Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Foreign Film Resolution, Cont. (Weeks 4-7)

Go on, admit it. You thought the Siren gave up on her foreign-film resolution. No way. She's behind, mind you, but she hasn't given up. We're nine weeks into her resolution so the Siren should have seen nine films. She has seen seven. Still catching up.

From the Mizoguchi set the Siren bought herself as a birthday present:

Women of the Night, Kenji Mizoguchi (1948)

"In Women of the Night (1948) a band of prostitutes gathers in a bombed-out church to administer a brutal beating to Fusako (Kinuyo Tanaka), one of their own who has dared to dream of going straight. These women are not saints or martyrs — for Mizoguchi, there is no next world in which they might receive their reward — but, more concretely and more movingly, mere human beings whose strength of character sets them apart, the true aristocrats of a fallen world."
--Dave Kehr, The New York Times

Street of Shame, 1956 (This was cheating a bit because the Siren has seen it already, but she couldn't resist. Such a great movie.)

"Kenji Mizoguchi's Akasen Chitai (Red-Light District, 1956) had the misfortune of being tagged with the silly title Street of Shame on its first American release, and it has stuck. Doubtless meant to imply a far more salacious treatment of its subject than Mizoguchi intended, the title has also promoted the prevailing view that he was making a political statement about the class of women he had so tenderly treated through more than 30 years of filmmaking. And while it was probably inevitable that Mizoguchi should return to his favourite subject in his last film-–courtesans and their floating world--Street of Shame is one last, devastating look at how life's cruelties are especially hard on women in Japan."
--Dan Harper, Senses of Cinema

This next was on TCM during 31 Days of Oscar. More movies like this one would really justify that whole month. Now March is, so help me, Ronald Reagan month, and the Siren wonders if TCM is actually mocking her. "Hey Siren, you thought last month was barren, huh? Try and find something here besides Kings Row, Santa Fe Trail and Dark Victory! Mwahahaha!" Anyway, on to

The Burmese Harp, Kon Ichikawa (1956). The real revelation of this go-round. Astonishingly beautiful and moving. The Siren wishes she had seen it on a big screen.

"The Burmese Harp is a haunting, poignant and serenely indelible examination of the aftermath of war. The film opens with the spare, enigmatic words: In Burma, soil is red, so are rocks. Using landscape as a metaphor for the isolation and suffering of the soul, Kon Ichikawa contrasts the chaotic, harsh realities of war with the tranquil expanse of nature: the mountain fortress attack; the discovery of a body leaning against a tree in the jungle; the mass burial of soldiers along the shoreline. Symbolically, Mizushima's spiritual transformation is reflected in a scene where the troop assembles for choral practice at a religious site, as Mizushima rests inside the hull (the figurative soul) of a Buddha statue. It is a reflection of his own enlightenment and sense of purpose after witnessing a great and senseless tragedy - a transcendence beyond his spiritual captivity - towards a lonely, indefinite journey, guided solely by humanity and personal conscience."
--Acquarello, Strictly Film School

I own this one but hadn't gotten around to watching it.
Day for Night, François Truffaut (1973)

"This really may be the Ultimate Opening Shot in many ways, because we actually get to go back into it and critique it in the movie itself. The whole thing looks perfectly random and natural (I don't want to know how many takes it really took), as if the eye (camera) were just alighting upon one thing and then another as its interest is piqued. But we soon see how carefully and precisely it's all choreographed. Day for night. Illusion for reality. Artifice in the service of art. Notice, too the use of strong colors like red (dress, car, little girl, etc.) and white (car, overcoat, etc.) -- the alternating colors of the awning in the background -- and black (suits, car roof, etc.) to focus our attention. Doesn't this just make you want to go out and make a movie?"
--Jim Emerson, Scanners


DavidEhrenstein said...

Great choices here. The climax of Women of the Night, with hordes of prostitutes clamoring over piles of (literal) garbage is indelible.

Street of Shame opened at "grind houses" in the U.S. Pre-ratings-code palaces in urban areas where "naughty" foreign films like Begman's Sawdust and Tinsel were retitled The Naked Night, proferring the prospect of Harriet Andersson's luscious balcony. Street of Shame is quite chaste on this score. After color epics like Yang Kawi Fei and The Taira Clan Saga this was intimate and low key. Machiko Kyo is quite funny in it. But it's last shot -- the hand of an aged prostitute waving a handkie to attract customers as she hides in a doorway -- is one of the most devestating in all of cinema.

Haven't seen Day For Night in years and must revisit it as I've come to know Jackie Bissett personally of late. Also a friend of mine in Italy has becoem pals with Valentina Cortese.

Karen said...

Ronald Reagan Month took me a bit by surprise, too. What an ... odd choice.

I did watch a couple of fascinating little films, however. In one, called Juke Girl, Reagan becomes an activist to save an immigrant tomato farmer (George Tobias as a Greek, using an accent very like his Mexican one in Torrid Zone) from the collusive interests of big business. Many tomatoes were destroyed in the making of this film--while it certainly didn't reflect Reagan's later political views, it may shed some light on the epiphany that caused him to believe ketchup was a vegetable.

The other, That Hagen Girl, was even odder, as small-town virtues are reduced to nothing but evil-minded gossip, while Reagan is imagined to be the father of adoptee Shirley Temple (a very dishy 19-year-old here). He's not her father, but their relationship takes an even more surprising turn at the end.

I recorded a couple of his Brass Bancroft, T-Man, B-movies, just for shits and giggles, but I haven't been able to bring myself to watch them yet.

The Siren said...

LOL, I only hope Mr. C doesn't read your comment, David, or he may expire from jealousy. He was dying for Bisset when we watched the Truffaut, dying I tell you. She was so lovely, and still looks quite incredible. Me, all I had to look at was Leaud although he was very appealing at that stage.

If people went to a grind house for "Street of Shame" and got this quite fervently moral, depressing and mostly anti-erotic movie they must have been some kind of pissed off. I that it is a brilliant movie. I ultimately preferred Street of Shame to Women of the Night but the fight scene in the latter was something, it is true. No one does the "woman's life spiralling straight downward" plot quite like Mizoguchi.

Machiko Kyo really belonged on my actress list.

The Siren said...

Karen, That Hagen Girl is one of the creepiest movies I have seen from that era, and I believe even Reagan said as much in his memoirs. I wanted to see Juke Girl but I gather you weren't bowled over, eh?

All I can think is that TCM must be running out of stars, although I am sure we could come up with better suggestions. Machiko Kyo, for example. :D

Karen said...

Creepy, INDEED. I mean, she's 19!! And he's OLD ENOUGH TO BE HER FATHER!!!


It's not that I wasn't bowled over by Juke Girl, it's that it, too, is very odd. Reagan is VERY attractive in it--I have to admit it, against all my better judgment--but the story is just...wackadoo. So it's not that it's not good, it's that it's such a curiosity.

One nice touch, though: when Nick makes Greek coffee for Reagan and his pal (played by the actor who was Sam Harris in Yankee Doodle Dandy; I'm forgetting his name), he pours it from exactly the kind of long-handled little piot that they actually do use in Greece.

The Siren said...

He was attractive in Desperate Journey and Dark Victory, too. He had appeal, but he lacked whatever it is that separates appeal from true star quality.

X. Trapnel said...

I can well understand Mr. C's death throes, but I was expiring (leaving claw marks on the screen) for Nathalie Baye.

The Siren said...

Oh he dug Baye too, but Bisset ... phwoar, as the Brits say. I was a bit annoyed, even the stunt man stud wasn't much in the way of eye candy. Rampaging sexism, I tell you--a movie set where only the women are beautiful. Imagine!

(Good film though. I am very much a Truffaut fan.)

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's a recent pic of the goddess. . .with another goddess.

The Siren said...

They both look great!! I love how Bisset is aging with such confidence and grace. I have no idea what she is doing to maintain herself but she doesn't look like some ghastly, motionless, filler-ridden facsimile of youth, she still looks active and sexy and like she enjoys a glass of good wine and the company of witty people.

X. Trapnel said...

C'mon Siren, this is Truffaut: "The art of the director is getting beautiful women to do beautiful things." What a guy!

Karen said...

He had appeal, but he lacked whatever it is that separates appeal from true star quality.

