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1. West Side Story
2. The Apartment
3. Midnight Cowboy
4. La dolce vita
5. Asphalt Jungle, The
6. Eclisse, L'
7. Mulholland Dr.
8. The Last Picture Show
9. Born to Kill
10. Kiss Me Deadly
14. The thin Red Line
15. Nightmare Alley
16. Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, The
17. L' Avventura
18. Servant, The
19. Billy Liar
20. Winchester '73
God's Own Country (2017)
The Best English-Language Gay-Themed Film in Years
A beautifully managed slow build-up, with plenty of telling detail and artfully filmed. Set in "God's own country" of Yorkshire, in landscapes of austere, rough beauty. Also austere and rough is Johnny, perfectly played by Josh O'Connor. Handsome Johnny is stuck on his family sheep farm, as his father's (Ian Hart, excellent) health begins to fail. The work is hard and never lets up. Johnny's only outlet is passionless, anonymous gay sex. The landscape and the hard work seem metaphors for Johnny's inner turmoil. When his father hires an immigrant worker to help out, Johnny sullenly goes to collect the guy and a volatile relationship begins, with grunts, silences and barely veiled hostility toward the newcomer (smouldering Alec Secareanu). Gradually, something begins to develop between the two young men, and it transforms Johnny.
Though some homage is paid, comparisons to "Brokeback Mountain" are superficial at best. That film--great in many ways--is set in pre-Stonewall Wyoming, while "God's Own Country" is contemporary. This is a film that exhibits genuine emotion, told with subtly poetic techniques. Nothing feels forced or artificial.
Also in the cast is Gemma Jones, perfect as Johnny's exasperated grandmother. Written and directed by Francis Lee. A new, essential gay-themed film, but recommended to everyone.
A Great, Epic Drama, not to be missed
The second half of Jan Tröll's huge epic film goes beyond the expectations of even those who recognize the greatness of the first part (THE EMIGRANTS). This is a film that attempts to show most of an entire life, and it succeeds. While specific in the period, setting and character backgrounds, it's ultimately a universal experience. We see the great struggle of human existence played out against hardship, joy, horror and tragedy. All of it told through acting, directing and a poetic visual style that drive home the themes, and haunt the memory long afterward. The cast is headed by two of Ingmar Bergman's best-known and lauded stars (Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow, as Kristina and Karl Oscar) along with an astonishing young actor, Eddie Axberg, as Robert.
Great moments come and go, sometimes lingering on the screen, sometimes gone in a flash. Tröll spares the viewer nothing as far as life's harsh realities go. He takes chances too. Midway through THE NEW LAND, we are shown a lengthy flashback of Robert's harrowing ordeal when he and a friend leave Minnesota to find gold in California. Things go terribly wrong, and the sequence can resemble the writing of Cormac McCarthy in its grim poetry--told mostly without dialog and a percussion-only score. Not many directors would have risked it, but he sequence adds immeasurably to Robert's tragic character. In the end, this is Karl Oscar's story, with Max von Sydow in what could be his greatest role. All the wonder and sadness of life is in his performance, and up there on the screen. This is a great film by any standard.
Feud: More, or Less (2017)
Best Episode So Far
The preview and success of "BABY JANE" is enjoyable done, capturing an authentic feel of early 60s Hollywood and movie audiences. Both Lange and Sarandon are at their best, delivering sharp dialog with lots of conviction.
What makes this a great episode is the development of director Robert Aldrich's story line, along with that of Pauline Jameson, his assistant. Both actors (Molina and Wright) are excellent (a highlight is the office scene where Aldrich encourages Jameson about a possible directing career. Aldrich is played as a complex character, a director of talent (belatedly recognized), while Jameson never went very far, her character adds a lot of interest in this program. Then there is Stanley Tucci as hard-headed, plain-speaking Jack Warner who won't give Aldrich a break. Last but not least there is Toby Huss as a despicable Frank Sinatra. Along the way there are re-creations of TV appearances by Davis
The Crown: Smoke and Mirrors (2016)
A "Crowning" Episode
One of the greatest episodes in this magnificent series. It fully lives up to expectations in its treatment of the ceremony itself. The solemnity of the occasion is particularly well realized. The writing is brilliant in the way it incorporates the queen's conflict with her husband, leading into the preparations, and especially moving in the way that conflict is seen to resolve (at least for that occasion). Claire Foy is deserving of any award she can be given, but Matt Smith also deserves recognition for his nuanced playing of Philip.
