Reviews written by registered user
|10 reviews in total|
A family drama in which a successful stockbroker, married with a young
son, is a accosted one night when arriving home by a course,
dishevelled man claiming to be his hitherto- thought-dead father, who
proceeds to invite himself to stay. The unwelcome guest is not easily
waved away and gradually becomes part of the lives of the family.
Meanwhile the firm the protagonist works for is teetering on the brink
of bankruptcy, just as the picture of his origins his mother gave him
is shaken up and thrown Into question.
The set up could be an eighties Hollywood comedy but this is something very different and far more subtle and complex. Somai resists exploiting emotional moments excessively, winning the respect and engagement of the audience rather than milking their emotions for simple catharsis, ultimately achieving a powerful and lastingly provocative film experience. Low-key writing; unobtrusive (and clearly inexpensive) camera work with little camera movement; seemingly little use of additional lighting; long takes; sparing use of close ups - all contribute to the disarmingly intimate experience of the family. This film reminded me of the work of Ozu Yasujiro. All the characters are fresh and unpredictable and there are many moments of humour and pathos, with some chickens in the yard playing an important role. Performances are top notch all the way, including the minor parts which feel like real lives glimpsed rather than decoration.
Highly recommended, and a worthy addition to any fan of Japanese cinema's viewing experience.
Charles Farrell stars as the titular Liliom, a no-good 'barker',
enticing people - especially pretty young ladies to ride the carousel
at the fairground. Along come servant Julie (Rose Hobart) and her
colleague Marie and, to cut a long story short, Lil' and Jules find
themselves unemployed, drinking in a beer-garden. Thus begins a not
quite beautiful relationship. Liliom, being an 'artist', has trouble
turning provider and Auntie-in-(common)law is running out of patience
for the loafer on the sofa. Furthermore, Lil's former employer/lover,
the sultry carousel owner Louise, wants him to come back to the fair,
and his 'friend', 'The Buzzard', is never far off with his easy-money
If you haven't had someone spoil the film for you, you're in
for one hell of a surprise up ahead.
This is an early sound film and by jiminy it shows. The line readings are like children's TV you know, sort of wooden and VERY clearly pronounced just in case the wee ones are still learning to understand their native tongues. BUT this film should be enjoyed as a sort of fairy tale anyway, so that isn't quite the problem here that it might be in a more conventional drama. The characters all come across intensely as living souls here and I found myself deeply affected by them. Visually it's other worldly, German expressionist, with the lights of the seemingly omnipresent carnival twinkling through the night and beautiful use of lighting throughout, bringing out the delightful faces of the leads. Some have objected to the film's offensive, out-dated gender politics there's a possible reading that spousal abuse is fine if it was done for the right reasons; and that 'boys will be boys' and that's fine, even good! but this wasn't the way I chose to read it. For me this was far from a moral/message film; more like an unforgettable surrealist's dream. Later remade in 1934 by Fritz Lang, and then again in 1956 by Henry King, as Carousel. Highly recommended.
I agree with the previous reviewer, but wanted to add that there are some nice scenes/ideas involving clever use of the rocky landscape and a waterfall, and some surprisingly well shot action scenes on horseback and with stampeding cattle (shot from below!). I have the Sinister Cinema DVD, quite likely the same 'choppy' copy as the other reviewer, which I believe is taken from an old 16 mil copy. It is very worn, has very bad sound with lots of background noise, and is missing many frames and even significant chunks of dialogue in places, but it was STILL good fun and well worth seeing. George O'Brien (star of Murnau's Sunrise) makes a charming cowboy hero and Marguerite Churchill (the sassy secretary in Dracula's Daughter) is fine as the pacifist damsel in distress with a cute toddler O'Brien befriends in a nice fatherly scene. The two of them found some serious off-screen chemistry, got married and had a couple of kids. A solid 7.5. Recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An elite hunter secretly hired to locate the last Tasmanian Tiger (extinct but, in this film, recently sighted), get genetic samples for a pharmaceutical company and then destroy all traces of it. He soon runs into serious problems. The Hunter takes you into some beautiful country and has a great performance by Dafoe at its centre and while it does offer quite a few reasons to grumble, I am not. I was entertained, I 'escaped', and I was on the edge of my seat when the danger kicked in towards the end. Only after the credits did I really begin to take stock of the defects and by then it was a case of 'while I really enjoyed it, I must say that...'. Basically, some of the characters and their motives etc. are not very well handled, and there are threads left hanging in a slightly messy way at the end. I imagine it was a bit of a rushed underfunded job. But: beautiful landscape beautifully shot; Dafoe's craggy, haunted presence - alone in the wild forests of Tasmania and, almost like some kind of awkward alien, relating to others; a hint of romance, and some cute moments with a couple of lovely children; the compelling main theme of hunting the elusive Tasmanian Tiger; suspense, and a nail-biting final showdown; and the Tiger itself, were enough to keep me happy. All in all, The Hunter is a very good bit of entertainment.
