1. SHORTS 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 10 + 3 + 14 = 61m
a) Grim (Takashi Ito, 1985) yes
b) Boston Fire (Peter B. Hutton, 1979) no
c) Isole di fuoco (Vittorio de Seta, 1955) maybe
d) Brouillard: Passage #14 (Alexandre Larose, 2014) yes
e) Panta Rhei (Ben Haanstra, 1952) no
f) Senaste Nytt (Per Carleson, 1997) maybe
g) Roulemant, rouerie, aubage (Rose Lowder, 1978) no
2. Seven Days to Noon (John & Roy Boulting, 1950) maybe
3. Cluny Brown (Ernst Lubitsch, 1946) yes
4. The Magical World of Disney: Mars and Beyond (Ward Kimball, 1957) (re-watch) no
(Nobuhiko Ôbayashi, 1977) yes
RIP NO. The only previous film I'd seen by the director was Nerawareta gakuen / The Aimed School
(1981) which I liked but didn't love; I was still, and am still getting used to the particularly Japanese way of mixing genres, something I tend to love but which is very different in these films than it is in the American genre-benders that I'm more familiar with. This is on a whole 'nother level though, and people saying "weirdest movie ever" for once aren't necessarily full of hyperbole. Basically a half-dozen schoolgirls (high school I guess) go to this weird house in the country where the aunt of one of them lives, and all hell breaks loose. In addition to the mix of genres - horror, fantasy, comedy, romance, martial arts (I'm sure I'm not the only person whose favorite character is Miki Jinbo's "Kung Fu") sexploitation - there's also wild tonal shifts and an absolutely flabbergasting soundtrack that veers through 70s soft-rock, disco (lots of American influence on the music and the film in general), heavily percussive piano, country...probably more I'm forgetting now. This would be an absolute nightmare for folks who want a film to be coherent, straightforward, and to play by the (unwritten) rules of narrative generally... for me, it was amazing. I'm still kind of trying to sort it out and don't know that I can call it a masterpiece at this point but it's certainly one of the most memorable viewings I've had in a long time, and something I will definitely get back to again sooner rather than later.
6. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
(Fritz Lang, 1956) (re-watch) no
TCM. 3rd viewing I think. I have gone back and forth with this on every viewing; Eddie Muller's intro and outro for this give some basic insights into the problems that the film has had, in it's reception by the public and critics - and by the filmmakers. Suffice it to say it was a difficult production with star Dana Andrews' alcoholism a big part of it, and Lang's clashes with Andrews on the set, and with his producer Bert Friedlob over the ending, and with the studio in general were the straws that broke the camel's back, and this was his last film in Hollywood. While I think the basic concept - newspaperman conspires with editor to get himself tried for a murder he didn't commit, with only circumstantial evidence, to foster a better argument against capital punishment - is a good one, it just goes in such a preposterous and silly direction by the end that it's hard to take it seriously or care too much about the denouement. Still it has it's moments and I can't actually dislike any film with Joan Fontaine, but all in all this is for me probably Lang's weakest noir and one of his 2-3 weakest Amercan films.
7. Animal Farm
(Joy Batchelor, John Halas, 1954) no
Nicely animated - albeit more Disney-like than it might be - short feature adaptation of the Orwell novella is always entertaining and does get a fair bit of the story right - until the last third, which is quite sanitized and doesn't come close to suggesting the master's ultimate thesis - that whether you call it communism or capitalism, whether it's pigs or farmers, merchants or the military in charge, authorotariansim by another name is still authoritarianism. Read the book instead, it won't take much longer than seeing the film.
8. 5 Steps to Danger
(Henry S. Kesler, 1956) no
While I love Sterling Hayden as much as any red-blooded he-man American noirophile can, and I also love seeing Werner Klemperer in a rare "straight" bad guy role, this is pretty weak sauch in the noir realm overall. Hayden is a... what is he? I don't think his career is ever even mentioned!... so, anyway, he's a - guy - just travelling in California whose car breaks down, causing him to take a ride from a stranger (Ruth Roman) who's travelling east to Texas, and then getting mixed up in her troubles with foreign spies. All kinds of minor stupid plot issues that add up to a pretty unbelievable and silly yarn that of course ends up with
Hayden and Roman getting married and being happy after knowing each other for like 36 hours, having broken the commie spy ring.. somehow
. Even an absolute sucker for all things noir like me can only muster the weakest of "ok" ratings for this.
9. Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment
(Robert Drew, 1963) maybe
Very solid short (52 minutes - the bonus behind-the-scenese and extras feature is just about as long) documentary made for ABC news, the third of Drew's Kennedy features, with camerawork by a number of notable documentarians including D.A. Pennebaker. This is about the standoff over integration involving segregationist governor George Wallace of Alabama, and it focuses more on the President's brother Robert, the Attorney General, and his staff as he tries to figure out how to get the two young black students into the University of Alabama without violence. I like Drew's style - I've also seen Primary
- but this definitely suffers from it's brevity, it's too big a story in it's cultural/racial/federalism vs state's rights ramifications to feel like much more than a sketch; then again, this was done in "real time" so to speak, so what we have are the words and actions as they happened, and we can't expect to have deep analysis on the parts of these politicans and others as they were just trying to do their jobs without provoking more trouble than there already was. All in all certainly an important document.
10. Wild River
(Elia Kazan, 1960) yes
TCM. While I've liked just about every Kazan film I've seen (most of them), and really liked several, he's never been exactly a favorite, and I don't really necessarily look forward to seeing "new" films from him, nor to prioritizing re-watches. Why? I guess in my mind he occupies that space of earnest, serious, well-meaning liberal filmmakers whose messages often seem to tip the scales over his other filmmaking qualities, i.e. he's not always subtle, and while he's an excellent craftsman, his craft and artistry sometimes is outweighed by a certain bluntness. This is all a needlessly verbose and not very articulate way of saying I've found him a very good, but not great filmmaker overall. Well, this film is going to go at least a little way toward changing that assessment, as Wild River
is easily his best film and probably a great one. A story of a TVA administrator in 1933 (Montgomery Clift) come to a small community in Tennessee to try to convince an elderly matriarch (Joan Van Fleet, 45 at the time but extremely convincing as an octogenarian) to leave the small island where she and her family have lived for generations, so the new dam downriver can be completed, the land flooded, and electricity provided generally for the area for the first time, among other things. In the course of his weeks of effort he gets to know, and romance, the matriarch's beautiful widowed granddaughter (Lee Remick) and naturally has trouble with various locals, and gets somewhat involved in the racial issues of the time. Apart from the Massachussetts-raised Remick's sometimes variable attempt at an accent, this has a versimillitude and a feeling for the peoples of the south that is very rare in films of this period - it was filmed on location and many of the smaller roles are played by locals or southern actors, and Kazan wisely blends the simmering racial tensions into a more general, wide-ranging outlook on the role of states vs the government, tradition vs modernity, the role of woman as both sex object and ultimately leader within a family or community, etc. The only major complaint I have actually lies not with the film itself but it's presentation - TCM showed it 1.78, not 2.35, which turned out to be only somewhat problematic but still...why?; worse though was the really heavy teal-leaning of the color timing, something that is apparently the case on both the MOC and Criterion blu-rays as well. Sigh. Anyway those caveats (not the film's fault I'm sure) aside, just terrific on all counts and at the end enormously (and surprisingly) moving to me. I now look forward to America, America
, the last major Kazan film I haven't seen, with significantly more interest.
11. The Incident
(Larry Peerce, 1967) maybe
Gripping thriller about the small diverse group of riders on a subway train in New York who are terrorized by a couple of low-lives (Tony Musante and Martin Sheen) on a late-night ride through Manhattan. There's a fairly pedestrian element to this - the old Grand Hotel/Stagecoach
etc way of introducing each character (or couple of characters in this case) for just long enough so that we feel we're starting to get interested, then moving on to the next, until we have them all together on the train, but it's well done, though the opening scene with Musante and Sheen on a drunken pedestrian escapade through the streets is probably the highlight. All in all it's very nicely constructed if fairly derivative of older examples like the ones I mentioned, and the all-star cast, which includes Ed McMahon (why didn't he act more? oh, cuz the Carson show was a regular high-paying gig and easy), Brock Peters, Ruby Dee, Thelma Ritter, etc, makes this fun.
