Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rome Open City, 1945, Grade A

Director Roberto Rossellini
Awards?  Yes at least it was nominated for best screen play
Cast:  Also Fabrizi,  Anna Magnani; Marcello Pagliero; Vito Annicchiarico; Nando Bruno;  Harry Feist;  Giovanna Galletti; Francesco Grandhacquet --and actual German Soldiers who were--at the time of the films production, prisoners of war.

PLOT: even the communist and the catholic church can work together when it come to fighting Nazi Occupiers in Rome...resistance fighters and and Nazi trying to catch them--after all they are breaking 'the law'

sez says: wow--filmed in 1945 just as Rome was liberated by the Americans-- and wile the Germans were still occupying other parts of Italy.  Filmed in the streets -- and effectively done.  It isn't so much the story that is great (we all know the story) --but the whole thing fits together perfectly: the time it was done, the look of the piece, the acting, the urgency -it all comes together to make a fine film.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Leave Her to Heaven, 1945, (Grade D)

plot:   Gene Tierney plays Ellen Berent, a woman who bedazzles writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) when the two meet on a train. Their courtship is sweet and swift, leading to a hasty marriage, but sadness displaces the joy when a series of tragedies befalls the couple. Could these horrid events have anything to do with Ellen's burgeoning and all-consuming jealousy?
Director: John M Stahl
Awards; A number of academy awards and nominations
Cast: Gene Tierney; Cornel Wilde; Jeanne Crain: Vincent Price; Gene Lockhart; Darryl Hickman

sez says:  this is one of the most VIVID COLOR movies I've seen--and  it is almost worth watching just to see exactly how wildly weird color can be..but ultimately, it is sort of boring and it distracts from the story.  This same story, done in black and white (or with fewer intense close-ups of red red lips, etc) and with a more subtle touch with the characters--might have been a masterful psychological drama--something akin to Gaslight.   But no such luck. There is never a question about who is crazy--and her craziness is taken over the top -- by both the acting and the color. Tierney was a beautiful woman, overly made-up.  The settings of New Mexico, Maine, Cape Cod are all  displayed in a bright cheap postcard image style. The costumes are fun. And Wilde appears every where (in his canoe, and on the beach, and at a western ranch) wearing a suit and tie and leather shoes...all of which just seemed strange.   

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Matter of Life & Death (aka A Stairway to Heaven) 1946, Grade B

Director: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Any Awards?  none we know of
Cast: David Niven; Kim Hunter; Abraham Sofaer: Richard Attenbourough; Marius Goring; Raymond Massey; Roger Livesay; Robert Coote; Kathleen Byron; Robert Atkins; Betty Potter
plot summary:  Royal Air Force pilot Peter Carter (David Niven) is forced to jump out of his plane without a parachute only to wake up alive and unharmed due to a mishap in heaven. Before he can be fetched  to his rightful spot in heaven he finds and falls in love with June (Kim Hunter) the last women he talked to before his crash landing.  Now he must stand trial before God (Abraham Sofaer) to plead his case for a second chance at life.  NOTE: In the US the name of this British Made Film  was changed because no one in the US wanted to have the word DEATH in a title after WW2
sez says:  this is a wild --SURREAL--movie.  the story is rather stupid--but the visuals are wondrous.  Another Jack Cardiff masterpiece (cinematographer)
mjc says:  the black and white heaven--refocuses the true foundations of human joy on earth.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Black Narcissus. 1947 (grade A)

Director Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Any Awards? Academy Awards for  Best Art Direction & Pest Cinematography
CAST:   Deborah Kerr; Flora Robson;  Jean Simmons;  David Farrar;  Sabu:  Esmond Knight;  Kathleen Byron,  Jenny Laird;  Judith Furse;  May Hallatt;  Eddie Whaley Jr.;  Shaun Nobel;  Nancy Roberts;  Ley On

story summary: nuns are give an ex-brothel/ home of a sultan's harem, high in the mountains to turn into a school and hospital --this snowy mountain happens to be right next to a sultry jungle paradise --so it is not such a great movie when it comes to realism re geography -- the wind never stops blowing and the nuns are moved to plant flowers rather than vegetables..and there is a handsome man that visits a lot -- he is often scantly dressed --and he drives a lest one nun crazy.

