Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Cinematheque Reviews: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Don't worry.  After seeing this Guillermo del Toro written and produced (but not directed unfortunately) film, this critic is anything but afraid.  The story of a haunted house (or actually more of an infested house, full of annoying little fairies - and ugly ones at that, kind of resembling the animated bugs in those Raid commercials) this so-called horror film may have some interesting stuff to look at, but scary it sure ain't.  My review of said un-scary film (lead ten year old Bailee Madison - the fairies want to eat her teeth!? - is actually quite good) is up and running over at The Cinematheque.  Don't be afraid, go on over and read it.

Terrence Malick Film Poll Results: It's A Tie !!

I figured from the very beginning that the winner of our Terrence Malick poll would be either Days of Heaven or The Thin Red Line.  Well lo and behold, I was right on both accounts.  Receiving 24% of the vote each (which is 13 votes each from the 53 cast) these two films shared top honours.  Here is a rundown of the final tallies.

Days of Heaven - 13 votes (24%)
The Thin Red Line - 13 votes (24%)
Badlands - 12 votes (22%)
The Tree of Life - 9 votes (16%) 
The New World - 6 votes (11%)

Now I am no math expert but this seems to come to just 97% of the vote.  It makes me wonder what the Blogger poll app did with that final 3%.

Anyway, I would have liked to have seen The New World have a better showing but I did expect it to come in last.  My personal list goes: The Tree of Life, Days of Heaven, The New World, The Thin Red Line & Badlands.  But of course even the least Malick is better than the best of many a director.  So to close out, please allow me to end with an image (and a beautiful one of course) from that last place finisher, The New World.  Oh yeah, and another poll will be announced soon, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Cinematheque Reviews: 1980's Flashback Double Header - Fright Night & Conan The Barbarian (one good, one not so much)

We seem to be in some sort of second coming of the 1980's.  Last year saw the release of updated versions of The Karate Kid and Predator, and we will soon see retreads of Footloose, The Thing (which is more a retooling of the Carpenter remake from 1982 than of the original 1951 version) and (if the long-delayed film ever gets released) Red Dawn.  This past week saw the release of not one but two 80's remakes.  The first one, Fright Night (the review of which can be read HERE), is actually a pretty faithful, and quite fun adaptation of the cultish 1985 original.  The second, Conan the Barbarian (sans The Governator, and whose review can be read HERE), not so much.  Really, can Ferris Bueller, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Top Gun, Short Circuit, Weird Science, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and (Heaven forbid!) The Breakfast Club be far behind?  Actually a couple of these are rumoured to already be in the works.  Personally I am anxiously awaiting Harry and the Hendersons with a CGI Andy Serkis as the titular bigfoot.  Perhaps I should be careful what I wish for - even jokingly.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

On Watching John Ford's 1937 Classic The Hurricane While a Real One Raged (sort of) Outside My Window

So, as Hurricane Irene made her wild ride up the Atlantic Coast and people ran out to get their sandbags, eggs and milk, I thought to myself what better time to watch the classic, but oft-overlooked John Ford film The Hurricane.  What better time indeed.  As the wind blew with gale force outside my window, trees bowing and trash cans bouncing down the street, rain pelting the side of the house like machine gun fire, dogs and cats flying through the backyard (that last one may have been a bit of nonsensical hyperbole), I watched as poor helpless Dorothy Lamour was lashed to a tree in order to be saved from blowing out into the South Seas with all her fellow islanders, as cocksure Raymond Massey searched the raging seas for unfairly accused refugee Jon Hall, and as the omnipresent Tommy Mitchell acted as the stumble-drunken words of wisdom.  As the massive island-devouring storm waged war against Lamour, Hall, Massey and Mitchell, as well as motherly Mary Astor and evil-twink John Carradine, Hurricane Irene was battlesent at my very own door.

Okay, much of this story is bunk.  Yes, the much-talked-about, media-frenzied Hurricane Irene did indeed make its way up the Eastern Seaboard, but I was far enough inland to receive nothing more than some hard-slanted rain and a lot of tree debris throughout my neighbourhood (though the trash cans did bounce down the street at one point).  Those poor bastards along the coast, which include both friends and family (all safe now), did indeed receive quite a wallop, many have lost their homes, many even worse, and that is not to be taken lightly at all, but since I was relatively safe and sound and secure in my Harrisburg home (wife tentatively asleep in the bedroom, cats snuggled in various nooks and/or crannies, myself on the couch of my so-named "Cool Guy Lounge" - one does despise the word mancave), wind beginning to blow outside, I did take the opportunity to watch the aforementioned, appropriately-topical Ford classic, The Hurricane.

As for my take on the film, I did quite enjoy it for both its story and its technique (duh, it's John Ford!).  Seeming a bit funny at times to see the very white Jon Hall play a Pacific Islander and be told that he "should stand when told to by a white man" (typical of Old Hollywood of course and not nearly as ridiculous as other certain casting choices like John Wayne as Ghengis Khan or Brando as a Japanese man) but still quite a jolting film at times - and who doesn't like seeing Miss Lamour in island garb.  But the best thing about the film is (of course) the hurricane itself.  According to Life Magazine, special effects wizard James Basevi was given a budget of $400,000 to create his effects. He spent $150,000 to build a native village with a lagoon 200 yards long on the backlot of United Artists, and then spent $250,000 destroying it.  The look was astounding - and not just for the time period.  

New York Times critic Frank S. Nugent praised the climactic special effect by stating, "It is a hurricane to blast you from the orchestra pit to the first mezzanine. It is a hurricane to film your eyes with spin-drift, to beat at your ears with its thunder, to clutch at your heart and send your diaphragm vaulting over your floating rib into the region just south of your tonsils."  Granted, as I admitted to earlier, the brunt of Hurricane Irene never made it to my humble abode (power and even internet connection, as I was watching via my Blu-ray Netflix Instant account, never wavered), but still, the storm on the screen seemed more real than that outside.  Of course, to quote Truffaut, "I have always preferred the reflection of the life to life itself. Perhaps both Astor and Lamour would have too but they were really tied to that tree (no stunt doubles here) as the special effects bombarded them.  Anyway, this was my experience watching John Ford's The Hurricane while one raged (sort of) outside.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Looks Like I'm in Another Damn Contest -- How About That?

