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Movie Reviews: 3/27/2023 to 4/2/2023

Movies reviewed this week: The Fall, The Italian Connection, Smiles of a Summer Night, Tron, There’s Always Tomorrow, Crisis, John Wick: Chapter 4, Kadaicha, All I Desire, and The Boss.

3/28/2023: The Fall (2019): ***1/2

Weird, unsettling, gripping. I think the minimalism might have worked better with a longer running time but as a tone piece it’s excellent.

3/28/2023: The Italian Connection (1972): ***1/2

Brutal and funny and — what’s my favorite adjective for poliziotteschi? — nihilistic! Di Leo has a good handle on action; this one takes a little while to get underway but the car chase rewards us for seeing the potential in the quick casual violence of the very first scene. And the junkyard showdown, wow.

3/29/2023: Smiles of a Summer Night (1955): ****

You could call it a screwball comedy, but it’s too dark for that label to stick. I’m not even convinced that everyone wound up with the right person. But it’s really funny, and it’s photographed with a lovely sense of light and darkness, and oh my the acting. Margit Carlqvist was the standout for me, conveying a sense of wickedly smart danger, but it’s a stunning cast all around.

I continue to be amused by Bergman’s attitude towards women. The four women in this movie are all standing on their own little pedestals, each in their own way, and I am not convinced he completely understands any of them any more than he understands the earthy groom. There’s something in those last couple of scenes — the Count’s reluctance to commit, Egerman’s wounded demeanor — that makes me think that Bergman doesn’t trust love. His world is one where you have to tug a man’s ears to make him agree to marriage.

And, to quote:

I shall be faithful for at least seven eternities of pleasure, eighteen false smiles and fifty-seven tender whisperings without meaning.

I shall remain faithful until the big yawn do us part.

In short, I shall remain faithful in my way.

That’s great dialogue, but it’s not heartwarming. I suppose it’s a little bit screwball.

Oh, and a note for context: I got the Criterion Bergman box today, and am at least at first going to tackle it in order, with one skip because S. and I are watching Wild Strawberries for Boofest 2023.

3/30/2023: Tron (1982): ***1/2

The CGI has wrapped all the way around to being starkly interesting again, and I appreciate Mœbius’ design work more now than I did back in the day. The plot is just a thin excuse for action sequences, and stuffing all the good action in the middle means the ending kind of limped. But man, that final conflict is still good nightmare fuel. There are skulls!

I am not convinced that, even in 1982, you could topple a corporate empire by waving a dot matrix printout around.

Boofest 2023: connected to Burn Out by motorcycles.

3/31/2023: There’s Always Tomorrow (1956): ****

It opens with “Welcome to sunny California,” except it’s raining, and continues at that level of cutting anger all the way through till the end of the movie. I think maybe it flinched a little bit, but only a little, and the schmaltz was saved for the kids. Fred MacMurray doesn’t look terribly pleased.

Speaking of which, Joan Bennett has sort of a thankless role but she played it quite well. She can’t be sparkling, or the movie loses all the sting; she also can’t be awful. She has to be mundane and complacent, so she was. It’s a tidy little bit of acting.

I found myself humming the immortal words of Aimee Mann, who sung:

“You fucked it up
You should’ve quit
‘Til circumstances
Had changed a bit.”

4/1/2023: Crisis (1946): **1/2

It’s okay. It’s not distinguished. There are hints of Bergman’s mature style in here — I think mostly in, yes, the closeups of faces — and I rather enjoyed the interplay between the three women. Stig Olin had a dynamic fey sleazy energy as Jack, too.

(Wait, he’s Lena Olin’s dad? Small world. Or I suppose small national film industry.)

Slice off the requisite moralistic ending and I’d have liked it better.

4/1/2023: John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023): ****

I’d give this a solid mostly satisfying, and the really good bits are superb. Donnie Yen owns the whole movie (somewhat inconvenient given that it’s not his character’s name on the marquee). The set pieces reach excellent heights, particularly the apartment fight. The overhead shot is almost seamless and meticulously choreographed.

If you’re going to hire Scott Adkins, you need to let him fight. The fatsuit did him no favors, and while I liked his appetite for scenery, he clearly couldn’t move the way he normally does. There are big tough guys who could have filled that role just fine. Giving Marko Zaror a good role sort of makes up for it, although no Undisputed III reunion? Tsk.

I could quibble a little bit about the dodgable bullets but you know, it’s a world with different physics, and by now the series has established how it works. I bought into it. That was a quick three hours.

4/1/2023: Kadaicha (1988): *1/2

Really not at all good. It might be the longest 88 minute movie I’ve ever seen. I suspect that even if you limit yourself to Ozsploitation flicks involving aboriginal themes and dreams, there are better options. Possibly those options might also be in Severin’s folk horror boxed set.

One historical note: the cinematographer here, Stephen F. Windon, would go on to somewhat more lofty heights in Hollywood as the cinematographer for most of the Fast and the Furious movies. A few shots in this show some small signs of his future competence.

4/2/2023: All I Desire (1953): ***1/2

I hadn’t planned it this way, but All I Desire makes a great double feature with Bergman’s Crisis. They’re both melodramas about women returning to their small town families, with a young daughter who’s tempted by the bright lights of the big city. They diverge somewhat from there on in.

I found the ending here unsatisfying; I wasn’t surprised to learn that Sirk had wanted to go darker. Stanwyck’s brilliant enough to sell the happy ending, and Richard Carlson is no slouch here. It still feels neither realistic or earned.

Really quite good otherwise, though. Sirk captures the eyes that are everywhere in small towns.

4/2/2023: The Boss (1973): ***1/2

In which Di Leo caps off his Milan movies with inspiration from The Godfather. He has substantially less respect for his aging Mafioso dons than Coppola does, though. The focus is on Mafia politics this time, and it loses a bit when compared to the first two in the sequence, but it’s at least as savage. Henry Silva doesn’t have even a drop of empathy in his gaze.

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