Movies reviewed this week: Undisputed III: Redemption, It Happened One Night, Before Sunrise, Full Time, The Bell Boy, Ward, Leptirica, and The Velvet Vampire.
2/27/2023: Undisputed III: Redemption (2010): ***1/2
I’ve gotten to watch some really good fight scenes in the last couple of weeks. The ones in here are as good as any of them; Florentine takes all the time he needs to set up the fighters, there are great stylistic touches, and the action is crisp. The rest of the movie is not so great, so it’s not quite at that four star level, but each and every match in the tournament is shown in full and I’d be pretty happy watching them on loop.
2/28/2023: It Happened One Night (1934): ****
Inherently charming and unobjectionable and I can’t deny that Capra was a dab hand with the Americana. I like my romcoms served up with a dash of acid, for the most part, and I still mostly bought into this one so it’s gotta be pretty good.
3/2/2023: Before Sunrise (1995): *****
Still just about perfect, as it turns out. There’s an additional layer of depth and richness that comes with awareness of the whole trilogy, plus both Jesse and Celine are impossibly young. But god, so real. You can see Jesse slowly peeling away his layers of fast talk and charm; you can see Celine slowly picking away at his mask. They didn’t get off the train for the same reason, but they found alignment before separating.
3/4/2023: Full Time (2021): ***
I am struggling with this one. On the one hand, Laure Calamy as Julie is compelling from beginning to end, and she’s in every moment. No breaks. The tension and the pressure are non-stop, as well.
On the other hand, the ending is unearned. I think there’s one narrative loop too many.
On the third hand, the more I think about it the more I wonder if that’s the feeling Éric Gravel wants to leave us with. Julie’s not a great person. She’s in a crappy position, and it’s absolutely not her fault. For example, her ex-husband isn’t paying alimony on time.
But she’s also prone to screwing over others. There’s a distinct class element here: she’s got a Masters in economics and she’s good enough at her white collar profession to get hired even though she flat out lied during her interviews. Compare this to her co-workers at the hotel, who don’t have the same possibilities she does. And who she abuses horribly, to the point where she gets one of them fired for covering for her.
I’m not sure how I feel about buying her son a trampoline, either. It’s his birthday, so it’s a big deal, and I’m in no socioeconomic position to criticize. But I’ve also spent time temping and eating ramen without a fallback. It’s of a piece with her general recklessness. Or, if you look at it another way, her tenaciousness and acceptance of risk.
She still really browbeats that poor old lady who watches her kids for her, though.
3/4/2023: The Bell Boy (1918): ***
There are some pretty entertaining gags, a lot of decent slapstick, and Keaton’s window cleaning bit is immaculate. Also: “Last National Bank” hee.
3/4/2023: Ward (1973): ****
This is why you should always check out the short bonus features on your physical media. Leptirica was fine but this was austerely, bleakly grand. Đorđe Kadijević seems more comfortable working in black and white; he turns up the contrast to the point where the white sky is almost washed out, and his shadows are tactile things. Meanwhile, his sound design is as good as it was in Leptirica: the subtle echo on the dialogue brings home the sense of isolation that permeates the film.
3/4/2023: Leptirica (1973): ***
It plods a bit but that climatic sequence is triumphant phantasmagoria. The sound design is also stand-out, with Serbian choirs and a hooting menacing sound used to great effect. Gorgeous scenery, too, and Đorđe Kadijević has a real eye for visual moments.
And you know, while the comic relief pack of villagers is a touch dissonant with the folk horror tone, I think in the end it brings the vampiric elements into pointed relief.
3/5/2023: The Velvet Vampire (1971): ***
Celeste Yarnall has enough screen presence to make this work, but nobody else does. The movie still manages to stand out with that sun-drenched desert scenery. That final chase scene is pretty good too: by the end it gets fully psychedelic.
It’s just a shame it didn’t all live up to the ambitious goals. Points for getting it made on next to no budget; if only the other two leads could act.