Starring a broooadly overacting, hammy but kinda charismatic Maurice Chevalier as an Austrian lieutenant. Movie opens with a tailor knocking on Maurice’s door vainly attempting to collect on his bill (a year later, Maurice would star in Love Me Tonight as a tailor vainly attempting to collect on an aristocrat’s bill). Nobody answers, and immediately after he walks off, a young girl approaches the door, gives the secret knock and is let in. Yes, there’s actual sex in this movie – offscreen, but it’s acknowledged. It’s that Pre-Code Hollywood that TCM always salivates over before showing tame, dull movies like The Divorcee.

Maurice, a naughty lieutenant:
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The movie is, as promised, a musical comedy (two genres which encourage broad acting) as well as a romantic drama, and the late 20’s/early 30’s had their share of hugely broad comedy performances in film, so in context Maurice is pretty alright. And he’s got kind of a charming, roguish smile on nearly all the time… sucked me in after about ten minutes. Katy disagrees, but liked the movie despite Maurice.

Maurice joins his friend Max to act as wingman so nervous, married Max can pick up a hot young violinist at the concert, but Maurice falls for the girl (Franzi) and takes her home himself, with some sexy banter about which meals they’ll enjoy together (ahem, breakfast).

Max, left, is Charles Ruggles, the viscount in Love Me Tonight, also in Trouble In Paradise. Chevalier was a big star from 1929-36 – then IMDB says he was falsely accused of being a nazi collaborator and his acting career was derailed for a buncha years, with a big comeback in Gigi in ’58.
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Claudette Colbert (Franzi) was later Cecil B. DeMille’s Cleopatra, also starred in It Happened One Night, Midnight, and The Palm Beach Story.
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The young lovers have a good thing going, but flirting in public brings disaster, when Austrian soldier Maurice winks at Franzi across a street just as the coach carrying the king and princess of Flausenthurm drives between them. The wink and the princess’s appalled reaction are photographed and published in the paper, causing an international scandal, but everyone settles down when Maurice explains that he was overcome by the princess’s beauty and is bullied into agreeing to marry her. So M. is off to Flausenthurm, but won’t sleep with his royal bride, preferring to step out on the town. The moody king gets over the inferiority complex he had in Austria, is now smitten with Maurice and tells his daughter not to worry, playing checkers with her every night as a sad substitute for marital sex.

Princess Miriam Hopkins = Savannah-born star of Trouble in Paradise, who won an Oscar a few years later then didn’t do a whole lot of movies I’ve heard of. King George Barbier was in a ton of stuff through the 40’s, including The Milky Way and The Merry Widow.
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The movie is a musical, but I don’t remember most of the songs or even where they occur, except climactic number “Jazz Up Your Lingerie.” You see, Maurice still loves the loose, free, totally modern Franzi, and he still has not-too-secret affairs with her since her violin group is on tour in Flausenthurm. So one day Princess Anna sorta kidnaps Franzi to ask her advice… Franzi helps Anna out, giving up on her man with the great line: “You mustn’t worry about me. I knew it all the time. Girls who start with breakfast don’t usually stay for supper.”

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During the music number, Anna’s frumpy clothes all turn magically into hot things, she learns to smoke and play jazz on the piano, and when Maurice comes home he can not believe his eyes. She takes him to the bedroom and wordlessly suggests a game of checkers, but he keeps tossing the board away… finally tosses it onto the bed, and just look at the expressions on their faces:

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Everyone who sees it today comments on the sexual freeness, but the original New York Times review in 1931 didn’t mention any of that, called it a “highly successful production” with “charming” music and “splendid” performances, and spoiled the entire plot.

J. Weinman: “The Smiling Lieutenant is based on Oscar Straus’s Viennese operetta A Waltz Dream, though Lubitsch relegated all the operetta’s songs to background music and had Straus write a few new songs in a more modern style. As he usually did when adapting a play or an operetta, Lubitsch kept the basic outline of the story but changed everything else.”

Wonderful 16mm screening at Emory, but not well-received by the students and regulars who came to be entertained. Silly students and regulars, it is not a university’s job to entertain you!

Scorpio Rising – 1964, Kenneth Anger
Couldn’t remember if I’d seen this before, but of course I have… opening credits bedazzled onto a motorcycle jacket were immediately familiar. Despite the nazi imagery and comparisons between bikers headed for a gay orgy and Jesus and his disciples, I heard no complaints. I think people enjoyed the juxtapositions (well-prepared presenter Andy warned us about ’em in advance) and grooved on the hot 60’s rock radio score (kept hearing “oh I love this song” from behind me).

