Friday, November 05, 2010

The retro movies I've seen

It's time to catch up on the movies I've seen on the small screen of late.

Breathless: Was lucky enough to catch this in 35MM in Columbus a couple weeks ago. And I had never seen it all. Suffice it to say this pioneering film of the French New Wave absolutely deserves its reputation. It's one of those films that makes me wish I had been around to see it on its original release. Maybe Jean-Luc Godard became a pretentious ass later, but this film alone seals his place in cinema history. And Jean Seberg is very easy on the eyes  GRADE: A

Detour: This famous film noir has a reputation for having been made in two hours at a cost of $35 - and still being quite good. OK, I'm exaggerating.  A little. But not about the pretty good part. It was only available on DVD via a cheap public domain copy and the print was in terrible shape - but that actually added to its allure. GRADE: B+

The Defiant Ones: I watched Tony Curtis' one Oscar-nominated performance not long after his passing. Like many of Stanley Kramer's "message" pictures, it's a bit preachy and dramatically obvious, but thanks to Curtis and costar Sidney Poitier, it delivers. GRADE: B+

The Misfits: Clark Gable. Marilyn Monroe. Eli Wallach. Thelma Ritter. Written by Arthur Miller. Directed by John Huston. How can it not be great? Well, oddly. it's not. Sometimes a disadvantage of that much firepower is that everyone is trying too hard, and the effort puts a strain on the film. Miller's story in particular feels too high-minded. Still, it's a highly watchable film thanks to the performances GRADE: B

Hi Mom: This is very early Robert De Niro and very early Brian De Palma, before the latter began working in faux Hitchcock mode. Even in his early days, his direction is still show-offy, and I can see hints of later films, particularly Body Double, in that it shares a preoccupation with voyeurism.  It's fairly intriguing but the story wanders too often. GRADE: C+

My Neighbor Totoro: The film that made Miyazaki's name in this country is as magical as most of his movies. And I WANT a 12-legged cat bus. GRADE:  A

Panic in the Streets: This is a good, solid suspense film, but the odd thing about it is that it falters  when it tries to be deep and to explore What It All Means. And what's odd about that is, that's where director Elia Kazan usually excels. This time, however, Kazan is much more effective at delivering action beats in a story about criminals who have no idea they're spreading a deadly virus. GRADE:  B

The Snake Pit: A fascinating look at how society used to view "crazy" people and the psychiatric treatment of them. It's inevitably dated, but emotionally it works very well, thanks to the lead performance by the great Olivia de Havilland.   B+

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