Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A week of re-viewings ...

Since I went over to Sky Movies recently, a lot more classics have been on tap, its rather nice to settle down once again and see a favourite .... so, before we head off to some new movies - good, and bad - here's another canter through old favourites.
VERTIGO. Theres a special intensity to this 1958 Hitchcock classic, its mesmerising watching it again, noticing how wonderful Barbara Bel Geddes is as Midge, and drowning in that swooning score by Bernard Herrmann, Kim may have been a replacement but is the perfect actress here. At first met by mixed reviews (I remember seeing it as a kid), this tale of an acrophobic ex-detective following a beautiful woman through a dreamy San Francisco, is now revered a a true classic. More on this and that "Sight & Sound" poll at Hitch label ... more Hitch horror in:

THE BIRDS, 1963. I simply never tire of it - every element works, and Tippi Hedren is just perfect here, whereas I do not care for her in MARNIE much at all. The premise of this classic chiller - a town in terror when thousands of birds unite to attack the residents - gets no less terrifying with age. Hitch's third Daphne du Maurier adaptation (by Evan Hunter) creates an atmosphere of muggy dread as the Brenner family board up their house against the invading birds. Visiting socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi) plus Mitch's clingy mother (Jessica Tandy) and sister are trapped - then Melanie goes upstairs .... Bodega Bay looks marvellous and Rod Taylor is just right as the guy at the centre of it all, as the teasing interplay between him and Melanie turns serious. Suzanne Pleshette is terrific too.

Watching BELL BOOK & CANDLE yet again I really like the Zodiac Club, tucked away around the corner, where Hermione Gingold presides over that beatniky offbeat scene and Kim Novak lurks in the shadows while a young Jack Lemmon plays those bongo drums ... its a great 'Christmas in New York' movie too, Kim is at her zenith, its Stewart's last romantic lead and director Richard Quine and ace cameraman James Wong Howe make it look great. Apparantly, as per other posts, gay writer John Van Druten meant the witches to be code for the secret life of gays in 1950s New York ...

SABRINA. A favourite Billy Wilder, enough said? Wilder's films are rather problematic for me - some I revere (SOME LIKE IT HOT will always be in my top 10, as per recent post on it, below and we highly rate DOUBLE INDEMNITYSUNSET BOULEVARDONE TWO THREE) - but others of his I have no wish to see ... this 1954 one is a perfect treat as Audrey comes back from Paris with that Givenchy wardrobe, and starts to romance William Holden, upsetting the family's plans (love her "Oh, I've learned a lot" to Mrs Larrabee, eager to put the chauffeur's daughter in her place) - so older brother Humphrey Bogart (maybe too old, but who cares) steps in, and there's that New York skyline. Martha Hyer scores also as the rich girl eager to marry Holden and who has no desire to spend the first 18 hours of her proposed marriage "on a plane, sitting up"). A witty script and a great cast make this a fine romantic comedy, and it looks great too.

THE PASSENGER. Michelangelo Antonioni made his name in the early Sixties with that great quartet of films featuring Monica Vitti, which included L'AVVENTURA, but this intriguing 1975 anti-thriller is one of his greatest works even if it seems a little pretentious now (I wrote a review of it at the time, when I was 29, for a magazine "Films Illustrated"). It was long out of circulation owing to the intractability of its star, Jack Nicholson - who owned the rights (it couldn't even be shown in full at the 2005 BFI Antonioni retrospective, thankfully the dvd came out not too long after). Jack plays a jaded reporter in Africa, who switches identities with the dead man in the next room at the hotel, and finds himself leading a gun-runner's life .... then there is that amazing ending . More on this at Antonioni and Passenger labels.

THE EAGLE. Kevin MacDonald's 2011 film of Rosemary Sutcliff's popular novel "The Eagle of the North" works surprisingly well - a solid action film capturing the period and providing a tangled interplay of pride loyalty and masculinity. It gives Channing Tatum one of his best roles as Marcus Flavius Aquila, the Roman son in Britain trying to save his father's destroyed reputation, as he and slave Esca (Jamie Bell) head north of the border over Hadrian's Wall to the wild country beyond ... Master and slave find their roles reversed and keeps us guessing. It certainly reboots the Peplum genre.

MARGIN CALL. J C Chandor, assembling a cracking cast for his debut, depicts 36 hours at a fictional Wall Street bank on the eve of the economic meltdown of 2008 (which cost me my job too). Risk assessment manager Stanley Tucci is fired; Zachery Quinto completes his research and makes an alarming discovery. This well-crafted thriller is gripping as panic spreads through the chain of command - Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons excel too.

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. If not quite the masterpiece we were told to expect, Tarantino's pastiche of war films is still rollicking good fun and has all the classic Tarantino ingredients. A celebration of vengance, its an audacious, self-indulgent take on the Second World War. Christopher Waltz deservedly won an Oscar for his incendiary turn as the "Jew Hunter", as Brad Pitt and his men track him down. Love the sequence with the French cinema and Melanie Laurent's plan to do away with the Nazi high command ..... I have been enjoying Quentin's KILL BILL saga too as it re-runs here, and now to tackle DJANGO UNCHAINED  .....  

THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE. Tony Richardson's 1968 re-telling while not successful at the time, looks marvellous now - great cast, great costumes, bitter irony,and that Victorian era nicely caught. David Hemmings is the ill-fated Nolan, Vanessa Regrave and Jill Bennett are contrasting Victorian ladies - Trevor Howard, John Gielgud and Harry Andrews are the military dunderheads who let it happen ...
A chronicle of events that led to the British involvement in the Crimean War against Russia and which led to the siege of Sebastopol and the fierce Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854 which climaxed with the heroic, but near-disastrous cavalry charge made by the British Light Brigade against a Russian artillery battery in a small valley which resulted in the near-destruction of the brigade due to error of judgment and rash planning on part by the inept British commanders .... It may have been a commercial flop, but we liked the look of it at the time, particularly Hemmings in that Hussar uniform - very 1968! More on this at British-1 label. 

1 comment:

  1. Michael! Do give "Marnie" another chance. Hedren is a revelation in it, making maximum use of her "little girl's" voice. It's a heartbreaking performance.