The Leopard (1963)

The Leopard (Il gattopardo)
Directed by Luchino visconti
Written by Suso Cecchi d’Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Luchino Visconti et al from a novel by Giuseppi Thomasi di Lampidusa
1963/Italy/France
Titanus; Societe Nouvelle Pathe Cinema; Society Generale de Cinematographie
Repeat viewing/Netlfix rental

Prince Don Fabrizio Salina: We were the leopards, the lions, those who take our place will be jackals and sheep, and the whole lot of us – leopards, lions, jackals and sheep – will continue to think ourselves the salt of the earth.

Beautiful people, beautiful scenery, beautiful things and a poignant story of change and mortality – what could be better?

Prince Don Fabrizio Salina (Burt Lancaster) is the patriarch of a family of hereditary princes drawing their legitimacy from the House of Savoy,  As story begins Garibaldi and his red shirts invade the island intending to claim it for King Victor Immanuel of a unified Italy.  Amidst the general panic, Dan Fabrizio does not intend to alter his behavior in any way.  And his prerogatives are largely respected due to his nephew Tancredi’s (Alain Delon) decision to fight with the red shirts.  Both the Prince and Tancredi are skilled at playing both sides against the middle.

The Prince continues to look out for his nephew and realizes that the key thing he will need for advancement is plenty of money. The problem is solved in the person of the beautiful Angelica (Claudia Cardinale) and her vulgar, nouveau riche father.  As the Prince cements this alliance his own mortality calls to him and he makes a graceful peace both with death and with the new age.

I am rarely in the mood for a three hour movie but I wasn’t checking the time through this one.  It’s a character study more than anything and I think the story needed space and time to give us such a round portrait of the prince.  All the acting, including several supporting characters, is first-rate.  And the production and camera work is simply amazing.  Highly recommendedl

The Leopard was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Color.

This ends my viewing of 1963 films.

Clip – the waltz – no subtitles but pure eye candy

Blonde Cobra (1963) and Flaming Creatures (1963)

Blonde Cobra
Directed by Ken Jacobs
Written by Ken Jacobs and Jack Smith
1963/USA
First viewing/YouTube
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Flaming Creatures
Directed by Jack Smith
1963/USA
First viewing/YouTube
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before Die

The editors of 1001 Movies You Must see Before You Die certainly have a strange sense of humor. Yes, Virginia, there are movies worse than Robot Man and The Room. These are among them.

I don’t want to waste any additional time on these peurile, oneric, pointless pieces of trash.

from Blonde Cobra

from Flaming Creatures

An Actor’s Revenge (1963)

An Actor’s Revenge (Yukinojo henge) (AKA Revenge of a Kabuki Actor)
Directed by Kon Ichikawa
Written by Natto Wada; adapted by Teinosuke Kinugasa and Daisuke Ito from a newspaper serial by Otokichi Mikami
1963/Japan
Daiei Studios
First viewing/FilmStruk
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

 

Acting should be bigger than life. Scripts should be bigger than life. It should all be bigger than life. ~ Bette Davis

The versatile Kon Ichikawa makes a beautiful and captivating film in which all the world’s a stage.

Yukinojo Henge (Kazuo Hasegawa) is an acclaimed actor who specializes in women’s roles in the kabuki theater, in which all roles are played by men.  Yukinojo wears female garb off-stage as well and maintains a stereotypical feminine persona.  As a child, he lost both parents to madness and suicide.  He has vowed revenge on the three men responsible. The first ploy he adopts is to make a government official’s innocent daughter, who has been given as a concubine to the shogun, fall in love with him.

We follow the elaborate revenge plot.  Concurrently, we also become acquainted with a female thief that also falls for Yukinojo, the thief Yamitaro (also played by Hasegawa) who comments on the narrative, and a swordsman who has his own scores to settle with the actor.

Hasgawa is phenomenal in both his roles in this one.  It is fascinating watching him mimic demure girlish gentleness while disguising a heart of stone.  The other outstanding aspect is the production.  It’s one exquisite color composition after another.  Highly recommended.

Exploration of the use of theatrical wide shots in the film

The Servant (1963)

The Servant
Directed by Joseph Losey
Written by Harold Pinter from a novel by Robin Maugham
1963/UK
Elstree Distributors/Springbok Productions
First viewing/My DVD collection
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Hugo Barrett: I’ll tell you what I am. I’m a gentleman’s gentleman, and you’re no bloody GENTLEMAN!

I loved Losey and Pinter’s savage Darwinian study of corruption and class struggle.

