Author Topic: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons  (Read 23876 times)

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #550 on: March 16, 2018, 03:43:02 PM »
La stanza del figlio / The Son's Room (Nanni Moretti, 2001)



Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 25:58)

Has a blander film ever won the Palme d'Or ? I've only seen about a third of the winners, but so far it's winning that particular competition hands down. It's almost impressive how thoroughly unremarkable this film is. This is going to be a short review, because there really is nothing to say other than expressing my befuddlement at this film being chosen by the jury... maybe the fact that the closest the film has to a climax takes place around 50km from Cannes ?

Visually, there is nothing going on here. Matty compares it to an afterschool special, and... he's not wrong, aside from one or two images here and there, notably at the end. Maybe that's it: it does end pretty strongly, with the only distinctive idea the film has in the character of Arianna that the family has to deal with. Or maybe it's the relatively understated approach to grief, which I would be game for if it didn't feel like Moretti fell asleep behind the camera for half the scenes. I guess taht doesn't make sense because he's acting in almost every scene, but you get the idea.

It's possible Moretti has something going on that I just don't get, because his recent film Mia madre was a big hit with French critics and left me similarly underwhelmed. These films are melodrama, and if a melodrama fails to provoke any kind of an emotional reaction, well it doesn't really matter that it's well-acted, it's just not effective. Again, that doesn't make this film terrible, it's nice enough... but it's quite a comedown for the Cannes Festival to go from something as bold as Dancer in the Dark to this big bowl of meh.

4/10
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Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #551 on: March 16, 2018, 04:45:08 PM »
The Bronze Fronds (Cannes Golden Palm Winner Awards)

Adam & Matty claim the name of the awards makes sense because of something having to do with French. Um. I get "Bronze", but I have no idea what a "Frond" is, or what happens when there's multiple of them.

In the same order as the podcast.

One screenshot is a bit of a spoiler for Dancer in the Dark. It's also pretty ugly, but that's what von Trier gets for shooting on video and I couldn't find better (and have given the DvD back already).

Best Cinematography: Gu Changwei (Ba wang bie ji / Farewell My Concubine)



Best Actor: Homayoun Ershadi (Ta'm e guilass / Taste of Cherry)



Best Actress: Gong Li (Ba wang bie ji / Farewell My Concubine)



Best Moment/Scene: Cvalda - Musical in the Factory (Dancer in the Dark)



Most Depressing Moment/Scene : The End (Dancer in the Dark)



Best Picture: Dancer in the Dark



Summary/ranking

Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000)
Ta'm e guilass / Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997)
Ba wang bie ji / Farewell my Concubine (Chen Kaige, 1993)
Otac na sluzbenom putu / When Father Was Away On Business (Emir Kusturica, 1985)
La stanza del figlio / The Son's Room (Nanni Moretti, 2001)


No Supporting category, so Gong Li wins over Björk, who will console herself with knowing everything else Dancer in the Dark got was mostly because of her.

Up next (though not right away), Ernst Lubitsch ! I know nothing about him other than he made comedies, I think ?
« Last Edit: April 23, 2018, 11:40:35 AM by Teproc »
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smirnoff

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #552 on: March 16, 2018, 05:18:27 PM »
I hope they're good for a laugh or two then! :)

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #553 on: April 23, 2018, 12:52:45 PM »
Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939)




Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 46:12)


Garbo laughs ! Which is apparently a big deal, but this is my first encounter with Garbo, so I couldn't appreciate the novelty of it, and I was a little surprised to find out all about it actually, since I thought Garbo didn't work very well as a Russian robot/soviet version of Sheldon Cooper and got much better when allowed to, you know, emote.

Adam makes a good point about these romantic comedies depending very heavily on the chemistry between the leads, which is the problem here. Melvyn Douglas is fine, but he doesn't have the kind of overpowereing charm that would justify's Garbo's transformation... though I'm not sure even a William Powell could have made that work, so I suspect this is more about Wilder and Brackett's script than any fault on Douglas's part. And really, the script is a huge disappointment, coming from such prestigious names. There's some funny stuff in there, and the of it all politics are... interesting, but I don't think it really works.

