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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
What about Al Bowlly?, 19 April 2001

Say What?


Or the Ray Noble Orchestra?

I feel any "User Comment" I may have about this film would be in vain given the hype and controversy surrounding the director, the book, etcetera, as this was written more for those who HAVE seen the film or are seeking other opinions by reading these reviews. I am largely annoyed with this film (I liked Kubrick's "Lolita" myself, much more!), but this picture does have some splendid, provocative, frightening images, and for these alone I would recommend this film, however, these have been discussed to death.

SO -

What about that lovely big Gold Room Dance? The incredible ambiance created by the elegant 1920's ghosts walking around that enormous airplane-hangar of a ballroom, the potted palms, the balloon clusters and sparkly streamers tacked beneath them? AND WHAT ABOUT THE SONGS?

Okay, when the soundtrack LP came out, I hastily ran out and bought it assuming the lovely lilting vocal which lures Jack Torrance into the Gold Room, and repeats again in full during the end credits, would be there.

It wasn't.

Instead, the song "Home" (which is indeed heard, only in the highly-reverbed background as Jack and Delbert Grady discuss things in the "Gentlemen's Room") was on the album, credited by an ersatz made-up name like "Henry Hall and the Gleneagles Hotel Band," or some such ludicrous thing, and the fact is, Warner Brothers just didn't credit Al Bowlly, the actual crooner who performed "Midnight, the Stars, and You" in 1934, nor the Ray Noble Orchestra which accompanies him. Perhaps "Home" was by a contemporary artist of the time, and recorded specifically for the picture, but I doubt it. This point aside, this music is what so sets the glittering vintage ambiance of the Ball, and it seems significant as it plays again at the very end and well into the end-titles. Yet no one acknowledges this. Why "THAT" song? I love it, but is there "a meaning" that has yet to be discussed or revealed?

It is almost as if this aspect of the picture is swept under the Gold Room Carpet, for every other little thing about "The Shining" has been analyzed with a finely-honed axe, except that wonderful song and its role in the picture. There are few if any who note it, care about it, or wonder why The Genius Called Kubrick doesn't acknowledge or even credit it anywhere, to my knowledge, at all. It establishes a mood and a presence as important as any other visual or music cue, and the director deemed it intriguing enough to repeat in the finale. The lyrics are relatively clear and audible, perhaps containing a message, perhaps not, and the lushness it conveys is palpable; that particular instrumentation just *IS* the Overlook Ballroom (muted horns, sax, saucy little high-hat cymbal-fox-trot rhythm, etc.).

I daren't pursue a "meaning," but please, note it when it plays. It wasn't just Source-Music (music pre-recorded by unknown studio orchestras and stashed in a vast music bank for use as MUZAK in restaurant and bar scenes in motion pictures), it was a real song, recorded by a real band. I will say this: as the film has it, the whole "July Fourth Ball" and the ghostly party and so on were supposed to have taken place in 1921, yet "Midnight" was recorded in February 1934, according to the liner notes on the compact disc it was finally released on.


3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Sappy, Senseless, One to Forget!, 27 March 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I must say after viewing this I only wanted the all-too-oft mentioned Kleenex(tm) box to *THROW* at the television.


Okay, Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr fall in love on a transatlantic cruise and though they are both bound by fiancees, they agree to meet in six months atop the Empire State Building.

Well, SOMETHING dreadful occurs offscreen to Miss Kerr (we only hear a shriek) and it is never sufficiently explained, one can assume she is paralyzed and unable to walk, but one would think she had been stricken with something terminal, from the odd way she is periodically hospitalized because she is "sick." Does she inform poor Cary, like any sensible person would do? NO, she keeps it from him, senselessly *ashamed* of her handicap. Lepers are more socially responsible than her character is, and rather than wonder if they will get back together in the latter portion of the film, I am left wondering if "handicapped," "disabled," or the by-today's-standards politically incorrect "crippled" was a Blacklisted Word by 1950's standards. At the very very end, Grant struggles to say it, but cannot! STUPID and senseless. The film nearly likens the mere glimpse of (gasp!) a wheelchair as though it were something shocking indeed. Kerr's character even meets up with Grant, well after the mystery-accident, and we KNOW they want to clear things up, but no! She simply can't. I hissed at the television in incredulous anger "What is the big d*mn DEAL?" A sensible person having been presumably plowed by a taxi would simply contact the other when possible and explain.