It would seem the fine folks over at FilmClassics are holding another review writing contest.  FilmClassics held a contest earlier in the Summer, with the subject of classic screwball comedy.  I wrote a piece on the relatively little-known Stanwyck/Fonda film The Mad Miss Manton.  Well guess what?  In a battle to the finish I came up victorious and received a snazzy, shiny banner to post on my blog (it hangs proudly in the sidebar as we speak).  

The subject this time around is classic film noir, so hearing this, loving the noir genre and being a rather competitive person in nature (and wanting another snazzy gold ribbon for my blog), yours truly has decided to enter said contest.  My piece this time around is on that most classic of B-pictures, Detour, directed by the indomitable Edgar G. Ulmer and starring the sultry Ann Savage and her dumb-luck patsy Tom Neal.  I have three competitors this time around and in the fairness of disclosure (or whatever you want to call it) I would like to give the links for these other three.  They are (in no particular order): Anatomy of a Film Noir at Frankly, My Dear; Ministry of Fear at In the Mood; Sunset Blvd. at Forever Classics.  Who says I am not fair?

Anyway, you can read my Review Contest Entry Post and let me know what you think by clicking on the button at the end of said post, which will take you to the contest site where one can then vote.  You can also jump to FilmClassics right now (where you will find links to both mine and my adversary's reviews - and to be fair, please do read all four) and vote as well.  I suppose the main point one should take away from this is to vote vote vote.  Vote early and vote often.  Actually you can only vote once per IP address, but you get the idea. 

The Artist -- A Silent Film Up For Best Picture in 2011 !??

When I did my initial "Most Anticipated Films" list back in January, the Cannes favourite, silent film, The Artist was not even on my radar, but here we are coming up on September and what do ya know -- along with von Trier's Melancholia, it is one of my two most anticipated films for the last quarter of 2011.  Directed by Michael Hazanavicius (known, but not overly so, for his satiric nouveau Bond-like OSS 117 series across the pond) and winner of the Best Actor award at Cannes for French star Jean Dujardin, The Artist, the story of a silent film star afraid to face the coming of sound and forced to watch the woman he has started up an affair with rising to the top as he is falling (a la A Star is Born), is actually a true blue silent film.  Shot in glorious black and white and in a 1.33:1 aspect, the film is made to look and feel (and sound?) like a silent era motion picture.  Glenn Heath, Jr. at The House Next Door, said of the film, "Striking black-and-white cinematography and brilliant flourishes of sound amid an otherwise silent landscape give The Artist its stylistic identity, but this story of evolution and adaptation is all about the power of on-screen chemistry."

The film is being released in the U.S. in November (I plan on seeing it at the New York Film Festival before then though) and is actually getting some Oscar buzz.  The field of Best Pic nominees has widened to more than five these days, so it is a possibility that a silent film will be up for the top prize for the first time since 1929, or perhaps a Best Actor nod for Dujardin (last seen in the wonderful Little White Lies).  Anyway, here is the trailer for this terrific looking new film.  For some reason, the trailer refuses to be made full screen (little bugger!) but if you click on the "YouTube" tab on the video, you can watch it full screen - otherwise enjoy the tiny (but still quite striking) trailer here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

David Cronenberg and His Rather Disgusting Cinematic Art and Psychosis of Bodily Mutilation and Transmogrification

The following is my contribution to The LAMBs in the Director's Chair #19: David Cronenberg.  And as a warning, there are probably some spoilers ahead, so if that is a concern of yours, ye have been warned.

He made people's heads explode in Scanners.  He turned James Woods into a living breathing VCR in Videodrome by putting the most vaginal of openings in his belly.  He shoved bio-mechanical USB cords into slimy, fleshy spinal holes of his gamers in eXistenZ.  He put parasitic venereal diseases into promiscuous young women in Shivers.  He gave erotic pleasure to mutilated auto accident victims in Crash.  He gave a woman an oozing phallic underarm stinger in Rabid.  He made emotional states dictate how your body would deform in The Brood.  He had a demented, drug-fueled Jeremy Irons go to town on women with the most medieval of gynecological contraptions in Dead Ringers.   He gave grotesque physical life to the warped creatures in William Burroughs' head in his adaptation of Naked Lunch.  He transformed Jeff Goldblum into a freakin' fly for crying out loud - a filthy, disgusting, pus-covered freakin' fly. 

Now I have a rather strong stomach and can take pretty much anything in stride, but let's face it, David Cronenberg isn't the kind of director you go see with lots of snacks in hand.   The images that are brought to mind from the above-mentioned cinematic moments are merely the tip of the proverbial (and quite repugnant) iceberg of what can be called Cronenbergian cinema.  What I am trying to say is that the career of Cronenberg, one-time master of the genre known as body horror (yes, every genre has a name), has been strewn with the most repulsive, oft-times horrific images of body mutilation ever put on film.  Other directors have tried their respective hands at the genre (Lynch with Eraserhead, Carpenter with his remake of The Thing, del Toro with Cronos) but it is Cronenberg who has made a lifetime commitment out of the whole grotesque affair.   It is Cronenberg that has come to nearly perfect a certain type of Grand Guignol filmmaking style that at once titillates and repulses.   Like his characters in Crash, an erotic turn-on in the midst of death and destruction and mangled human flesh.  Guns and flesh becoming one in revolting nightmarish style.  Pulsating, talking typewriters that resembles melting assholes.  Goldblum's transmogrifying insectoid vomiting up his own food.  Nauseating, offensive, turns-one's-stomach kind of stuff.

Now I am not saying any of this as a negative critical reaction to the filmmaker and his work - his films feature repugnant imagery and that is just what they are meant to do.  Cronenberg's oeuvre has ranged from the awful to the spectacular (leaning perhaps more toward the latter than the former) but it has always been the outrageous ick factor (for better and for worse) that has given the director his auteurial signature.   As of late though, this ick factor has gone by the wayside, to be replaced with a more strictly psychological bent.  Still a horror-based psychological bent when all is said and done (or at least a horror-based undercurrent) but still a more thinking than seeing kind of horror.  Granted, even Cronenberg's earlier, more pure horror (or more precisely, 'body horror') films were of course laced with a certain type of demented psychology, but as the man has grown as a director, his films too have grown - grown into multi-headed beasts - and Cronenberg has grown into a more mature, and more multi-faceted filmmaker.