And not to be forgotten is Alex Jennings's performance as the Duke of Windsor, whose abdication years earlier and "scandalous" marriage had led to his virtual banishment from the royal family. He adds unexpected depth to our perception of the ceremony.
"Smoke and Mirrors" might be seen as the first climactic episode of the series. While many great moments have preceded it, this one can stand alone as a fine achievement of writing, production and acting.
Private Property (1960)
A Psycho-Sexual Thrill Ride from 1960
This legendary, presumed lost film is now available is very good print on blu-ray and DVD. Was it worth the wait? I'd say yes. PRIVATE PROPERTY is artfully photographed and has a very capable cast who give convincing performances. The film is short and to the point: a crime thriller with some subtext, that holds a viewer's interest and sustains plenty of tension. It's not some lost masterpiece, but an accomplished minor film that is somewhat ahead of its time in frankness about some sexual matters.
Corey Allen (Duke), Warren Oates (Boots) play drifters who have apparently just met. Duke is the stronger personality and clearly a manipulating sociopath. He dominates Boots, promising a sexual initiation with a beautiful suburban housewife Ann (Kate Manx). The men have followed Ann to her home by way of nearly car-jacking another driver (Hollywood veteran Jerome Cowan). They hole up in an unoccupied house next door and watch Ann as she swims and sunbathes. All the while, Duke stokes Boots' sexual frustration. It's never clear just how much Boots actually wants Ann. He's clearly under Duke's spell, and soon Ann will be as well. Once Ann's husband leaves on a business trip the film kicks into high gear. There is a nice, moody, late-50s feeling to much of this film, especially in the scenes set inside Ann's home. But unlike most films of the era, PRIVATE PROPERTY has a frankness about sexual matters and sociopathy. Possibly only PSYCHO or PEEPING TOM (both also released in 1960) dared to openly portray violent sexual deviancy in similar ways. PRIVATE PROPERTY is nowhere near those films, artistically speaking, but it's still pretty strong stuff to watch. Leslie Steven's direction is economical and well paced. Thanks to Ted D. McCord, the film has an attractive look, occasionally resembling TV drama from the period. Pete Rugolo's score adds a lot to the atmosphere. Best of all are the actors. Manx is very affecting and it's too bad she did not appear in more films. Corey Allen (always underrated, even after a well- remembered sequence in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE) gives the strongest performance. He's very adept at playing on the other characters' weaknesses to achieve his own ends. And Warren Oates at the beginning of his career is a standout as the weak-willed, sexually conflicted Boots. It's great to finally have this film in such a terrific edition.
Gunsmoke: Quint-Cident (1963)
Cleverly titled as it is, this is one of those Gunsmokes that feels like a feature film. The plot is so eventful, with detailed character arcs, yet never seems forced and should satisfy any viewer.
Quint, Willa Devlin and Ben Crown are the three main protagonists whose plot lines intersect believably. Willa, a desperately lonely woman offers herself to Quint after he and Matt help her one day. He refuses and, later when she is raped (a word never uttered in Dodge) by Ben, she accuses Quint, who is also tormented by a racist rancher.
The story is a commentary on racism, loneliness and criminality, all in 50-odd minutes. It's also beautifully shot, using great locations, and extremely well-acted, in particular by movie great Ben Johnson and the underrated Mary LaRoche A top episode of the superb Season 8
47 Meters Down (2017)
Terrifying Shark movie
"In the Deep" is just simply a terrifying shark movie. It spends very little time on character development early on, and gets to its point quickly. This is a shark attack movie that really delivers. Not so much in terms of gore or violence, but at the level of stark fear and dread.
