Saturday 28 February 2009

Random Notes #9

I put this screenshot here for no better reason than the obvious...It's frosty beer.

The Flight Of The Red Balloon (2007 - Hou Hsiao-Hsien) - Ed Howard's comments about "Mulholland Dr." in this House Next Door post kinda fits my own general feelings about Hou's latest (in particular the last line):

"Did I understand it? Not even close. Subsequent viewings revealed layers of narrative and themes that I hadn't detected the first time. But the sensation of watching the film, the mystery and beauty of its images, the ideas about imagination, fantasy, movies and loss bubbling up through its obscurity, these were all there the first time. The fact that I was compelled to revisit the film a second time—indeed, probably close to a dozen times by now—says a lot about the power of that first experience, that it made me want to return to this film so frequently. I do trust my instincts, and I trust them to know when a film has more to offer me"

Though it didn't completely weave its magic on me, I wouldn't be surprised if a second viewing did. The languid pace, the wandering camera (which was obviously carefully planned), the casual discussions and the lack of a specific plot all tie together to give the film the feel that we're just dropping in on the daily activities of just another "family" in Paris - Juliette Binoche's hectic life is balanced by the complete calm of her son's new nanny, but there's a strong feeling of loneliness from all the characters. As one reviewer said, the film makes you feel like you just spent a week in Paris. That alone is reason enough to see this lovely albeit very slow moving work.

The Films Of Budd Boetticher (1957-1960 - Budd Boetticher) - I had a great time with this set of 5 films by director Boetticher and star Randolph Scott (who also associate produces). Each is under 80 minutes and chugs along at a nice brisk pace. Several of the films (particularly "The Tall T" and "Buchanan Rides Alone") have almost a "TV episode" feel to them as they have some awkwardly plotted moments and poorly staged action scenes, but no matter - the middle sections of all the films are extremely engaging and pretty much define the term "taut". Scott feels a bit old for some of the roles and occasionally comes across a bit goofy, but when he's in full-bore-angry-man-looking-for-vengeance mode he's terrific. "Decision At Sundown" and "Ride Lonesome" are probably my faves of the bunch, but each has gorgeous mountainous backdrops, interesting characters (flawed heroes and complex bad guys) and pithy statements about "what a man's gotta do..."

The Tall T

Decision At Sundown

Buchanan Rides Alone

Ride Lonesome

Comanche Station

The Talk Of The Town (1942 - George Stevens) - A few minutes into this I had to do a quick double check of the liner notes on the DVD to verify this was actually a comedy...Cary Grant is accused of arson and murder at the outset of the film and then escapes prison as his death sentence approaches. He holes up in the attic of a house rented for the summer to a legal big wig looking for peace and quiet in order to finish writing his book. Through your standard screwball plot contrivances, the house's caretaker (Jean Arthur) becomes the lawyer's secretary for the summer and Grant pretends to be the gardener. The three spend a number of meals and fireside chats going over their legal philosophies - Grant is of the compassionate justice mind while the lawyer is more clinical and believes that the law is the law. There's some surprisingly interesting back and forth debates by the two, but it's Jean Arthur's warmth and humour that really pulls the film together. Her comic timing is subtle, but almost always spot on to get the most impact in a situation or line reading. Very entertaining throughout.

She Done Him Wrong (1933 - Lowell Sherman) - Mae West is really the sole attraction here (though a young Cary Grant seems to be already able to hold his own) as she cracks off one liners after double entendres. My favourite: "I wasn't always rich. No, there was a time I didn't know where my next husband was coming from." It's certainly a movie of its time though - at one point she calls her black maidservant "eight ball". At 66 minutes, this is apparently the shortest film ever nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Short of West's dominating performance, I don't see much else here that warrants the Oscar nomination, but West sure is bigger than life.

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