Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Alfie

As each year goes on, the number of films I see has gradually increased. The wide variety of the titles and the availability of so many of these titles has allowed me to see more films. 134 total films screened for 1965; 140 total films screened for 1966, and growing! 

There are at least four more films I plan to include for my adventure through the 1966. Alfie, Fahrenheit 451, The Fortune Cookie, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. All of these are considered classics and I am excited to say I've only seen one of these -- Alfie -- but that was so long ago. I cannot believe how many films I was unable to watch or uninterested in seeing. I can only include so many films and it has taken me a year so I'm ready to move on. 

1967 will probably be just as robust and my mind is blown that I've even made it this far in my journey.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Modesty Blaise, and the 60s Spy Craze

When I chose to watch the spy spoof Modesty Blaise for my 1966 film project, I did so simply to see the gorgeous Italian actress Monica Vitti in her first of only two English-language roles. Vitti had made an impact on my cinematic journey with performances in a handful of Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni dramas, such as La Notte and Red Desert. After such stark, emotional dramas, Modesty Blaise was an opportunity for Vitti to perform light comedy.

Modesty Blaise originated as a British comic strip created by author Peter O'Donnell in 1963. The strip followed the title character, a resourceful young woman with a criminal past, working as a rather effective and sought-after spy. In the film adaptation, co-starring Dirk Bogarde and Terence Stamp (both top British stars of the time), Vitti's Blaise is employed by the British Secret Service to protect a shipment of diamonds. She and her partner, Stamp, must outwit Bogarde's leader of a diamond theft ring.

At the time of the film's release in Summer 1966, audiences around the world were obsessed with the James Bond franchise, with the latest in the series, Thunderball, among the highest grossing films of 1965. The Bond influence could be seen in movie theaters as well as on television with the rise in popularity of such programs as The Man from UNCLE, The Avengers, and Get Smart. Filmmakers were quick to up the ante by producing a string of films that similarly capitalized on the growing spy craze.

Surely, the 1967 comedy Casino Royale would become the genre's apotheosis, though it was 1966 when the newly minted film genre of 'spy spoof' or 'spy-fi' (spy fiction), reached its apex. Columbia Pictures released The Silencers, starring Dean Martin as American spy Matt Helm, while 20th Century Fox had Our Man Flint, declaring James Coburn's Derek Flint an American James Bond. Both of these films, along with Modesty Blaise and others, feature a heightened, tongue-in-check, often outlandish, sense of humor complete with a mod style inspired by the current 1960s subculture.

Although not many speak of or even remember this relic of its time, the legacy of Modesty Blaise still lives on. In the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction, John Travolta's character can be observed reading the film's novelization, written by O'Donnell released in 1967. As it turns out, Tarantino is quite the fan of Modesty Blaise and has long been rumored to direct a film based on the character.

What stands out with Modesty Blaise in the spy spoof genre is clearly the novelty of having a female spy protagonist. The spy gadgets (an umbrella gun!), exotic locales (Amsterdam, the Mediterranean, etc), and action-packed thrills (Modesty gets caught up in a knife fight) are all there, but instead of a womanizing, martini-drinking, tuxedo-rocking Sean Connery-type, we have the alluring, expressive Vitti. Not since Greta Garbo's Mata Hari has a female spy been so perfectly portrayed onscreen. 35 years before Jennifer Garner's Sydney Bristow was kicking ass and changing wigs on TV's Alias, Vitti's Modesty Blaise was globe-trotting and double-crossing like no other.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Year Was 1963

1963 started when I was home visiting my family in PA. April 2012 allowed me to take a break from NYC for a few weeks and return to my dad's movie collection. It's always so very delightful and slightly overwhelming to be in the presence of all of the films that my dad had collected over the years. One film that my dad often suggested we watch together was a favorite of his from 1963 called The Prize starring Paul Newman. For years, the opportunity had escaped us and I thought it would be fitting to begin this movie year with that particular film. It was a fun thriller inspired by Hitchcock films. Of course we loved it.

After getting exposure to the budding French New Wave film style of the early 60s, I welcomed the opportunity to relish in foreign cinema. Three films from French director Jean-Luc Godard were released this year, each of which possess their own unique, playful Godard touch. In The Carabiniers he plays with dramatic and melodic tones, while in the more noir-influenced Le Petit Soldat he does so with touches of romance and dark realism. The epic ode to cinema, Contempt, is Godard at his most grand and at his most personal. His love for film is so clear in his story of a screenwriter's struggle.

