Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bringing it all back home again

Damn, we need to get these blogs going again. If April is the cruelest month then March surely is the dullest.

I've seen a few films lately, and I'll try to write a little something about each of them. No word yet on whether or not I'll ever write about CLAIRE'S KNEE or HEART OF GLASS. Sure, they are great films, but who really cares about the 70s anyway?

Let's get on with the Golden Age talk.

George Stevens made a seriously delightful political comedy in 1942 with THE TALK OF THE TOWN, but he completely outdid himself only a year later with 1943's THE MORE THE MERRIER. Both films have Jean Arthur and her adorable mousy voice but only THE MORE THE MERRIER has Joel McCrea, so it wins. He just commands everyman likability. But the film itself also a great situational comedy and an endearing romance to boot. It sets itself up nicely for situational gags by having Charles Coburn play the ultimate meddler. In an over-populated, under-housed Washington D.C. during WWII, his character moves in to Jean Arthurs' apartment and starts disrupting her excessively regimented life. When he decides to sublet half of his half of Arthur's apartment to Joel McCrea's character, the film becomes a comedic and romantic visual feast. It's probably Steven's best work, and it benefits from having a terrific cast.

Another great comedy from 1940s is Preston Struges' second film released in 1944 (after HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO)–THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK. It might be the wackiest and most blistering film he ever made, which is saying something. It certainly seems to be the most risqué. It's about a woman who comes to one morning (after a night of partying with a host of soldiers) and finds that she is both married and pregnant, but has memory of who the father/husband is. You wonder how the Code ever let this see the light of day but thankfully they did. It's another hilarious circumstantial comedy from Sturges, a man who could dream up inventive comedic conceits like no other. He was a comedic genius, no doubt. It's got a lot of his usual repertoire of actors, and is the second film he did with the underrated and underused Eddie Braken. Braken is neurotic brilliance here just like in HERO. I don't know if anyone plays flabbergasted better than he does. Fans of Sturges will also be happy to see an appearance by The Great McGinity himself, Brian Donlevy, who makes a very memorable cameo. Anyway, like most of Sturges's films, it's a blast.

Ford's THE HORSE SOLDIERS (1959), which Brandon recently recommend to me, is a great civil war film (though I watched it on Encore Westerns, it's gotta be technically "a southern," right?). It could basically be great just for its beautiful sylvan landscapes and Ford's technical mastery. I responded to that the most, but the story and action are also involving and Wayne and Holden make a dynamic pair of rivals.

Ozu's A STORY OF FLOATING WEEDS (1934) is pure silent poetry. It's the same thing as the 1959 remake, but has a different kind of visual beauty and tenderness to it. Both equally as great though.

THE LITTLE MINISTER, I think we all can agree, was pretty tedious. It wasn't that particularly well directed or edited either. It needed someone like George Cukor or William Dieterle to class it up a bit. However, it did have one great scene that we got to see over and over with all sorts of David Lynch distorting effects layered onto it. So, at least there was that. Regardless, it was a fun time at the movies with a great group of fellas.

I'm going to watch BLAST OF SILENCE and BEND OF THE RIVER soon. Also, going to watch VERA CRUZ online and RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (finally) on TCM this thursday. Got Cukor's THE WOMEN coming in the mail too. I'll try to keep the posts coming. Three so far this month just doesn't cut it.

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