cautionary note: It will probably happen again. It didn't win the Oscar last night. Spotlight positively, absolutely deserved the honor. Both are not merely great films, but also great services to humanity.
  17. cinemaspeak59

    A CLOCKWORK ORANGE

    Great films are often subject to many interpretations. Such is the case with A Clockwork Orange, based on a book by the same name, and written by Anthony Burgess. As with any Kubrick film, the first place for analysis or observation is in the composition of the shots. Kubrick's preference for wide angle scenes, in exquisite and evocative sets, and production design, set the tone before any exposition. It's his trademark: a series of still frames, some tight, some wide, with unobtrusive camera movements. Kubrick's films have always had a beautiful coldness about them. His view of humanity is rather dark. Human nature seems to have two sides: the side that is petty, jealous, materialistic, selfish and instinctive in its pleasure of other's suffering. And then there's the bad side. As in protagonist Alex, in a superb performance by Malcolm McDowell. Hints are dropped that Alex, at least early in the film, is coddled at home. His father is a cuckold. His mini-skirt-wearing mother with purple hair may be having an affair with a young lodger. Set in the future, the landscape is quite ugly, resembling a shantytown, quite befitting for a dystopia. A Clockwork Orange is surprisingly low tech. Rotary phones are still in use. The exception is in the field of medicine and sociology. The message that criminals can and should be rehabilitated is enlightened. The methods are not. They consist of an extreme version of electro-shock therapy that alters the brain's chemical balance, accomplished with drugs and repetitive viewing of acts of violence on screen. Even the name of this approach is chilling: the Ludovico Technique. Everything Alex enjoyed pre-Ludovico: violence, sex, Beethoven, turns his stomach after. As such, the film makes a strong case that free will is a myth. The mind/brain delineation is a hoax. Brain chemistry is everything. If one is fortunate to be born with the right mix of serotonin and endorphins, then a happy life awaits us. Never too high or too low, we have a never-ending feeling of well-being. Alex relishes violence because he has no control to stop. The old Ludovico will fix that. Society's job is turn everyone into this standard of what it means to be human. The age-old question of what it means to be is one we are still exploring. Maybe it's better we never definitively answer it.
  18. cinemaspeak59

    Film You Tried to Watch but Couldn't Get Into It?

