Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

“Go away, I'm warning you. Go away or I'll kill you myself. See... that's the way I feel about you.”

            The first time I watched Shadow of a Doubt was a few years ago. I did not think much of it. To be honest I do not think too much of it now even after rewatching it with a better understanding of Hitchcock and his style. I can see why he considers one of the films he made though it has the type of story that appealed to him.
            Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotton) is sitting in his room starring at the ceiling. His landlady comes into the room to tell that two men claiming to be his friends are looking for him but she told the two men that he was not home. He tells the woman that it is funny that the men said they were his friends because he does not even know them. When the landlady leaves he looks out the window and thinks to himself they cannot pin anything on him. Charlie knows the two men are detectives. He walks out of his boarding house knowing they will chase him. He manages to shake them off his tail. Charlie goes into a pool hall and calls Western Union to send a telegram to his sister Emma Newton in California to tell her that he is coming for a visit.
            Charlie Newton (Teresa Wright) is also sitting in her bed starring up at the ceiling. The phone rings downstairs and she makes her younger sister, Anne, answer the phone. Anne tells the woman at the telegraph office she does not have a pencil to take the message down she will have her mother call her back. When their father, Joe, comes home he goes up to Charlie in her room. He asks what is wrong and she says in so many ways that she is bored she needs something to come and shake up their dull lives. Charlie gets the idea to telegraph her uncle Charlie who she is named after and is very close to. Her mother finds out that the telegram is from her brother Charlie that he will be coming into town. At the telegraph office young Charlie finds out her uncle is coming into town.
            The family is thrilled to have Uncle Charlie at the house. Emma is very happy to have her baby brother she absolutely adores around. Before dinner Uncle Charlie shows Anna how to make a barn out of the newspaper. All three Newton children say that is their father’s paper. When young Charlie goes to put the paper back together she realizes that pages three and four are missing. At dinner Uncle Charlie gives everyone presents. He gives his niece a ring with initials inscribed on the inside. His niece notices that the initials are wrong but he just blows it off as the jewelers having done a poor job. Young Charlie goes to her uncle’s room after dinner saying she knows he is hiding something he was the one who took the two newspaper pages. Charlie tries to tell his niece that there was an article some gossip on a good friend of his. When she picks up the pages Charlie gets up from his chair and grabs his niece’s wrists and twists the papers out of her hand.
            The next morning Emma brings her brother breakfast in bed. She tells Charlie two men came to the door that morning saying they are from the government and have been traveling the country looking for the perfect American families to document. Charlie knows what is going on he knows they are the detectives who were after him in Philadelphia. He tells his sister he will not be part of this interview he does not want photographs taken of him. There are no photographs of him and he wants to keep it that. Emma tells him young Charlie has a photograph of him when he was a kid. She shows him the photograph. It is him when he was ten years old when he got a bike for Christmas. He went out riding it on the ice and slid right into a trolley car and fractured his skull. When he woke up he was never the same again he did not look the same nor did he act the same he was always looking for mischief.