Lemon – 1969, Hollis Frampton
Lovely film, second time I’ve seen it. Should be shown every year. Only comment overheard: “I don’t know about the second movie. Just a lemon.” Mostly people were quiet about this one. I choose to believe that they were awed into silence, contemplating its light play and imagining possible deeper meanings, and not quietly wondering what they needed to pick up at the grocery store. A movie can feel much longer or shorter than it is. Lemon is supposed to be seven or eight minutes long, but I say it feels like four, five tops.

Zorns Lemma – 1970, Hollis Frampton
(no apostrophe, in tribute to James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake)
Okay, this one feels its length… its exact length, measured second by second.
1) Black screen, voice reads us some children’s poetry, each line beginning with a successive letter of the Roman alphabet (so I=J and U=V) to make 24.
2) The meat of the piece, 24 seconds, one letter per section. First section we see each letter once. Then a word beginning with each letter. Then again (different shots, different words). Again. Again, but X has been replaced by a shaking, roaring fire. Again, with the fire. Again. Again. Again, but Z has been replaced by the ocean, flat horizon, a wave rolling out to sea. Again with the fire and the ocean. Again. 24 letters at 24 frames per second (though it’s 25 seconds if you consider that each alphabet section is followed by a second of black, a shout-out to our PAL-locked buds in Europe who see everything on video a little faster than we do). And on until, some 40 minutes later, each letter has been replaced (C was the last to go). No audio except the groaning and laughter of my fellow filmgoers.
3) Sound and Vision together! A visual cooling-down after part two, two people and their dog walk across a snowy field from bottom of the screen to top as six alternating female voices on the soundtrack read us some philosophical writings about light – at precisely one word per second.
4) The audience members (those who hadn’t walked out) were horrified!

D. Sallitt liked it:

The bizarre experience of taking a test during a movie was completely distracting, so that I absorbed the materiality and the narrativity of the alphabet images only indirectly, during brief rest periods. Somehow this strengthened my investment in the images: I don’t think I would have found the “letter H” guy’s walk around the corner very interesting in itself, but that corner took on mythic spatial qualities for me.

Hahaha, I know what he means about the corner. Of the little movies that replace each letter, seen in one-second increments, some stay pretty much the same (the fire, the tide) and some progress as time passes (someone peels and eats a tangerine, this guy walks towards a corner). Everyone breathes a little sigh of relief when, finally after a half hour, the man disappears around the corner in a one-second bit toward the end. Next bit is just the corner. Next one the man comes back around the corner! Must be considered one of the biggest twist endings in non-narrative avant-garde cinema.

excerpts from S. MacDonald:

Even a partial understanding of Frampton’s films requires a rudimentary sense of the history of mathematics, science, and technology and of the literary and fine arts. … Nowhere is Frampton’s assumption that his viewers can be expected to be informed, or to inform themselves, more obvious than in Zorns Lemma, the challenging film that established Frampton as a major contributor to alternative cinema. Zorns Lemma combines several areas of intellectual and esthetic interest Frampton had explored in his early photographic work and in his early films. His fascination with mathematics, and in particular with set theory … is the source of the title Zorns Lemma. Mathematician Max Zorn’s “lemma,” the eleventh axiom of set theory, proposes that, given a set of sets, there is a further set composed of a representative item from each set. Zorns Lemma doesn’t exactly demonstrate Zorn’s lemma, but Frampton’s allusion to the “existential axiom” is appropriate, given his use of a set of sets to structure the film. Frampton’s longtime interest in languages and literature is equally evident in Zorns Lemma. …

The tripartite structure of Zorns Lemma can be understood in various ways, at least two of them roughly suggestive of early film history. The progression from darkness, to individual onesecond units of imagery, to long, continuous shots. … If the second section of Zorns Lemma is Muybridgian – not only in its general use of the serial, but because the one-second bits of the replacement images “analyze” continuous activities or motions in a manner analogous to Muybridge’s motion studies – the final section is Lumieresque.

As set after set of alphabetized words and their environments is experienced, it is difficult not to develop a sense of Frampton’s experience making the film. The film’s collection of hundreds of environmental words suggests that the film was a labor of love, and an index of the filmmaker’s extended travels around lower Manhattan, looking for, finding, and recording the words.

For most viewers the experience of “learning” the correspondences is fatiguing – especially since the process of watching sixty shots a minute for more than forty-seven minutes is grueling by itself – but the laborious process has been willingly (if somewhat grudgingly) accepted. The experience of learning the correspondences is the central analogy of the second section. It replicates the experience of learning that set of terms and rules necessary for the exploration of any intellectual field.

In a philosophic sense, Grosseteste’s treatise [spoken during the third segment] is an attempt to understand the entirety of the perceivable world as an emblem of the spiritual. And, on the literal level, what Grosseteste describes in the eleventh century is demonstrated by the twentieth-century film image: For a filmmaker, after all, light is the “first bodily form,” which, literally, draws out “matter along with itself into a mass as great as the fabric of the world.”

“Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what you desire; it tells you what to desire.”

With his focus on the “traumatic dimension of the voice… which distorts reality”, I must believe that narrator Slavoj Zizek, with his heavily accented voice, is watching and interpreting slightly different versions of these movies than the ones I have seen. After all, I watch films and he watches “fillums”.

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A few bits: the three levels of Norman Bates’s house representing the id / ego / superego… the power of the voice represented by Dr. Mabuse… “Music is potentially always a threat”… a look at the intersecting fantasies in Blue Velvet, and the related horror themes of Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive.

Calls a scene in The Piano Teacher “the most depressive sexual act in the entire history of cinema.” To think I once showed that movie to my girlfriend’s parents!

Wish Katy had finished watching this with me, could’ve helped defend my position on David Lynch movies. And for stupid cinephiles like myself, who love Lynch movies (and The Piano Teacher, and Eyes Wide Shut, and Blue) but get lost in their images and atmosphere without thinking too hard about their psychological implications, he handily explains the stories and characters from a psych point-of-view.

“I think that flowers should be forbidden to children.”

The movie might teach the rewards of closely analyzing a few great movies instead of trying to watch every potentially great movie. This is a lesson I will not be following. Maybe one day…

I feel so vindicated that he picks Alien Resurrection as a film worth discussing. When oh when will that gem get its due? Only the second of the series (after the Ridley Scott original) to count as a horror film, plus it’s good sci-fi and an innovative sequel/reboot that hasn’t been matched since (well, maybe those Chucky movies).

“All modern films are ultimately films about the possibility or impossibility to make a film.”

He compares Cecil B. DeMille to the Wizard of Oz to the mystery man in Lost Highway.

“In order to understand today’s world, we need cinema, literally. It’s only in cinema that we get that crucial dimension which we are not ready to confront in our reality. If you are looking for what is in reality more real than reality itself, look into the cinematic fiction.”

An ugly, gray horrors-of-war movie. The twist here is that instead of simply running through all the reasons why war is hell, this one brings sex into the picture – not just the usual love and desire stuff, but a variety of situations dealing with sexual need during wartime.

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Our titular heroine (Nishi) is a nurse in an army hospital in 1939 during Japan’s war with China. She spends some of her time at a base hospital where men with illnesses and minor injuries rest up before they are sent home or back into combat, and the rest of her time at an understaffed camp hospital at the front dealing with a constant flow of critically wounded men, fatalities and amputations. She is raped by a soldier who is sent back into combat to his death as punishment. She sexually services a man who lost both arms and can’t take care of himself anymore (but he commits suicide soon afterwards). Then she ends up at the front in love with a morphine-addicted surgeon, in a platoon where the local “comfort women” are spreading cholera to the troops, but the troops keep visiting them anyway. Mishi manages to get Dr. Okagi off the morphine so he can make love to her, but the place is destroyed in a Chinese raid a few hours later, everyone killed but Nishi. She finds Okagi’s body on the ground. The end!

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A pretty interesting movie, definitely not the kind of war film I’ve seen before. Compassionate, but also somewhat hopeless given the surroundings and situations. I liked it, but can’t say I’m itching to watch it again.

Nishi is played by Ayako Wakao, who starred in a bunch of Masumura’s films (Seisaku’s Wife, Manji, A Wife Confesses, A False Student, Afraid To Die) as well as Mizoguchi’s Street of Shame (played the money-lending girl who opens her own shop at the end) and A Geisha, Ozu’s Floating Weeds, and Kon Ichikawa’s An Actor’s Revenge. Dr. Okagi appeared in Suzuki’s Underworld Beauty. And the armless guy starred in Oshima’s Naked Youth.

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J. Rosenbaum:
“Roughly contemporary with M*A*S*H (as in Altman’s film, scenes of war-front surgery provide a corollary to Vietnam), it sometimes suggests a less comic treatment of the same theme–how to preserve one’s humanity amid impossible circumstances–but its ethics are considerably more developed.”

J. Sharp for Midnight Eye:

Made for Daiei Studios, Masumura’s stark wartime drama, an adaptation of a novel by Arima Yorichika, is one of the handful of films made in the mid 60s dealing with the personal experiences of those involved in the war, including the same director’s previous Hoodlum Soldier (Heitai Yakuza, 1965) and Seijun Suzuki’s Story of a Prostitute (Shunpuden, 1966). Both Masumura and Suzuki had been active towards the end of the war, and both used their experience to examine the conflicts and interpersonal dramas that arose on the frontline in order to question such concepts as duty and loyalty to their country. To this end both directors approach their subject using strong female protagonists whose role in the war is often forgotten, with Story of a Prostitute focusing on a group of prostitutes sent out to the frontline to service the soldiers, and Red Angel almost making analogous use of the nurses (although Masumura’s film does feature a group of prostitutes and takes pains to point out that the nurses duty is not the same as theirs!) In a world gone mad it is these female characters who provide the only source of stability and comfort, even morality, whilst the shell-shocked, emasculated walking wounded dream of returning home to their families.