This transformation came not abruptly, but over a matter of time and a matter of films.  Beginning with Dead Ringers in 1988 and working through Naked Lunch in 1991, Crash in 1996, and eXistenZ in 1999, his work would eventually lead to films like Spider in 2002, A History of Violence in 2005, Eastern Promises in 2007 and to his latest work, A Dangerous Method coming to US theaters later this year.  The director's more recent works look more at the mind than the body (although the body is still a large part of his oeuvre, and shows in these films) and delve into subjects of hallucinations, dreams and the ideas of sex and violence on humanity.  Still though, even as Cronenberg transforms his cinema from the outside to the inside, he still manages to creep his audience out - he has now just invented new ways to do so.  But then Cronenberg has always been inside our heads, just as his imagery has come out of his own - and sometimes his own life as well.  In his 1992 book Cronenberg on Cronenberg, the director revealed that The Brood was inspired by events that occurred during the unraveling of his first marriage, which caused both Cronenberg and his daughter Cassandra a great deal of turmoil. The character of Nola Carveth, mother of the brood, is based on Cassandra's mother. Cronenberg said that he found the shooting of the climactic scene, in which Nola was strangled by her husband, to be "very satisfying".  Now how's that for some inner turmoil bubbling to the surface?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Anomalous Material Weekly Feature: 10 Best Westerns

No, this is not a list of discount hotel chains.  As you may already know, I now take up weekly residence over at the great film site Anomalous Material.  The fine folks over there have given me a regular weekly gig as feature writer.  It is a series of top ten lists on various cinematic subjects (and anyone who knows me can attest to how perfectly suited I am to such an endeavor - yes I am a list nerd).  This week's feature piece (my eleventh such piece) is on the most classic of film genres - the western.  With a history nearly as long as film itself, the western has garnered some pretty spectacular pictures lo these 100+ years.  I had a tough time just naming ten (as the quite lengthy runners-up list will attest to) but somehow I did it.  Go check it out and see for yourself.

And speaking of the greatest westerns of all time and my trouble of narrowing them down to just ten, I proclaim the Autumn of 2011 as "The Season of the Western".  The reason for this is that I want to extend my list to include the 100 Greatest Westerns.  I will be posting said list over at my companion site, The Cinematheque, sometime around Christmas time (nothing says happy holidays like a good old fashioned wild west revenge killing showdown on the dusty streets of a lawless town!) and want to catch up on those westerns I have not yet seen (and there are quite a few since the genre is so vast) and re-watch those I have not seen in quite a while.  But more on this in a future post - for now I will leave you with Miss Barbara Stanwyck in a great western that just missed out making the list.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Dark and Sinister Goings-on Inside Edgar G. Ulmer's Radically Cheap B-Movie Cult Classic Film Noir Detour

The following is my humble contribution to Film Classics Film Noir Review Contest.  And as fair warning, there may be spoilers ahead, for those who care about such things - ye have been warned.

Made in 1945, on the most extreme of low budgets by B-master Edgar G. Ulmer and released by the Producers Releasing Company (PRC), a member of what in Hollywood was called the "Poverty Row" group of B-studios (these studios were often only in business for a few years and were mainly known for making cheap westerns, gangster films and serials), Detour may have been a tiny tiny film (and short, as was usually the case with "Poverty Row" films, at just 68 minutes) but to this day, 66 years later, it is still considered one of the greatest film noirs ever made.  Roger Ebert has said of the film, "This movie from Hollywood's Poverty Row, shot in six days, filled with technical errors and ham-handed narrative, starring a man who can only pout and a woman who can only sneer, should have faded from sight soon after it was released in 1945. And yet it lives on, haunting and creepy, an embodiment of the guilty soul of film noir. No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it."  The film has truly become one of the most classic of B-pictures.

The film is the story of Al Roberts, a jaded beer hall piano player (he has unfulfilled dreams of being a concert pianist) played by Tom Neal in his only role worthy of remembrance, who decides to hitchhike cross-country to California to be reunited with his semi-estranged girlfriend.  Along the way Al is picked up by a cocksure and obviously wealthy man by the name of Haskell.  A bit later Haskell dies (we never do find out how or why but we do know it was not foul play) and Al, in an act of desperation and knowing he could never explain such a thing to the police, ditches the body, steals Haskell's clothes, money and I.D. and speeds off in the dead man's car.  Now on the run, this will of course lead to Al's downfall, and this inevitable downfall (it is a film noir after all) is helped along when he picks up a disheveled young woman while posing as Haskell.   This disheveled (and obviously bad news) young woman is Vera, played by the sultry and quite psychotic Ann Savage.  Vera knows Haskell and therefore knows that Al is not Haskell and blackmails him into doing what she wants - and of course that can only spell trouble.

Vera tells Al that is to impersonate Haskell in order to get the inheritance the dead man is about to receive from his soon-to-be dead father.  Despite Vera's blackmail attempt Al refuses to along with her plan and the two fight in the Hollywood apartment they are now renting.  In the most infamous scene in the film, Al accidentally strangles Vera with a telephone cord and once again will go on the run.  Since the production code was still fully in force in Hollywood in 1945, Ulmer was not allowed to let his murderer - even an accidental one like Al - get away with his crime, so the film's not-so-intrepid protagonist is arrested in the final scene.  This ending, with its moody atmospheric sense of doom, is one of the things that make an otherwise cheaply made motion picture a classic of film noir cinema.  In their book, "The Devil Thumbs a Ride & Other Unforgettable Films", authors Edward Gorman and Dow Mossman say of the film, "...Detour remains a masterpiece of its kind. There have been hundreds of better movies, but none with the feel for doom portrayed by ... Ulmer. The random universe Stephen Crane warned us about—the berserk cosmic impulse that causes earthquakes and famine and AIDS—is nowhere better depicted than in the scene where Tom Neal stands by the roadside, soaking in the midnight rain, feeling for the first time the noose drawing tighter and tighter around his neck."  And this is what makes the film last.

Now the film does have a certain reputation that perhaps it does not deserve.  The famous, and quite apocryphal story of the film's production (propagated by Ulmer's own late-life assertions) claims that Detour was made with just $20,000 and in a mere six days (even the above Ebert quote says as much on the latter).  Truth be told it was probably closer to $100,000 with a shooting schedule of 28 days, but that would have been the norm for the day on "Poverty Row", so that isn't a very interesting hard luck tale to tell - and if Ulmer was anything it was an eccentric character who would build up his life and career further than it actually ever went.  Born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (in a part that is now the modern day Czech Republic) and making a bit of a splash in 1934 with The Black Cat for Universal (the first of eight films that would team horror icons Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff), Ulmer's career never really took off as many of his fellow European ex-pats careers did when they too fled their warring countries to make it in Hollywood.

