Monday, April 3, 2017

Twelve movies

[No spoilers.]

How to Dance in Ohio (dir. Alexandra Shiva, 2015). This documentary follows the lives of young adults on the autism spectrum as they prepare for a formal dance. “You see someone and you want to talk to them. What would you do?” “I just don’t know.” Fear, uncertainty, courage, risk, kindness, and joy.


Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2013). Frances (Greta Gerwig) is twenty-seven, a dancer and choreographer, trying to make a go of it in New York, trying to preserve a friendship, trying not to crack up. As in the more mocking Fort Tilden (dir. Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, 2014), there’s the danger of falling back into a previous stage of one’s life. My favorite line: “I’m so embarrassed. I’m not a real person yet.”


Ulmerama (four Edgar D. Ulmer films)

Strange Illusion (1945). Jimmy Lydon, best known for the Henry Aldrich series, in a low-budget, surprisingly thoughtful adaptation of Hamlet. A judge dies in an accident. His son thinks it was murder. And now his mother wants to marry this dashing but creepy fellow (Warren William). No ghosts, but a mighty strange dream sequence.

The Strange Woman (1946). Hedy Lamarr plays a lumber-town bad seed whose ability to destroy lives seems unbounded. The line forms to the right: Gene Lockhart, Louis Hayward, George Sanders. My only dissatisfaction with this film: it’s set in the 1820s. I would like to see these relationships play out in a film-noir setting, with cigarettes and electric lights.

Ruthless (1948). In a story told in flashbacks, Horace Vendig (Zachary Scott) grows up to master the art of the dirty deal, exploiting and destroying every relationship that comes his way. With Louis Hayward, Diana Lynn (in a dual role), and Sydney Greenstreet. Watch for Bobby Anderson (who played the young George Bailey) as young Horace and a barely recognizable Raymond Burr as his no-account father.

Detour (1945). Yes, it’s true: “Fate, or some mysterious force, can put the finger on you or me for no good reason at all.” Al Roberts’s (Tom Neal) only mistake is in seeing himself as a singular victim. The film’s other principals are victims too, of accident, assault, illness, or estrangement. Ann Savage as Vera is terrifying. Her association with Al feels like a nightmare of a marriage.

These four films are available at YouTube.


Hitchcock/Truffaut (dir. Kent Jones, 2015). Audio excerpts, always brief, from François Truffaut’s conversations with Alfred Hitchcock; excerpts, always unidentified, from Hitchcock’s films; and many directors talking at length about Hitchcock’s work, sometimes with tiny subtitles. Some of what’s said sounds like critical gibberish: “The subtext seems to be bubbling up almost to the point where it’s text.” Much of what’s said runs to the obvious or the hagiographic and makes the movie feel interminable. The most thought-provoking remark comes from Peter Bogdanovich, speaking of Psycho: “It was the first time that going to the movies was dangerous.”


The Upturned Glass (dir. Lawrence Huffington, 1947). That James Mason — he always looks like he’s up to no good. Here he plays a brain surgeon and part-time lecturer who looks like he’s up to no good. With Pamela Kellino (married to Mason in real life), who also looks like she’s up to no good. A gripping movie, especially when what appear to be flashbacks prove to be projections of future events.


A Separation (dir. Asghar Farhadi, 2011). An Iranian husband and wife separate, and they and another couple become entangled in a bitter court case. Tradition and modernity, obligations to family and obligations to self are in conflict here, with a strong element of social and economic difference, and perhaps the most intense domestic arguments I’ve seen on screen. By the director of The Salesman, which I want to see as soon as I can.


Something Wild (dir. Jack Garfein, 1961). A rape and its aftermath: isolation, fear, despair, and an encounter with a good Samaritan that takes a deeply disturbing turn and turns the story into a variation on “Beauty and the Beast.” If you know Carroll Baker only as a sex symbol, if you know Ralph Meeker only as Mike Hammer, see this film. Rooted in the work of The Actors Studio, with scenes that play as if they’re being worked out in the moment by real people. Music by Aaron Copland. Recently released by the Criterion Collection.


Un peu de festival du Jacques Demy

A Slightly Pregnant Man (1973). A farce with Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni. The joke never really goes much beyond the title. Most enjoyable: the film’s final thirty-or-so minutes, in which the pregnancy gains media attention and a line of men’s paternity clothing hits the market. But to my mind this film lacks the chicness and charm of earlier Demy films.

Model Shop (1969). Architect manqué George (Gary Lockwood) and his actress girlfriend Gloria (Alexandra Hay) struggle in Los Angeles. The possibility of being drafted hangs over George as he tries to raise the cash to keep his car from being repossessed. The film becomes much more interesting when Anouk Aimée enters the story — she plays a woman working in a “model shop” in Los Angeles, photographed by anyone who can pay for a fifteen- or thirty-minute session. For anyone who has seen Lola and Bay of Angels, Model Shop is a sweetbitter extension of the Demy universe. (George, I think, is another Roland Cassard, a Lola character who goes unmentioned here.) Los Angeles plays a supporting role as a large bleak city.

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)
Fourteen films : Thirteen more : Twelve more : Another thirteen more : Another dozen : Yet another dozen : Another twelve : And another twelve : Still another twelve : Oh wait, twelve more : Twelve or thirteen more : Nine, ten, eleven — and that makes twelve : Another twelve : And twelve more : Is there no end? No, there’s another twelve

comments: 1

zzi said...

Anything with Hedy is appointment viewing. Mean Mason is a cherry on top.