Not in the spirit of this thread's title, but the movie Aftersun is on tonight (Sunday) at around 9pm and it's meant to be very good. It's on BBC2, so no ad breaks! There's a good one after it too, but that goes on to 1am and it's a school night etc
Did you watch it ?
Meanwhile in the House of Drago...
HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953)
A dated comedy in which three young single ladies rent an expensive New York apartment with the intention of snaring a rich husband. The morals of the piece are lost among the risible comic antics and the so-so love affairs. Marilyn Monroe looks delightful in Travilla gowns and spectacles. Betty Grable looks too old to be playing a twenty-something gold digger. Meanwhile, Lauren Bacall’s character is distinctly unpleasant to everyone. Poorly scripted and filmed by Jean Negulesco with one eye constantly on how to demonstrate the virtues of Cinemascope. The format is best displayed in the unusual opening musical overture, where Alfred Newman conducts the eighty-piece ‘Twentieth Century Sinfonia’ on his Gershwin-esque homage to New York City, Street Scene, a composition he wrote twenty years previously, and where you can sit back for seven minutes and watch the whole orchestra play as if you are in the front row of a concert hall. Otherwise an extremely drab affair enlivened only sporadically by a few one liners and some physical humour from Monroe, mostly poking fun at her character’s shortsightedness.
^ I read that the book itself was a classic of its kind.
British drama in which we observe the activities of a single father and his 11-year-old daughter on a holiday in a resort which we later gather to be in Turkey, though the hotel and surroundings could be Benidorm or anywhere. The way it plays out is very understated and a refreshing change from a previous night's viewing of Atonement which I had already seen and liked a lot, but it's a bit overwrought and on the nose. (Or is it meant to be, given it is about an unreliable narrator?)
There doesn't seem to be much drama in Aftersun. So much so that you start to create it yourself as you begin to worry about what might happen to the father and daughter instead, and it does seem to set things up that way. You find yourself in the position of being a parent or carer, where all your problems come in threes and fours and you can't quite tell which are the important ones and which aren't. Afterwards, you might think, ah, I missed the important one.... You start to feel anxious for the duo.
It's nicely played and I was surprised to learn that the actor playing the father was the guy playing the lead as a student in the series Normal People only a couple of years ago. If you'd paid top dollar to see this at the cinema you might have felt cheated as the production values are even cheaper than the sitcom Benidorm (and the cast is a lot slimmer and less starry too) . As well as a rating on movies, should there be a sliding scale In terms of paying? I mean, Wonka is likely to be a £25 visit or thereabouts, and the money is all up there on the screen, but not here. Or am I misunderstanding economics? Would you get more people opting to see a cheaper film, or instead would fewer cinemas book such films, figuring it would hit their takings?
I admit the overall conclusion of Aftersun almost passed me by and I had to verify it on the imdb reviews page, had I seen it in the cinema it might not have done, being more immersed in it.
Reviews of 1965 films all seen during the BFI John Barry season:
'The Ipcress File'
BFI John Barry Season — ajb007
'Four in the Morning'
'Boy and Bicycle'
TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970)
A historical war movie that tries really hard to be authentic and accurate, but unfortunately ends up being listless and unexciting. Not even the fabulously filmed Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbour can raise the temperature. Perhaps the perspective is wrong. It is very hard to make a war film celebrating defeat and mismanagement, and Tora! Tora! Tora! falls into a well of unenthusiasm.
The production was a joint American and Japanese venture and it treads carefully around the ultranationalist background of the Japanese Imperial Army and the country’s political leaders, such as Hideki Tojo. Hence, Sō Yamamura’s Admiral Yamamoto is a sympathetic, cautious leader and his underlings are portrayed as impressionable warmongers; although this considered approach is undermined by his final speech about the attack waking “a sleeping giant” having no evidence in fact. It is true that Yamamoto was not of a hardline right wing chapter, preferring to consider political implications in the context of how they affected the military’s role in warfare. He was perhaps too gentlemanly for the command he was given. A similar position is struck over the Japanese Ambassadors. The American military and diplomatic services meanwhile appear to be completely indolent, unprepared and bogged down in procedure and red tape. While mostly factually correct, you end up wondering where your sympathies are supposed to lie. There are no heroics displayed in the political sphere or on the battlefield – Pearl Harbour is basically a massacre, so it’s hard for actors to be valiant – and we all know where the Pacific War eventually ended.