Ulmer had previously worked as assistants to many of these same great directors - Murnau, Siodmak, Wilder and Zinnemann among them - before hitting it (temporarily) big in the U.S.  He claims to have worked with Fritz Lang on both Metropolis and M, but this is most likely just more tall-tale telling on an aging Ulmer's behalf.  When the director made The Black Cat for Universal (an actual big-name studio at the time - and that studio's biggest box office hit of the year) and showed the striking visual style he had obviously learned from the German Expressionist cinema of 1920's Germany, he was surely on his way to bigger and better things - much like the aforementioned contemporary ex-pats like Wilder and Siodmak.  Ulmer, however, had begun an affair with the wife of independent producer Max Alexander, nephew of Universal studio head Carl Laemmle. Shirley Alexander's divorce and subsequent marriage to Ulmer led to his being exiled from the major Hollywood studios. Ulmer would spend most of his directorial career making B movies at Poverty Row production houses.  Ulmer's only film of note after this would be of course, Detour

As for the stars of Detour, neither Tom Neal nor Ann Savage would ever become big names in the business.  Savage's Vera in the film would be described as "vicious and predatory" and "very sexually aggressive."  Savage herself would be described, by critic Barry Norman, as "sultry and sexy... a feline film noir star at its finest."  Director Wim Wenders called Savage's performance "30 years ahead of it's time."  Savage would play other roles, many of them femme fatales like in Detour, but she would never reach the stars as they say.  Neal's career would be even less than Savage's.  The most interesting anecdote one can muster up about Neal is that he shot his wife in the back of the head and was in jail for six years before being released less than a year before his eventual death in 1972.  Ulmer also died in 1972 and would never see the revival of his film noir that took place in the late 1970's.  Savage would actually tour with the film, helping both the film's reputation and her own.  Savage would later make a guest appearance on the TV show Saved by the Bell, and her final performance would come in 2007, when she was cast in Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg as the director's mother.

Listed among the first group of films to be historically preserved in the National Film Registry (the only B-picture among these first films) Detour may have been a cheaply made toss-off by a fly-by-night studio, and directed by a persona non grata director (though a director with great visual talent who was unfairly blackballed), and the film may be full of flaws (at least flaws from a strictly technical filmmaking standpoint), but that doesn't mean it isn't a great and tragic film noir indeed.  Documentarian Erol Morris claims it as his favourite film and says of it, "It has an unparalleled quality of despair, totally unrelieved by hope."  A hot, lurid, cheap (and I mean that as an attribute not a hindrance) film noir that rises above its supposed Poverty Row station to be (and I said it before and I will say it again) one of the best damn film noirs in the history of cinema.


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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Applause, Applause, Applause (Please Sit Down).....I Hath Been Awarded, and (not so) Humbly Accept the Liebster Blog Award

Well it looks like yours truly has been awarded a little prize.  Natalie, over at In the Mood, has graciously handed over The Liebster Blog Award to The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World (aka the aforementioned yours truly), and I thank her dearly for such.  This award has been going around the web in recent times as a fun booby prize of sorts for we so-called "smaller blogs" (technically it is meant for blogs of under 300 followers but considering only one blog platform that I know of actually tallies followers, who knows how accurate such a thing is).  No one is really sure where this award comes from (some claim Germany, others say Neptune) and to be honest it is not so much an award as a tagging game of sorts.  Still though, it is a fun little tidbit to receive (it means somebody is paying attention) and looks good hanging up on your bloggy sidebar.

Now there are a few "rules" that go along with the world famous (or possibly interstellar) Liebster Blog Award.  First the awardee must thank whosoever gave he or she said award (which I did above but will do again here - thanx Natalie) and then he or she should pick out 3-5 fellow bloggers and, as they say, pay it forward.  So I suppose that is just what I will do.  And remember, to those I hand this award to, you have no obligation to, as they say, pay it forward.  After all, it's just for fun anyway.  So without further ado, I award the intergalactic Liebster Blog Award to the following worthy blogs and their equally worthy bloggers.

Nathaniel Hood @ Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear
Marsha, aka Flick Chick @ A Person in the Dark
Jack L @ Jack L Film Reviews
Caroline Shapiro @ Garbo Laughs
Alex DeLarge @ Korova Theatre

Well that's it for now true believers.  I want to thank Natalie one more time for giving me this award.  And here's to hoping the five worthy bloggers I in turn hand these awards out to, enjoy them for what they are (they will look pretty snazzy hanging on your sidebar).  I will now leave you with an image from Howard Hawks' great unwashed classic, Only Angels Have Wings with Cary Grant and Jean Arthur.  There is really no reason I choose this image to close out with (it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Liebster Blog Award or anything else in this post) but it is the most recent film I have watched (just before writing this post) and it is one of my favourites to boot.  Thanx again.....and good night.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Criterion Critiques w/ Alex DeLarge

What follows is part of a regular series of reviews on the always wonderful, and quite indispensable Criterion Collection, written by our special guest reviewer Alex DeLarge of the Korova Theatre.

THE KILLING (Stanley Kubrick, 1956, USA)
Released on Criterion Blu-ray 8/16/2011, Spine # 575
Stanley Kubrick gives the film-noir genre a new twist with a jigsaw narrative layered with quick tough dialogue penned by crime aficionado Jim Thompson. His classic tracking shots and low angle photography are works in progress here but the potential is unmistakable.

Sterling Hayden as Johnny Clay is tough and likable as the gang leader but we’re never allowed intimacy with him or any other character, a device that Kubrick later perfected. Though we are shown some insight into the lives of the participants such as the bartender whose wife is dying of cancer, George and his femme fatale wife, and Johnny and his adoring girlfriend, the camera gives them too much distance for the viewer to make any real connection.

