Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Cleo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7)
Directed by Agnes Varda
Written by Agnes Varda
1962/France/Italy
Cine Tamaris/Rome Paris Films
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell

The second time around seemed much funnier than the first but just as satisfying.

Cleo (Corrine Marchand) is a beautiful up-and-coming pop singer.  On this particular day, she is waiting to find out the results of medical tests that may show she has cancer.  The story plays out in almost real time over the last two hours before she is to get hold of her doctor.  Starting with a fortune teller, all signs point toward illness and death.  Cleo spends part of her remaining time making frivolous purchases, complaining, and otherwise indulging her ego and other vices.

Finally, she is so worried and fed up that she yanks off her hair piece, changes clothes, and heads off to see a girl friend.  The friend drops Cleo off in a park where she meets up with a young soldier who, though about to go off to war himself, is content to hear about the troubles of his new acquaintance.

I just love the sly way that Varda plays with expectations in this film!  I also liked the expose of the utter silliness that lies behind much feminine glamor and beauty.  I kept yelling at Cleo to do something about her hair.  When she did, my heart soared.  Another plus is the Michel LeGrand score.  I highly recommend this movie which puts the “new” in New Wave.

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L’Eclisse (1962)

L’Eclisse
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Written by Michelangelo Antonioni and Tonino Guerra
1962/Italy/France
Cineriz/Interopa Film/Paris Film
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Piero: I feel like I’m in a foreign country.

Vittoria: Funny. That’s how I feel around you.

In which the “modern” dilemma seems to be an inability to articulate one’s reasons.

The setting is Rome.  As the story begins, Vittoria (Monica Vitti) is attempting to break up with her fiance Ricardo.  The scene is absolutely packed with pregnant pauses as Vittoria is determined to leave but cannot explain the necessity for doing so.  She only knows it is over.  She goes to the stock market to announce her decision to her mother, an investor, but mom is caught up in the frenzied buying and selling and Vittoria sadly cannot get through to her.  Here we briefly meet Piero (Alain Delon), the mother’s broker, who is also totally obsessed with the game.  Vittoria later fails to get any comfort from her girlfriends.

At lose ends, Vittoria allows Piero to pursue her.  Brief surrender to a love affair with the materialist can hardly satisfy her restlessness.

Using mostly non-verbal cues Antonioni perfectly captures the disgust and confusion of a chic young woman.  The process is interesting and beautiful but the film left me with an empty feeling and I doubt I will be watching it again.

Restoration Trailer

The Exterminating Angel (1962)

The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador)
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Written by Luis Buñuel and Luis Alcoriza
1962/Mexico
Producciones Gustavo Alatriste
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rita Ugalde: I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.

What does it all add up to?  I don’t know but the images are unforgettable.

After an opera performance, the wealthy Edmundo and Lucia Nobile invite 20 of their closest friends to a midnight supper.  What they don’t know is that their many servants are, one by one, feeling compelled to take the night off.  By the time dinner is served, the only remaining servant is the butler.

Dinner finished, it is now high time for everyone to go home.  But all find it impossible to leave the dining room.  They fall asleep on the floor and assorted sofas.  The next day they eat leftovers but after that food and water run out, moods worsen, and these cultivated people descend into savagery.

Buñuel was one of the original surrealists and well knew how to create a true nightmare world.  From the beginning, when scenes repeat themselves over and over, to the end nothing is explained.  The inability to leave the room is almost like a dream from which the sleeper cannot seem to awaken.  Of course, Buñuel indulges in his favorite pastime of taking both the upper class and, eventually, the Church down a peg.  I like this movie though it is not one I will return to on a regular basis.

American re-release trailer

Mondo Cane (1962)

Mondo Cane
Directed by Paolo Cavera, Gualtiero Jacopetti, and Franco Prosperi
Written by Paolo Cavera and Gualtiero Jacopetti
1962/Italy
Cineriz
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

“What we don’t understand we can make mean anything.” ― Chuck Palahniuk

Time and experience have made this shockumentary much less shocking.

This film contrasts “bizarre” behavior of primitive tribes with equally “bizarre” behavior of Western Europeans.  The ultimate message seems to be that humans are pretty disgusting.

Much of the primitive footage comes from Papua New Guinea, where I lived for three years.  The customs are indeed very different from our own but familiarity has made the people seem like just folks doing things the way they have always been done.  One of the problems that I have with the film is that the narrative provides a lot of the shocks.  The footage allows for a number of interpretations of which the film makers select the most “disgusting”.

I definitely could have died without seeing this once, let alone twice.

Mondo Cane was nominated for Best Music, Original Song for the song “More.”