The original screen treatment was from the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and would have run for over four hours, concentrating on the cultural and personal battles as much as the political and military ones. David Lean had been earmarked for the English speaking sections but he dropped out of the project, leaving the Japanese Master to helm the whole show. Kurosawa left the film after three weeks suffering from anxiety; probably because his script had been butchered and he found the American film crews difficult to work with. Richard Fleischer, Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku took over, but lack subtly.
Production design is okay. Jerry Goldsmith’s score sounds like leftovers from Planet of the Apes. The cinematography is very good. There is a particularly beautiful sequence of the Zero fighters taking off at dawn and flying over the ocean accompanied by a rising sun which makes you ponder if war should be this gorgeous. The film’s major drawback is its lack of star names or any personal story. There is nobody for an audience to identify with, either by face and name or on a narrative level. It has a procedural, documentary style, and as such it is interesting, but not emotionally involving.
There had already been one great movie about Pearl Harbour called From Here to Eternity, and that classic movie does everything right regarding character, place, time and experience, albeit from a solely American point of view. Tora! Tora! Tora! cannot hope to compete and it doesn’t. Worth a look if you feel like it, but a middling success at best.
THE LONG HOT SUMMER (1958)
Tensions run high in the deep south of Mississippi as notorious drifter Ben Quick ingratiates himself with local businessman and farmer Will Varner and his combustible family. The story is based on a couple of William Faulkner novels, so the dialogue scores points for being feisty and near-the-knuckle, certainly for 1958.
Paul Newman smoulders as Ben Quick, his blue eyes flexing like icebergs in spring, while future wife and recent Oscar winner Joanne Woodward is prissy and haughty as the passionate iceberg that genuinely needs melting. Orson Welles offers is roaringly grumpy as Varner, caught between admiration for the ambitious newcomer and waning affection for his stuck up daughter and wastrel son [Woodward and Antony Franciosa]. Lee Remick’s daughter-in-law has all the feminine qualities Varner prefers in a wife or daughter, comely, capricious and flirtatious. He admires her as one might a breeding mare, for Eula’s slut reputation survives even past marriage: the local youngsters continue to call for her company from across the estate fences. Angela Lansbury inhabits the matronly Minnie, Varner’s bit-on-the-side who ensnares him into an unlikely marriage. Her surely pivotal role in his change of heart over almost everything is curiously underplayed. There is little tension towards her from the extended Varner family either, for Minnie is accepted into the household without comment; an oversight one feels in such a bitterly twisted and culturally ingrained cast of characterisations. Martin Ritt directs with some muscular tension and plenty of sweat, but the movie, while interesting, doesn’t do very much.
The characters, setting and even the themes of disappointment and inter-familial rivalry are well recognisable. Other movies from the same year tackled similar subjects: Richard Brooks’ adaptation of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and the epic western The Big Country. The sentiments of the deep south were also well represented in Stanley Kramer’s searing The Defiant Ones. The Long Hot Summer preceded them all, but somehow feels less relevant. Newman channelled much of Ben Quick into his career-making Brick Pollitt in Cat… while Welles is a poor substitute for Burl Ives’ magnificently fearsome parental turns in both Cat… and The Big Country. Having said that, both actors share some fine moments; best of all is a small scene where they play cards and Newman, having endured Welles’ psychoanalysis, pays out his losses and quietly says: “Deal me from the top this time”, a line that receives no more than a shrug from Welles, yet a moment which encapsulates Quick’s chancer’s nature and Varner’s duplicitous plutocratic self-ego in mere seconds. Woodward, Oscar or not, is prettily effective, but as the story progresses the character traits we initially admired in Clara Varner are worn away and she morphs into just another wanton Southern Belle.