Cheap, silly, clichéd, but somehow highly enjoyable made for TV noir-light short included as a bonus on Columbia's Bad Girls of Film Noir Vol.1. Down at heel private eye (Howard Duff) gets led into trouble by sharp dame client (Janet Blair) in fight-fix drama. Duff's gumshoe is a weathered everyman (think Robert Ryan or Paul Kelly etc.) giving the impression of a man who's seen The Maltese Falcon and gone out and tried to be Sam Spade, but wasn't doing too well at it (in fact, Duff played Sam Spade in a radio series based on Hammett's character in the 40s before getting into movies). The dialogue-heavy screenplay is by Blake Edwards (Director of Days of Wine and Roses / Breakfast at Tiffany's), and must have been great fun to write - mainly a series of entertaining plot-heavy conversations between the protagonist and an array of colourful characters, and lot of cheesy expository voice overs. Full of holes, full of humour, and full of fun, with a really great punch up to finish, The Payoff pays off... sorry, I couldn't resist that.
Jimmy Tracey (Wallace Ford) is a small-time gangster from New York who
finds himself mixed up in a murder, becomes a suspect, and goes on the
run with the victim's wallet which contains his passport and a ticket
for a trip to England by ship. Assuming the identity of the deceased,
Jimmy Dean from Winnipeg, Tracey ships to England where he's met at
customs by Dean's long lost childhood buddies, Corporal Dawson (John
Mills) and his sweetheart Miss Briggs (Anna Lee), daughter of a
Sergeant who was close to Dean's father. They all take Tracey to be
Dean and he's pushed into enlisting in the army. A rivalry for the girl
soon develops between the two fellows, tempered by a growing sense of
comradeship; and a variety of diversions arise, including a boxing
match and the re-appearance of Tracey's nightclub singer girlfriend
from New York (Grace Bradley). Then the boys ship out to China, along
with Miss Briggs and her Sergeant daddy, and face rampaging 'bandits'
in some substantial battle scenes.
British production company Gaumont Pictures hired Raoul Walsh to direct O.H.M.S ('On Her Majesty's Service', renamed You're in the Army for the US) and together they cooked up a workman-like picture which, though not a bad film, offers little sense of character development or real dramatic progression, but rather comes across as a sequence of slightly disjointed episodes, some of which are entertaining, and others a bit dull. The film begins and ends well, and has a lot going for it, but it loses its way in the middle, veering all over the place, and at only 87 minutes it feels too long. Among the excess matter is a series of drawn out military pageantry and training scenes which feel awkward, especially removed from the context of the film's pre-WWII release date (the film was cut to 71 minutes for US release and I'm guessing much of this material was trimmed then). Ford does OK as a sort of poor man's Cagney - tough, confident, ambitious, lusty, coarse, but a regular guy despite his failings, even getting in a little song and dance routine - but he's nowhere near Cagney for charm, and looks strangely tired and unhappy for much of the film. Mills wears a keen, boyish spirit; Lee plays it independent but a bit naive; Bradley is sassy, streetwise and fun (the more interesting of the two girls but sadly her part is small). But, like I say, all in all it's not really a bad film. I've been harder on it than I could have been in an attempt at objectivity. It'd make a good first half of a double bill with The Fighting 69th released a few years later and starring Cagney and Pat O'Brian, with Cagney playing a more charismatic, but similarly reluctant and undisciplined newly recruited soldier.
