Movies reviewed this week: The Firemen’s Ball, Rope, Nobody, and The Hit.
1/27/2022: The Firemen’s Ball (1967): ****
Funny, humane, and snarky. I was feeling like I was missing out on the satire, not being familiar with 1960s Czech politics, but then I mentally superimposed various faces from the Trump administration over the firemen and it became immediately obvious how to read the movie. I recommend that approach.
Still really sweet in places, though, since Forman doesn’t lose track of the fact that people mean well.
1/29/2022: Rope (1948): ****1/2
This was perfect for 70 minutes. The fake one-shot gimmick works for the story, the acting is perfect, and the theme resonates. Also and most important, Jimmy Stewart’s cynical philosopher Rupert is as complicit as our two murderers, John Dall and Farley Granger.
I think Stewart’s finale diminishes the movie. As he and Dall are dancing around the events of the murder, Stewart is clearly enjoying the intellectual sparring. It’s not that he cares so much about the dead man; he’s showing his old students that he’s still smarter than they are. One wonders about the dynamics back when he was their headmaster. If you buy that the movie implies he’s slept with one or both of them, there’s another layer of abusive behavior.
But when Stewart does his brilliant best to take a left turn into remorse, it’s not believable. Maybe if he admitted that he was enjoying the intellectual battle? But even his acceptance of guilt is passively voiced:
“But you have thrown the sound of reasoning at me, not reason itself. You have given my words a meaning I never dreamed of. You have tried to twist them into a cold, logical excuse for your ugly murder.”
Would Rupert have said that to avoid blame? Sure. Would he avoid telling his students that he’d proven, once again, his intellectual superiority? Not for a second, and that’s a moment when he would have been utterly safe.
I don’t imagine Hitchcock could have filmed the ending any other way. It’s still an amazing movie.
1/29/2022: Nobody (2021): ***1/2
Can’t really be a movie about addiction if the struggle doesn’t have consequences, but that conceit aside it’s a good action movie.
1/30/2022: The Hit (1984): ****
Criterion Challenge 2022
Prompt: Watch a film from Bill Header’s Top Ten
What a weird, philosophical thriller. But, hey, Stephen Frears. The Grifters is one of my favorites of all time, thus the selection of this movie for this category. It’s not as mordantly grim as The Grifters but when you take the really broad view of Frears’ movies you can really see the bleakness in even his comedies.
Hurt, Stamp, and Roth are all great. Terence Stamp! For most of the movie I thought it was that he was completely comfortable moving forward into the unknown and then it turned out he was just good at constructing preconceptions. Fascinating part.