The apparently independently wealth Tony (James Fox) has just returned from Africa and is setting himself up in posh digs in London.  The new house is entirely undecorated and Tony is living in squalor.  He has advertised for a man-servant and Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) answers the call.  Barrett is the complete gentleman’s gentleman and begins cooking gourmet meals and advising on interior design.  It soon becomes evident Tony needs a servant because he is incapable of taking care of himself, a fact not lost on Barrett.  Tony’s fiancee Susan takes an instant dislike to Barrett and they are soon busy sabotaging each other.

Before we know it, Barrett has installed his “sister” Vera (Sarah Miles) as housemaid. I won’t reveal more of the plot of this complex psychological thriller,

Well, this went immediately on my list of favorite new-to-me films for 2018!  It illustrates how a dark film filled with unlikeable characters can nevertheless be constantly surprising and delightful.  This is possibly Bogarde’s greatest perfomance and Fox and Miles easily match him.  The screenplay is delicious and the production and direction tells the story superbly.  Highly recommended.

Winter Light (1963)

Winter Light (Nattvardsgästerna)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ingmar Bergman
1963/Sweden
Svensk Filmindustri
First viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Märta Lundberg, Schoolteacher: God, why have you created me so eternally dissatisfied? So frightened, so bitter? Why must I realize how wretched I am? Why must I suffer so hellishly for my insignificance? If there is a purpose to my suffering, then tell me, so I can bear my pain without complaint. I’m strong. You made me so very strong in both body and soul, but you never give me a task worthy of my strength. Give my life meaning, and I’ll be your obedient slave.

This is almost too hopeless to bear despite its beauty.

Pastor Tomas Ericsson (Gunnar Bjornstrand) is plagued by both a bad cold and a crisis of faith on the same Sunday.  His church services are almost empty.  Among the faithful are Jonas Persson (Max von Sydow) and his wife Karin (Gunnel Lindblom).  Jonas is suicidally depressed by his fear of nuclear war.  Instead of comfort, Tomas provides him with a long monologue on his own religious doubts.

Simultaneously, Tomas’s atheist girlfriend Marta (Ingrid Thulin) tries to comfort him.  She badly wants to marry him.  On this Sunday she brings matters to a head and will regret it.

I expected to feel pity for the preacher’s crisis of faith. Instead, I found him to be perfectly selfish.  His lack of piety seemed like a lack of humanity.  This is a bleak but beautiful film.  These depressing 1963 films are beginning to get on my nerves.

Shock Corridor (1963)

Shock Corridor
Directed by Samuel Fuller
Written by Samuel Fuller
1963/USA
Allied Artists Pictures/Leon Fromkess-Sam Firks Productions/F&F Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Pagliacci: Life is a messy weapon.

Courage and talent mix with an outsider’s view of reality to make a truly weird and wonderful experience of life in a mad house.

Investigative reporter Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) wants nothing, not even stripper girlfriend Cathy (Constance Powers), more than the Pulitzer Prize.  Oddly, he decides the best way of getting it is having himself admitted to an insane asylum where he hopes to solve a patient’s murder.  He studies for a year to impersonate a man with an insatiable yen for his sister, to be played by Cathy.  Cathy gets very cold feet as the time for admission approaches but Johnny coerces her into keeping her promise to play along.

Johnny starts out well by getting clues from a number of the inmates.  These all suffer delusions.  One thinks he is an opera singer.  A man who turned traitor in the Korean war thinks he is a Confederate general.  A nuclear scientist’s guilt causes him to retreat into childhood.  Perhaps the most striking case is that of a black student who integrated a white university and now masquerades as a white supremacist.  Time in the institution takes it’s toll on Johnny’s own sanity.  His experiences in the “nympho ward” and with electric shock therapy do not help.

This movie is great!  It’s as if somebody like Ed Wood actually had talent and a budget. Fuller gave full vent to his most lurid impulses and it all works surprisingly well.  My favorite bit might be Cathy’s strip-tease.  The camera opens on her face which is totally wrapped in a feather boa making her appear a bit like Big Bird singing a torch song.  And the dance just gets odder and odder.  Stanley Cortez’s (The Magnificent Ambersons) cinematography gives the film stunning lights and shadows.  Recommended.

The Great Escape (1963)

The Great Escape
Directed by John Sturges
Written by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett from a book by Paul Brickhill
1963/USA
The Mirisch Company
Repeat viewing/Netflixrental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Hilts: I haven’t seen Berlin yet, from the ground or from the air, and I plan on doing both before the war is over.

