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Performance: After the Dance (1992)
Fine, very moving, quite witty
I've seen this three times now - as a DVD included among the Rattigan box set. I'd read a collection of Rattigan's plays - but this wasn't among them. As the director of the recent Olivier award winning National Theater production of "After the Dance" has stated, the failure of the play to run a long time in 1939 caused Rattigan to exclude it from his "Best Plays" collections. The play had received great acclaim by critics when it opened - and was doing fine business for two months - but then the War began - and the emotional ends of theater-going changed rather dramatically. The play closed soon afterward.
It's a superb play. I'm delighted that it's been revived to such a heralded response in London. It conveys a specific set of people - London based, upper class, only just too young for the First World War -who partied through the 1920s and the 1930s - ostensibly occupied with something, but not with true dedication. Eccentricity, a studied nonchalance, an affected boredom with the serious are the style of conversation - and gossip the substance. They now face a Second World War, a new generation - and themselves. There is considerable self-blame for their indulgence, wistfulness over age, self-questioning whether they can revivify, and wonder whether their characters are sufficiently supple or strong to start anew - as a new generation grinds alongside.
The play is quite realistic - and sad - and funny. The performances here are fine - you may, as I, wish to see it time and again. It's that fine a play.
The Boys Are Back (2009)
How not to raise children
This is one of the poorest movies I've seen - I'd no idea what it was about, but generally liked Clive Owen, so thought I'd rent it. It's the only film I can remember in which I actually yelled two or three times at the TV screen "End. END!" Owen plays the most Uriah Heepish parent I've ever seen. Extraordinarily passive - yet deceitful in many ways (Not least, as a top newspaper's sports editor who lies to all at work, and to the nation about covering the biggest international sporting event held in Australia each year - one can only hope he was fired, though there's an odd failure to mention the consequence).
I've never seen a parent apologize each time his child deserves punishment. Child throwing things? Apologize. Child hits him repeatedly in the head? Apologize. Child refuses to get in the car to go somewhere? Apologize. Child won't get up from having a tantrum on the floor in public? Apologize. Child wants to throw things in the house? Apologize. Child cries because he wants to swim instead of be in school? Apologize.
Say that you're deeply deeply sorry for every breath you take, every move you make - you get the idea.
This is a creepy movie - the parent abandoned his vows to God, his son and his spouse to be true until death - and is somehow not made to feel the terrible consequences of his abject despicable treatment of his spouse. Why did he leave her? "I got (this sexy babe) pregnant".
I constantly wished the worst for the protagonist - which I don't think the film intends.
I loathe this movie.
A wonderful surprise - clear, poetic, moving, quite lovely
I've seen so many French films in the last 15 years in which the female protagonist is as hard as nails, rebellious but impenetrable, scornful of intimate society or society at large - and we're meant to like her. I feared the same from the simple description I had of this film. (And after all, Scott-Thomas does not, after all, seem to seek out cuddly characters).
But her character is played perfectly - and that woman is one you come to quite like - sympathetic and understandable and human. (The actress playing her sister is also perfectly chosen- as sweet and winning as you could possibly find).
For all the darkness off-screen before the film begins, this is really a happy and heart-warming film - stay with it, it gets better and better. I particularly love the happiness the director makes us feel in social groupings - the celebration of someone's birthday, friends just dropping in, a dinner party.
**** SPOILERS### My one misgving with the film is that I do NOT share the director's apparent sympathy with euthanasia - no illness ever justifies taking another's life. Were I the judge sentencing her, and knowing all the facts, I'd have sentenced her to at least 15 years, and thought myself being very just. So her failure to defend herself in prison does not seem to me to have influenced her just sentence - though is strongly sense the movie means one to think otherwise - to feel that slaying a terribly ill child is somehow OK.
*** SPOILERS END **** I'd strongly recommend the film.
To my surprise, a great subtle and rather sad movie
This movie by Carol Reed (director of such great movies as The Third Man, Odd Man Out, The Key, and The Fallen Idol, who finally won the Oscar for Best Director for his musical, "Oliver!"(a musical adaptation of Oliver Twist) is simply superb.
Although this shares the circus setting as some others of the time, it's not primarily "about" the circus. It's a profound look at age, comeback, love (whether wanted or not), ambition. It's set in a dark and almost tawdry Paris of the mid-1950s, one that seems still tired and rather poor a dozen years after liberation.
The whole setting - and the love triangle - are fabulous yet realistic. This is a great bookend for An American in Paris - two entirely different images of Paris and France at the time.