Wouldn't one?

However *this* character goes into some sort of odd funk in what must be a self-pride issue, needlessly heightened by the non-sequitor choruses of little children at a couple of points. This sudden pathos, indeed suggesting another director stepped in, shifts what might have been a tamer, light romantic comedy ala Doris & Rock into a guilt-ridden, dark pall.

Absolutely senseless.

Kerr's misappropriated shame makes this film incredibly annoying, and renders a somewhat tangible love-story into a true anamoly. I would only recommend this picture to loyal Grant/Kerr fans, not the casual observer. You will want to throw things...

Love Field (1992)
17 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Brilliant, beautiful, and moving..., 15 March 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My Stars, my "One line summary" sounds camp, but this picture was truly lovely and very moving for me.

I had seen it years ago, as I am a fan of anything involving period re-creations, but seeing it again recently moved me way past the perfect 1963 backgrounds and the Melmac cups in the kitchen cupboards...

This review may contain *spoilers*, so Viewer Beware.

Michelle Pfieffer portrays a woman obsessed with the glamour of the Kennedy family, particularly Jackie, and is thrilled to catch a glimpse of her as the First Couple arrive at Dallas Love Field Airport on November 22 of '63. Circumstances (humorous ones, at that, in the form of fabulously annoying character actress Peggy Rea) don't allow for her brush with celebrity, and of course the assassination crushes her. Her husband is less than sympathetic as she explains her need to attend the funeral. She escapes anyway, and catches a bus to Washington. She meets up with a black man and his young daughter (Dennis Haysbert and Stephanie McFadden) and the journey becomes very complicated indeed. Intrigue and mystery cloud his initial introduction, however Pfieffer's character is concerned for him, especially for the daughter's welfare. Soon the trio are entwined, and stubborn ethics keep them from abandoning one another. This is when they are suddenly on their own, and the story takes off.

Visually, the mixture is wonderful - the extremely "white" and VERY blonde Pfieffer, trying her hardest to look like Jackie even down to her home-made suits, and the curious "coloured man" and his silent, somewhat frightened daughter. Both actors are absolutely excellent as two individuals who become literal victims of their own time. There are the subtle vocal references to the child as "a coloured girl" by Pfieffer, who holds no prejudice but simply talks the way everyone else does; and then the stronger and much more "controversial" implications of the man and the woman and any kind of a relationship they may have, however shadowed by the mores of the early 60's, the confusion and upset the World is undergoing due to Kennedy's murder, and even the geographic locales they travel through.

We are reminded that Pfieffer's character is still a married, albeit unhappily, woman of principle, and that the mere sight of an interracial couple in that time would cause near hysterics - still we WANT them to overcome it all, and the fact that the very human need for love has to be compromised by the times is communicated intensely yet with enough restraint that the characters do not suffer being imbued with too much "foresight."

Stephanie McFadden as the 6-year-old daughter is incredible as well, her facial expressions saying so much more than the six or seven lines she speaks in the whole picture. Her poignant close ups drive the viewer to WILL her to understand, to see what is happening around her, comprehend it, see beyond it, but of course she cannot. Much of the story is this way, one wants to just clear away the limitations and the social ills and let them all BE. There are moments of tension (rednecks [they are even credited as such!] that pass the couple on the road and then come back to stir up trouble) balanced by those of palpable relief (a curious, inexpressive old woman and her retired husband, who take the three in for a night). This is sufficient to provide a realistic level of suspense, even angst, but it is the triumph of overcoming barriers, whether they are bad husbands who just don't know any better, or suspicious and bigoted backwoods policemen, that make for the emotions one experiences while watching.

This picture left me wondering who and where these brilliant people are, the writer, Don Roos, and dual-producers Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford, and particularly director Jonathan Kaplan. Why haven't we heard of these folks, and why wasn't this beautiful film hailed in 1992? Rarely, very rarely, have I seen a picture that left me wanting to personally congratulate the folks directly responsible for it!

