I just wanna post a preliminary 1938 list because it is finished. I’ll watch that crappy, Spanish subtitled version of TRADE WINDS soon (woohoo!), and then correct this list if necessary. I just wanted to post what I already have, and I’ve decided to actually write something about this list for a change. It's good to make yourself write even when you don't want to.
1. Le Quai des brumes (Carné)
2. The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock)
3. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz)
4. La Bête humaine (Renoir)
5. You Can’t Take it With You (Capra)
6. Angels With Dirty Faces (Curtiz)
7. Alexander Nevsky (Eisenstein)
8. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks)
9. Jezebel (Wyler)
10. Pygmalion (Asquith, Howard)
Marcel Carné’ LE QUAI DES BRUMES (or PORT OF SHADOWS) surprised me. I was anticipating it to be good and for me to enjoy it based on my love and reverence for LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS, but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. It’s such an involving piece of cinema. It’s so beautiful to look at, with each frame seeming to glow and the atmosphere shrouded in fog and mystery. It’s also poetic and romantic with a precarious sense of doom holding sway over everything. You instantly connect with these characters who are all trapped in this lonely seaside city, looking for love, hope, meaning, anything. You’re alone there with them; you’re looking for a way out but you’re also looking for each other. In this way, the film reminds me of THE PETRIFIED FOREST and why I connected to that film so much. Being stuck in a place with only your romantic ideas to hope for is something I respond to immensely. LE QUAI DES BRUMES is a masterpiece and one of the best of the 30s.
THE LADY VANISHES has to be one of my favorite Hitchcock films now. I saw it many years ago and don’t think I was prepared for it. Watching it again, I just loved it. It’s exciting and mysterious exactly the way it should be. It often gets singled out with THE 39 STEPS as being the best of Hitch’s 30s work and it’s easy to see why that is. As a narrative, it is told very well and it unfolds perfectly, just hooking you in from the beginning. It’s also oddly humorous and whimsical in ways you wouldn’t expect. The shootout scene in particular is very funny and unusual.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD is just a blast. The stuff that pure boyhood enjoyment is made of.
LA BETE HUMAINE is a particularly dour noir (which I like), and it has such a tightly constructed narrative. Renoir was a storyteller who could illuminate just about everything and make you see it in a different way. He also understood the complexity and depth of humanity as well as any filmmaker of his age.
YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU is so much fun. I remember reading the Self Styled Siren’s criticisms of it when she poster her films she doesn’t love but feels like she should list. I think she’s dead wrong with her criticisms. Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart are a great team, and the film is just trying to be silly the way great screwball comedies are. The thing I like about films like this is that they ask you to losen up and just enjoy the zaniness. I don’t think Grandpa Vanderhof’s tax stance is being seriously offered as an argument but as a piece of silliness. The main argument of the film is to be silly, but also to stick by your family. What’s so wrong with that?
ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES has one of Cagney’s best performances (and he had many). I think what makes him so incredible a performer is that while he is very intense and seemingly rigorous, there is a vulnerability to him that makes him endlessly sympathetic (or at least he portrays this inner sense of vulnerability perfectly). He’s easy to be impressed by and to love. One the greatest actors ever. This is another great film from Curtiz, a director who I really admire. With this film, it doesn’t seem as if it is just a PSA against the rise in gangsters and organized crime. There’s also a little TREE OF LIFE thing going on in terms of this pull between nature and grace. I mean, the title says it all.
What ALEXANDER NEVSKY lacks in terms of narrative, it makes up for in terms of cinematic inventiveness. It’s basically a propaganda film, but it’s constructed like epics that would come much later in film history. The extended ice battle sequence is rightfully praised as much as it is.
I enjoy other Howard Hawks films more than BRINGING UP BABY but still find it very funny and a real good time à la YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU.
JEZEBEL is a real beautiful southern gothic. I love Bette Davis.
PYGMALION is a very fine adaptation of a truly great and witty play. Sorry MY FAIR LADY, I prefer the original story.
haha you can tell how quickly I get tired of writing.