    I agree with you. Perhaps second viewings will change my opinion. I also was disappointed in Jackson's remake of KING KONG. Technically, it was flawless (like LOTR trilogy) but it lacked atmosphere. The CGI rendering of New York City was resembled a video game. There is too much shooting devoted to static space (endless journeys on LOTR) that stop the narrative flow of the films.
  19. Ivy was rather refined, which made the character more enjoyable. Astor's Brigid O'Shaughnessy and Stanwyck's Phyllis Dietrichson had a certain cheapness to them, which was obvious but still addictive to the men they were about to take to the cleaners. Yes, Fontaine should have played more femme fatale roles; she certainly had in her. I would love to see TCM show Ivy again and on a good quality DVD.
  20. 1. The Gift Joel Edgerton, the Australian actor, wrote directed and stars as Gordo, a loner type who tries to rekindle a friendship with a guy from high school, Simon, played by Jason Bateman. Gordo starts showing up unannounced to Simon's house, bringing gifts, staying for dinner, and basically being an intrusion. We think we know where the film is going, and then we don't. The Gift is sharp commentary on ambition, success, and materialism. 2. The End of the Tour David Foster Wallace became a literary sensation after he wrote Infinite Jest, in 1996. Jason Segel plays Wallace. Jason Eisenberg plays David Lipsky, the Rolling Stone journalist who interviewed Wallace over several days. Lipsky, himself a novelist, but not as talented or successful as Wallace, is perplexed by Wallace's lack of interest in exploiting his new found fame. The film touches on themes of male friendship and artistic envy. 3. Testament of Youth The Edwardian Era was the apogee for the British aristocracy. Then WWI happened. All the young men, and women, were eager to do their part for king and country. Class and wealth didn't matter. They believed it would all be over in a few weeks. Testament of Youth is based on Vera Brittain's memoir. Alicia Vikander, arguably the hottest newcomer of 2015, plays Vera, a progressive, independent-minded woman who dedicated herself to preventing future wars. The Downtown Abbey-style setting and elegant production avoid becoming self-indulgent. 4. Spotlight A riveting, precise and austere film about the Boston Globe investigative reporting team that exposed the sex abuse scandal, and the Byzantine cover-up. There are no lead actors, just supporting players in service of the story. Church officials are not portrayed as villainous caricatures. The film makers wanted nothing to distract from the facts. The only luxury they allowed themselves was to shoot in color. The lack of stylistic flourishes should not stop this film from winning the Best Picture Academy Award. 5. Me Earl and the Dying Girl Three high school kids form a relationship that transcends the usually shallow way young people are depicted in film. Two nerdy guys with a passion for making quirky films, who are not part of the "in" crowd, become friends with a cancer-stricken girl classmate. The characters are never cloying. The overall stoic outlook is rarely found in films with serious illness as the subject matter. 6. Bridge of Spies A Cold War drama based on the shooting down of the U-2 spy plane by the Soviet Union. Tom Hanks is the humble, Jimmy Stewart-esque insurance lawyer hired by the government to negotiate a hostage swap. Mark Rylance, memorable as the Russian agent held captive by the US, isn't sure whether it's preferable to stay locked up in an American prison or be sent back to Russia, where his fate could be far worse. As usual with Spielberg, the 1950s period setting, editing, photography and costumes , are perfect. 7. It Follows Sex equals death. A curse is passed from one person to the other during the act. The only way to rid yourself of this plague is to find another sexual partner and pass it on. Those cursed are tracked by an unexplained menace that can take the form of loved one or stranger. In a creative twist, no one is safe: the "It" can reverse course and stalk those who passed it on, and thought were in the clear. One of the best horror movies in years, It Follows takes it cues from the 1980s slasher films. While those films were gory but not necessarily scary, It Follows creates a sense of dread all great horror films share. 8. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter A young Japanese woman, lonely, unmarried and with a dead-end job, is obsessed with finding the buried treasure from the movie Fargo, which she believes is real. Armed with maps, charts and other assorted information pointing to where the money is buried, she travels from Japan to Minnesota. Oblivious to the cold, lack of money, and her failure to communicate, she single-mindedly pursues her mission as if her life depends on it. 9. Ex Machina Alicia Vikander, mentioned earlier in a Testament of Youth, is Ava, a sentient robot built by an internet mogul, played by Oscar Isaac. The film doesn't explore new territory in the pantheon of artificial intelligence. The performances are what make this picture special. Also good is Domhnall Gleeson as an in-over-his-head programmer thinking he was plucked to serve as Nathan's assistant based on his code-writing skills. Vikander plays Ava like those duplicitous femme fatales from 1940s film noirs. 10. Mistress America Greta Gerwig plays Brooke, a New York bon vivant with an active imagination that keeps bumping up against reality. One project that preoccupies her is opening a beauty salon that will also function as day-care center, restaurant, counseling office, and anything else to make people feel happy and secure. She befriends Tracy, a Barnard college coed whose mother is engaged to marry Brooke's father. The two women form a bond, which is tested when Tracy makes Brooke the subject of a literary assignment without telling her. The film can be seen as a comedy of manners among young New Yorkers, but it also harkens back to the great screwball comedies of the 1930s. Thankfully missing is the contrived, hipper than thou tone. The supporting characters are memorable, particularly Lola Kirke as Tracy. But this is Greta Gerwig's film; she exudes charm and warmth, the kind of friend you wish you had. 11. Trumbo Brian Cranston gives a terrific performance as blacklisted screen writer Dalton Trumbo. The film starts in 1947, when a conservative group, called the Motion Picture Alliance, led by John Wayne and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, targets writers and actors for banishment. Trumbo is open about his membership in the Communist Party; his affiliation comes from a belief in economic equality rather than overthrowing capitalism. But even celebrities who are active Democrats are viewed as enemy agents taking orders from Stalin. The film shows the lengths so-called patriots went to exploit the Red Scare, even convincing studio heads and cowardly courts to jettison free speech rights. 12. Carol A poignant story about two women, set in 1952 Manhattan, during Christmas. Cate Blanchett is an affluent suburban housewife. Rooney Mara is the much younger sales girl working in a department store. The scene where Rooney's character, Therese, looks across the store counter and sees, for the first time, Blanchett's Carol, and Carol lifts her head and locks eyes with Therese, is devastating in its simplicity. The rendering of early 1950s Manhattan by director Todd Haynes is evocative and atmospheric. When Hollywood made these films in the 40s and 50s, they were called "women's pictures", glossy melodramatic pieces with married women having doomed, clandestine affairs with other men. Carol will stay with you for a while. 13. Brooklyn Saoirse Ronan gives a subtle performance as Eilis, young woman who travels from Ireland to Brooklyn, a trip arraigned by her saintly older sister and the local Catholic Church. Once there, she lives in a rooming house with friendly, but slightly competitive young women, all searching for a place in the world. Julie Walters plays the acerbic, but good-natured head of the house. Eilis meets an Italian plumber aptly named Tony, and everything is a wonderful until a tragedy calls her back to Ireland. Back home she meets a dashing, well to do young man who has designs on marriage. Eilis is thus confronted with a romantic, and cultural dilemma. Brooklyn is slightly nostalgic. The time evoked in the film, 1952 to be precise, is one of church dances, elegant department stores, and the Dodgers.
  21. I agree with all of the filmmakers that have been posted. I would add Steven Spielberg to this list. Thankfully, he is still active, having directed (still in theatres) the taut, atmospheric cold war thriller Bridge of Spies. I say Spielberg because he is, first and foremost, one of the greatest shooters in the history of cinema. There isn't a subject he hasn't covered. Not all of his films have been masterpieces. For example, I found E.T a technically perfect film, but I wasn't moved by the emotional heart of the story, which I found cloying and too "Hollywood". If I watch it today, my verdict may change. Here are some of Spielberg's films I think are classics or will become classics: Jaws 1975 Close Encounters of The Third Kind 1977 Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981 Jurassic Park 1993 Schindler's List 1993 Saving Private Ryan 1997 A.I. Artificial Intelligence 2001 Minority Report 2002 Munich 2005 Lincoln 2012 Bridge of Spies 2015
  22. cinemaspeak59