            The detectives posing as questioners for the government come into the house. They take photographs of the rooms in the houses and the family. Young Charlie takes them upstairs and one of the men, Saunders, take photographs of the room Uncle Charlie is staying in. The other detective, Jack Graham, later on asks young Charlie to go out to dinner with him. Charlie figures out Jack and Saunders are detectives. Jack tells her Uncle Charlie is possibly the Merry Widow Murderer. When Charlie gets home she goes to her room to see if the clippings her uncle took out of the paper are in the trash bin. She does not find them there and runs to the library. The library is closed but fortunately the old librarian lets her in. Charlie sees the clippings in the paper including a lady with the initials that were on the ring her uncle gave her.
            Now Charlie’s world has been turned upside down. She can no longer be the innocent small town carefree girl she once was. Her uncle that she is named after and adored unconditionally is a man who murdered three women. Charlie can no longer bear to look at her uncle. He eventually figures out that his niece knows about what he has done. His knowledge brings danger to Charlie’s once tranquil life.
            Ken Mogg in his book The Alfred Hitchcock Story found the description about the director’s films from art director Robert Boyle- he “liked to tell his fairytales against reality.” Mogg says in the next sentence “If young Charlie is Shadow of a Doubt is perhaps Little Red Riding-Hood, her uncle is the wolf.” Both observations are a perfect way to describe this film. It is a fairytale, a nightmare fairytale, told in reality and Charlie is the Riding-Hood to her uncle’s wolf. I think the story is interesting but I just felt there was no tension in the story. When I watch a Hitchcock film I expect there to be some kind of tension. I am sure there is depending on who is watching this film but to me there is not the tension I expect from the director.
            I was not too crazy about the cast. They were all purely American characters and actors. I guess I am used to Hitchcock’s European/continental characters in his other films. At the same time they all fit their roles quite role. Teresa Wright was good as the niece who held her uncle up on a pedestal and when she learned the truth from him she fell hard and despised him. I loved the way she told Joseph Cotton the quote I posted above. I was afraid of her! It is a line that you cannot imagine Wright saying. Maybe that was the point it was so shocking to hear her say that because she looked so innocent and sweet even when she was supposed to be feeling miserable. Joseph Cotton is just an awesome actor. He was a great villain. I liked how the audience was made to sympathize with Charlie. We learn that he suffered from a fractured skull when he was little and he was never the same since. We know now that someone’s personality can change depending on how bad and where they sustain a head injury. We also never saw him kill the widows. But as Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut Charlie was probably a killer who thought the widows deserved to die. We feel terrible that young Charlie has to destroy her beloved uncle because of what she knows he has done.
            Shadow of a Doubt has an interesting story but I just felt there was no tension in it. When I watch a Hitchcock film I expect there to be some kind of tension. I am sure there is depending on who is watching this film but to me there is not the tension I expect from the director. Although I am not thrilled with Shadow of a Doubt I still suggest seeing it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

