- One Hour With You (Ernst Lubitsch)
- Night Nurse (William Wellman)
- Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock)
- Emma (Autumn de Wilde)
- The Cabin in the Woods (Joss Wheedon)
- It’s Love Again (Victor Saville)
- The Big City (Satyajit Ray)
- Tel Aviv on Fire (Sameh Zoabi)
- Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (Kenji Misumi)
- The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
1- I always found the winky, smarm-filled sex comedies of Mitteleuropa very off-putting. Sex is legal, even adultery, despite the biblical injunction, is legal. Why the winkiness? For me it is the same as when people make nudge-nudge wink-wink noise about needing a cocktail after a trying incident. Have a cocktail. Prohibition has been over for ninety years. Shut up.
But the sex farces really leave me baffled and somewhat disgusted. All these people having adulterous or not-adulterous affairs, and talking about it incessantly, telling us about why it is OK because we are all sophisticated adults…well.. I just don’t understand it. I think of things like Die Fledermaus or Feydeau farces. You want to have sex, go ahead. Why talk about it like you think it is bad, but you are going to do it anyway. I find it tiresome. As marvelous as Lubitsch can be, I find One Hour With You, a sound remake of his influential The Marriage Circle, to invoke the same kind of tedium. Now, I think the sex-farce aspects of Trouble In Paradise are just fine because they are coupled with a mercenary cynicism that makes the smarm tolerable.
2- I had seen Suspicion decades ago and all I remembered about it was Cary Grant mounting the stairs ominously, with a possibly poisoned glass of milk. I guess I know this so well because it is always shown in compilations of Hitchcock’s greatest hits. The film seems like a rush job. The resolution is very unsatisfying and suddenly the film is over. Was it an attempt to duplicate his wild success with Rebecca? Maybe. Joan Fontaine is on hand to do her distressed heroine thing and Cary Grant doing his poor man’s Laurence Olivier.
3- I was really pleased with the latest incarnation of Emma. I feel that of all the film versions so far, it really got the book down. And how great to see Miranda Hart as the ridiculous and tragic Miss Bates.
4- Buffy The Vampire Killer was a surprising delight for me when I binge watched it a few years ago. I loved Wheedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. I had looked forward to The Cabin in the Woods because I had heard much about a surprising and satisfying plot twist. Well, not so much. It was fun to watch. Lots of pretty people in classic horror film tropes. In fact, I was hoping that it would be telling us that these horror tropes keep the world spinning, which is what it seemed to be heading for. But, about three quarters of the way through it kind of falls apart, into fun, Buffy-like sci-fi supernatural high-jinks. I was entertained but not satisfied.
5- It’s Love Again demonstrates why TCM is essential for lovers of film and the performing arts. This is not a great movie by any means. It is kind of a filmed play with lots of musical numbers. What is invaluable is it gives us a chance to see Jessie Matthews in action. She was the singing and dancing sweetheart of the West End in the 1930s. Is she wonderful? Hard to tell. Her dancing is coltish, her singing is warbly, but still it is wonderful and instructive to see a beloved performer from a distant time.
6- I know when I watch a film by Satyajit Ray I know that I will be deeply satisfied and profoundly moved. The Big City did not disappoint. I need to see everything this genius did, twice!
7- Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance is an example of manga-inspired action films that the Japanese adore. A genre that is just not for me. It all seems so silly without being entertaining.
8- Tel Aviv on Fire gives a view of everyday Palestinian life through the eyes of people creating the eponymous soap opera for Palestinian television. It was so refreshing to see day-to-day Palestinian life. People going to work, going to restaurants, etc. In fact, except for the fact that everyone speaks Arabic, one could imagine that one were watching a film about Israelis. Yes, the ‘troubles’ are present in the dialogue. Yes, there are difficult interactions with Israeli authorities but it is presented in a non-sensation, non-polemic way. And it is funny.
9- I love and I hate the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. At his best he is a master creating fascinating characters who seem to grow out of the Germany of his time. At his worst, the films are sloppy and very much like a kid trying to provoke adults by being shocking, but who winds up just being annoying. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant was dazzling to me. It is slow, claustrophobic and very stylized. It was German Kabuki.