Yes! I was saying this to my friend whom I do morning walks with. I don't know if I can put my finger on it. Perhaps it's that he never seemed to let his performances go much below the surface--with the notable exception of King's Row, and even that could potentially be chalked up to melodrama. He doesn't react much to the people around him (also unsurprising, given later history), which is definitely not representative of most of the actors we write so enthusiastically about here in your comments.

X. Trapnel said...

Never be afraid of the obvious: Reagan is just dull, somewhere between Jeffrey Lynn and Kent Smith. Nothing to analyze here

The Siren said...

XT, Reagan is certainly dull on occasion--I don't care what anyone says, Knute Rockne is a giant snooze, and I do like football movies. But he has glimmers in other movies, like the Wood melodrama. It just never blossomed, for whatever reason. He knew Kings Row was his best performance, as I recall when Wyman divorced him she quipped that they split because she just couldn't watch Kings Row again. (And he said he'd cite Johnny Belinda as co-respondent.)

Karen said...

I'm not sure he was ALWAYS dull--but he was MOSTLY dull.

And I do apologize for thread-jacking a wonderful post about foreign films to a discussion of Ronald Reagan. What WAS I thinking??

mndean said...

Day For Night is one of those films I haven't seen in a long time - years ago it was hard to find and IIRC in a bad pan-and-scan version. When I finally saw a decent print (on the SF PBS station of all places), I remember it being great in spots but also lumbering.

I watched The Burmese Harp and was very impressed with it. I still prefer the harsher Nobi, though.

That Hagen Girl is a lot like the earlier Jean Arthur movie Party Wire, where every busybody in town listens in on the town's party line, hear her speak with her boyfriend and gossip about her. It was a pretty thin film (and Victor Jory is the hero!), but considering how often Hollywood presents small-town life as an idyll (usually with a few cranks for seasoning), it was mildly surprising. That Hagen Girl is probably more notable for its two leads becoming politicians than for itself. I clipped off a few of the other Reagan films myself, but haven't got around to watching them yet. I may never watch them at the rate I'm going.

X. Trapnel said...

My apologies in advance for going on about Ronzo, but I must get in one more smack. He only seems good in Kings Row because Robert Cummings is even duller. Claude Raines, Ann Sheridan, and the glorious Korngold score keep it watchable.

The Siren said...

M., I have a whole laundry list of Ichikawa must-sees now. I watched Burmese Harp and kept thinking the whole time, "why did I not track down this director before?"

Yeah, That Hagen Girl has a fairly interesting premise but it's so poorly executed you just don't care. And Karen, you didn't thread-jack, I am the one who tossed off a wisecrack about my chagrin with the Star of the Month into a foreign-movie thread.

Oh dear god, I just had the most appalling thought. Next month isn't June Allyson, isn't it?

**runs off to check**

Arthur S. said...

I haven't seen WOMAN OF THE NIGHT yet, so thanks for the head up. From the way David E. describes the end, it sounds a lot like Imamura's PIGS AND BATTLESHIPS where the Pigs revenge themselves on the seaside town en masse. That's coming soon on Criterion as well.

STREET OF SHAME is indeed a tough hard film, something that Japanese masters were capable of doing with a dignity that's missing anywhere else. The assistant director on that film was Yasuzo Masumura who studied at Centro Sperimentale, the national film school of Italy(where he got to know Antonioni). I recently saw his RED ANGEL(AKAI TENSHI), one of the most poetic and beautiful, yet hard, tough and instense films I have ever seen. It stars Ayako Wakao who's Yasumi in STREET OF SHAME(whose Japanese title AKASEN CHITAI should translate as RED LIGHT DISTRICT rather than the grindhouse tag bestowed on it).

I like Day for Night a lot, that scene where Truffaut unfurls those books while the taperecorder plays Delerue's theme from TWO ENGLISH GIRLS is terrific. The best part about that film is that it is set entirely on the film set and never leaves there, creating a real sense of the confinement and isolation of the film-making work from the outside world.

The Siren said...

Can't tell. Apparently not June Allyson, whoever it is. They are showing Star of Midnight on 4/8 at 5:45 though!

The Siren said...

Arthur, I will make a note about Red Angel. I really love Japanese film of the 1930s and post-war era. (I don't think I have seen much from the war years, if indeed much was made.)

I thought Day for Night shared some elements with The Stunt Man (another terrific movie) and came to find out that apparently Truffaut had parts of the novel in mind and was even in line to film it at one point.

mndean said...

The queen of film blogs and no Ichikawa? Now I don't feel so bad about my blind spots (okay, they're legion but I'm sort of a specialist). Start with Nobi, An Actor's Revenge, and maybe the deadpan sex comedy Kagi. At least that's about where I started.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's Ronnie at his best.

Karen said...

Wow, David: great clip! I only wish Cassavetes' swing had looked as realistic as Ronnie's swipe at Angie.

X. Trapnel said...

Ah,I remember it well, that sock to Ronnie's jaw. A friend once taped it and we watched over and over and over...

Arthur S. said...

A better scene from the same film is when the Killers - Uber-cool Marvin and ultra-hip Gallagher corner him in his office. It's like a dream come true seeing a President off-balance in his own office. I wish there was a scene where Marvin slapped Ronnie.

The Siren said...

M., most of my blind spots are in foreign film but then I have always had rather specific interests too! I don't have a good explanation for most of the things I haven't seen. In most cases it was just that the urge to track it down never seized me, or with some specific big movies (Day for Night is an example) I kept hoping I could see it in a theatre at some point. I could write a memoir of my movie-going life and it would resemble a wave graph, with some definite troughs where I didn't see much, and peaks where I was seeing a bunch of movies per week.

Yep, fun stuff, that clip, although Cassavetes was definitely pulling that punch. Then again, those of us who lived through the 80s well remember that approach to Reagan.

Arthur S. said...

The 30s and the Post War period is consider Japan's classical period(it was also classical period for France, US, Great Britain and most of the rest of the world
...convenient no?).

In the 60s and 70s you had the so-called Japanese New Wave of Oshima, Imamura, Kiju Yoshida(whose EROS + MASSACRE is the third greatest title of all time). It's so-called because they all hated the term. Oshima is the most widely known thanks both to his talent and vision as well as his immense self-promotion. Yasuzo Masumura was a precursor to this group, between two worlds as it were.

During the war, films were made in Japan as it was everywhere else(To hell with war shortages, you can't live without movies). Most of the work as expected was propaganda though there are exceptions. Like Naruse's HIDEKO THE BUS CONDUCTRESS(his first film with a super-young and super-cute Hideko Takamine) is an interesting rural comedy but there is sharp social criticism under that surface and quite daring at the time.

The most famous is Mizoguchi's THE LOYAL 47 RONIN. It was intended to be like Eisenstein's ALEKSANDR NEVSKY but Mizoguchi subverted the expectations and made a moody dense film about the tragedy of following the Samurai code.

The main damage during the wa however is the loss of many class films, during the bombings many films got burnt and faded away. So bye bye myriad silent Mizoguchi and most Japanese silent films.

The Siren said...

Arthur, I saw and liked Hideko the Bus Conductress during my big Naruse binge in Toronto--Gloria, who's also a big fan of Naruse and Takamine, recently pointed out to me that this one is on Youtube, or was at that time. (I don't see it now).

The 47 Ronin is one of the few Mizoguchi I haven't seen, alas!

I seem to prefer the classical period no matter whose cinema we are talking about, I admit it.

X. Trapnel said...

To return to the thread of cinematic jerkdom; if Robert Ryan in Clash by Night is King of the Jerks, then Leaud in Day for Night is the Crown Prince.

Kevin Deany said...

Ronald Reagan is quite affecting in "The Hasty Heart", but I don't think that's on TCM's schedule this month. It also contains a wonderful performance by the always underrated Richard Todd.

I don't have too much of a problem making Reagan Star of the Month. Regardless of one's political beliefs, he did become President, and thus part of our nation's history.

However, like many here, I would prefer it if Jack Carson would be a Star of the Month one day.

I taped "The Burmese Harp" but have yet to watch it, but am looking forward to it. Siren, thanks for the nudge.

Unfortunately, my idea of watching a foreign film is "Godzilla vs. Mothra", so I have lots of catching up to do in my foreign film viewing.

I still need to see "Rules of the Game" and "Children of Paradise" lest my film buff card gets taken away from me.

The Siren said...