Needless to say, but important to emphasize, production values shine in all forms, as the film contains some spectacular period-recreations of downtown Dallas and other townships, even down to the store-front displays and seas of vintage vehicles buzzing around (Oliver Stone eat your heart out!), and the shockingly realistic Love Field Airport scenes, complete with the obligatory Pink Nubbly Suit on an incredible Jackie K. look-alike, are stunning. The interiors, the magazines in the racks, everything, is spot on; and the photography is breathtaking, as unpicturesque as a bus in the middle of Nowhere, Virginia, may seem to be.

A splendid, highly recommended motion picture in ALL regards.

Multiple stars. Much praise!

Baffled in Minutes, 9 March 2001

The first forty minutes of this picture had me hooked - the obligatory De Palma-esque Mystery Woman in Peril, the unfolding, the pursuit and the following, the hallmark whirling-vortex Donaggio musical score - (so very "Dressed to Kill" and the obvious "Vertigo" acknowledgement) but then, as soon as the incredibly tangled plot begins to unwind, so does the viewer. I was left confused and unable to explain the plot mere minutes after watching it! I felt as though I had been tricked into understanding all the split hairs and nuances but found myself questioning them all as I rewound the tape and re-watched certain segments... Then there were the usual De Palma trademarks that get a bit tiresome: (A) Naked Ladies (B) Naked Ladies in the shower, with steam (C) Close ups of PARTS of Naked Ladies in the shower, with steam. Beyond that, as far as cinematography and humorous homages go, I loved it. The sense of being "roped in" is delicious: the mystery woman (a lovely Deborah Shelton) whom Jake (Craig Wasson) muses in spying on through a high-powered telescope, and eventually pursues after he witnesses, via the scope, a perfectly HORRIFYING hulking Indian character who seems to be stalking her; and the chases and near-misses that occur along the way. Yes, there is that obvious "Rear Window" thing going on too, but it's okay to see it again - it's familiar, and rather than think of it as a "rip-off" I just tried to see it as fun. All the pursuit sequences, particularly ones that merely involve walking and watching, made me very cozy - I admittedly was thinking "SO De Palma/Hitchcock," and not minding it at all. It is almost a given that anything De Palma does is a vigorous nod to Hitch, but what of it? He liked the guy. There is a dizzying follow-chase in broad daylight through a vast upscale metropolitan shopping mall, ending up on a brightly lit beach and though these are public venues, De Palma leaves one with the feeling NOBODY is around, and Jake is the Helpless Hero. The murder sequence is also quite riveting (no pun intended) as aforementioned horrifying-hulking-Indian character drills a woman to death most effectively. From that point on, I watched out of pure curiosity, but became lost in all the picture-within-a-picture metaphors - or perhaps I was just bored with them and didn't care to bend my brain around the plot elements at that point.

As far as the flagrant nudity, I was neither here not there with it, I suppose it made the voyeurism aspect all the more intriguing and erotic, but in fairness to the easy-on-the-eyes Craig Wasson, I was waiting for HIM to become topless. I thought he was adorable and very likeable - in fact, he seemed incredibly friendly and familiar to me, like some long-lost friend, and it wasn't until the end of the film I realized, to my disgust, he resembled a mere SOAP STAR (!!!) from the series "Days of Our Lives" which I fell prey to years ago (and since ditched).

I would recommend this film only for the pleasant camera work, visuals, mysterious and terrifying mystery-characters, and the physical sensation of suspense, but don't give in too much, "keep guessing," or try to hard to make sense of it all in the end...

Lolita (1997)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
If only the two could be combined!, 21 February 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I adore 1962's Lolita, and having just viewed the beautifully photographed and somewhat more serious-from-the-get-go 1997 version, my thought is, if only the two films were combined I would be thoroughly delighted.