The non-linear timeline pieces the robbery together, sometimes reliving the same event from other perspectives. What makes this interesting is that we are never privy to the plot; we watch it come together like a puzzle until a coherent picture is formed. Kubrick uses a voice-over to keep us on schedule and to explain timing of events but the narrator is imperfect: we are told at 7:00 AM “Johnny began what could be the last day of his life” during a scene between he and his cohort Marv. Later Johnny arrives at the airport and the narrator announces the time as 7:00 AM. I believe Kubrick was breaking with convention by purposely conveying false information from what is typically a neutral omniscient voice. This ominous “mistake” foreshadows the violence and betrayal soon to follow.

Per film-noir expectations, the wicked woman leads the men to destruction with her conniving, greed, and sexual manipulation. The pounding score ups the ante and creates suspense as the tragedy unfolds. Does anyone else think that Timothy Carey was a greatly underrated actor? Finally Clay's dirty deeds are scrubbed clean by propeller wash. 

 Final Grade: (B+)

About Alex: "To state things plainly is the function of journalism; Alex writes fugitive reviews, allusive, symbolic, full of imagery and allegory, and by leaving things out, he allows the reader the privilege of creating along with him." Alex can be found hidden deep within the dark confines of his home theatre watching films, organizing his blu-ray and dvd collection and updating his blogs. Please visit the Korova Theatre and Hammer & Thongs to see what’s on his mind.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hollywood Haiku III: The Tarantino Edition

Here is the latest edition of that ever-popular regular series Hollywood Haiku.  This is the third edition (the one that started it all was for a contest by the fine folks over at Best For Film - a contest won by my lovely and talented better half).  Now without further ado, let us get this show on the road.  Here is the Hollywood Haiku: Tarantino Edition.

Reservoir Dogs
Heist film with a twist
The heist that was never shown
No one left alive

True Romance
Clarence and the whore
Her name is Alabama
And love conquers all

Pulp Fiction
It shines like pure gold
Marsellus Wallace's Soul
Kisses Me Deadly

From Dusk Til Dawn 
The Gecko Brothers
One becomes a vampire
One is George Clooney

Jackie Brown 
From Blaxsploitation
Came Miss Foxy Jackie Brown
The Lady kicks ass

Kill Bill, Vol. 1
In Pussy Wagon
Uma wiggles her big toe
Starts off killing spree

Kill Bill, Vol. 2
Beatrix Kiddo
Five Point Palm Exploding Heart
She saves her daughter

Death Proof
Crazy Stuntman Mike
Went to the Vanishing Point
He picked the wrong girls

Inglourious Basterds
Basterd true and blue
He's Aldo the Apache
And he wants his scalps

Inglourious Basterds (Shosanna)
She ran from her death
They respect directors here
Used film as revenge

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Cinematheque Reviews: 30 Minutes or Less

30 Minutes or Less, the second feature from director Ruben Fleischer, just did not do it for me.  It has its funny moments, and is by no means a terrible film, but overall it was a disappointment.  I expected better out of the guys that brought us Zombieland (well, director and star who gave us Zombieland that is).   Granted, Zombieland was no Shaun of the Dead (but what is?), but it was still a quite enjoyable undead comedy/parody/satire thing, and 30 Minutes or Less (trying to do for the buddy action flick what the former did for zombie films) just does not do it.  Nevertheless, my review of said film (including mentioning its better points as well - I don't go total Pauline Kael on the bitch) is up and running over at The Cinematheque.

Read my review of 30 Minutes or Less at The Cinematheque.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Cinematheque Reviews: The Help

Many critics have panned this film due to its cheap pandering and whitewashed racism, and yes these are major problems in the film, but in the end it is just a generic work of bland Oscar baitery (take a look at the particularly Oscary pic below).  Sure, there are a few fun performances sprinkled amongst the rampant cliche and stereotype (on both sides of the racial divide) but they are not enough to save this otherwise mediocre film.  I say as much, and more, over at The Cinematheque in my (get this) 1300+ word review.  You can check it out if you so desire.

Read my review of The Help at The Cinematheque.

The Cinematheque Reviews: The Trip

If you are into that certain kind of wry British humour one finds on BBC America (via the original BBC of course) then The Trip is the film for you.  If you enjoy watching two rather annoying (but charmingly so) British comics bicker and snipe and psychologically jab at each other over meals of scallops and pigeon and martinis with the consistency of snot, then The Trip is the film for you.  If you have always wanted to see an impressionistic Michael Caine-off (and for that matter Woody Allen, Al Pacino and Richard Burton) then The Trip is the film for you.  Right now my review of that film that is for you is up and running over at The Cinematheque.  Go over and read it now.  Please.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Robert Ryan: Tough Guy Retrospective at Film Forum

Why is Robert Ryan one of the toughest guys in Hollywood?

When Nick Ray was asked why he cast Ryan opposite John Wayne in the US Marine war film Flying Leathernecks, Ray would explain that Ryan had been a boxer in college and was the only actor he could think of who could "kick Wayne's ass."  Now of course such a fact doesn't necessarily mean Ryan was all that tough when one considers how Wayne's public image was a lot tougher than the actor's so-called real life persona.  I mean really, even Jimmy Stewart punched Duke out once, but then I wouldn't want to get myself started on the whole draft-dodging Duke versus the great and heroic military service of Brigadier General Stewart, so I will preemptively digress and get back to the topic at hand, Mr. Robert Ryan.

What I am trying (and not particularly all that successfully either) to say here is that Robert Ryan was one of the toughest damn actors in Hollywood history (part of the tough guy triumvirate of Mitchum, Ryan and Lee Marvin) and one of the coolest as well.  A lifelong Democrat and crusader for civil rights (even though his on screen persona was more of right wing sort - he even once tried to explain to the press "the problems of an actor like me playing the kind of character that in real life he finds totally despicable.") Ryan was one of the best actors in all of Hollywood - even though today he is nearly unknown to the average moviegoer.  Did you know that when he moved out of the Dakota in New York City, he sold his apartment to a pair of newcomers to the city by the names of John and Yoko?  See, I told you - coolest cat ever.

