September 2017 Recap
|(image via Flixster)|
I started my first semester of university this month, which brought me back to that all-too-familiar juggling of work, school, and free time (AKA watching movies). I did cut back on the movie watching quite a bit, especially compared to last month, but I still averaged about a movie a day in the end. I really should have watched less, honestly, but daily movie-watching is a hard habit to break! I began the month by finishing off my SUTS recordings--I still had movies from Leslie Caron, Slim Pickens, Marion Davies, George Sanders, and Elizabeth Taylor to see--and then transitioned into some very random viewing selections, and then finally got on track with my viewing theme for the whole latter half of the month, the lovely Jennifer Jones (interspersed with some viewings from my film class--Rashomon is not one I would have otherwise chosen to re-watch in the middle of my Jones marathon!). Where before this month I had never seen her in a single film, I have now seen 17 of her movies, and she's definitely a new favorite. While her films weren't always great, she always made them worth watching, and when she was in a good film--look out! I discovered a number of new all-time favorites in the group, which is always exciting. See which of her films I fell in love with and a breakdown of my movie-watching after the cut.
First-Time Viewings: 34
- The L-Shaped Room (1962)
- Blazing Saddles (1974)
- The Red Mill (1927)
- The Bride's Play (1922)
- When Knighthood Was in Flower (1922)
- Show People (1928)
- Bluebeard's 10 Honeymoons (1960)
- The V.I.P.s (1963)
- Raintree County (1957)
- Love is Colder Than Death (1969)
- The Killer Shrews (1959)
- Sleeper (1973)
- Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
- Tristana (1970)
- The Last Picture Show (1971)
- Re-Watch: The Goodbye Girl (1977)
- The Good Son (1993)
- Portrait of Jennie (1948)
- Ruby Gentry (1952)
- We Were Strangers (1949)
- Man's Castle (1933)
- Cluny Brown (1946)
- Re-Watch: Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
- Madame Bovary (1949)
- Since You Went Away (1944)
- The Song of Bernadette (1943)
- Love Letters (1945)
- Re-Watch: Rashomon (1950)
- Beat the Devil (1953)
- Good Morning Miss Dove (1955)
- Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953)
- Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
- The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)
- Tender is the Night (1962)
- Re-Watch: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
- A Farewell to Arms (1957)
- The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957)
- Duel in the Sun (1946)
- 20s: 5
- 30s: 1
- 40s: 8
- 50s: 11
- 60s: 5
- 70s: 6
- 80s: 0
- 90s: 1
- 2000s: 1
- 2010s: 0
|The L-Shaped Room (1962) (image via tasteofcinema)|
One of my favorite "things" in cinema is against-type performances from established stars. I love seeing someone who has been perceived a certain way just shatter all expectations, and that's exactly what Leslie Caron does here, throwing away her ingenue persona to play a hardened, yet vulnerable young woman who finds herself unmarried and pregnant in 1962, navigating a boarding house full of colorful characters. This film is part of the British New Wave, and I found it fascinating to compare it to another under-seen favorite of mine, Love with a Proper Stranger, which sees Natalie Wood--also giving a career-best performance--in the same predicament as Caron. However, where that film ultimately gives in to the Hollywood happy ending, The L-Shaped Room defies this and remains brutally honest about the nature of people right to the very end.
|Blazing Saddles (1974) (image via amazon)|
I've wanted to see Blazing Saddles for a very long time. I have a fascination for controversial movies, especially ones like this that actually aimed to be so; however, exactly how it achieved this actually really surprised me. I had heard all of the declarations about how this film could never be made today, it's too non-PC, etc. and got the impression that there was something actually wrong with the film, that it was horribly offensive in some way. And it certainly is--but only to people who deserve to be offended, namely racists. It's an incredibly funny and inventive comedy western and definitely my new favorite Mel Brooks film, thanks in large part to the absolutely wonderful scenes between Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder, who are just wonderful together and provide a real emotional core to all of the wild west shenanigans.
|The V.I.P.s (1963) (image via TCM)|
I absolutely love Elizabeth Taylor. I can watch this woman in anything and find her captivating, and The V.I.P.s is no exception--except, I actually thought this was a pretty good movie. I seem to be in the minority on this, and certainly the plot is as overwrought as they come, but the conceit of a bunch of people in the midst of crises stuck at a stormy airport is just so much fun! My favorite story actually wasn't even Elizabeth Taylor's, but rather the one between Rod Taylor and Maggie Smith, with her as the secretary and him as the kind but oblivious businessman who can't see that she loves him. It's not a new story, but her love and selflessness is so palpable that it's impossible not to root for the inevitable conclusion. I had fun with this one and I'll certainly be returning to it in the future when I want to pass an afternoon with a good old soapy melodrama.