XT, Leaud was breathtakingly jerky, you're right.


When I realized he had actually called Bisset's husband, merely after a one-night stand, I was flabbergasted. Who DOES that???

***end spoiler**

Kevin, it isn't that I don't think Reagan merits the distinction--although Jack Carson would be a MUCH better choice, and result in a better roster of films--I just wish it didn't come on the heels of 31 Days of Movies We've Already Seen (For the Most Part).

Rules of the Game and Children of Paradise are easy to love, you will see, despite their exalted reputations.

X. Trapnel said...

Siren, nobody actually does that, but that scene followed by the one in which Leaud begs pocket money for the whorehouse should make every man examine his soul for spots of jerkishness.

By the way, for years I've been longing for a public forum in which to express my irritation with the posturing performance of the actor who plays Bisset's husband, especially the moment of forgiveness when he sticks his oh-so-handsome head in the doorway and drawls "Zhoolee." A pie in the face is called for.

D Cairns said...

I always figured the male cheesecake in Day For Night was provided by Truffaut himself. He's not conventionally studly but his legendary success with women suggests he had appeal.

My favourite Ichikawa, by a long way, is An Actor's Revenge, which is joyously deranged. I was kind of disappointed when I realised his other films aren't really like that.

Red Angel is indeed intense and overwhelming, but Ichikawa's Fires on the Plain is even more savage, and a lot more depressing. That one will follow you around for a while. It's kind of a test case of how grim a film can get and not just make you switch off.

Arthur S. said...

Well I have never understood the fuss over CHILDREN OF PARADISE. It's certainly very interesting and detailed but as a whole it doesn't hold up at all, not unlike GONE WITH THE WIND. And I am not the only one. Jean Gruault, the great French screenwriter is open and vocal about his dislike for the film and kept saying that he never understood what Truffaut(for whom he wrote the majority of his work) saw in that.

THE RULES OF THE GAME of course is the real thing. One of the crowning achievements of film history. But it's also immensely complex and not immediately accessible. It took me three viewings to get into that film. But once you take the plunge there's nothing else like it. Truffaut called it the most pessimistic film of all time but it's also filled with gaiety and vitality and poignant characters even if in Renoir's opinion, "none of them were worth saving."

Great that you saw HIDEKO, it's a real gem of a film. And a great example of Naruse's diversity that doesn't often get notice. It's a very earthy comedy, accessible to all but it's also filled with irony.

The classic period of film-making did everything for the first time and is piled and backloged like anything, hence it seems inexhaustible and more pleasurable.

The Siren said...

"By the way, for years I've been longing for a public forum in which to express my irritation with the posturing performance of the actor who plays Bisset's husband, especially the moment of forgiveness when he sticks his oh-so-handsome head in the doorway and drawls "Zhoolee." A pie in the face is called for."

Actual LOL. I am proud to have provided a forum for the delicious perfection of this remark.

The Siren said...

Arthur, I totally disagree on both points -- Children of Paradise is a masterpiece, a much finer film than Gone with the Wind, and I loved Rules of the Game from the moment I first saw it. What can I say?

David, David, David (Cairns)--Truffaut as cheesecake? Mais non. Jane Campion is attractive but if she put herself in a movie where she was the only concession to the male urge for feminine pulchritude they'd be storming the projection room.

I'm extremely intrigued by An Actor's Revenge. Fires on the Plain is clearly a must but it isn't beckoning in quite the same way, for obvious reasons.

Somewhat related aside--my next foreign entry will probably be La Fin du Jour and regarding that, did I read right at your place, that Lydia is out on Region 2? And what the HELL is going on with Un Carnet de Bal?

Gareth said...

It belongs to an entirely different post, now laced with comments and far in the blog-past, but since there was many a lament for the way in which this year's Oscar "In Memoriam" was staged from the perspective of those at home, I thought it worth mentioning that you can watch the whole thing online without any irritating cutaways. It doesn't restore those overlooked by the Academy, but it's good to be able to actually see Cyd Charisse et al.

Arthur S. said...

Don't forget Truffaut's cameo in THE STORY OF ADELE H. where he blatantly hits on Isabelle Adjani onscreen(and was apparenty thwarted) and obviously thought that he was a big dreamboat. Truffaut is indeed quite good looking, and he is quite charming in a star turn in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS.

Spielberg cast Truffaut in that film on the basis of his performances in DAY FOR NIGHT and especially THE WILD CHILD, fusing the dedicated scientist of the latter with the childlike youthful director of the former. Of course with THE GREEN ROOM, Truffaut really challenged himself.

Leaud in DAY FOR NIGHT doesn't come of as a jerk but as well a Big Kid. He's basically a more spoilt Antoine Doinel in that film. Leaud as jerk is at his height in LA CHINOISE, where he plays a crazed Maoist.

I haven't seen FIRES IN THE PLAIN so i'll take your word that it's tougher than RED ANGEL. What I liked about that film was it's revolutionary take on anti-war theme and it's revolutionary approach on eroticism. And then the use of 'Scope is beautiful.

AN ACTOR'S REVENGE testifies to Ichikawa's influence from Walt Disney. He started as an animator and was quite taken by Disney's work. In this film he has fun with this arch campy revenge film turning into an excercise of style. In Japan, critics see it as a joke and not one of his best.

Karen said...

I always thought Truffaut quite attractive indeed.

Oh, and I will second the love for L'enfants du paradis, a film I put off watching for some time (so august, so lengthy!), but which quite took my breath away when I finally came down to it.

X. Trapnel said...

Not half as proud as I am to have elicited an actual LOL from you, Siren.

I should add that the silly chugging motif that Delerue tacks on to the end of the scene enhances the delicious absurdity.

Gareth said...

I have to agree with our hostess on Truffaut; he has a certain nerdy charm, but cheesecake, I guess I don't see it. There's charm but no magnetism for me. As for Jane Campion, I don't think I'd have a problem with that as the sole concession long as she was able to keep Harvey Keitel in his trousers this time around. We all have our blind spots.

I had the reverse reaction to La Règle du jeu versus Les Enfants du paradis: the former bewitched from the first moment, whereas I had to go back and watch the latter several times before it really worked for me (unlike other Carné films).

DavidEhrenstein said...

Truffaut said of Adjani "She's James Dena come back as a woman." And indeed she was, in more ways than one, as she had no interest in sleeping with him back then.

Cut to Warren Beatty picking his teeth in the wings.

As for begging for money to go to the whoreouse, that's Leaud not Truffaut.

While he's very good in La Chinoise Leaud's best performances to date are in Out 1 and The Mother and the Whore.

X. Trapnel said...

From reading Truffaut's correspondence I don't sense that he thought himself any sort of dreamboat (one of the refreshingly un-French things about him), he just thought women magical, and why not? However I do recall a tableau from the deBaeque/Tubiana bio that has FT at a Hollywood poolside, absorbed in a book about Tay Garnett or King Vidor or whoever, oblivious of the microscopically clad beauties looking at him with curiosity.

Yojimboen said...

Holy crap - what with the clock shift and all - waking up on the left coast and finding you're 40 comments behind on a brand new post! I gotta get me a new butler...

Where to begin? Where to start? Street of Shame? I’ve always loved/hated Toshirô Mayuzumi’s score – particularly the title music; his ear-splitting Theremin is pure It Came from Outer Space; added to the screeching violins and you’re half-expecting a Japanese Norman Bates to come at you with a samurai sword. But the film itself has a crystalline elegance to it; as hard as it is to watch, it is beautifully made, and wise way beyond its years. And, Sirène, not to brag (okay, mebbe a little) Machiko Kyo was on my actress list.

XT? Nathalie Baye? I won’t tell you again, hands off!
(I’ll settle for the three of us getting a room.)

Of course Jackie Bisset is exquisitely beautiful, she’s half-Scottish. (A common name in Scotland, where it’s pronounced with the accent on the first syllable; as in ‘kiss it’ – would that I could.)

I’ve always seen Day for Night as a tragedy; a swansong for a vital part of French Cinema; namely, Victorine Studios where the film was shot. (As were countless others, including the first French sound film Renoir’s Toni.)
It was once a magnificent thriving studio – not so much now. (Its near-death-knell was the building of Nice Airport and Victorine suddenly finding itself in the flight path, making synch sound shooting even harder.

XT. “Ronzo”? Very nice.
Consider it stolen.

