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post #2221 of 2226 Old 05-22-2019, 06:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Until They Sail (1957), directed by Robert Wise.

A minor, well-made melodrama of four sisters in New Zealand dealing with American Marines while their men are away at the war.

It has unusually blunt sexual content, with the women policing each others behavior, not always successfully. Wartime changes the old standards.

I review this one for the talent.

The crew:

  • Directed by Robert Wise, a famous counter-example to the auteur theory in film. I'm compelled to see all of his movies.
  • Photographed by Joseph Ruttenberg.
  • Score by David Raksin.
  • From a story by James A. Michener.

The women:

  • Jean Simmons is the sensible sister, making allowances and trying to keep everyone together.
  • Joan Fontaine is the oldest, monitoring the others and trying to maintain standards.
  • Piper Laurie is the man-crazy sister who marries in haste.
  • Sandra Dee (age 15, her film debut) is the youngest, always excited and large hearted.

The men:

  • Paul Newman is an American officer who drinks at night so he doesn't have to think about women. Jean Simmons, the war widow, tweaks him about that: Isn't it cowardly? The others make mistakes but at least they are involved.
  • Charles Drake was a familiar face as a supporting actor during those years. I remember him best as the sheriff in It Came from Outer Space (1953). Here he has a good role as a polite, decent Captain from Oklahoma.

Available on DVD. No subtitles, but I found a track online.



-Bill
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post #2222 of 2226 Old 05-23-2019, 04:18 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Belle de Jour (1967), directed by Luis Buñuel.
[Additional notes and new thumbnails from the Criterion Blu-ray].

In previous viewings I suffered from outraged romanticism: "frigid masochistic prostitute" is quite an invention but it just hurt that she could not make love to her husband because he was too nice to her.

Now it seems lighter and less serious, a witty satire from Buñuel. As a surrealist he doesn't need his films to be analyzed and will actually put in obstacles to prevent understanding.

I wonder if the popularity of the film isn't because that for many (I don't know the percentage of the population) sex is the center of reality, the axis around which everything else turns. Séverine is miserable until she achieves satisfaction by being dominated.

(Not everyone feels the importance of sex. I recall an interview with JG Ballard when the discussion turned to obsessions: "I don't have the sex thing. Wish I did").

I noticed a lot of little things this time, like how she doesn't respond until commanded. She has no idea how to deliver the degradation to others that she craves for herself. And yet she does change after her time in the brothel, becoming more confident and needing less submission and humiliation.

It is said Catherine Deneuve learned acting after she got into movies. Her passive, inexpressive demeanor at age 24 is appropriate to this mysterious character, a great contribution to the film.

The madame is played by Geneviève Page who always catches my eye. I remember her as a princess in El Cid (1961) and as the fetching female lead in Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970).

Finally, I will always wonder what the Japanese client had in that little box that startled everyone so. Dolls in a difficult looking sexual posture I presume, but the director claimed he had no idea what it was.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion with strong natural grain in the image.

Michael Wood, author of the British Film Institute book on the film, provides a humorous, insightful and rather blunt commentary track. He's very good at noticing psychological structures that would have escaped me.



-Bill
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post #2223 of 2226 Old 05-24-2019, 08:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), directed by Robert Wise.

To the dissatisfaction of First Officer Burt Lancaster -- who wanted the job -- new Captain Clark Gable has been put in command of the submarine USS Nerka. He drills the crew in unconventional torpedo techniques, longing to meet up with the Japanese destroyer that sank his last command.

Just how obsessive is the Old Man? Is he going to get them killed?

I haven't made a study of submarine films so I don't know if the standard ingredients originated here or were already known tropes. They rig for "silent running" while playing blind tag with another sub. To simulate their own destruction they force oil, debris and even dead bodies out of the torpedo tubes, then hear the news announced by Tokyo Rose. They don't have a tense dive below crush depth.

These scenes are always tense and dramatically rewarding, whoever invented them.

I'd forgotten which film this was from: when going to battle stations the men pat the backside of a pinup model poster taped to the wall. For luck:



This one got good comments for technical accuracy. When the torpedos hit a ship it blows up real good and looks too Hollywood to me, but I wasn't there.

Note young Jack Warden and spot Don Rickles in his first film.

Music by Franz Waxman, photographed by Russell Harlan. Some real sub footage, but also model work and rear projection.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino.



-Bill
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post #2224 of 2226 Old 06-01-2019, 07:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Cowboy (1958), directed by Delmer Daves.

