Reviews written by registered user
|55 reviews in total|
I am so psyched to write the first user review of this great film --
soon to be widely recognized as such, I imagine. (See New Yorker, NY
Times, Variety etc. reviews -- they're ahead of me.)
"Digging for Fire" looks wonderful -- magical, even. Joe Swanberg, as natural a filmmaker as Samuel Fuller (the all-time greatest of the naturals), here has (for the first time?) chosen to shoot on 35mm Eastman color film in Cinemascope ratio. And the results are stunning -- particularly the beautiful night shooting.
As the narrative subject matter of the film involves (a) a couple in a conflicted moment and (b) the chance discovery of buried human remains, I was reminded of Rossellini's "Viaggio in Italia" -- and, surprisingly, Richard Brody (in The New Yorker) references Rossellini in his enthusiastic review. The Rossellini film -- though difficult and annoying -- is also mysteriously compelling. While Swanberg's film is far more viewer-congenial (oh alright -- "audience friendly"), a similar spiritual transformation of the characters takes place in both films. But, paradoxically, more satisfyingly in Swanberg's less explicitly and far less portentously "spiritual" film.
The acting -- from the wonderful Jake Johnson to Chris Messina in his tiny role to Judith Light and Sam Elliott as Johnson's in-laws and little Jake Swanberg as an adorable 3-year old (type-casting at its best) -- is superb -- an ensemble equal to the great assemblages Robert Altman used to gather year after year.
It seems Swanberg may have quite a nice future, for which let us be grateful.
(Side note: Interesting "Digging for Fire" is released the same weekend as Peter Bogdanovich's first film in 13 years, "She's Funny That Way" -- each opening in New York on one screen only -- try that one, too -- it's much better than the reviews would have you believe.)
This film is a pleasant surprise from cinema's greatest liar, Edgar G.
Ulmer. (His claims for his career in interviews seem now to be regarded
as largely preposterous -- many flat out lies, much inflation of his
contributions...) But this is a nice, competent little comedy built
from crime story elements, and quite enjoyable. Part of the surprise is
the far-better-than-just-decent cast: Dick Haymes (ok -- none too great
-- in the title role), Nina Foch, excellent as The Girl in The Story;
Lionel Stander, as always both lively and believable, and Roland Young,
looking sadly worn out. Below the title, there is Oscar Karlweis, a
most appealing Viennese actor (and important on Broadway as Jacobowsky
in the original production of "Jacobowsky and the Colonel," in the role
Danny Kaye played in the film), Jean Casto (her only film role; she
originated the role in "Pal Joey" (1940) that made Elaine Stritch a
star in the 1952 revival -- which co-starred Lionel Stander!).
Uncredited: Dort Clark (of "Bells Are Ringing") and John Lupton (of
"Battle Cry"), both in small speaking roles. Lastly, Freddie
Bartholomew appears in his final film role -- and, sadly, appears to
have completely lost his talent. The role is terrible, and he's awful
in it. Smart man to leave the business at this point.
As to the relation of this film to Ulmer's oeuvre -- well, don't make me laugh! But I will say that the absence of Ulmer's musical "genius," that fellow Erdody, is extremely welcome. As always with Ulmer, there is too much score, but this one is not as insufferable as the ones Erdody cranked out.
A sweet, entertaining film.
Very gratifying to see that this very well-made film has gotten such excellent reviews on this site. Preminger himself, when interviewed, rarely tried to make a case for his films that were considered minor or unimportant, nor did he encourage looking back. Consequently, if foolishly, critics have tended to dismiss such films, and especially the few he made before "Laura." What a delight, then, to find that "Danger, Love at Work" is an especially effervescent and sophisticated screwball comedy. And it is a very legitimate example, based on the essential "crazy family" format. It completely ignores the social consciousness aspect of the classic screwball ("You Can't Take It With You" and "My Man Godfrey" are otherwise close relatives), and benefits perhaps from this narrow focus on plot and character. And what characters! Mary Boland, who can sometimes annoy, fits in here very nicely as Ann Sothern's mother; diminutive Etienne Girardot -- a fascinating and lively little actor (his nervous performance here, as in "Twentieth Century" is priceless) as her father (and has a charming counterpart -- equally diminutive -- in "Uncle Goliath," a "back-to-nature" type); brother John Carradine (as a "post-Surrealist" painter); Walter Catlett as a philatelist uncle -- all delightful. Miss Sothern herself is every bit as charming as Carole Lombard (and has a rather less annoying role than Lombard's) in "Godfrey," and, besides, has a lovely vocal duet with Jack Haley on the title song. She really can sing! And here we have Haley two years before "The Wizard of Oz" -- nicely done, though no Cary Grant of course. Edward Everett Horton is, as always, superb, though his straight-man adversarial role here doesn't point up his own best strengths. Even Benny Bartlett as an 11-year-old Princeton graduate, scores nicely. As is typical of Preminger, there is not a single bad performance ("My Man Godfrey," on the other hand, has its Gail Patrick - - ghastly). (In bit parts, we even have Franklin Pangborn and Elisha Cook, Jr.) So here we have, in this man's opinion, a screwball comedy truly worthy of entering The Canon (if such there be).
