#383 Splendor in the Grass (1961)

Splendor in the Grass is a classic Hollywood melodrama featuring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty (in his first film). The tone of this piece begins with a sweetness that is too hard to ignore in terms of a silver screen romance – something difficult to believe until a third of the way through the movie when French New Wave techniques are mashed up with method acting and an incredible screenplay that sends the characters hurtling dangerously toward a reality of the consequences of repression that “twists people in monstrous, dysfunctional directions” (Martin). This ultimately makes the audience perceive motion picture cliches that never arrive – as we kept guessing the next beat in more and more ridiculous soap opera tropes, Inge’s screenplay begged us to ignore them with each new, more believable, more realistic twist. Ultimately, we ended up with what was simply an unexpectedly great film for the ages, and the performances kept up with it as it neared its tragic and acceptable conclusions.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splendor_in_the_Grass

Jennifer

This was a movie where the narrative you think is unfolding takes a very unexpected turn.  It begins as a typical teenage love story, a Romeo and Juliet from different sides of the tracks (rich vs. poor).  From the beginning of the film, Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood’s performances are captivating.  Their characters are endearing and innocent.  Wood’s transformation from the beginning of the film to the end is captivating.  My heart broke for her. I found the treatment of teenage sex and mental illness throughout this movie to be very interesting, with multiple plot points occurring with both the main characters and the minor characters (Bud’s sister)

The film’s title is taken from a stanza from ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality‘ by English Romantic poet William Wordsworth.

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind…

This poem is featured toward both the middle and the very ending of the film, emphasizing that we “find strength in what remains behind.”

 

Garrett

I really enjoyed this, and I was quite surprised as the film progressed. Where at the beginning I expected the same things to happen that I have seen countless other times in film, it became clear as the horrors of the character’s choices unfolded that this was going in a direction that stripped it of the Hollywood tropes and led us down a road that delivered the audience to a conclusion structured in deep realism. This striking compromise seems revolutionary for the era, and to witness its American gestation in this film was splendid.

In many ways, with the exception of the middle of the film, this movie was a lot like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – a favorite of mine that is also on the list. I was surprised to find that Cherbourg was made after Splendor; after watching this it felt like I had wished it was made first since the themes and structure are so similar. Regardless, it was a pleasure to see how Inge unfolded these realistic elements to balance the audience’s expectations with reality. A well written, well-performed script that can easily be considered an American classic.

Movie Posters By Me #17: The Fall of the House of Usher

Movie Posters By Me

Episode Seventeen: The Fall of the House of Usher
http://www.beforewediefilms.com

An eight-year-old is given the title of a film he has never seen, and is asked to “illustrate a poster for this movie and explain what the movie is about.”

This week’s film is Roger Corman’s 1960 film, The Fall of the House of Usher

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Usher_(film)

#61 Frankenstein (1931)

Coined in Schneider as “the single most important horror film ever made,” Frankenstein showcases a classic Boris Karloff in iconic makeup to portray a brutal, animalistic, touching, crazed, and horrifying creation. This first “Universal Monsters” film tells the story of the creation and fallout of one man’s conquest of dominance over nature, but features mainly stage hands, rudimentary makeup that was conceived on a shoestring budget, and a storyline that…sorta defined a genre by cutting up some source material to make a new story on screen. Definitely innovative, this piece takes a lot of interesting origin stories and combines them to create a work of art that seems like it would not have come together with what we have now, a film that is a “chilly and invigorating cornerstone of its entire genre” (Newman).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein_(1931_film)

Garrett

I’ll start with this one… Whoa boy. So, I am really interested in what people see in this film. I am convinced it is simply some sort of drive-in cruisin’ baby boomer late night double feature nostalgia or something. I literally cannot figure out what is so great about this film, except that it appears to be the first horror film like it (it isn’t the first horror film at all, though) with a shoestring production and budget that all seemed to come together in this miraculous way. It is interesting that a lot of the characters were stage hands (including Karloff), but the script and the performances are mediocre, camp, and cliche – maybe they were terrifying for early audiences, but I found myself ‘meh’ for most of the film. I did find myself fascinated by the makeup (but not who wore it), and the sets. The sets were incredible, and interestingly just some simple stage theater tricks with perspective and lighting easily turned small flat walls into gigantic, sprawling hallways and creepy windows. The main question, however, is: does that make this good?

I think my major gripe is that this literally couldn’t be any further from the book. The characters have different names, people don’t really die, the monster is scary and Victor isn’t made to deal with his choices (wait…he isn’t Victor), there is a weird campy dad, there are really no stakes or motivations for any of the characters, and what is with the ending? Scary, but literally couldn’t be further from Shelley’s work. Is my main gripe that it is nothing like the book? No… It’s that it isn’t anything like the book in every way, from tone to execution to theme to violence to science… heck, it spends practically half of the film covering material that is literally directly told to the audience that it is not in the book on purpose (probably because it would be as boring as it is in the movie). This probably colored the entirety of my feelings about the film…well, that and it is marketed as one of the greatest film achievements of all time by the Universal marketing department.