"Life, every now and then, behaves as though it had seen too many bad movies, when everything fits too well - the beginning, the middle, the end - from fade-in to fade-out." 

            The Barefoot Contessa is told through flashbacks by three men at the funeral of a woman they all cared for and loved.
            Harry Dawes (Humphrey Bogart) begins the flashbacks. He met the woman Maria Vargas (Ava Gardner) years ago in a bar in Spain. Maria was a dancer at the bar and its main attraction. Harry, a screenwriter, was traveling with his boss Kirk Edwards and his press agent Oscar Muldoon (Edward O’Brien) looking for new talent. Kirk heard about Maria and her beauty and wants to meet her. Maria makes only one appearance a night and refuses to come out of her dressing room. Frustrated, Kirk sends Harry back to speak to Maria since Harry is a nice calm guy. He speaks to Maria telling her that Kirk can offer her money and fame. Maria seems uninterested. Harry returns to the table and Kirk is ready to have a major fit. Maria comes out to speak to Kirk and Harry but does not commit to anything. Harry goes to Maria’s apartment that night where she lives with her parents. Her home life is not very good. He notices she does not wear shoes for very long.
            Maria eventually does agree to come to Hollywood. She becomes a major success. Harry and his wife act as sort of guardians of Maria. He cares for the actress as if she was a young sister. Kirk desires Maria to the point where gets into a sort of pissing match with a sketchy millionaire who also desires Maria. Kirk makes a fool of himself during this match which takes place at a party in front of several people. Maria winds up walking away with the millionaire.
            The next flashback is told by Oscar. Oscar became fed up with Kirk and became publicist to the millionaire Maria was then seeing. One night in the south of France at a casino the millionaire had been gambling all night with Maria by his side. As soon as she left his luck turned and he became furious with her yelling at her in front of the other guests. A man came in from the other room, slaps the millionaire in the face and walks out Maria.
            Now the flashback is told by Count Vincenzo Torlato- Favrini the man who slapped the millionaire. He recounts that he cannot remember what made him drive from his home in Italy to the hotel in the south of France. As he was driving through the country side he came across a camp of gypsies. Maria is dancing with the gypsies as if she was one of them. That night Vincenzo sees Maria being yelled at by the millionaire and he is the one who slaps him and walks away with her on his arm. They fall in love and eventually marry. Unfortunately on their wedding night Vincenzo tells Maria that he is unable to father children due to a wound he sustained in the War.
            Harry ends the series of flashbacks with the last time he had seen Maria. It was the night she died. He was in Italy scouting for locations for his next film. Maria came him to him upset about how she could not have any children with Vincenzo. She claims she will have a child no matter who with she wants to give Vincenzo a child and she wants one. Harry goes to Vincenzo’s family home looking for Maria. He hears a gunshot go off and runs around to the back of the house. Harry sees Vincenzo carry out Maria’s lifeless body into the house. As Vincenzo calls the police to report he has killed his wife Harry sits with Maria’s body in arms and then lays her down and takes off her shoes.
            Sorry if this review sounds a bit confusing and all thrown together. Trust me the story is ten times better than I have been able to describe (I did not have my notebook with me when I watched this I was at my grandma’s house at the time).
            Ava Gardner deserves all the praise in the world for her performance. She was beyond brilliant. It is funny how Gardner made several films that reflected her personal life. She was always looking for love and found what she thought was love with men who did not suit her. Maria was not a wild woman like Gardner was but she was very close to the actress. Humphrey Bogart was great. Sometimes he gets on my nerves so bad in some of his films but here he played such a great character and really played his character’s kindness and admiration so well. I like Bogart outside of his bad boy roles. Before I had seen the film I thought that Bogart and Gardner’s characters were supposed to be in love which would have totally turned my stomach because to me Bogart is one of the least romantic leading men I have ever seen. Their characters had a great and respectful and protective friendship and I really liked seeing that I liked that Bogart was protective and not tough and that Gardner was not a sex symbol after his love and attention.
            Joseph Mankiewicz wrote and directed the film. I love his storytelling and direction. His films are dialogue heavy but the dialogue is beautifully balanced out with his great direction. I love the shots he got of Ava Gardner she never looked more stunning.
            The Barefoot Contessa moves along slowly but it is never boring. This is a film that should get more credit and be more known. Direction wise it is beautiful and moving. The story is fantastic because it does not show an actress who wanted to be loved acting like a no good woman it shows the actress as a human being who just wants to be loved by the right man. I highly suggest viewing The Barefoot Contessa

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Silent Sundays: What Price Glory (1926)

“Charmaine, this war and racket is sorta a religion.”

            Very few films deal with World War I. It was an important war yet it seems to just be a cliff note in history classes (for America at least it seems to be that way). Of course during the 1920s WWI was still on the minds of Americans and other countries and the movie industry told stories about that war the way they would with the Second World War. I have seen a few silent films that dealt with WWI such as J’Accuse and The Big Parade. Both of those films were incredible and beautiful and moving. I have seen Wings and was not too impressed but I can see how it was important. I have recently watched the 1926 film What Price Glory?. I was not very impressed with that film either. But where Wings had a decent story and plot What Price Glory? was two men with huge egos who just fight over the same girl.  
            What Price Glory? basically just tells the story of two soldiers named Quirt and Flagg. They were stationed in China for a few years together and in that time they were always fighting over women. Flagg is eventually sent to France at the beginning of “the war to end all wars” as a captain. He tells his men not to flirt or get into trouble with the local girls in the village they have been stationed at. Flagg of course breaks his own rules and begins seeing Charmaine whose father owns an inn.
            Flagg’s unit is sent to the front and sometime later they come home. He is to move his troops onto another part of the front but he has to wait for his new sergeant to come in and help. The sergeant comes in and he turns out to be Quirt. Almost right away the men are fighting over Charmaine.

