Ingrid is cheating with Kurt Kreuger (The Dark Corner, Unfaithfully Yours) then returning to her ideal life doing science with her husband Mathias Wieman (Leni Riefenstahl’s Blue Light co-star) and living in their big country house with two kids and two disgruntled servants. Then Kurt’s jealous ex Renate Mannhardt (Peter Lorre’s The Lost One) arrives and blackmails Ingrid in exchange for her silence about the affair. Turns out the husband is behind the blackmail, telling the girl how much to demand each time, and after Ingrid finds out, the movie slows down and focuses hard on her reaction. She wanders into the lab and plays around with the poison until hubby intervenes.

Blackmailer:

Based on a Stefan Zweig book, and filmed at least a couple times before and after this (no relation to Kargl’s Angst). Just two movies after Rossellini had learned through test screenings that Americans respond badly to indifferently dubbed films, the men especially still feel off-kilter, but mostly the sound mixing is weird. Whole movie is clunksville, feels awkward and contrived at every step, though Ingrid’s big psychological crisis at the end is well played.

Happy family?

Per the Tag Gallagher book this was a busy time for Rossellini – Voyage in Italy was getting released to awful reviews, RR and Bergman were touring a play (and completing a film version) of Joan of Arc, and he was palling around with Truffaut and his boys. Just a few days after I was unimpressed by this, Pedro Costa named it one of his favorite movies.

Uh oh, opens with fun goofy comedy music. This is fast-paced for Ozu – it looks like Tati and there’s a lot of cartoon farting (proud of myself for making that connection, David Cairns mentions Tati in the first minute of his extra feature).

The neighborhood adults exchange petty gossip – one mom is falsely accused of embezzling from her woman’s association to buy a washing machine, one couple is correctly accused of walking around in their nightclothes all day. Meanwhile the kids are obsessed with farting (one kid keeps doing it wrong and running home for a change of pants) until they find a new past-time: staying mute and hungry until dad agrees to buy a television. Movie’s about modernization, aging, retirement, usefulness, the point of small talk – typical Ozu topics in a fart-comedy disguise.

Collection of useful subtitles for film-twitter meme-reactions:

After watching the Bresson with no context, I read the Dostoevsky story it adapted, then sought out more films of the same story. Marcello is introduced socializing in this one – that doesn’t seem right. Of course, being Marcello, he can’t help but be more suave than the repressed protagonist of the story, but he’s been thoroughly movie-starred here, dancing and fighting. At least the sudden mood swings from laughter to tears are accurate to the novel. It’d make an interesting screenwriting workshop – sometimes it uses the same language as the novel to describe the same events and sometimes it does the opposite.

Great atmosphere, unbelievable set of a wintry outdoor canal city. The central bridge is only 15′ long, far from the Pont-Neuf, but the Criterion essay points out how it functions symbolically. I understand lighting is important, but shouldn’t the Italians have invented location shooting instead of making hugely complex soundstage sets if they weren’t even gonna record sound? The city of Venice didn’t hold it against him – the movie won a silver lion, second place to Aparajito (no love for Throne of Blood). Marcello is second billed, the year before Big Deal on Madonna Street, to Maria Schell, who’d just won best actress at Venice for a René Clément picture. Judging from Senso and The Leopard, I prefer modern Visconti over his period pieces.

Flashback of Schell with lodger/lover Jean Marais:

Handsomely depressing youth movie, 100 straight minutes of dudes talking shit with big camera moves. Paul is New Wave regular Brialy with a dumb stache, lives in the city, and his cousin Charles (Gérard Blain, pinch-faced title star of Le Beau Serge) stays at his place while in university. They throw parties: an older weirdo named Clovis likes to drink and scam people, Paul puts on Mozart and does a dramatic monologue in German, an opera-singing strongman is invited. Charles fears that he’s a boring provincial mama’s boy, then bores us talking about his provincial mama.

The contested Florence is Juliette Mayniel, first victim in Eyes Without a Face:

It would seem an innocent movie of youth in the city, but there’s the Chabrol name and all the ornamental guns around (“good thing we have no bullets”). Then Paul steals Charles’s girl, and we’ve got a meek guy living with the girl he wants and the cousin who stole her in a house full of guns, uh oh. Charles absolutely loses himself in studying, while Paul stays out getting drunk, but Paul passes his exams and Charles does not – then Charles locates the bullets.

I imagined a widescreen stop-motion puppet Midsummer from the creator of The Hand would be magical. It turns out if you remove all the language from a Shakespeare play, reducing it to plot action with explanatory voiceover, you don’t even reach feature length without some padding in the form of dance scenes and overlong rehearsals of the play-within-the-play. Sticking it out, there is some beautiful puppetry and effects, particularly whenever Puck casts a transformation spell.

After The Story of Three Loves, the second movie I watched for a Rosenbaum lecture. So soon (for me and for him) after Run For Cover I’m feeling shaky about Ray, but at least he made the great Bigger Than Life in between. Turned out pretty well for a big-ego war adventure story.

Looks more like a Bob Hope movie at this point:

Major Curd Jürgens (he played the Emil Jannings role in the Blue Angel remake) is supposed to lead a desert rescue operation, then Captain Richard Burton is put in charge instead. Rivalry ensues – Curd chokes when he’s supposed to knife a guard, and his wife used to date Burton, so they try to get each other killed until Burton finally dies in a sandstorm.

