A noob's journey through cinema

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Thief
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Re: A noob's journey through cinema

Post by Thief » Mon Jun 22, 2020 3:32 pm

I only have three Wes Anderson films under my belt (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox). I liked all of those, but I just don't feel that drawn to his style and aesthetics.
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Re: A noob's journey through cinema

Post by Slentert » Mon Jun 22, 2020 4:16 pm

MrCarmady wrote:
Mon Jun 22, 2020 3:19 pm
Rushmore and Fantastic Mr Fox is my Wes top two as well (and Isle of Dogs is my least favourite) and I just re-watched Grand Budapest for the first time. It's really good fun but I can't really connect with it because Fiennes just plays such a caricature and due to the film's run-time, the whole Agatha thing isn't really developed and just feels like a minor sub-plot.
It's more than likely that F. Murray Abraham does all the heavy lifting, emotionally speaking.
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Re: A noob's journey through cinema

Post by MrCarmady » Mon Jun 22, 2020 7:27 pm

Yeah, can't disagree with you there. What a voice.
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Re: A noob's journey through cinema

Post by Slentert » Wed Jun 24, 2020 9:19 am

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946, Lewis Milestone)

As a kid, Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) murders her abusive aunt, with her childhood friends Walter (Kirk Douglas) and possibly Sam (Van Helfin) as the only witnesses. Sam, a kid from a poor family, goes away with the circus, while Martha and Walter grow up together in Iverstown and eventually marry. Now, she is a cold businesswoman and he is the district attorney with a drinking habit. Then, by sheer coincidence, Sam unexpectedly returns to the town and unwittingly threatens to expose everything.

I didn't realize this until I finished the movie, but apparently this is Kirk Douglas' feature film debut. Still green behind the ears, he ends up playing a weakling without a spine while Van Heflin gets to be the self-confident hero, the kind of character Douglas would specialize in later in his career. He's excellent though. You can literally see a star being shaped.

I really enjoyed this movie, it's a great piece of noir-ish melodrama that doesn't rely on dominant plotting but opts for something more natural. One character will do something or make a decision (often the wrong one) and the other characters will react to that, propelling someone else to respond to that in turn and so forth. None of the characters are that smart to begin with but shouldn't be underestimated anyway. It's the kind of story that wouldn't even take place in the first place if the characters themselves would not have jumped to the wrong conclusions about the others. It's a deceivingly minor history in that way, but with a big impact nonetheless.
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Re: A noob's journey through cinema

Post by Slentert » Wed Jun 24, 2020 3:41 pm

Au Revoir les Enfants (1987, Louis Malle)

At a provincial Catholic boarding school in Nazi-occupied France, rich kid Julien Quentin befriends a mysterious young kid named Jean Bonnet, who is secretly Jewish and hiding from possible prosecution.

The movie shines brightest when it allows itself to not focus solely on the hiding-from-Nazis drama and instead let all that linger in the background, underlining everything until it unavoidably explodes in the final. In the end, this is not nearly as interesting a look on France during World War II as Lacombe Lucien was, nor does it work as well as a coming-of-age drama as Murmur of the Heart did (I can totally understand why this got all those Academy Award nominations and something as salacious as Murmur didn't though). Malle seems to have a firm grasp on how kids really are and act, being both cruel yet loyal towards each other, smarter than adults think they are but also no way as smart as they fancy themselves.

I'm not Catholic myself but it was nice to see a movie where for once clergy are portrayed as compassionate and eager to help others (even those who are not part of their own religion) and not judgmental and oppressive as they are often depicted in media, even in movies where they function as some sort of voice of reason and decency they are still rarely allowed to be open-minded. I was really scared for an abusive priest plot (which, again, did occur in Murmur) but luckily that moment never came.
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Re: A noob's journey through cinema

Post by Slentert » Wed Jun 24, 2020 7:53 pm

The Structure of Crystal (1969, Krzystof Zanussi)

An accomplished scientist named Marek comes to visit his old friend from the university, Jan, supposedly as a sort of vacation, but actually he is there to convince Jan to return to the city and continue with his academic career which he abandoned years ago to live in a tiny house in a small village with his wife and kids, doing work that, as Marek puts it so bluntly "a monkey could even do".

"Has it ever occured to you that 'catching a breath' may be the right way to live?" This single quote, in a movie filled with philosophical musings, is the movie in a nutcase. In its essence, it's a battle between two different perspectives on what it means to be succesful, or happy or living life basically. In the end, neither of these two friends have come to an agreement on this, but I like to think they can understand the other's position better now.

For a movie that features a lot of talking, it's at its best when it just let these characters exist along each other. Both their joy and their boredom are palpable, as well as the frustration that comes when too many people live under one small roof for an extended period of time.

I was surprised to learn that there was no script before filming. Not that the movie feels plotted or even overtly constructed in any way, but it's so balanced and economical in what it does that I never would've thought this was entirely improvised.
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Re: A noob's journey through cinema

Post by Thief » Wed Jun 24, 2020 9:01 pm

Slentert wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 3:41 pm
Au Revoir les Enfants (1987, Louis Malle)

At a provincial Catholic boarding school in Nazi-occupied France, rich kid Julien Quentin befriends a mysterious young kid named Jean Bonnet, who is secretly Jewish and hiding from possible prosecution.