King’s Row? Loving Korngold and Ann Sheridan as I do, it’s still beyond root canal to sit through. Forever one my top-ten overrated movies.

Re Ronzo, at least he gave Jack Warner his one funny quote (when RR was elected California Governor): “It’s our fault, we should have given him better parts.”

Stepping decorously into Kenneth Anger-dom for a moment, the word around this town has always held that the RR’s break-up with JW had less to with Johnny Belinda and more to do with the superior, shall we say, Lewinski-esque skills of her successor.

I need coffee.

Meanwhile, I forbid any praise or discussion of Ichikawa without inclusion of his other half: wife and screenwriter Natto Wada.
Without whom...

Arthur S. said...

What about LES DEUX ANGLAISES ET LE CONTINENT, that was the film that made me realize that he was indeed a great actor. I haven't seen the two legendary films by Eustache and Rivette yet and likely won't get to for the latter any time soon. I also thought he was special in a Philippe Garrel film I saw recently, LA NAISSANCE DE L'AMOUR where he plays a very restrained sensitive guy quite unlike the eccentrics he portrayed in the 60s.

I only called Truffaut a dreamboat in relation to that cameo which is quite weird. You have to see the film to really understand. Truffaut was obviously extremely charming in person and was on best of terms with his ex-wife. That bit you mention about him being oblivious to obviously attractive women merely makes HIM more attractive to THEM and Truffaut knew that.

I once read a rumour, maybe it's spurious but I like the suggestiveness. Apparently Bertolucci cast Leaud in LAST TANGO IN PARIS believing that Leaud would parody his famous mentor(with whom he has a considerable facial resemblance) only to be told at the end that Leaud actually based his character on Bernardo himself.

Arthur S. said...

(As were countless others, including the first French sound film Renoir’s Toni.)

I think you meant the first film shot with direct sound on location. There was very little studio work involved in that in any case.

The Siren said...

Truffaut had a certain appeal, on screen and in real life--in fact in real life I might have fallen for him like a ton of bricks, given my documented weakness for French intellectual types. I just meant he hadn't the camera-fogging beauty of the women in the picture. Dani is quite something too although not to my taste.

So Y., it's BIS-et? Aha. I shall correct myself from now on. I definitely saw an elegiac quality in Day for Night, it's even made explicit during Truffaut's speech as he's driving his car around the square.

X. Trapnel said...

I recall Leaud in Last Tango as a near-caricature of an hysteric cineaste. He was good in Two English Girls but I'm not sure he conveyed what I think of as the solemn self-regard of the character (I've actually tried the envision the mysterious Henri Serre in this part).

You're on, Yojimboen! I suggest we show up at Mlle. Baye's door as loudmouthed American tourists (shorts and Hawaiian shirts). She'll be overwhelmed.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Campaspe: Just a note to let you know that the US DVD of An Actor's Revenge was released with the awkward title of Revenge of a Kabuki Actor. I only have the New Yorker VHS tape. I haven't seen the DVD version, but AnimEigo does terrific subtitles, including bits explaining some of the historical and cultural bits that otherwise might be missed by Westerners.

mndean said...

All this talk of Truffaut reminds me also that it's been about 15 years since I sat through one of his films. I can't think of a reason why, either. I remember reading his correspondence and thinking how he seemed to get prematurely old, and after seeing The Green Room (which is sort of morbid) I was left with the same feeling. I don't know why but after Small Change, I just didn't feel the same way about him as a director.

As far as Ichikawa, Nobi is a very pessimistic film and it's not a thing to go into thinking "Wow, a war movie!" I actually wanted to get one of my friends to watch it by telling him it was a war movie, but I never did. It would have been too much like the time I told him I found a great movie about truckers - The Wages of Fear.

The Siren said...

" It would have been too much like the time I told him I found a great movie about truckers - The Wages of Fear."

Ha! I did a post a couple of years ago about my father tricking my cousins into watching How Green Was My Valley by slyly implying that it was a sort of Welsh "Quiet Man." It's the sort of thing you can only do once, unfortunately.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I'm over-the-moon about French intellectual types too, Campaspe.
My current obsession on that score is Gregoire LePrince-Ringuet (seen here with my second current favorite French intellectual obsession, Louis Garrel)

Gerard Jones said...

Wait...we're talking about Kenji Mizoguchi and Ronald Reagan in the same thread? I don't know if I can handle this...smoke starting to pour out of my ears...

Gloria said...

As for "Hideko, Bus conductress", I only was capable of seeing two bits on youtube... I wonde rif there were more, or just those two as a sampler.

"(I don't think I have seen much from the war years, if indeed much was made.)"

I have only seen a coupe of films, though I admit they have made me curious about seeing more.

One is Kinoshita's "Rikugun (The Army)". While it's mostly straightforward propaganda (sort of "men must be strong and manly, become soldiers, and gladly die for the Emperor")... there are points which seem to subvert the message: a parent concerned about his son's fate in Manchuria is accused of being anti-patriotic for just wanting to know whether he's dead or alive... The sorrowful look in the old man's face seems a criticism on the sacrifices demanded of them.

And then there's the ending, with Kinuyo Tanaka trying to say goodbye to her son, who's parading through the town in his way to the front. It's a magnificent final scene. more as tanaka, who probably was asked by the scriptto display patriotic pride on her offspring's fate, actually conveys what every mother on earth must feel when she senses she'll never see a son again... and whether that is worth the sacrifice.

The other film is Kurosawa's "Ichiban utsukushiku (The Most beautiful One)" about a group of young women working in an Optics factory contributing to the war effort. Again, propaganda about how one must work hard to serve the country, but the hardships and daily life of the young factory girls are not idealized (it is presented as a tough life indeed: they fall ill and are dog-tired) , and there's a slight pronouncement about women's equality (the girls vindicate that they can contribute to an increase in the factory's production as much as the men)

Vanwall said...

I'm with M Gerard - the thought of Mizoguchi and Reagan together on the same blog topic is kinda unnatural, like some kind of very, very far shore, possibly mythological, of human/non-human conjoinment. I don't want to go there, ever again.

Yes, "Kings Row" is a regular stop on my psycho-families viewing list, tho, and Ronnie is, for me at least, a very good actor for that one film, that one part, that one strip of celluloid that doesn't suck. That's it, tho - there are many films I avoid because Monkey Boy is in them.

Totalitarian regime war films, or films made during wars by same, are way too similar for me as far as originality is concerned to be interesting in the long run, but the ones made by the same people after their regimes asses have been kicked, or have simply begun to fade from generational ennui, that's when I like to see the films they produce.

The Siren said...

But V., what about Dark Victory? I do think his playboy is pretty good there too. I like the two with Flynn, Desperate Journey and Santa Fe Trail, but more despite Reagan than because of him.

X. Trapnel said...

"human/non-human conjoinments"--does anybody remember the B*sh SOTU where he spoke out against "animal-human hybrids"? The War on Centaurs never did get off the ground, did it? No right-wing chorus as per "Why does the Little Mermaid hate America?" Off topic, I know, but the repeated invocation of President Ron has unlocked memory's chamber of horrors.

Vanwall said...

Siren - "Dark Victory" is good despite Reagan, and a block of carefully trimmed knotty pine could've stood in for him there, AFAIC, but he did look and move well in the costumery. I noticed Reagan needed to feed off of other actors' performances to even be good enough for a glance up from the gruel. Flynn was a wonderful screen presence, and threw off boundless energy, so Ronnie was basking in that glow in the two you mentioned, and in "Kings"Row", say what you will about Cumming's acting, he too projected energy if of a desperate-to-please kind, and Ann Sheridan blasted right off the screen enough for me, I judge she must've been like nuclear fission to Reagan's damper rod - he was bound to pick up a few flying acting particles just being on the same lot as her.

He had a vacuousness to his performances in my eyes, and overcoming that must've been too much an effort for him, as he seemed to be able to do it only on the rare, or one, occasion. He was an excellent stills subject however, with a killer smile, but that was only reinforcing his best acting.ranatmes

X. Trapnel said...

Cummings didn't have enough of anything to hold Kings Row together; Joel McCrea would have been right. Besides Rains, Sheridan, Korngold there were other good things, excellent supporting performances from a truly frightening Charles Coburn, my adored Nancy Coleman, Judith Anderson, Harry Davenport. Small point of interest: Ernest Cossart, who plays Sheridan's father, was the brother of the great English composer Gustav Holst.

mndean said...

