Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Written by Michelangelo Antonioni and Tonino Guerra
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.
Directed by Orson Welles
Written by Orson Welles; adapted by Pierre Cholot from the novel by Franz Kafka
Paris-Europa Productions/Hisa-Film/Finaciaria Cinematografica Italia
First viewing/Netflix rental
Hastler: Do you think you can persuade the court that you’re not responsible by reason of lunacy?
Joseph K.: I think that’s what the court wants me to believe. Yes, that’s the conspiracy: to persuade us all that the whole world is crazy, formless, meaningless, absurd. That’s the dirty game. So I’ve lost my case. What of it? You, you’re losing too. It’s all lost, lost. So what? Does that sentence the entire universe to lunacy?
How did I wait so long to see one of Orson Welles’ best movies and one of Anthony Perkins’ great performances?
The “plot” takes the shape and logic of a nightmare. As the movie begins, detectives burst into Joseph K’s (Perkins) room and arrest him. They refuse to reveal the charges. K spends the rest of the film trying to discover what he is supposedly guilty of and to defend himself against a fathomless system seemingly bent on convicting – perhaps killing – him.
Along the way K. encounters a number of women, many of whom seem ready to bed him, but none of whom offer any comfort. The first of these is K’s boarding house neighbor played by Jeanne Moreau. Eventually K. finds himself a defense attorney named Hastler (Welles). But his advocate seems to be as out to get him as his prosecutors.
This is a gorgeous film and Perkins is brilliant in it. I think Welles captures Kafka’s story as well as anyone could have. It is both a condemnation of the legal system and a despairing reflection on man’s life here below. Recommended.
Mutiny on the Bounty
Directed by Lewis Milestone
Written by Charles Lederer from the novel by Charles Norhoff and James Norman Hall
First viewing/Netflix rental
Fletcher Christian: [to Captain Bligh] You remarkable pig. You can thank whatever pig god you pray to that you haven’t turned me into a murderer.
Give me the Clark Gable-Charles Laughton version any day.
The story should be familiar to most of my readers. The HMS Bounty sets sail for Tahiti to collect breadfruit plants for cultivation as a food staple in the Caribbean colonies under the sadistic Captain Bligh (Trevor Howard). His second in command is the (in this version) effete Mr. Fletcher Christian (Marlon Brando). At first, Christian turns a blind eye to the Bligh’s cruel treatment and brutal punishment of the crew.
After a horrible voyage, including near sinking when Bligh tries to round Cape Horn, officers and crew spend an idyllic couple of months in Tahiti while collecting breadfruit plants. Christian has a love affair with the daughter of the chief.
On the return voyage, Bligh decides to ration water to the breadfruit rather than the men and the crew is moved to mutiny. Christian finally is spurred to action. He spares Bligh, who vows vengeance as he departs with some loyal crew on a long boat. The rest of the film covers the mutineers’ careers as international fugitives from justice. With Richard Harris as the most vocal of the mutineers.
This movie is over three hours long and I watched it in two parts over consecutive days. It dragged badly for me. I though it could have been improved by losing over half an hour of its running time. The second problem for me was Marlon Brando’s performance. Christian is supposed to be the hero and Brando’s prissy take on his character made him quite unappealing. Give me back my Clark Gable! Trevor Howard is very good and even less likeable than Charles Laughton in the same role.
Mutiny on the Bounty was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Picture; Best Cinematography, Color; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color; Best Film Editing; Best Effects, Special Effects; Best Music, Original Song (“Love Song from Mutiny on the Bounty” (Follow Me)); and Best Music, Score – Substantially Original.
Directed by Hubert Cornfield
Written by Hubert Cornfield and S. Lee Pogostin from a short story by Robert M. Lindner
Stanley Kramer Productions
First viewing/Amazon Prime
Doctor: For although psychopaths are a small minority, it seems significant that whenever organized and militant hate exist a psychopath is the leader, and if, for instance, one hundred disgruntled and frustrated individuals fall in line behind one psychopath then, in essence, we are concerned with the actions of one hundred and one psychopaths.
I don’t know what is more heavy-handed in this movie, the race relations part or the Freudian psychology part.
The story is framed by a conversation between a grey-haired prison head of psychiatry, known only in the movie as “Doctor” (Sidney Portier) and a young psychiatrist played by Peter Falk. The young psychiatrist wants to quit treating a severely racist black inmate. The Doctor talks him out of this by relating the story of his treatment of a severely racist white inmate, known in the movie only as “Patient” (Bobby Darin), twenty years before.