sez says: this is a Jack Cardiff film-- he was a masterful cinematographer--and it is worth watching just to see him working with color and light --copying the art of the grand masters. But the story too is pretty interesting.. the repressed sexuality of nuns is the theme --and it gets pretty steamy. It is something between a melodrama and a horror flick woven around repressed sexual desires and set in an exotic landscape... done in brilliant color and fabulously compelling..and were all of Powell and Pressburgerher films.

mjc says: hard to believe this was photographed in a studio-on a sound stage and aback lot --the tracks of a master cinematographer

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Dark Corner, 1946 (Grade B-)

Director: Henry Hathaway
Any Awards?  none we know of
CAST: Lucille Ball; Clifton Webb; William Bendix; Mark Stevens; Kurt Kreuger; Cathy Downs; Reed Hadley; Constance Collier; Eddie Heywood; Isabel Randolph

Plot outline: Here is a Classic Film Noir that seems to have escaped most of the books on the subject. It tells the tale of hard boiled private eye Bradford Galt (played by Mark Stevens), who relocates to New York City after being framed for a crime he didn't commit. He thus wrongfully served two years in stir on a manslaughter charge. His shyster ex-partner, Tony Jardine (Kurt Kreuger) had been the one who put him in the frame and now Jardine is in NY and he is once again up to his old tricks (blackmailing wealthy women).  And Galt soon finds himself set up again -- this time for Jardine's murder.  Lucille Ball portrays Galt's adoring secretary, and Clifton Webb plays an unctuous art collector.  

sez says: a much more complex plot than many of its ilk.  Fun to see Lucy as a femme fatale (of sorts).  But not too hard to guess the who-done-it and the why-it was done.  Still, this is much better than many better known 'Noiur Classics"  and if you are drawn to the genre you are likely to like this one.

mjc says: overdone gum shoe dialogue--still a pretty good mystery, all the right shadows.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Long Voyage Home, 1940 Grade - B

Director: John Ford
Awards: Nominated for multiple academy awards
Cast: John Wayne;Thomas Mitchell; Ian Hunter; Barry Fitzgerald; Wilfrid Lawson; John Qualen; Mildred Natwick; Ward Bond; Arthur Shileds; Joe Sawyer; JM Kerrigan; Rafaela Ottiano

sez says-- I am not a John Wayne fan-- and thus I was reluctant to watch this, figuring he would play a prominent role, and that would annoy me.  But neither was the case. His role is one of many characters, not more or less important than any other..and he does a fine job being a young Swed trying to get home. Eugene O'Neill wrote this--and it is no doubt his writing that makes this better than the average story.  John Ford directed it. So it is visually wonderful: lots of stark black & white and shadows.  Depicting life on the sea during war time --  and it is about an effort to get explosives to the allies (before  the USA--was in the war). It thus a story that was used to  create concern for helping out in the war effort.   The life of individual men at sea is seen as raw and rough and exploited: It is a life most of us would want to escape--yet men who take to this life seldom do escape. Or so says the story.  Well done -- maybe even a masterpiece of sorts. (Grade B)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Something in the Wind, 1947 (Grade C)

Director: Irving Pichel
Awards? None known
Cast: Deanna Durbin, Donald O'Connor, John Dall, Charles Winninger, Helena Carter

sez says: If you like Durbin's singing you will no doubt like this..I am not a big fan --but I acknowledge she has a remarkable voice. Too bad she didn't use it with better music. This is a typical --totally unrealistic and silly--comedy of errors story.  Rich family mistakes the identity of a young woman, kidnaps her and tried to get her to 'sign papers' to keep her quite about something she never did...meanwhile love hatches between her and one of her captors. Meanwhile, the real gem in this show, Donald O'Connor, sings and dances and is generally entertaining.   There are some wild hair-dos and some snazzy clothing to look at along the way.  (Grade C and that just because O'Connor is so talented)