Sunday, April 18, 2010

Movies I saw this weekend

Homocide (dir. David Maet, 1991), on Criterion DVD (2009). A cop procedural whodunnit with a cop who is Jewish but doesn't know if he is a Jew because he doesn't live in Israel and is set up by the Mosad to commit a crime and then be blackmailed to produce a list of names he already entered into evidence. A nice bookend with A Serious Man.

Kapo (dir. Pontecorvo (1959), just out from Criterion.
Very good (very Rossellini--washed out high contrast black and white that has a neorealist, documentary feel)) except for the end (a failed attempt to do a version of the Odessa Steps sequence in Battleship Potemkin, only set in a concentration camp).
One of the most interesting things about the film is the casting of Anne Frank as a Kapo (she pretends not to be a Jew but a thief who died in the camp and whose identity she takes over, first prostituting herslef, then becoming a Kapo), the actress who had played Anne Frank. She says a Hebrew prayer as she dies, after knowingly sacrificing herself so others can escape (they are mostly shot and killed attempting to do so). Kapo could never be made today.
Asquith's The Browning Version last night.

I also watched a film noir by Max Ophuls called The Reckless Moment
starring Joan Bennet and James Mason. Also excellent. The Browning
version has a great interview with Mike Figggis about the film and The
Reckless Moment has a great interview Todd Haynes on the film and how
he stole bits of it fro his film Far from Heaven,

Also recently watched two Frank Borzage films, The Mortal Storm (1940
and Three Comrades. They were recently released by the Warner
Archive. Borzage has a big reputation among cinephiles and I had only
seen one of his silents, which I thought was good but not that good.
The Mortal Storm seemed a like a pretty bad melodrama (the best thing
it has going for it are Jimmy Stewart and Robert Young, but even they
are forced to overact), but there's a concentration camp sequence in
it (the word "Jew" is never said, but Frank Morgan [Wizard of Oz]
plays a "non-Aryan" who is sent to the camps for his scientific theory
that all human blood is the same. There's a remarkable ski chase
near the end that comes out of nowhere--sort of Spellbound with Nazis
in it--and the last two shots are really memorable. Three Comrades
feels like a proto-Douglas Sirk film--kind of a queer film in that
three guys hang out even when one of them marries a woman. It's based on
an Eric Remarque novel. There's an excessiveness about the
acting--very artificial and stylized--that is perhaps what cinephiles
appreciate about it. But the music is pretty awful, in any case.

Last night I also watched The General Dies at Dawn (dir. Lewis Milestone, 1926), with Gary Cooper and Madeleine Carroll. It was fantastic. I'd never seen it before. A great Hollywood gem, with a cool title sequence shot with the titles appearing on sails of various Chinese junks floating on a river, some
innovative split screen work (four corners of the screen open up in
turn to reveal different characters before dissolving into one of the
corners, a kind of comic self-consciousness about the intricacy of the
plot, and a bit near the beginning and the end about a the white ball
used in pool (don't know what to make of that, but it's very cool as a
formal device).

I've also been watching a number of Charlie Chan films with Werner Oland. Totally formulaic
(even the same sets are used, redressed, in different films) but
wonderful. And I watched yesterday the new 30 minute longer version of
Metropolis broadcast in Germany a couple of months ago. A guy in
Munich on a listserv I'm on responded my request for a recording and
sent one to me. The music was performed by a live orchestra at a
screening in Berlin. Very nice effect. The new footage has not been
restored, so it looks pretty scratched up.

I'm now watching Peter Weir's The Wave for the first time since I saw it in theatrical release.  OMG, it still sucks.

1 comment:

csaper said...

In one weekend?! At least eight films? Maybe you should have watched Lost Weekend (1945) ... as the summary.