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“A compilation of erotic films intended to illuminate the points where art meets sexuality”

A real mixed bag. I sat down just to watch the Larry Clark segment (which turned out to be the best) and ended up watching the rest, because the transition from Impaled into The Triplets of Belleville would have been too awkward.

Impaled by Larry Clark
Casting couch for a porn film. Bunch of guys (one, a virgin, flew in from Utah) sit down and answer questions: why are they here, what experience do they have, what’s their history with pornography, and what would they like to do? Then each gets up and shows off his package to the camera. They pick a guy, then the girls come in one by one, but they guy stays in the room and gets to make his own choice. Picks a 40-yr-old mom who will do anal, maybe because she’s the cuddliest to him during the interviews. Awkward sex ensues, with the same lighting and angles as the audition. Strange, enlightening.

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Sync by Marco Brambilla
Surprisingly cool. Just two minutes of extreme editing from one porn image to the next, forming a pattern of similar shots and poses. Must have been awful to make this. Director made Excess Baggage and Demolition Man!! Must have been awful to make those too.

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We Fuck Alone by Gaspar Noé
Along with Catherine Breillat and Todd Solondz, I like to avoid Gaspar Noé whenever possible. Was dreading this one, but even though it wasn’t any good, it also turned out not to be overly traumatic. There’s some standard porn stuff on TV, and the same show is playing in two bedrooms. The girl is masturbating in her bedroom very gently and lovingly with cuddly fluffy teddy bears helping her. The boy is masturbating in his bedroom roughly, treating his blowup doll like a slave, finally sticking a gun in its mouth. Do you see the point we are trying to make here? Goes on for 15 minutes. Oh, with a strobe-light effect on the entire thing.

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Balkan Erotic Epic by Marina Abramovic
Bunch of weirdness involving the recreation of fake-sounding Balkan old wives’ tales. Group nudity out in the fields, men humping the ground, and women with baddd saggy boobs. Abramovic apparently has made a career of this, with her other works called Balkan Baroque and Making the Balkans Erotic.

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Death Valley by Sam Taylor Wood
Single shot of a guy jacking off in Death Valley – I didn’t get it. Katy said the backdrop looked fake. Director is a woman who does video work for the Pet Shop Boys.

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Hoist by Matthew Barney
Barney creates a tractor-machine with a spinning crankshaft in the center that looks like his trademark vasoline on a clay pottery wheel, then hoists it on a crane, while a guy within the tractor who has a turnip up his ass rubs his penis against the vasoline. High-concept I am sure.

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House Call by Richard Prince
As far as I can tell, this was just a short doctor-makes-house-call porn piece, filmed, worn, transferred to video, played on a TV and videorecorded. Third or fourth-gen porn with abnormal music and horrible color. I dunno, I got distracted at this point.

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Young parent Kate Winslet meets and has sex with young parent Patrick Wilson, even though Patrick is married to Jennifer Connelly and Kate is… well, married. Meanwhile Ronald, a convicted child molester (the motorcycle kid from the original Bad News Bears) is on the loose.

Ronald has a domineering mother, Kate feels disconnected from everything, Patrick spaces out watching skateboard kids, and Jennifer is pretty but doesn’t have much to do.

Katy didn’t like it!

Katy and I and fifty gay men enjoyed the new JC Mitchell movie. Two guys in a long term relationship, one of whom is a suicidal iMovie-filmmaker, open up by allowing a third guy into the relationship. Oh, and a neighbor is stalking the suicidal guy and wait, they go to a club called shortbus and recommend their family psychological counselor go too (even though she’s really bad at her job and doesn’t help them) and she has crazy nutty supersex with her bf but no orgasms and there’s an ex-mayor of New York and a runaway goth girl with a made-up name. Plot summary is useless really. It’s a party of a movie… sad and awful but mostly fun(ny) and exciting. Great singalong parade of a finale.

Not nearly the same kind of look and feel as Hedwig… not glossy or shiny or anything. Appropriate, though, since that kind of approach wouldn’t have worked. All the interweaving characters and stories run together very well. Not everyone gets a full story arc – some are more developed than others… and good, because everyone’s lives don’t work themselves out during the few-week timespan of a movie. Felt more real than Little Children, unfortunately.