Part of it my usual gripe about the language, with the cultural and political context ringing hollow when everyone is casually speaking fluent English just because. But mostly it's just not very funn ? Maybe that's a bit harsh, but when the romantic center of the film isn't all that fascinating, the jokes need to hit a lot more than they do here... or the politics need to add up to something more coherent than they do here. It's... kind of fascinating in a way, to see the quickly shifting attitude the US had to the USSR in the span of about ten years, and it's somewhat funny to see a film that seems to argue that the main problem with the Soviet Union is that they're just too damn serious all the time. In the end though, it doesn't seem to me that Lubitsch managed to say anything meaningful about that: whether it's because he didn't have any intention to or wasn't allowed to is impossible to know, but the end result is a muddled, mostly ineffective romantic comedy for me.

4/10
« Last Edit: April 23, 2018, 12:54:19 PM by Teproc »
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Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #554 on: April 25, 2018, 05:17:09 AM »
Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)



Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 26:47)

For better or worse, I find that my enjoyment of 30s Hollywood comes down mostly to the performances. To a certain point, I suppose this is generally true of romantic comedies in general, but there's probably something about that period in particular which put the actors front and center and especially their ability to deliver dialogue because it was all new and contrasted with the silent era. In this case, Lubitsch's direction is quite dynamic and thoughtful, especially with that opening sequence in Venice... but the fact ot the matter is: Herbert Marshall is no William Powell (or George Sanders). Miriam Hopkins and Kay Francis are fine in their respective roles, but Marshall gives them very little to work with, and that robs the film of most of its potential.

That's a shame because there's plenty going on here. The mix of escapism and mild social commentary that goes with a Great Depression film about rich European people being scammed for one thing, but more interestingly the sexual frankness, which is striking because it stands in sharp contrast in what the Hayes Code would impose on Hollywood shortly after this. The sex is not shown of course, but it's not even implied so much as underlined, and Kay Francis comes off as downright predatory in her seduction of Marshall. Maybe that's why I had a hard time feeling invested in the final theatrics, not believing she was really a challenge to the thieving couple emotionally, though there might have been something for Lubitsch to do with the status she offered. Alas, Hayes Code or not, this is still classic Hollywood and we need that happy ending: yes it involves criminals so it counts as somewhat subversive, but it really doesn't feel that way.

I'm befuddled as always by the need to set this story in France with French characters when everyone is speaking in English. The film even has fun with other languages, so why exactly couldn't this all take place in London, or New York for that matter ? I guess that's not glamourous enough, but since the Paris setting is purely theoretical, I'm not sure what the film even gains from it anyway. It's not like New York high society was lacking in clueless rich people either, but oh well. I should say that, for all its faults, I did enjoy parts of this film. The opening is rather brilliantly realised, and there are somme funny scenes : simply not enough to make up for how little I cared about all of it.

5/10
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Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #555 on: May 02, 2018, 05:23:35 PM »
The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)



Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 28:53)

One of my main problems with Trouble in Paradise and Ninotchka was their male leads, so it makes sense that The Shop Around the Corner would be the first film I like in this marathon, seeing as it stars my favorite actor of this era: James Stewart. He's predictably great, and the whole film feels like it's coming from a different director, really. The film essentially tries to be both a screwball romantic comedy based on a premise which made me think "huh, that'd work really well in an modern, online context" - not realizing Nora Ephron was way ahead of me there - and a wholesome film about a group of people working in a small shop.

The Capra-esque (maybe Capra only comes to mind because of James Stewart I guess) ensemble dramedy is what really worked for me here. As Adam (I think) mentions, it's refreshing to see a comedy deal frankly with money, and the cast is really strong overall, save for some excessive mugging by William Tracy as Pepi. I particularly liked Felix Bressart (also seen as one of the Russians in Ninotchka) as Stewart's underling, providing moral and comedic support throughout. There's a strong sense of community overall, even though I had to pretend the action was all taking place in Budapest, MN to avoid gritting my teeth through a whole film trying to make me believe James Stewart would be Hungarian, of all things. Retrospectively, the whole business with Matuschek's unseen wife is a bit silly, but Stewart and the others are so good, and again the stakes feel so real that it all works for me.

The romantic part of it is dicier. Partly because of how Lubitsch uses the conceit by having Stewart realize what's going on quickly and entirely manipulate the whole ending in ways that I found somewhat uncomfortable, and it generally seems somewhat undercooked. They seem to get along fine early on and then suddenly we're supposed to accept they just hate each other's guts, which is retroactively and clumsily explained by Sullavan's characters, but it all feels pretty artificial. Still, they have pretty decent chemistry and they're quite funny when they're mean to each other, which brings me back to how different this film feels to the other. In this film, Lubitsch's snarky tendencies are put in contrast with the wholesomeness of most of what goes on in the eponymous shop and I think that makes the whole thing work much better comedically and emotionally. The sharp edge is still there, lurking, but I cared much more for the characters and that made it all the more effective.