I’ve loved this movie since I was a kid.

The German Luftwaffe gets the brilliant idea of putting all Allied POW escape artists into a single camp.  The theory is that they can be watched over better.  In practice, the officers are equipped to execute an audacious plan.  An RAF mastermind called “The Big X” (Richard Attenborough) is in charge.  The goal is to be able to tunnel 250 prisoners out of the camp.  The scheme relies on team work, with everyone assigned to a specialty. American Air Force Captain Virgil Hilts (Steve McQueen) isn’t playing.  His many solo escape attempts  earn him lots of time in solitary confinement and the title “The Cooler King.”

The first two acts of the story concentrate on the planning and details of tunnel construction.  The last part is the daring escape attempt itself when little goes as planned. With James Garner as a Scrounger, Charles Bronson as a Tunnel King, James Coburn as an Australian (!), Donald Pleasance as a Forger, and many other fine British character actors.  There are no female roles.

The film is almost three hours long but I’ve never felt it dragged at all.  POW and heist movies are a favorite of mind – I think because I enjoy learning the mechanics of complicated schemes. This was my introduction to McQueen, Coburn, and Bronson long before I knew they were super-cool.  I just liked them.  The whole thing works beautifully. The adventure is given the perfect underpinning with the iconic Elmer Bernstein score.

The Great Escape was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing.

The House Is Black (1963)

The House Is Black (Khaneh siah ast)
Directed by Forugh Farrokhzad
Written by Forugh Farrokhzad
1963/Iran
Studio Golestan
First viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

 

Narrator: I said, if I had wings of a dove I would fly away and be at rest. I would go far away and take refuge in the desert. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. For I have seen misery and wickedness on Earth.

This short documentary about people in an Iranian leper colony melds life’s tragedy and God’s love.

Images of people and their daily activities are accompanied by Farrokhzad’s poetry and what I assume are verses from the Koran.  There is a continual stream of gratitude and praise of God accompanying people doing their best to get along.

This could have been just another in a series of 1963 downers provided by the List. Instead, I found it inspiring and thought-provoking.  It’s not an easy film to watch but is a worthwhile experience.

Clip

 

Scorpio Rising (1963)

Scorpio Rising
Directed by Kenneth Anger
Written by Ernest B. Glucksman
1963/USA
Puck Film Productions
First viewing/YouTube
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

 

[on unemployed filmmakers] It seems much easier for these people to rent my films, look at them and make notes, than to give them a job. — Kenneth Anger

By far the best part of this gay-Nazi-biker experimental short is the music.

Filmmaker Kenneth Anger made friends with some Brooklyn bikers and made this homo-erotic film.  The bikers are shown fondling their bikes, provocatively dressing up in leather, and indulging in “party games”.  There’s a lot of flashy cutting between these images and such things as a Lutheran Sunday School movie about the life of Christ.

Along with the film, there is a version with Kenneth Anger’s commentary on YouTube.  I thought this was more interesting than the film itself.  In it, the director claims that these guys came up with all this stuff themselves.  He also implies that they did this in front of their girlfriends.  I don’t believe it for a minute.  On the other hand, the whole thing is accompanied by some great, lively hit songs of the early sixties.  That’s the part I liked. Oh, and it’s less than half an hour long.  Certainly missable.

The Nutty Professor (1963)

The Nutty Professor
Directed by Jerry Lewis
Written by Jerry Lewis and Bill Richmond
1963/USA
Paramount Pictures
Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Dr. Hamius R. Warfield: Kelp, it’s human nature. Kelp, people just don’t like teachers blowing up their kids!

I was not amused.

Despite the fact that he is a moron, Dr. Julius Kreb (Jerry Lewis) is a genius chemistry professor and beloved of all his students.  Beautiful Stella Purdy (Stella Stevens) takes a special interest in him and he in her.  Kreb decides that he needs to boost his sex appeal. Since the gym is not for him, he searches for a chemical solution.

Eventually, he stumbles across a formula that tranforms him into the swinging but obnoxious lounge singer Buddy Love.  Stella is both strangely attracted and repelled by his creation.  And Love transforms back into Kreb at the most awkward moments …

The running time of The Nutty Professor gave me ample time to analyze why I can’t stand Jerry Lewis.  I think it’s basically that his persona is of an infantile idiot.  All comedians play the fool but Lewis takes it that one step further into imbecility.  Bud Abbott strikes me the same way.  I like my comedians clever but eccentric.  The one positive about this movie is there is no food humor, which features prominently in some of his films I like even less.

Trailer