#242 In A Lonely Place (1950)

In a Lonely Place is easily one of Humphrey Bogart’s best roles, effortlessly performing a very personal role in the midst of a noir piece that is unlike any other in his career. When screenwriter Dix Steele is accused of murdering a woman he barely knows for no reason whatsoever, besides a penchant for snapping in short-fused violence, he has to convince his intimate circle that he is innocent of a terrible crime… that he may or may not have committed for no reason besides the thrill of the act. This “(unique) romantic and doom-haunted noir drama” was a fantastic flick (Newman).

We watched In A Lonely Place on Criterion, #810.

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

Jennifer

This movie was definitely not what I was expecting.  We have watched a few noir films from this time,  and this one is by far the bleakest.  Humphrey Bogart gives a performance with such a huge range – he’s charming and witty in one scene, and threatening and violent in the next.  His character changes with little or no warning and with great ferocity.  The story keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, as you race to figure out who committed the murder set up at the beginning.  Is Gloria Graeme in danger with Bogart?  Is Bogart being set up?  You will change you mind back and forth as this movie makes you doubt what you know, what you think you know, and what you hope is (or is not!) true.

The theme and style is a great blend of the very best of the late 1940’s  and early 1950’s thriller/film noir vibe.  I loved the set and the look of Bogart’s apartment.  I liked this movie particularly because many of the characters are flawed.  There is no happy ending or easy resolution to this movie.  The actors were not hesitant to make themselves prickly or unlikable.

Garrett

I really enjoyed this film, and that is unusual for me because in many instances I have thought that Bogart was an actor with a relatively limited range. Up until this point, I have seen a man who has kept his reputation as a performer perhaps only as far as nostalgia has been able to take him. But in this piece, I was impressed at the range and talent in his characterization of Steele. In one of the Criterion special features we watched, it was apparent that this might have been because it was a character that really helped him process and perform in a manner that was somewhat close to who he was as a person – and it makes sense how this would diverge from the character he usually seems to have ready to go in his back pocket.

I enjoyed this movie. The writing and direction were on point. Some of my favorite elements had to do with some of the exterior shots and the design of the sets that managed to heighten the setting frozen in time a little more intentionally than many of the films from the era. The set itself was based on and duplicated real places where the piece was set, and that certainly helped with this feeling of genuine celluloid reality.

For this film, I did not read Dorothy B. Hughes’ novel, but I was interested to read in Schneider that the ending differs from the original text in one key way. Also, the process and mental mise en scene of the career, art, and anxieties of writing is perfectly captured in this film more than any other than I have seen to this point – except perhaps in Jonze/Kaufman’s Adaptation.

 

Check out this great article from The Library of America’s The Moviegoer, In A Lonely Place: Film Noir as an Opera of Male Fury by Carrie Rickey (linked above)

#289 Seven Samurai (Shichinin No Samurai / 七人の侍) (1954)

Seven Samurai is simply one of the greatest films of all time directed by one of the greatest directors of all time. This film blurs the lines between all genres, skipping through comedy, drama, war, romance, period, allegory, action, adventure, political and social commentary, and everything in between. Its hours fly by incredibly quickly because of a minimalist script, engaging performances, and a pace that masterfully combines art and commercial wonder. In one moment an apprehensive shot with sneaking movements can explode into a disparate, confusing battle with enemies on all fronts. Even the first hour of the film with the farmers of the tiny village searching for the samurai they need may seem boring on paper, but Kurosawa’s masterful storytelling opens the doors to narrative wide, and we feel and experience wonder, desperate longing, and the truth in every moment they share cobbling together their small army. When Toshiro Mifune happens upon the scene, as in all Kurosawa films, absolute magic happens.

There is no doubt that this film would be one to be reworked in so many ways as source material. We recently watched the 1960 The Magnificent Seven (which is not in the 1001) which lacks the true power, chemistry, and emotional impact of Seven Samurai (even though it is clearly a well-made populist flick). Of course, The Three Amigos also happens to be another wildly popular and fun take on Kurosawa’s film. There is no doubt that this picture captures some universal truths about humanity and the public attending the cinema, portraying all of us in the beautifully performed characterization presented by a stellar ensemble cast.