The rest of the story explores the relationship between the Doctor and Patient, with copious flashbacks via hypnosis sequences and otherwise of the Patient’s sad childhood and psychopathic youth and adulthood. These include the Patient’s ardent support of the German-American Bund, a pre-war White Supremacist organization. There are plenty of racist tirades as well.
Stanley Kramer was a vocal supporter of many liberal causes, all of which I endorse. However, I have found that he usually drives his points home with the subtlety of a jackhammer. This movie was no exception. In fact, it was the most irritating of those I have seen to date. I seem to disagree with the raters on IMDb on this so your mileage may vary.
All Fall Down
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Written by William Inge from a novel by James Leo Herlihy
John Houseman Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant
Berry-Berry Willart: How do you know I’m not some dangerous maniac that goes around killing beautiful women like you?
Mrs. Mandel: [Slight pause, then chuckles coyly] Well, in that case, I won’t have to take a sleeping pill tonight.
I took quite a liking to this black comedy/coming-of-age story, largely because of the wonderful cast and acting.
As the film begins, teenager Clint Willart (Brandon de Wilde) is taking a bus to Florida with $200 of his hard-earned cash to set up his idol, brother Berry-Berry (Warren Beatty), up in business. When he gets there, he needs the money to bail his brother out of jail, where he has landed for beating up a stripper. Berry-Berry is a babe-magnet who has no difficulty quickly landing a rich woman with the cash to finance him for the foreseeable future and send Clint back to his parents .
Clint returns to Ohio to his very odd household. Every member shares a kind of hero-worship for old Berry-Berry. But parents Ralph (Karl Malden) and Annabell (Angela Lansbury) are also deluded in many, many other ways. Shortly, they receive a visit from the quirky old-maid daughter of one of Annabell’s friends, Echo O’Brien (Eva-Marie Saint). It is love at first sight for Clinton.
Unfortunately for everybody concerned, Berry-Berry decides to make it a brief family reunion for Christmas. Inevitably, Echo falls for him – hard.
I was enjoying this just to watch Lansbury and Malden’s fun performances as the Willarts but it grew in depth toward the end until it captured my heart. The main draw is the writing and characters, though. They are unlike anything I have really seen before. The movie looks beautiful too. Recommended.
Trailer – this is a promotion for Beatty but he has far less screen time than de Wilde
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell from the story by Edgar Allen Poe
Roger Corman Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental
Guy Carrell: Can you possibly conceive it? The unendurable oppression of the lungs, the stifling fumes of the earth, the rigid embrace of the coffin, the blackness of absolute night and the silence, like an overwhelming sea.
Took a horror film out of sequence in celebration of Halloween. It could have been scarier.
As the movie starts, Guy Carrell (Ray Milland) witnesses a grave robbery. The coffin has scratch marks from the inside. This traumatic event causes Guy to obsess on the death of his own father from catalepsy and conviction that he was buried alive. Sister Catherine (Heather Angel) assures him that this is not true but he is not comforted. Guy begins a morbid quest to insure that he is not the victim of his father’s fate.
In the meantime, he marries the much younger Emily (Hazel Court). When Guy starts seeing things, Emily gives him an ultimatum. It’s his foolproof burial chamber or her …
This is Roger Corman in his gothic mode with Ray Milland subbing for Vincent Price. I like Milland but I felt like he was over-acting, odd since I enjoy Price’s hamming. There are quite a few built-in scares and jump shots toward the end but nothing that got to me. Corman does make an Ozu-like (well, sort of) use of the color red which I found interesting.
My favorite part was to see Milland and Heather Angel together again after 25 years. She was Phyllis to his Bulldog Drummond in Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937). Milland made one of the better Bulldogs in the series and she was always good as his long-suffering fiancee.
Antoine and Colette (Antoine et Colette)
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Written by Francois Truffaut
Les Films du Carrosse
“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say.” ― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
Truffaut sustains the charm of The Four Hundred Blows in this short follow-up.
Having survived his childhood, seventeen-year-old Antoine Donel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) has achieved his dream of living independently. He has a job at a recording company that provides him with lots of free tickets to concerts. He spots a girl who attends the same concerts and eventually strikes up a friendship. He wants more but she is taking her time deciding what she wants.
