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Thread: 2007 Repertory: Oldies but Goodies

  1. #46
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    What I'm saying is very specific and clear, dear sirs.
    I think Mikey and Nicky is better than any of those good Nichols films you listed and A New Leaf is just as good as them. No proof, just my opinion, and of course I've seen them all. I don't know if that makes May "better" than Nichols because he made more good movies than she did. But none of them is as great as May's masterpiece.

  2. #47
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    I just watched "Working Girl" and rediscovered what makes this rather dated "eighties" flick still relevant despite the hair. It has great heart. Don't get me wrong, Oscar. You are a great wit, intelligent, and I really think this should be in the guilty pleasures post (plus you've been very supportive to me).

    So whose to say Elaine May isn't great? Not me.
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  3. #48
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    Thanks for the very kind words, cinemabon. I appreciate Mr. Nichols as a director who specializes in adapting texts by others to the screen. He is uniformly good. I think of Working Girl as a modern-day fairy tale in which Melanie Griffiths realizes her full potential as an actress with her characteristic charm and grace.

    Ms. May has always been recognized as a great talent ( at least during the 70s). Time magazine called A New Leaf one of the funniest, most startling comedies of the decade. Dave Kehr referred to Mikey and Nicky as "one of the most innovative, engaging and insightful films" of the 70s. These are films she wrote, directed and edited. They show a unique vision of the world and human relationships. Her take on male friendship (M & N) is extremely sharp, realistic and nuanced. It's perhaps not a film "for the masses" though, as it doesn't conform to the average viewer's conception of escapist entertainment. And it probably lacks the polish of slick Hollywood product, which I actually appreciate.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 10-06-2007 at 11:24 AM.

  4. #49
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    ANNA AND THE WOLVES (Spain/1973)

    After appearing in Dr. Zhivago, Geraldine Chaplin stayed in Europe, and visited Madrid. He met director Carlos Saura and decided to stay. Ms. Chaplin became Saura's lover and muse. She appeard in every film he made between 1967 and 1979. As great as Saura's more recent musical films and biographical essays are, I am particularly fond of the dramas he made in collaboration with Ms. Chaplin. Most of these could reasonably be labeled political allegories. Ms. Chaplin has referred to Saura during the era prior to Franco's death as an "intellectual contorsionist", in that he had to find ways to critique Spanish institutions while being subjected to strict state censorship.

    Chaplin is Anna, an American girl traveling through Europe. She gets a job as a nanny of three girls. She arrives at a country estate and meets the family. The focus of the film is Ana in relationship with the three brothers who live there. Juan is the father of the kids and married to a seemingly frigid and suicidal woman. He has a "head full of semen" says his brother Jose, as he typically and relentlessly attempts to seduce Anna. Jose is a domineering, short and bald man, obsessed with order and discipline; a collector of military uniforms. Fernando (the magnificent Fernando Fernan Gomez) is a reclusive type who has decided to lead the ascetic life of a monk within the confines of a nearby cavern. The characterization of the three men is psychologically detailed but each is clearly meant to represent societal vices and institutional malaise.

    Anna and the Wolves was banned in Spain by the Franco regime for nine months. It's not one of several Saura films of the period to win major awards at the Berlinale (The Hunt, Faster,Faster, Peppermint Frappe) or Cannes (Cria, Cousin Angelica) but it deserves to be mentioned among them. Some might actually like it more than the award-winners because of its ideological clarity and a most devastating and unforgettable ending.

  5. #50
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    Thanks a lot. Did not know that about Geraldine Chaplin. Is this on US DVD? Netflix?

  6. #51
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    Did you know that Kubrick never missed a Carlos Saura film?
    He loved every film he made.
    source: Charlie Rose show with Christiane Kubrick, Jan Harlan & Martin Scorsese to promote the doc "A Life in Pictures"

    Harlan says he never missed a Woody Allen or Scorsese film either. He explained how huge a cinephile Kubrick was- he watched everything he could get his hands on, and the bad films created a shame: "I hope I don't get caught watching this.."
    Marty Scorsese was relieved to hear that. I guess he gets embarrased too when sitting in front of a shitty film.

    Watch the 1 hour program on youtube. It's excellent.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  7. #52
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    *I didn't know Kubrick liked Saura's films so much but I'm not surprised at all. They even have a similar backgrounds, artistically speaking. They're both photographers-turned-filmmakers. Kubrick sold an unsolicited picture to Life magazine at age 16! Saura traveled around remore areas of Spain in his late teens/early 20s and published a book of the amazing photographs he took along the way.

    *Chris, I should have specified I watched Anna and the Wolves on a Spanish dvd not available elsewhere. Unlike Peppermint Frappe, Mama Turns 100, and The Garden of Delights, Anna wasn't even released on vhs in the States. Same goes for Cousin Angelica, which I'll be viewing and reviewing soon. The dvd I recommend is the Criterion edition of Cria, still my fave Saura film, which includes an excellent biographical documentary about Saura.

  8. #53
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    Okay, I put Cria on my Netflix queue. They list it as Cria Cuervos.

  9. #54
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    Cria! is a Masterwork, an absolute must-see.
    Please let us know what you think when you see it Chris.
    I can't see how anyone wouldn't like it.

    Saura captured something there.
    I can't put my finger on it but he really captured something.
    The song Porque te Vas- good God is that awesome.

