Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Quest To See the 1000 Greatest: #640 Thru #649

Here is a look at the latest ten films in my Quest to See the 1000 Greatest Films.  These ten films were seen between August 14th and September 24th.  A complete look at my quest can be viewed HERE.

#640 - The Awful Truth (1937)
(#347 on TSPDT) I had watched the first half hour of this Leo McCarey film around five years ago, before getting rudely interrupted by a thunderstorm and power outage.  Why did it take me so long to come back around and watch this film?  Hell if I know, but as they say, it was well worth the wait.  Perhaps not the best of the screwball genre, nor the best Cary Grant, but it is quite enjoyable, and Grant and Irene Dunne are adorable together (as they would be the following year in My Favorite Wife).  Of course one must feel at least a bit of sympathy toward poor ole Ralph Bellamy - again losing the girl of his dreams, and again losing her to Cary Grant.  Poor schmuck.  This film was actually the lesser of the Leo McCarey films to come out in 1937.  When McCarey won the Best Director Oscar for this film, he said thank you, but then said they gave it to him for the wrong film.  Of course one cannot expect this light and fluffy film, though quite humourous, to compare to the emotionally devastating Make Way For Tomorrow.

#641 - Videodrome (1983)
(#492 on TSPDT) How can anyone dislike a film that opens up James Woods' abdomen as if it were a more-then-slightly vaginal VCR?  No one can - simple as that.  Actually this early Cronenberg is one of the Canadian auteur's more symbolist-laden films (and that is saying a lot considering) and takes on the ideas of sexuality and obsession.  Gross and quite disturbing in a greasy, ugly way, as is typical of pre-millennial Cronenberg, Videodrome, which is the story of a pirate TV producer (back in those pre-internet days when there still was such a thing) who becomes involved in an underground supernatural plot, is the director at his nastiest.  He would create other nasty films (and I mean that in a complimentary way since the nastiness is purposeful) with stronger cinematic stylings than this one (Dead Ringers, The Fly, eXistenZ, Crash) but Videodrome seems to be his transitional piece from low-budget schlock to medium budget art schlock.

#642 - The Heiress (1949)
(#747 on TSPDT) Olivia de Havilland was one Hell of an actress.  I personally think she out-acted even Vivian Leigh in Gone With the Wind - but maybe that's just me.  Miss de Havilland was also one of the most beautiful women to ever grace that big silver screen (no wonder Errol Flynn kept "getting" her in movie after movie after movie after movie).  This is why it is a little hard to picture her as the plain, unmarriable daughter in The Heiress.  A woman that lands Montgomery Clift, but is plagued by the idea that perhaps he just wants her money.  Granted, they do try to "ugg" her up.  Still though, this film directed by William Wyler, a director I am not overly a fan of but who does a rather bang-up job here, is a strongly emotional work.  Incidentally, this motion picture was made around the time Miss de Havilland sued the studios and in essence, helped to begin the downfall of the old studio system.  See - beautiful, talented and a groundbreaker.

#643 - La Bete Humaine (1938)
(#841 on TSPDT) Based on the Zola novel, starring Jean Gabin, one of the most daring actors in French cinematic history, and directed by the great Jean Renoir, this film is a beautiful tragedy indeed.  The noirish story of a locomotive engineer, his seductively dangerous lover (played by the cat-like Simone Simon - get it?) and her manipulative, brutish (and murderous) husband.  Gabin hands in yet another performance of subtle but quite intense passion, and this helps the film greatly (a scene where he shows the visceral danger lurking inside his character's soul is quite remarkable, and the actor does it with near unparalleled flair), but it is, of course, the directorial prowess of Renoir that makes the film as breathtaking as it is.  The finale of the film is a thing of sheer cinematic bravura.  Fritz Lang would direct his own version of the novel in 1953, with Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame, and though it is quite good (Grahame always makes a film fun to watch), it cannot reach the artistic heights of this Renoir.

#644 - Death in Venice (1971)
(#190 on TSPDT) I would place Luchino Visconti firmly in my list of the twenty greatest directors off all-time - and that was before I saw Death in Venice.  If he's not careful, such a thing could allow the Italian maestro to sneak into the top ten.  Succulent, decadent, luscious, sexy, haunting - this adaptation of the Thomas Mann novella, is a suave, cool, miraculous kind of art film.  Starring the ever-suave Dirk Bogarde, an actor that can make you feel both delighted and dirty, and both within a single shot, Visconti's take on Mann's tale of artistic obsession and the loss of pure beauty, is full of its own cinematic beauty.  I would place the film in the upper realms of Visconti's oeuvre, below only his more than equally succulent and decadent Senso and his early neorealist masterpiece La Terra Trema.