The Burt Lancaster characterization is simply great - understated, powerful, moving - a man looking for a comeback, a last chance. Tony Curtis is also fine (I think Curtis has long been terribly underrated - he's a very good actor, wonderful in all kinds of parts from The Boston Strangler to Boeing, Boeing, from Sweet Smell of Success (with Lancaster again) to Some Like it Hot). Lollobrigida is great - a fine actress, yes unbelievably sexy but also just excellent at making us feel what her (desperate and cunning) character feels.
This is a great movie - amazingly set with a circus backdrop. I loved it. It's as good a depiction of post-war western Europe as can be imagined - in music, in light/shadow, in the fatigue you feel throughout. Watch it! You won't be disappointed.
The Lady and the Highwayman (1989)
Good pure old-fashioned romance
If you like your romance VERY traditional with damsels in distress, evil nobles, dashing villains who are REALLY ... Men, beware! This is the world of Barbara Cartland.
Nevertheless, I must admit that it held my interest throughout - and I was VERY struck by: the beauty of the sets/castles/scenery/furniture - they were spectacular.
and struck by the fine acting by such great stars. What a cast!!!
John Mills (the great one)
Oliver Reed (nominated for an Oscar in his last role - in The Gladiator, as the trainer of gladiators)
Michael York (Reed and York were two of the fine Three Musketeers the previous decade),
Emma Samms (star of all those Dynasty series)
Christopher Cazenove (many movies including the villain of 3 Men and a Baby, etc.),
Claire Bloom (the greatness of Claire Bloom since the 1950s -- starring in a Barbara Cartland!! Amazing!),
Hugh Grant and Lysette Anthony.
I know Anthony from a great Woody Allen movie and from a superb Inspector Poirot TV movie - she's so different in each that she doesn't even seem the same actress -very pretty, very fine actress).
Hugh Grant - charming, self-deprecatory, bookish, Hugh Grant, the kind of man made to play in Born Yesterday as the professor - is wildly miscast. The rough highwayman contemptuous of authority, rather a tough Robin Hood character is meant to be a type like Colin Farrell or young Oliver Reed -- alternatively an Errol Flynn or Douglas Fairbanks would be fine. But Grant really did his best - generally remaining silent.
The plot is what surprised me - what a good pot - straightforward, enough intrigue, good pace.
This is a well put together movie - IF you want to see a true prototype of the romance circa 17th century. I'd recommend it to anyone in that mood.
Wings of the Morning (1937)
A VERY appealing jumble of a movie
This movie sets out to have much for many - and succeeds in a wacky, just relax and enjoy the utterly mixed bag way:
the first Technicolor movie made in Britain (well, Ireland actually) a tale of gypsies and their generations-long curses all the sentiment and memories of the Auld Sod in Ireland three songs sung complete by John McCormack, the great Irish tenor horse racing tale - mixing in news footage of Derby Day in England love story between Henry Fonda and beautiful French sensation Annabella
There are odd moments - e.g., Henry Fonda forcefully removing all Annabella's clothes (behind a willow tree) until apparently repulsed, he realizes she's a girl and tosses her undergarments back to her - disgusted
Strange scenes of "is she alive or is she dead" about an ancient gypsy woman.
We're asked to accept that a living woman may easily life to see a fourth generation of her family -- in 50 years. In this movie, they apparently have an entirely new generation of gypsy children every sixteen years! (In contrast, I hope to marry next year and have children in future - yet my own grandparents were born in the 1890s, 110-120 years ago - without a fourth generation yet!).
It's fun - and light, and romantic (annabella is really cute!) and it IS interesting to see John McCormack and the spectacular/sentimental scenes of Killarney - and to see a horse race at Ascot.
Don't expect a classic - but it's a big fun jumble of stuff designed to appeal to many. Often a quite beautiful movie visually too.
The Starter Wife (2007)
Funny very modern comedy about life in L.A. among the "in crowd"
I've only seen two episodes - and hadn't seen any that aired last summer - but this is really a charming, funny series. Messing and Davis are the reasons to watch - and they really get to show a stunning variety of emotions. The plot is clear, fast-moving, and great fun. I've mixed feelings about the use of the dream sequences to indicate how she feels at particular moments - but I'm sure there are many who love them.
This is really a fine series - it seems the female counterpart to the male-oriented Californication - the quality is similar - and they're very much the same kind of series - very modern, witty, well-designed continuing comedy (each program's dilemmas, new characters, very much lead into the next). They're both programs about very superficial, selfish and materialistic people, set in contemporary Los Angeles obsessed with fame and fleeting success.
I'm a conservative Catholic man living in the East, clearly not the intended audience for the series - but I enjoy it. And I'm surprised there aren't more comments. (The series was heavily promoted in New York City -- and Messing and Davis are both famously talented).
