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Thread: 2008 REPERTORY: Oldies but Goodies

  1. #61
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    TRISTANA (Spain-France-Italy/1970)

    Officially a co-production, this Luis Bunuel film is basically a Spanish film that includes the Italian actor Franco Nero and the French superstar Catherine Deneuve, both dubbed, in principal roles. Tristana is an adaptation of a novel by Benito Perez Galdos set in 1930s Toledo (as beautiful a Spanish town as any). A fairly faithful adaptation only during the first half hour of the film. Fernando Rey is an atheist intellectual and libertarian who adopts Tristana as a girl after her mother dies. He seduces her when she turns 19 and begins to restrict her freedom. Tristana's protest gradually become stronger; then she meets a handsome painter (Nero) and leaves with him. Two years later, both return to Toledo with the sad news that Tristana has a cancerous tumor in her leg. The film takes unusual turns that shift the balance of power in the relationships between the characters.

    Perhaps the most neglected of Bunuel's late films, Tristana is a relentless attack against bourgeoise hypocrisy, left-leaning intellectuals, patriarchal power structures, and the Catholic church. Fernando Rey was born to play this type of role and it's surprising how effective Deneuve can be even when speaking with a borrowed voice.This film is ripe for reappraisal. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the way in which Tristana assimilates some of the dubious traits of her own benefactor/tormentor. The picture and sound of the dvd of Tristana released in the UK a couple of years ago is not a significant improvement on the American vhs. One hopes a definitive dvd of Tristana will become available in the future.

  2. #62
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    I can easily see this one as a Criterion release.

    I saw it a few years ago and remember liking it.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  3. #63
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    Cinema has such a rich history, man. It's hard to keep up with all the films that come out on dvd and yet there's so many great films yet to be released. Stuff by major directors like Visconti (I've recently rewatched sumptuous, lush Senso and L'Innocente) and Bunuel. I can also envision Tristana on Criterion. It is El Maestro's second and last period film.

  4. #64
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    LA MATERNELLE (France/1933)

    I've refrained to use the word "masterpiece" to characterize any of the wonderful films I've celebrated in this thread. I was saving the word for a film like this collaboration between Jean Benoit-Levy and Marie Epstein. This adaptation of a Prix Goncourt novel by Leon Frapie is a masterpiece. It's the best French film of the 1930s that wasn't directed by cinema gods Clair, Vigo and Renoir.

    Madeleine Renaud (Grand Illusion) plays Rose, a young woman who gets a job as cleaning lady in a Montmartre nursery school after her fortunes take a downturn. Her natural sensitivity and dedication help her become an important part of the children's lives. Rose develops a particularly deep bond with Marie, a possessive girl traumatized by her mother's abandonment after a lover proposes they emigrate. Rose offers the affection-starved waif a home. Marie has a crisis when she learns that Rose has accepted a marriage proposal.

    Benoit-Levy and Epstein used non-professional children from the neighborhood's schools and orphanages. They obviously spent a great deal of time and effort skillfully molding their performances. La Maternelle is both realistic and lyrical. There are expressionistic moments of intense beauty. The filmmakers' ability to depict events from the point of view of little Marie has never been surpassed. The use of quick montages to dramatize her interior states is highly effective. Renaud's performance, especially in scenes in which she interacts with the children, is a major reason why the film works so well.

  5. #65
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    2008 ended and I failed to post here in the last three months. However, I posted on some additions to my canon here.

    *During autumn I concentrated on re-watching a dozen films by Godard (VIVRE SA VIE and ALPHAVILLE strike me as masterpieces) and discovering the films made by Kenji Mizoguchi during the 1930s. Japanese films in general were not screened in the West until 1950. It's lamentable that film buffs missed out on so many wonderful films from "the East" (American and European films were regularly shown in Japan, China and India since the Silent Era.)
    Perhaps the best 1930s Mizoguchi is TALE OF THE LAST CHRYSANTHEMUMS (the subject of my longest academic essay to date) but the other three I watched are outstanding: SISTERS OF GION, THE DOWNFALL OF OSEN and OSAKA ELEGY.