Conte plays Felipe Rivera, a Mexican who joins up with a revolutionary group trying to wrest the country from its current leadership. His motivation is unclear to begin with but a long flashback takes care of that. Rivera's chief means of assisting the cause is boxing to raise cash for it. The film is flawed, there's no getting away from that. It has plenty of very wooden, stereotypical acting and the script is pretty crude. But there is some outstanding camera-work here (James Wong Howe was cinematographer, along with an uncredited Floyd Crosby, who shot High Noon and worked on From Here to Eternity), especially the boxing scenes but there are great moments throughout, and Conte's performance is another highlight. His role is ultimately more three dimensional than is often the case (in my experience - seen 9 of his films) and his fight scenes are great. Conte fans will almost certainly enjoy the film. Cobb's performance (as the leader of the revolutionaries) will divide viewers, but I enjoyed it - enthusiasm over realism. All in all, good fun. It's public domain and you can watch it online on The Internet Archive.
Take Shelter is an intelligent, thought provoking, nicely shot film featuring an excellent performance by Michael Shannon (an Oscar nomination, surely?), who was also great in director Nichols' previous/first film, Shotgun Stories. The film explores the line between fear and paranoia, or objectivity and subjectivity, as it's protagonist - a blue-collar family man of few words - wrestles with apocalyptic dreams and visions of a strange, possibly supernatural storm, responding to them as best he can as both literal warnings AND possible signs of mental illness. The film has a brooding, at times Hitchcockian atmosphere and a very timely feel to it (think financial and environmental disasters). Set in a rural community, we have plenty of lovely wide shots of the land- and sky-scape (also a strong element of Shotgun Stories) with some added CGI on the latter for the dream/visions. Shannon's performance constitutes at least 50% of this films worth but the rest of the cast are good too. It's a slow mover and, at around two hours and fifteen minutes, perhaps a bit too long. My wife and I did have a few criticisms after watching it (at the Sydney Film Festival), but I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from seeing this film, which will no doubt be a hot topic and bring Nichols deserved recognition when it goes on general release (September 30 2011 in US)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Thoroughly enjoyable, slightly quirky late silent with good, solid performances from the leads and lots of old ships, deep sea diving suits, submarines and aeroplanes to look at (thanks to the full cooperation of the US Navy during production). I saw it on the big screen with live piano accompaniment, which added a lot to the experience, but I guess that'd depend on the skill of the musician. The two main themes: friendship, in the form of two nautical best friends constantly engaged in playful rough-housing - until a woman comes between them - and the submarine disaster that the film builds towards. The former is a comical, jocular affair that raised frequent laughter from the audience, and the later is masterfully handled, drawn out and full of tension (you might find yourself holding your breath). The film is a bit unbalanced structurally, with a the sub stuff arriving rather late and the woman issue left somewhat unresolved at the end, but these things didn't really impair my enjoyment. That's all you really need to know to assess the film for suitability - highly recommended if you like this sort of thing. PS watch out for spoilers in the review by 'thomsons'.
Stanwyck and Menjou are on top form here, a real pleasure to watch, and the camera-work is exquisite; the story/pacing is weak in places but you won't mind this much (perhaps hardly notice) unless you're immune to the former. The film depicts, over a period of about 20 years, a complex clandestine love-relationship between the two leads, leaving some space for individual interpretation - not at all like most films made under the appalling thirty year tyranny of the Hayes code introduced a couple of years later. Forbidden is a serious, thought-provoking and often very moving film, with careful, 'arty' composition and psychologically-loaded lingering shots, but it also contains moments of melodrama (not in bad way) and humour (laugh-out-loud but quirky, not slapstick). Highly recommended, along with Capra/Stanwyck's The Bitter Tea of General Yen, made the following year. I give it a 7 - reluctantly, in my effort to be objective with regards to the story. I watched it on the big screen and I 'felt' it as an 8.