Did Cummings have enough of anything to hold any picture together? If he did, I haven't seen it. He just about defines lightweight. With that, he's still a better actor than Reagan. I'd rather watch George Brent when he's not trying (a considerable part of his career). Lyle Talbot, even.

mndean said...

Yeah, that's why I didn't do it - I knew I couldn't get away with it twice. My approximate description was "psycho truckers racing cross-country with nitroglycerin as their payload". Hey, it's true, isn't it? On the surface, anyway.

The things I did to get philistines to watch decent films.

X. Trapnel said...

mnd, it's not that Cummings is exactly bad. He was essentially a television/sitcom actor before the fact. Place him in the middle of cinematic activity (as in Saboteur where he's a disaster) he's not the magnetic center of the moving world, just the hole in the doughnut.

Gerard Jones said...

Ah, so that's what happens when you try to think about Mizoguchi and Ronnie Reagan at the same time...they turn into Bob Cummings!

And speaking of That Hagen Girl and its plot creepiness, I'd love to see a thread sometime on especially sick-making unions of older actors and younger actresses. I'd kick it off with Sabrina, a supremely endearing movie until the end, when it requires me to visualize a lissome Audrey Hepburn pinned beneath Bogart's rotting, cancerous flesh all the way across the Atlantic. Any interest in the topic, Siren?

mndean said...

I can agree with that, and I didn't say he was bad (except where he's really miscast), just too lightweight to carry a film.

X. Trapnel said...

Brilliant dialectics, Gerard. Some similar working out of the Hegelian weltgeist may have yielded the skeletal wraith of late period Audrey Hepburn.

X. Trapnel said...

correction: "may yet yield"

Myself, I find the Cooper-Hepburn coupling even creepier, but then Billy Wilder's view of boy-girl love has always seemed to me passing strange...

Vanwall said...

Guys write movies, guys like 'em young, end of story. There has been an initial story brainstorming session between Spielberg, Kasdan and Lucas regarding Indiana Jones, floating around the 'Net - which I don't care to link to - and in it they are discussing how young Marion was supposed to have been when Indy had his first sexual encounter with her, and keep in mind they suggested she was precociously advanced in seduction, of Indy, of course. They started at 11, kicked it up to 12, and eventually decided it was 15 years old - 16 was too old for an interesting relationship, however. As they pretty much stole Indy's essential look, down to jacket and hat, tomb-raiding character, and even the special light that reveals the secret in a tomb, all from Charlton Heston's Harry Steele in "Secret of the Incas" - which is curiously unavailable for official home viewing, BTW - it floors me that Steele, a much more adult horndog seducer of women tourists visiting Machu Picchu, is transmogrified into a cartoonish pederast in their initial take for Indiana Jones. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

Karen said...

Audrey Hepburn and Bogart; Audrey Hepburn and Coop; Audrey Hepburn and Astaire; Audrey Hepburn and Sexy Rexy; Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant--Our Audrey paid a lot of aging film star dues.

It makes me all the happier that she managed to debut next to Gregory Peck at his youngest and most attractive. If she wasn't a nun or a lesbian she was with a man old enough to be her grandpa.

X. Trapnel said...

Not unlike Grace Kelly. Was this a Fifties thing?

Gerard Jones said...

Definitely peaked in the '50s. In the '30s if Adolph Menjou is putting the moves on Frances Dee you know he's sleazy and you hope she runs back to David Manners's arms ASAP. (I doubt that those three were ever in the same flick, but you know what I mean.) I know there were exceptions, but the usual moral was that youth was to be shared with the young, not offered up on the altar of senescence.

Sexual politics were part of that...but I think a lot of it too was that the generation of male stars who came up in the early sound era were still considered bankable romantic leads while their female counterparts were being shuffled off or turned into psychotic harridans or comic relief. So a new generation of ingenues was wedded to the Coopers, Bogarts, Astaires and Gables like a bunch of picture brides.

That was less likely earlier because the old silent idols were being mothballed for a wave of new young men. I seem to remember John Gilbert being paired up quite improbably with far younger actresses when he was clinging to a career in the '30s...but there weren't many like him.

Something similar's happened in recent years as Stallone, Willis, Arnie, etc. have aged.

Of course one should also consider the age of producers and directors. The young turk who would find it revolting to put his lead actress in bed with a sexagenarian may convince himself 30 years later that audiences will love it. The Hollywood power elite was pretty old in the '50s.

Gerard Jones said...

Vanwall: is that story about Spielberg et al authenticated to any extent? Even in the early '80s, when American culture was much less alarmed about underage sex, I have a hard time believing that these guys were contemplating an 11-year-old seductress in the context of their all-audiences fantasy. I mean, 11! Even Dolores Haze was 12 before she started living out the fantasies of an older male writer.

Yojimboen said...

X - You bring up Grace Kelly without mentioning Dial M for Murder? Remember who she's hiding the salami with? I mean Ray Milland was no Cary Grant, but christ! She prefers Bob CUMMINGS??

I think Cummings was the Nicholas Cage of his generation. A total mystery to me how either of them ever had a career.

Gerard Jones said...


X. Trapnel said...

Yojimbo, a possible explanation is that Nicholas Cage is the perfect postmodern actor: no matter what he plays he's miscast.

What is this Reagan-Cummings thing leading to!!?? Robbie Benson?? Dean Jones???

mndean said...

The sexualization of young adolescent girls was at its peak in the US from the mid '70s to the early '80s. It was pervasive enough that I can't point to just one major example. Since I was around the same age as the girls being sexualized, I sort of took offense to it. So I can believe the gist of the story, as it rings true for the era.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Leave us not forget what Grahame Greene said of Shirley Temple.

X. Trapnel said...

I think part of the 50s middle aged man/young woman pairings had to do with the likelihood that that the studio heads couldn't square Hepburn/Kelly with the revisionist masculinity of Brando/Clift/Dean. It's hard to imagine Hepburn or Kelly tending the wounds of the latter or otherwise subordinating their beauty. As with Laura/Waldo (mutatis mutandis and then some) they are showcased as the possessions of powerful (as against acted upon) men.

The Siren said...

David, have you ever read the article? It was withdrawn and as far as I know has never been anthologized. I would love to see what Greene actually wrote. As I understand, the legal judgment was so draconian to this day you can't even give a direct quote, only paraphrase. I am fond of Shirley Temple but that lawsuit was a bad day for free speech.

X. Trapnel said...

I would check Norman Sherry's biography of Greene. It's staggeringly exhaustive (and exhausting). I recall he makes it as clear as is legally possible.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here it is in all its'lory - the greatest piece of film criticism ever written:

Night and Day, October 28, 1937
"Wee Willie Winkie

The owners of a child star are like leaseholders — their property diminishes in value every year. Time's chariot is at their backs: before them acres of anonymity. What is Jackie Coogan now but a matrimonial squabble? Miss Shirley Temple's case, though, has peculiar interest: infancy with her is a disguise, her appeal is more secret and more adult. Already two years ago she was a fancy little piece — real childhood, I think, went out after The Littlest Rebel). In Captain January she wore trousers with the mature suggestiveness of a Dietrich: her neat and well-developed rump twisted in the tap-dance: her eyes had a sidelong searching coquetry. Now in Wee Willie Winkie, wearing short kilts, she is a complete totsy. Watch her swaggering stride across the Indian barrack-square: hear the gasp of excited expectation from her antique audience when the sergeant's palm is raised: watch the way she measures a man with agile studio eyes, with dimpled depravity. Adult emotions of love and grief glissade across the mask of childhood, a childhood skin-deep.

It is clever but it cannot last. Her admirers — middle aged men and clergymen — respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire. "Why are you making my Mummy cry?" - what could be purer than that? And the scene when dressed in a white nightdress she begs grandpa to take Mummy to a dance - what could be more virginal? On those lines in her new picture, made by John Ford, who directed The Informer, is horrifyingly competent. It isn't hard to stay to the last prattle and the last sob. The story — about an Afghan robber converted by Wee Willie Winkie to the British Raj — is a long way after Kipling. But we needn't be sour about that. Both stories are awful, but on the whole Hollywood's is the better."

Thus endeth the lesson.

The Siren said...