The ending is too cheerful by half for such a rancorous narrative. Good photography from Joseph LaShelle and a sprightly music score from Alex North. A good, but flawed movie, a bit flabby, but the central performances just about carry it. Newman was awarded the Best Actor at Cannes for his efforts.
On the subject of Pearl Harbor @chrisno1 this evening (Thurs 15 Feb, UK telly of course) on PBS America (channel 83 or thereabouts), at 8.40pm there is an hour-long documentary called Pearl Harbor: World On Fire, it's part 1 of 2. Second part same time tomorrow (Fri).
Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh", by John Frankenheimer and starring Lee Marvin & Robert Ryan. 4 hour director's cut blu-ray.
Annoyingly @Napoleon Plural my TV listing showed the Pearl Harbour show repeated at midnight... only I failed to notice PBS America is only available online between 00.00 & 13.00. So I have missed it. Tine to search for a repeat then. Hmmmm...
NEXT GOAL WINS (2023) with Michael Fassbender. Directed by Taika Waititi.
Some time ago, I wrote reviews on all the Star Trek movies - except I forgot to complete the canon - belatedly here is
STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)
Star Trek Beyond is beyond my comprehension. Oh, sure, it is about Idris Elba’s two hundred year old Star Fleet Captain out on a revenge mission using the galaxy’s ultimate weapon – but quite what is happening, why and to whom and by whom, where and when is entirely indescribable. And you know what? I just didn’t care. I noted that Simon Pegg cowrote the screenplay with Doug Jung [whoever he is] and it is a crushing disappointment on his C.V. The thing isn’t even very amusing. Every incident, meeting, discussion and revelation comes with noise, violence and inconsequential visuals attached. The movie simply slid by me in a blur of stupendous special effects and enormous plot holes, mostly scientific ones, although as we are in the realm of science fiction I suppose I ought to give lea way. The director is Justin Lin and he usually helms the Fast and Furious franchise, so we ought to know what we are getting: mindless, conventional and ridiculously spectacular action paired with dialogue so banal you couldn’t dream it in your worst cinematic nightmare. And that’s exactly what we get.
Maybe I am being unfair.
No, I’m not. This was just awful.
Rather liked BEYOND personally. It's not the strongest plot but it does a good job of having the characters bounce off of one another, which I personally found to be very entertaining.
As to 'who is Doug Jung', he actually has a cameo in the film as Sulu's husband (seen on the Yorktown station).
There were a couple of Roger Moore films on the box yesterday, so I indulged :
ESCAPE TO ATHENA (1979)
An uneven mix of The Guns of Navarone, The Great Escape and Operation Crossbow with a dose of counter-culture MASH thrown in for good measure, Lew Grade’s ITC production Escape to Athena is a pretty to look at but inconsequential wartime thriller which has too many cute ideas and not enough solid meaty action. Set in 1944, Eliott Gould and Stephanie Powers play USO artists whose plane is wrecked on the Greek island where Telly Savalas’ former orthodox monk is leading a revolt against the Germans. Initially it appears he only wishes to free the prisoners at the local POW camp, but his secret agenda involves destroying both the U-Boat pens and the communications centre the German’s have built inside his old monastery. Eyebrowraisingly, even for Sir Roger, this is also the location of a mobile V2 rocket silo. Who’d have thought it! David Niven plays a British archaeologist. Americans Richard Roundtree and Sonny Bono appear totally out of place. Roger Moore has top billing as the sympathetic Prison Camp Commandant who happens to be an antiquities expert, while Anthony Valentine sneers as the SS villain. We even get Claudia Cardinale as a brothel madam. So the cast is all in place, the fault lies elsewhere.