Contempt bears some comparison to another epic, personal ode to filmmaking from another of Europe's talented maestros. Italian director Federico Fellini's film offers strikingly cerebral visions that most definitely inspired a thirst for more daring and inventive ways to tell a story. Roman Polanski entered the fray with his debut film Knife in the Water, the simple story of a couple and the hitch-hiker they invite on their sailboat. The claustrophobic tension that Polanski manages to build steadily creates a greater intensity in the progression of the story.

The influence of European and world cinema on American audiences is clearly seen in Oscar's 1963 Best Picture choice, Tom Jones. The rollicking British comedy was a highly enjoyable and inventive film comedy. The British influence can be seen in the growing popularity of James Bond films like From Russia With Love, as well as regular output of Hammer-produced shockers and monster films. Angry Young Man films such as This Sporting Life and Billy Liar were very popular, marking the imminent British invasion

Hollywood films were getting bigger and budgets were inflating to record numbers. The 20th Century Fox spectacle Cleopatra was quite costly and, despite ultimately being a beautiful mess, its stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton became the most talked about couple in filmdom. Comedy films like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World employed nearly every comedian in the book to deliver huge laughs on a large scale to ensure a major hit. The Cinerama process used to film the American Western epic How the West Was Won offered audiences a film projected on three wide screens. While it seemed that bigger was better, some American directors like Elia Kazan still chose to make more personal films like his personal ode to his country in America, America.

Some of the most memorably entertaining moments in film this year come from Hitchcock's classic shocker The Birds. After he changed the game with Psycho, Hitchcock followed up with this disturbing tail of nature attacking humanity. Another favorite of the year is The Great Escape with its instantly catchy music score and iconic image of Steve McQueen riding his motorcycle. McQueen became an icon for young men, embodying a new 60s version of cool and sleek masculinity. I chose to bookend my cinematic year with another Paul Newman film. Hud is a story of a real American prick and yet Paul Newman still makes the character so appealing. Here is a simple, quiet American film about conflicted, complicated people.

It took me until late January to complete 1963. Again, I returned to the Troutman homestead to get close to my dad's film library. Missing on this trip was Dad himself. He passed away in August 2012 leaving behind a legacy that I can only adopt. He loved film and really cared so much about the details and specifics behind the making of each movie. My knowledge and interest stems from his encouragement of a shared love for the moving image. In the same house where we watched The Prize together, I watched Hud alone. It would not be long, however, until I would continue on this adventure through movies to 1964. I am not doing this project just for me anymore, but for my dad as well.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Year Was 1962

I began watching and studying the films of 1962 back in September, shortly after completing the 1961 year. 1962 offered even more titles to choose from (118 in all). International cinema was beginning to influence, and even eclipse, much of what American cinema was producing around the time of 1961. The intellectual and emotional challenges that films were giving audiences were at a higher level than before. Sometimes a film didn't need to make very much sense at all and still managed to make an impact. Films were becoming more and more experimental, slowly pushing the envelope of what was considered traditional filmmaking. My own appreciation of cinema continued to evolve.

The year's films I'd chosen for this project ranged from films that could have been done better with a few tweaks, to films that couldn't be better if they'd tried. That's not to say the year was short on bad films. Most of the more obvious clunkers, I chose not to sit through.  Probably for good reason.  Out of all of these films, I'd say one has the distinction of being considered a bad movie. Reptilicus represents all that could go wrong when making a movie. Ludicrous production values abound, and I'm certain it's not the only terrible movie produced that year. Perhaps I'll catch a few more 1962 disasters someday.

Not even Reptilicus himself (itself?) could blemish a year with such benchmark films as Cleo from 5 to 7 (experimental New Wave film with female director), David and Lisa (psychological drama with independent financing), The Exterminating Angel (subversive surrealism), Last Year at Marienbad (who the hell knows what's happening and who cares it's so pretty), Ride the High Country (classic neo-Western), and The Trial (trippy Orson Welles thriller). And those aren't even the best ones!

This year conjures up truly special cinematic memories for me, such as James Bond's first dry martini (shaken, not stirred) in Dr. No, Bette Davis serving Joan Crawford a dead rat in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Helen Keller learning to speak for the first time (Wah-wah!) in The Miracle Worker, Angela Lansbury's deceptively lethal performance in The Manchurian Candidate, and the innocence of childhood (Tell him I said, 'hey') perfectly captured on film in To Kill a Mockingbird, my favorite film of the year.