Actors all do fine jobs, with no real standouts, and the main players convey a very believable feeling of terror. We feel we are underwater, very deep underwater, in a terrifying world where sharks rule the day.
Among recent serious shark shockers, I'd rate "In the Deep" just below "The Reef" (simply horrifying) for sheer shark terror, and a little above "The Shallows" (a good film, but this one out-scares it)
"Of Past Regret and Future Fear", a memorable episode
I had only seen this episode once, in first broadcast and had always remembered it, and seeing it again has not diminished its strength. A young security guard is accidentally doused with a highly toxic substance (hydrochloric acid). He is rushed to the ER, and soon told by Dr. Greene that he will die in a matter of hours. The actor Michael Rapaport gives an award-worthy performance, as he slowly realizes and begins to accept his fate. It's a powerful moment in a series full of powerful moments, but one that can really stick with you. A moment's mistake or carelessness can mean the end of everything, in very little time. Carol's efforts to bring the man's ex-wife and daughter in to see him are in vain, as grudges and anger won't loosen their grip. So the man dies while Carol reads back the letter he writes to his daughter. The rest of the plot lines, interesting though they are, pale in comparison to this small unforgettable story.
Io la conoscevo bene (1965)
No One Really Knew Her
Ironically titled, beautifully shot and well-acted, this is a real 'sleeper' from late in the Golden Age of Italian cinema. Stefania Sandrelli perfectly embodies the naive girl from the provinces who wants to be a star. We never know what she can do well, apart from be charming and look terrific. But she believes there is a place for her in the firmament of the entertainment industry. Adriana gets to live only on the edge of the life she thinks she wants (nice apartment, clothes, wigs, parties, making money from sexual favors or modeling). From the start, she is taken advantage of by 'agents' or others who claim to be helping her. The numerous men she encounters are mostly ciphers themselves. Their only advantage is that they understand the ruthless nature of their world. Adriana is just their latest victim. One charmer skips out in the early morning from a hotel encounter, leaving Adriana stuck with the bill. Another, after a sexual episode, asks her to call another girl for him. In a brilliantly cringing scene, poor Adriana is humiliated in front of friends, as her long-awaited 'film debut' only serves to use her for comic fodder.
The film uses flashback to fill in Adriana's past: she was a normal, if very pretty, girl whose family has already nearly forgotten her. Like many of her kind, she craves the "love" that stardom should bring. As often with serious Italian film, the outcome is pessimistic.
Director Pietrangeli paces the film well and integrates the brief flashbacks to telling effect. Locations are well-used and often beautifully photographed. The film can occasionally remind a viewer of Robert Bresson's work: much faster paced, and with a higher energy level, but with a similar outlook on youth and the harshness of contemporary life. I'd go as far to say if this film had been directed by Bresson, it would be far better known. The international view of Italian cinema at the time was dominated by Fellini, Antonioni and a few others, while Pietrangeli, Monicelli and many fine film makers remain to be re-discovered. Here is a great place to start that re- discovery.
Fourth Man Out (2015)
A Better, though imperfect gay-themed film
4th Man Out has a lot going for it. Well-written dialog, with a real sense of humor. Good acting from an appealing and attractive cast. An unusual and effective location. It's definitely worth a look for anyone interested in the so-called 'sub genre' of gay-themed movies. And for these reasons, it's far superior to many of its predecessors.
Evan Todd as "Adam", the main character, does a fine job of conveying the anxiety of someone in his position. It's a situation many of us can identify with. And it's treated in way consistent with the time period (current) and location (upstate NY, i.e. not San Francisco, NYC or Boston). Adam and his friends are in their late 20s and all have (or think they have) pretty open-minded views about homosexuality, but when Adam announces he's gay it still creates some ripples in their little network. Because the characters are pretty well drawn -- Adam and best friend Chris (played by Parker Young) in particular-- it's hard to condemn any of them for not immediately and fully embracing their friend's news. It takes them a while. Yes, this is not taking place 30 years ago, so we can think they should have no problems. But they do love Adam as a friend and eventually they all come around. The film balances the awkwardness and initial homophobia pretty well, with no really mean-spirited humor. Adam's parents are also well presented, with expected surprise (or lack of it) and acceptance through love.