The Siren is at a loss for words.

I was googling and came across this interesting tidbit -- Cavalcanti's papers sound interesting as all hell. And the article does quote Greene.


So, my understanding of whether you could reproduce the article was incorrect, obviously. A few clicks produced a reprint on Bright Lights, posted by you, David. Ha! I'd never looked because I assumed it wasn't there. Won't make that mistake again.

But, as I said, whoa. No wonder the producers wanted that review repressed. It's as nasty and well-written a bit of truth-telling as I have read. The grounds for libel seem quite thin to this American, but then British libel law is a country unto itself.

Wee Willie Winkie, let it be said, is Temple's best movie.

Vanwall said...

It is ever thus - sic transit gloria Winkie, I guess. And don't get me started about Velvet - National, that is. Creeeeepyyy.

Yojimboen said...


Thanks for the lesson, Mr. E.
Colour me seriously impressed.

Greene goes back up on the shelf next to Agee and Ferguson.

One wonders what he would have thought of The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.

Vanwall said...

Gerard - RE: verification; I ran across it on the net - I haven't heard any of lawyers chasing it, and it reads plausible. The scary thing is most of the comments I've read about it are a bit gung-ho for my tastes.

Karen said...

One may wonder what he'd say about The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer (where, to be fair, the infatuation is entirely hers), but I feel one knows what he would say about That Hagen Girl.

Gerard Jones said...

You know, I'd forgotten how pervasive the sexualization of pubescent girls was in those years. I was in my early 20s and not thinking about children's or adolescents issues from any direction. Saw Taxi Driver when it came out but only thought of the Iris storyline as a sign of depravity, and I didn't notice the Jodie Foster industry that followed it. Never saw Pretty Baby or any Tatum O'Neil after Paper Moon. But I do remember people nudging and winking over Polanski's misdeeds. So suddenly, yeah..I can see where even mainstream Hollywood guys could actually think an 11 or 12 year old seductress was a good idea. Looks pretty appalling now.

Gerard Jones said...

Eternal gratitude to David for the Greene quote and Siren for the link to the article. Astonishing that a man would have to flee his own country because he wrote something about Shirley Temple.But if it led to The Power and the Glory and Greene's other tropical expat novels...then thank you, Shirley!

DavidEhrenstein said...

This culture has always sexualized children -- and then does a Claude Rains in Casblanca when anyone actually acts on it.

I'm not giving Polanski a pass but it's pretty damned obvious that the girl's mother put her there alone with him on purpose.

Taxi Driver and Pretty Baby give the game away. They're both startlingly host films.

X. Trapnel said...

The late 60s and 70s is the period in which counterculture infantilism became dialectically entwined with the mainstream self-consciously "adult" culture (see Preminger's Skidoo [if you can], or A.B. Toklas/What's New Pussycat to witness the transvaluation of all values), dialectically yielding Spielbergism, Brat Packery, F. Bueller, Blue Lagoon. 20+years later we're still stuck in entropic drift.

mndean said...

I see it happening at the same time. Think of the '60s/'70s and the extremely young groupies of rock stars. The sexualization of girls in Hollywood and on Madison Avenue (an ad for scotch billed "the perfect 12-year-old was accompanied by a silver-haired lech and an adolescent girl, both drinking). Hell, it was so pervasive that I remember that a porn-magazine comic strip about a pedophile (Chester the Molester) was actually used as a comic answer on a game show in that era. And Polanski wasn't the only one boffing young stuff in those times. It was sort of done as nod-and-a-wink leering, and it really was everywhere. Infantilization of adult culture had much to do with it. "Be young forever" was touted as a real lifestyle choice.

Gerard Jones said...

Skidoo as the transvaluation of values...is Nietzsche spinning or laughing in his grave?

And I did see that thing quite recently. I blame Preminger's stint as Mr. Freeze on the Batman TV show. Sometimes old guys shouldn't be allowed to think they can be hip.

I Love You ABT I saw when it first came out, with my parents, when I was 11. I was horrified to think that the adult world I was soon to be thrust into might actually look like that. I was relieved to hear my parents jeer at it, hoping that that meant I had alternative paths.

In addition to the infantilizing of American culture, I think we were going through a period of rejecting all sexual taboos as repressive and transgressing them as proof of sophistication. Which of course sparked a terrified counter-reaction, leading to 19 year olds going to prison for having sex with their 17 year old girlfriends. Will we ever stop swinging on the sexual pendulum? Will we ever even want to, or is the cultural swinging half the fun?

Karen said...

I'd just like to say how very satisfying it is to be an habituee of a blog where a post on foreign films can engender comments that range from said films to Ronald Reagan to Shirley Temple to Graham Greene to the trope of sexualized adolescent girls to exile to the excesses of the '60s.

Pretty. Damn. Satisfying.

Gerard Jones said...

Don't forget Bob Cummings! He's the best part!

Uncle Gustav said...

Speaking of sexualized adolescent girls, there's a new AnnaSophia Robb movie coming out Friday. Damn, she's cute. I refuse to say any more in fear that I'd find a cop car stationed in front of my digs.

Anyway, Siren, a fairly recent film to add to your Netflix foreign queue: Priceless with Audrey Tautou. Breezy, frothy, with a nice score by Camille Bazbaz.

It's not up to the High Standards of the films you've been watching, but we all need a fluff break once in a while, don't we?

Gerard Jones said...

Say, what does anyone here think about Teinosuke Kinugasa? I saw JUJIRO at the Silent Film Festival and was pretty knocked out by the visuals and narrative style. I understand at least one of his other silents has survived and some of his later movies are at least interesting to look at.

X. Trapnel said...

Nietzsche, for once, is dumbfounded. The paradox I'm trying to work out is the fact that, cinematically speaking, all this pedophilia came at the end of the Sexcapade period, the sex comedies with no sex and no comedy (like bladeless knives without handles); queasy-making items like Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed, How to Save a Marriage (and Ruin Your Life), Guide for the Married Man, Boy's Night Out, How to Committ Marriage, Marriage-Go-Round ("marriage" was considered terribly "adult" and "sophisitcated.") All of this crashed in the movies I listed previously and somehow the debris is still part of the cultural air we breathe today, but somehow the "adult" part has been synthesized out or displaced in Freudian fashion.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Hold it -- I think you're gonna like this picture!"

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's the lovely, and much-missed, John Philip Law on Skidoo .

My boyfriend Bill's memoir "Early Plastic" (which you can sill find on e-bay and elsewhere)has a whole chapter on Skidoo as he was crashing in John Philip Law's basement at the time. It was the Law's house up on Miller Drive just above Sunset Blvd. All manner of 60's flora and fauna were up there. Bill tells of a memorable meeting between Donayale Luna and Nico -- both chattering away happily to one another "in their Mittel-Martian accents.")

John was going with Barbara Parkins at the time. Bill says they were the two most beautiful creatures he ever laid eyes on. One day as luck would have it Bill had a bad acid trip. And who should volunteer to help him out of it?

Barbara Parkins.

Now I ask you, ladies and germs -- is that the Ultimate 60's Exerience or what?

Karen said...

X listed several of "the sex comedies with no sex and no comedy."

Dear god, what a perfect description!

I watched Guide for the Married Man once and was almost literally nauseated by the end of it. There was such a smarmy eat-your-cake-but-have-it-too vibe to it, with Bobby Morse schooling Walter Matthau in how to be a successful adulterer and then, when he gets his own chance, deciding he really loves his wife. Gack.

What's mysterious to me--and why I love coming here, with all you simpaticos--is how beloved it appears to be. Maltin rates it fairly high, and user comments at IMDb say things like "a film that is a lot of fun and doesn't appear too dated" (!!); "One of the best sex comedies of all time;" "This entertaining bit of froth stands up well;" etc etc etc.

My own comment was less favorable:

It's fascinating that this was directed by Gene Kelly; it says so much about him, and little of it good.

And, Gerard, oops on the Bob Cummings. One must never forget Bob Cummings, O Best Beloved.

X. Trapnel said...

I'm not sure which is more astonishing; that people like A Guide for the Married Man or that anyone remembers it (I thought I was dredging up something forgotten from that period that used to seem important like U Thant or celanese fortrel).

DavidEhrenstein said...

A Guide For the Maried Man is so mouldy. It desperately wants to be hip and "with-it" but doesn't have a clue as to how to do so.