It was a year where truly brilliant directors took the helm and created some of the great masterpieces in cinema. There is no denying the epic grandeur of Lawrence of Arabia when the music, the acting, the visuals, the sound, the story, etc are all working in the audience's favor. True spectacle means you can never take your eyes off it for a second and that is the case with David Lean's film. The lovely Jules and Jim is the masterwork of French director Francois Truffaut. A bouncy tribute to love, no matter how psychotic, is even more a tribute to its audience who has the pleasure of experiencing it over and over again.

1962 has as many memorable moments as it has memorable titles. Having the exposure to so many of them in such quick succession is quite a treat for any film fan. I look forward to 1963's films and the continuation of my adventure through the cinema.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Year Was 1961

A bit less than a year after completing 1960, I managed to move ahead in a decade that is successfully showing signs of advancement from 1950s-style filmmaking in terms of frank storytelling and committed acting. This is made clear by the offerings of international cinema that continue to match the artistry and impact of American films. There are several examples throughout the year of great directors using their talents to tell unique stories with actors perfectly displaying rich, emotional depth. Impressive moviemaking was clearly at work in many films from 1961.

There are some films from 1961 that can be labeled as epic, such as Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita. Grandiose and grotesque, La Dolce Vita is a hypnotic journey through the rough edges and false riches of Rome. Fellini creates a startlingly unique world and Marcello Mastroianni is a perfect protagonist for the dream-like exploration of fame and sophisticated excess. Images, such as Anita Ekberg's luscious walk through the Trevi Fountain or a statue of Jesus flying over sunbathing Italians, became imprinted in the minds of American audiences.

I was fortunate enough to catch La Dolce Vita at Film Forum in New York City for its 50th anniversary revival. I can't imagine how audiences must have reacted, though I suspect, whether good or bad, it was emphatic. The film itself could easily have just as many detractors as supporters. Up until the time of its release, audiences had never seen Fellini so debaucherous.

Similarly epic and iconic is the colorful musical West Side Story, brought to life by the seamless collaboration of filmmaker Robert Wise and choreographer Jerome Robbins. The fusion of color, widescreen, and sound, not to mention the talents of Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris, all create unforgettable entertainment. The songs by Stephen Sondheim are timeless and may be the film's most effective ingredient for today's audiences.

Epic on a different scale is Stanley Kramer's emotional, cathartic Judgment at Nuremberg. So many performances of such talent and nuance do not often lie in one feature film. Abby Mann's screenplay offers words as truthfully written as they are spoken by actors like Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster (and nearly a half dozen others) adding up to one grand piece of stirring cinema.

My vote for best is the nail-biting action-adventure The Guns of Navarone. Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn each command the screen in their own superstar ways, leading an ensemble action epic. Excitement and tension are built into the plot of an expert team plotting to destroy German warguns.  In many ways, it's the interaction between the characters that is most thrilling of all.

1961 assured moviegoers that American films have no trouble taking on challenging, adult subjects. Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Hustler are fine examples of great films with intense performances and entertaining stories. Audrey Hepburn and Paul Newman each convey characters in their respective films that possess deeply complicated emotions expressed through thoughtful, tender lines from insightful scripts. Each film benefits from a memorable music score and expert cinematography and editing. 

American audiences who saw La Dolce Vita may or may not have been tempted to check out films like Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, Vittorio de Sica's Two Women, or Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte. Actors like Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, Toshiro Mifune, and, particularly, Sophia Loren easily became influential to American audiences as superstars in their own right. The cinema from around the world is often the inspiration for many of the film techniques used in the United States, but in films like Yojimbo, you can also see how American culture influences foreign directors as well.

Check out my list of films, including ratings and a top 10 at my other site Adventures Through Movies -

So now we head to 1962. Looking over my list, I see some immediate classic titles that I'm looking forward to seeing again (Lawrence of Arabia) or for the first time (Jules and Jim). Might take a few months to a year, but you can expect a full report.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Hustler (1961)

Notes: 8/11/11
Directed by Robert Rossen.
Jazzy music by Kenyon Hopkins.
Paul Newman is convincing, particularly in the picnic scene with Piper Laurie.
You're not a loser, Eddie. You're a winner. Best scene.
Piper Laurie and George C. Scott are a potent pair. She calls him “Bastard!”
Jackie Gleason is all body language.
Characters are very real and portayed realistically.