The movie shines brightest when it allows itself to not focus solely on the hiding-from-Nazis drama and instead let all that linger in the background, underlining everything until it unavoidably explodes in the final. In the end, this is not nearly as interesting a look on France during World War II as Lacombe Lucien was, nor does it work as well as a coming-of-age drama as Murmur of the Heart did (I can totally understand why this got all those Academy Award nominations and something as salacious as Murmur didn't though). Malle seems to have a firm grasp on how kids really are and act, being both cruel yet loyal towards each other, smarter than adults think they are but also no way as smart as they fancy themselves.

I'm not Catholic myself but it was nice to see a movie where for once clergy are portrayed as compassionate and eager to help others (even those who are not part of their own religion) and not judgmental and oppressive as they are often depicted in media, even in movies where they function as some sort of voice of reason and decency they are still rarely allowed to be open-minded. I was really scared for an abusive priest plot (which, again, did occur in Murmur) but luckily that moment never came.
I saw this back in the 90s and remember loving it, but I haven't seen it in 15-20 years. Should probably rewatch it.
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Re: A noob's journey through cinema

Post by Wooley » Thu Jun 25, 2020 4:48 am

Slentert wrote:
Mon Jun 22, 2020 3:12 pm
Hausu (1977, Nobuhiko Obayashi)

This movie has acting that comes straight out of an after school special, features effects that look like they were made with MS Paint, if such a thing would've existed at the time, makes barely any sense on a story level but it's also genuingely creepy, upsetting and awe-inspiring.

Hausu is awesome.
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Re: A noob's journey through cinema

Post by Wooley » Thu Jun 25, 2020 4:51 am

My favorite Anderson is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
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Re: A noob's journey through cinema

Post by Slentert » Sat Jun 27, 2020 11:06 am

Destry Rides Again (1939, George Marshall)

The crooked saloon owner Kent (Brian Donlevy) basically runs the small Western town of Bottleneck, cheating poor farmers out of their land while killing the lawmen who try to stop him. After getting of the town's sheriff, Mr. Keogh (Joe King), he and the corrupt mayor (Samuel S. Hinds) appoint the town's drunk, Washington Dimsdale (Charles Winninger) as the new sheriff, assuming he will be easy to push around. However, once Dimsdale, a deputy who once served under the famous lawman Tom Destry, hears about his new job he promptly swears off drinking and hires his former boss' son, Tom Destry Jr. (Jimmy Stewart) to help clean up Bottleneck.

Only, the young Destry upholds the law a little bit different than his old man did. He refuses to wear any fire arms, and he gives the impression of being kind of a silly man. Kent and his girlfriend Frenchy (Marlene Dietrich) think it will be easy to boss him around and openly make fun of him, though the latter will quickly fall for his charms, and Destry might not be as gullible and dull-witted as he might seem at first.

In a weird way, James Stewart in this movie kind of reminds me Elliot Gould in The Long Goodbye. Both characters are repeatedly understemitated by their opponents because of their doltish posture, which they gladly use to their advantage. Their relaxed and no-nonsense attitude allows both of them to look at everything from a distance, they exist a little bit outside of the story and its genre conventions, but take them out of the movie and the whole things falls apart.

Stewart's character doesn't even wear firearms, which makes him the butt of several jokes among the town's folks, yet he is the coolest person in the entire movie. He carries this enormous self-assurance, he couldn't care less when people make fun of him, which is why he often ends up on top whenever he is faced with an obstacle. There is a disarming quality to the man that allows him to de-escalate certain situations without having to resort to violence. For a minute I thought this was the perfect movie to rediscover during these times, when there is a lot of talk about demilitarizing the police, but sadly, near the end, when everything comes to a boil, Destry briefly betrayes his pacifist ways and takes up a firearm and eventually even shoots Kent, but not before the latter shoots Frenchy first, assurring the audience that our hero won't marry the woman with a dubious morale but rather the boring girl next door instead who he had no real, tangible chemistry with like he did with Dietrich's character. This isn't a Pre-Code movie after all. To be honest, that ending kind of takes it down a notch for me. However, this is still a pretty great movie.
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Re: A noob's journey through cinema

Post by Slentert » Sat Jun 27, 2020 7:43 pm

Milou en Mai (1990, Louis Malle)

A rather dysfunctional family gets together once the mater familias passes away and they have to say goodbye to the body and decide what to do with the estate. Up till now, Milou (wonderfully played by the recently deceased Michel Piccoli) had lived there with his mother, sort of taking care of the place but in reality it was more of an excuse for him to never have to really work and actually earn his own living. Now that the other inheritors are considering to sell the entire domain and everything that comes with it, the life he has always known seems to come to an end. He tries to bring the family closer together to save his own skin, but around them the entire country seems to be on the verge of a revolution. The time of date is May 1968, and as we all know, a general strike is going on around France.

The problem with a lot of movies centered around an entire ensemble, is that in the end often nobody is really fleshed out and you end up with a whole lot of nothing. That is not to say that Milou en Mai has nothing of value to offer, it is very pleasant, yet slight. Though you have to give credit to Malle for depicting such an important and iconic period in modern history without taking a clear stance on it. You could call that cowardice, of course, but I think he made a very deliberate choice not to. Even when the news reports about the events play on the radio, they are more often than not interrupted by a power cut. Malle does not want us to dwell on the big picture too much. It's about how these small changes affect this family that otherwise likes to think they stand outside of it all.

There is one really inspired moment near the end where the film moves into the territory of farce. It's an almost Bunuelian gag where, going off on very little information, the entire family, afraid of becoming a possible target for the rioters, hides out in the woods and takes shelter in a frickin' cave during very nasty weather. They go through all that while in the end nothing of real consequence happens, except that they get a cold. It's the moment that saved the picture for me.
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