The Discreet Bourgeois

Possessed by an urgency to make sure all this stuff I love doesn't just disappear


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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. The Suitor (Pierre Étaix)
  2. Good Health (Pierre Étaix)
  3. Sitting Pretty (Walter Lang)
  4. Satan Met A Lady (William Dieterle)
  5. Mr. Thank You (Hiroshi Shimizu)
  6. The V.I.P.s (Anthony Asquith)
  7. Days Of Being Wild (Wong Kar Wai)
  8. Out Of The Past (Jacques Tourneur)
  9. The Maltese Falcon (John Huston)
  10. The School of Babel (Julie Bertuccelli)

 

1- What fun to have the opportunity to watch two versions of Dashiell Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon so soon after one another. Made by Warner Brothers, the studio that made the more famous and undeniably greater John Huston version, Satan Met A Lady stars Bette Davis ostensibly in the Brigid O’Shaughnessy role and Warren Williams not at all reminiscent of Bogart’s Sam Spade. I can’t speak with authority as I have not read the novel, but my guess is the John Huston classic is probably closer to the feel of the book.  Satan Met A Lady seems to be a rush-job, B-picture, something that would fill out the bottom half of a double-bill.  The story is somewhat confused (as, I guess, the story of The Maltese Falcon should be), but the tone is what’s off.  Is this a light-hearted murder mystery romp? A proto-noir affair?  Hard to tell what the intentions were.  The results are not satisfactory.  The John Huston film remains sublime and gets sublimer and sublimer with each viewing.  The humor is there, but so is the great themes of greed, trust and integrity – something Satan Met A Lady was not very interested in.

2- I need to write a little piece on Pierre Étaix and his brilliant use of what I would term ‘slow comedy’.  Much of comedy, either verbal or physical, comes at you in a torrent, and part of the thrill of it is the sheer sensory overload.  Not here. The situations cook slowly and boil over into an inevitable climax.  Wonderful stuff.

3- Does anyone read what I write here?

4- Watching Mr. Thank You (Arigato-san) made me realize how rare and difficult it is to portray a truly good person without the whole thing becoming cloying and self righteous.  A lovely and very innovative film, with what must have been a pioneering use of location filming.

5- Film Noir is one of those things that people feel they are supposed to revere out of all proportion.  I’ve always found the nihilism and cynicism to have an air of posturing about it. Nowadays, all you need is dark lighting, a betraying woman and death of the hero and voila! you have yourself a noir film.  These films have as little to do with the films originally identified by the French critics as noir, as most films labeled ‘Hitchcockian’ have to do with an actual Hitchcock film. Even Hitchcock didn’t always make a successfully ‘Hitchcockian’ film. That said, I was happy to review Out Of The Past, the noir that nowadays is viewed as the noirest of noirs. The relentlessly downbeat tone gets to me. I know that it is strictly a matter of taste and there are those that revel in this film and the genre itself, but I remain skeptical.