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. Hiroshima, Mon Amour (Alain Resnais)
  2. Caged (John Cromwell)
  3. The Room (Tommy Wiseau)
  4. The Disaster Artist (James Franco)
  5. White Nights (Luchino Visconti)
  6. Blackkklansman (Spike Lee)
  7. The Wife (Björn L Runge)
  8. Anna Lucasta (Arnold Laven)
  9. Thieves Like Us (Robert Altman)
  10. The Man Who Would Be King (John Huston)

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1- I always remembered Hiroshima, Mon Amour as being a difficult film.  Seeing Last Year at Marienbad reinforced that memory.  However, seeing it recently, I was surprised how accessible it is.  I was wondering if the ‘difficulties’ I first encountered were innovations at the time, but now are part of mainstream filmmaking. Not sure, but the film hit me on a visceral level, which I don’t remember it doing before. Maybe it is time to try Muriel again?

 

2- The only really good excuse for watching The Room is to watch and enjoy The Disaster Artista very entertaining film about the making of that legendarily awful film.  The Room is mind-bogglingly bad.  It is boring.  It is baffling. It is incoherent.  There is nothing about it that is endearing in the way the films of Ed Wood could be considered endearing.  This is just an unholy mess made by someone whose aspirations (whatever the hell they are) far exceeded his capabilities and intellect.  But The Disaster Artist is lots of fun.  Was it worth it watching The Room in order to enjoy it? I doubt it.

3- Anna Lucasta was a kind of revelation.  A movie all about African-Americans made in the 50s that never brings up the topic of race once. In many ways, this makes it more radical than more pointedly political films of the time, like The Defiant Ones.  These are just people living out their lives, dealing with family and love issues. It is really a ‘post-racial’ film.  Eartha Kitt is terrific.  This must be before she became a caricature of herself.  She was a fine actress.  I wish she had done more in this vein.

4-  Everyone who ever mentioned The Man Who Would Be King spoke of it as a great pleasure.  I finally caught up with it and I must say that in this age of #metoo and heightened racial awareness, the film borders on offensive.  The male hi-jinks of Sean Connery and Michael Caine now are grating where maybe 40 years ago I would have felt it was a romp


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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Sorry To Bother You (Boots Riley)
  2. King Cobra (Justin Kelly)
  3. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)
  4. 4th Man Out (Andrew Nackman)
  5. God’s Own Country (Francis Lee)
  6. Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (Stephen Cone)
  7. The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges)
  8. Handsome Devil (John Butler)
  9. American Pastoral (Ewan Mcgregor)
  10. Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau)

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1- Sorry To Bother You remained great fun through the end, but I felt that it skidded off the rails about two-thirds of the way through and the film and I parted company at that point.  Centaurs? Really? It’s been quite a common thing to compare this movie to the wonderfully brilliant Get Out. The comparison does not serve either film.  Still, it was fun….if a little tedious by the end.

2 – For my thoughts on 4th Man Out, Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party and Handsome Devil please see my recent post

3- God’s Own Country has been called the British Brokeback Mountain. Why would anyone so insult a brilliant work like this movie? It is so powerful, so masterfully written and shot. so adult, so life-affirming. I loved it. I wonder if there are any free Gay Romanian shepherd out there looking for someone like me?

4- I love movies and I love novels. At one time I was happy to see adaptations of books I liked. That might have come to an end with American Pastoral. This is a perfect (almost) rendition of the plot of Philip Roth’s masterpiece. That is not enough.  We don’t need a Classics Illustrated version of Roth.  The scale of the book and it’s insights and emotions are gone. All that is left is story.  I felt sorry for the actors who were trying so hard. Instead of seeing this film, read the book. If you have already, read it again

 

 


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Someone Like Me Up On The Screen

I alway cringe when I hear someone of a particular ethnic or religious or sexual orientation or racial or economic or political group begin to complain because they want to go to the movies and see ‘someone like me on the screen’.  I never got this.  I know what I am like.  Why would I want to spend two hours looking at myself.  Seems narcissistic. And besides, who would be a person like me? I would be loath to pigeon-hole myself to fit a ‘type’ for a movie.

I would often be berated for expressing this thought. Too ethnocentric or patriarchal or cis-gender-centric or classist, etc. Still, I thought I had a good point.

Until, I started thinking about the topic a little more. I was wondering if there were some genre that I just didn’t care for because I couldn’t identify with it.

I love Rashomon, Ugetsu and Seven Samurai even though I am not from medieval Japan.  I love The Best Years of Our Lives even though I never lived in Small Town, U.S.A. and never experienced the difficult repatriation of soldiers after World War II. I loved these films because they rise above specificity and are genuinely human works.

But then I thought about Rom-Coms.  Now there’s a genre that I cannot relate to at all.  The slightness of the relationships, the implied sexism on both sides. The contrived happy endings. Nope, nothing there for me, I thought.

Then Netflix started recommending a genre that I could only called Adolescent Gay Rom-Coms.  These movies are exactly like the heterosexual version except a cute girl is swapped out for another cute guy.  There is still ‘meeting cute’, frustrating misunderstandings that you know will be worked out by film’s end, as well as a universe of friends and family rooting for or helping the couple in question to work it out.

The three films I watched were 4th Man OutHenry Gamble’s Birthday Party and Handsome Devil. While not exactly following the classic Rom-Com formula, they cleaved close enough to it to give me the feeling of pleasing, unalloyed mushiness that heterosexual Rom-Coms gave their audience.

Was I pulled in because of the Gay element? Yes. Did it lull me into a kind of uncritical complacency that let me enjoy an otherwise not great movie.  Yes. Did I get suckered into rooting for the thwarted lovers. Yes. Did I feel vindicated by seeing someone like me up on the screen. No. Emphatically. No.

I realized while watching these 3 films, that movies created to appeal to a target audience as being ‘for them’ necessarily are lesser entertainments.  The agenda shines through and you never forget that you are being sort of had. I felt the same way when people foisted Young Adult novels on me when I was a teenager. No thank you, I am reading Dickens.

Just like The Best Years Of Our Lives has as its starting point a story about repatriating soldiers, but becomes something infinitely more universal, “Gay” films like God’s Own Country and Call Me By Your Name start out as troubled Gay love stories, but by the end are so much more.

So, will I ever watch another Gay Rom-Com? Maybe. Will I ever find one that ‘reflects me up on the screen’? Not likely.