The single big drawback in 4th Man Out is a dating montage sequence for Adam. He signs on to a gay dating site, or phone app and is quickly barraged with interested parties (he's very good-looking and charming). The problem with the sequence is that it trades in too many stereotypes. The one likely candidate gets as far as a pretty hot make-out session with Adam, but it's ruined by a crass event that seems out of place and unnecessary. Too bad, but this does not spoil the entire film.
See it for the attractive (yet realistic) cast, genuine humor and an engaging story mostly well-told
The Invaders: Panic (1967)
Tense Chapter of "The Invaders"
Beautiful locations and a score that sometimes resembles music of Bernard Herrmann bring distinction to this tense, exciting episode. Guest star Robert Walker, Jr is an alien with a difference. When mysterious deaths attract his attention to the area, David Vincent arrives to investigate and finds Walker responsible. He manages to take the alien prisoner, but a gullible woman (future Mrs. Thinnes, Lynn Loring) helps him escape while Vincent sleeps. There are a few disturbing scenes and a fair amount of excitement in this episode and the locations, meant to be West Virginia, are often striking.
Besides Walker and Loring, who are very good, we have R.G. Armstrong and a few other TV stalwarts of the period in the cast. Frontiere's score is noteworthy and effective and director Robert Butler generates plenty of action and tense drama. A top notch chapter.
Two Hours in Hell
Calling this film 'two hours in hell' is not meant as a put down. This is an accomplished film in most ways. The actors are good, even excellent at times and the director captures a sure sense of place and knows how to depict situations with great realism.
This is the type of film that pulls the viewer into its world, using a semi-documentary style. Filmed in a frigid, grey Montreal, it's an unpleasant world, with no humor or true pleasure. The inhabitants are desperate drug addicts who continually pay for their next fix by selling their bodies or stealing. The title is ironic: there does not seem to be any love in this world either. There is sex, but it's rough and without tenderness. We only glimpse the possibility of love between Alex and Bruno at the start, when the film looks like it might be going to tell their story as a desperate couple. But the real focus of the film is Alex. We spend a few days with him, watching him waste time with demanding abusive friends, or selling himself, or stealing. The film works because Alex is played by a handsome and charismatic actor, Alexandre Landry. Throughout, we feel that Alex is a good kid who has gone terribly wrong somehow, and has wound up in a treacherous, possibly deadly downward spiral. The film is a series of realistically presented scenes, showing Alex's world. It's a world we are probably very happy not to inhabit ourselves. The film isn't perfect--the final section, with Bruno, is somewhat confusing to follow--but it works because of Mr. Landry and a cinematically effective style.
The Invaders: Quantity: Unknown (1967)
Another Gripping Chapter of The Invaders
The 8th chapter of Season One, "Quantity: Unknown" has some original plot touches and uses a number of eye-catching locations, including a great psychedelic night club and a monumental structure featuring a high waterfall.
The cast includes James Whitmore, Susan Strasberg, Barney Philips, Milton Seltzer and William Talman in his last filmed appearance. All are excellent. And as always, Roy Thinnes is a standout.
This episode might recall the great film noir KISS ME DEADLY, as sinister forces go in search of a mysterious metal cylinder. It's easy to imagine TV audiences of 1967 being gripped by this one. It really never lets up and it has a stronger emotional component than some previous chapters.
A visually arresting and exciting episode.
Excellent, not to be missed
STAND is the kind of film that pulls you in, holds on and hits you hard. It asks a classic, eternal question: when is doing the right thing worth risking everything else? Many in the US know that life for gay people in Russia leaves a lot to be desired. This film goes a long way to make us see the oppressed existence of those who do not conform to the "norms" of society. The only way they get along is by maintaining a low profile and not making waves.
