The Discreet Bourgeois

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


The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. The Power of the Whistler (Lew Landers)
  2. The Shop Around The Corner (Ernst Lubitsch)
  3. Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges)
  4. The Voice of the Whistler (William Castle)
  5. Army (Keisuke Kinoshita)
  6. The Fearmakers (Jacques Tourneur)
  7. Heroes For Sale (William Wellman)
  8. Remember The Night (Mitchell Leisen)
  9. Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski )
  10. The Widow From Chicago (Edward F. Cline)


1- Although I worship Preston Sturges’ The Palm Beach Story, I could never warm up to Sullivan’s Travels.  Seeing it back to back with Lubitsch’s sublime The Shop Around The Corner made me realize the problems I have with it and with much of film comedy. Slapstick is a problem for me.  I guess I am missing the slapstick gene in the same way that people can’t smell or taste certain things.  Slapstick gets me nervous.  I don’t understand how it is interpreted as funny.  Too often, Sullivan’s Travels devolves (in my opinion) into slapstick and -even worse – into sentimentality.  I find the end quite maudlin.  Really? All people need to do to forget their problems is to watch a Disney cartoon? I don’t buy it.   Perhaps Sully would have been better off making O! Brother Where Art Thou as he wanted to.  I am sure his audience would have appreciated the gesture. Compared to this, the magnificent control that Lubitsch has over his whole enterprise is dazzling.  The way the irony is spun out before for the lovers realize they are lovers is masterful.  Once the Jimmy Stewart character is in on the irony, Lubitsch stretches it to the breaking point.  His final confession to Margaret Sullavan comes at the end of a series of climaxes and releases that are worthy of Tristan und Isolde.  I guess the subtlety of language and gesture are more up my alley.  Yet…..I adore Keaton.  I guess he isn’t really slapstick.   He is more cosmic ballet.

2- Jacques Tourneur is such an interesting director to me.  Cat People and Out Of The Past are the best of their respective genres.  The Fearmakers isn’t up to that standard but is a tight little piece of 50s Anti-Communist paranoia.

3- My reaction to Ida was the same as my reaction to The English Patient all those years ago: ‘This is what everyone is saying is so magnificent? I just don’t see it.”  It left me absolutely cold.  Please let me know why you loved it, if you did.




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.