Review: A-
Hotshot pool player 'Fast Eddie' Felson (an arrogantly charming Paul Newman) is an ambitious punk who thinks he can hustle a win over renowned champion Minnesota Fats (a larger-than-life Jackie Gleason). Eddie eventually hits rock bottom until he meets Sarah (a tough, bruised Piper Laurie), who could be his soul mate, and Bert Gordon (startling work by George C. Scott), who could be his biggest gamble. Honest performances and a sharp screenplay evoke a highly realistic story of ambition.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Judgement at Nuremberg (1961)

Notes: 8/9/11
Star-studded cast directed by Stanley Kramer.
Literate and powerful screenplay by Abby Mann.
Ernest Laszlo has a very active camera. Lots of rapid zooms.
Great German music during overture and credits.
Powerhouse performances all around.
Actual footage from concentration camps is devastating.
Never feels stage-bound. Constant excitement.

Review: A
Powerhouse account of Nazi war crime trials in Nuremberg featuring staggering performances by a star-studded cast. Stanley Kramer expertly directs an exciting and literate script by Abby Mann and is aided by Ernest Laszlo's constantly active camerawork. Spencer Tracy is an American judge chosen to preside over the case of four German judges accused of aiding the Nazi party. Maximilian Schell is ferocious as the defense attorney representing defendant Burt Lancaster's repentant judge. Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift offer brief, emotionally-charged performances as victims of Nazi atrocities. Clocking in at just over three hours, this is a constantly entertaining and stirring film experience that is not to be missed.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Mark (1961)

Notes: 8/7/11
Guy Green directs a terrific international cast.
Stuart Whitman is a perfect everyman.
Rod Steiger with an Irish accent.
Maria Schell is icy and attractive.
Brenda de Banzie is his landlady. Marvelous.
Serious story told very well. Great drama.
Whitman is just fine in Oscar nominated role.
Fine performances and very dramatic and honest.
Great mix of British and American filmmaking.

Review: B
Fine performances throughout this film including Stuart Whitman as a man attempting to build a normal life after serving time for kidnapping a young girl. Rod Steiger is memorable as Whitman's patient therapist and Maria Schell is heartbreaking as the woman who loves Whitman while avoiding the truth of his past. Guy Green fuses British and American sensibilities to create an honest and dramatic telling of a complicated man searching for a new life.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

Notes: 8/6/11
Marlon Brando directs!
Brando is slimy and still manages to be fairly hot.
Brando and Karl Malden. Two powerhouse actors.
Ben Johnson had striking eyes.
Katy Jurado has a classy presence. Gorgeous.
Slim Pickens shows up with his twangy voice.
Overlong portrait of men behaving badly.
Strong leading performances.
Top-notch supporting cast.

Review: B-
Overlong portrait of men behaving badly in Mexico. Helped by strong leading performances from Marlon Brando and Karl Malden and a top-notch supporting cast, lead by Ben Johnson and Katy Jurado. Not as great as it should have been. Brando directed this sporadically compelling cat-and-mouse Western.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)

Notes: 8/4/11
Vivien Leigh is a classy, talented actress.
Scheming Lotte Lenya is very good.
Warren Beatty's accent is just no good. But he's adorable.
Interesting narration to move the exposition along.
Who is this guy stalking Mrs. Stone?!
Jill St. John is a cute American actress.
Lenya is so devious in her role.
Leigh is OK but offers mostly the same stare.

Review: B-
Unusual soaper involves Vivien Leigh as a widowed actress who escapes to Rome finding loneliness to be a harsh lifestyle. As Leigh's friend, the marvelous Lotte Lenya introduces her to handsome gigolo Warren Beatty. Leigh and Beatty are fine, despite having little chemistry, while it's Lenya who delivers the sparks. Great Rome locations and a fine cast. Well made, but a little bit underwhelming.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Viridiana (1961)

Notes: 7/28/11
Fun music during opening.
Luis Bunuel directs Silvia Pinal and Fernando Rey.
Learning to milk the cow. Sexual in a non-sexy way.
Strange erotic relationship between uncle and niece.
The Last Supper scene is memorable. Hallelujah.
A bit slow-moving. Fails to get to a clear point.
Themes are clearly religious and sexual.
Great cinematography and images.
Not very surreal considering Bunuel's reputation.

