What I’ve Been Watching: Jan 18 – Jan 24

Young Frankenstein

I guess if I didn’t call this an interesting week I’d be lying. I finally attended a screening of a double bill at the Liguanea Club and I can’t help but be perturbed by it all. I’m sure the guy has the best of intentions but it’s just not for me.

It’s been something that’s on my mind since last night. Before I get into quality and all those things it just hits me more and more piracy arguements for film industries. Far be it for me to discuss the business and how it needs money and all those things (I’m sure it doesn’t), but for it to reach so far as to someone charging money to present pirated films for show in public just irks me. I’ve been wanting to do something similar, in a more legal fashion, but have always stopped due to lacks of the legal or financial means to make the project work. Please people, keep those practices at home and don’t take them to lining your pockets with illegalities, it’ll make it worse, not better.

However, this was my week in film… I still feel dirty.

LOVE AND DEATH (1975) – I continue to adore Allen’s quick jabby joke style, even when he throws himself in the middle of Russian literature
THE SQUARE (2013) – Over sold doc that looks gorgeous but lacks the interpretation of data and understanding to really be interesting, maybe part 2?
BREAKING THE WAVES (1996) – more on this tomorrow
ABOUT TIME (2013) – You adorable pug Richard Curtis… love this movie
SILENT MOVIE (1976) – Before The Artist (dir. Linklater?) there was Silent Movie, and it is extraordinary. That Paul Newman cameo is just amazing.
THE BEST OFFER (2014) – Perfectly forgettable while being inebetween okay and good.
INEQUALITY FOR ALL (2013) – The example of a documentary which is like a really good lecture; informative and good for the mind, but sees you nodding off somewhere after forty or so minutes.

REWATCHED

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN“we must enter quietly into the realm of genius.”
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER“Well, as I was saying, it costs a lot to be authentic”
FOLLOWING“When I started to follow people, specific people, when I selected a person to follow, that’s when the trouble started.”
INCEPTION“What is the most resilient parasite?”
BEFORE MIDNIGHT“This is real life. It’s not perfect but it’s real.”

My count for the year of 2014 is updated to 22 First time watches (2 from 2014); 11 Rewatches; 33 Total Films

1001 Films: City Lights (1931)

“Tomorrow the birds will sing.”

Last year the world was reminded that even with the – what now is standard – technological advancements of being able to record and playback sound in sync with the video aren’t particularly necessary to make a good film. So long before The Artist won best picture there was a time before this kind of filmmaking was niche, which I guess is kind of obvious.

Charlie Chaplin is an icon of American cinema. He is the first man mentioned, next to Groucho Marx and The Three Stooges, in the world of physical slapstick comedy of the budding 30s. I’ve spoken before about comedy from this era before – when I reviewed The General – and spoke about how at times, especially with comedy, the material, approach and entire style of the comedy itself can be so dated that it just isn’t ever really going to work anymore. However, City Lights manages to subvert any expectations so quickly that within the span of three minutes (i.e. exactly how long it takes for Chaplin to appear on screen) I forgot I was watching a movie older than my parents and found myself in an uncontrollable fit of laughter as Chaplin maneuvered himself down from a statue.

Something about physical comedy makes it very hard for me to explain why it’s funny or even why it works. What you’re basically seeing is someone try to do the simplest thing, whether it be waking up in the morning, stepping back and forth in front of a shop window or even helping his friend get home safely, what you’re basically watching is this person consistently fail to succeed at his task and not concede to defeat. Why does this make me – and the general public of 1931 – laugh till we literally pee our pants? I don’t know, but for some reason we do.

A laugh is something that’s incomparable in life, but sometimes that’s not enough to give a movie staying power to remain in the social consciousness for more than eight decades without having something more and it does. The backbone of the film is the romantic tale of Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill, playing the blind flower girl. It’s amazing how much Chaplin as a writer, actor and director is able to portray across with almost no dialogue in this film where it comes to chemistry and tone. While silent films have dialogue cards which fill in information here and there this movie had very little, and I do still consider the very easily read scenes where characters are talking to one another and utilize their body language to communicate, what would normally today be left to verbal communication, the content of the film and the direction of the scene. It’s lovely, and always a treat to see execution like this in a film.

Rating:  8.0/10

1001 Films – The General (1927)

Johnny Gray (Buster Keaton) is an engineer for the railroad company.  After being rejected by the recruitment office for the Confederate Army in the civil war his only love, Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack), refuses to speak to him.  One day a Union steals his train, nicknamed The General, as well as kidnaps Annabelle in a devious plot to try and win the war.  Johnny single-handedly chases after his train, and lady, in an attempt to foil the Union’s plot. Continue reading