Tears on the Lion’s Mane (AKA “A Flame at the Pier”) (Namida o shishi no tategami ni)
Directed by Masuhiro Shinoda
Written by Ichiro Mizunuma, Masuhiro Shinoda, Shuji Terayama
The fall of the Berlin Wall makes for nice pictures. But it all started in the shipyards. Lech Walesa
For me, there seems to be a real cultural disconnect that prevents me from understanding Shinoda’s films. Here is another very dark, sex-fueled expose of corruption in the Japanese shipping industry.
Super-cool some-time rock singer Saburo Murakami is the right hand man to a man living off graft on the docks. His main occupation is as a strike breaker. The boss man has convinced Saburo that he saved him from fire-bombing as a toddler and thus owes him his life. Between beating up people, Saburo just happens to fall in love with the cute daughter of one of the union organizers.
Of course, the organizer has to be Saburo’s next target. Heartbreak ensues.
I can’t quite put my finger on it but there was a vibe in 60’s Japan that just does not compute with me. A lot of what the people do in these films is clearly meant to be “cool” but simply baffles me. I keep watching them but wish they were more like the older generation of film makers I love so much.
Sweet Bird of Youth
Directed by Richard Brooks
Written by Richard Brooks from a play by Tennessee Williams
Roxbury Productions Inc.
First viewing/Netflix rental
Alexandra Del Lago: No. No, I must look hideous in it.
Chance Wayne: Oh, no, honey. You just look exotic. Yeah. Like a princess from Mars or a… big magnified insect.
I’ve loved many movies based on Tennessee Williams plays. Unfortunately, his crazy lady plot had run out of steam long before 1962.
Chance Wayne (Paul Newman) drifts back into his home town with washed-up movie star Alexandra del Lago (Geraldine Page) in tow. She is deeply into the sauce and assorted controlled substances and when she comes to she has little memory of how she got there. Chance’s plan is to blackmail Alexandra into giving him a boost toward his own dream of movie stardom.
Alexandra may be a drunk but she is nobody’s fool and things backfire badly on Chance. In the meantime, Chance’s reappearance gives “Boss” Finley, the most powerful man in town, a chance to get vengeance on the drifter for trifling with his daughter (Shirley Knight).
One of the things that throws the film off from the get go is that Page is supposed to be an aging movie star and Paul Newman a much younger man. Trouble is that Page was only a year older than Newman and they looked like a perfect match sexually. More fundamentally, we’ve seen this story too many times before. Billy Wilder did it much better in Sunset Blvd. I think I had seen bits of pieces of this on TV before. I always lost interest before seeing the whole thing. Now that I have, I can see why.
Ed Begley won the Oscar for Best Actor in a supporting role. Geraldine Page was nominated for Best Actress and Shirley Night for Best Supporting Actress.
Billy Rose’s Jumbo
Directed by Charles Walters
Written by Sidney Shelton; book by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur
My romance doesn’t need a castle rising in Spain/ Or a dance to a constantly surprising refrain/ All at once I can make my most fantastic dreams come true/ My romance, doesn’t need a thing but you – lyrics by Lorenz Hart
It seems it is a challenge to make a good circus movie. This one does not break the genre’s losing streak.
Chronic gambler “Pop” Wonder (Jimmy Durante) owns a circus whose star attraction is the elephant Jumbo. His show-rider daughter Kitty (Doris Day) has to deal with the many bill collectors hounding the production.
One day Sam Rawlins (Stephen Boyd) shows up looking for work. It turns out he is a talented aerialist and Sam and Kitty quickly fall in love. Can the relationship work after Sam’s connection to a rival circus owner is revealed? With Martha Rae as Pop’s long-suffering fiancee.
One of the problems with circus movies is the need to show circus acts while at the same time including some kind of plot. This one also adds in a bunch of Rogers and Hart ballads to get through. All the elements are just OK and do not make a satisfying or coherent whole. Still, this is another movie I saw as a child. We had the soundtrack album on frequent rotation at our house. So it retains a little bit of magic for me.
Jumbo was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment.
The Inheritance (Karami-ai)
Directed by Misaki Kobayashi
Written by Koichi Inagaki from a novel by Norio Nanjo
Kikuo Furukawa: I’ve got a favor to ask. It’s embarrassing. But a coffin is waiting for me, so I can say this plainly. I don’t have any legally recognized children. But I do have children. To top it off, I’ve got three of them. Some may be dead. But there’s no way all three are dead. So I want you to find my children. I don’t mean to legally acknowledge them and their heirship right away. Some may have grown up to be scoundrels. But if any of them are suitable, I’d like to add them as heirs.
This lacks the gravitas of Kobayashi’s other 1962 film, Harikiri , but the imagery is equally beautiful.
Immensely wealthy Kikuo Furukawa is terminally ill and is trying to get his affairs in order before he dies. He decides to leave a third of his estate to his wife and the remainder to his three illegitimate children who have remained unacknowledged until now. If the children are not located he intends to leave their share to charity.
The story follows the search for the children. It is half-hearted at best as those close to the dying man want that money for themselves. With Tetsuya Nakadai as one of the money seekers.
I think Kobayashi is at his best when he has a grand theme to work with and I enjoy his period pieces the most (Harakiri, Samurai Rebellion). All the characters in this are unlikeable and there is a certain sameness to the proceedings. No one could fail to appreciate the exquisite compositions however.