            What Price Glory? is two hours of two men fighting over a girl. There are parts that dragged and were not entertaining. I was sad that I felt this film was so lackluster because Raoul Walsh was the director and he is one of my favorite directors. His direction was not bad at all it was just the story and plot that was terrible. One reviewer compared this film to The Big Parade. That to me is blasphemous. The Big Parade is a beautiful story with a character that was sympathetic and likable. Neither Quirt nor Flagg was likable. They were annoying beyond explanation. Charmaine played both of them but I found her to be the only real likable character. What Price Glory? was definitely not the best war film I have ever seen and is definitely not the best one at all that takes place during World War I.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bachelor Apartment (1931)

“I apologize” 
“For what?”
“For living”

            Ladies and gentlemen I have finally found an Irene Dunne Pre-Code that I actually enjoyed! I have seen several of Dunne’s Pre-Codes and early films and almost all of them have been a complete bore. I am excited to say that Bachelor Apartment is the first Dunne Pre-Code that I was able to sit through without wanting to turn off.
            The film begins with a butler named Rollins cleaning up after a wild party his employer Wayne Cater (Lowell Sherman) held the night/morning before. He finds bracelets and jewels all around the apartment. As Rollins tries to clean up either the door bell or the telephone rings. Wayne wakes up not too happy at all the nose the bells are making.
            On his way to the office Wayne sees a pretty young lady in the car alongside his. Wayne’s car almost collides with a truck. The young lady’s car does. Wayne immediately rushes to her side. All the lady wants is to get to the train station to get back home to San Francisco. Wayne has other plans he takes her for a drive around Central Park and then back to his house. At the house her dress gets messy. Wayne gives her one of several dresses other women have left behind.
            Helen Andrews (Dunne) lives with her sister Lita. Lita tells her sister that she met Wayne Carter in a store that afternoon and has invited her to his place. Helen is not very happy her sister is putting herself out for a man. Both want to marry a rich a gentleman but Helen is the only one rational enough to want a real gentleman not a slimy one. Lita just wants to marry someone with money so she will not have to dance in a chorus or live in a rundown apartment. Lita just misses a letter from the theater manager she had auditioned for that she has made it into the show. Helen runs to find Lita at Wayne’s apartment. Wayne immediately denies that Lita is there. The young lady Wayne picked up walks out of a room. Helen and Wayne find Lita with Rollins in the kitchen. Rollins was pretending to be Wayne. Wayne is enamored with Helen. He tries to ask her out to dinner but she is not having any of what he is saying.
            Not too long later Helen gets a job as a stenographer in an office. She is brought to the boss’s office. The boss just so happens to be Wayne. Helen wants to leave right away she wants nothing to do with Wayne. He pleads with her saying he has been looking all over for her and reached out to every employee agency to do so. Helen eventually agrees to work for him.
            Helen quickly learns her way around the office and takes control of several of Wayne’s affairs. In the employee locker room she hears some of the other women talk about her. They say who does she think she is taking over like she is the boss and has been around for years when she was just hired three weeks prior. They also say that Wayne never acted like he has been with Helen with his last secretary. One day Wayne is sick and tells Helen to come to his apartment. Almost as soon as Helen arrives Wayne gets a call from the girl from San Francisco and an old lover named Mrs. Agatha Caraway comes over.
            Wayne is so embarrassed about Helen hearing and seeing the other women in his life when he is truly in love with her that he stays away from the office for a week. One of the women from the floor comes into the office. She thinks Helen knows where Wayne is and tries to get a confession out of Helen. Luckily Wayne comes in and explains why he was away.
            The same night Wayne comes back Agatha is waiting for him in his bed. Wayne is mortified that she is there and wants her out right away since Helen is coming over for dinner. Agatha does not leave before Helen arrives. Now Helen thinks that Wayne is still continuing his own ways and lied about really loving her. To make the situation worse Agatha’s husband comes by with the intent to kill Wayne since he thinks Wayne is sleeping with his wife. Mr. Caraway forces Wayne to open the door to his bedroom. When the door opens Helen is on the other side. Mr. Caraway feels terrible and leaves. Helen storms out of the room and out of the apartment.
            When Helen gets home she gets into an argument with Lita. Lita promises she is never come back again and storms out the door. In the middle of the night Helen wakes up to find her sister has not come home. In a panic she races to Wayne’s apartment since Lita has been seeing one of his friends. Wayne’s goes to his one friend’s place but the friend has not seen Lita and the man she was with for a long time. Luckily Lita comes home unharmed and very happy. She and the guy she was with were married.
            And of course to make the ending happier Wayne and Helen wind up together.
            Irene Dunne as usual was excellent as usual but there was nothing amazing about her performance. What makes her performance different from her other Pre-Code performances is that her character was not tragic and dramatic. Dunne’s character was just right for her. She had great chemistry with Lowell Sherman who was also the director. Sherman did a great job directing the film. I have seen Sherman before in What Price Hollywood? and I really liked him in that.
            Bachelor Apartment is one of my favorite Pre-Codes I have seen. I liked the running gag at the beginning of Wayne always having women around and all the jewelry they left behind. And as I mentioned at the beginning I am so happy to have finally found an early Irene Dunne film I enjoyed since all the ones I have seen were way too dramatic and boring. Bachelor Apartment is not available on DVD (it needs to be!!) or on Youtube I had it recorded from over the summer when TCM featured Irene Dunne in their Summer Under the Stars program. Keep an eye out for TCM to air Bachelor Apartment again it is worth seeing. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