12. Thriller - en grym film / Thriller: A Cruel Picture
(Bo Arne Vibenius, 1973) no
I think this is my first film starring Swedish sexpot Christina Lindberg, though I've known the name for decades - we used to get lots of request for her films at the video stores I worked at in the late 80s - 90s. 70s sexploitation is not exactly an era/genre that I've explored deeply, but when I have I've usually found a little interest at least - maybe I've been careful and just haven't seen much of the real trash. Anyway this seems a well above-average example, with Lindberg as the grown-up young woman who went mute after a horrible rape when she was a child, now forced into slavery and narcotic addiction by a vile scumbag (Heinz Hopf) who also half-blinds her when she initially refuses to put out for his customers and attacks them. But she'll get her revenge, oh my! This is a fairly silly film - knowing this woman has the potential for violence, why does Tony give her SO much leeway that she can spend apparently hundreds of hours training in martial arts, combat driving, and shooting? Why does he even allow her to have her own money? Nothing's explained particularly well, most of the acting is mediocre, but Lindberg herself is actually pretty good in an admittedly limited role and character, and she's certainly an eyeful. One thing I found curious is that she seems very, very short - I'd have guessed only about 5' / 150 cm - but the intrawebs claims she's a good half-foot taller, and in the film I watched right after this she's paired with the very tall Stellan Skarsgård and that listed height looks correct. So I think this was shot to try to make her seem smaller than she actually is, so as to make her action feats in the last third of the film even more exciting and extreme. Also love her vengeance goddess get-up, reminiscent of Meiko Kaji in broadly similar roles at the same time:
13. TIger in the Smoke
(Roy Ward Baker, 1956) no
Meg (Muriel Pavlow) is about to marry Geoffrey (Donald Sinden), several years after the war in which she lost her first husband - but then she sees him, or thinks she sees him, on a railway platform, shortly after getting a mysterious letter. Being actually cautious and smart, she's alerted the police, and the man turns out to be a counterfeit, apparently.. but why? Soon a complex little web involving a "treasure" found or stolen in France during the war, a group of veterans who live in a cellar and mostly beg for a living, and a master criminal-psychopath (Tony Wright) starts spinning, mostly in one of the foggiest film Londons you'll ever see. This is another quite solid film that never really adds up to anything truly special, but certainly worthwhile for Brit-noir specialists.
14. The Long Memory
(Robert Hamer, 1953) no
John Mills has just been released from prison after 12 years spent paying for a crime he claims he didn't commit. Now he's living on an abandoned boat on the coast, plotting his revenge against the people who put him away for the crime - one of whom is a woman (Elizabeth Sellars) who is now married to the police superintendant (Johm McCallum) tasked with watching over Mills! This small Dickensian coincidence aside, this is another solid if unspectacular little film, distinguished primarily by some really terrific photography (by Harry Waxman) and mostly real location work in the London area and Gravesend. Probably the best of the three British noirs I watched in a row, though only by a small margin.
15. Byôsoku 5 senchimêtoru / 5 Centimers per Second
(Makoto Shinkai, 2007) maybe
Three brief stories in the lives of a couple of young people who meet just before middle school and try to stay connected over several years, despite moving to different schools in different parts of the country. The more I see of Shinkai's films, the more they seem similar, all of a piece; this isn't a bad thing really but I do wonder a bit as to whether my greatest affection for Your Name
has to do to some extent with it being the first film I saw; most of his themes - the vagaries of memory, particularly from childhood, romantic longing, the feeling of not belonging to the world, of missing something, the obsession with space and flying - are here and in just about all of his work. But this is a beautiful film on it's own, even if the short running time and tripartite structure make it feel a little bit thin at times, particularly in the last section.