Delightful comedy, light and funny. Jimmy is a serious writer stooping to cover a society wedding with photographer Ruth. Katharine is marrying some schlub and Cary is her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven, intent on making everything difficult for everyone. Katharine has important rich parents and a typically movie-precocious younger sister. K. almost falls for Jimmy at the end, but decides to remarry Cary, leaving Jimmy with Ruth and the schlub to wander off alone. Exactly the kind of movie they don’t make anymore (sorry, Intolerable Cruelty). Katy watched with me and was delighted.

George Cukor: My Fair Lady, Adam’s Rib, Bhowani Junction, fired from Gone with the Wind the year before.

Katharine Hepburn: after Bringing Up Baby and Sylvia Scarlett, before Adam’s Rib, Summertime and The African Queen.

Cary Grant: after His Girl Friday, Only Angels Have Wings and The Awful Truth, before Suspicion, Notorious and Arsenic & Old Lace.

James Stewart: after Shop Around The Corner and Mr. Smith, before Wonderful Life, Northside 777 and Rope.

Philadelphia Story: in the IMDB top 200, won two oscars (screenplay and jimmy stewart), nominated for four more, got beaten by Rebecca, John Ford, and Ginger Rogers (also playing a girl from Philadelphia).

Everyone who worked on this movie is dead (Ruth Hussey died last year).

Here’s my email to Jimmy the next day.
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Time vs. The Leopard (or Burt’s Eyebrows: The Movie)

So it completely slipped my mind that I hate Italian movies, and I went to see The Leopard last night.

An IMDB reviewer says “To anyone interested in serious concerns, cinematically expressed with grace and intelligence, I would urge you to see this splendid film.”

Serious concerns? Concerns about what? About being serious? The movie is serious about being serious. It seems serious about the people of Sicily, about its sense of history and its future, and about our lead man Burt and his serious eyebrows and sideburns.

In the past few weeks I’ve watched movies by Bela Tarr, Wong Kar-Wai, and Luis Bunuel, plus The Double Life of Veronique and The Fountain. Been using all of those to think about how the movies present time, how they stretch time and contract time and enhance it and make it stop and start. It’s one of the main things movies do that other art forms don’t. It’s hard to change your sense of time with a play, with a painting.

The clock in White Hall to the left of the movie screen is stopped dead, and I liked to look over at it during The Leopard as if to confirm that the movie was frozen in a moment, that it was not progressing, that it had barely started and it was nowhere near the end. A great movie seems to fly by… I want to start it right up again after it ends, but then I notice the real time on the VCR clock, and remember that in real time, in my real day, two hours have gone by and I can’t play it again and I probably should be cleaning the office or going to bed. The Leopard left me with no such illusions. I felt the full force of all one hundred and eighty minutes… plus more minutes! The movie was even longer than it actually was! I feared that Visconti was filming new scenes while we watched, that the movie was looping itself, that the elderly couple behind me would not live to see the credits!

Nice restored print with very strong color. Good low-light and natural-light photography. The movie is a painting, with a painting’s sense of time. It wants to be looked at, but it does not propel you forward. Maybe people want this, to be slowed down, frozen in time focusing deeply on Burt Lancaster’s eyebrows and sideburns (an obsession of mine while the film was in progress), but I’m not so sure. I heard heavy sighs from the crowd, a few people left, at least one fell asleep, and some started talking and wandering around when one of them got a leg cramp. On my way out I walked past a couple discussing how the final dance sequence seemed way too long.

Was this done on purpose? As Prince Burt Fabrizio Lancaster is aging, thinking back on his life, thinking about the changes in Italy, watching the old power structure of which he is a part slowly decline, are we supposed to feel his sense of the moment stretching to the breaking point? Did the director know that the final dance sequence is way too long? Was he rudely extending the scene to force us into Burt’s mindset, to show us that from Burt’s age and position, this dressy ball is tiring and meaningless?

