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. 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)

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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.