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|6 reviews in total|
"They Met in the Dark" is like the first draft of a Hitchcock film,
before the better plotting, interesting camera-work, and Hitchcock wit
is added. In fact, it's a blend of "The 39 Steps" and "The Lady
Vanishes." With many of the same elements:
Man and woman meet during a mysterious incident. Check. They are forced to stay on the run together. Check. The "McGuffin" is a secret message about the military. Check. The secret is conveyed by a music hall entertainer. Check. The unlikely couple end up in love. Check.
It's interesting to see the difference between a perfectly fine movie and a great one. Hitchcock created striking lighting effects, innovative camera moves, and darker, more menacing threat.
"They Met in the Dark" is a perfectly charming diversion and a nice, little movie. But pales in comparison to the Hitchcock films of the same era.
I can't believe so many people have given this movie any stars. It's
both ridiculous and inept. So, where to begin?
The idea that France would annex Monaco is treated with the world-shaking importance of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's a spat about taxes. Hardly earth-shaking. Another crisis is whether Grace will return to Hollywood, beckoned by Hitchcock, to star in "Marnie." That movie was also a mess with Tippi Hedren and is certainly on the bottom of the Hitchcock oeuvre, alongside "Topaz". It would have been no better with Grace Kelly. The script meanders about with one poorly conceived scene after the next. None, even vaguely plausible. Do you think that people went around calling Rainier "Ray" and Grace "Gracie"? I think not.
As for Nicole Kidman, not for one minute does she look like Grace Kelly - or even seem to try. Kidman has red hair when Grace Kelly was one of the world's great blonds. Didn't anybody care? In addition, Kidman's face is as waxy as a polished dance floor. In endless, painful close-ups, Kidman looks like an ad for what can go wrong with too much Botox. She makes no effort to convey the famous Kelly, breathy speech pattern. And, while there are some beautiful gowns, her hair is simply unlike the way Princess Grace wore her hair. Real jewels from Cartier - with a nice product placement leaving the Paris store - can't make up for this plastic performance.
Tim Roth doesn't look like Rainier. Neither do the Onassis or Callas stand-ins. But why bother?
This is simply an insult to Monaco, to the memory of Le Princesse Grace, the craft of screen writing and the art of film making. This was jeered at its opening of the Cannes Film Festival. Rightfully so.
I had never even heard of "Bullets or Ballots" until I stumbled across
it on TCM. It's very crisply done with enough twists and turns to keep
you entertained. A first-rate performance by Edward G. Robinson with
fine supporting work by Bogart and others. I kept imagining it being
redone today. In some ways, it's "The Departed" of its time. And I kept
dreading that there was going to be a happy ending tagged on, but there
Definitely deserves to be seen. Despite the bad title:
The Rackets Revolver Two Way Street
Was this a play first? It feels like it. It's a virtually stage-bound
film that is barely opened up. Almost all of it is set in 3 locations.
Perhaps Hitchcock could have made this gripping - as he did in "Rear
Window" and "Rope" - but that doesn't work here.
In fact, Hitchcock might also have been interested in the "wrong man" aspect of this plot. But that is not developed here either. It's simply a drawing room murder mystery that is not really all that much of a murder mystery.
The performances aren't horrible, but nothing is really memorable. Ginger Rogers has the meatiest part, but doesn't make it to the league of Bette Davis' Margot Channing....but then who could?
The denouement - which, from the French means, "the untying of a knot" - is literally about a knot. But, again, one could see that coming a mile away. So, the movie ends with a thud.
Speaking of that, I wish the movie had ended with a thud. If the actual murderer had gone leaping off the much-discussed balcony overlooking Central Park, it would have been much more memorable.
I just saw the opening of "Wilde Salome" in San Francisco, with Al
Pacino there to give an introduction to the film. He described the
passion he felt when he first saw a staged version of "Salome," in
London years ago. He was riveted by the writing and wanted to meet the
author - before he realized that it had been written by Oscar Wilde.
That set him upon a journey to learn more about Wilde and the play
itself. In form, it's like, "Looking for Richard," his 1996 exploration
of Shakespeare's "Richard III."
What follows is a dissection of Wilde's "Salome" that cuts between a stage performance, the filming of that stage performance, filming in the desert to catch the feeling of Biblical life, and a documentary about Pacino's own exploration. While the film can seem a bit disjointed, it's actually a circular route that ends at the most dramatic parts of the play.
Pacino weaves in bits of Wilde's tempestuous private life and how it relates to the themes of the play. (I didn't know that his wife and children changed their last name to "Holland" after his jail sentence.) It includes visits to Wilde's London house and ultimately to the hotel room in Paris where he died - and where he famously said on his deathbed, "Either the wallpaper goes or I go."
The performance of the play itself is anchored by the Salome of Jessica Chastain, in her first film role. Pacino said that he would not have made the movie without her. And one can see why; it's an electric performance filled with passion, coquettishness, raw sexuality, and evil. After Herod promises Salome whatever she wants in return for dancing for him, he is shocked when she demands the head of John the Baptist. Pacino's King Herod then promises her peacocks, jewels, and titles. But Chastain's Salome never wavers in her vengeful demand. She had been spurned by John the Baptist and she is determined to win - at all costs.
But, ultimately, this is Pacino's story. I felt that it was a bit of a vanity project because Pacino overwhelms both the play and Wilde. He is an over-the-top performer and an over-the-top personality. He pulses with passion, fire, frustration, humor, and intellectual curiosity. One can either marvel at his intensity or be irritated by it. At times, he seems to be a caricature of himself - the bellowing Al Pacino of "The Devil's Advocate."
"Wilde Salome" is an enlightening journey into the world of Wilde, acting, preparation, directing - and the art of being Al Pacino.
Being in advertising, I was, of course, fascinated by the premiere of
"Mad Men." It's beautifully shot, written, and acted. It's sort of the
dark side of those Rock Hudson/Doris Day movies that were set in an ad
agency or "Bewitched" - one can almost imagine Darren Stevens walking
into one of the meetings. But, there were a few mistakes:
1) When the new secretary first sees her desk, an IBM Selectric typewriter is shown. However, the Selectric was not introduced until 1961 and the show is set in 1960.
2) When Draper discusses the research document that was stolen, he says that there is no "magical machine that makes copies." That's a joke about Xerox machines. However, the Xerox machine was introduced in 1959 and he would have known about it by 1960.
3) When discussing doing political ads, the candidate is described as a "handsome, Navy hero," which leads one to think they are going to say Kennedy. The joke is, they say Nixon instead. In fact, no one would have referred to Nixon as handsome or as a Navy hero. While he had a decent Navy career (http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/ faq60-8.htm) Nixon was not a Navy hero. He was best known as Vice-President.
4) When Draper brainstorms and comes up with, "It's toasted," he's 40 years too late. That slogan was introduced in 1917 to indicate that the tobacco was sun-dried rather than air-dried. I was surprised that no one mentioned "L.S.M.F.T." That meant, "Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco" and had been a famous Lucky Strike slogan for years.
5) The department store that "shared a wall with Tiffany's" was Bonwit Teller - at least on the Fifth Avenue side. It was, in fact, run by a woman - Hortense McQuarrie Odlum. In 1938, she became the first woman to be president of a major department store. But she wasn't running the store in 1960.
Still, a great show!