|Belladonna of Sadness (1973) (image via youtube)|
What to say about this film except that it is the true definition of a mind-trip--and a breathtaking, visually arresting one at that. A completely bizarre, erotic, artistic animated film completely unlike any other, one that I really didn't know what to think of as I watched it, but which now refuses to leave my mind. The animation techniques alone are out-of-this-world, using the most gorgeous array of artistic tools and creative camera tricks to create images that turn this into a kind of moving painting. The story is certainly tragic and incredibly brutal, enough so that I definitely hesitate to recommend it to anyone, but I don't think that will be enough to keep me from future viewings of this work of art.
|The Last Picture Show (1971) (image via moma.org)|
Coming-of-age films are another one of my cinematic loves, so when I say this is one of the greatest ones I've seen, that means something. Every actor here is just so good, and it's fascinating to note how many of them went on to such big, bright careers--Shepherd, Bridges, Burstyn. All of the talent that would go into their future, more famous roles is already fully on display here. This is a film that is essentially told in chapters, without a real driving narrative force, and in this it really does feel like an intimate portrait of real life. From the actors, to the characters they play, to the sense of youthful apathy and listlessness in the face of a dying town, to the gorgeous B&W photography--there's nothing here I didn't love. Definitely a new favorite.
|Cluny Brown (1946) (image via jenniferjonestribute.weebly.com)|
I happened to watch this film shortly after moving (yet another massive thing I had to deal with in September), and while I was dealing with a backed up sink. I made no connection between my current predicaments and the synopsis of the film, so imagine my surprise when the entire, extended opening sequence revolves around--can you guess?--a backed up sink. It all just got better and better from there, with all of Lubitsch's filmmaking genius on full display, and Jennifer Jones putting in a great against-type performance that proves she could have really succeeded as a comedic actress. This is one of the funniest films I've seen in a long time, and reminds me that I really need to watch more Lubitsch. As well, I think that if you watch just one film out of Jones' filmography, it should be this one. She puts in a much more relaxed, charismatic performance here than most of her dramatic films allowed for, abandoning all of the histrionics that people criticize her for.
|Since You Went Away (1944) (image via moma.org)|
Since You Went Away explores the lives of women on the home-front during WWII--over the course of 3 hours, making this a certifiable epic. Yet somehow, it's never boring, and I really can't think of how the film could be trimmed to a more manageable length--every scene has value in really getting to the heart of a phenomenon, that being an entire generation of able-bodied men going off to war, that's completely unimaginable today. I was especially excited to see that the film briefly acknowledges the factory jobs that women had the opportunity to get because all the men were away; this is such a fascinating part of history that's too often overlooked. This film makes for a great companion piece to another 3-hour epic, The Best Years of Our Lives.
|The Song of Bernadette (1943) (image via foxmovies.com)|
There's something important about The Song of Bernadette, a palpable feeling that remained throughout the run-time, and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I call this film a masterpiece. It's a rare instance where every element of the filmmaking process comes together perfectly, and the result is something genuinely moving, a film about faith that is incredibly complex and thought-provoking. Jennifer Jones puts in what is perhaps her best performance--it's very restrained, nothing like the more histrionic roles later in her career--but the person I was most impressed with was Vincent Price. He's wonderful here in a dramatic role, and I really enjoyed his character arc as he moves from an authority figure trying to stamp out what he perceives as a massive fraud, to something much more helpless and desperate. While I don't totally buy his transformation in the final scenes, Price's acting in them is magnificent. This film is really quite different than anything else I've seen, and definitely worth a watch.
September was a very busy, rather exhausting month, but once again some great movies helped pull me through it, and I seem to have made it out in one piece! So far October is turning out to be more of the same, with several assignments due a few days ago (that's why this post is so late) and midterms coming up. But I will keep striving to carve out some movie-watching time--in particular, I'm looking forward to the Anthony Perkins tribute and all of the classic horror coming up on TCM this month. Hopefully I'll manage to make some time for blogging, too, so keep checking back, and in the meantime I hope you have a suitably spooky October!