#645 - The Marquise of O (1976)
(#839 on TSPDT) I must admit to not being much of a Rohmer kind of guy.  I have never actively disliked any of his films, but I have never truly loved one either (Pauline at the Beach comes the closest to such an attribute).  I must also admit to the sad fact that I am woefully lacking on seeing a lot of Rohmer - I think the number is only at 6 out of 27 at this point - which kind of puts a dent in never loving nor hating a Rohmer thing.  Anyway, I was not overly impressed with this one either - though, as I have already said, I did not actively dislike it either.  Just meh, I suppose.  It was late when I watched it, and I was tired, but c'mon, Rohmer has always been sleep-inducing.

#646 - The Green Ray (1986)
(#670 on TSPDT) Another Rohmer - and as you must have already deciphered from the blurb above, I am not a Rohmer kind of guy - and another meh experience.  Well, that was, until the final half hour.  Suddenly the film began building itself up and up until I was totally enraptured by the time the pretty fantastic final shot came around.  Okay, so Rohmer still remains, in my opinion, the lesser side of the Nouvelle Vague (along w/ M. Chabrol), but this film helps him rise a bit in that estimation.  Of course now I have many more Rohmers to see - and perhaps he will rise even further (and I think he probably will).

#647 - The Killing (1956)
(#398 on TSPDT) Ya gotta love Kubrick - any Kubrick.  This, the auteur's third film, doesn't change my opening comment at all.  One of the finest film noirs, this intricately designed film (Tarantino would use many of its aspects for Reservoir Dogs and Bryan Singer would do the same for The Usual Suspects) is a master stroke in cinematic filmmaking - and I mean that as Kubrick's film have an extra cinematic flair than most movies.  With a strong central performance by Sterling Hayden, who would have an integral role in the director's Dr. Strangelove, this early Kubrick work stands up to his others surprisingly well.  It may not be 2001 or A Clockwork Orange, but is still quite stunning in both visual audacity and storytelling prowess.

#648 - Kes (1970)
(#478 on TSPDT) The story of a boy and his hawk.  Actually based on a book called "A Kestral for a Knave."  Considering this is a film directed by Kenneth Loach, one knows the film is not going to end well for either the hawk or the boy - or both.  Of course this inevitability toward a tragic ending merely adds to the intensity that builds and builds and builds as the film shot puts toward that very same inevitably tragic finale.  From a visual standpoint, the film is a gorgeous work of cinematic photography.  Going back and forth between beautiful and haunting imagery, mocking, biting satire, and that inevitable aforementioned tragedy, this ranks as my favourite Loach.  

#649 - My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
(#415 on TSPDT) This is my fourth look at Miyazaki, and it fits snugly in at my second favourite spot (Spirited Away, my first look at the anime auteur, is still my number one).  Charming and fun, this brilliant animated Japanese movie is the proverbial blast and a half.  It's mesmerizing actually - and the creature comforts as it were, are the most.  Miyazaki's quirky storytelling - typical of Japanese cinema and mythology - enraptures one with both a visual bravura (such simple seeming animation manages to become so much more intricate in its subtle complexities) and a mythical storytelling ability that makes every Miyazaki fly with the most enjoyable of mannerisms.  And c'mon, there's a cat bus.  A freakin' cat bus - that flies.


Sam Fragoso said...

I watched VIDEODROME last week, very interesting caper - ultimately spins into chaos and confusion in the final 20 minutes.

Keep up the good work, honestly, fantastic job around here.

Kevyn Knox said...

Thanx. I appreciate the accolades.

I will soon be doing an extended piece on My Neighbor Totoro.

MP said...

It's funny because I discovered Rohmer last year. And I adored La marquise d'O and the minimalistic Rohmer approach to the costume drama. But like you I was meh after Le rayon vert. I saw more than the half of his oeuvre and I think that his six moral tales are his best films. He has such a minilistic approach and so many dialogues that it is hard to fully love this auteur!
Good luck on your quest! On my side I am trying to reach the half of the list with 488 so far...

Kevyn Knox said...

@Michel - The Moral Tales are a series I have yet to see at all. I think I will most likely like these.

Good luck on your quest.

Sophie said...

I've shockingly only seen 171 of the 1000 Greatest Films, but I have seen two out of these 10: The Awful Truth and The Heiress, both of which I love. You've piqued my interest in "Death in Venice" though - I'll have to check it out!

Kevyn Knox said...

@Sophie - 171 is a good amount for someone so young. I probably hadn't even seen 100 of these yet when I was your age.

Many of the films on the list are rather obscure though.

Maybe you will try your luck at going through the list. I hope to have it complete by the end of 2012. And I have a friend who has taken on the task as well, and he is beginning to catch up to me, so perhaps I better kick it into high gear.

Natalie said...

When in doubt, read something on "The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World" and smile. :)

Also, (having been inspired by comments above) I went and counted how many of the top 1000 I had seen...a depressing 44, but there were a bunch on the list that I had considered watching before and now definitely will.

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