18 August 2010
A Reservoir Named Porter Meets Gromit and the Man Who Loved Women -- Or What I've Been Watching Lately And What I've Thought
Anyway I'm sure you're all wondering what films I've enjoyed recently. What's that? You haven't? Well too bad, I'm gonna write about 'em just the same. Deal with it.
The Night Porter (1974). It's hard to believe that I just now got around to seeing this film. Had I known what I was missing I would have stayed away longer. Like forever. It's not the sado masochism I object to. Nor the notion of the never prosecuted Nazi having his way with a former prisoner. It's the fact that the film reeks to high heaven. Any movie that can make Charlotte Rampling (a very young version, no less) so bloody uninteresting is doing a lot wrong. In Night Porter she's as compelling as yesterday's oatmeal. Dirk Bogarde is just fine as the Nazi but the story is bleak, uninteresting and ultimately unfulfilling. Blgh!
Footlight Parade (1932). The story here makes about as much sense as nonsense but so what? This is one of my favorite films. It's one helluva lot of fun. How can it not be when you have James Cagney, a born hoofer, hoofing? This is a rare opportunity to see the superb dancer actually dance. It was a mixed blessing that Cagney got stuck playing gangsters. On the one hand he was so good at, on the other we missed out on seeming in wonderful performances like this one. Plus in Footlight he's teamed with Joan Blondell (hubba hubba) neither for the first nor last time. This is one of the better parings. Frank McHugh is one member of an all star supporting cast but I single him out for a particularly outstanding performance. The plot's a silly mess, but the laughs, the songs the dancing, the characters, more then make up for it.
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). I see and appreciate more and more with each viewing of director Elia Kazan's adaptation of the Tennessee Williams stage play. Two things caught my eye with this viewing. Kim Hunter was hot. I remember the first time I saw Streetcar thinking that they should have gotten someone prettier to play Stella. Just goes to show that I haven't always been the genius I pretend to be. Ms. Hunter was not only perfect but she was -- I'm repeating myself here -- freakin' hot. Look at her laying in bed telling Blanche about how she misses Stanley so much when he's away. Stella is talking about one thing and one guess should do it. Also check her out when she responds to Stanley's cries for her. She walks down the stairs with a look that says one thing. And one guess should do it. The other thing I noticed is how light Blanche seems, as if she could float away at any second and how firmly rooted to the ground Stanley is.
That lightness is analogous to her insanity but Stanley's firmness should not be interpreted as sanity. He's no candidate for bedlam but he's certainly prone to the wild and crazy as the story reveals.
The Man Who Loved Women (1977). Halfway through this story of a man who really, really loved women, lots of them, I paused the movie and said to the missus, "I really like this guy." She was not surprised. Francois Truffaut directed this look at a man's endless string of love affairs, told in flashback at his funeral. He is not a rogue or a cad or a sexual predator, he's just like the proverbial kid in the candy shop. Only the candy is females and the shop is the world. Same deal though. He's going to sample all he can. (I'd relate more to the story but I had the incredible great fortune to meet and marry the love of my life, so much the better.) It can be a difficult story to tell because the main character could so easily be viewed as "sexist." Or a user of women. When the story is from Truffaut and the film is in French, that's not a problem. It is possible for a man to enjoy and partake in carnal visits with numerous women and not be a bad sort at all. Just a connoisseur. The sad truth is that a lot of men don't really like women at all and I'm talking here of "straight" men. I've known many of these sorts. Many are married and enjoy sex but they were damaged one way or another in their youth or have a defect of birth that prevents them from really loving and appreciating women. On the other end of the scale you have the man who loved women. He actually doesn't care for men but as we learned in Some like it Hot (1959), nobody's perfect. Anyway he's busy enough in his almost always successful pursuit of women. Whatta guy!
Reservoir Dogs (1992). It had been at least a dozen years since I watched Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut film. It was ground breaking, influential and presaged much better to come from Tarantino. It's holding up quite well so far. But I'm not gaga. I've no serious objection to Dogs at all and indeed still like it, but I feel there's something missing. For me. There's nothing to hold on to. It's a story with a lot going on, a lot of fascinating characters, inventive shifting back and forth and snappy dialogue. But it lacks a center. Perhaps if there was a character, like Jules in Pulp Fiction (1994) and Aldo the Apache in Inglourious Basterds (2009)(later Tarantino films) who I could have a level of admiration for.... I have this to say to you Reservoir Dogs: it's me not you.
Wallace and Gromit in a Close Shave (1995). While I had wisely been busy steering clear of The Night Porter for all these years I'd been stupidly staying away from Wallace and Gromit. You've got a guy (Wallace) who loves cheese and a dog (Gromit) who knits. The gent is an inventor and the pooch his newspaper-reading assistant. They have a window washing business but manage to get mixed up in all manner of dangerous nonsense. They live in Northern England and are as inviting as that area's countryside. The exciting thing about a first exposure to something like this is that you've now got hours worth of fun ahead. That's me and this pair! Many more escapades to come. It's difficult to explain their attraction. Part of is that they're funny. But there's something else and by God I better start watching more of them so I can figure it out and tell you all about it.