Archive for April, 2008

A Guide for the Married Man (1967)

“A Guide for the Married Man” (1967)

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sWingin’ in the rain

I think i know what this was intended to be. This story and editing should swing in front of your eyes the same way Gene Kelly used to wing, literally, dancing in his past musicals. I tender the idea, the man uses the image the public has of him, and tries to be coherent with it, behind the camera. The story is about swingers, guys who dance around adversities, schemes to fool their wives, that environment where adultery is fun, and the good guy never falls for it, because deep down, he’ll fall for the truth of loving his wife. So we’re constantly shifting sets, and than turning to those sets, introducing new characters, telling stories which we don’t know for sure happened, and that is made in a kind of frantic (for those days) succession. Kelly tries hard to keep editing up with the story, and i appreciate the effort, but he is not skilled enough to do this properly. This same year, Stanley Donen directed one remarkable piece of filmaking, which i think is essential, ‘Two for the Road’, he tried similar stuff, but he succeeded in ways Kelly couldn’t do. There, Donen managed to control editing and storytelling in coherence. These two minds had been responsible for a great experience, Singin’ in the rain. By this film, and “two for the road”, we understand they knew they could get somewhere else. Donen did it but this is just a try.

My opinion: 2/5

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Phone Booth (2002)

“Phone Booth” (2002)

IMDb

centripetal cinema

This could have been something to last. It had a really interesting concept behind it, but who made it blew it. I suppose a great deal of responsibility should be given to Schumacher. He is incompetent, he drifts with the tide, he makes whatever he feels the audiences will consume more easily, and he doesn’t really care about cinema or how he should build with a visual basis. His films work to me as visual pollution, his strategy is to fill the eye with all sorts of images in order to overcome the lack of his own ideas.

Nevertheless, some good things were lost here: This was, in a way, the opposite of what Hitchcock did in Rear Window. That was a masterpiece, because he placed us inside the eye of the viewer, and the world of the film is everything he is able to see. No more, no less. Except for a very few special shots, we get the world in the same measure Stewart gets it. That was specially well done, and the story unfolds visually. Here we had the opposite. The world is centered around one character, such as in Rear Window, but the way we see that world is precisely opposite, meaning that we don’t get the world the way Farrell sees it (at least not so many times), we get Farrell from several angles and points of view:

. the snipper, he is the closest to god we have here, he knows everything, including what led to the situation we see, he has the upper look, he controls the action, all the way;

. the policeman, he makes his efforts to get to know things, in the beginning he is as clueless as everybody else, but he gets to learn some things;

. the wife and the mistress, they are clueless about each other, and they know only what Farrell wants to tell them

. the press, this is the entity which has to conclude, which has to pretend to try and know, but it’s practically absent its participation here;

We had these 4 threads, plus the personal version of Farrell. This is so well explored by cinema, how to explore several narrative threads, starting with Citizen Kane, and following with a number of important or merely interesting projects. This one gets lost with useless editing tricks, useless sound editing, useless fireworks. At least this time we don’t get to check nipples in the hero’s clothes.

My opinion: 2/5 some interesting concepts, but dreadful execution

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The Apartment (1960)

“The Apartment” (1960)

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modern times

It’s worth watching what Billy Wilder did, no matter what it is, or under which circumstances he did it. That’s because he always tried to contour the adversities, even if, in the end, that shows shaped with irony and criticism to his patrons, using the possibilities they give. That’s what he does here. The results aren’t so much impressive, maybe because he mixes different worlds. He basically has a romance to tell, that’s why he was hired, in order to produce the romantic comedy the way he was expected, beginning of the 60′ but done in the 50’s fashion. But in fact, he is anguished because he feels attached and dependent of a system of film production that doesn’t allow him to express freely his concerns, his themes, his own ways. He would have the last refusal late in his life, when Spielberg wouldn’t let him direct Schindler’s list. That’s why i feel his Stalag 17 must probably be a quite personal project for Wilder, one i’ll look forward to see, soon. In this process of fighting for his own expression, he created a masterpiece, Sunset Boulevard, and the less interesting Ace in the Hole. The noir served perfectly his intentions to fold his inner feelings without shouting them, and still allowing him to make the film he’d been asked to do.

