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. High Hopes (Mike Leigh)
  2. The Short and Curlies (Mike Leigh)
  3. The Gleaners and I (Agnès Varda)
  4. Merrily We Go To Hell (Dorothy Arzner)
  5. Lured (Douglas Sirk)
  6. Newsfront (Phillip Noyce)
  7. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock)
  8. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles)
  9. High Heels (Pedro Almodóvar)
  10. 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.



The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar)
  2. Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman)
  3. Mademoiselle Fifi (Mark Robson)
  4. The Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd)
  5. Parasite (Bong Joon Ho)
  6. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  7. King Kong (Cooper/Schoedsack)
  8. Mad Love (Karl Freund)
  9. The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges)
  10. Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi)


1- It is exciting to see a director become more and more in command of his art. Lately, every new film by Pedro Almodóvar has struck me as moving and brilliant in a way that that his early films didn’t prepare me for. I literally gasped at the end of Pain and Glory not for any shock, but because of the perfection it revealed.

2- Parasite! Oh man, what a movie. We are living in the Golden Age of a very weird genre: The politically subversive horror comedy.  These aren’t cute horror-lite films. These are full-out out terrifying films that are also hilarious. I am thinking of Parasite, Us and Get Out.  They are all brilliantly executed and scripted and pointedly political. If you have any recommendations for more of these please send them my way.

3- See my post about Jojo Rabbit

4- I am currently enrolled in a class where we will be reading the de Maupassant story of Mademoiselle Fifi.  I have seen the film several times mostly because the producer is my idol Val Lewton. See my post on him here.  This film is one of his few that is not in his usual spooky, gothic, horror mode.  It is a strange film because I think the censors got to it before it was released. I’ll let you know after I read the story.

5- Of course Meryl Streep is amazing in The Iron Lady because Meryl Streep is always amazing. I fear we take her for granted and don’t realize the luck we have to be able to see her in new things all the time.  What struck me as curious is that for the biopic of Margaret Thatcher (perhaps the only one that will be made for a long while) the focus was on her later years and her developing Alzheimer’s and not on the awful things done during her time as Prime Minister. The highlights and broad outlines are given, but they are not the primary focus. Yes….I know I always say you can’t fault a work of art for not being what it isn’t. I just think this was a curious choice.

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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Bend Of The River (Anthony Mann)
  2. The Far Country (Anthony Mann)
  3. The Wizard of Lies (Barry Levinson)
  4. Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock)
  5. David and Lisa (Frank Perry)
  6. The Marrying Kind (George Cukor)
  7. The Shop Around The Corner (Ernst Lubitsch)
  8. Record of a Tenant Gentleman (Yasujiro Ozu)
  9. Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar)
  10. Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children (Tim Burton)


1- I am a great devotee of the Westerns of John Ford, as every think person should be.  Lately I have discovered his runner-up.  The Western of Anthony Mann are as morally interesting as the best of Ford.   His use of James Stewart is as satisfying and varied as Ford’s use of John Wayne.

2- I remember David and Lisa from my childhood days watching The Million Dollar Movie on WOR in New York.  That show would screen the same movie every night for a week, allowing nerds like me practically to memorize films that intrigued me.  I haven’t seen this film in over 40 years, but that repeated viewing helped me to remember it well.  What I remembered most was my feeling as a kid that this was an ‘adult’ movie. Not a risque movie, but a movie for which you would need an adult sensibility to properly appreciate.  I was wondering what passes for ‘adult’ now.  I couldn’t think of many examples.

3- I guess that Pedro Almodovar is the greatest genius making films today.  Julieta is so emotionally powerful, so cinematically interesting, so engaging.  I need to read the Alice Munro stories it is based on to see how he put his own mark on the work

4- Guilty Pleasure: the films of Tim Burton.  There is a great sweetness behind the jocular creepiness that really appeals to me. Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children I found delightful.  I could have done without the extended CGI battle scene at the end, but I concede that such scenes are de rigeur nowadays.

5- I had always thought of Strangers On A Train as way up there in the Hitchcock pantheon.  But this time around, I was aware of how he kind of lost his grip on the whole project towards the end.  Don’t get me wrong. It is still amazingly good. Just not The Birds

6- I had heard that Record of a Tenant Gentleman was minor Ozu.  Bosh.  It is as subtle and affecting as anything in his oeuvre.