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.