Anton and Vlad are a happy male couple. Both attractive and intelligent, they have a seemingly ideal relationship, as lovers and best friends. But a rift starts between them one night, when they witness the beating of a another gay man. Anton wanted to stop the car and help, but Vlad kept going. Later it is learned that the victim has died. Anton devotes himself to uncovering the killer and Vlad somewhat reluctantly, out of love, agrees to help him. But Anton takes one chance too many in his search and Vlad reacts with anger out of fear for his partner's safety. After a painful confrontation, they go their separate ways ,with Anton pursuing his mission at first alone, then with the help of a handsome friend, Andrey. No real spoiler here; the rest of the story is strong stuff and not easy to forget.
The actors are uniformly excellent, with Renat Shuteev, as Anton, deserving top honors for a very convincing characterization. Director Jonathan Taieb does a fine job of setting the scene and evoking excellent performances. A few scenes seem slightly overlong, even superfluous, but they don't detract from the overall quality of this film. An LGBT film with a strong message and artistic value.
Gunsmoke: The Summons (1962)
An all-around good episode
An all-around good episode of Gunsmoke. Very well acted, some excitement and a dramatically compelling story line.
John Crawford was expert at playing thugs and bad men in the Old West, and he's at the top of his game here, playing amoral Loy Bishop. When Bishop's plan to collect a thousand-dollar reward for "capturing" his former friend, a wanted murderer, does not work out the way he expects, he plans to retaliate on Marshal Dillon. Bishop had shot his friend in the back and delivered the body to Dillon, who saw through his criminal plan. Part of Bishop's new plan, that of revenge, includes the participation of Rose Ellen. She is supposed to seduce and distract Dillon, who's been called to another town as a ruse to get him out of Dodge and into Bishop's clutches. Things look pretty bad for the Marshal until Rose Ellen breaks down and helps him escape. When all is said and done--it's Gunsmoke after all, and Marshal Dillon can't be killed off the show--Rose Ellen expects to be the Marshal's "woman". Again, it's Gunsmoke, and he just isn't interested in romance. So poor naive Rose Ellen is left with nothing but an offer to go to Dodge City and look for a job.
This is a very good example of how a pretty formulaic (though always engaging and well-wrought) series can occasionally touch on deeper human values and feelings. Bethel Leslie, who plays Rose Ellen, does an excellent job of conveying the character's despair and emptiness at the end. It's a convincing, "real" moment in a story that in many ways had to be contrived. Very likely, there were many decent people back in those days who ended up with little to hold onto in their lives.
Not a Great Episode, But Still Worth a Look
Contrary to the previous user reviews here, there is no need to disparage Rod Serling or his great series "The Twilight Zone" when discussing an unrelated "Gunsmoke" episode.
The biggest problem in "Coventry" is with villain Dean Beard remaining in Dodge after certain events in which he is clearly involved. He's really asking for trouble. A seemingly clever trickster like Beard would have skipped town. Joe Maross gives a convincing performance as "rotten to the core" villain Dean Beard. He makes the blatant morality play of "Coventry" work. Another good thing is the visual appeal of the episode's denouement, set in amid a windstorm on a desolate prairie. Certainly not one of the great "Gunsmoke" episodes, but worth an occasional look.
Good Episode until the last act
This is a fine Gunsmoke episode until a turn of events near the end spoils the credibility. Actors Dianne Foster, Jason Evers give excellent performances as featured characters. Foster plays Cornelia, a woman whose husband is killed by Matt Dillon out of necessity. When Matt explains the situation to the widow, she only vows revenge and plans to have him killed in reprisal. After a couple of failed attempts to find a gunman brave enough to go against the Marshall, she is approached by Ben Harden (Jason Evers). His handsome looks and pleasant manner win Cornelia over. A romance begins with Ben and she seems to be having second thoughts about her revenge plot. When Matt sees Ben in the Long Branch, he tells him that he suspects Cornelia has approached him about her plot. In other words, he implies that Cornelia is only romancing Ben so that he will be willing to do her dirty work. However, we don't really know if that is true, since Cornelia does seem very taken with Ben. Logically, Ben goes to Cornelia and asks if what Marshall Dillon implies is true. She answers only that she loves him and they embrace. Then, illogically, Ben announces he will carry out Cornelia's reprisal and kill Matt Dillon. He rushes out of the room and after a moment's reflection, Cornelia tries to catch up with him. In only a few moments, Ben has followed the Marshall 10 miles out of town where he plans to confront him with a gun. Cornelia arrives moments too late and must see Ben lying dead after Matt had to shoot him in self defense.