After Office Hours (1935)

The year before After Office Hours Clark Gable played fast talking reporter Peter Warne in It Happened One Night. Louis B. Mayer thought he was punishing Gable by sending him to a lesser studio than MGM but the film went on to be one of Gable’s most famous roles and film. Mayer the next year decided to cast Gable in After Office Hours not as a low class reporter but as an editor. He also decided throw in a little class, since we know that MGM was all about being classy, by making Constance Bennett a society girl who wants to work as a newspaper reporter. Gable’s character in this film starts out fast talking and silly like Peter Warne but since this is MGM Gable is more sophisticated and not as silly especially when his character wants to work his way up into high society.
            Jim Branch (Gable) wants to cover a scandalous divorce between a husband and wife with a younger man thrown into the mix. Jim sees that there is much more than what meets the eye with this divorce. His boss wants him to throw the story out because the young man Tommy Bannister has a future political career and the boss wants to be able to get Tommy into Congress. Jim is upset to hear this because he helped the paper up from nothing and made into a popular paper but he agrees to end the story.
            Working in the office is Sharon Norwood (Bennett). She comes from a wealthy family but she wants to work for a newspaper. Sharon has been working at the paper for two weeks. Jim calls Sharon into his office and for some reason I cannot remember fires her. That night Jim takes a girl friend to a play. They get to the theater at intermission but that was Jim’s whole idea. He knows Tommy Bannister and the divorcée Julia Patterson will be there. He was right Tommy would be there but he was not counting on his date being Sharon. Jim immediately wants Sharon back at the office in the morning but she throws it back in her face that she was fired that afternoon.
            When Sharon gets home she finds Jim there chatting very nicely with her mother (Billie Burke). As her mother is in the kitchen Sharon and Jim begin to talk and come to like each other. The following night Jim takes Sharon to a club where he knows yet again Tommy Bannister as well as the Pattersons will be. Sharon is friends with all of them since they are all in the same social circle. Jim gives whatever scandal he has made up an extra push by egging Bannister and Mr. Patterson into an argument. Sharon has enough of Jim and leaves with Tommy. Tommy takes her to his boat house. He notices Julia coming by in her boat. Julia saw him leave with Sharon and she tells him that she does not want what happened to her and her money to happen because of him to Sharon. Tommy accidentally strangles Julia. Sharon is upstairs the whole time but because of the record player being on she heard nothing.In the morning Jim goes to Sharon’s apartment to tell her about Julia. Julia was found dead in her home apparently having died because her husband was drunk.
            Jim is the only one who thinks Julia was killed by Tommy. He wants Sharon’s help in catching Tommy but she refuses since he is her friend.
            Constance Bennett and Clark Gable were wonderful together they had perfect chemistry. Bennett was such a good actress and always seemed to have great chemistry with whatever actor she was starring with. Honestly I think the woman could have had chemistry with a stick she was so good. Gable always played a tough guy and I think Bennett always played a tough lady which made them a great screen pair. Billie Burke was annoying as usual but for some reason I get a kick out of seeing her in films. Maybe that is because I am so used to seeing her as Glinda the Good Witch.
            After Office Hours is a good mix of comedy and drama. The dialogue is fast paced and witty delivered with brilliance by Clark Gable and Constance Bennett. Hopefully After Office Hours will be released on DVD one day, I would very much like to own it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Five Year Engagement (2012)

