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The Women (1939)
The Women, AKA: All the Women Rejected as Scarlett O'Hara Have it Out
Many of the elements in this classic are sexist by today's standards, and the ending is a bit of a wash-out. But the top-notch performances and series of zingers and one-liners transcend any plot discrepancies. But overall it is the performances that make the movie. Norma Shearer is engaging at first, palling around with her daughter in the yard. Unfortunately, after her husband cheats, she becomes too saccharine and nobly strong to be enjoyed in an otherwise wisecracking comedy (at least she's always fashion conscious: during one of her numerous breakdowns, she collapses on a couch that matches her plaid shirt). Joan Fontaine is an adorable parody of Shearer's soft character; she's especially ridiculous and charming in a phone call to her husband at the ranch. Joan Crawford is a little too terrifyingly mean to be convincing as a sexy temptress (her gorgeous and sassy co-worker Virginia Grey would in reality be the more obvious choice for an erring husband), but she's exuberant and energetic, a welcome contrast to Shearer's refined humility. Paulette Goddard is equally exuberant and energetic, exuding confidence and assurance in every line she utters. She's a foxy little charmer. Mary Boland is hilarious and giggly, though her "l'amour, l'amour" lines get a little old. Marjorie Main's appearance is all too brief, her salty ranch-owner a welcome change of pace from the more sophisticated lodgers.
The most triumphant turn comes from Rosalind Russell as the "high-sterical" Sylvia Fowler. It's as if an escapee from an insane asylum were masquerading as a high-society wife, turning her charade into a mad burlesque. She's wonderful. Her tall, slouchy, slinky frame is so perfect for the role, and I can't recall having ever seen anything funnier than her cat fight with Goddard and its after-math. You can tell you're watching an under-appreciated genius at work when in a frenzy she destroys various dishes and pitchers while yelling, "I hate you! I hate you! I hate everybody!" It's regretful that her motives and fate are left ambiguous while too much screen-time is devoted to Shearer's precious tears, meditating on her plight and redemption. Or her husband's redemption. Or--oh, who knows! The moral dilemma is too muddled, and neither Cukor nor the screenwriters seem to know how to resolve it. All the attention paid to this darker storyline messes up the screwball rhythm set-up by Russell and others, and it's so jarring it wrecks the movie once in awhile. It's worth these occasional transgressions, however, for some of the finest performances to come out of old Hollywood's best actresses. Not to mention the privilege of witnessing them utter such great lines as, "Well, let the story ride! No one will remember! You remember those awful things they said about What's her name before she jumped out that window? See, I can't even remember her name, so who cares?" Or the classic closer, "There's a name for you ladies, only it isn't used in high society. Outside of a kennel."
Barry Lyndon (1975)
In my opinion, one of Kubrick's finest
After reading numerous reviews including Pauline Kael's unenthusiastic opinion, it amazed me that people have failed to realize the brilliance of this movie. I honestly never once found it boring. It swept me away. True, I've never read the book, which according to Kael is quick and fast paced, but I think Kubrick's subtle touch was like poetry. The subtle humor and the gorgeous music and photography gave the film both a gentle and ironic atmosphere.
The acting was good for the most part. Ryan O'Neil could've been better.
Marisa Berenson, I felt, was stunning and had a quiet and tragic aura about her. She didn't overdo it. The Reverend Runt reminded me of a scary, scary cat. He really added to the atmosphere.
After Lolita, this is my favorite of Kubrick's. It's a beautiful film.