Poor Antoine can’t catch a break! Even so, this charming film about the ups and downs of first love kept me smiling all the way through. There is an interesting sequence when Antoine demonstrates how phonograph records were made by hand in the olden days. The film is about 30 minutes long. Recommended.
Antoine and Colette was one of five films in a compilation of films of five nations called Love at 20. I wish I could find the whole compilation on line somewhere.
Ride the High Country
Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Written by N.B. Stone Jr.
First viewing/Netflix rental
Steve Judd: All I want is to enter my house justified.
Two classic actors go mano-a-mano amid some stunning autumn scenery in this enjoyable Western.
Steve Judd (Joel McCrea) is an aging ex-gunslinger and marshal who is now taking any job he can get. His current assignment is to guard a shipment of gold coming out of a mine in the high country. He knows he cannot do this alone and enlists the help of his old friend Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott) and Westrum’s protege, Heck Longtree. We know from the beginning that Westrum’s plan is to divert the gold to the three “guards” or simply share it with Heck if Steve will not cooperate.
On their way to the mine, the men meet young Elsa Knudsen (Mariette Hartley) who is chafing under the fundamentalist rule of her father. Although Heck immediately takes a hankering to Elsa she considers herself engaged to one of the miners. She runs away from home to join the three men thereafter.
Elsa’s miner has some unpleasant surprises up his sleeve and she winds up in need of protection. In addition, Steve is not a cooperative sort of guy. The rest of the story follows the trip home with the gold and Elsa in tow.
I am always leery when starting a Peckinpah film but I liked this one a lot. I had a tear in my eye at the end. My readers who have seen this will know why. Recommended to fans of Westerns or the actors.
This was Randolph Scott’s final film. McCrea also retired at the time but was lured back for a few more films later. It was Mariette Hartley’s big screen debut.
Ivan’s Childhood (Ivanovo detstvo)
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Written by Vladimir Bogomolov and Mikhail Papava from Bogomolov’s story
Mosfilm/Trete Tvorcheskoe Obedinenie
First viewing/Netflix rental
Ivan’s Mother: If a well is really deep, you can see a star down there even in the middle of a sunny day.
Loved it for the images but the story dragged.
As the film begins, the twelve-year-old Ivan is blissfully exploring nature. He learns about the star at the bottom of a well when gunfire breaks out. He awakens from his dream and makes his way across the Volga. There he stops at the nearest Soviet post and demands that the officer inform the High Command of his arrival. He refuses to answer any questions about his identity whatsoever. The skeptical officer finally gives in and Ivan is taken to the Command where we learn that he is a valuable scout and loved by his adult colleagues. They want to send him to the rear to study at the military institute but the defiant Ivan is interested only in vengeance.
The rest of the movie rather confusingly covers various episodes covering a few days in the lives of these people. Ivan continues to dream sporadically while preparing for his next mission.
There are some unforgettable images and sequences in this movie. The clip shows one of the best, though I wanted to smack that officer. I think we were supposed to see him as manly. My husband and I both thought the story became very repetitive. In addition, I couldn’t quite grasp the military strategy underlying the whole thing. In other words, it is an impressive feature film debut for Tarkovsky but not something I will need to see again.
Experiment in Terror
Directed by Blake Edwards
Written by Gordon and Mildred Gordon from their novel
First viewing/Amazon Instant
“See now the power of truth; the same experiment which at first glance seemed to show one thing, when more carefully examined, assures us of the contrary.” ― Galileo Galilei, Discorsi E Dimostrazioni Matematiche: Intorno a Due Nuoue Scienze, Attenenti Alla Mecanica & I Movimenti Locali
This very good thriller might have been great.
Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick) is a bank teller. She lives alone with her teenage sister Toby (Stefanie Powers). As the movie begins, she is grabbed from behind in her own garage. A sinister asthmatic tells her that if she does not steal $100,000 from her bank for him, he will kill her and/or her sister. She does not see the asthmatic’s face. He seems to know everything there is to know about her and her schedule.
But Kelly is not about to steal the money and finally manages to contact the FBI, which puts agent John Ripley (Glenn Ford) on the case. The rest of the movie moves briskly along to D-Day when we learn whether good or evil will prevail.
This is quite an enjoyable thriller. I find I like about anything Lee Remick is in. I had higher hopes for the picture though. It would have been more suspenseful if the FBI had been a little sloppier or the culprit a little bit smarter. No one did these stories like Hitchcock or ever will. Still recommended if the plot appeals.