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Wendy and Lucy (2008)
A Spare Great Film
I find greatness in the film.
I think it does have greatness, the greatness of late modernism where the void (The Void) is acknowledged, and, in varying degrees, feared, maligned, and dreaded (and ignored by the less awake) but awareness of it has dawned. The spareness of music is one element of late modernist art film, proponents include Antonioni, Bergman (later), and many others.
If the film had been made from a more developed, transcendent view, it might have looked at The Void with more love and compassion and light, dispelling the fear of death. But that doesn't lessen the achievement of the film; it's a beautiful modernist film, spare and very touching.
I want to add that Michelle Williams is marvelous and her aware performance anchors the unsentimental existential quality of awareness throughout.
Behold a Pale Horse (1964)
notes on some reviews already posted
As I said on the message board about this film, I agree with those who felt that Peck was miscast as a European. My view of Peck is that he is a STAR, one who is effective really only in parts that suit his very American, warm hearted, leading man persona.
As for the reviewer who complained that 1964 was a bit late to be making a feature in black-and-white, actually, no, lots of features continued to be made in black-and-white for another three years, at least. By 1967, it was a lot rarer to find one, even from the more arty or new wave directors in Europe, where black-and-white had been de riguer, for the most part. Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show" and "Paper Moon" were retro glories by the early 70s. (I think he used a red or infrared filter to get those great darks in his b&ws.) Forgive the digression. I found the film to be a failure by Zinneman - too many parts don't fit well, and too long.
Mad Men (2007)
Funny how the member reviews have progressed over time
I gave the series a (probably too high) "7", because I like the atmospherics and alienation. Anything to get away from cookie-cutter crime and corpse dramas! Funny how the reviews at the beginning of the series are highly enthusiastic, and as the season progressed, because highly contemptuous.
I think the truth lies somewhere in between. I read an interesting critique of the show that made the point that the world of Madison Ave. after Kennedy got elected, with a new freshness, youth, and vigor "infecting" the culture, was much more go-go, high-energy, and optimistic that the dour alienated gloom that hangs over the series. I get that the production wants to emphasize the alienation inside the people, but as someone who was 10 at the time, I have an strong intuition that that alienation was not reflected in external atmospherics.
The kind of (literal) free-fall that is so superficially appealing in the title sequence seems to express what was happening in the LATE sixties, early seventies, when post-modernism (including in the form of the counterculture) was injecting multiple perspectives and even aperspectivism into the culture, making "straight" modernists dizzy, and shifting the ground beneath them. But in 1960, modernism was in full flower, and the kind of vertigo suggested in the title sequence and in the series as a whole seems 10 years too early.
I'll give John Hamm the benefit of the doubt until I've seen him work in other projects.
Napoleon and Love (1974)
Absolutely brilliant performance by Ian Holm
I saw this on PBS here in the U.S. around 1976, and was blown away by the sheer brilliance and subtlety of Ian Holm's performance as Napoleon. Probably the best performance I've ever seen, and I don't say that lightly. At the very least, it ranks in the top five I've seen from any actor, male or female. Billie Whitelaw is superb as Josephine, as well.
The entire production is magnificent, without being overdone - the script, direction, art direction, costuming, all done with wonderful intelligence, restraint, subtlety, grace. Just wonderful!
It's such a shame that this (and many other British made for TV productions from the 70s - see my review of "Hedda Gabler" with Janet Suzman (another performance in my top five of all time)) is not available on DVD. If anyone connected with the production is reading this, and has any influence in the matter, please release it on DVD. It is a production, and especially, a performance, that deserves to be seen by all!!
South Pacific (1958)
Mitzi Gaynor is perfect; color filters add to the movie
The production values, photography and lush, beautiful scoring make this a wonderful rendition of the musical, faithful to the heart and soul of the stage success.
I want to go on record against the conventional wisdom, and say that I think Mitzi Gaynor was perfect for the part and played it perfectly - sincerely and with great energy and passion, whether credit is due to Logan damping down her "cuteness" factor or not; she makes a simply irresistible Nellie F.
I also think the colored filters in some of the numbers add to the aesthetic/emotional impact of the film.
One of the best R&H film adaptations. An overall success!
All That Heaven Allows (1955)
Reflections and refractions
Wonderful example of Sirk's famous use of reflections and transparencies. Watch for this accomplished, smooth stylist's wonderful gliding camera's use of windows, mirrors, etc., including the famous reflection of Jane Wyman's lonely, alienated face in the television set that her short-sighted children have given her for Christmas, as her only proper companion (and imprisoner), contrasted with the large picture window at Rock Hudson's cabin, bringing in the liberating light of a re-union with nature (and true love), an escape from and transcendence of the stifling conformity and conventionality of her upper-middle class suburb set.
All this in a sentimental glossy Ross Hunter production makes for beautiful irony.
One of the greatest films ever made
A landmark film - pure breakthrough cinema from Bergman - not just depicting, but living inside the existential dread-abyss of Modernity and its loss of mythic meaning. Two sisters' polarized answers to that dread - one deadens herself - the other seeks escape in mindless sensuality - while the son is abandoned to wander in an empty hotel with only absurd characters to play with, all in a stifling, gray, nameless, tank-ridden, Soviet-Kafkaesque-Eastern block industrial- waste, oppressive city. (I'd be very surprised if this film wasn't a seminal influence on David Lynch.) Brilliant performance by Ingrid Thulin as the cerebral, repressed sister. Startling and beautiful imagery and montage (visual and aural), brilliantly depicting the alienated inner and outer worlds.
One of the best adaptations ever recorded
Warris Hussein (director of the mini-series "War and Peace") directs a clear, full-bodied, and very fine adaptation of the Ibsen classic. One of the great powerhouse Janet Suzman's greatest performances, her Hedda is also the best interpretation of the famous complex anti-heroine I've ever seen, hands down. Sir Ian McKellan gives an outstanding co-performance as George, as do the remaining cast members. It's gripping and a bit shocking (even now) in its depiction of psychopathy, thanks in large part to Suzman's highly intelligent, highly organic, dynamo of a performance.
I'm hoping that the BBC will release this on DVD, as well as other taped classic plays from the same series, including "The Duchess of Malfi" with Eileen Atkins and "The Wild Duck" with Denholm Elliot.