7/10
« Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 09:22:41 AM by Teproc »
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Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #556 on: May 11, 2018, 09:12:00 AM »
To Be Or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)



Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 36:20)

I don't know if it's me getting more comfortable with Lubitsch's sensibilities or him actually getting better over time, but his 1940s films seem to speak to me a lot more than his 1930s ones, based on this very small sample anyway. Once again, the difference is that, though this is mostly a farce (with Nazis!), there is an emotional core here with this theater troup which really feels like the lovable ragtag band of misfits it's supposed to. Felix Bressart was already a key part of the ensemble in The Shop Around the Corner, conveying a sense of warmth that puts the sharper comedy (sharper here than in that film), and he plays that role again, though mostly in the background this time. There is an added poignancy however, because he is a Jewish actor (playing one too) in a film about the Nazis invading Poland, and Lubitsch manages to balance that much better than Chaplin in The Great Dictator I'd say, with Bressart's Shylock speech lending the film exactly the right amount of gravity to fit the situation.

And it does need that, because - even without knowing what we do now - laughing about the repetition of "So they call me Concentration Camp Ehrhard, eh?" is... tricky. Perhaps the way Lubitsch wraps the narrative in a few layers (insert comment about the language thing here) ; most notably with the play that opens the film and basically gets repeated in the film's actual narrative. It's all quite clever, and more importantly, it's all very funny, thanks to a very charming Jack Benny and a somewhat underutilized Carole Lombard. The whole ensemble is quite strong too, though Robert Stack is beyond wooden as the lesser part of the central romantic triangle which Lubitsch thankfully doesn't let overtake the film, letting it be a heist farce instead.

Adam & Matty mention the film being poorly received at the time, which I assume is related to the political situation it tackled. Watching it in 2017 it's fascinating to see Lubitsch, a German exile, make this film, which makes light of the Nazis but still does have things like, well, a line about concentration camps. It makes light of them without letting you forget that they are doing horrible things because they're, you know, nazis. I generally do think that laughing in the face of evil is not only acceptable but necessary, though it certainly is a tricky proposition, which makes To Be Or Not To Be all the more remarkable for succeeding. Come to think of it, it's what he tried to do with considerably less sucess (to me at least) in Ninotchka. I guess communists aren't as fun as nazis.

8/10
« Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 09:18:08 AM by Teproc »
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Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #557 on: May 11, 2018, 09:31:41 AM »
The Lubitsch Touches (Ernst Lubitsch Awards)

In the same order as the podcast (starts at 49:58).

Best Actor: James Stewart (The Shop Around the Corner)



Best Actress: Carole Lombard (To Be Or Not To Be)



Best Moment/Scene: The Shylock speech (To Be Or Not To Be)



Best Picture: To Be Or Not To Be



Summary/ranking

To Be Or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)
The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939)
Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)
Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch, 1939)


Pretty sure that makes James Stewart the first repeat winner in this marathon (he won for Vertigo in the Hitchcock section). Appropriate.

Up next, Billy Wilder, and some of my biggest blindspots !
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1SO

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #558 on: May 11, 2018, 12:59:44 PM »
I've always been out of whack with Lubitsch because To Be or Not To Be has never clicked with me and I doubt anyone here appreciates Jack Benny as much as I do, though that's hardly who makes or breaks the film. I've seen that film 3 times and will probably watch it again because I figure one day I'll get it. Ninotchka was where I finally saw the light
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Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #559 on: May 11, 2018, 05:29:45 PM »
I've always been out of whack with Lubitsch because To Be or Not To Be has never clicked with me and I doubt anyone here appreciates Jack Benny as much as I do, though that's hardly who makes or breaks the film. I've seen that film 3 times and will probably watch it again because I figure one day I'll get it. Ninotchka was where I finally saw the light

I suspect I'd like Ninotchka a bit more after seeing more of his work: after all I've liked every film more than the previous one so far.

I assume you've seen a few of his German films, are they markedly different ? I suppose most of them must be silent, so that might be hard to compare.
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