Seriously though, the reason I am talking about Robert Ryan is that that cinema of all cinemas, Film Forum, is holding a retrospective of the great actor's work as we speak.  Running from August 12th to the 25th, Film Forum is hosting two dozen of the actors greatest films.  After this retrospective, for one week only (though it could be extended if all goes as well as it should) the cinema will screen a brand new 35mm print of Sam Fuller's House of Bamboo, starring you-know-who.  This is a very exciting series and I am especially thrilled for the opportunity to see House of Bamboo on the big screen.  A look at this retrospective can be seen HERE.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Sultry, Sophisticated Suburban Affairs of Kirk Douglas & Kim Novak in Strangers When We Meet

In those days of burgeoning openness, when the Hollywood studio system and its all-too-strict production code were beginning to break apart and crumble before our very filmgoing eyes, the American movie industry began to loosen its belt so to speak and start making more sophisticated, sexually speaking, fare.  With a frank boldness to sexuality that had not been seen in Hollywood since the Pre-Code era (and era that abruptly ended in 1934 with the enforcement of the up-til-then neglected Hays Code) many filmmakers began to test the boundaries of what they could get away with.  Billy Wilder was one of the most bold of these directors, making films such as Some Like it Hot, The Apartment and Kiss Me Stupid, all of which took a more mature look at the sex habits of America than almost any other films around.  While Wilder, along with director's such as Sidney Lumet, Otto Preminger and of course Douglas Sirk, the master of the melodrama, were cracking the code, smaller films and filmmakers were also reaping the rewards of a freer filmmaking community.  One of these lesser-known qualities was Richard Quine and his sexy 1960 melodrama Strangers When We Meet.

Strangers When We Meet is the story of a married architect (Kirk Douglas in one of his best, if highly unknown roles) who begins an affair with the beautiful married housewife down the lane (Kim Novak being, well...she's Kim Novak, what else need be said).  Taking on mature themes in a very matter-of-fact manner for the time, Quine's extramarital lovers seem all the more real because of this loosening of the proverbial censorship noose.  Douglas, usually playing characters who are tightly wound, ready-to-explode types, here plays the cool, calm pursuer while Novak is the questioning, uptight, albeit often willing one, afraid to commit to an affair even though deep inside she wants to be the taken woman (a character trait that becomes even more intense when she lets loose with a secret from her possibly sordid past).

Variety had originally said of the film, "It is a rather pointless, slow-moving story, but it has been brought to the screen with such skill that it charms the spectator into an attitude of relaxed enjoyment, much the same effect as that produced by a casual daydream fantasy."  This is obviously quite the back-handed (semi)compliment but the metaphor of casual daydream fantasy works as the perfect descriptive.  Quine's melancholy camera and his use of colour and the way he subtly manipulates the widescreen image plays out like a fantasy.  One shot in particular, near the end of the film, as we see Douglas and Novak haloed by the sunset (a very metaphor-fueled sunset of course), makes this idea of casual daydream fantasy a visual reality.  Whether one still considers it rather pointless is a matter of taste.  Poor taste perhaps, but a matter of taste nonetheless (he said with snarky glee).

Actually the film is quite the soap opera, and one must surely be a fan of the melodrama in order to fully appreciate its kitschy charm and rather sordid, sophisticated themes.  Lucky for me I am one of those aforementioned fans of the melodrama genre, so it works out just fine.  The thing that really kicks it in gear though, other than Quine's way around the camera (the director is usually far from the auteur but here he works well) is the acting of the principal players.  Douglas, in probably one of his five best performances (and probably his most understated) is the classic yet contemporary leading man and plays it with his usual cockeyed charm (a charm that often comes off as cheesy in many roles - making the actor just as often seem less than what he really is).  Then there is Kim Novak (who was engaged to the director at the time of filming and would act the prima donna on set) - the epitome of cold-hearted heartthrob.  That woman you want but know it will never end well (just ask Scottie in Vertigo - but perhaps that is more his doing than hers).

Novak's original persona in cinema was that of a good girl but as her career moved on she grew into a deeper, chillier character - but even when she played a vixen, which I suppose she sort of does here (or at least a reluctant vixen), it was one of a seemingly clean demeanor.  Sultry but with a persona of apparent innocence.  Critic Stanley Kauffmann called this way of carrying herself and her character as an "unvaried strangulated hush" - that is certainly enough to get bored architect Kirk Douglas' blood a-boiling.  And speaking of blood boiling, this is not just the Kirk & Kim show.   There are stellar performances by beautiful, sensitive Barbara Rush as Douglas' dutiful wife, comic Ernie Kovacs as a hot-headed, womanizing novelist client of Douglas, and Walter Matthau as a prim and proper neighbour who eventually becomes entangled in the film's ever-deceptive web.  In the end, it is all a sultry, sophisticated suburban affair.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Am A Fickle Designer Indeed

It was just a mere two and a half months ago (May 29th to be exact) that I had heralded in the new look of my blog.  Making it sleeker and cooler (at least I thought so) and with a brand spanking new banner to top it all off, I proudly announced my shiny new look.  Of course being the fickle thing that I am (change is indeed the only constant) here I go again with a brand new look to everyone's favourite blog, The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.  The snazzy new banner gets to stick around though.  Granted, even with this new look (which I may very well change again before the end of the year) I would still like to see my readership go up.  And it is actually - with a total of 73 followers as of this writing - but still the comments are kept to a minimum.  I guess many of you out there (and I know I do have many loyal readers) just have nothing to say about what I post, but at least you are reading it, which is certainly something quite important.

Well that is really all I have to say right now.  I hope you like the new look (if you don't then too bad) but the quality (or lack of quality depending on your outlook on things) of my writing will stay the same and/or grow as I grow.  You know, all that fun stuff.  Anyway, since the title of this blog comes from a quote by Jean-Luc Godard and the banner sports a lovely picture of his one time muse and since she too has become the muse of sorts for this blog, here is a lovely picture of Miss Anna Karina to close things out. How could you have anything bad to say about that.

Anomalous Material Weekly Feature: 10 Best Brad Pitt Performances

After a short hiatus, I now return with what is my tenth weekly 10 best feature for the fine folks over at Anomalous Material.  For those of you not in the know, those same said fine folks have given me a regular weekly gig as feature writer.  It is a series of top ten lists on various cinematic subjects (and anyone who knows me can attest to how perfectly suited I am to such an endeavor - yes I am a list nerd).  This week's feature is on that golden boy of Hollywood, and favourite child (I assume) of Shawnee Oklahoma, Mr. William Bradley Pitt.  Usually tossed off as a mere movie star, Brad Pitt is nonetheless one of the finest actors of his generation.  My list will delve into that with his ten best performances (and a pair of honourable mentions).

