- High Hopes (Mike Leigh)
- The Short and Curlies (Mike Leigh)
- The Gleaners and I (Agnès Varda)
- Merrily We Go To Hell (Dorothy Arzner)
- Lured (Douglas Sirk)
- Newsfront (Phillip Noyce)
- Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock)
- The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles)
- High Heels (Pedro Almodóvar)
- Peggy Sue Got Married (Francis Ford Coppola)
1- Mike Leigh’s films seems to be some combination of life-affirming, bleak, cynical and joyous, sometimes in equal measure. But all are works of genius. High Hopes tends toward life-affirming with generous dashes of bleak. The marvelous Ruth Sheen is on hand to provide yet another one of the indomitable figures that are sprinkled across Leigh’s works.
2- I don’t think that I had watched an entire Agnes Varda film before I watched The Gleaners and I. It is a lovely, odd documentary of people in France who would better be described as scavengers. Although seldom on screen, the personality of Varda permeates the film. It is a personality that I look forward to spending more time with.
3- Merrily We Go To Hell was shown on TCM as a complement to the Mark Cousins’ multi-part documentary Women Make Film. The documentary is really a film class explaining all aspects of creating a film (framing, script, track shots, characterization, etc.) After each of the weekly episodes, films that were used as examples are shown in their entirety. This film was by Dorothy Arzner, the only active woman director besides Ida Lupino in Hollywood. I had hoped that it would be pretty raw, since that this was a pre-code film about a society women who marries as seriously alcoholic newspaperman. It is mostly raw, but their is an unfortunate ‘happy end’ tacked on. I guess even in pre-code days this was to be expected.
4- It was lovely to see Newsfront again. I saw it back in the late 70s as the Australian New Wave was hitting the US. I didn’t remember a thing about it except that it was about newsreel makers in the days just before television. It is a great combination of fiction and archival footage, with a nicely affecting story to boot.
5- I always had fun watching Rear Window, but this time around I realized that it might very well be greater than Vertigo. More on this in a later post.
6- Sometimes too much knowledge is too much. I always knew that The Magnificent Ambersons was a mangled masterpiece, but I thought the mutilation by RKO was on the end of the film, which always seems abrupt and sloppy. I watched it again on the Criterion Collection with the full-length commentary. It seems that the mutilation was far more extensive, hitting about every part of the film. Apparently something like 50 minutes were cut and are now lost. With the commentary it became apparent that the film is a mess, with moments of brilliance (Fanny’s breakdown, the last party at the Amberson’s mansion). What was unfortunate about watching with the commentary is that it planted the seed in my mind that even with the deleted holy-grail scenes, it might still be a mess.
7- Pedro Almodóvar has gone from being a campy director of loco shock comedies to one of the great humanists working in film today. High Heels dates from his epater le bourgeois period, so a little of it, for me at least, goes a long way. There is no denying that the film is stunning-looking. He was a master of the art form even then, but he hadn’t yet found the great themes that his technical genius was begging for. He has found them now. Watch Pain and Glory to see way I mean. It is overwhelming in every sense, but first and foremost, it is overwhelming because you are watching a genius who is at the top of his game.
8- I hadn’t seen Peggy Sue Got Married since it was first realeased. I remembered being disappointed with it at the time, and it still is disappointing. It has great ideas, but it is too timid to do anything with them. It’s fun to see a 12-year-old Sofia Coppola as an annoying younger sister, though.