Here, this didn’t work that much. Since he was working with the romance, he replaced the noir environment for sex. So we have a character immersed in a modern world of exploitation, where he is told what to do, has his life sabotaged by the interests of (many) superiors. This is a world Chaplin had created in Modern Times, but here he replaces the fantastically choreographed machinery of the factory for sex. The apartment is a meeting point, sex drives what happens here, all of it. So, a man caught up by a system who has to work his ways to gain his freedom of decision. Get it?

Jack Lemmon is a bliss, i really enjoy his non explosive, yet intense, comedy style. He has a way to move, to walk, that strenghtens his character, and in this particular case, makes him likable and easy to believe to be a pawn in the oppressive corrupt world. He’s something of a tramp here. This is not innocent. The tramp may be one the more metaphorical characters in cinema, and he always portrays things we don’t get on screen. Shirley MacLaine fits well, her face isn’t as enigmatic and intense as that of the Hepburns, but she moves more enthusiastically.

After so many years, i think what holds this film watchable are the performances. By now i don’t have Wilder’s context, and i’m way too far from the audiences who praised this in its time. And the whole machinery of sex seems like a line totally apart from the romance we get to follow, it’s not merged properly, i think. Nevertheless there is a tenderness in the interpretations, and a nostalgia i take to the film as i start to watch it, not because i lived those days, but because i got to see what was made of these performers, Lemmon and MacLaine. Nostalgia is a powerful ingredient.

My opinion: 3/5

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Die Fälscher (2007)

“Die Fälscher” (2007)

IMDb

a new approach

Regarding all the films that have already been done about the Jewish oppression under the nazi regime, this is really intelligent in the way it builds its characters and its approach to the theme.

The thing is, the filmmakers are competent enough, i specially enjoyed the cinematography, after Rembrandt, one fine tradition in what concerns light use, and environment construction. With this i mean images where the light is a mass with the shape of the illuminated object in the middle of a dark environment, but we never, or hardly get the source of the light, it’s like if it springs out of the object itself. This causes for us to focus at the centre of the composition with a special concentration. Common things, miserable aspects, made special for being in a dark place. This has all to do with second world war, and the depths of human misery. But despite the cinematography, the rest is merely competent, the camera was tender in some moments, but merely (false) documental in practically all the way. The acting is good, and Markovics and the writers deserve credit, because they did something i never got to see in an holocaust film.

So, we don’t get good and evil, that won my heart right away. We acknowledge the flaws, and the bad character of the counterfeiter right from the beginning. He is as flawed as every other man, maybe even more. He forges, he fakes, he counterfeits money, he fakes in order to survive, he is interested in surviving, not in saving the world. “a day is a day”, he says. All the jews working with him think the same, except for the idealist. All the jews only want to survive, and they are the lucky ones, an island of a relative peace in the island which is the concentration camp. It’s interesting how we come to envy them for the little they had, compared to the nothing the majority had. I think this sensation we get while watching the film, is comparable to the sensation the real jews might have had, living the situation. This is an interesting achievement. So, we have a different angle, one that doesn’t sanctify the victims, and places on the real sphere of the flawed world where they lived, before the war, before the Nazis. For someone who is 2 or 3 generations away from the war, such as myself, this represents a much more interesting approach. Of course the director is 47 by now, so he also is clearly post war.

One thing didn’t work for me, at least i felt it was misused. Tango. It’s assumed, from the beginning, all the adaptations of Gardel, quite good, more sensual but less visceral than the original Gardel. I really couldn’t work out the connection. Why tango? From the beginning i was trying to understand and guess where that would fit. But it didn’t unfold to me. I’ll try to understand it.

My opinion: 4/5 get to it.

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