Review: B-
The imagery of Luis Bunuel is impressively on display in an arguably slow-moving tale. Silvia Pinal plays Viridiana, an attractive young woman about to take her vows as a nun. After being forced to visit her bizarre uncle, played by Fernando Rey, Viridiana becomes involved in a series of strange encounters and corrupt behavior. Bunuel is more subtle here than expected, save for one marvelous set piece involving the Last Supper. This Spanish surrealism might take multiple viewings to sink in.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

One, Two, Three (1961)

Notes: 7/23/11
James Cagney is perfect. Full of energy.
Arlene Francis has some genuinely funny lines.
Cagney and his secretary are very funny
Love the German language peppered about.
Great location shots. Brandenberg Gate.
Pamela Tiffin is hysterical.
Horst Buchholz is fun. Speaks German!
Rapid fire line delivery.
Marvelous 'Sabre Dance' music.
Very clever final scene. Less than four Cokes.

Review: B+
Rapid fire Billy Wilder script is performed with equal pomp by an excellent cast. James Cagney is perfection as Coca Cola's man in Germany. When faced with a hairy challenge concerning his boss's daughter and her new Communist boyfriend, Cagney must do everything he can to clean up the mess. Fun use of the the 'Sabre Dance' music throughout keep the energy high. Hilarious perfomances from Pamela Tiffin as the boss's clueless daughter, and Arlene Francis as Cagney's dry, patient wife. Certainly a lot of fun, particularly for Cold War enthusiasts.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

West Side Story (1961)

Notes: 7/21/11
Buoyant energy. Eye-popping choreography by Jerome Robbins.
George Chakiris, Rita Moreno, Russ Tamblyn – all powerhouse.
The dance: Tony and Maria across the room. Others blurred out.
Outstanding collaboration between directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins.
George gets the best outfits. Love the reds and purples.
Terrific end credits with graffiti and street signs.
Review: A
Buoyantly entertaining musical updates the Romeo and Juliet story to 1950s New York City. Opposing street gangs threaten to rumble when Tony (Richard Beymer), a former Jet, falls in love with Maria (Natalie Wood), whose brother is leader of the Sharks. Unforgettable songs and eye-popping choreography make this a classic film. Wood and Beymer are fine, but the best performances come from Russ Tamblyn as Riff, George Chakiris as Bernardo, and, especially. Rita Moreno as Anita. Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins share directing duties, blending filmmaking artistry with tremendous dance numbers.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Woman is a Woman (1961)

Notes: 7/16/11
Music cues scattered about to set the mood.
Lots of breaking the fourth wall.
Cool to see the streets of France in 1961.
Anna Karina is quite alluring.
Jean-Paul Belmondo is so cool.
Silly bits are rather charming.
Jean-Luc Godard clearly loves to experiment.
Lots of 180 degree camera pans.
Je suis une femme. Wink.

Review: B
Charming, experiemental little romantic comedy from Jean-Luc Godard. The alluring Anna Karina wants a baby, but her boyfriend Jean-Claude Brialy won't hear it. Karina then decides to ask Brialy's best friend Jean-Paul Belmondo. Godard plays with music and camerawork in a most playful way creating a frothy film that showcases Karina as a French beauty for the ages.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Return to Peyton Place (1961)

Notes: 7/11/11
Directed by Jose Ferrer. Not entirely sure why.
Carol Lynley is Allison trying to get her book published in NYC.
Tuesday Weld is almost as bright and pretty as Sandra Dee.
Everything in this movie seems a bit dull.
Mary Astor is the only part of the movie that stands out.
I sort of wish Lynley and Weld had switched roles.
Weld is so magnetic and not used effectively.

Review: C-
Dull follow-up to Peyton Place lacks anything truly scandalous or daring. The cast is easily overshadowed by Mary Astor as a local ghoul who causes trouble for everyone in town. Eleanor Parker does a fair job of filling in for Lana Turner, but her part is seriously underwritten. Carol Lynley is a bit of a bore, while Tuesday Weld is a rather pretty alternative. Fluffy and boring and lacks everything that made the first film so dramatic and fun.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Two Women (1961)

Notes: 7/6/11
Sophia Loren as Cesira. Shopkeeper, mother, lover.
Nice, involving, romantic film set in war-time.
Jean-Paul Belmondo has a great character introduction at the dinner table.
Immediate sparks with Belmondo and Sophia.
Sudden, almost unexpected switch to war tragedy.
Sophia is commanding and heartbreaking.
Mother-daughter version of Bicycle Thieves. A bit more brutally tragic.