The humour delivered during the early portions of the film sets Athena up like a jokey version of The Great Escape, but there are some quite nasty incidents taking place outside the Stalag which sit uneasily beside the laboured laughs. Particularly excruciating is an army show put on by the USO pair while an insurrection takes place around the makeshift theatre. The sequence is bizarre, unfunny and occasionally rather violent. Most of the first half is a similiar mismatch in more or equal measure. Roger Moore at least impresses as the dodgy Commandant, proving he can act when he wants to, just perhaps that so often he really doesn’t want to. As the final third of the movie approaches the serious tones rise to the fore, but character traits have been so embedded the cast can’t shake off the selfish sentiments and we don’t care much for anyone’s survival. Everyone seems to be chasing Byzantine treasures – the war may as well not be existing. Director George Pan Cosmatos proves functional. The best sequences, like the motorcycle chase and the frogman fight, were orchestrated by stunt co-ordinator Vic Armstrong. Lalo Schifrin offers a decent overture to accompany the beautiful opening shots of Rhodes, but the end credits are played out to a disco track from Heatwave. It’s an infuriating lopsided little film which bombed at the box office. If I am honest, I sense a really good movie struggling to escape from Athena, but that’s about it.
And over-indulged :
THE SEA WOLVES (1980)
Lots of James Bond connections in this would be epic: Roger Moore, David Niven, Maurice Binder, John Glen, John Grover, Patrick Macnee, Matt Monro, Leslie Bricusse, Else Fennell, Syd Cain, etc etc. It also paired up a host of support actors and back room boys from 1978’s The Wild Geese. Both films have the same producer, Euan Lloyd, and he intended it to reteam Moore, Richard Burton and Richard Harris. The Sea Wolves is probably better for a more relaxed top line aging cast. Roy Budd’s music score, despite being a close impersonation of A Bridge Too Far, anticipates the sprightly shortcomings of the slow moving actors. There’s also rather good, but somewhat inappropriate, song based on Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto.
Director Andrew V. McLaglen mostly made westerns and had a long association with John Wayne. He was never going to make great pictures and The Sea Wolves is an example of his competent but unchallenging style of filmmaking. It is no underestimation to say that John Glen’s editing does more to install tension than the director or the script. The latter has pedigree, coming from a source novel by James Leasor based on actual events, but is a trifle underwhelming wiuth a shade too many cliches.
The film itself is a by-the-numbers wartime tale of elderly derring-do in Goa. German submarines are sinking British ships in the Indian Ocean and two SOE operatives are determined to discover why their success rate is so high. An espionage plot unravels as Roger Moore falls for Barbara Kellerman’s delightfully candid Mrs Cromwell, while Gregory Peck employs a troupe of veterans, commanded by David Niven, on a harbour raid to destroy the German transmitter. It is a true story and the three lead characters all existed, as did the Calcutta Light Horse, a cavalry reserve of the British India Army.
The espionage affair sits better with me than the sea bound war stuff which is routine beyond belief. The Goan set spy stuff is genuinely good, with Sir Roger doing a sort of half-way impersonation of James Bond – the good bits, like in TSWLM or TMWTGG, where he really has to act ruthless, charming or bitter – for once he seems to have left Simon Templar at the gate and drawn on other facets of his acting know-how. There is a satisfying explosion at the end, but the episodic nature of the story and the fact the tense and emotionally involving Moore / Kellerman story is resolved well before waterborne attack make the whole thing a mite lacklustre. Still it was decent tea-time entertainment.
One of the problems with these NuTrek movies is that they all copy The Wrath of Khan to one degree or another owing to some misguided belief that it was the best Star Trek movie (it wasn't). Whether it be Nero, Harrison (who actually turns out to be Khan) or Balthazar/Krall, they are all basically the same character: the revenge crazed antagonist who feels some injustice has befallen him. It was a tired trope back in 1982 and it's an indictment of the utter lack of imagination and creativity on the part of the writers of these movies that they've continued to use it as their template.
I will give Beyond points for at least swinging back around to the Star Trek ideals at the end. Buried beneath the tons of smoke, debris and explosions is that core optimism Trek was known for and by the end we get a bit of that at least. I'll also give props to Quinto and especially Karl Urban for reviving some of that classic Spock/McCoy banter of old. Of course, we need to sit thru all the usual JJ Abrams tripe including the pointless inclusion of that blasted Beastie Boys song yet again before we can get there.
