Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Film Week

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

In case you've been wondering, we're in the final week of Turner Classic Movies' annual "31 Days of Oscar" celebration. Every year they've done it--and it turns out it's been 19 years, so where the hell does the time go?--I've always wanted to sit and watch lots of movies I've never seen before. And then I haven't done it. This year, I finally did. I didn't get to watch everything I wanted to, but I've seen--and will continue to see, because there's a few more days and still a lot on my TiVo--a number of movies I've "always" wanted to see and never made time for. (And for all that I've listed here, I've watched twice as much, because I've also been watching movies that I've seen before but my wife never has, in some cases leading to a total reassessment of my feelings for them.)

That's why I've been seeing so damn many movies lately, and it's been a lot of fun. It seemed like the perfect time, since I'm not working and can't go anywhere.

THE SEARCH (1948)
Montgomery Clift as a GI in postwar Germany who meets a child displaced by the camp liberations. The kid is an Auschwitz survivor who can barely speak and--because he was imprisoned so young--barely has memories of his mother. The whole first 30+ minutes of the film play like an informational film about what the Nazis did to children, and it's very hard to watch. Meanwhile, as the kid tries to get used to freedom, his mother is searching for him. It's a very emotionally powerful movie that took me by surprise. I got the horrifying idea that some of the children in the film weren't really acting so much as remembering, but I can't really find any information about that. Well worth seeking out. ****

THE IDEA (1932)
Fascinating (but admittedly slow-moving) animated film by Berthold Bartosch about the creation of an idea. The idea inspires men to revolt and is suppressed by business interests, but never quite forgotten. Based on a wordless novel by Frans Masreel, it's a deft and beautiful piece of animation, though ultimately tragic. It conveys very accurately the feeling of futility in attempts to make change. ****

HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON (1957)
John Huston film about a Marine (Robert Mitchum) stuck on a small island with a nun (Deborah Kerr) during World War II. He falls in love with her as they evade the Japanese and hope for rescue. Good-looking movie, but it kind of left me cold. I thought Deborah Kerr was quite good, though. Then again, my wife loved it, so what the hell do I know? **1/2

CROSSFIRE (1947)
Mitchum again, this time in a message picture that's filmed like a noir. It's about an anti-Semitic soldier who murders a Jew, and the investigation to discover his crime. It doesn't create a lot of suspense and gets very message-y, but I liked the style and some of the performances, particularly Robert Ryan (who is downright terrifying) and Gloria Grahame, whom I am incapable of not liking. ***

STALAG 17 (1953)
This is one of those flicks that's always been in the back of my mind to see, but I never took the time, mainly because I didn't know what to expect and William Holden isn't exactly one of my favorite actors. Turns out I've missed a great picture all these years, but I sure had fun watching it now (and Holden was great in it; hell, he won the Oscar). It's a great drama about GI's in a prison camp who are certain there's a mole in their midst, and decide it must be Holden, because he's only out for himself. But this drama is surrounded by a lot of great humor and funny, human moments. I only thought of Hogan's Heroes part of the time, but it wasn't distracting. The film was just too damn good. Otto Preminger's performance as the Nazi Commandant was very interesting and regal; I love the business with the boots when he's on the phone. I know Billy Wilder's one of the greats, but he can be hit or miss for me at times, but this is one hell of a hit. Great, great movie, a real pleasure to watch. ****

LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945)
I have to admit, this is the kind of movie I don't see very often, from an era of films I don't visit as much as others. In this film, Gene Tierney meets novelist Cornel Wilde, becomes obsessed with him, marries him, and does some pretty terrible things to keep him all to herself. It's a weird, bizarrely intense film, with everyone sort of acting at one another. It works, for the most part (although I thought the trial was a little too over-the-top; wouldn't any court have recused the district attorney in a murder case if he had once been engaged to the victim?). It's a great looking movie, though; the sets are gorgeous, and so is Gene Tierney. And so is Jeanne Crain, playing Tierney's adopted sister. It didn't completely click with me, but it's definitely worth seeing. ***

1 comment:

Tallulah Morehead said...

Here's what bugs me about Crossfire, the novel it's based on is not about anti-Semitism; it's about homophobia. It's about an a gay-hating soldier who murders a homosexual. But in 1947, Hollywood hadn't the balls to make that movie; they were still officially FOR gay-hating. Sepakign as a gay man, fuck you, Hollywood of 1947.

I love Leave Her to Heaven. I have it on DVD. It's worth seeing for the vivid, lush, rich Technicolor photography alone. And Gene Tierney's character is so over-the-top loony. What atreat to see a Vincent Price movie where he's sane and someone else is a psychotic killer. The scene where she lets Darril Hickman drown remains blood-chilling.