Author Topic: Apologistic Catch-up to the Top 100 Club  (Read 1649 times)

DarkeningHumour

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Apologistic Catch-up to the Top 100 Club
« on: January 06, 2017, 01:24:11 PM »
I missed a few months in the club so I figured I would still watch at least one per person to make-up for it. I will choose them as I go along and watch them in no particular order.

Junior
Contact

jdc

oldkid

tinyholidays

ses
Swing Time
The Last Detail
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

MartinTeller
Double Indemnity
Hairspray
Charulata
« Last Edit: June 02, 2017, 06:22:16 AM by DarkeningHumour »
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Bondo

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Re: Apologistic Catch-up to the Top 100 Club
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2017, 04:57:47 PM »
I appreciate this thread. :)

DarkeningHumour

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Re: Apologistic Catch-up to the Top 100 Club
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2017, 04:09:16 AM »
Circumstance dictates that I should start with Martin. There was a screening of Double Indemnity at the Institute, and although I have already seen it, I don't think Martin will mind if post it here. I plan on watching another one of his anyway, and I'd like to continue our discussion.

Double Indemnity
Billy Wilder (1944)


I had forgotten, or perhaps not realised at all, how sharp the dialogue was. I say dialogue and not writing for a reason though. The same pen that birthed quick flirtatious repartee and a number of memorable exchanges and monologues is responsible for some gauche choices that make the movie tumble.

The plot suffers in that it never really allows us to believe in Walter's motivations. Because the film relies on voiceover narration, it succumbs to the classic trap of telling instead of showing. The definitive moment that turned a so far great movie into something inferior to that was at Walter's apartment, when he tells « I was hooked. ». Wilder doesn't bother having him demonstrate any signs of infatuation or desire afterwards ; we're supposed to take it for granted. A few minutes later, in one of the best suggestive scenes in cinema, Walter agrees to participate in the murder. He's been thinking about it for a long time you see. We are to take that for granted too.

It might have all  been a little easier to buy had Barbra Stanwyck been this irresistible seductive presence, a woman who could scream danger and sex with a bat of her eyelashes. Whereas she can deliver some of her fastest paced lines with flawless rhythm though, she never captures the diabolical nature of her character or her ability for manipulation. Even when she is playing wife you can barely see the contempt for her husband. Her performance stands out, but for the wrong reasons.

The movie closes on a shot whose brilliance I somehow missed the first time around. It changes the movie. It transforms what would otherwise have been a minor possible reading of it into a major interpretation. It is not impossible that Double Indemnity focuses too much on the wrong relationship.

7/10
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Dave the Necrobumper

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Re: Apologistic Catch-up to the Top 100 Club
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2017, 05:20:26 AM »
So I remember to follow along.

MartinTeller

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Re: Apologistic Catch-up to the Top 100 Club
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2017, 11:34:46 AM »
I think Walter is only half seduced by Phyllis. The other half of the seduction is the lure of subversive activity. Phyllis is seductive (I disagree with you on Stanwyck's performance) largely because she gives him free rein to explore his latent "stick it to the man" tendencies. He's a rebel at heart, just waiting for the right opportunity to prove it.

DarkeningHumour

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Re: Apologistic Catch-up to the Top 100 Club
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2017, 04:26:29 AM »
I think Walter is only half seduced by Phyllis. The other half of the seduction is the lure of subversive activity. Phyllis is seductive (I disagree with you on Stanwyck's performance) largely because she gives him free rein to explore his latent "stick it to the man" tendencies. He's a rebel at heart, just waiting for the right opportunity to prove it.

Wouldn't you expect her to at least coax him some before he started plotting murder at all? She basically goes from « Oh dear, what would happen if my husband were to suffer an accident? » to « You want to do what now? Okay... ».
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DarkeningHumour

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Re: Apologistic Catch-up to the Top 100 Club
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2017, 05:38:43 AM »
As I was browsing Martin's list I was looking for musicals (see Top 5 realisations of 2016 thread). I tried to find a copy of Girl Walk/All Day but I couldn't see it anywhere. The second option was the following movie. It turns out, it is not quite a musical.

Hairspray
John Waters (1988)


At first I thought racial issues would be treated as a wag of the finger in the direction of the sixties as the movie progressed into its own themes, whatever they would turn out to be - teenage issues, something about fame and character, body positivity were my guesses. I could not have been more wrong. All peripheral matters are treated with unconcerned casualness as the film goes all hands on deck for the racial conflict. The movie would have been brilliantly radical had it been made in in 1963. I don't understand what it is trying to say in 1988. Racism is bad and segregation was wrong? Surely John Waters is more interesting than that? Is the film trying to address racial issues in the late eighties by dealing with the sixties? If so, the parallel was lost on me.

Even though it perplexes me, the theme of the movie is not about to put me off it. It's the tone does that. I have never been able to withstand camp and this is no exception. I cannot like characters who are are all cartoonish caricatures of a couple of loud ideas ; neither can I take them seriously. Whatever the movie tries to say about life as a teenager is lost in the naiveté of how it deals with the subject. Everybody is so nice you would think you've been sent to an alternate dimension where petty people and bigots are a small minority. I suppose the elephant in the room is Tracy's size, so let's use that as an example. The only fat-negative characters in the movie are her ghastly blonde prissy rival and her family. Everyone else accepts her as she is. There is no bullying, there are no jokes, even when she rises to fame. She starts dating a dreamy jock almost instantly. I don't buy into the bullying hell stereotype of US high schools depicted in some movie but this is too extreme of an opposite of that. The adolescents in this movie are too nice. How can a movie be fat-positive if it treats fat-negativity as something that is relegated to an isolated nucleus of pustules?