Impossible as this is, I so enjoyed Shelley Winters as Charlotte Haze (1962), trying to win over the droll professor Humbert, who, of course, is drawn to board with her so as to be close to her lovely young daughter Lolita. Charming as James Mason played it in '62, Jeremy Irons won me over thoroughly as he seemed so genuine and so dastardly attractive, that I might be moved by him as well if I were 12 years old! In retrospect, Mason seemed almost too old. Irons also brings about a deeper sympathy for his Humbert in the same way Tony Perkins did for Norman in "Psycho." He is so adorable and sort of lost, that you've gotta like him! Sue Lyons also seemed too old, in the '62 version, yet her aloofness and dated teen-aged ways charmed me, as did her recurring "theme", which the '97 Lo (Dominique Swain) lacks.

The matter of the sinister Clare Quilty (Frank Langella) **POSSIBLE SPOILER!*** is dealt with in a much more harrowing manner in the later film, and adds genuine drama to the story (WHO is this person, WHY don't we see his face clearly, WHY is he always in the background, etc.), and he is a thousand times more ominous than Peter Sellers' goofy characterization of same in '62. As vulgar and frightening as Quilty is, I understand him and his motivations much better, and merely the fact that he is kept a dramatic secret until the latter part of the film is much more gratifying plot-wise. The back and forth flashback nature of Irons, his confrontation with Quilty, somehow add much more suspense than the almost amusing confrontation in the '62 version and the dreadfully serious latter third. Somehow the continuity in the '97 version is maintained, perhaps *because* the humor is kept to a minimum in the first half? An interesting debate. **End Spoiler!**

Also, the many delightful humorous moments in Kubrick's '62 version are done away with almost entirely in this picture. The very sexually suggestive, "Broad-Minded" friends of Mrs. Haze, the Farlowes, are reduced to a mere mention; and there are none of the awkward social scenes, such as Mrs. Haze's constant flirting, the difficulty Humbert and Lolita encounter in checking into a Motel the first time, and the tedious scenes with the porter and that ridiculous cot. If these elements (a scary Quilty, the humor, the cot, Winters as Charlotte and Irons as Humbert) were magically woven into one film, I would dance and dance, as it would then seem to me, perfect.

I highly recommend BOTH pictures, however, for all the above mentioned favorable reasons. The cinematography and period locales in the later film are stunningly photographed and historically accurate down to the period candy packages and road maps in the glove box, and the costumes, cars, the COLOR, and even the incidental radio-music works splendidly. The shots of the nasty old coin-operated "Magic Fingers" unit in one of the many Motels along the way brought back fond, if not dreary, childhood vacation memories...

A lovely film, but see both! It is like a nice variation on a theme, sad as it may be.

It's all out on the table, no mysteries., 20 February 2001

I knew full well how this picture would end (though perhaps not the exact manner) before the end actually came - it seemed inevitable. Indeed, the film shows us an honest depiction of a young woman (Keaton), stifled by her dysfunctional Catholic family, her flight from that life, and her perceived ascent into freedom - Real Life - found in the swinging New York city nightlife that preceded AIDS and current sexual awareness issues. In truth, beyond all the glamour and disco lights, the orgies and strobes, there are roaches and pills (lots of pills, even Brand-name ones!). She redeems, if one chooses to look at it this way, by working with deaf children by day, later slinking into the on-the-streets world of adult bookstores, very questionable pick-ups, and eventual substance abuse. Her smiles come easily, as she maintains a certain laid-back attitude that probably prevailed among some in the free-wheeling period of the 'seventies, and it is in this seeming aloofness, this almost delighted indifference, that her character does not revolt us entirely. She is, on many levels, likeable, if not a bit astray in her excesses.

Punctuating the murky quality of most scenes (one is so glad, relieved, even, whenever there are any scenes set in broad daylight!) are incredibly annoying real-life details that irritate both the audience and the character, such as a constantly ringing telephone, which in some ways sum up what her life has become. Some calls are from nasty men she has met, others are concerned family, still others from her workplace, questioning her whereabouts after having blown the morning in bed coming down from a cocaine trip. At one point this metaphor for her life seems most blatant, as she stumbles into the darkened apartment trying to *find* the telephone, and knocks the receiver into the toilet.

One gets the sense, at times, that she actually derives more pleasure as the sex-act, the drug, or the situation becomes more dangerous. It is almost as if she feeds off of it, and perhaps "balances" her person through an unspoken "redemption" at her day-job. After awhile, one feels that ANY male seen standing in the background (a young Levar Burton hovering in a doorway, for instance) could be a potential sex-partner, and once absorbed by the film, and seeing these patterns emerge, one cannot help but be drawn in, if only to see what will happen next (and with whom!).