    *I've also developed a deeper appreciation for a few "melodramas" from the classic era that reward close scrutinity and repeat viewings. The films I have in mind include STELLA DALLAS with Barbara Stanwyck, NOW, VOYAGER starring Bette Davis, and GASLIGHT starring Ingrid Bergman (I assume everybody knows that Ophuls' LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN is a masterpiece of the highest order. The films have been grouped by philosopher Stanley Cavell under the term "melodramas of the unknown woman").

  6. #66
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    Stella Dallas? Now, Voyager? Gaslight? Oscar, that puts you in the catagory of the rank sentimentalist!

    (pssst: I have my own copy of Now, Voyager)
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  7. #67
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    People my age living in these often cynical times find it easier to regard films belonging to certain genres, film noir for instance, with an open mind. We often fail to give enough thought to films that fall under labels like "weepie" or "melodrama" when in fact one can find as many masterpieces in these genres as in noir, or war pictures. One would think that modern women crits and academics would help direct us to the great films from those genres, as we men are often too macho to approach them with open minds... But modern women often misread the texts/messages as patriarchal or misogynistic (partly because there are movies of that period that deserve the label, partly out of sheer intellectual laziness and knee-jerk political posturing). So it's taken me a long time to come to appreciate movies like GASLIGHT, LETTER FROM AN UNKLNOWN WOMAN, STELLA DALLAS, CAMILLE and NOW,VOYAGER the way I appreciate the best noirs and westerns.
    (I'm proud of you for having a copy of Now, Voyager!)

  8. #68
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    Surprising oldies

    For many years I would not watch "Mrs. Skeffington" because I read somewhere that this Bette Davis vehicle was one of her worst. However, when it premiered on TCM, I sat enthralled with the idea that a married woman would be surrounded by admirers. She continues to attract men well into middle age and long after her husband divorces her, tired of her using him. The last third of the film is a lesson in humility. I won't spoil it, but if you've never seen it, I highly recommend it.

    A film you will never see on TCM is "Ruggles of Red Gap." Oddly it is the story of a man put in his place by his class. He has no wish to escape it when his wealthy 'owner' goes broke and 'looses' his butler in a poker game. His new owners have no wish for a butler and the idea of being traded like a 'thing' so upsets the butler, he goes about proving that class is merely an illusion. Starring Charles Laughton, it is one of the most surprising older films I've ever seen. Highly recommended.
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  9. #69
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    Mr. Skeffington, you mean. I certainly would disagree with those who call it one of Bette Davis' worst but I probably liked it less than you. Probably, because I watched it a long time ago. Perhaps I'd appreciate it more the second time around.

    Now RUGGLES OF RED GAP is more clearly a major, serious gap in my film viewing. I passed on the Asian dvd and the US vhs hoping that a proper dvd release would be forthcoming. I'm getting quite impatient. I might buy the vhs if I somehow find a cheap copy.Thanks for bringing these up!

    One film I watched recently on TCM (and enjoyed a lot) is the Gable-Harlow vehicle HOLD YOUR MAN (1933) with an excellent script by Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Red-Headed Woman,etc.). Not on home video, lamentably.

  10. #70
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    Leo McCarey seems largely ignored by studios rushing to put out classic black and white films on DVD. I did find the DVD of "Ruggles of Red Gap" on Amazon's site, albeit from 'collectors' sources. They had the film on demand for anyone wishing to view the film once. I memorized the Gettysburg Address with my Laserdisc copy. On IMDB, I could not find one bad review... many say this is Laughton's masterpiece, although I would argue that "Hunchback..." is probably his best. I also liked him in Billy Wilder's "Witness for the Prosecution." In doing research I discovered that McCarey had to take two days to shoot the 'address' speech because Laughton kept choking with emotion. He immigrated to the US and became an American citizen.