@TonyDP I think in my review of the reboot Star Trek, I mentioned Karl Urban being the best thing in it, so I concur with you; he is a convincing Bones McCoy.
Well, I guess I'm misguided in thinking that STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN is the best Star Trek film then.
10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (1999)
A remarkably effective teen reboot of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew with Julia Stiles as Katrina and Heath Ledger as Petruchio [here: Patrick]. Break out roles for both. Nothing much to say really. It rode on the back of the Di Caprio’s Romeo + Juliet and is pleasant and unthreatening, a sort of smarter version of the kind of fluff we eighties teens got with John Hughes and The Breakfast Club. Thing is, none of these teen movies end up being very smart, it’s all hormones by the end. Happy endings abide for the good looking cast.
CABARET (1972) with Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, and Michael York.
Witness the rise of the Nazi party in 1931 Berlin through the lens of a cabaret performer and a British expat language teacher, with song commentary from a devilish 'master of ceremonies'.
This was my first time watching this and it was outstanding. I thought this was going to be a musical romp going into it...I was not expecting a fairly dark exploration of German society where the songs were all diagetic. Pretty meaty stuff.
I'd heard that Joel Grey was great in this. Turns out, he was phenomenal. Love that he's not playing a character per se, he's just 'the master of ceremonies' at the Kit Kat Klub and his songs are commenting on the action going on with the main characters. He has an incredible, almost Lucifer like, gleam in his performance. I'm not surprised at all that he got the Oscar here. Everyone else was excellent as well with Liza Minnelli obviously standing out (she also won an Oscar).
Highly recommended if you've never seen it.
I am glad you liked it @HarryCanyon Cabaret is a masterpiece of filmmaking. It is also of course a brilliant stage musical. Your summation is to the point and succinct. I am glad you mention how amazing Liza Minelli is in this. If ever an actress seemed born for a role, it is Liza and Sally Bowles. The book it was all based on, Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin, is good too.
We are in award season and it is worth noting that Cabaret holds the record for most Academy Awards without winning Best Picture [eight, including nods to Liza, Joel Grey, director Bob Fosse and British photographer Geoffrey Unsworth, all richly deserved].
Unfortunately the movie was released in the same year as The Godfather and no one was stopping Brando and the Mafia 😎😎😎
Oh for sure. Liza inhabited that role beautifully. You watch her and you go 'yeah, I get why she won the Oscar'. I also thought that Michael York was quite good, underplaying his part to provide a reality anchor to the proceedings. Without him or his character, I think the film would have become 'too much' or devolved into a farce.
Really excellent. I watched it mainly to 'cross a revered classic off of my unseen list' but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The performances are excellent; Ricardo Montalban is memorable and steals every scene he is in and Nicholas Meyer managed to coax a great and even emotional performance out of William Shatner. And the movie is entertaining.
My big problem with the movie is that in order for it to exist it has to basically throw away the hopeful ending to the TOS episode Space Seed, which was where we first meet Khan and his supermen. At the end of the episode, after Kirk defeats Khan and ends his plans to take over the Enterprise, he actually gives Khan what he wants, depositing him and his people on a virgin planet in the hopes that the trials they will face in taming that world will burn the arrogance and hubris out of them. Spock even comments how it would be interesting to return to that world in a hundred years and see what had sprung from the seed they had planted, thus the title of the episode. That's classic Star Trek and Wrath of Khan just flushes it down the toilet to give us a revenge story. The producers also fundamentally changed Starfleet from a capable organization primarily concerned with exploration into an overtly military one, which was anathema to the original show.
I could also never get past the fact that the USS Reliant, a spaceship with with advanced sensors and other technology, mistakes a one planet for another and couldn't see that an entire planet in that solar system had exploded. You'd think they would have scanned the debris field long before they reached the system (which is something the Enterprise routinely did on the original show).
You cite all of the major issues that Gene Roddenberry had with the film.