Oddly, I did not find it inordinately depressing (though it is a most unpleasant existence we observe), nor mysterious in any way. It is admittedly an investment of time and thought to sit down and view it (the rental this viewer obtained consisted of two cassettes and some warnings from friends!) but it is not an overly heady questions-&-answers brain-picker type of picture. The film maintains an objectiveness, and does not judge. Situations and characters are presented and dealt with, and the occasional surreal and even humorous "visions" Keaton's character experiences keep things askew enough to rivet one. As far as social relevance, that is up to the individual viewing it. The gay aspect does seem a bit out of nowhere, and understandably dated given the few "good" gay roles that existed then, yet somehow it fits, given the near real-time affairs, frolics, and squalid antics we see Keaton's character endure. Bizarre coincidences and fate are what keep her going, and it is in this realistic approach to "the way of things" (and the quirks of many, many confused and dysfunctional individuals, many of whom are usually under the influence of something), that almost make the gay-thing acceptable. If there are any deep mysteries, they are hidden in the Ids of the unsavory company she keeps. At some point, something "really weird" is bound to occur, not necessarily in the form of Fate's "punishment" or something deserved, but just - because of the manner in which she chooses to live. This character's existence is not unlike a long, drawn out Russian Roulette, and lightning rarely strikes twice, but once is all it takes.

Lolita (1962)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Delightful Details, 15 February 2001

Upon having just viewed "Lolita" several times in a row after hearing so much about it (and admittedly knowing NOTHING of Kubrick's work, except that he did "2001"), I must say I was thoroughly delighted and amused at what I thought would be a darkly sinister motion picture.

Nabokov, the screenplay, and all controversy aside, I was immediately shocked, in the same way I am shocked by seeing any older film or TV re-run and hearing a dirty word or insinuation, by the opening title page of the man's hand delicately applying nail polish to a female foot. I was instantly giggling at the trying to be oh-so-European attitude of the fantastic Shelley Winters, showing potential-boarder Humbert about the house, waving about her cigarette holder, trying to affect a sparkling laugh out of nowhere, and the fact that in spite of her efforts she ruins it all when she refers to "the Colored Girl" who they are "lucky to have come in." Winters is perfectly batty, especially at a dance while feeding on a hot-dog and trying again to charm gentlemen, all the while mentioning unsightly details about her daughter ("she's having a cavity filled this Wednesday!")

The visuals are delightful as well - the period clothes, and the music score by Nelson Riddle: the social-dance music, the fabulous 60's Teen Beat that punctuates many of Lolita's appearances, and of course the gay Cha-Cha Winters enacts for Humbert is a splendid blend of music and visual.

The detail that delighted me the most, however, was all that business about the dang COT! They say the word over ten times (13, maybe?), even make hymes out of it ("Are there any more cots, Potts?") and I even noticed a truck in an aerial establishing shot that said "COTT" on the back in script. Was this intentional? It so looked like file footage, but it is hilarious either way. At any rate I loved it and laughed like a fool at the tedious scenes of the insistant black porter trying to unfurl it, oblivious to the silence Humbert tries to maintain so as not to wake the delicate Lolita who, upon awakening, says disinterestedly, "Oh. The cot came." Fits of laughter. Fits.

I guess the only thing I didn't care for was what I felt an overuse of Peter Sellars (although I adored his wordless female counterpart, who lends a most surreal aspect in her gloomy stares), though I did find the silent glance he makes at Surreal Lady over the funny pages in the Hotel Lobby absolutely breathtaking in its oddity. The latter third of the film seemed to me a bit dry, and I found myself questioning the motives of the characters at that point, and wondering if it "had" to end the way it did, because of course a film about such subject matter could not end "happily ever after" in 1962...But rent it for Winters' scenes, the surreal names of the characters ("Mr. Swine?"), the cot sequences, and listen carefully to EVERY bit of suggestive or absurd dialogue in the first hour, there are many little surprises hiding there that make this film a joy to watch repeatedly.