This is a good plot with a faulty final act. Ben should not have changed his mind so quickly about killing Matt: he could have believed Cornelia had changed her own mind about revenge or simply refused to do the job. In spite of that, it's an engaging episode with good performances by an attractive cast.
Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Lurid, unconvincing and ultimately pointless
Diane Keaton is a charming and attractive performer, but she is not up to this role. She is visibly uncomfortable in the sleaze/sex scenes and often resorts to mannerisms familiar from her Annie Hall character (watch this film and think of Annie Hall. It's obvious she is not immersed in the Theresa character). On the other hand, Keaton does well in the scenes where she is a teacher, and is quite convincing. Despite the all-around histrionics, she is not bad in the family scenes with sister and father. But this film fails for a few reasons. It has a dark, depressive atmosphere that is not justified by its outcome: poor Theresa is damaged emotionally by her physical 'defects' and by a too-strict Catholic upbringing, this is believable. And it's believable that a person lacking self-confidence would seek out acceptance and affirmation from promiscuous sex (a fairly common scenario, actually). But the film really does seem to say that Theresa deserves her fate in the end. She blows off the one man (Atherton) who would have made sense as a partner and feels compelled to continue a descent into debauchery. Doesn't this film seem to say, keep up with this kind of lifestyle and you'll end up miserable and bitter (like Theresa's sister ) or brutally murdered? This film seems to indulge us in its sleazy world, yet it seems to judge Theresa for immersing herself in it in a vain attempt to ease her pain. Note the way director Richard Brooks chooses to end the film, on Theresa's face as the life blinks out of her--there is no requiem, no final coda expressing pity or remorse. We have been shown the brutal murder of a sympathetic character as if it were a scene from a cheap horror movie. Diane Keaton is not solely to blame for the ultimate failure of the film, the writers and director are more responsible. Still, it's hard not to imagine Keaton and Tuesday Weld exchanging roles: Weld has a much wider range as an actress and certainly would have handled the 'secret life' with more conviction.
L'inconnu du lac (2013)
Sex & Death in a beautiful setting
"L'Inconnu du Lac" is a beautifully shot film. That's part of the seductive nature of the experience for the characters and for the viewer. We don't see a lot of gay-themed films like this, minus most of the stereotypes, in a minimalist setting, with threadbare narrative. The protagonist, Franck, is a cute, 20-30-something guy who swims at a lake frequented by other gay men in search of sun and sex. Franck has no trouble attracting attention, with and without his swimsuit on. He quickly befriends an older, unattractive man who always sits alone and seems aloof. Franck's need for connection to others is emphasized by this friendship. When Michel, a handsome, mustachioed hunk, is spotted, Franck goes into hot pursuit mode. The two connect after a while, in one of several graphic sexual encounters, and, much too soon, Franck thinks he's in love. The film takes a sinister turn when Franck witnesses Michel drown a previous companion in the lake. Consumed by desire for Michel, he tells no one about this and, though he admits to a detective that he was there on the evening of the murder, denies he saw anything. Why? Franck is so sexually addicted to Michel that he cannot bear to let him go by exposing him. The relationship between the two men continues, without real development, since Michel will have none of Franck's insistence on anything more than sex. In the end, Franck is consumed, literally by desire: the "petite mort" of sexual pleasure becomes the annihilation of the self. The film's beautiful setting plays against the disturbing narrative, making it a unique, provocative, and often erotic experience.
