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One to seek out on TCM
This is not the movie I remembered-- its self-consciousness about duplicating the mode of light-Hitchcock (such as NORTH BY NORTHWEST) is disingenuous, and the remarkable cast I remembered isn't given much chance to shine. But one aspect is extraordinary-- Charles Lang's color work, in the spanking Turner Classic Movie print, makes watching the film on mute an appealing option. Watch the colors in the stamp-market sequence-- or more obviously, watch his devotion to the beauties of Grant and Hepburn: if your television is half-decent, you will begin feeling cheated by the drab projections elsewhere.
Le Crabe-Tambour (1977)
A one-of-kind martial valedictory
CRABE-TAMBOUR's base-camp story is simple-- the antiquated officers of a functionless army spend a voyage home on rough North Atlantic seas recounting stories of a cavalier-soldier whose busted military career spanned France's last years of colonial globalism. This beautiful film (master Raoul Coutard's sea-footage is a film unto itself) is rich, ironically resonant, and in a wrenching last scene, comparable to Peckinpah in its regard for its stoic heroes, the last-men-standing at the sorry end of empire.
Ray's finest, if one has to pick
Much as I love this film, I wish that any new viewer might first encounter it on a big screen, with its lovely, rhapsodic recreation of its late 19th Century setting is most apparent. The Chekhov parallels are overwhelming-- same period, same bittersweet attention to over-privileged lives, more than anything else the same rare affinity for female characters.
Il testimone dello sposo (1997)
Luxurious and wholly engaging
Two of the three previous squibs here are negative. Ignore 'em. This film is delectable-- showed it to a roomful of old/young relatives Christmas night, and they all were delighted (while arguing with a pat ending). Huge cast-- more than 40 speaking characters, nearly all distinct and well-acted. Reminiscent of Visconti's THE LEOPARD, its art direction and costumes make for a lovely evocation of provincial Italy wedding, everyone in their best, on Dec. 31, 1899 (a good reason for rushing out to rent it right now). Most interesting as a compendium of folk rituals surrounding weddings in late nineteenth century, some familiar and a few bizarre. The film would be worth seeing for that alone-- but watch for the delicacy of the hero's interactions with the several women who pursue him, or the two beautiful group scenes over the wedding gifts.
Danner in excelsis
The recent exaltation of Gwyneth Paltrow might conceivably lead to renewed awareness of her extraordinary mother. Maybe someone will merchandise ECCENTRICITIES. Blythe Danner's performance in this film, from PBS' series of filmed American plays, is one of the greatest filmed performances I've ever seen-- a white-hot bit of lunatic romanticism so close to the heart of Tennessee Williams' sensibility. To have seen the scene ending with Danner's whispering, silhouetted in a window, "My love, my love, your light is out-- now I can sleep," should convince anyone that Tom Stoppard should have been writing great scripts for HER.
A Cry for Help (1975)
An anomaly-- TV movie with a sensibility
This film has stuck in my head for nearly 25 years. A call-in radio DJ mishandles a suicidal caller and then pursues her, through his call-in show, for ambiguous reasons-- remorse, or higher ratings. It received a little attention in 1975-- its ensemble story-telling, with the narrative darting from one call-in witness to the next, is unusual. Director Daryl Dukes was also responsible for PAYDAY, the extraordinary Rip Torn film about a pernicious country/western singer.
Heroes for Sale (1933)
A Yank Jean Valjean-- worth searching-for
HEROES FOR SALE is available on videotape as part of the "Forbidden Hollywood" series of pre-Hayes Code films. Since it is not salacious, unlike most of this line, its inclusion is a bit of a stretch-- its hero's morphine addiction is honestly come-by. Still, it is a grabber-- I have shown it to three acquaintances, and each has been as surprised as I. Why isn't this film better known? If you trouble yourself to find a copy, what you will get is a furiously compacted plot line that resembles an Americanized LES MISERABLES. Won't spoil the surprises, which are frequent. But the plot is hardly more surprising than the film's anger-- watch for the series of quick scenes late in the film documenting a Red-scare vendetta by Chicago police. What really seems "forbidden" here are the politics.