The Seven Samurai is truly one of the greatest epics ever made.

We watched Seven Samurai on Criterion, #2.

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

Jennifer

Although I had heard of this film, this was my first time viewing it. It was over three hours of epic entertainment. Before Seven Samurai, I watched the Magnificent Seven (it’s western cousin).  I found that movie entertaining as well, but nowhere near the same level of visual grandeur.

In Seven Samurai, there is magnificence in the setting, the village, and even the nonstop rain in the film. The battle scenes are masterfully choreographed. This movie has heroes, romance, wise elders, villains, humor, and obviously, Samurai warriors. I was surprisingly not bored during this lengthy film, even though I thought I knew the basic premise. There are plenty of small twists and turns in the plot to propel the story and the interested of the viewer forward.

A must watch.

Garrett

I have always loved Kurosawa and Mifune in an unhealthy way. Having watched Seven Samurai several times in college, and often teaching Throne of Blood with Macbeth, it was a pleasure approaching this film again. The perspective through which I watched it this time was quite different than before. As an MFA student, I was absolutely enthralled at Kurosawa’s approach to storytelling using a sparse script that managed to provide unparalleled characterization opportunities for such a large cast on the screen while keeping the dialogue and action to the absolute minimum. Something definitely worthy of trying to emulate in my own work.

I love this movie so much. There is little more to say beyond what we put in our intro above. It is simply one of the greatest films ever. Throughout the film, I gasped at the splendor of the framing, the excitement and the drama of the mud sprayed battles and the masculinity of the characters who made me truly desire for the bravery of each of the men while also recognizing the spectrum of fault and fear within. An excellent, excellent film.

#354 Some Like It Hot (1959)

Some Like It Hot is a rollicking comedy that features two fun-loving chauvanists in drag chasing some hot Marilyn Monroe tail while fleeing mobsters out to get them after witnessing a brutal execution. Okay, so that opening sentence is a bit too much, but so isn’t this hilarious boozy comedy that showcases Lemmon, Curtis, and Monroe at the height of their game. Labeled “The Best Comedy of All Time” by the American Film Institute, Diamond and Wilder’s independently written and independently produced script is wound as tight as a Swiss watch, pulling up gags and knocking them down three or four times over by the end of the film. Truly a pleasure to watch, and surprisingly holds up and lacks many ethical or social concerns one would think comes up decades later considering the subject matter. Pleasurable, funny, and enticing, Some Like it Hot is “sensationally funny, fizzing from start to finish with great situations, cleverly crafted gags, breakneck timing, and terrific performances” (Errigo).

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

Jennifer

This movie delivers exactly what you expect- silly slapstick comedy and antics.  What is surprising is that while the “dressed in drag” joke does get tired about halfway through, the performances are so spectacular that you barely notice. Marilyn Monroe is perfectly cast as “Sugar Kane,” and her acting, performances, and outfits alone make this movie hard to look away from- in fact I think she pretty much steals the show in this movie.

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are delightful and their banter works well throughout the film. To be honest, I lost interest in the “gangster” plot line early on in the movie.  When the gangsters appeared at the hotel it took me a few minutes to even remember their involvement in the movie.  For me, I most enjoyed the farce between Curtis and Monroe, and Lemmon and the clueless billionaire  Joe E. Brown. Curtis is definitely the hero in his story, who wins the girl at the end, while Lemmon is the comic relief (and easily evokes the most laughs).

Garrett

We’ve watched this film before and thoroughly enjoy the writing, optimism, fun, plotting, and characterization of films from this era. The story is a hoot, with our main protagonists staring down morbid alcoholism while barely able to hold a job, a relationship, or a dollar. Still, we root for these guys as they make mistake after mistake. They are surprisingly rewarded for some of them, the most notable being the love of Marilyn Monroe who in this film is a soused girl who has men fawning over her but none committing to sticking around long enough to make an honest woman of her. Where it gets weird is that she falls in love with one of our characters under completely false pretenses – and manages to forgive him? The dudes are kinda bad people, but we fall in love with them because they are good in their hearts and don’t seem to know any better.

