Sunday 6 September 2009

Random Notes #12

Electric Glide In Blue (1973 - James William Guercio) - I don't think I knew much of anything about this film going in except for the title. I'd heard of it as a "classic" of 70s cinema, but for some reason expected something along the lines of "Barbarella". Instead, it's the tale of a motorcycle cop in the South West U.S. and his determination to become a detective. He's short of stature and usually ignored by most of the men on the force, but when he catches the attention of a big, brash and tough detective, he gets his wish and partner's with him during a particular murder case. The cinematography alone is reason enough to see the film - it takes great advantage of the amazing surroundings, but the use of lighting and framing throughout the film is outstanding as well. And Robert Blake is terrific...

Last Year At Marienbad (1961 - Alain Resnais) - I feel kind of bad tossing this film in amongst the grabbag of other movies I've watched recently, but I don't have too much more to contribute to the long standing and in depth discussions that have already taken place regarding one of the all time classic "art house" pictures. It's even more beautiful than I expected (imagine having a chance to wander around the grounds of that estate...) and just as impenetrable. It was effective at showing our ability to see and remember things completely different from others, but there were certainly a few scenes that seemed (at least to this novice Resnais viewer) a bit too self-consciously "artsy". In the end, though, I enjoyed this a great deal more than I thought I would - I'm not sure there's really a puzzle there to piece together, but it is fun to play with it.

Timeslip (aka G.I. Samurai) (1979 - Kosei Saito) - "Time Slip" is an odd beast. It mixes a great performance by Sonny Chiba, a strong concept (a modern military outfit travels back in time and meets samurai during the Warring States period) and a terrific lengthy battle sequence together with bloated storylines, insignificant secondary characters and terribly misguided music. At 138 minutes long, it gave me ample time to change my opinion of it throughout its run time (up and down it went like a sine wave). Fortunately, it provides enough satisfaction via the action and lead character that the investment ends up being worth it. Chiba plays Yoshiaki Iba, commander of a group of soldiers on maneuvers. Something seems amiss to them one night - Venus seems to be in the wrong spot in the sky and all their watches have stopped at exactly 5:18. Once they reach their destination, a beach where they find several other military personnel, the strangeness begins...Apparently caused by a solar flare of some variety, all the men on the beach and their vehicles and weapons are transported back in time. They make contact with one of the tribes and Iba befriends their leader Kagetora. They are both honourable men who know of nothing else to do but fight, so their friendship is a fast one and Iba sees the possibility of living a fuller life - one without "peace". Their relationship is the crux of the movie and, short of that great half hour extended battle sequence, the best part of it.

Blonde Ice (1948 - Jack Bernhard) - A secondary noir I guess, but still entertaining with a fun performance by Leslie Brooks. As the titular character Claire, Brooks plays a very calculating woman who is in the habit of marrying wealthy men just before they mysteriously get bumped off. The flow of the story isn't quite as smooth nor as ominous as some of the top shelf noirs, but it still has many of the touches (lighting, shadows, etc.) of many of the crime films from that era. The dialog isn't quite as brisk as maybe it should be in some scenes, but Brooks makes up for it by building up steam in her performance until she takes it right over the top towards the end. All packaged up in about 75 minutes.

Hobson's Choice (1954 - David Lean) - Very enjoyable story about a boorish man and his three daughters. Charles Laughton is a great deal of fun to watch as he slowly gets trained by the three young women all preparing for marriage - in particular his eldest whom he sees more as a spinster (in his mind she has obviously passed the point of being attractive to anyone - a ridiculous assertion today, but the film is set in nineteenth century England). He operates a bootmakers shop, but it's really the eldest Maggie who holds down the fort along with the skills of the actual bootmaker Will, a quiet mouse of a man that Maggie has chosen to be her mate. David Lean makes it look pretty spectacular at times, but it's held down by Laughton's great turn at showing exasperation at the determination of his daughter. A nice surprise.

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