Hotel clerk Jack Lemmon invests in a cattle drive, becoming partner to desperate trail boss Glenn Ford, who immediately regrets it. The boys work him hard, but dude though he is, he works and takes it seriously. After his Mexican girlfriend breaks his heart he becomes as tough as any of them.

The studio promoted this as "the West as it really was", as if no one had made a realistic western before. Still, it illustrates truths sometimes forgotten: that the cowboys did the work because it was a job, not because they loved it. That the West was where they worked, but they would rather be back in Chicago with plenty of hot water, fine dining and yes, even opera.

Jack Lemmon is an "indoor" sort of guy, but that makes him good as an outsider. You don't know what sort of grit a man will show until he is stressed. Same with Dick York and King Donovan: believably grubby on the trail, unusual roles for them.

We're more used to seeing Brian Donlevy, Richard Jaeckel and uncredited Strother Martin in the saddle and they fit right in.

What I remembered of this one from years ago: everyone kidding Donovan about having eaten an Indian once. "I only ate a haunch" he protests. And the tragic incident where Jaeckel throws a rattlesnake as a joke and kills Martin with it. And then wants his boots.

Delmer Daves is hard to pin down as a director. He presents a sort of relaxed realism. Others would heighten dramatic tension with imagery, but he tends to let it go.

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with a commentary track by Julie Kirgo, Nick Redman and Paul Seydor. They say My Reminiscences as a Cowboy by Frank Harris, adapted for the film, is not exactly reliable history.



-Bill
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post #2225 of 2226 Old 06-06-2019, 03:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Kuroneko (1968), directed by Kaneto Shindo.

(Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko, "A Black Cat in a Bamboo Grove").

Another "Angry Ghost" story, like Kwaidan (1964).

Hungry soldiers appear like spirits from the woods surrounding the house of a woman and her daughter-in-law. The men's priorities, in order: water, food, rape, arson, murder. They fade like spirits into the woods again, but this is not the last we have seen of spirits.

Two ghosts begin haunting Rashomon (1950) gate. They lure lone samurai to their house deep in the bamboo woods, seduce them and toy with them like cats before ripping out their throats with their teeth, also cat-like.

They have made a pact with the demon world: the women may return to earth so they can kill samurai. Every samurai in the world.

This first half is creepy enough, but it takes a sad turn when their son and husband returns from battle and is given the job of dealing with the ghosts. He too is now samurai. It becomes less of a horror film and more a meditation on love: lost, regained, gone bad. We have an erotic ghost story segment.

That ghosts can grieve as well as be angry and want revenge: it suggested to me a plot device that might be used in other stories. Just as our world has its weather and tides, so might the spirit world have movements that bring the ghosts closer to us at times.

Some unsettling ghost-world visuals; I particularly like the lighted house moving silently through the bamboo grove like a ship at sea.

The score does this thing I have noticed in other Japanese ghost-story films: a creepy-ass percussion that intimates spirit presences which the characters cannot see.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion.



-Bill
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post #2226 of 2226 Old 06-10-2019, 05:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Two for the Road (1967), produced and directed by Stanley Donen.

Scenes from a marriage that was probably a mistake. It's both funny and bitter, like the dark side of romantic comedy. Witty but often cruel sniping.

The story jumps around in time, all during travels in France, from their first meeting to vacations in later years. The director said these were not really flashbacks, as their history was always with them. As they say: the past isn't over -- it isn't even past.

Who is at fault? If they were mismatched from the beginning then it is no one's fault, and how would young people know that anyway? She is the more likable character and tries to accommodate him. He is a pill and more self-centered.

Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney do great work here. We are so used to seeing her elegantly dressed by Givenchy that it is startling to see her in student jeans, then in off the rack items, getting to designer clothes later in life. In fact: her clothes and hair are the chief clues given us as to the time period of each scene. That and the cars they drive.

A funny bit: after (first?) sex she says "I dreamed a train ran through our bed last night" and they joke about it: Dr Freud cover your ears, etc. Then she opens the curtains and a train does run by on tracks right outside their hotel window.

Years later they are about to have sex in their car and she says "I've always loved happy endings" which, if I'm understanding her, is the earliest use of that particular euphemism I've seen in film.

Young Jacqueline Bisset has a couple of scenes. The director said he was stuck speechless by her beauty when she walked into his office. That's not her voice; she was gone during dubbing.

Eleanor Bron and William Daniels are delicious as an awful American couple with a spoiled devil child. Who never worked in film again; maybe she was too scary?

Score by Henry Mancini, photographed by Christopher Challis. Gorgeous color and composition.

Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with a beautiful image. One commentary track by Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo and another by the director.



-Bill
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