Will this be an unpopular opinion? Maybe. Frankly, aside from it being innovative, I was simply not only not scared, but I was disappointed, bored, and don’t understand what the motivation was to tie it to the book. If they had called it “the scientist” and used new names, I think I would be slightly less disappointed. To me, it just wasn’t as great as people and Universal markets as so very sacred. Meh.

Jennifer

So, I have never read the book, Frankenstein.  Prior to watching this film, Garrett treated me to an in-depth, scene by scene recounting of the original story – one of his favorite books of all time.  Watching the movie after this, I was utterly confused.  Pretty much the only thing that was the same was the name Frankenstein? Also, they changed Victor’s name to Henry in the movie because they thought the name Victor sounded too “unfriendly.”

A few interesting facts about the making of the movie, since I really don’t have too much to say about the actual film.  Each of the monster’s shoes weighed thirteen pounds each, and his costume weighed forty-nine pounds.  The filming was of course done primarily in the summer.  Currently, the monster’s makeup is under trademark by Universal Studios until the year 2026.

Many of the sets seemed impressive and well dressed.  None of the acting or the actors interested me, and I can’t say I was rooting for any of the characters.  When researching the movie I found that the movie was apparently based on a stage adaptation of the novel, rather than the novel itself.  Also, with more than a century between the novel’s debut and the movie along with various different stage productions and adaptations occurred – including parodies.  While this makes sense when thinking about the vast difference between the novel and the movie, it didn’t make the film any more appealing to me.

Movie Posters By Me #16: Children of the Corn

Movie Posters By Me

Episode Sixteen: Children of the Corn
http://www.beforewediefilms.com

An eight-year-old is given the title of a film he has never seen, and is asked to “illustrate a poster for this movie and explain what the movie is about.”

This week’s film is Fritz Kiersch’s 1984 film, Children of the Corn
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_of_the_Corn_(1984_film)

#483 Young Girls of Rochefort (Les demoiselles de Rochefort) (1967)

The Young Girls of Rochefort is Jaques Demy’s follow-up to his moving, and absolutely stunning The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (one of our favorite films of all time). What he manages to achieve is something no other film has ever done: create a musical with a compelling upbeat and positive momentum that drives the entire film in color, song, and splendor – a “tone of unmitigated joy and exuberance – bordering, for the two lovers of the film, on something close to rapture…(a) happiness, buoyancy, and a joie de vivre that is unmatched in cinema” (de Seife). This movie has the bizarre and unmistakable power to instill a true joy onto whoever watches it, and unlike any other musical ever captured on film, Demy’s costumes, execution, and Legrand’s score deliver something unique (and arguably unparalleled to this day). A remarkable, fun piece of filmmaking that explodes from the opening shots to the end credits.

We watched The Young Girls of Rochefort on Criterion #717.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Young_Girls_of_Rochefort

 

Garrett

Man, do I love musicals. I love them in the theater, and when they are stellar, I love them in the movies. The Young Girls of Rochefort is another film from the writers and director one of the greatest movie musicals of all time, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Unlike Cherbourg, Jaques Demy and Michel Legrand infused The Young Girls of Rochefort with a primarily upbeat, swingy, and optimistic storyline – as a matter of fact, no matter how hard your brain tries to find something that will drag us into a hell of sobbing despair by the end (one never gets over Dancer In The Dark, RENT, and Hamilton), one learns nothing comes of the soldiers marching in the streets nor does “Chekov’s gun” ever fire at anything other than a balloon of paint. Demy cast some big name American musical actors to appear in this film riding on their own successes in West Side Story and many, many other famous musicals. Rochefort’s resulting positive wonder powerhouse cemented a smile on my face and tap in my toes for its duration and truly added itself as a staple of my movie musical favorites list – almost as the yin to Cherbourg’s yang. Not only is it a brilliant film I will watch over and over again, I am angry at myself for never having watched it sooner.

Jennifer

Having watched (and loved) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, I was surprised and entertained by The Young Girls of Rochefort.  It is all rainbows, sunshine, and glitter without any deep dark twists. Unexpected. No need for the umbrellas here. This movie is brilliant with joy.  Young and beautiful to watch, Catherine Deneuve plays opposite her real-life sister, Francoise Dorlac. The dancing, music, and the colors of this film go strong and steady till the end.  It’s impossible not to smile or sing along.  Many parts of this movie were just as visually beautiful as Umbrellas but not nearly as soul wrenchingly depressing.