Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I did it!: 1930


(I'll re-post my entire revised 30s lists next with a few thoughts on the experience, but for now here's the final individual list post of the 30s):

1930, my final 30s list, has been a long time coming. The first film I watched for this project was THE BLUE ANGEL and the last was HELL’S ANGELS. 1930 served as a wonderful bookend to months of glorious and enlightening viewing. Here’s the list:

1. L’Age d’Or (Bunuel)
2. The Blood of a Poet (Cocteau)
3. Animal Crackers (Heerman)
4. Earth (Dovzhenko)
5. Monte Carlo (Lubitsch)
6. Under the Roofs of Paris (Clair)
7. All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone)
8. The Blue Angel (von Sternberg)
9. Hell’s Angels (Hughes)
10. Murder! (Hitchcock)

L’AGE D’OR - The start of the decade brings us two of the most famous avant-garde films of the era. I, of course, have to go with my hero Bunuel here. The perennial provocateur gives us an essential guidebook for surrealism as well as his own insanity/inanity/foot fetishism. Crazy that he wouldn’t make another film of real note for another 20 years, which makes this even more a treasure.

THE BLOOD OF A POET - I guess whatever hipness I lost with Bob Hope over Cocteau is redeemed here by putting two surrealist films at the top of this list. Seriously though, I find this and Bunuel’s film to be such creative, strange, and innovative masterworks that it's hard to put anything this year over them. They are viewing experiences unlike any other, and I admire and respect the ambition of both men.

ANIMAL CRACKERS - “Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.” Part of me would love to put all Marx Bros. films at the top of my lists, but the rest of me knows I gotta spread the esteem around. This is one of their best and therefore funniest films however.

EARTH - A silent film masterpiece that could easily be at the top of this list. The ultimate predecessor to the visual poetry and natural holiness of Terrence Malick.

MONTE CARLO - Has one of my favorite one-liners in a film (if you see it, you’ll instantly know which one). Basically a standard variation on the “Monsieur Beaucaire” story but told as a musical-comedy √† la LOVE ME TONIGHT. Still incredibly charming and entertaining. I think we have a very early example of that ineffable Lubitsch touch.

UNDER THE ROOFS OF PARIS - Another charming and entertaining musical-comedy from the sprightly Rene Clair. His early work is an unmitigated delight.

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT - I’m a huge fan of the novel, and this is one of the few book adaptations (of those that I’ve read before seeing the film) that I am a huge fan of as well. Captures the horror of war in less graphic fashion than the novel but still hauntingly and poetically. A great visual achievement as well.

THE BLUE ANGEL - The one that started it all. And one that several of us actually watched together and wrote about together!

HELL’S ANGELS - One of Kubrick’s favorites. The story itself is perhaps a bit too melodramatic, but the legendary aerial battle sequences plus Jean Harlow completely make up for it. It’s an amazing visual spectacle, with one sequence hand-colored and several others with blue and red filters. The most expensive film of all time up to that point.

MURDER! - Mostly restrained (but remarkably assured) for Hitch, in terms of set pieces, locations, and visual flair, until the finale at the circus which is quite awesome. A standard mystery with a great director emerging. Herbert Marshall is also great as the jury member who just won’t quit.

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