Movies reviewed this week: Seance on a Wet Afternoon, Girl with Green Eyes, Don’t Play Us Cheap, Slash/Back, Darling, The Knack… and How to Get It, and Incendies.
11/14/2022: Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964): ****
A chilly, nerve-wracking meditation on grief and self-delusion. After this and The L-Shaped Room I’m fully on the Brian Forbes train. Full credit should go to Kim Stanley and Richard Attenborough for their performances, but Forbes really manages to show us every side of these flawed humans: terrible acts committed for reasons you can understand, albeit not sympathize with.
11/17/2022: Girl with Green Eyes (1964): ***
I mean it’s fine. The problem is that it’s hard to invest in the romance between a college-aged girl and a man nearly 30 years older than she is; when Kate’s father comes storming in to take her back to the farm, he’s wrong in his methods but he’s right in his condemnation. The movie doesn’t pretend otherwise; the older Eugene does exactly what you’d expect of a man in his shoes. He’s bitchy about Kate’s reluctance and he’s sour about her lack of sophistication.
But it’s all presented as a natural step in a girl’s education which she shakes off easily, and that’s the bit that’s hard to swallow.
All that said it’s an above average movie. There’s some nice bits where the natural flow of events is depicted with jump cuts, and you know that bit where you show someone using social media by putting an overlay on the screen? Well, Girl with Green Eyes
11/18/2022: Don’t Play Us Cheap (1973): ****
Criterion Challenge 2022
Prompt: Stage to Screen: watch a stage adaptation
I recognize that I’m late to the party but after watching this (and Ganja & Hess) I am just saddened at the 1970s talent that got pigeonholed as blaxploitation. This is certainly a Black movie, but it’s the furthest thing from exploitation.
Sure, it’s set at a cheerful somewhat hedonistic party and it’s full of broad humor, but it’s also an insightful wholistic celebration of Black culture. It’s a simple plot — two devils show up, and are soundly defeated/converted by the power of found family — but the rich texture of life is the meat of the movie.
I loved the snarky putdown of the family that cared more about turning their kid into a preppy icon than anything else. I loved the casual acceptance of open relationships: “the Bible and law books and other books sometimes agree and sometimes don’t and seem to favor those who can afford expensive solutions.” It’s a joyful, optimistic movie. Very glad I picked it for this challenge.
11/19/2022: Slash/Back (2022): ***1/2
“Nobody fucks with the girls from Pang.”
What an uncomplicated joy. Director Nyla Innuksuk isn’t trying to break new genre ground here and with a Thing reference in the first five minutes, she makes sure you know where she stands. But a great uncomplicated genre movie is a blast.
The practical effects are fun, with CGI used as needed. The cast, sourced largely from Pang locals, is up to their tasks. At the end of the day, they sell the debates about the cute guy and they sell their own confidence as hunters.
Also, the scenery is unsurprisingly breathtaking.
11/19/2022: Darling (1965): ****
Schlesinger is so good when he’s letting his whimsy show through. This is a scathing, angry movie but it’s filmed with a fluid grace without belaboring the point. There’s this staccato rhythm to the editing that captures the uncertain future that of the 60s.
I continue to be fascinated by the way the British New Wave inherited a very British conservative outlook. Darling has no love for modernity; once again, ambition is risky. In this case it’s Julie Christie’s Diana who wants transformation and hurts everyone in her path. Swinging London is subject to absolutely merciless critique. What’s more, while Diana’s final decision leaves her trapped in stultifying tradition, it’s still an echo of earlier kitchen sink dramas in which the working class male protagonists aren’t able to handle the society to which they aspire.
Dirk Bogarde is again superb here, by the by.
11/20/2022: The Knack… and How to Get It (1965): **1/2
Thing is, I don’t think Colin ever does learn anything about how to be in a relationship, so I don’t really buy into any kind of growth narrative. And without that, it’s just another deftly filmed slapstick with great cinematography and an excellent handle on the Swinging London it’s parodying…
Hm. So yeah, it’s a noble swing and a miss rather than a catastrophe. Product of the times.
11/20/2022: Incendies (2010): ****1/2
So Villeneuve made Polytechnique, this, and Prisoners in a three movie stretch? That’s some intensity right there.
It was fascinating watching Lubna Azabal carry this movie as, most often, the object of observation rather than the observer. Her children are following the wake she left through her life; it seems to me significant that early on, in the only scene they really share together, she’s unable to speak. All we’ve got left is the testimony of those who knew her, and that is enough. She’s such an expressive actress, and her performance — covering decades of a woman’s life — is beautiful.
As with Polytechnique, the movie lives in the implied details. This is certainly a movie you want to watch cold, although I think a rewatch will prove fruitful, so here’s a small example. At one point in the movie, three men walk out of a building through a metal detector. It beeps for two of them, and certainly it must have beeped for them when they entered. Nobody looks up; nobody cares. That’s all we ever need to know about who they are.
Villeneuve is a deeply observational director, but he knows how to let us share the pain of his subjects. It’s never abstracted.