    Oh Ana Torrent
    Angel Child
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  10. #55
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    THE CHESS PLAYERS (India/1977)

    Those familiar with Satyajit Ray only through his b&w, neorealist Apu Trilogy won't believe their eyes. Here's a lush, brightly colored, political satire set in 1856 that's been rarely seen, at least in the West. Ray, as is customary, scored the music, directed and wrote the script_based on a story by the legendary Munchi Premchand. The narrative alternates between two threads. One is a picaresque tale of two "landed gentry" who are obsessed with chess to the complete neglect of their wives. They are Mirza and Meer, and they are completely oblivious to the world around them. They live solely to satisfy their desires, in the city of Lucknow, located in Oudh, the only Indian province not under British management. The second thread concerns the maneuvers between Oudh's King Wajid and the Governor General seeking to void a decade-old treaty with Wajid and have him abdicate the throne. That the King is a poet and art lover provides a rationale for Ray to regale us brief poetry recitations and a gorgeous dance sequence. The Chess Players is a feast for the senses, with beautiful sets, costumes, and music throughout. It's also an engaging history lesson within a critique of politically-passive narcissism.

  11. #56
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    MERRY-GO-ROUND (1923)
    QUEEN KELLY (Finished in 1929, not released until 1932, and only in Europe)

    Erich von Stroheim was, arguably, the best filmmaker working in Hollywood during the silent era. This Viennese Jew, who converted to Catholicism and assumed a bogus aristocratic background upon arriving in America, had a consistently epic vision. He was the prototype uncompromising iconoclast and tortured artiste. He aimed to create a monumental object d'art everytime. Greed and Foolish Wives are unquestionable masterpieces even though, like every film he directed, they no longer exist as originally intended by Stroheim. When he was allowed to complete a film, it was invariably mutilated and abbreviated by the producer. Other times, he was fired before completion (Merry-Go-Round) or the film had to be reconfigured because the money dried out (Queen Kelly). Every single film he directed provides evidence of genius and was, potentially, an enduring masterpiece (this is supported not only by the two masterpieces that remain, or the masterful parts in several other films, but also because the original scripts and shooting schedules of the would-be classics are available today for our scrutiny).

    Stroheim was in constant conflict with "Hollywood" because of his extravagant spending, artistic grandeur, obsessive perfectionism and European sensibilities. His vision of cinema as an art form clashed with many a producer's shortsightedness and focus on "making a quick buck". On the other hand, there's no doubt that Stroheim would have managed to achieve more, would have been allowed to continue directing, if he had learned to be practical, disciplined and diplomatic.

    What fascinates me most about Stroheim is probably his ability to combine the intimate and the epic. He knew precisely how to tell a love story, often an unconventional one, and to simultaneously turn the community or society (or in the case of Greed, humankind) into a major character. Among his major themes: the extremes of passion and its consequences, the irony of honor, and the contrast between old-world decadence and American naivete. There were many directors merely interested in shooting the actors playing their roles, and maintaining narrative clarity. Stroheim had the rare ability to convey the characters' interiority, what they were thinking and feeling, by means of expressive camera placement, crosscutting, parallel actions, setting, and symbolic objects.

    Both Merry-Go-Round and Queen Kelly concern an engaged wealthy man who genuinely falls in love with an innocent commoner. Both also provide a comprehensive vision of life and society. Both are essential viewing if you like silent films. Merry-Go-Round is absolutely brilliant for the first half hour or so (directed by Stroheim) and intermittently brilliant from then on, depending on the extent to which Stroheim's replacement Rupert Julian adhered to Stroheim's script and directions. But not even Julian's inconsistent directing can negate the Merry-Go-Round's acute and ironic observations about the breakdown of the social structure in Vienna following WWII.

    Queen Kelly is even better, and available in a version that consists only of Stroheim's footage (an ending commissioned by star Gloria Swanson and shot by Richard Boleslawsky has been removed and included as an extra on the dvd of the film). However, the film has, in my opinion, a significant flaw. Gloria Swanson was, at age 31, too old and sophisticated to play Patricia Kelly at the early stages of the plot, when she's an orphaned teenager living in a convent. Otherwise, it's an engaging, riventing story of innocence corrupted, and a dazzling display of ingenious filmmaking by Erich von Stroheim. Queen Kelly resembles, and had an obvious influence, on Sternberg-Dietrich collaborations like Shanghai Express and The Scarlet Empress.

  12. #57
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    Awesome Oscar.

    Erich von Stroheim should never be forgotten.
    I love all his films.
    He aimed high everytime and almost always suceeded.
    Please watch The Merry Widow if you haven't already-it's pure greatness.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  13. #58
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    It's odd isn't it, that the most commercially successful Stroheim movie is one of the most difficult to find. Apparently TCM has shown it before but there are no plans, as far as I know, for a home video release. I would absolutely love to see The Merry Widow. I have seen Ernst Lubitsch's sound version (1934).
    Thanks for the tip. You probably watched it at the Cinematheque, right?

  14. #59
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    Stroheim relished playing 'himself' in "Sunset Boulevard" the stern director with the megaphone, eyes fixed on the actress as she casts a spell over the crew with her performance. However, the real Stroheim was quite the opposite of his on screen persona; an artisan with an expert eye for beauty. Very good, Oscar.
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  15. #60
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    Originally posted by oscar jubis
    You probably watched it at the Cinematheque, right?
    No, I watched it at home in 2005, with a vhs tape from the Vancouver Public Library, and I haven't really seen it anywhere else..
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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