Hard to believe that Lindsay Anderson will have been gone 20 years in August of this year. I was unaware of the existence of this brief Valentine to life, movies, theater and actresses Jill Bennett and Rachel Roberts -- but thank you youtube! Very sweet film, initially following Lindsay (one becomes very familiar with him in this sequence) through his morning: waking up, listening to the BBC news, looking at the telly, sparring with his nephew, receiving visitors from his world of theater and film (David Sherwin sequence especially nice, and a pleasure to see Alan Price and hear him sing and play). A pleasant way to spend an hour, this last Anderson film (following on the wonderful "Whales of August").
Unfortunately, the film-going public was seeing the great Tallulah on screen for the first time with this charming comedy-drama -- and didn't take to her. Had they known what was to come ("The Cheat," "My Sin," "The Devil and the Deep") they would have realized that this was as good as it was going to get. And it's not bad at all. More significantly, Tallulah herself is MUCH better in this than in either "The Cheat" or "Devil," in both of which she looks most ill-suited to her profession, with bad posture and overdone expression. Here, though, she has great charm and, at times, intensity that seems quite genuine. George Cukor was responsible for this one, and his talent for film direction is immediately evident in this, his first solo flight after three assignments as co-director. An added attraction for me (though many are allergic to him) is Clive Brook, best known as Dietrich's "Shanghai Express" co-star. As in that film, Brook is extremely reserved, but, to my eye, quite appealingly so. A very likable film.
"Zaza" is one of the most rarely shown of Cukor's films. Fortunately, the Film Society of Lincoln Center has managed a truly complete retrospective (December 2013), with two showings of "Zaza." Like the Leoncavallo opera also based on the same play (and no doubt the play itself) the fact that the play ends tragically is belied by an almost manically cheerful first hour. Claudette Colbert is a luminous presence, and her sparkling costumes support her luminosity with sparkles and spangles. She seems rather too much! Bert Lahr, not in his usual element, proves himself capable of restraint and suggests the great actor who was to have his ultimate breakthrough into the thespian pantheon in the '50s with his performance in the Broadway production of "Waiting for Godot." Excellent support from Constance Collier, Helen Westley, Genevieve Tobin, and Ernest Cossart. Not entirely satisfying, but why "Zaza" is so little-seen is still a mystery. There are worse films in the Cukor canon ("Keeper of the Flame," "Let's Make Love"), more often seen.
Saw this tonight at what may have been the world premiere showing at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York (Friday, April 19, 2013). At the Q&A with the filmmaker afterward, a young woman got up and said that she was a great aficionado of the documentary film, and that this was, she thought, maybe the best documentary ever made. For Stritch's fans -- who were out in force tonight -- it was certainly a love fest. One thought that there could be little more to reveal about this lovable, irascible personality after her great one woman show, "At Liberty" and the HBO documentary on the "making of" that show and its TV edition. But Stritch is, it seems, a person of unlimited depth: peel back the layers of the onion, there's always more, and it's always even more interesting. For those of us who know and love her -- well, at least for me -- the film is a wonderful send-off (Stritch is retiring and moving to Michigan -- or so she threatens) to a woman who has been part of the definition of classy New York for more than half a century. Great love for her is shown throughout the film in interviews with the likes of Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, and, most touchingly, her accompanist (and devoted friend) of the last 13 glorious years of a stupendous career, Rob Bowman -- who himself must be some kind of a saint. If you're already a Stritch fan, you will be deeply moved. If you haven't met her yet, you will be fascinated. If you are among the rare, sad folk who can't stand her, maybe this will change your mind. Side note: Stritch was present at the screening, and after being introduced to a cheering crowd, was asked what she had to say and -- surprise -- "Yes. Where's the bathroom? In 50 years I've never had to ask that, but I need to know NOW." She was escorted out (to general amusement) and the filmmaker and Rob Bowman answered a few questions (Bowman saying how much of a privilege and a joy it has been to work with her). When Elaine returned, she made a brief but very touching statement to the audience, telling us how wonderful we'd been, that we'd laughed and applauded, but not JUST laughed and applauded. She was asked how she liked the film, and she recalled that she had told the filmmaker "I like the film. It's very good. But I wouldn't want to be in it!" A paradox, like the lady herself: tough as nails, yet without a bit of useless armor. One of the great class acts of all time.