Sometimes when I notice that a movie is using longer-than-usual shots, I try counting shots to see just how long they are. At one point in The Leopard, I think they were running around five to six seconds on average, but it’s actually hard to count seconds in Leopard-time, which is more agonizingly slow than real time. When watching Werckmeister Harmonies (which I haven’t finished yet), I counted only eleven shots (plus or minus a couple) in the first forty minutes. And those forty minutes fly by! Bela Tarr expresses time in a mysterious and alluring way. Luchino Visconti (and Fellini, and Pasolini, and possibly Rossellini but probably not De Sica or Leone) expresses time in the most leaden way possible. I’m surprised that Visconti ever built up the energy to start filming. I’m sure, though, that he never stopped filming The Leopard, that the studio took what he’d shot so far and edited it into a movie. IMDB says he died 13 years after the movie’s release. There must be 13 years worth of deleted scenes, of sequel, of continuing ballroom dances and palaces in disrepair and golden harvest fields by moonlight, of candlelit interiors and Sicilian cityscapes at dusk, all sitting in a chest in Casa Visconti, waiting to be discovered by anyone bored enough to venture there. The ten thousand minute director’s cut!

Other notable things about the movie: Frenchman Alain Delon (of Le Samourai and L’Eclisse) as young rebel Tancredi… a DeNiro-looking priest who is omnipresent in the first half of the movie and strangely missing from the second half… all the young soldiers look like Cary Elwes… some pretty women (the prettiest of whom starred in Fellini’s 8 1/2 the same year)… and of course the lousy dubbing and sound design and the interruptive, full-of-itself Nino Rota score (Italians don’t seem to think that sound is an important part of a movie).

At the end of the movie, Burt Lancaster is old, he’s tired and he’s crying. And so am I. I drove straight home and trimmed my eyebrows.

Bunuel’s brief return to Franco-era Spain before escaping back to Mexico and then heading to France. Viridiana (Silvia Pinal, Simon of the Desert‘s devil) is about to be a nun, but her superiors say that first she must visit her benefactor, her widower uncle Don Jaime. The trip seems to be going fine so far.

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But Viridiana is a crappy nun and gets tricked into wearing her aunt’s wedding gown, then gets drugged and put to bed. Don Jaime (Fernando Rey of That Obscure Object and Discreet Charm) tells her she was raped and now can’t return to the convent, but then confesses the truth… she flees and he kills himself.

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Viridiana gets to split the estate with her handsome cousin Jorge (Francisco Rabal of L’Eclisse and Nazarin). She leaves the convent and attempts to make a home for a bunch of beggars. But she’s no good at that either… they take over the house and attack her.

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Viridiana finally accepts her fate and sits down with Jorge and the housekeeper in a menage-a-trois-suggestive final scene.

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Very interesting movie. Glad I played with all the DVD extras and read up a little on it. Not much to say about it, myself, except to repeat unimportant trivia I’ve learned (Sylvia and Juan Luis smuggled the film out of the country to Cannes, where it unexpectedly won).

Coming home late from a party at work where he’s been awarded for 25 years of loyal service as a cashier, Edward G. Robinson (Chris Cross) knocks down a man (pimp Dan Duryea) beating up a woman (prostitute Joan Bennett). The shot below sums up so much about Cross… stunned, afraid, a little reckless but arms crossed defensively.

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He walks the girl home, and she pretends to like him suspecting he’s a rich artist, an idea he encourages. And the stage is set for all of their demises. A murder, an execution, a long-lost husband, lots of lying and cheating, and Chris’s total ruin will follow.

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Gotta be one of the best film-noirs I’ve ever seen, and one of the best Fritz Lang movies. Unexpectedly greater than The Big Heat. Gets sad at the end… poor Chris doesn’t deserve his fate.

Michael Grost says: “Scarlet Street (1945) is a remake of Jean Renoir’s picture La Chienne (1931). The most important immediate difference between the pictures is one of tone and attitude towards the characters. Renoir’s film is a kinky black comedy about a pair of sexy low lifes who humiliate a middle aged man. It is basically a sexual fantasy. Lang’s picture is a tale of paranoia, how a pair of disgusting human beings, and fate itself, persecute an innocent man. Lang strips most of the sexiness from the crooked couple in the picture. Instead he and scenarist Dudley Nichols emphasize their sheer awfulness.”

Thought of as a sorta companion film to his 1944’s Woman in the Window, a noir with the same three actors which I remember liking a lot.

Wasn’t paying attention while the commentary played, but it mentioned Matthew Bernstein.

A woman in the window:
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A sad man:
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Haze.

