Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Film Week

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

TWO ENGLISH GIRLS (1971)
Films like this one, which are all about repression and not being able to get what you want out of life because of religious guilt and existential suffering and societal judgment, tend to leave me cold. I find society hypocritical and ridiculous, and while I'm certain it's realistic to a time period that these people have to be unhappy, that doesn't always make it engrossing to watch. Show me a single moment where these people are ever really, truly happy and not concerned with waiting for everything to fall apart. Here Jean-Pierre Leaud (miscast, I think; he's very contemporary in a film that takes place mainly in 1902) plays a convalescing young Frenchman who falls in love with first one English girl, and then, when he is rejected, her sister. No one ever gets to be happy because of secrets and religion and guilt and a Truffaut lead who is typically restlessly searching for that one mythical woman who is all things. The major reveal that I had a problem with: the first sister is suffering from guilt over the sins of her past, which apparently revolve around two separate times as a child that she masturbated--she literally goes blind, but very slowly, so as to maximize the pleasure of a ridiculous sadist-God suffering of a movie preoccupied with suffering. Slow and joyless; Truffaut punishing the audience with offhanded navel-gazing. Pretty to look at, though, with the Norman countryside doubling for Dover. ***

THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN (1977)
Truffaut once again returns to his major theme. Here, Charles Denner plays a man who cannot love one woman as a person because he loves all women as an idea, and begins to write a book about it. The book starts as a mere collection, a cataloging of sexual exploits, but becomes a vehicle for searching for the origins of his obsessions. It's mainly rooted in his relationship with a mother who made him feel unimportant and unloved; now, as an adult, he searches for that feeling of importance and love, but is so guarded about it that he can't give himself over to truly love anyone else. He's sincere, honest, and even kind; this isn't a movie about forgiving a bastard. He's upfront about his feelings. He just expects that in the end he'll be left, that no woman can truly love him, so he leaves first. I think Truffaut sees his protagonist as someone with an incurable emotional disease, even pities him as someone so screwed up in some way that he can't truly connect with a woman on an emotional level; it stops just short of forgiving him, even if it might not be completely honest about the kind of emotional wreckage he is capable of leaving behind. But then, he would probably avoid acknowledging that, and so Truffaut avoids it, too. At this point in my life, I really relate to some of the emotional issues present and was glad the movie didn't play with them in a trivial way. ****

LIMBO, THE ORGANIZED MIND (1974)
Wonderfully unsettling Jim Henson short film about the mind. It's on YouTube, go check it out, it's disturbing. ****

SYMPHONY IN SLANG (1957)
Very cute Tex Avery cartoon with a literal depiction of 1957 hipster talk. Feels like the kind of thing you'd show to an English class. Love my language jokes. ****

DAY FOR NIGHT (1973)
One of Truffaut's masterpieces, and the final film of his that I had never seen before. Here, Truffaut plays a director working on a film, and the movie flows as a sort of collection of anecdotes about making films. There's not really a plot so much; Truffaut is showing us the world of filmmaking, any kind of filmmaking, and the way a sort of family develops and the emotions and experiences that occur. The film observes and it's engrossing to be inside as a lifelong film fan. It's an affectionate vignette of filmmaking itself, and it's wonderful. ****

MUNSTER, GO HOME! (1966)
Cute big-screen version of The Munsters, with Herman inheriting a title and an estate in England. Your mileage will vary depending on your regard for The Munsters, a show I happen to love. I quite enjoyed the movie, though it took me a while to get used to not hearing a laugh track (though the actors pause for one). Lots of great guest actors here, including Hermione Gingold and Terry-Thomas as the British relatives trying to bump Herman off, Bernard Fox as the Munster family's car-racing rival, John Carradine as a creepy butler, Richard Dawson and Arthur Malet as some gravediggers, Jack Dodson as a shipmate, and Robert Pine (the sergeant from CHiPS and Chris Pine's father) as Marilyn's British love interest. Different Marilyn from the TV show for whatever reason. (Also, great literal shout-out to Car 54, Where Are You? from Fred Gwynne that I just needed to mention.) ***

LE MILLION (1931)
Wonderful film from Rene Clair--half farce, half fairy tale--about two starving artists who desperately search for a missing jacket with a winning lottery ticket inside. It's a whimsical, masterful film with great music and singing; great setpieces, particularly an interlude at an opera house. ****

UNE PARISIENNE (1957)
Brigitte Bardot as an ambassador's daughter married to a womanizer, who decides to get him back by having an affair with a visiting prince (Charles Boyer). Great-looking, wonderful color palette. It's a fun movie, but the real point of it is presenting Bardot as a sex symbol, which it does an admirable job of. Genuinely sexy, though some of the "traditional" sexism doesn't play the "cute" way it once may have. ***1/2

3 comments:

Roger Owen Green said...

Mais oui. I haven't watched Truffault in decades, but thought they were great films at the time.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Robert Pine is not just Captain Kirk's father. His own mother (Captain Kirk's grandmother) was Anne Gwynne, who was John Carradine's Count Dracula's prey in House of Frankenstein. One wonders if, on the set, John Carradine ever said to Robert Pine: "You know, back in 1944, I sucked the hell out of your mother!"

Another great character actor wasted in Munster Go Home was the wonderful British character actor Ben Wright, who was a friend of mine, a man with whom I acted and who acted in comedy sketches I wrote.

SamuraiFrog said...

Ah, damn it, I see I forgot to mention him. I knew him instantly from his voice!