Now personally I do not think Pitt was right for the role of Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds.  You see, in my fantasy world where I am an Oscar winning actor/writer/producer/composer/editor/director and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood (and best friends with Quentin Tarantino) I get to play the role of Aldo the Apache -- and I hit it out of the fucking park!  But I suppose Brad does a decent job with it in this world.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

If You See Just One Production Code Era Women in Prison Movie, Make it John Cromwell's Caged w/ Sweet Meat Eleanor Parker

Back in 1950, the Hollywood production code was still in full force and would not even begin to crack and decay for another few years.  With this heavy censorship going on in the movie industry, a film about women in prison would not and could not be made in the same quite over-the-top manner as this sub-genre would and could be made in the hey day of Grindhouse cinema in the 1970's.  Now Quentin Tarantino's lustful cinematic desires aside (the audacious auteur counts women in prison movies as his favourite genre - for some rather obvious reasons) these more modern tales of feminine behind bars mayhem, replete with their hair-pulling, ass-smacking, bitch-slapping, fellatio-heavy ways, are pure unadulterated B-grade schlock and soft core (sometimes hard core) porn, made merely to get lonely guys off in the dark.

Now nothing against such self-realized, paradigm-switching cinematic endeavors (to each his own I suppose / they do have their purpose) but to this critic, perhaps sometimes less is more.   Of course with the production code, the "less" we see in the 1950 produced Caged is a forced necessity - but it works to instill not only a heightened sense of tension but also a heightened sexuality as well.  In these golden olden days of Hollywood, many a wily director knew how to subtly get around the censorship (which in turn would help lead to the erosion and eventual breakdown of said system throughout the next two decades) but even they could only go so far in 1950 America.  Nowhere could director John Cromwell nor screenwriter Virginia Kellogg show the actual events that were obviously going on behind what we did see on the screen, but it was this forced censorship of sexuality that makes the film so much sexier (albeit in a most disturbing manner) than if the same film were made in this day and age where nothing whatsoever is left to the oh so hungry imagination.

I suppose we should talk somewhat about the actual story of Caged so you the reader can see just what is shown and what is not.  Based on a short story entitled "Women Without Men" by Virginia Kellogg and Bernard C. Schoenfeld and released by Warner Brothers (the more daring studio if one were to make comparisons) in 1950, Caged is the story of a nineteen year old newlywed who is sentenced to 1 to 15 years in prison for her part as a naive accomplice in the armed robbery that her husband was killed during.  The timid and scared Marie Allen, played by pretty Eleanor Parker (more of which shall be said of her later in this article), is thrust into a world of hardened cut throat criminals and demanding monstrous prison matrons - her world and her youth unraveling around her.  Marie learns fast and quick that she must adapt in order to survive - even if that means doing things she would have never even imagined doing in the outside world.

Falling in with some surprisingly friendly fellow inmates, including a stupid but good-hearted prostitute named Sweetie and a tough-as-nails con named Kitty, Marie learns to adapt, but even in this she still brushes off Kitty's offer to pull some strings to get her out early in exchange for becoming a thief in the gang she has on the outside.  Now there is really no denying that Kitty is a lesbian and wants a lot more from the young nubile and quite naive Marie than just a con job on the outside, but never is this mentioned due to the production code.  Alluded to yes (you would have to be even more naive than Marie to not pick up on this) but never actually shown or spoken of.  Much the same relationship can be construed in that between Marie and Evelyn Harper, the prison matron (played with a beastly bravura by 6' 2" Hope Emerson who incidentally was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for this role) that takes every opportunity to inflict harm on her girls - except for those that bribe her of course, which again, these means of bribes are only alluded to, even tossed off as gift-giving.

As her time drags on in prison, Marie becomes more and more hardened.  Giving birth in prison and having the baby taken away by the state, her head shaved and shut up in solitary for three days, having her parole denied due to her inability to procure a home on the outside (her mother's new husband refuses to have her in his home) - all these things add up to Marie losing her innocence and becoming just as jaded and hardened as the women who are doing their third or fourth or fifth stretch.  By the end, as Marie must decide if she wants to give in to another inmate (the new queen cock of the walk so to speak) in order to have strings pulled and get released into a new life of crime - a life she promised herself and the warden she would do anything to stop from happening.  Of course in the film, Marie need only accept a gift of jewelry from this inmate in order to show her allegiance but of course we know that this pretty young thing would have to do much more than that to win her freedom.  Will she or won't she (I won't give away the ending here) is the question that permeates the final act of the film.

Now as for the cast, it is highlighted by that oh so sweet piece of meat jokingly mentioned in the title, Eleanor Parker.  Parker may not be the great beauty that some of her contemporary fellow actresses were nor is she the lustful vamp shaking her hips for her supper, but she, much like compatriot Susan Hayward, is that wonderful combination of cute meets sexy.  An innocence that could also play as sultry if she so wished it, yet still able to keep the needed vulnerability (the emotion that truly makes the portrayal work as well as it does) even in those moments where Marie seems to take charge of her situation, worked wonders in a role such as Marie Allen.  Looked upon as that proverbial sweet meat by the older, cagier inmates, Parker's Marie was like a pretty little lamb ready for the slaughter - and the actress plays it beautifully.  Garnering the first of her three Best Actress Oscar nominations for this role (Parker is probably most well known for her role as Baroness Elsa Schraeder, the second female lead in the 1965 Oscar-winning smash hit The Sound of Music) Parker had a flair for the dramatic, and she more than proves it here.  Lurid or only alluded to, Caged is quite the amazing film - and it is sweet meat Parker's naive allure that makes both her fellow inmates and this critic swoon with a fully rested imagination to go with.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Quest To See the 1000 Greatest: From #630 Through #639

Here is a look at the latest ten films in my Quest to See the 1000 Greatest Films.  These ten films were seen between June 15th and August 6th.  A complete look at my quest can be viewed HERE.

#630 - Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
(#805 on TSPDT) This directorial debut of John Carpenter, the man who would go on to become one of the most daring horror directors of the seventies and eighties (his later output not as interesting nor as daring) is a remake of sorts of Howard Hawks' classic Rio Bravo (with some of Romero's Night of the Living Dead thrown in for good measure).  Bringing the western into a modern urban setting, Carpenter started off with the proverbial bang.  In case you wonder if the man has balls enough to blow away a blonde-haired, pig-tailed little girl eating an ice cream cone -- well he does (and shows it too).  You can read more on this great debut film by checking out "Why John Carpenter's Subversive & Brilliant Assault on Precinct 13 is one of the Best Pictures Ever Made" elsewhere on this blog.