The best thing I can say about the movie is that it is nice. It is relentlessly cheerful and positive. It is the kind of movie you could put in the DVD player whenever you want to cheer yourself up or when you just want to spend a Sunday afternoon with a warm, uncomplicated blanket of a movie. It is not much fun however. There is no character I like enough to root for them and there are no scenes that make me jubilate. I am often indifferent to dancing in movies and this one is no exception. I am left unsatisfied because there are no highs ; the entire film is a plateau of saccharine. 

6/10

The good thing with Martin's list is that you are assured to be able to easily find a number of his reviews if you want to get some understanding of why he likes a movie.

Up next: Charulata
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Bondo

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Re: Apologistic Catch-up to the Top 100 Club
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2017, 08:03:32 AM »
My first exposure was the 2007 version of Hairspray (they made a live version recently for TV) and I guess the racial themes felt relevant to me. Segregation as a de jure policy may be a thing of history, but all too often it, or at least pretty strong prejudice, runs rampant. Also something about cultural appropriation probably.

I tried to find a copy of Girl Walk/All Day but I couldn't see it anywhere.

Girl Walk/All Day is basically a full album music video based on a mash-up album which, because it uses copyrighted works, cannot be sold for money (unless they want to pay crazy amounts in royalties). Thus it is free to watch.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2017, 08:08:50 AM by Bondo »

DarkeningHumour

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Re: Apologistic Catch-up to the Top 100 Club
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2017, 11:32:58 AM »
Thanks Bondo! Because of my blind-watch policy I never make the kind of research that would lead me to know such things.

Racism is still relevant of course, but not in the way it is dealt with in this movie. At least I did not see anything that I could translate into 2016, or even 1988.
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DarkeningHumour

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Re: Apologistic Catch-up to the Top 100 Club
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2017, 01:13:43 PM »
I wanted to watch Muhaganar but again, I could find it nowhere. Instead I managed to get my hands on Charulata.

Charulata
Satyajit Ray (1964)


There it goes. My Ray virginity. Puff, just like that. Well, it did take two hours, which some people would find impressive I guess. I don't know. It was sort of easy. Nothing to it really. Just put it in, sit back, and relax.

Discovering a foreign director from forty years ago is, not to be overly obvious, a displacing experience. There were times when I perceived the red flags that, in a contemporary American movie would have meant the film was going to go into one specific direction, or that a character was going to turn out to be a certain way. When we first meet Bhudapi he all but ignores Charulata, who is right there. In a "regular movie" he would have been a distant, cold husband who cared not a fig for his wife except as a possession. But Bhudapi is a warm, loving spouse, who does neglect his wife but is sorry to do so. Later, when Amal starts writing in his new notebook, I imagined a montage of him writing more and better under Charulata's encouragement as the days passed. How wonderful it is to watch a movie that subverts one's expectations.

One of the best scenes of the movie is when Bhudapi tells Amal about the embezzling. The entire nature of the movie is in that scene. Bhudapi grieves the paper he has to give up, his passion, while deploring the lows of a humanity he has become disillusioned about - though, probably, not for long. So honest, so trustful, he is oblivious to Amal's own inner turmoil. The latter comes to a silent realisation: he cannot betray his cousin. There will be no words to his decision, no heartbroken exchange, no grand gesture. If you want to understand the movie you must pay close attention. It's in the eyes that it really takes place, in the little expressions of hurt or wonderment. Nothing is ever said. Watch it while you tweet and you may as well put in one of those romances with airport climaxes instead.

It truly is a marvellous story. Or rather, no, not that. It is a story that is marvellously told ; with close-ups, with inserts, with splendidly restrained acting...There is that montage when Charulata decides what she is going to write about, her anger when Amal appears with his publication confirmation, the symbolic use of the slippers. One lingers for an outburst of some kind for over an hour, some confrontation, closure, but the film is ruthless. Or maybe I am just too used to Western movies.

The second the movie started talking about newspapers and politics I wanted to know more. What year is this? What about all those issues Bhudapi keeps on listing? Just how much say did the Indians have in the governing of their own country? Why are none of the notables arguing for revolution? Even the first scenes of the movie are an invitation into an alien world of customs I would gladly be told more about. Charulata is said to be a modern woman because she reads and thinks. How repressed are other women? How much can Charulata actually do? Is her publishing a story scandalous? Unremarkable? Bhudapi is such a supportive husband we get no hints about his; his friends all seem rather liberal too. Movies that relegate women to some submissive role always bother me a bit (unless leather is involved), even when they are about couples in the fifties or families in Iran. Charulata feels rather female-empowering in a thrilling way.

She is such a likeable character you cannot bur root for her. Unfortunately, that means rooting against Bhudapi in a way, which is quite unthinkable because he is at least as likeable. There is only a rogue in the film and he barely matters at all. The characters are good people who you empathise for, even when that means they will end up hurting each other. Bhudapi's gaze at the end of the movie is devastating.

8/10

I was going to comment on the opening but Martin spent an entire review doing that, and apparently so did the Criterion collection, so thanks Martin, really making it easy for me...

Oh, by the way, she is exactly as gorgeous as you say.
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