Keep the Lights On (2012)
An excellent main actor saves this one
Thure Lindhardt is at the center of this film and he's really its only saving grace. His Erik is the kind of character many of us know, or have been, in life. He's in his late 30s, but hasn't really done much with his life, and he's somewhat addicted to casual sex. When a phone hook-up leads to emotional involvement, Erik's life suddenly has a focus and it gives him more impetus to complete his documentary film project. Handsome, charismatic Lindhardt is well-cast, as a non-native trying to make it in New York. He knows how to express the conflicts within Erik: wanting love, but pursuing an impossible object. He's decisive, tender, petulant and confusing, all at once. Lindhardt is the kind of actor who can do much with small nuances of voice and facial expression.
Unfortunately, Lindhardt is playing opposite a much less compelling character and actor, in Paul (Zachary Booth). This actor gives a professional performance, but Paul is so nearly a non-entity, it's doubtful anyone else could do more with him. He's narcissistic, drug-addled and self-destructive from the start, and he never changes. Erik is narcissistic too, but his character and storyline have more substance. For some viewers, it may be hard to understand why Erik puts up with Paul and returns to him again and again. Lindhardt makes us believe in Erik's obsession, at least most of the time: we don't always want the most appropriate person. One one level, this is a story about the power of sexual attraction, but it's also about the attraction of a 'wounded deer'. Erik thinks that Paul needs him, and that notion is as strong as any to make him continue the relationship.
Also good in the cast is Julianne Nicholson, as Erik's close friend and collaborator. She brings a natural, lived-in quality to their scenes together.
The film opens well, and builds the narrative nicely, until the final third, when it feels slightly disjointed and suffers a bit from a loss of energy. It's nicely shot and has a mostly pleasing music score, highlighted by the song under the opening credits.
Le monte-charge (1962)
Finely Crafted Noir Thriller
Lea Massari makes a memorable femme-fatale in this Hitchcockian venture into nocturnal suspense. "Le Monte-Charge" (Literally, Service Elevator) is a dark, little-known gem of late-period Film Noir. Irony plays a major role right from the start, as Robert (excellent Robert Hossein) returns from prison on Christmas Eve. All he finds is a lonely Paris neighborhood, with people rushing around the streets, shopping and chattering. His mother had died while he was in prison, and her dark apartment is a depressing place to be. Solitary Robert dines alone, but by chance he meets an attractive woman, Marthe (Massari) and her little girl. Eventually, Robert ends up in the woman's apartment, but things don't go quite as he expected. This elevator makes some mysterious and extremely intriguing stops along the way, and it would be unacceptable to spoil any of them. Director Bluwal shows influence of Hitchcock and of some masters of French crime drama, with atmospheric camera work and in particular the use of sound effects. The actors are fully inside their roles. Besides the fine leads, there is Maurice Biraud, very good as Mr. Ferry. Georges Delerue provided a score that is a classic of his particular kind: sparingly used and melancholy. Much of the story is set in a large factory building that contains a private apartment, but Bluwal makes great use of Paris exteriors as well (not the typical, romantic ones, but the quartiers inhabited by ordinary working people). Not just another disposable thriller, this is a meticulously crafted film of startling surprises, revelations and numerous cinematic pleasures.