“Wilkies, wonderwall” – whoa, this was a real term… is it a britishization of the German wunderbar? I’m not gonna research this. It’s also the most times I’ve heard the name Benghazi in a movie. Sgt. Christopher Lee doesn’t make a strong impression – this was the same year he played Frankenstein’s monster, the year before his Dracula. Safecracker Wilkins is Nigel Green of Masque of the Red Death, sort of a low-rent Timothy Carey.

JR: “They’re both assholes… they become prisoners of their own macho self-images,” JR pulling no punches. “I see it as an attack on macho.” “The desire to have war sometimes exceeds any justification.” This was Ray’s attempt to go indie and break from Hollywood, though he didn’t have much control – the novelist retained script approval, the producers controlled casting.

I heard about a Jonathan Rosenbaum lecture series on 1950’s cinema, and thought it’d be fun to catch a couple nights, using it as an excuse to watch the titles on the schedule I hadn’t seen before (this and Bitter Victory). We watched the movies on our own, then met for the discussion. I sat in bed with a beer, imagining joining hundreds of others watching a J.Ro performance from a stage or lecture hall somewhere, but whoops, there were only ten of us for a cameras-on small-classroom situation.

It’s an anthology feature, the first and third segments (and I think the framing pieces on a cruise ship) by Reinhardt (a former Lubitsch protege). Part one is about Moira Shearer doing what Moira Shearer does best – but the wrinkle is she has a heart condition and can’t dance or she’ll die. But she says she can’t live without dancing – so, very Red Shoes, but also brings to mind Le Plaisir, an anthology film from two years earlier which also opened with a dancer collapsing. Shearer sneaks away from her keeper Agnes Moorehead and meets theater director James Mason, who is writing a whole new dance around her style, and this all ends in tragedy but it’s fun while it lasts.

Upsetting my auteurist preconceptions, the Minnelli segment in the middle was my least favorite – in part because it’s starring and narrated by an obnoxious little boy (oh no, this is 12-year-old Ricky Nelson, only 6 years before Rio Bravo). He detests his governess Leslie Caron (soon after debuting in An American in Paris) who reads mushy French poetry all day, so a witch (late-career Ethel Barrymore) agrees to make him grown-up for one night so he can experience independence. But when he’s grown-ass Farley Granger, he suddenly develops a taste for French poetry and for Leslie Caron.

Ricky and the witch:

Granger in the best scene, not with Caron but with… Zsa Zsa Gabor!

In the final story, disgraced acrobat Kirk Douglas rescues suicidal bridge jumper Pier Angeli, then since he needs a new trapeze accomplice and since she has nothing to lose, he trains her for his next big act. Most of the rest of the movie is these two being impossibly fit, doing legit aerial stunts. I don’t buy a single thing in this segment, but it has a good ending and it’s great fun. The Reinhardt segments really shine by showcasing talented people exercising their skills.

Aside from the movie – after all the books and articles I’ve read by Rosenbaum, finally I’m seeing him live, in an underlit room on a Zoom meeting, talking about orgasms. As to whether the film seemed hokey, “it’s the kind of hokiness I’d like to take a bath in.” Reinhardt and the actors were discussed, and the stories and why/whether they succeeded, and realism. The part that got me was his talk about existentialism, which apparently does not mean what I’d assumed it meant, the stories being all about the present tense. “The fact that you exist is more important than why you exist.”

The rare studio-compromised movie with sloppy enough edits that you can witness the butchery. Who knows what this movie, which the director and star both said was good before the editors got hold of it, could’ve been in its original form, the same year Ray made Rebel Without a Cause. But all we’ve got is what we’ve got, and it ain’t much. MVP the soft-spoken town doctor (Welles regular Gus Schilling), runner-up a grinning Ernest Borgnine, who arrives late as a bank robber, and third place townsperson Squinty McGee, aka Jack Lambert of the same year’s Kiss Me Deadly.

Squinty pulls a knife:

Per Filipe Furtado: “Cagney’s perseverance in front of a life of disappointments is the best use of the actor’s mature strengths in any of his post war roles.” Playing a twice-falsely-accused man, Cagney becomes sheriff of a nowhere town, falls for a Swedish woman (Viveca Lindfors, star of Swedish cinema in the 40’s with a long successful Hollywood run ending in Stargate). Cagney spends most of his time trying to rehabilitate 20-year-old lost soul John Derek (Scandal Sheet), who is simply too handsome for common morality and ends up joining Borgnine in the robbery that leaves Cagney’s new father-in-law dead. The Swede’s dad was probably fourth place – actually Danish, Jean Hersholt had costarred in Greed. Cagney kills the kid, better late than never.

The law of the land, wielding a carved wood gun:

Haven’t seen this in a long time – it’s the snowy one about the guys left behind when the larger army moves out, ordered to act as if they’re the entire army to fool the enemy into staying put as long as possible. Our dudes get picked off until paranoid Richard Basehart is the highest rank. The whole drama of whether Basehart will be able to lead effectively if he’s in charge is overblown, because he’s only in charge for the last ten minutes and he leads just fine. For me the real drama was the nighttime conversation between him and Gene Evans. Evans is a gruff, down-to-earth character actor and Basehart a tormented over-enunciating drama-school type, and it’s a relief that they manage to inhabit the same scene without it seeming ridiculous.