Trailer

Frank Sinatra sings “More”- audio only

Jules and Jim (1962)

Jules and Jim
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Written by Francois Truffaut and Jean Gruault from a novel by Henri-Pierre Roche
1962/France
Les Films du Carrosse/Sedif Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

 

Catherine: You said, “I love you,” I said, “Wait.” I was going to say, “Take me,” you said, “Go away.”

This classic so perfectly captures the exhilaration of love and youth that I am always surprised when things turn sour.

The film is set in the teens of the last century.  Austrian Jules (Oskar Werner) and Parisian Jim (Henri Serre) are introduced and immediately become fast friends. Jim is more of the ladies man of the two but eventually Jules finds himself a lady friend.  All bets are off when Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) comes along on a blind date.  Now all three of them are besties but it is Jules that becomes her lover.

Catherine is the ultimate free spirit and is not easily tied down.  There is a definite attraction between her and Jim as well.  WWI intervenes with the two men fighting on opposite sides.  Their principal worry is not killing each other.  After the war, the friends are reunited. Jules wants to marry and Catherine makes an approach to Jim.  Signals are crossed and the wedding goes forward, producing a daughter.

Catherine continues to be restless, leading to tragic complications.

I first saw this one at exactly the age when I thought Catherine was the epitome of everything a young woman should be.  Now she strikes me as selfish.  At any rate, the spirit of the thing is completely infectious.  The camera work is audacious and fun.  This is my favorite of Truffaut’s films.  Highly recommended.

The Criterion contains two excellent commentaries – one by various crewmembers and the other a conversation between Jeanne Moreau and a film scholar.  Someone remarked that it would be impossible to make the same story now without a hint of ambiguity in the relationship between the two men,

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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Man Who Shot Liberty ValanceDirected by John Ford
Written by James Warner Beliah and Willis Goldbeck from a story by Dorothy M. Johnson
1962/USA
Paramount Pictures/John Ford Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Jason Tully: Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance.

John Ford delivers another classic Western late in his illustrious career.

The story is framed by the visit of Senator Rance Stoddard (James Stewart) and wife Hallie (Vera Miles) to Shinbone for the funeral of their old friend Tom Doniphon (John Wayne).  The Senator is big news wherever he goes and the local newspaper editor demands to know why he is in town.  So begins the story in flashback starting when Rance arrived in town, a law book in his hand, many years ago.

Before Rance even arrived, he was robbed, humiliated and left for dead by the outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).  He is nursed back to health by Hallie and her family.  He vows to see Liberty jailed.  Tom informs him that a gun is the only effective way of dealing with this very bad man.

The rest of the movie follows the love triangle between Rance, Tom and Hallie and the conflict between Rance and Liberty.  With Andy Devine as a cowardly marshall, Edmund O’Brien as the former newspaper editor, Lee Van Cleef as Liberty’s sidekick, and a host of Ford regulars.

When two giants like Wayne and Stewart occupy the same screen, you’re bound to get something at least interesting.  Ford makes the movie also meaningful and beautiful.

This one is more intimate than Ford’s other Westerns and I missed the director’s classic desert vistas.  It explores the fact v. legend motif first introduced in Fort Apache (1948).  The acting is all first-rate.  I’d be interested in knowing why the song and its music were not used in the film.  Recommended.

Edith Head was nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White.

The missing theme song, sung by Gene Pitney and set to stills from the film

My Life to Live (1962)

My Life to Live (Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Written by Jean-Luc Godard and Marcel Sacotte from the book by Sacotte
1962/France
Les Films de la Pleiade/Pathe Consortium Cinema
First viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Nana: The more one talks, the less the words mean.

Despite a luminous performance by Anna Karina, I have not overcome my aversion to Godard.

The story consists of twelve tableaux or vignettes outlining the descent of Nana (Karina) from shop girl and wanna-be actress to prostitute.  As the film begins, Nana is discussing their breakup with her ex-husband or ex-boyfriend.  Evidentally, there was a child involved, who is no longer in Nana’s life. Next we observe Nana’s attempts to cadge loans and her boring work-a-day existence.

She is ripe for a new trade and seems to have a knack for it.  Unfortunately, she soon turns to a pimp in hopes of higher rewards.

There’s nothing wrong with the story or the acting.  The initial conversation is shot with the actors’ backs to the camera and already I was pretty irritated with this movie.  The middle part is OK but the penultimate tableaux consists of an interminable pretentious conversation about philosophy and I was annoyed again.  Godard is just not for me.

