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Reunion in Vienna (1933)
Surprises Abound in This Romantic Fable
John Barrymore as a Habsburg Archduke reduced to driving a hack, fifteen years after "the Revolution," towers over this rarely shown movie that had a welcome screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York today. Other pleasures included seeing familiar actors playing against type: Eduardo Ciannelli as the sweet and loyal former valet of the Archduke, Henry Travers as Frank Morgan's dotty but perspicacious father, May Robson as a crude, cigar-chomping hotelier with a heart of gold and red drawers. The premise that the love of one's life can return and the affair will resume even decades later is examined wittily and touchingly in this cinematic version of Robert E. Sherwood's play. The former lovers, Barrymore and Diana Wynyard, are funny, sexy and heartbreaking. Frank Morgan, as the husband, is fine in a thankless role. And the music which contributes to the emotionality of the work is terrific. This little-known film deserves to be released on DVD.
Le grand amour (1969)
Le Grand Amour, or: The Many Great Loves of Pierre Étaix
I had the wonderful experience of seeing Le Grand Amour at its New York premiere last night (Friday, October 19, 2012). The screening was at the Film Forum, the renowned movie house where a Pierre Étaix retrospective is currently being held. The film was preceded by Étaix's Oscar-winning 1962 short Heureux Anniversaire. To the delight of all who were in the audience, M. Étaix was at the screening (his very first trip to NYC!), first to introduce Le Grand Amour and then again for a generously lengthy post-film Q&A. At nearly 84 years old, Étaix's sense of humor is as lively as ever; when asked who his favorite contemporary directors were/are, he joked about it being Clint Eastwood. (The actual answers: William Friedkin and Stanley Kubrick. Étaix also mentioned being a fan of Hitchcock.) As for Le Grand Amour, the film is a charming look at married life in all its most comedic - and sometimes poignant - moments. The gags are fantastic and the emotional aspects parts of the story feel very real. Catch Le Grand Amour if you can, although I'm not sure where you would be able to find it in America (besides at the Film Forum) since M. Étaix's directorial efforts are not yet available on DVD here. It's a real shame since his talents have been forgotten for far too long. Le Grand Amour makes clear what his great loves were (and, in some ways, still are): comedy, filmmaking and his co-star/wife at the time, Annie Fratellini.