Monday, September 22, 2008
The "12 I Haven't Seen, So Use Them Up" Challenge
So, Dennis Cozzalio of the splendid Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule tagged me with this "12 Movies I Need to See" meme. Now, as I understand it, the original meme was supposed to be about movies that you wanted to see, but could not locate, perhaps in the generous supposition that you've seen all the important stuff that's available. Well, there's a lot the Siren hasn't seen. It is, to be blunt, fucking embarrassing, some of the movies I haven't seen. The biggest gap: no Robert Bresson. Nary a film. You can all log off right now.
But rather than indulge in my own form of Cinematic Humiliation, à la David Lodge, I decided to combine this with another occasional meme from my beauty-blogger pals. This is called the Use It Up Challenge. If you're a beauty-product junkie, you always wind up with a bunch of half-used stuff abandoned in the back of your medicine chest or vanity case, waiting patiently to be taken out and played with again like so many cosmetic Velveteen Rabbits. The Use It Up Challenge asks you to take out the stuff, use it up, recycle the containers and move on with your life. It's a very good thing to do. (Although it has risks. In trying to use up one Serge Lutens perfume, an extraordinarily pungent jasmine scent called A La Nuit, the Siren succeeded in putting herself off jasmine for almost two years.)
So when this homework assignment came up, the Siren's head immediately swiveled from her computer screen to her DVD shelf, and the group of discs she still hasn't watched. It's a diverse and poignantly large group. Poor little guys. They don't ask much, just their chance to strut and fret upon the screen, and instead the Siren keeps tuning into her TCM addiction or her Netflix discs or Netflixing old Columbo episodes (Columbo is what I do for stress, instead of hard liquor) or popping into other people's blogs.
There are the DVDs that the Siren bought, unwrapped and hasn't watched yet, and those are bad enough. But the ones that really reproach her are the unseen movies sent by friendly bloggers. These wonderful guys went to all that trouble, and still I haven't watched. What's wrong with me? I guess I procrastinate a lot. I'd tell you for sure, but I won't be able to ponder it until a bit later in the week.
So here's a list for the Siren's "12 I Haven't Seen, So Use Them Up" Challenge. I am starting this with a handicap, in that I still haven't purchased a DVD player. I'm having a bit of Consumer Anxiety, trying to decide what to get. As soon as this is rectified, however, I am going to watch 'em all, and post at least something brief as I periodically check them off the list.
The first three were received via the kind offices of Mike P., the movie brain known as Goatdog.
1. Heroes for Sale (William Wellman, 1933) Sent to me after I was wowed by Wild Boys of the Road.
2. The Constant Nymph (Edmund Goulding, 1943) Sent to help complete my Joan Fontaine viewing. I read the book as a girl and perhaps that's why I have put it off--it's a tearjerker, if it follows the original story.
3. Christmas Holiday (Robert Siodmak, 1944) Sent because of my kind words for Deanna Durbin. I wanted to schedule this for Christmas but I seem no more capable of watching a Christmas movie at Christmas than I am of finishing all my shopping by Thanksgiving weekend.
The next four came a long while ago via Peter Nelhaus:
4. Blue Swallow (Jong-Chan Yun, 2005) Sent to shore up my shaky Korean film knowledge, without my having to watch someone get tortured.
5. The Curse of the Golden Flower (Zhang Yimou, 2006) Sent because he knows I love both director and star (Gong Li).
6. Exiled (Johnny To, 2006) See #6 (although maybe someone does get tortured in this one, I'm not sure).
7. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Jinglei Xu, 2004) With this one I think I'm just afraid of the comparison to the Ophuls.
This next was received via David Cairns's Duvivier Giveaway.
8. La Fin du Jour (Julien Duvivier, 1939) I will have to get another multiregion to watch it, I'm afraid, but I really want to.
This one was given me ages ago by Girish and somehow I never watched it.
9. The Marriage Circle (Ernst Lubitsch, 1924) God I suck. Why haven't I sat down for this one? It's Lubitsch, for crying out loud.
This one was sent by Flickhead:
10. A Talking Picture (Manuel Oliveira, 2003) Sent because he's a mensch (don't tell him I said so) and because I expressed admiration for Je Rentre à la Maison.
These two were purchased on Glenn Kenny's say-so:
11. L'Argent (Marcel Herbier, 1928) Glenn swore you can read the intertitles with limited French. Let's hope he's right.
12. Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, 1937) Actually, this was purchased on the entire blogosphere's say-so.