It's hard to imagine that people who decide to tune in - won't be caught up in it.
Stealing Home (1988)
Really fine - very moving,
This is a fictional character study, nostalgia piece, and inspirational story. The reason it works is not so much the novelty of the plot or situations, but the actors and the physical settings.
Rarely has a film been cast so very well.
Mark Harmon, fine actor and former star USC quarterback plays a baseball player.
One of America's very best actresses, Jodie Foster plays his older friend.
Another of the top American actresses, Blair Brown plays his mother (when he was small).
The very appealing John A. Shea (think of his portrayal of Robert F. Kennedy or his co-star part on the Spuerman series) is his father.
The really lovely, Southern seductress Beth Broderick (former co-star of Sabrina and so often well-cast as the beauty on series such as From the earth to the Moon) is perfectly cast - as is Jonathan Silverman in a Summer of '42 part.
Harmon and Foster are opposites in so many ways - in life as well as their characters - yet they're both so unselfish, so singular as personalities - Mark Hamill was born to play the taciturn disciplinarian General Black Jack Pershing leader of America's military in our first World War, and Jodie Foster was born to play a very pretty poetry editor of a literary quarterly in the Village in the 1950s - and I don't think they share a scene together here (he plays the boy as a 38 year old - and we don't see her after she's in her mid-20s) yet we feel them together throughout the film - they dominate the film.
Such is the appeal of Harmon that we can see his character wholly irresponsible and really wanting to dump the business of his boyhood mentor's urn of ashes upon his mother - and yet like him very much.
Such is the appeal of Foster that we can hear her utter every silly clichéd sentiment of a girl of that age and that time - and yet think she's really worth caring for - we can fall in love with this young woman whom we might really think an idiot in real life.
But Foster is so obviosly NOT an idiot, that she lends intelligence to a cliché - and Harmon is so obviously a responsible sober responsible man that he lends this to his often drunken, prostitute-visiting character.
They lift this movie to something special and really worth watching.
I'd love to see Harmon and Foster share the same movie again. They're so different, both highly appealing, both very distinctive.
You'll like this movie.
Fauteuils d'orchestre (2006)
Inoffensive, uninteresting, well-acted
What is marketed in the U.S. as "Avenue Montaigne", is a gentle, and entirely unoriginal, story of several people in the same film only because they go to the same restaurant and become acquainted with the same waitress.
Is this as original or interesting as the normal Friends episode? No, but the characters are friendly, dealing with difficulties in their lives, and all have rather happy endings - so one is meant not to begrudge the film. But in truth it's not very good.
Two characters stand out: the grandmother played by Suzanne Flon (whose name you will probably recognize) who died just after making the film, and the woman playing an actress who must display a great variety of moods, styles as we see her as a character in a staged Feydeau farce (and in rehearsals for that farce), as "herself" in the midst of "real life" career desperation, and again playing a different character in her popular television soap opera. Her range is impressive.
The waitress tying the characters together is pleasant, has a pleasing figure - but in this role is rather forgettable. (Oh, there's also rather a surprise to see
*** SPOILERS ****
her character leap into bed with someone she's just met - the American audience is likely to be amazed since she's presented as this sweet character from the provinces - yet as she kisses this man, a man she just met, she simply begins removing her clothes for sex! Your mouth will drop open!).
**** Spoilers END ****
The film won't irritate - but it's unlikely to entertain either. See something else.
The Very Thought of You (1944)
What a surprise - a great movie
I had very low expectations when I saw this yesterday. "Nothing else on" television was the excuse I made myself for watching it. I had no particular interest in the leads (though Eleanor Parker was good as the baroness in Sound of Music, I didn't really know her otherwise) and Morgan had generally left me flat (though I did like him in Christmas in Connecticut).
And then I saw this quite realistic dialog about picking up two girls on a bus - and following them - and their reactions! And then a very strange bickering family - unlike any I expected to see in a World War II film - where families are almost always peaches and cream.
And I thought, "well, this movie is different!"
It got better and better and better - primarily because you really are brought to believe that despite despite overwhelming odds, these two - Parker and Morgan - really do fall in love.
They're very modest, they've such limited hopes, and those hopes are so fragile - that you root for these two very gentle modest people so intently - as almost everyone they know - as well as all the worldwide events, conspire against them.
It's a very simple movie plot that is told with such verve, such overwhelming conviction by the participants fully invested in the wonder of the tale, that you are simply swept away. With low expectations, I just love it - and looked to buy it when I next came to the computer.
There are few movies that seem to bring people from another decade right into your home - real people with besetting problems and far from ideal surroundings - and whom you want to succeed so very badly.
Thanks to all who participated in this movie! You won no awards but you certainly won my heart!