“The first important thing to remember about marriage is that it requires commitment. The second important thing to remember about marriage is that so does insanity.” 

            I wanted to see The Five Year Engagement when it came out in theaters and of course I never got around to seeing it then. I am not a fan of Jason Segal if I see him in anything I usually stay away from it because the man drives me up a wall. I only sat through it for Emily Blunt since I think she is an extremely talented actress. Blunt and Segal are a weird combination but somehow they worked and the movie was really cute.
            Tom (Segal) and Violet have been dating for a year when Tom proposes to her. They plan to get married in the near future but of course life gets in the way. Violet’s sister Suzie gets pregnant by Tom’s friend Alex and they get married. Violet is offered a job in Michigan at the college. Tom gives up his job as a chef. He thinks he can find a job out there but everyone laughs at him that he left a job in California and came out to Michigan.
            Their relationship begins to fall apart because Tom is working a crappy job at a sandwich shop and Violet’s job at the school is going very well.
            Typical romantic comedy the couple breaks up and dates other people but they still cannot get over each other. In the end after five years Violet and Tom wind up getting married.
            The cast is very good. Jason Segal still annoyed me I do not find him funny. He wrote the movie though and he did not do too bad he came up with a good story. Emily Blunt was wonderful. She really can do anything she is fabulous at drama and comedy. Alison Brie who played Suzie and Chris Pratt who played Alex almost stole the movie they were hilarious.
            The Five Year Engagement was a good movie. It dragged big time in the middle it could have been shorter. The movie is good to see at least once.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Warm Bodies (2013)

“Don't be creepy! Don't be creepy!”