Review: B+
Shattering account of a mother and her young daughter attempting to flee from the violence erupting in Italy during World War II. As Cesira, Sophia Loren erupts with fiery moments of realism that maintain her unmatched beauty. Vittorio de Sica carefully directs a harsh depiction of the savagery of war from a civilian perspective. Jean-Paul Belmondo lends a strong performance as a scholarly activist that befriends Cesira and her daughter.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Misfits (1961)

Notes: 7/3/11
Opening credits. Puzzle pieces not fitting.
Marilyn. Oh, Marilyn. Such a huge presence.
Clark Gable is a masculine hero.
Screenplay is full of good bits. Lots of thoughtful dialogue.
Montgomery Clift!! Rugged and handsome.
Exciting lasso scene. Murder of the horses.
Quiet performances. Nothing flashy or over the top.  
Poignant final scene. Stars will take us right home.

Review: B
A divorcee (Marilyn Monroe) and an ex-cowboy (Clark Gable), both struggling with the unfairness of life, meet in Reno and find comfort in each other's company. Together they are joined by a rodeo rider (Montgomery Clift) who has inner conflicts of his own. Gable, Monroe, and Clift each deliver strong, complicated performances that carry the film through some unfocused bits of an otherwise thoughtful and pointed screenplay by Arthur Miller. John Huston directs Gable and Monroe in what became the final film for each legendary actor. Eli Wallach and Thelma Ritter lend expert support and comic relief to this somber and delicate film, helped quite well by the great score by Alex North. Notable for the impeccable talent involved, but lacks a stronger level of emotional impact.

The Last Sunset (1961)

Notes: 7/3/11
Kirk Douglas and Rock Hudson seriously at odds with each other.
Dorothy Malone had pretty eyes.
Joseph Cotten is always a welcome presence.
Robert Aldrich directs.
Jack Elam! Neville Brand! True tough guys.
Carol Lynley looks very young.
Stars didn't seem to have much to do but bicker.
Douglas is such a party boy. He sings!

Review: C+
Curious Western drama finds a starry cast dueling it out near the Mexican border. Kirk Douglas is an outlaw running just ahead of sheriff Rock Hudson. Dorothy Malone is Douglas' former lover, now the wife of Joseph Cotten and mother of Carol Lynley. Romance ensues and tension builds as Hudson closes in on Douglas. Robert Aldrich assembles a perfect supporting cast (Jack Elam! Neville Brand!) but puts little concern into the storytelling. Scenes drag along and the cast doesn't possess the energy one should expect from such reliable performers. Interesting story could have been told with a bit more enthusiasm.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Through a Glass Darkly (1961)

Notes: 6/24/11
Four character chamber play. Fascinating character interactions.
Daughter suffered an illness and was hospitalized.
Ingmar Bergman's quiet moments are on display.
Harriet Andersson plays the mentally ill daughter.
Sven Nykvist does the cinematography – great lighting.
A bit uninvolving, unfortunately.
Not the most entertaining but still thought-provoking.

Review: B-
Quiet, experimental chamber piece from Swedish visionary Ingmar Bergman. Sven Nykvist photographs the film beautifully, capturing the contrasts in indoor and outdoor scenes. Harriet Andersson, a favorite of Bergman's, portrays Karin, a young girl falling deeper into mental illness while vacationing with her husband, father, and brother. The cast does well with their characters and Bergman's screenplay doesn't overdo it with the religious overtones. Despite Bergman's skills, this ranks as one of his least involving efforts.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Children's Hour (1961)

Notes: 6/16/11
Two women are accused of 'unnatural behavior'.
The situation that the three leads are in is tragic and frustrating.
Fay Bainter has a few good scenes. Makes it clear she's the HBIC.
Karen Balkin has a bullying physical presence, but is an embarrassing actress.
Miriam Hopkins is memorable as MacLaine's aunt.
Wyler gets some solid performances and doesn't let things get too maudlin.

Review: B
Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine are close friends who run a school for young girls. When one of the girls decides to spread a false rumor about them, a frustrating and tragic series of events unfolds. Effective performances and a controversial subject are well-handled by director William Wyler. Audrey and Shirley are ideally matched in the lead roles, while Bainter and Hopkins are most entertaining in support.