Le franciscain de Bourges (1968)
Pain and Suffering in Bourges
After his triumph in "Les Dimanches de Ville-D'Avray", Hardy Krüger gives another unforgettable and unique performance. In "The Franciscan of Bourges", Krüger plays Alfred, a German in occupied France, near the end of the war. In the film's second scene, the actor is introduced with a sympathetic look on his face, as he watches a young man taken in by the Gestapo for questioning. Alfred knows what the interrogation will entail--the young man was caught spying on a German operation. It will be relentless and brutal. Director Autant-Lara spares the viewer none of the violence and cruelty of the new prisoner's treatment, and it's a mark of the film's power. Very early on, we are shown what the French citizens are up against on a daily basis. Alfred knows of the inhumane treatment of prisoners, but he is unable to steel himself against it, or see it as "necessary". When he pays a visit to the victim and his brother, who was later brought in, Alfred reveals himself to be a Franciscan Friar. This means all men are his brothers and he is obliged to offer comfort and aid to anyone in need. Krüger plays Alfred with a kind of innocence, even though the cruelty he witnesses cannot be new to him at the time of the story. The film suggests that the youth of the most recent prisoners has awakened him to take a more active role. He is moved by the treatment of the two brothers, and is further touched by two even younger boys who are captured and held at the prison. In a beautifully played sequence, Alfred arranges for a middle-aged, wounded, resistance worker to see his wife for the last time, on his way to a hospital where he will surely perish. The Friar's superiors suspect his actions and issue a severe warning. But Alfred's determination to help the suffering prisoners only increases. When the two youngest captives are awaiting what may be a death sentence, the film reaches one of its strongest moments. Alfred discusses belief in God with one of the boys, who insists there is nothing to believe in, or to pray to. Alfred says the boy should pray to God as though he did believe. "Why", asks the boy, "should I pray to someone I don't believe exists?" The utter despair and nihilism of his situation gradually becomes too much for Alfred to bear and he turns to drink at one point. Eventually, he even plots to sabotage the Germans. The film has several scenes of stark emotional power. This is an unflinching look at the individual, human face of the Resistance and of at least one member of the enemy whose own humanity is brutalized by the experience. A masterpiece that deserves a wider distribution than it apparently received at the time of its release.
An Essential Film of Great Ideas
This is a brilliant film. I have not seen a another film that successfully shows how someone creates a work of art, especially a literary work. This film does it brilliantly, largely by quotations from the poem read very effectively by James Franco, who plays Ginsberg. Acted out interviews illuminate many things and the trial itself is extremely involving to watch. Even the animated portions we see while we hear parts of the poem work well. It's a remarkable film about artistic creation and how the artist must be allowed to use his own words and to use language that expresses his meaning fully, not language that is inoffensive to some imaginary reader.
Franco, John Hamm, David Strathairn, Bob Balaban, Jeff Daniels are all at their best, and seem truly committed to the project.
You don't even have to be a fan of Ginsberg, or know much about who he was to enjoy this. I was really impressed, one of the best films of this year, but it will likely be ignored by many.
In agreement with the other comment, this is a superior episode of AHP. Simply and perfectly titled, "The Motive" has so much in it that it seems longer than it is, but in a good way because it's so interesting.
The plot setup, while preposterous, is well handled and convincing. And the actors are well cast, giving energetic performances. Skip Homeier (Tommy) never achieved real stardom, but he made an impression every time he appeared on screen, in films such as "The Gunfighter" (where he plays a young gunslinger lacking common sense) and especially in "Tomorrow the World!" (in which he plays a former Hitler Youth, with chilling realism). TV stalwarts William Redfield and Carl Betz (soon to play Donna Reed's husband on her sitcom) bring plenty of life to their characters, and we even get Gary Clarke as a bellboy for one scene.
What makes this episode so memorable is the well-played, cold calculation of the characters, and the brilliant twist ending, which wraps things up, yet leaves the viewer thinking. "The Motive" is a like a good short story come to life. Is Rose Simon Kohn's original story comparable? It may be worth seeking out.
Leave It to Beaver: Kite Day (1961)
One of the best of the entire series. This beautifully written episode balances humor and serious drama in the characteristic style of the show, but it has special qualities beyond that. The main theme of father and son bonding is played without a hint of pathos, by using a clever device of having Beaver's enthusiasm about building a kite transferring over to Ward, so that they really share the excitement. The episode doesn't need Eddie Haskell to generate laughs, there are plenty of them in the opening scene with Beaver and his friends as they discuss their fathers, while Ward and June have some of their funnier teasing exchanges. Besides all this, the episode has a fine cameo appearance by Jason Robards Sr, as Mr Henderson, a man Beaver thinks is the kind of Indian who can perform a rain dance. Robards brings palpable warmth and realism to his three-minute scene. It all adds up to a memorable episode from one of the all-time great shows.