A complete nightmare, like Cube without any light or thought or the retard. Man wakes up in underground tunnels, finds his teeth wrapped around a pipe, crawls through water surrounded by blood and severed limbs. Eventually finds a woman stuck there too. Tries to escape with her, and he makes it out… but finds her dead after he escapes. Suddenly he’s an old man and they’re together then he’s alone again.

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Strangely moving… a true horror movie, terrifying, sad and thoughtful. Ambiguous in an interesting way, not a frustrating one. Our man (played by director Tsukamoto) falls asleep, awakens, has an identity crisis, may be dreaming the whole thing, may have committed murder, but at one point in the future or present, he was happy with the woman he loved, watching fireworks. Time just melts in this movie. Would like to see again. Has been wrongly compared to the recent gorefest torture movies like Hostel, actually rises far above those. I hate that I ended up liking Tsukamoto so much… may have to someday reassess the headachey mess that was Tetsuo The Iron Man.

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Renji (the guy from Dolls) may be psychologically torturing his wife, or they may have a normal, boring life. The wife may be hiding in the attic pretending she’s a spider, or she may not. Depends who you ask.

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She meets a guy I don’t remember where, and talks to him about her horrible husband… one day they are caught talking or possibly he wants to hug her or something at the house and she retreats to the attic and becomes a series of bugs eventually a giant spider that comes down the stairs and is about to eat the husband then she turns back into the girl with a scissors in her hands and he hugs her and it’s all over I think then they’re packing and maybe moving out.

An okay movie, whatever.

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Watched the German version with orchestral score. Movie made me feel ten feet tall, with wings. Score is nothing to worry about, I turned the volume down… will have to try the harp score next time. Brilliant, full of harsh angles and crazed effects and loopy overacting. Presence! The movie booms with exclamation points! Guy Maddin must love it.

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An angel stupidly bets the devil (err, Emil Jannings as Mephisto) that he can’t corrupt humanitarian scientist Faust (a swedish actor who died of pneumonia in the late 30’s), with the world at stake. Emil first brings a badass plague, then allows Faust the power to cure a few people to make him feel like he’s all good. Then, the devil offers Faust youth so he can lust after some very white young woman (Camilla Horn, who acted through the late 80’s). Faust never really gets the girl, though he sleeps with her once… then is blamed for killing her brother and flees on his magic carpet. The girl’s mother dies, she’s put in the stocks, has a baby, loses it homeless in the snow because nobody will help her, then is burned at the stake accused of killing her own child. Faust hears her cry for help at the last minute, holds her and they die in the fire together. Faust goes straight to hell but for some reason the world is saved?

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Emil is awesomely sinister. Movie is a visual delight, a story well told, everything a movie should be. Will have to check out the commentary, the harp score, the export version, etc etc.

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Six Figures Getting Sick
is exactly that. With an annoying siren.

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The Alphabet
is my favorite David Lynch short film so far.

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The Grandmother
is so disturbing on so many levels.

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The Amputee
is lame, but it was a one-off overnight project so whatever.

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The Cowboy and the Frenchman
is pretty damned funny, actually.

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Lumiere
is neat, with some simulated cuts and visual effects.

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Severine is the wife of Pierre (Jean Sorel), but is unhappy with him sexually. She’s got a rich fantasy life, though. Sleigh bells and cats and a horse-drawn carriage lead her into rape-fantasies with coachmen, dreams of being tied up and humiliated and made to play dead. Family friend Michel Piccoli (of The Milky Way, Contempt and Diabolik) tells Severine about a brothel, which she hesitantly joins. Hilarity ensues when a customer (Marcel) becomes dangerously infatuated with her, and Piccoli eventually visits the place again, sees Severine there and threatens to tell her husband. In a jealous fit, Marcel shoots Pierre then is killed by the cops. Piccoli sits alone with Pierre, now confined to a wheelchair (and blind?) and presumably tells him Severine’s secret. The coachmen float us away into fantasy once more.

Terrific looking movie and really great performances. It’s got that Bunuel-dream-crawl pacing. Maybe best watched very late at night. Doesn’t make me weary like most Bunuel movies… probably one of my faves. Not as sexy as I’d maybe promised, more bizarre… sense of danger over sensuality, mostly a tense movie. Katy sorta liked it I guess.