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Moulin Rouge (1952)
Beautiful, Claustrophobic, Flawed Art.
John Huston's Moulin Rouge is a beautiful but certainly flawed piece of film art. The rousing and incredible opening number is a gem. The set, choreography, cinematography, etc.... all brilliant. Ferrer's performance is understated and fine. I've read other reviewers criticize his mannered speech and performance. I find it exactly in keeping with what this emotionally crippled, defensive genius may very well have presented to the world. Suzanne Flon, as his lost love, lingers in my memory as the epitome of class, beauty, and grace. The vignette's of characters known in Lautrec's paintings is inspired and wonderful. I find the writing careful, considered, well-paced and touching.
Then there are the serious flaws.... almost everyone has mentioned the abominable Zsa Zsa Gabor.... I will only add that I cannot believe the horrible dubbing of what is supposed to be a beautiful song and moment... got into the final film the way it is... What were they thinking? I found Colette Marchand way too broadly played. She wiggles and makes faces constantly, over-communicating every feeling and thought. I find it very amateurish, and certainly not worth her Oscar nomination that followed.
Much has been said of the sets in this film. While I praise the actual interior of the Moulin Rouge set, and a few others, I find this praise very odd. In most of the scenes, there is very little 'set' to be seen. I've always found this film oddly claustrophobic, and I think this is the reason why. It's as if they were running out of money, and couldn't build or shoot more elaborate footage. When Henri takes Marie to a fine restaurant, we essentially only see a curtain in the background, and characters in mid shots. Once again, in a scene where other artists are at a Parisian street café, with Lautrec discussing art... we never once see any full street life, café life, or café itself. There is not one shot showing the complete environment these men are inhabiting. Each is shown in a mid shot or close up, from a slightly higher angle, with the pavement below them, or blurred images in the background. Perhaps this would be helped if someone would please release the film in widescreen? When Henri and Miriam go to the races... we have a few establishing long shots... then it cuts to the usual mid shot with very little real set shown. It's always bothered me that a movie so dependent on time and place... shows so little time and place. The sound throughout the film is muffled also.... there are no real street noises... when people leave the raucous night at the Moulin Rouge, as it closes... they file out almost silently... deadening the effect and the sounds that would really be taking place However, I still list this film as one of my favorites. Poignant and beautifully made. The best flawed work of Huston.
The Informer (1935)
Classic but badly dated...
Classic film, understandably it has an honored place in film history... but... having seen it several times.... it dates very badly. Most of the criticism posted here are valid (except the one complaining it was depressing.... um... yes... it's a serious story without a 'happy' ending... that is not a reason to call a film 'bad'). McLaglen's performance is one of the most over the top, hammed up show cases ever put on film. It was all daring and new and interesting in 1935, but not anymore. It's a film I respect, but it's very hard to see through the creaky and old fashioned acting style. John Ford does well, and I reserve opinion on whether he really deserved a Best Direction Oscar for it.... (the lumbering hammy content was, after all, in his hands). Yes, the sets show the low budget, and the characters are very stereotypical.
Beautiful and Flawed.
I love this movie despite it's flaws. Leslie Caron at her best, and beautiful performances from Boyer and Chevalier. Only problem is (again... see my thoughts on other Joshua Logan films)... Joshua Logan. Cumbersome, slow, cartoonish direction, and absolutely horrible dubbing. Fanny's mother is played as a broad cartoon, with bad dubbing. The 'kicking of the hat' game drags on, & provides nothing to the story. Marius and Panisse confronting each other over Fanny, faces profiled, in close up... is agonizingly artificial. Blame all this on Josh Logan... who brings the same lumbering, artificial pace to South Pacific and Camelot. With that said... still one of my favorite movies for the lush photography, score, acting, yearning, lost love, happiness found, wanderlust, etc... I watch it over and over, but I don't recommend it to many others because I know it's a special romantic memory movie for me... others just see the flaws.
Ship of Fools (1965)
Great Film & USA vs European views.
One of my favorite films. Yes, it has flaws, but it's still great. An earlier comment mentioned how it fares better here in the states, than in Europe. That may be, now. But it is telling that at the time of release, it was much more highly accepted and seen in Europe than here. Even Simone Signoret had said at the time, that the movie was more a 'European' film, requiring a second viewing. The flaws in some, not all, of the costumes is true (noted by another), and I agree that Kramer's heavy-handedness is the difficulty. The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts though... and those beautiful, intimate scenes with Signoret/Werner, Marvin/Dunn, and the bite of the scenes with Marvin/Leigh.... make it all very worthwhile. Oddly enough, it's mostly the very secondary German characters that come off poorly.
All That Money Can Buy (1941)
Great Film, Craig Deserves Credit!
One of the best films of the 1940's. All the praise about Huston, Arnold, Herrmann's score, etc... is richly deserved... but I'd like to finally get it out there... that the STAR of the movie... the character that this film is about... is Jabez Stone... played by James Craig. He is a long forgotten actor now, but his performance is the center of the film. Why Huston and Arnold were and are still claimed as the main stars... is really beyond me....they are clearly there as Supporting Actors to the Main Character... Jabez. Had a 'major' actor in 1941 been cast.. .a Gary Cooper or Henry Fonda... they would have had top billing, and possibly nominated for the Oscar. Craig does an incredible job with this... parts of his performance toward the later half of the film.... are similar to the (still to come) work of James Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life.... when both characters are desperate, caught in a nightmarish web... running from the house looking for 'Mary'. Huston deserved his nomination, but it is without a doubt a supporting role, as is Arnold's. Jabez Stone is the central character, and Craig's multi-faceted performance should have been Oscar nommed... I love the moment when, having heard his wife is pregnant... he stares out the window hypnotically, and says almost to himself... "a son, an heir, money"... a marvelous glimpse of the corruption building within... a marvelous underrated performance.
Excellent Flawed Flick to Love.
Very Good movie, despite the flaws. A must for anyone into American mid-century drama. Beautifully filmed and written. Some excellent performances. The Good: Rosalind Russell, Arthur O'Connell, Betty Field, Susan Strasberg. The adequate: Kim Novak and Cliff Robertson. The not too great: William Holden. I'm not bothered by Novak's performance, she was often only as good as her director, and Joshua Logan was an entirely stagebound stylist. Holden on the other hand, is entirely miscast. Way too old for the character by at least 10 years. This is a meaty, sweaty, rebellious part suited to a young Paul Newman or James Dean, not a late '30's, already craggy faced William Holden (he was ideally suited for his Bridge on the River Kwai role). The reading of his lines is artificial and contrived, the pacing atrocious. It's really Logan's fault though. In every one of his films, characters, especially the supporting ones, end up performing like cartoon characters... (Betty Field in Bus Stop, Everyone in South Pacific and Fanny)... and in Picnic, Logan lets almost everyone go over the top with this kind of mannered, ill-paced stuff. However, I love this flick too... the story conquers the flaws, and it consistently pulls me in. Rosalind Russell (though she's allowed to go over the top too) and Arthur O'Connell have remarkable scenes together. Good Movie!