Thursday, July 21, 2011

Movie Update 11B

I couldn't fit all the labels I wanted into one post yesterday, so here's even more movies. The label issue was so severe I couldn't even neatly divide the films into themes! Labels!

The Earrings of Madame de...

A fancy French movie about fancy French people. There's nothing really wrong with this movie, I just didn't find a whole lot to love about it. The cast is solid, including Vittorio De Sica as an Italian man that the leading lady falls in love with, who I know better as the director of The Bicycle Thief. This movie doesn't really have the power of that one, but tells the story of a married woman who becomes attached to a pair of earrings she sold after her lover buys them back for her. My favorite part was just the way the film played with the idea of never actually giving you her name. Otherwise, it's a nice little romantic drama, mostly worth the time it takes to watch.

High Noon

High Noon is sort of the 24 of the 1950s. I liked it a lot more than I really expected. It has a similar problem to the last Gary Cooper movie I saw, where he was too old for his love interest, in this case Grace Kelly before Alfred Hitchcock got to her. In this case it didn't really hurt the film though, because his character is more likable and the story isn't about their relationship. It's about a lawman ready to retire, but dragged back into conflict before he can, as the whole town seems to turn against him during his darkest hour. The film is mostly in real time, as everyone anticipates the arrival by train of a criminal he had originally put away, apparently back for vengeance. He tries to rustle up a posse, but doesn't get the support he anticipated, and there's a fantastic sense of concern and dread as he runs out of options while the clock slowly ticks towards his likely demise. It's a pretty realistic movie, with an ending that has heroism without being too dramatic or fantastic. One of my favorite Westerns.

The Rules of the Game

I'm not sure anyone from the 30s had a better idea of how to shoot a movie than Jean Renoir. This is another fancy French movie about fancy French movie, although it's one I found more to latch onto in. It's an ensemble piece about the fickle lives of aristocrats, as they bounce from lover to lover without realizing the pain they cause. Renoir himself is among the cast, and they do a solid job of quickly selling their relationships and setting up the entanglements that eventually lead to the surprising and effective ending. Pretty darn good movie.

Samurai Rebellion

This one just seemed a bit too slow to me. I love Masaki Kobayashi's work (unfortunately I'm already almost out of films he made that are actually available), but Rebellion wasn't quite up to the power of Harakiri or the breathless scope of The Human Condition. It actually probably has roughly the same pace as Harakiri, and might even be quicker. But that film was coated in a pervasive, almost oppressive tension that seemed likely to snap into chaos at any second, and while Rebellion has a sad story, there just isn't that feeling. Toshiro Mifune was probably getting a bit old at that point to carry a whole movie on charisma alone (though he still handles the swordplay well), and Tatsuya Nakadi does a lot with his few scenes, but the character he plays is intentionally pretty neutral. It's a solid, no-nonsense samurai film, one that could have benefited from being pushed a little in either a darker or more fun direction.

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