    The other long forgotten Leo McCarey film is "Make way for tomorrow." This great classic is so hard to find, only the French have bothered to preserve this great story of grandparents put out to pasture.
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  11. #71
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    We desperately need a Leo McCarey box set!!!
    For now I'll be patient. A long-awaited Frank Borzage at 20th Century Fox boxset is finally here and I'm in the mood to be patient.

    I know it's an odd choice but perhaps my favorite Laughton role is the French schoolteacher he played in Renoir's American-made THIS LAND IS MINE. Actually I like the ones you mention just about the same. He was so good... and his sole directorial effort is a class act.

  12. #72
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    Speaking of Renoir, I was watching a "how it was made..." doc on one of my James Bond DVD's, "The spy who loved me." Ken Adam stated that he brought the film's cinema photographer to the set, Claude Renoir to ask him how to light the set. His response floored Adam when he stated, "It doesn't matter, I can't see it anyway." Adam stated morosely that Renoir went blind (and was eventually replaced on the film, although he has the sole screen credit). Adam, desperate to light this enormous set, went to his friend Stanley Kubrick. Adam had just finished doing "Barry Lyndon" for Kubrick and won the Academy Award for his work on the film. Reluctantly, Kubrick came to the set and helped Adam light the set and suggested camera positions to shoot the large soundstage (the largest interior ever created to that date). However, Kubrick made Adam swear that he never ever helped make a James Bond movie! Years later, Kubrick gave Adam permission to put the story on the DVD doc knowing it no longer mattered.

    How did Renoir continue to make films for the next two years if he was blind?
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  13. #73
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    That's a good question. I'm also puzzled that there are several portraits by Pierre-August Renoir of a little boy identified as "Coco (Claude Renoir)" that are of dates before 1914. I didn't even know about this guy Claude Renoir. I studied Comp. Lit. at UC Berkeley under Alain Renoir, son of Jean, a memorable character who was an inspiration and help to me. I have just learned that he died a month ago, at 87. R.I.P., old stauncher! The Widipedia entry for Claude says
    Claude Renoir (December 4, 1914 – September 5, 1993) was a cinematographer. He was the son of actor Pierre Renoir and nephew of director Jean Renoir. He was also the grandson of painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

    He was apprenticed to Boris Kaufman and shot films directed by his uncle Jean Renoir. His later film credits included; Monsieur Vincent (1947), Roger Vadim's Barbarella (1968), Cleopatra (1963) and the Spy Who Loved Me (1977). He then lost his sight.
    But IMDb and the French edition of Wikipedia both list four more,
    # 1977 : L'Animal de Claude Zidi
    # 1977 : L'Espion qui m'aimait (The Spy Who Loved Me) de Lewis Gilbert
    # 1978 : La Zizanie de Claude Zidi
    # 1979 : Le Toubib de Pierre Granier-Deferre.

    Kubrick's work on the James Bond film is liested on IMDb:

    "The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) (lighting advisor: tanker scenes) (uncredited) "

    This online The New "Petit Journal du Cinema" (in English) has some anecdotes by and about Alain Renoir--who also was a cameraman for his father Jean briefly--if anyone is interested, and the blog may have other things of interest:

    http://commenting-the-commentaries.b...an-renoir.html
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-14-2009 at 09:19 PM.

  14. #74
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    Another little-known Kubrick fact:

    Michael Moore wrote to him in England to ask for a print of Dr. Strangelove to inspire his cast and crew before shooting Canadian Bacon. Kubrick liked Michael's work and agreed.
    The night before principal photography began Moore showed the film to his team. John Candy got drunk. True story.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  15. #75
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    I'm watching THE HEIRESS late tonight. Any opinions? It's strange I haven't seen it because it's a Billy Wilder film with supposedly great photography and a score by Aaron Copland.

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