Howdy folks! Here’s everything else I watched on my break, with artisanal, hand-crafted write-ups fresh from the oven! Enjoy!
Made for Each Other | David O. Selznick | John Cromwell | 1939
Proto-It’s a Wonderful Life Stewart weighted down by financial difficulties and emoting pure anguish like he probably hadn’t done on screen much (at all?) up to that point (thanks a lot MGM!). Carole Lombard has great chemistry with him, but it’s Charlie Coburn who really steals the show, as always.
Lessons of Darkness | Werner Herzog | 1992
This is my fav Herzog. Aguirre aside, his canonized fiction features are too…oblong? spacey? anthropologically curious to a conked out fault? Extrinsic conceits of steamer-hauling and hypnotized locals and Krazed Kinski Kalamity, with a bemused deadpan cosmic outlook withdrawing all stakes and facilitating the weird eccentricities that these movies were made to grenade-launch at your face (main offenders: Fitzcarraldo, Cobra Verde, Heart of Glass, and *gag* Even Dwarfs Started Small). I dunno fellas, I’m kinda iffy on this primitivism fetish, this grotesquerie. Err, I dunno I guess I see its place and enjoy it from time to time, but also don’t think what Herzog’s doing really necessitates feature length films a lot of the time? And maybe I have a preference as to how and when and under what conditions the human race should be gawked at? I dunno!
Lessons, though, was pure image-making with no freakshow anchorage…image-making worthy of its beautiful classical musical accompaniment, and the Herzog voice-over I was gritting my teeth to cringe at getting absorbed into the majesty with ease! Also, I guess I rarely venture into post-60s cinema, but man, helicopter shots are cool right? Feel like they’re aimlessly misused a lot of the time. Not here, though, this is like peak helicopter cinema!
Satan’s Brew | Rainer Werner Fassbinder | 1976
This fuckin’ sucked! Fassbinder’s default is already sufficiently, naturally, twistedly nuts, I don’t need this try-hard ante-upping screwed ‘n’ balled screwball nonsense!
The Nun | Jacques Rivette | 1966
Oh god this limestone aesthetic, splotchy textured swaths of gray/beige/cream interrupted on occasion by muted autumnal outdoorsiness that’s still too limited in its twilit gold ’n’ auburn to really puncture or offset those oppressive hues. Basically this is an opportunity to see Rivette accomplishing a certain set of goals that fall outside the out-on-a-limb shadow-conspiracy stuff he’s known for. And those goals are really impressive/ambitious ones, among them an attempt to (apparently? according to Rosenbaum?) channel a Mizoguchi-like camera style into a fittingly depressing story of soul-crushing institutionalism. Check it out!
Vivacious Lady | RKO | George Stevens | 1938
More early Stewart! Kinda bummed that neither this nor the other JStew I watched for the break — Made for Each Other — were made at MGM, his home base at the time. But based on how much better these movies are than, like, Of Human Hearts, that’s more than okay! Here Stevens/RKO knows to foil his bashful blueblood prissiness against Ginger Rogers’ red-hot cat fight-ready sauciness, and Stewart knows to do this droopy, weary, exasperated thing with his eyes that sets a better tempo for the comedy than any spastic collar-tugging shit you can imagine a lesser actor directed by a lesser director would do. He’s super square but he’s still in the know! And that’s why Rogers love him, by golly. And, whoa! More Charlie Coburn! and Franklin Pangborn! and Beulah Bondi! Grrrrrrreat cast!
Lady for a Day | Columbia | Frank Capra | 1933
I don’t know why I put this off for so long. Ensemble dexterity twirling in carousel merriment around a wrenching lead performance, with AMERICA as this rose-tinted razor blade of (on the one hand) class pliability and the on-a-dime implosion of uptight officialdom and a confetti-swarm of infectious, liberating good cheer…and (on the other) lots and lots of sadness, self-loathing, class-based psychological terror. Subliminally devastating? Basically, I’m not convinced that May Robson’s (masterfully performed) stop-the-music confession speech, had it arrived at its endpoint uninterrupted, would have gone over as swimmingly as it might have in the typical class-traversal wish-fulfillment fantasy of the era. The glorious sentimentality of everyone coming together to play-act for the benefit of her artificially elevate social standing is, I believe, offset by the sobering realization that this phoniness really and truly is her only option, that, yeah, her fear that her daughter will disown her in the event that her precarious high society jenga tower comes crashing down is absolutely well-founded. There’s something pointedly unsatisfying here, and I think it’s written on Robson’s face at the end (speaking of which, like Westward the Women, this one was another bawler 😦 ).
Fear | Roberto Rossellini | 1954
Hey, I liked this! I like Rossellini a lot more now that I’m not trying to play auteurist games with him. Like I think analyzing and codifying and Tag Gallaghering his “style” dilutes him so much, even more so than most auteurs. Cuz his approach is so intuitive/organic, with a pungent flavor that can’t be replicated in a lab! And speaking of labs, I like how the scientist husband kinda looks like Rossellini and the irony that Ross himself would prob be threatening to drunkenly drive one of his fancy racing cars into a tree were these events to unfold in real life. Anyway, I like the melodrama, the pacing, the simplicity, the miraculousness and the themes of justness/punishment vs. rightness/mercy, but I HATE how dumb it is that caging movies into thematic trilogies leaves works like this out in the blistering cold.