A few questions that I had at the end of the film were… What is the trans perspective of this film? I really only saw one cringeworthy conversation from my perspective, nevermind the fact that the whole movie has this pair sporting drag under false pretenses. But they are kind of bad people and don’t know any better, so what does that mean for what they do? And the premise?  Also, similarly, I would love to know the feminist perspective on this film. As a self-coined feminist, I kinda have a problem with the last five minutes of the film. Monroe falls for Tony Curtis’ rich character by simply being rich, and spends the film completely starving for his attention even though he’s trying to ignore her. Of course, these are her choices to make, but what is with her completely having no problem with the men having lied to her for literally the entire movie? Is that charming? To me, that just sounds loud, red, horrifying alarms for Candy’s near-term and long-term future. I could almost see her wearing a pencil skirt and a button-down with a pencil in her mouth reading “Mountebanks and Relationships: A Practical Guide To Love.”

On the surface, a really fun film. I love every scene with music, and the film is full of it. Monroe’s final solo in the basement club is beautiful. Still, the film raises a lot of questions for contemporary audiences that may or may not ever need to be answered on a grand cultural scale sixty years later. Frankly, the final line of the film seems to sweep all of these concerns away when Jack Lemmon finally comes out to tell Joe E. Brown, “I’m a man,” to which Brown replies, “well, we can’t all be perfect.” Perhaps this was Wilder’s slight nod to the fact that, in fact, women are the perfect creatures deserving of the respect they deserve – unlike these truly funny, can’t-catch-a-break clowns.

#278 Roman Holiday (1953)

William Wyler’s Roman Holiday is the beginning of the career for the unknown Audrey Hepburn, noted in Schneider’s book that it should have been titled A Star Is Born had they known the acclaim and reception it would receive. When two people who would never and should never have met under romantic circumstances are thrown together in a night of strange coincidences, a beautiful relationship emerges that seems to transcend position, status, work, and boundaries. Even though there is no way that these two can be together for the long haul, it reminds us that the beauty of captivating moments in life should never be ignored because of circumstance. What makes this reverse-Cinderella story all the more captivating is that Hepburn became “the Cinderella story made real by the magic of Hollywood” when she was catapulted into royal stardom after this film (Schneider).

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

Garrett

I absolutely loved this film. In many ways, this film captures everything wonderful about the golden age of Hollywood – but most notably the fact that the film started with a solid script and then went to an ensemble cast that worked together like a fine tuned clock. I really enjoyed the location shooting – a character in itself in many ways – but the true magic is the way the performers embodied their roles and tasted the truly excellent words of the screenwriters who worked together to make this an excellent film. The fact that Hepburn began her career in this role stepping into the part as if it were effortlessly tailored for her, we see true magic on the screen in her performance. Peck is no less astounding, bringing a wry, witty joy to a masculinity that melts in the radiance of Hepburn’s charisma.

Gorgeous, funny, dramatic, touching, and adventurous, Roman Holiday was significantly more than I expected when I snatched the special edition out of a $2 clearance bargain bin remembering it was on our list.

 

Jennifer

What’s not to love about a girl who orders Champagne for lunch?

giphy-2

This film has everything done right. A reporter has a chance encounter with a princess gone rogue, and while the premise already sounds dated, the acting and the script continue to surprise and delight. I love everything that Hepburn has done, and this movie is no exception.  If you don’t already love Audrey Hepburn, it is literally impossible not to fall in love with her after watching this movie. She literally sparkles.

In addition to an excellent cast, the dialogue is smart and funny. The locations are gorgeous. There is dancing on a boat, careening through the streets on a motor bike, and a great chase scene at the end with security agents that is entertaining but never too silly.

There is Champagne for lunch.

Say no more.