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. Million Dollar Legs (Edward Cline)
  2. The Ring (Alfred Hitchcock)
  3. Rebels on Pointe (Bobbi Jo Hart)
  4. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles)
  5. The Primrose Path (Gregory La Cava)
  6. Mudbound (Dee Rees)
  7. High and Low (Akira Kurosawa)
  8. Bluebeard’s Eight Wife (Ernst Lubitsch)
  9. Giant (George Stevens)
  10. Johnny Belinda (Jean Negolescu)

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1- I LOVE movies and books that portray an insane world by presenting it as normal to its own inhabitants.  Alice In Wonderland and Through The Lookingglass are my favorite books. This is the reason that I adore The Palm Beach Storytoo.  For sheer insanity but not on the epic scale of Alice or the denizens of Palm Beach, I heartily recommend Million Dollar Legs. It is so nuts and it features W.C. Fields.  What else do you need.

2- Recently re-watched High and Low.  What a masterpiece this is.  The sustained tension is masterfully handled and the moral dilemmas that the characters are put through present real ethical quandaries for the audience. The first half is complete room-bound, almost as claustrophobic as the room in RopeWhat makes this part of the film so dazzling is that even though it is all played in a very restricted space, it is shot in widescreen which creates a dizzying feeling.   The Olympian home in the first section, gives way to the Hades of the Japanese underworld. Brueghel at his best.  Mifune is masterful and the final confrontation between him and the villain, showing Mifune’s fruitless attempts to understand why the villain did what he did, are dazzling.


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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. The Skin Game (Alfred Hitchcock)
  2. Rocco and his Brothers (Luchino Visconti)
  3. Consolation Marriage (Paul Sloane)
  4. The Manxman (Alfred Hitchcock)
  5. All The President’s Men (Alan Pakula)
  6. Arrowsmith (John Ford)
  7. Hell or High Water (David McKenzie)
  8. Downhill (Alfred Hitchcock)
  9. Aguirre, The Wrath of God (Werner Herzog)
  10. La Jetée (Chris Marker)

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1- Early Hitchcock can be very interesting.  Looking for the hallmarks of his later great period is not really recommended.  Instead it is fascinating to see how much the works of the Twenties and the early Thirties are influences by German Expressionism.  Also, Hitchcock made much of the notion of ‘pure cinema’. Watching these early films, I realize that this term really just refers to the aesthetic of the silent film: the image is everything. Everything is communicated by what you see. Sound is unnecessary.  Think of the great set pieces of later Hitchcock like the shower scene in Psycho or any of the rhapsodically delirious sequences of longing in Vertigo or the great bird attacks in The Birds. They are all totally reliant on montage for the emotion.  The only difference between the early and later works, in the regard, is the masterful use of music to enhance the emotion.  But this, too, seems to be feature of silent film making at its best. Out of all the above early Hitchocks, I think Downhill was the most satisfying.  Plus you get a rare opportunity to see Ivor Novello.  He was the most enormous star of his time and is all but forgotten today.

2- Rocco and his Brothers comes closer to an opera than any other film I can think of, and that includes The Godfather. I don’t know how much I enjoyed it, it is way too long, but I did get the feel of a juicy verismo potboiler. Alain Delon is lovely as the Alyosha Karamazov-type brother.

3- Aguirre, The Wrath of God dates from that wonderful last gasp of ‘art house’ film from the late 70s/ early 80s.  I was nuts for this movie when it first came out and saw it half a million times.  I hadn’t seen it in more that 30 years and I thrilled to say that is it just as magical and quirky and satisfying as I found it originally.

4- For some reason I can’t handle stories that deal with time travel. That said, I think I would watch La Jetee any time.  Its audacious story, packed into a brief 30-minute running time, and its unusual story-telling technique of using still photographs almost exclusively, lead to a thoroughly satisfying and, for me, quite creepy experience.