            Two of my brothers and our best friend are obsessed with zombies. The Walking Dead is promptly on our TV at nine o’clock every Sunday. I can take it or leave it with zombie stories. I really enjoyed Night of the Living Dead that had a great story and of course it is the beginning of the zombie genre (is there a “zombie genre” or did I just make it up?)When I saw the commercial for Warm Bodies I thought it looked good but in the back of my mind it looked like a crappy teen movie. My one brother Christian wanted to see it since he loves zombies. Even though he is thirteen I trust his judgment… well to an extent but in this instance I trusted him and I also really wanted to hang out with him since we barely see each other during the week with our school and after school/work schedules. Warm Bodies turned out to be surprisingly very good.
            The movie is told through the point of view of R. He goes simply by R because ever since he was turned into a zombie he cannot remember his name all he can remember is that his name began with an R. R wanders around an airport with other zombies as well as what they call “bonies” zombies that are just bones. If he had a best friend it would be M. They manage to communicate in only two or three words that they are hungry and want to go out to get some food. They travel in a slow pack into town to find any humans they can.
            In town at the same time are a group of humans named Julie, Perry, and Nora along with some other people. They are from a section of town or better yet a military base that has been blocked off by Julie’s father. The group is sent on a mission to get medication from a lab. At the lab they are attacked by the pack of zombies that R is traveling in. Perry makes the mistake of shooting R. R gets pissed off, swipes Perry’s legs out from under him, and knocks him to the floor. R grabs hold of Perry’s head and smashes it to eat the brains since as he says is the best part to eat. He sees Julia cowering on the floor. Whatever remnant of a conscious he has makes him save Julie by covering her human scent and taking her back to the airport.
            R keeps Julie in a plane he has made his home. She is not thrilled about having to stay with R especially since her father brain washed her that they are terrible. R manages to get across that she needs to stay because it is safe. She believes him after she tries to get away and is almost attacked by several wandering zombies. He says she has to stay with him for a few days until the next search for food. In the time Julie is with him they become friends. R begins to change he begins to speak in fuller sentences and the color is returning to his face.
            In the meantime, M begins to remember certain things about being human. The other zombies around him begin to change as well. The bonies come close to attacking M and the other zombies because their heart beat. They notice they are changing.
            Julie eventually returns home. She tells Nora about R and she actually misses him since he was so nice to her. From eating Perry’s brain R can see some of Perry’s memories. He sees how Julie and Perry were able to escape their walled world to the outside R goes to Julie at her house. With her and Nora’s help R is cleaned up. Julie wants to take him to her father to show him that the zombies are changing they becoming human again.
            Julie’s father will have none of it and almost shoots R dead until he hears that over his walkie from his men that the zombies are attacking the bonies. R and Julie try to run away together. They come to a door that leads to a fall drop. To save Julie, R takes her puts his back to the ground as a cushion and falls. When they come up out of the water they fell into R has become a full human again.
            I really liked Warm Bodies because the story was not all about doom and the end of the world. Whenever I watch a zombie movie I always feel bad for the people who were turned into zombies and wish they could go back to being human so the zombies in this story going back to being human was perfect for me. It was also a nice kind of love story that was not cheesy or teeny bopper. When the movie was over I turned to Christian and said that I cannot wait for this to be out on Blu Ray I will own it the day it comes out. Christian agreed he liked the movie as well. Warm Bodies is definitely worth seeing in theaters it was great to see a different kind of zombie story being told. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Shoot the Piano Player (1960)

“When my love turns to hate, I'll wear a cap as I go.” 

            Before viewing Shoot the Piano Player I had never seen a François Truffaut film. I heard about him from reading about French cinema and have his book of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock. I had been curious to see a Truffaut film and Shoot the Piano Player was the first one that I found.
            The film starts with a man named Chico running away from two men. He runs into a bar where his brother Charlie is the piano player. Chico wants Charlie’s help hiding but Charlie wants nothing to do with his brother’s problem. He does wind up helping somewhat when he knocks over cases of wine to stop the two men from getting to Chico as he runs out the door.
            That night after work Charlie walks a girl named Léna home. Léna likes Charlie she walks up to his piano and talks to him as he is playing. As they are walking she notices that the two men who were after Chico are now following them. Charlie and Léna manage to get away from them. The next morning in his apartment Charlie looks out the window and sees the two men are waiting for him to leave his apartment.
            Léna takes Charlie to her apartment. She has a poster with his face on it. We find out Charlie used to be a famous concert pianist named Edouard Saroyan. He had been married to a waitress. The more famous Charlie became the more she became jealous of him and his success. All they do is argue and after one fight where he walks out she kills herself by jumping out the window. Ever since then he has been going by the name of Charlie and works in bars in small towns.
            Charlie’s youngest brother has been taken by the two men. Charlie and Léna drive out to his family home. He knows the men will be looking for not only Chico but also their other brother who stole money from the men’s employer. Gun fire erupts as soon as the men reach the house. Léna runs to Charlie and is shot.
            There is a lot more to this film than what I have written but I am not going to give anything away and honestly, the film is not complicated but I feel I could understand it better if I were to watch it again.
            I really liked Shoot the Piano Player. As I say every time I watch a French film they are so much more creative and stunning than American films especially the ones made in the fifties and sixties. There were so many great scenes and shots. The story was very good. I like the artistic feel of Shoot the Piano Player and the different moods the character goes through in each of his surroundings. I look forward to watching more of Francois Truffaut’s films. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Silent Sundays: Johanna Enlists (1918)

“Oh Lordy- when I prayed for a man- WHY did you send me a thousand?”

