Monday, June 25, 2012

Return of the Round-ups

I should probably get back into the habit of writing at least a sentence about some of the movies I've seen. Here goes:

LANCELOT DU LAC is one of Bresson's best films. It's even better than I hoped it'd be. I love how Bresson dismantles Arthurian mythology, favoring earthiness over enchantment. The immediate conflict appropriately focuses on the knights' relationships to their ideals, their faith, and their conceptions of God. These are defeated and brutal men who live and die by the sword. The constant clanging of their unwieldy armor reminds us how shackled they are by their own sense of self-importance and godly pomp. The final image of their bloody bodies in a heap while a bird flies unfettered overhead is perhaps one of the best evocations of the Malickian nature versus grace dichotomy. Give me a few more watches and I might do a longer write-up for this incredibly rich film. Bresson is officially one of the highest contenders for my favorite director spot. Bergman and Kubrick, you've been warned.

Speaking of great directors, Fritz Lang's WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS is hands down one of the best noir films I've ever seen. I am in complete awe of it. Brandon, see it as soon as possible because you will absolutely love it. I mentioned HIGH AND LOW in relation to Fincher, but here we truly have the ultimate precursor to the SEVEN/ZODIAC procedural legacy. This is a great investigation film, a stylish serial killer film, and an all-around great film about obsession, manipulation, and burning the midnight oil. It has such an incredibly star-studded cast, and I think the best thing about it is how thoroughly it lives up to its title. This is a film that just feels as if everything is happening in the subterranean and furtive hours of night when no one who matters ever sleeps. It only helped that I watched it late at night like I do most movies. This one spoke right to the night owl in me. It's a serious must-see.

Another film that I'd definitely recommend seeing (especially for John) is Cukor's THE MARRYING KIND. It stars the perfectly matched Aldo Ray and Judy Holliday as a couple recollecting the history of their relationship as they consider divorce. It's very funny and beautiful written by the real-life couple Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon (who did consistent great work with Cukor, it must be said). The great thing about it is its genuine depiction of the ebb and flow of a relationship à la Woody Allen, and the interplay between Ray and Holliday. It's nice seeing two completely imperfect actors team up together. His voice is too hoarse, hers too shrill, but together they form a terrifically endearing pair of odd-ball lovers. Thank you Quentin Tarantino for making me aware of this one.

Speaking of Judy Holliday, I watched BORN YESTERDAY for the first time recently too. It's the sort of film that makes you lament the inane state of mainstream comedy today. It's a super smart and legitimately funny comedy with a big heart and an idealistic message that today's lousy politicians would do well to heed. As good as Holden and (Broderick) Crawford are, this is Holliday's movie 100%. She completely owns her role and is frequently hilarious as the lovable but dim-witted Billie. The "card game" scene is such a hysterical visual gag. Very charming film.

Godard's LES CARABINIERS is a wickedly absurd depiction of war that reminded me a lot of the simultaneous insanity and horror of Heller's CATCH-22. Godard is less less preachy here than he is focused on just having wildly ridiculous fun. I mentioned to John how much I loved the "post card" scene. It's hilarious. The whole thing is just pure anarchical bliss. I loved it.

I'll probably save talking about BONJOUR TRISTESSE for my 1958 list. I loved it though, and I think it's one of the best testaments to Preminger's talent, visual acumen, and unrelenting darkness. Boy, this picture sure looks gorgeous.

Minnelli's GIGI is gorgeous too. The story and songs are perfectly serviceable, but the real star of the show is the beautiful cinematography and art direction, which are both just out of this world. Minnelli rules.

JOHN CARTER is solid entertainment. It did speak to the boy in me who grew up loving 80s adventure films just like I hoped it would after reading John's review. I'm surprised more people didn't go see it because, in my mind, I really think its the perfect modern-day adventure film for kids to stare agape at. I don't understand why it was so neglected by the public or by critics. As I said to John, I think the problem may be that Stanton brought the earnestness of an animated film to a live-action setting. Perhaps we've grown so accustomed to winking and camp in our live-action epics that we no longer recognize sincerity when we see it. To me there is really nothing unappealing about JOHN CARTER, apart from the fact that it may be too old-fashioned in its filmmaking to captivate a generation weened on the stupidity of the new STAR WARS films and AVATAR. It's certainly not the "mess" critics depicted it as. In fact, there are plenty of films the majority of critics have championed that are much more messy, confused, and thoroughly underwhelming. JOHN CARTER didn't get a fair shake.

I am definitely ready to say that I really liked MOONRISE KINGDOM. It's Anderson's most visually rich and assured film and his most sincere attempt to champion the spirit of community. Whether you believe the love story or not is of no strong importance. To me, understanding the film is all about whether you buy into the bonds of friendship the film tries to forge or not. Anyway, I'll try to do a proper review for it soon.


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