 

Lolita (1962)

Lolita
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Vladimir Nabokov from his novel (Stanley Kubrick and James B. Harris uncredited)
1962/UK/USA
A.A. Productions Ltd./Anya/Harris-Kubrick Productions/Transworld Pictures
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Lolita Haze: ‘Fraid someone’s gonna steal your ideas and sell ’em to Hollywood, huh?

The novel is indeed unfilmable but Kubrick makes an excellent first foray into black comedy.

Suave erudite European Humbert Humbert (James Mason) has a thing about young girls for reasons unexplained in this movie.  He has come to America to teach at a college and plans to spend the preceding summer at a resort in Maine.  He is looking to rent a room when he meets up with vulgar pathetic landlady Charlotte Haze (Shelley Winters).  He is ready to bow out when he catches a glimpse of her blonde 16-year-old daughter Lolita (Sue Lyons) in the garden.

Charlotte is smitten with Humbert and views Lolita as an impediment to alone time.  When she gets Lolita out of the way by sending her to camp, she declares her love.  Humbert, eager for a convenient step-daughter, marries her.

The rest of the film follows Humbert’s trials and tribulations with his “little girl”.  With Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty.

“We had been everywhere. We had really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night — every night, every night — the moment I feigned sleep.” ― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Lolita is one of my very favorite novels and I have read it more times than I have seen the movie.  There is no way any film could capture it.  Not because of the subject matter, but because of the ineffable blend of black comedy with tragedy and because at heart it is a love letter to the English language.  For some reason, Nabokov’s screenplay was also gutted  The film weakens the pathos by making Lolita a teenager, rather than the 12-year-old of the novel.

That said, Kubrick made a superb comedy on his first attempt.  There are some really stunning shots here as well.  The performances are all wonderful.  I can’t imagine anyone else in the roles, though Jeremy Irons did well in the 1997 remake.

Nabokov was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.  I see that Nabokov’s actual screenplay is available on Amazon.  I look forward to reading it!

Trailer

An Autumn Afternoon (1962)

An Autumn Afternoon
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Written by Kogo Noda and Yasujiro Ozu
1962/Japan
Shochiku Eiga
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Shuhei Hirayama: [to himself, last lines] Alone, eh?

Sensei, why did you have to leave us so soon?

Ozu again explores his classic reluctant bride plot.  Shuhei Hirayama (Chishu Ryu) is a widower with a 24-year-old daughter who keeps house for him and a somewhat younger son.  He is perfectly content with this arrangement but his friends think it is time for his daughter to marry.  One of them has a prospect for her.

Daughter Michiko believes her father cannot get along without her and dad thinks she may be right.  The example of his drunken former teacher and his long-suffering spinster daughter changes Shuhei’s mind.

This is often-cited as a remake of Late Spring but the tone is entirely different.  The main difference is in the amount of humor.  Shohei and his various cronies can be pretty hilarious.

As usual, the “plot” is not the thing with Ozu.  Among the themes explored are loss, loneliness, the inevitability of change, the generation gap and transition in post-War Japan. The color cinematography and composition is exquisite.  The film is a slow burn that left me in tears after all the chuckles.  Highly recommended.

This was Ozu’s final film.  He was only 60 when he died of a heart attack in 1963.  He left us with 55 films, most of them excellent and many of them masterpieces.  I will really miss my annual visit with the director as I continue my journey through the years.

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The Given Word (1962)

The Given Word (O pagador de promessas)
Directed by Anselmo Duarte
Written Anselmo Duarte based on a play by Dias Gomes
1962/Brazil
Cinedistri
First viewing/YouTube
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. — Robert Frost

This social commentary is sort of a  Brazilian version of Ace in the Hole.

Ze do Burro (“Donkey”Jack) is a simple farmer.  His beloved donkey is injured and will not stop bleeding.  Ze goes to a candombe ritual and promises their version of Saint Barbara that he will donate part of his land to the poor and carry a heavy cross seven leagues to her church if she will restore his animal to health.  The donkey survives and Ze tries to comply with his promises.  The first part is easy.

When Ze and his wife Rosa arrive in the city, it is nighttime and the church is closed.  Ze believes that he will have fulfilled his promise only if he carries the cross into the church. But when the church opens its priest, believing that candombe is Satanic and so is Ze, bars the doors to him.  Ze refuses to budge.  In the ensuing hours, Ze becomes the victim of a number of charletans and hack journalists, who eventually whip the crowd into a frenzy.  Rosa succumbs to the temptations of a city slicker.  Can Ze ever keep his promise?

“Christ” is thoroughly misunderstood by every facet of society from the Church to the revolutionaries this one.  It is a good movie but I felt it lacked focus somehow.  I really don’t have any more to say.

This is the only Brazilian film ever to have won the Palm d’Or at Cannes.  It was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language film.

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