    Two by Eric Rohmer Twomorrow

    You're right. I like Noah Baumbach; his films have hints of Eric Rohmer. There are two Baumbach pictures that come to mind: Francis Ha (2013) and Mistress America, which came out this past summer. And both feature a wonderful actress: Greta Gerwig, who excels at comedy, and reminds me, somewhat, of Carole Lombard. Another filmmaker is Whit Stillman, which I will save talking about for a later time. But getting back to Rohmer, there's a coldness to his films I admire. He doesn't use cloying soundtracks, or musical scores, to make viewers feel a certain way.
  23. cinemaspeak59

    Two by Eric Rohmer Twomorrow

    Eric Rohmer would not have survived in Hollywood. I can picture a studio boss yelling, "there's no action; nobody's gonna watch this". Rohmer's films share a rhythm with the plays of Chekov: they allow the viewer to take his or her time, to form opinions of the characters. Rohmer avoids stylistic flourishes, but because his pictures are set in urban or nautical settings, they are quite lovely. For example, the scene in Maud's apartment in My Night at Maud's was one of the most exquisite images put on film, not that the apartment was anything extraordinary, but the conversation and interaction between Maud and Trintignant's unnamed character were indeed, extraordinary. Rohmer was not one to self-indulge in café society set pieces. I was struck at the length of the scene in Catholic Mass, how long the camera was on the priest. The entire shot was rather drab, with low light. And the contrast with Maud's apartment was striking. The point, I think, was to establish the importance of religion to Tintignant's character, so at least the audience was able to access this one part of him, even if everything else remained a mystery. By the way, I enjoy all the comments on this topic; they are quite insightful. One more thing: I would like TCM to show A Tale of Summer. It received a limited theatrical release about a year ago. It was an interesting take on courting.
  24. If anyone wondered why critics lavished praise over the French New Wave, then a good place start with an answer is with Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard. But I would recommend an Eric Rohmer picture; if I had to pick one, since Rohmer was a prolific filmmaker, I would choose My Night at Maud's. Like most of Rohmer's film, My Night at Maud's has a narrative structure that is based on talk. The conversations, however, are not stiff or stagey (a frequent criticism of Rohmer). Rather, it's the silence, the pauses, the glances that reveal just as much as what the characters say. There are four of them on display: the unnamed lead played by Jean-Louis Trintignat, an engineer and practicing Catholic with progressive views on deeds, i.e. sex outside of marriage; Maud, a secular, libertine doctor for whom sex is a worthwhile experience without attachment; Vidal, a Marxist professor who is Maud's lover; and Francois, the attractive blonde Trintignat's character sees at Catholic Mass and, based on that one sighting, sets out to marry her. These actors talk, and talk, about philosophy, religion, chance, fate and commitment. No one talks like this, do they? In Rohmer's films yes, they do: heady, intoxicating dialogue that propels the narrative rather than stopping it. My Night at Maud's was filmed in 1968, a turbulent time in Europe as well as in the United States. Rohmer thankfully avoids self-conscious forays simply to sound hip. So, appreciate My Night at Maud's for what it has to say, or can only be guessed. And, enjoy the scenic streets and cafes of the French provincial town that serves as the setting.
  25. cinemaspeak59

    The 39 Steps (1935)

    I can watch the 39 Steps over & over and never get tired of it, much like the Maltese Falcon. Hitch creates a heady image of London, a city of adventure and romance. Robert Donat experiences both. Certain scenes -- the concert hall, the train trip, the hotel Donat & Carroll check into -- stay with you. Very rarely has evil been presented in a banal, seemingly benign manner; the villain is usually a cartoon, easily recognizable. Of course Hitch followed this pattern later in Hollywood, with Foreign Correspondent (Herbert Marshall's character at the end does show remorse) and Saboteur.

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