Having seen "La Habanera" a few years ago, I had relegated it in my mind to the second ranks of Sirk pictures. But a re-viewing tonight was a surprise. The melodrama plot is, perhaps, just a touch too sketchy, but the handling of it is magnificent. This is a film of extremely subtle montage, aided by a flawless sense of framing, angle and composition. Sirk's visual imagination is seemingly inexhaustible, and he is aided by first-rate art direction. It should be no surprise, really, that his last film in Germany should be a masterpiece. One is prepared for it, certainly, after seeing the wonderful "Hofkonzert," a delicious rococo bon bon, or the excellent melodrama "Zu neuen Ufern." But in "La Habanera" the easy flow of genre to genre (adventure film to comedy of the Hawksian type -- some very fine work from Boris Alekin as Dr. Gomez -- to musical to melodrama) makes for something very special. A near-contemporary comparison is Stahl's "Letter of Introduction" - - which similarly moves effortlessly from genre to genre without disconcerting its audience. No mean feat!
I note the many laudatory reviews here and the general tone of those on amazon is similar. I'm sorry, but don't make me laugh! This is a stinker from the word go, that is unless you want to overlook the two most basic elements of film story-telling, to wit: (1) a coherent and preferably imaginatively dialogued script and (2) competent acting. As a follow-up to the brilliant "Lola" and the virtually undisputed masterpiece "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" -- in the sense that all three films have characters in common -- this is shocking. I think perhaps it will suffice to say that Jacques Demy (who is not only director but co-writer) was not quite comfortable with the English language at the time he made this, his only American film. The same can obviously said of Anouk Aimee, giving a perfectly ludicrous performance (the "model shop" scene, especially, where she gets into supposedly alluring poses for her client's camera must be seen to be believed). Alexandra Hay, however, has no such excuse. She is simply dreadful. As George Cukor unflinchingly said of co-star Aimee, "The lady simply can't act." But I have given this film two stars, and there are two reasons. One: co-star Gary Lockwood (really the top star, though second billed; there is not a frame of the film in which he does not appear), though not a very skilled actor, tries his best, and watching his stuff flop around in his tight jeans (no underwear, as is made clear when he puts his pants on in the first scene) is at least something to concentrate on. He also has a very, very cute butt and looks damn good with his shirt off as well (two scenes). If that is enough for you, then you may enjoy this film. The other reason is that an excellent late 60's rock band, Spirit, not only wrote the soundtrack (supplemented by a number of Classical selections), but appear in the film in one brief scene. They can't act, either, but it's a nice documentary moment, catching them just as they were making their mark. It's rather endearing. My final complaint: Sony's insulting packaging -- super ugly, too.
As a great admirer of Marlene Dietrich, I had to (finally) watch this very, very dull picture. It is Miss Dietrich's first color film, and the world's most beautiful blond is a redhead! Bad start. The story is a tremendous bore, involving a subject which itself bores bores me stiff: religious guilt. (Who needs it???) Suffice it to say, perhaps, that of all Dietrich's films (and I have seen most, including "Pittsburgh") this is the only one where even her performance is barely worth watching. The color photography is OK (this is a very early Technicolor release), but to no purpose. Ridiculous casting: C. Aubrey Smith, Basil Rathbone (enough said?). The only thing of any interest at all is John Carradine's outlandish caricature of a performance as "The Sand Diviner," who foretells all that will happen. The supposed "happy ending" is one of the most depressing ever conceived. Yet another example of David O. Selznick's highly inflated reputation (did he ever make a really good film? -- other than That One?) And, for one final annoyance, the soundtrack of the MGM DVD is a mess, with volume levels seemingly randomized. Highly unrecommended.
|Page 1 of 6:||     |