As a bonus, to keep with the spirit of the original challenge, here are twelve I dearly want to see, but am having the devil of a time finding:
1. No Greater Glory (Frank Borzage, 1934) Of course there's a Borzage. There's always a Borzage. This one is an antiwar allegory based on a novel by Ference Molnar. It's lovingly described in Lawrence Quirk's The Great Romantic Films. (Quirk's volume was one of my first movie books ever and to this day I use it as a reference. If Wikipedia is right, he's about 75 now, and one day I'd like to meet Mr. Quirk and tell him how much his serious exploration of this type of movie influenced my instinct to take them seriously as well.) No Greater Glory is one of the few Borzage movies that doesn't depict a couple's romance. Instead the focus is on the war games played by feuding groups of boys in a lumber yard, and one misfit boy's (George Breakstone) yearning for love and acceptance from his group's leader (Jimmy Butler, who in a painful irony was killed in action in France in 1945).
2. So Red the Rose (King Vidor, 1935) My father preferred this Civil War movie to Gone with the Wind. Dan Callahan's Senses of Cinema article on King Vidor (do click, Dan is worth reading on any topic) says the movie portrays slavery in a far more complex way than Selznick's opus, which might explain why it failed at the box office. It was such a complete disaster, in fact, that no one would touch a Civil War movie for a number of years afterward. Not available in any format.
3. Only Yesterday (John M. Stahl, 1933) Margaret Sullavan in a loose adaptation of Letter from an Unknown Woman. People who have seen it are unanimous in praising it. Apparently stuck back in whatever hidey-hole Fox has put a bunch of other Paramount movies.
4. The Crash (William Dieterle, 1932) Ruth Chatterton was a remarkable actress, stage-trained but perfectly in tune with the camera. She bowled me over in Lilly Turner, Female and the great Dodsworth. I want to see more.
5. Un Carnet du Bal (Julien Duvivier, 1937) Along with Pepe le Moko, one of the movies that put Duvivier on the map. Not available. Why?
6. Safe in Hell (William Wellman, 1931) My respect for Wellman just keeps growing. This one has popped up in repertory houses and at least once on TCM but I haven't seen it yet.
7. Les Visiteurs du Soir (Marcel Carne, 1942) Because Children of Paradise is one of my favorite movies of all time. As far as I know, not available on DVD in any region. I will probably resort to getting it on VHS at some point.
8. La Traversée de Paris (Claude Autant-Lara, 1956) Available in France but not with subtitles.
9. Floating Clouds (Mikio Naruse, 1955) Available in a French DVD and a BFI edition, in both instances packaged with two others I have already seen, which means that on my budget I don't want to stomach the exchange rate. If I hear one more time that Criterion is working on this one I will scream. Promises, promises!
10. The Private Affairs of Bel-Ami (Alfred Lewin, 1947) Lewin was a true talent and this is said to be one of George Sanders' best performances. Will probably resort to VHS for this too.
11. Summer Storm (Douglas Sirk, 1944) Not available in any format.
12. The Blue Veil (Curtis Bernhardt, 1951) Incredibly rare. One IMDB user claims to have spent more than $1,000 trying to locate a watchable copy. Never released on VHS either. Stars Jane Wyman, who isn't a favorite of mine, but also Charles Laughton and Joan Blondell, who certainly are. Curtis Bernhardt directed A Stolen Life and Sirocco, both of which I liked.
I was going to list What Price Hollywood? (George Cukor, 1932), but to my utter delight, this one is showing Oct. 1 at 11:45 pm on TCM. So that's my deadline for fixing the DVD recorder situation.
I'm not sure there is anyone left to tag, but if you want to keep me company and fess up to the DVDs you own, but need to Use Up, by all means do so. And if you haven't contributed to this meme, or its variations, by all means do so.
(Pictures, from top to bottom: Peter Lorre, as fellow bloggers demand to know why he has been neglecting Bresson. Kidding. It's him in Crime and Punishment. I haven't seen that one either. Next, Christmas Holiday: Gene Kelly and pal want me to watch this one before Halloween, Deanna just wants me to watch it. The Curse of the Golden Flower, also know as Gong Li Displays Entirely New Assets. So Red the Rose--probably not a good one to watch if I'm in a firebreathing political snit. Finally, The Private Affairs of Bel-Ami, which was clearly a feminist polemic.)
(Updated & corrected 9/23. Thanks J.C.)