While I can see your points and not disagree with them, I think a movie is an entirely different animal from a television episode. The fact is, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE tried to capture the aesthetic and overall tone of the television series and was a colossal bore. If the movies were going to continue in some fashion, they needed to be more exciting (and cheaper). I love that they turned the franchise into 'Horatio Hornblower in Space' with ST2:TWOK. If you were to compare it to the original series at all, its closest parallel would be to the exceptional 'Balance of Terror' episode where Star Fleet first encounters the Romulans. I've seen all of the ST films theatrically and I've gotta tell you, ST2:TWOK was a fantastic movie experience...great action, great emotions.
As to your point about Star Fleet not knowing about the planetary situation in the Ceti Alpha system...ok, sure. You're going to need to just roll with that. It doesn't bother me and it doesn't require any exposition on the film's part to let me accept the setup and move on.
SAYONARA (1957) with Marlon Brando, Red Buttons, and James Garner.
It's 1951 in Kobe, Japan. Marlon Brando is a star US Air Force Major who is friends with enlisted man Red Buttons. Buttons is in love with Japanese woman and is getting punished for it due to the military regulations/laws which deter US/Japanese romances. Brando is encouraged to try and talk Buttons into leaving her but he refuses, eventually marrying her. Brando, reluctantly, agrees to be best man at his wedding. While roaming Japan, Brando encounters James Garner playing an Army officer. Garner has a pseudo romance going with a Japanese lady as well, a performer. Brando joins Garner at a performance and gets smitten with the lead actress, a really stunning Japanese lady named Hana-Ogi. Things progress from there.
This was a huge hit back in 1957 and was nominated for a whole lotta Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, and Actor (Brando). It lost in all of the major categories to BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI but did pick up Best Supporting Actor for Red Buttons and Best Supporting Actress for the Japanese actress playing his wife. I gotta say, if Guinness hadn't won for KWAI, Brando would have been a shoe-in to win. He's fantastic here, delivering probably my favorite performance of his. He affects a Southern accent that doesn't quite hit the right notes but it doesn't matter...he's so good here that you get past it pretty quickly. He has a scene in this where he discovers a suicide where he delivers some of the best acting of his career in terms of grief and shock without overplaying it.
The main thing in the film's favor is with the very direct manner in which it confronts Japanese racism. The film does not pull any punches at all. The overall plotting is fairly predictable in terms of character arcs but it's so effective that it doesn't matter. The only really big issue is with the fact that Ricardo Montalban plays a Japanese performer. Per the Wiki article for the movie, the producers simply couldn't find a Japanese actor suitable for the part, but that rings false. Regardless, Montalban is quite good here and presents the character in an extremely positive manner. This isn't a 'Mickey Rourke as Mr. Yunioshi' situation at all.
Really quite excellent. This was part of the TCM Oscar series that they're running now and I'm glad we saw it.
The fact is, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE tried to capture the aesthetic and overall tone of the television series and was a colossal bore.
I dont think the first film caught the aesthetic and the tone of the teevee series, I think it was going for a 2001 vibe. with all that glacial pacing and the plot itself.
The film I thought was closest to the series, and my favourite, was the one with the whales, sorry I forget the title. That certainly caught the humour and the character interplay best.
but youre right, Wrath of Khan was certainly a good theatre experience, especially if you didnt clearly remember the exact tone of the show (no dvd's back then, just syndication). it was closer to the action packed space opera we'd got used to since Star Wars, and everybody else seemed to like it better than the first film when it came out. (I especially liked the gross-out worm-in-the-ear torture, which would never have happened in the show) So I guess a question is, why does the more conventional action approach work for Wrath of Khan, yet its the big problem with these JarJar Abrams movies? is it because the beloved original cast was involved instead of a younger generation of imitators? or are there other subtle differences?
Because the scripts are effing terrible in the Kelvin films. If all you want is whiz-bang explosions, you'll be satisfied. If you're wanting any sort of emotional connection to the characters, sorry...no time for that, things are too busy exploding in between lens flares. The only film to kinda get close to achieving the character relationship building of the original cast was BEYOND. Abrams didn't direct that one.