#631 - Dead Ringers (1988)
(#498 on TSPDT) I suppose you could say that only David Cronenberg would come up with a psychological horror film revolving around drug-addicted twin gynecologists but truth be told, the film is actually based on a book and (quite loosely) on a real life case.  Still though, it would take a director as daring as Cronenberg to actually make the film work - and it does work for the most part.  Cronenberg's natural creepiness as a filmmaker is highly evident here (perhaps even more so than in most of his more blatantly horror-style films) but it is the the dual performance by Jeremy Irons (just prior to his Oscar-winning role as Claus von Bulow) that makes the film as jarring as it ends up being.  After all, just the fact that this is one of the favourite films of Korean killer driller auteur Park Chan-wook should say all that needs to be said.

#632 - Les Diaboliques (1955)
(#568 on TSPDT) My only previous Henri-Georges Clouzot was the wonderful Wages of Fear (one of my all-time favourite films).  This second look at the director is almost as stunning - perhaps even just as stunning.  There is a disclaimer that was originally shown with the film telling moviegoers not to tell the film's secret - so I will hold to that here (and it's a fun one indeed).  As far as the look of the film goes, it is sufficiently moody for the diabolical storyline and Clouzot's use of visual shock is as good here as anything in Hitchcock.  And speaking of ole Hitch, it was he who first tried to get the rights to make this film before being beaten to the punch by his French counterpart.  This film did then in turn become the (loose) inspiration for Psycho (a fact that has been substantiated by the author of Psycho, Robert Bloch, who claims Les Diaboliques as his favourite film).

#633 - The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
(#434 on TSPDT) To be honest I probably saw this at some point during my childhood - probably on a Saturday afternoon movie on TV - but since I do not actually remember seeing it (and lo and behold, after watching it I did not remember much of it) I must see it now in order to check it off the list.  Watching it on Blu-ray on the big screen one night after the cinema closed made the experience even greater.  Done in fabulous Technicolor (the costumes and sets garishly bright in order to emphasize this still young technology) Michael Curtiz & William Keighley's rousing adventure story is a thing of giddy beauty.  Errol Flynn swashing his buckle all over the place, Olivia de Havilland looking oh so Maid Marion-like (aka, gorgeous as all get out, but in the sweetest kind of way), regular Flynn sidekick Alan Hale Jr. and regular Flynn nemesis Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains as pushy Prince John, make for a fun time had by all.

#634 - The War of the Worlds (1953)
(#793 on TSPDT) I seem to have been quite obsessed with 1950's sci-fi movies this summer and The War of the Worlds is one of the better ones I have seen.  Quite modern special effects for the period (cheesy as they may be I prefer these effects to Spielberg's light show in the quite inferior remake) and a fun story about survival.  Perhaps it drags a bit (though not as much as Spielberg's aforementioned remake) but still a fun fun movie indeed.  And hey, this original version does not have Dakota Fanning screeching like a howler monkey.

#635 - The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
(#891 on TSPDT) Another in my Summer-long obsession with 1950's sci-fi, this quite shocking film is one of my favourites (and probably my favourite that does not involve aliens).  Yeah, perhaps it looks silly when compared to today's special effects, and yes that is a tarantula poor little Robert Scott Carey is fighting and not a common house spider, but damn is it fun.  Directed by genre master (and cult director) Jack Arnold, this movie amazed even this jaded critic.  When he is being pursued by his own pet cat (and assumed eaten) it is great fun (and somewhat scary as I peer over at my own cat).

#636 - Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
(#373 on TSPDT) And yet again, my obsession with 1950's sci-fi rears its deformed mutant head.  Along with The Day the Earth Stood Still (which is also on the list) this is my favourite of the genre.  Creepy beyond belief (and possibly nightmare inducing) this story of aliens, or pod people, taking over our bodies when we fall asleep is definitely nightmare inducing.  Eventually you will have to fall asleep so how do you fight these thing?  You don't, that's how!  Which is why the original ending (a definite downer that was replaced with a somewhat more hopeful ending by the studio) is one of the best endings in not just this genre, but in all movies everywhere.  Now don't fall asleep.

#637 - Strangers When We Meet (1960)
(#999 on TSPDT) One of those ever-so-sophisticated adult melodramas of the period, Richard Quine's sultry burner is one of the lesser known but better of the genre. Starring Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak as married people having an affair, this (sort of) pot boiler is sexy and sophisticated both.  WE even get Novak asking Douglas how he shaves that thing on his chin.  Toned down from the typical melodrama of the time (Sirk did the genre proudest but one could not call his work subtle at all) Quine's adult drama is well acted on all behalfs (including an especially slithery Walter Matthau).  Why the film is only #999 on the list amazes me though.  I would personally put it at least in the top half if not the top 250.  Read more on this film by checking out "The Sultry, Sophisticated Suburban Affairs of Kirk Douglas & Kim Novak in Strangers When We Meet" elsewhere on this blog.

#638 - The Servant (1963)
(#411 on TSPDT) A delectably deceiving little film by British director Joseph Losey.  This is the story of a youngish wealthy Englishman (played in his film debut by James Fox) and his deceptive, diabolical manservent, played with a cocksure bravura by the always amazing Dirk Bogarde.  As Bogarde's servant begins to play games with his employer - including sexual power plays - the psyche's of all the main characters begin to erode and crack and eventually explode.  Also starring Sarah Miles and Wendy Craig, Losey's film is a razzle dazzle performance piece for all four actors.  A psychological deconstruction of class and the barriers that are placed between them.  Of the ten films on this list, this is probably my second favourite.

#639 - The Music Room (1958)
(#204 on TSPDT) Still not quite sure how I feel about this one.  My first look at a non-Apu Satyajit Ray film, The Music Room is the socio-political (and I do not really know enough about Indian culture to consider myself as fully understanding the goings-on within the film) story of a man who is willing to sacrifice everything he has, including his own family and wealth, in order to keep the respect and lifestyle he has become accustomed to.  What stands out above everything though is the hauntingly beautiful music Ray laces his film with.  Gorgeous and siren-like, these musical numbers, along with Ray's natural affinity for visual storytelling,  are the powerful highlight to a film that is perhaps (due again to my lack of knowledge of Indian politics) beyond my grasp to fully comprehend.  Still though - it is a thing of beauty to behold.