Ironically Booby Morse now has a very important role on Mad Men -- easily one of the hippest things ever.

Vanwall said...

Ok, this thread has officially gone beyond the very, very far shores of human/non-human conjoinment on my Map Of Known Vanwall, and fallen off the edge like the Crimson Permanent Assurance Pirates...Monkey Boy and Mizoguchi, Moppets and BOB CUMMINGS!! - Cap'n! Mah engines canna handle the strain!

DavidEhrenstein said...

You rang?

DavidEhrenstein said...

And here's part 2

D Cairns said...

I'm not aware of any official release of Lydia, alas. My own download of it is of suspicious origins, and has very strange technical flaws... I enjoyed it loads but think it might on the whole be better to wait for a release or a TCM screening.
The abruptness of the ending suggests either a problem with the print or studio interference of the kind which plagued Duvivier in Hollywood.
Hope you love La Fin du jour as much as I do.

Yojimboen said...

Mr. Jones - Re Teinosuke Kinugasa, I have a fuzzy copy of his Kurutta Ippêji which you’re welcome to. It is something of a small miracle.
a) Because it survived: it was lost for half a century then rediscovered, and
b) because it’s that rarity of rarities: something you’ve (I’ve) never seen before.

Watching it, you start to fall into the trap of trying to ascribe influences. Start with Dali. No wait, Chien Andalou was made three years after this… Pudovkin? Sorry, Mother was made the same year (1926). In panic you start dredging up the early-60s US avante-garde: Brakhage, Connor, Emshwiller…

Forget it, there’s nothing in any genre remotely like it. Oh, there are shots I’m pretty sure I’ve seen since, in Kurosawa, Teshigahara, Shindo, but now I’m up to my neck in Donald Richie waters and I don’t swim that well.

It’s something to see.

mndean said...

I saw Guide For The Married Man and didn't understand its regard, either. I like Morse, too, which the only reason I watched the damned thing.

Oh, and Karen, regarding your mea culpa of hijacking the thread, you can take it back. Hijacking is something people do to get others to talk about what they want and they do it often until they become an annoyance. What happened here goes by the correct name "thread drift". Any sufficiently long comment thread experiences drift. Here it's often profitable (though I'm still irked about the last thread - I brought up Robert Ryan first. You meanies.

Karen said...

I stand corrected--and most grateful, indeed!

mndean said...

I must be having a bad day. I'm leaving quotes and parenthetical comments unclosed. Time for my penitent 40 lashes.

Yojimboen said...

Re Mea Culpas - I may be the fool who first brought Bob Cummings into the stream - a thousand pardons, I beg. Let me lay him to rest by granting a mention of his (IMHO) one competent performance: the believably repulsive job he did in that most adorable of Adorably-Bad Movies: The Carpetbaggers.

R.I.P. Bob.

Uncle Gustav said...

Like most of the "with it" movies of the 60s, Guide for the Married Man was tragically un-hip in '67 and felt dated the day it came out. That Gene Kelly directed it doesn't reveal any previously unknown misogyny or lack of morals... or lack of taste, for that matter. The subject matter was all the rage in the prosperous post-War years with the invention of the American middle class (hattip to the GI Bill of Rights).

There's no denying the film sucks (Inger Stevens in a bikini notwithstanding), but the theme song by The Turtles is a hoot. Below are its lyrics, delivered with sarcastic aplomb by Flo & Eddie:

What we need in the world today
Is a guide for the married man
Some simple thing that in every way
Would provide for the harried man
Help him not to worry
Assist him to relax
Help him slow his heart rate
And spare him cardiacs

Such a guide would in many ways
Turn the tide for the married man
Enable husbands to fill their days
As only the married can
Every man would praise it
It's such a splendid plan
Someday soon we shall point with pride
To the guide for the married man

By the side of the married man
'Tis the lady who shares his life
You help the bride of the married man
By removing the husband's strife
Every wife who's truthful
Who treasures married bliss
Must keep her husband youthful
What better way than this?

Each and every device we know
Must be tried for the married man
But who can question the debt he'll owe
To the guide for the married man
List things universal
From Pittsburgh to Japan
Every man can be satisfied
By the guide for the married man.

X. Trapnel said...

Checking back, it seems I introduced Bob Cummings into the thread, but he didn't detonate until a bit later something like the time bomb in Touch of Evil.

Gerard Jones said...

X takes the blame for Bob Cummings, but Yojimboen gave us the indelible image of him getting hot and heavy with Grace Kelly. (If only they had NC-17 then!)

I also share a strange fascination with those "sex comedies without sex or comedy" of the mid-to-late '60s. (Wait. Other people WERE confessing a strange fascination, weren't they? Or were you all just saying they sucked?) They're so rich in paradoxes: In trying so, so, SO hard to be (as David says) "hip and with-it" they achieve a level of corn rarely rivaled in cinema. Though only 40 years old, they feel more dated than any movies before them (at least any since the Edison Trust was overthrown), and precisely because they strove so hard to be modern. And of course their puerile, smarmy, giggly, half-drunken, impotent obsession with sex can make a person take up celibacy.

And there were a few that made it even worse by attempting to plug into the teen culture. Or at least some retreating ghost of late '50s teen culture. Like Doctor, You've Got to Be Kidding with Sandra Dee and a bunch of young men, including Dwayne Hickman. And the earlier Bachelor Flat, the Frank Tashlin oddity with Tuesday Weld, Richard Beymer and the inescapable Terry-Thomas. Which, of course, feel even more sickenly, leeringly middle-aged for their efforts to think young.

Gerard Jones said...

Yojimboen: I would love to see Kuratta Ippeji! Is that the one he found in his own attic decades later? (Unless I've misremembered the story in the Silent Festival catalogue.) I hope that can be made to happen somehow.

Oh, and Karen: re Gene Kelly as a director of mouldy corn, have you read THE STUDIO by John Gregory Dunne? There's a funny Gene Kelly scene. I'll see if I can find it...

DavidEhrenstein said...

Oh The Studio is a Must Read. Especially for all the material associated with Hello Dolly! -- a film I've developed a queasy fascination over.

The big story there is the seething mutual hatred of Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau. It came to a head when Walter found little Jason ( who I saw not long ago at the Milk premiere accompanied by his father) playing outside his trailer. Walter screamed bloody murder. Little Jason ran to Mommy. Mommy ran to producer Ernest (Sweet Smell of Success, North By Northwest) Lehman. He told Babs he'd have a talk with the Mighty Matthau. But no sooner had she left the office than HE came storming in -- citing chapter and verse on all of Second-Hand Rose's first-hand outrages.

Lehamn listened calmly and then said "I'm sure you're right and I totally sympathize, but as I'm sure you've noticed the title of this film is not Hello Walter !

X. Trapnel said...

Gerard, they do suck. Utterly. But the fascination is real. Get a hold of Whose Been Sleeping in My Bed and look on aghast at the first 10 minutes or so. The big boffo gag involves gorgeous, lubricious wives trying to drag their uninterested husbands into bed. The latter, you see, would rather play poker with the guys. Haw, haw, and haw. In these films I suspect Hollywood was trying to mediate between suburban values and the presumed allure of the Rat Pack/Playboy aesthetic. Many of these films involve an Everyman figure (impersonated most representatively by Jack Lemmon) tempted by some beguiling out-of-his-league creature (plenty of opportunities for JL's B. Hope cum Porky Pig doubletakes)only to realize in the end that Dorothy Provine or whoever is "really" sexier. And you see they were MARRIED all along!

Yojimboen said...

XT - Sorry to lay false claims to the dubious Bob C door prize. I was trying to take the blame, not the credit.

Whole thing reminds of the saloon scene in My Little Chickadee when W.C. Fields claims to have knocked down Chicago Nellie all those years ago; his companion disagrees, argues he was the one who knocked the old lady down. Fields pauses, then agrees: "Yeah, I think you're right... But I was the one started kicking her!"

X. Trapnel said...


I knew a DNA test would exonerate you eventually; better to 'fess up now and hope for mercy. Truly, I didn't anticpate the consequences of my actions. (Offstage voice: "Yeah, tell it to the judge!")

Noel Vera said...