            Every year I go back to my high school history teacher’s class to give a presentation on the Imperial War Museum in London. I went to the Museum three years ago (goodness it feel like yesterday!) and ever since then I have gone back to my history teacher’s class. I have a good time teaching the kids, through my photographs of the museum, the different aspects of both World Wars (I go usually in the winter for WWI and then in the spring for WWII). When is started giving this talk three years ago I was not into classic films and the history of Hollywood as I was now (and I was not a very good teacher I was quite dull and not that interactive. I guess my museum education classes have been coming in handy after all) I had no idea that there were propaganda films during WWI. I thought if I did not know this for the longest time neither would have classes of sixteen to eighteen year olds so I thought it would be cool as an aside for my picture of film and photograph camera to tell them about a few films from that era.
            I remembered reading in a Mary Pickford biography that she had made two films dealing with The Great War- The Little American and Johanna Enlists. I put the posters of these two films on my PowerPoint and gave the little tidbit that although Mary Pickford was “America’s Sweetheart” she was actually from Canada. I cannot remember what made me choose Johanna Enlists over The Little American but I am so happy I did because Johanna Enlists is hysterical.
            Johanna Renssaller (Pickford) is a young girl coming of age on a farm out in the middle of nowhere. There are no young men her age for miles. She flirts with the married handyman much to her family’s disliking and her father chases him away with a shot gun. Her life is a dull farm life getting up every day at 6am and doing back breaking work until dusk. At night she prays for a beau to come and break the monotony of her life and to take her away from the farm.
            The following day Johanna’s wish for a beau comes true- in the form of a thousand man army regiment! The regiment is on their way to head to the front until they get orders to stay put for a while. Johanna is thrilled that all these men will be around to flirt with and pay attention to her. She starts to read beauty magazines to make herself look pretty and even tries to educate herself by trying to dance like a muse she sees in a book.
            Johanna gets much more flirting and attention than she bargained for. A Lieutenant named Frank LeRoy and a High Private named Vibbard vigorously vie for Johanna’s attention. This fight for her attention leads Vibbard to almost being Court Martialed.
            From beginning to end I was laughing so hard at this film. The title cards are so hilarious. Since Johanna and her family are supposed to be uneducated so everything is spelled wrong or used in the wrong context. I was dying with the way college was spelled- “collitch”- and the way education was spelled- “ejjicatun”. The title cards were fabulously dry and sarcastic almost to a point of being cruel but you cannot help but laugh every time they come up.            
            Mary Pickford was a riot. I can see why audiences loved her she did anything to get a laugh and was totally believable as this young girl doing all she could to get a beau (Pickford was young at the time she was twenty-five). I was dying laughing at the park where Johanna tries dancing like a muse. Her father comes out and calls for the mother and they think Johanna has come down with a case of the fits. The father gets a bucket and throws water on her while she is rolling around on the ground!
            Johanna Enlists despite being outrageously funny is really interesting to watch for its use of an actual regiment. At the end a title card lets you know that the soldiers were all actual members of the 143 Field Artillery Regiment and that Mary Pickford was their Godmother and Honorary Colonel. So not only do I get to tell my teacher’s classes how this is a good example of a propaganda piece from World War I, I also get to them this is a lot of fun to watch. If you want to have a good time laughing at a silly old film with some of the best title cards you will ever see watch Johanna Enlists. As of right now it is available to watch on YouTube.