Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

LOVE (1919)
Another fun Fatty Arbuckle movie. In this one, Arbuckle is a farmhand who wants to marry the farmer's daughter who loves him, but her family conspires to wed her to a man with considerable wealth. The plot is slight, but the gags are top notch, and I always enjoy Fatty's physical comedy. Very fun. ***1/2

LEAP YEAR (1921)
This film wasn't released in the US because the release would have coincided with the Virginia Rappe scandal and Fatty's ongoing court trials. It's not one of his better flicks, either, and at 60 minutes, it can often be downright tiresome. Still, a lot of the physical humor is great, and I liked some of the more self-aware gags with the characters (and even the title cards) deconstructing the romantic style of film they're in. ***

THE BOY WITH GREEN HAIR (1948)
Earnest anti-war film starring Dean Stockwell as an orphan who one day wakes up with bright green hair. He's supposed to use the attention his hair brings to deliver an anti-war message to the world, but is also beset by peer pressure and societal norms to shave his head and get rid of the green hair. The symbolism is pretty obvious and unsubtle, which I concede seems to be part of the point. But the narrative never really caught my interest in full. Dean Stockwell is good as the titular boy, though, and the film's message is genuine. Didn't realize this is where the song "Nature Boy" originally came from; the score by Leigh Harline is quite good. ***

JOHN AND MARY (1969)
Interesting film about two single people (Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow) who meet in a bar, go to his place to spend the night, and spend the rest of the next day getting to know one another. Sort of. They're both holding themselves back from one another so hard that they have lots of problems connecting, even as they're clearly falling for one another and hoping for more. I found it surprisingly engrossing. She's had bad luck before and doesn't want to be lied to again; he doesn't want to appear too eager for fear of being the pushover he was in his previous relationship. We watch them tiptoe around one another, try to connect, and then pull back when they remember past times when it didn't work out. It's obviously New Wave inspired, though it doesn't have the same understanding of its premise the way a Godard film might (the two characters meet while discussing Godard's Week End, though they never say the name of the film or the director). It's a little tentative, and I'm not sure if that's a lack of nerve or part of the point of the film. But I like how, for one day, these two exist sort of cut off from the rest of the world, trying to exist with each other, but unable to keep their past and present commitments from sneaking in and jarring them. I found that pretty easy to relate to. ***1/2

HOTARUBI NO MORI E (2011)
Beautiful, short (45 minutes) anime about a girl who meets a man in a spirit-enchanted forest. He's not exactly a spirit, but is stuck between life and death. If he touches a human, he will discorporate and become nothing. The girl comes back to see him every summer, gradually falling in love with him, even though she knows they can never touch and, because he never ages, one day she will be older than him. It's a simple story, and very emotional, lovingly animated. ****

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