Clip (credit sequence)
Reach for Glory
Directed by Philip Leacock
Written by Jun Kin, John Kohn and John Rae from Rae’s novel
War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace. THOMAS MANN, attributed, This I Believe
British schoolboys behave eerily like Hitler Youth as they dream of glory in WWII.
In a small English coastal town, home boys and evacuees from London and farther afield can hardly wait to be old enough to go off to war. In the meantime, they are drilled three times a week in use of firearms, etc. Unfortunately, the basic anti-Semitism of their parents hasn’t escaped them and bullies will be bullies even in wartime. The teens’ war games go tragically amiss.
This was an uncomfortable watch with few likable characters. Doesn’t make it a bad movie though.
Directed by Steve Previn
Written by Vernon Harris; original story by Robert A. Stemmle
Walt Disney Productions
My voice? Yeah, well, I used to drink a lot of beer when I was a kid and I sounded like a drunk in a choir. I don’t drink anymore. Eric Burdon
This is a fun family movie about the Vienna Boys Choir – more so if the family loves beautiful music.
The plot focuses on two boys. One is a working-class lad with great talent who is just starting out. The other is a star singer whose voice is beginning to change and must deal with the new guy getting all his best solos.
My mother took us to see this in the theater and I remember it to this day. The story is cute but it is the music that sells it now. I hope mom is hearing the angels sing it in heaven.
Jules and Jim
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Written by Francois Truffaut and Jean Gruault from a novel by Henri-Pierre Roche
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,
Sundays and Cybele (Les dimanches de Ville d’Avray)
Directed by Serge Bourgignon
Written by Serge Bourgignon and Antoine Tudal from a novel by Bernard Eschasseriaux
Fides/Les Films Trocadero/Orsay Films/Terra Film Produktion
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
“If we can forgive what has been done to us . . /. If we can forgive what we’ve done to others . . ./ If we can leave all of our stories behind. Our being villians or victims./ Only then can we maybe rescue the world. ― Chuck Palahniuk, Haunted
This is a beautifully shot movie but doesn’t really ring my bells.
Pierre (Hardy Krüger) has blocked out the memory of a bombing raid in Indochina that left a young girl dead. His amnesia for the event hasn’t made him any happier. One day, he sees a young girl (maybe 12?) being left off by her father at a convent school. The father promises to visit on Sundays but Pierre witnesses something that lets him know Dad won’t be coming back. So Pierre convinces the nuns he is the father and starts spending each Sunday with Francoise. Their afternoons together are idyllic.
But something about the relationship strikes other adults as creepy. Reality slowly intrudes its ugly head.
I’ve seen this twice now and it didn’t wow me either time. Something about it just drags for me. Your mileage may definitely vary.
Sundays and Cybele won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It was nominated in the categories of Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium and Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment.
The Grim Reaper (La comare seca)
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Written by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Sergio Citti
First viewing/Netflix rental
What you want from a movie when you begin it is 150,000 miles from what you reach at the end. Moviemaking is a process. You end with something different; that’s what gives it life. I cannot plan a film as a script or as a storyboard. I need the camera; I need the actors. I can’t do it on a desk. I need the reality to whisper to me. If you leave the door open to reality, the smell of reality is so strong, it adds so much. It attacks and enters and infiltrates, that’s what I enjoy. — Bernardo Bertolucci
Bertolucci didn’t make his name for murder mysteries. This is an OK one with an interesting premise.
The police (never shown on camera) are investigating the murder of a prostitute found dead in a Roman park. They question many people who were in the park at the time of the murder. We get the version of events given by the witness accompanied by shots of what the witness was actually doing. Most of what anyone tells the police is a lie.
The film covers the same time period several times with a sudden rainstorm and the prostitute’s preparations for work tying the pieces together.
This didn’t rock my world or anything. It’s an ingenious way of storytelling and there are some beautiful shots. Bertolucci was only 20 years old when he shot this film so we can cut him some slack.
Ben Mankiewicz intro
Light in the Piazza
Directed by Guy Green
Written by Julius J. Epstein, story by Elizabeth Spencer
First viewing/Amazon Instant
Meg Johnson: Nobody with a dream should come to Italy. No matter how dead and buried you think it is, in Italy, it will rise and walk again.
The scenery of Florence and the appeal of Olivia De Havilland rescue a most improbable tale.
Meg Johnson (De Havilland) and her 26-year-old daughter Clara (Yvette Mimeux) are on an extended holiday in Florence. Husband and father Noel (Barry Sullivan) remains in America making millions. Meg is very protective of Clara who has suffered brain damage. It is the kind of movie disease that preserves the sufferer’s beauty, speech and motor function. We are told Clara’s mentality is that of a 10 year old, though she also becomes fluent in Italian in nothing flat. Any way, the handsome and cultivated Fabrizio (George Hamilton) soon falls for Clara in a big way.
Clara is soon head-over-heels for Fabrizio and his wealthy family approves of her whole-heartedly. Meg is left with a dilemma. She tries to solve her problem by leaving Florence and calling her husband on an emergency basis to Rome. But Noel’s solution to the whole situation is to put Clara in an institution and there is no way Meg will agree to that. What to do? With Rosanno Brazzi as Fabrizio’s father.