But seriously, if you want to talk about plot holes and such, look no further than those Nu Trek films. INTO DARKNESS is particularly bad. It's quite possibly the stupidest big budget blockbuster of the last 20 years not named TRANSFORMERS.
A fun fact for people who like to get upset about "woke" Hollywood: the percentage of female leads in movies is the lowest in ten years.
An Orson Welles double-header last night. I seem to remember @Napoleon Plural reviewing these recently. I think I share his opinions somewhat, although I only write that from memory.
CITIZEN KANE (1941)
For 49 years Citizen Kane sat unchallenged at the top of Sight and Sound Magazine’s 100 Greatest Films survey, considered as the most complete assessment of artistic film success through the ages. It now sits at number 3, deposed first by Hitchcock’s Vertigo and in 2022 by Chantel Akerman’s virtually unheard of 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. What all three movies have in common is a sort of stately, ordered manner which suggests they were constructed deliberately and with much deliberation to achieve their result. They are films by filmmakers for filmmakers and as such all lack an emotional core to drive their narrative. Sure there may be shocks and snippets of realism, but these movies love the mechanics of filmmaking rather than the impact of storytelling. They run through you cold.
Kane, for all its high drama, unusual staging and innovative photographic techniques, simply doesn’t grab you at the heart. As an observer, I don’t care very much about Charles Foster Kane and his self-centred lifestyle. I cared more for the bullied failed opera singer who becomes his wife, divorced him and turned into a drunken showgirl – she seems to have a story to tell. Kane is a cipher for all mega-industrialists. It was a veiled manifestation of William Randolph Hearst, but you could dress it up as Rupert Murdoch, Eion Musk, Donald Trump or Jeff Besos for all it’s worth: a rich man and his toys. Rosebud? Who cares, they give you the answer, but never explain it, so why bother?
Let’s not be over critical. It is a well written, splendidly produced film. Orson Welles is occasionally exceptional as the title character, occasionally he’s dreadful. Joseph Cotton is similarly disposed as his sidekick Jed Lealand. But it’s no good being splendid if you are not pulling the audience with you emotionally and there is none of that in Kane. It is a tour de force of a lesson in movie making and directors, writers and technicians have been copying the various innovations for decades since.
Personally, if I want to watch a film that is a master class in how to make a good-looking product swiftly and efficiently, that’s technically robust and gets your heart and mind stimulated and stirred, I’d watch Casablanca. [No.63 – really, 63, lower than Do the Right Thing, Taxi Driver and Barry Lyndon? Dear God…] And This? No. Not by a long chalk.
THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942)
A film notoriously butchered by editors on the orders of RKO executives who were running scared of Orson Welles and his reputation after the relative failure of Citizen Kane and the furore with Hearst Newspapers. I don’t know if putting back the footage lost would have made the film any less of a torturous experience. The main problem with The Magnificent Ambersons is the over wrought actors, who are theatre types and seem to be shouting to the back of the house most of the time. Tim Holt is the unpleasant central character George Minafer. The film doesn’t seem to be about the Amberson family at all, but their in-laws, which is odd and you wonder if Orson Welles took an axe to Booth Tarkington’s novel in the same way RKO cleaved up his movie. The optimistic ending is completely out of kilter with everything that came before – including the hospital set which is clearly just any 1940s hospital set, not one specific to the period – and this was forced on the film and the director after disappointing test screenings of the original. Apparently, this ending is how the novel ends, so you wonder what was running through Welles’ mind as his characters wrestle with ineffectual love affairs and the growth of the automobile oligarchs in early 20th Century New England. A grim affair all round.
I like Orson Welles as a film director, but these early movies, while flashy and innovative, lack any sense of heart or emotional pallet. He did much better later on in his career when he wasn’t trying to prove himself a genius and allowed his scripts, and thus his characters, to breathe.
"Casablanca" at no. 63? 😱 I have no faith in such a list and I say that as a "Vertigo" devotee.
Yes. It is shocking, isn't it? 🤯