- The Godfather III (Francis Ford Coppola)
- The Pearls of the Crown (Sacha Guitry)
- Chicago (Rob Marshall)
- The Unguarded Moment (Sam Wood)
- The Lights of New York (Bryan Foy)
- Hell’s Highway (Rowland Brown)
- The Warped Ones (Koreyoshi Kurahara)
- The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (Nathan Juran)
- Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh)
- Horton Foote’s ‘Alone’ (Michael Lindsay-Hogg)
1. The Godfather films are examples of the laws of diminishing returns. The first part remains perhaps the greatest example of narrative cinema I can think of. The characters, the plot, the endlessly quotable script, the baroque performances of Brando and Pacino, the heartbreakingly simple performances of Diane Keaton and John Cazale, all just get better with time and with each viewing. Godfather II is cut from the same cloth, made in almost the same period as the first film and has most of the greatness of first part. By the time Godfather III rolls around we are in a different world. Everyone is older, tireder and that includes the script. I watched all three recently with friends who had not seen any of the films so they did not live through the long wait between Godfather II and Godfather III. During those 16 years or so, the first two films acquired the patina of classics. We were all nervous that the lily would be gilded with Godfather III. We were right. However, seeing it again twenty-five years later, it’s not so bad. But that is about the best that can be said for it. Poor movie, trying to get a foothold next to the first two parts!
2. This Sacha Guitry is amazingly entertaining. The Pearls of the Crown was a pure delight.
3. Had there been no Cabaret, there would be no Chicago. Good thing there was Cabaret, because Chicago is pretty swell
4. What’s the first all-talking film? The Jazz Singer you say? Wrong. That was the first major film with some sound sequences. The majority of it was silent. The first all-talking film was The Lights Of New York. That’s about all it has going for it.
5. See my earlier post concerning The Warped Ones and other teenage rebellion films. As Maurice Chevalier sings in Gigi, I’m so glad that I’m not young anymore!
6. There is a cottage industry in film criticism which goes back to cheesy horror films of the fifties to extrapolate some sort of social critique of the time. I supposed somewhere you can find a good feminist critique of The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, explaining how it is the depiction of man’s greatest fear: women’s righteous anger being unleashed on souls of reprobate men. Too bad the movie is so awful.
7. Mike Leigh. I love you, Mike Leigh. You are as great a genius as any of the geniuses you portray. Mr. Turner is dazzling, rich, hypnotic, cathartic, brilliant. I remember when Topsy-Turvy came out. I hadn’t seen it yet and I asked my friend Mike how he liked it. His reply was, ‘I just want to know how it ever got made!’ Yes, a three-hour, big-budget film about the making of The Mikado. How indeed. I now ask the same question about Mr. Turner. A two-and-a-half hour film on the life of a noted 19th century British seascape painter? How did it ever get made. All I can say is that we all need to light a candle in thanks to the cinematic gods that is did get made. It is just magnificent.
8. I worry that Horton Foote will be forgotten. He is the greatest playwright America has produced. His works grow with the years. Get out of here, Eugene O’Neill. Get out of here, Tennessee Williams. Horton Foote is America’s Chekhov, albeit a Chekhov with an all-encompassing love for his characters and the West Texas world they live in. Please don’t let him slip away!