To pull the discussion a bit further afield--

David, your husband (and he IS your husband dammit--we gotta work on dismantling that Prop 8 bull) once did a wonderful blog post about his fan club and their re-enactment of scenes from Vertigo (including that Kim Novak doll you planned to throw off the bell tower). On that same post was a link to a theme song to Vertigo. Is that post still around? Better yet, is that song still around? I'd love to link to it, or at least download it.

Now, if I can bring the whole thing back a full circle--

Burmese Harp is a wonderful film, Nobi I think a stronger, stranger one. It's set in the Philippines, and its reference to the consumption of monkey meat (the Japanese were retreating, and food was desperately scarce) is both racist and horrifying.

For all its loveliness (and I submit that Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies is perhaps its equal) there's something faintly self-serving about Burmese Harp--as if Ichikawa (and Takahata) and their eulogy to Japan's suffering were somehow shortchanging the suffering dealt out beforehand, when Japan was winning the war (this speaking as native of a country that tasted the hospitality of Japan's occupation forces for three godless years). Probably an unjustified sentiment, but it's there in the back of my head and I can't get rid of it, no matter how I try.

But Nobi--I don't get that feeling at all in Nobi. It's blackly comic, and in its way it acknowledges the terrible absurdity of life. There's no eulogizing in Nobi, no pretentions, or illusions, or anything glossed over, hidden, shortchanged. It's the laser clarity of the film that's so unsettling.

Gerard Jones said...

Hollywood's tortured efforts to tap into the Playboy ethic were fascinating indeed...how to dig their hands into that aromatic pile of moolah without alienating the wives and girlfriends. (A man might peruse Playboy alone, but the assumption was that few men would see a movie or watch a TV show without their better halves.) TV's first and maybe most interest effort was...get ready...THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW! Syndicated as LOVE THAT BOB! (Yes, like a spider he sits at the center of all threads.) It was about a "glamor photographer," and its strategy was to "mock" the Playboy lifestyle while also running a stream of nose-cone-breasted starlets across the screen. Then BACHELOR FATHER took the usual TV approach, taming the kind of man who reads Playboy with the responsibilities of fatherhood.

Movies were apparently supposed to be more sophisticated, so they tied themselves into even uglier knots. How to parade the cuties, mock the cuties, suggest that everyman could have them, show that everyman doesn't really want them...no wonder they're insane!

Jack Lemmon "impersonating" everyman...I like that, X. And the Hope doubletakes. But let's not forget that Hope himself was unafraid to grapple with the complexities of the form. Most of his '60s movies (Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!, How to Commit Marriage) are of the same cloth, just with more asides aimed at the groundlings.

Man. Any time you catch me lamenting the studio system, remind me of this stuff.

Arthur S. said...

To Siren,

I think FORT APACHE is her best film and best performance.

And David, I don't see how that piece qualifies as film criticism. It's a criticism of culture which was actually a joke even in Hollywood.

In Tay Garnett's ''STAND-IN'', there's a gag where a mother forces uptight studio executive Leslie Howard to look at her daughter's dancing which needless to say is more than inappropriate which she says can be the next "Shirley Temple", he closes the door on her.

Polanski should have done the same. Poor guy, in the sense that he's been through enough already to have that dog him into Europe.

Gerard Jones said...

Re Prop 8: Hate to be a downer, but the early rumblings suggest that the state Supreme Court is going to uphold it. Which means we're going to have to take it back to the ballot. People are organizing already....

Arthur S. said...

To mndean,

I remember reading his correspondence and thinking how he seemed to get prematurely old,

Well growing old before one's time is the subject of LES DEUX ANGLAISES ET LE CONTINENT, his most personal film and what is increasingly considered his best film in France.

...and after seeing The Green Room (which is sort of morbid) I was left with the same feeling.

There has always been a morbid side to Truffaut. From SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER onwards. Even JULES ET JIM, his most popular and beloved film, everybody talks about the joy of the first half, the second half however is totally hopeless drifting towards death and then Truffaut at the end shows the remains of a cremation - charred bones and ashes.

Death is a key Truffaut theme.

X. Trapnel said...

Gerard, let's not forget, much as we may like to, A Global Affair. The nose-cone breasts point to a certain "international" theme (de Vol music morphs into Mancini, the women appear to have been dressed by Eero Saarinen) that links the Sexcapades to the Eurocapers, spy "spoofs," and incredibly lame service comedies of the period (someone must have thought the title, The Horizontal Lieutenant was killingly funny).

mndean said...

LES DEUX ANGLAISES ET LE CONTINENT (I had to clip your title and paste it into my post - I'm not going to type something THAT long) is one of those films I really liked, but couldn't totally go for because of my finding Stacey Tendeter's character (or how she played it) mildly annoying for a lot of the film.

As for The Green Room and Truffaut's career, well, it's one thing to depict death as being all around someone (as Shoot the Piano Player does), and in someone having a romance with it. I find #2 automatically morbid.

His correspondence got rather like he was father of the entire French film industry, with youngsters to scold and guide, and contemporaries to lecture. It was all a bit thick and made him seem like he was everyone's paterfamilias. I remember him being rather sexist as well.

My mother would feel the same way about a film depicting the suffering of the Germans in the immediate aftermath of WWII, and for the same reason - she lived under occupation, and the Germans were unbelievably brutal (they shot civilian children for little reason). She'd consider their suffering a settling of scores. My father fought the Germans in WWI as a teenager, and he had no love for them either.

Gerard Jones said...

My God, you're right! They're all the same genre! Same pallette, same sound, same pace, same "humor," same incoherent sexual politics. Yhe generation gap comedy, the marital comedy, the globetrotting comedy, the spy spoof, the WWII romp...they're all the same movie! I suppose this has something to do with America's post-war ascendancy and our reversion to cultural infantilism and the political rise of Ronald Reagan. Perhaps the answer to all this would also explain Bob Cummings' career.

One of these nights I'll have to do a back-to-back of Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? and Street of Shame and see if any understanding emerges.

X. Trapnel said...

I know there's a cryptic cold war pattern that links it all together (most likely Bob Cummings took the code with him). I've even toyed with the idea that the dark corrolary to these movies are all the "tense" films from the same period: Patterns, Pressure Point, Fail Safe, certain Twilight zone episodes.

Another part we haven't explored is the Pacific theater (S. Pacific/King & I/Flower Drum Song and all those movies featuring a white-jacketed Wm. Holden searching for his lost Asiatic love [let's call her Tu Yung] through Oriental marketplaces:

WH: "Tu Yung, Tu Yung!" (fights his way through a crowd of Chinese; seizes a baffled pretty/plain Chinese girl). "Oh, I, I beg your pardon. I thought you were...someone...else." (cue up doomy pentatonic music).

Bob C. had his tentacles everywhere, truly a global affair.

Gerard Jones said...

Those '50s dramas of loss and cruelty in Asia were, I think, just a first groping toward a comprehension of America's role in the new global order. By the '60s that more pained, more fragmentary view of the Pacific Theater and the ongoing conflicts of the East had matured into an understanding that it was all just good fun. What else were The Horizontal Lieutenant and The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell but brilliant beacons to a new human path in which the memories of war and horror had no place? It's just too bad that Ichikawa was unable to see those films before making Burma Harp. Think how they might have changed his vision...

Gerard Jones said...

But tell me this...given how execrable I would no doubt find Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (I haven't seen it, just feel like I have, several times over), why do I like Kiss Me Stupid so much? It's not that I like a movie just because it's by Wilder; I'd put Irma la Douce on the list of leering, pseudo-worldly '60s sex comedies to be avoided (better than most, but not better enough). But I do like Stupid, even though it's leering, even though it's Dino, even though everyone else is miscast in that glorious '60s fashion.

Is it just that it's so honestly sleazy, not even momentarily pretending to urbanity and morality like most of the "marriage" comedies? It takes Dino from the Vegas strip to a whore's trailer behind a saloon in the desert...where the humor that fuels so many American sex comedies is at home.

Figures it would be attacked by censors and moralists while A Guide for the Married Man sails through as "harmless."

The Siren said...

Noel, re: Burmese Harp--as much as I admired the film, and it blew me away, I do know exactly what you mean. There must be some Japanese films that draw a bead on their sins during the war, but I have not seen any.

DavidEhrenstein said...

You're quite right about Kiss me Stupid -- an unsung masterpiece whose reception damaged Wilder's career in the U.S. almost as much as Peeping Tom did Powell's in the UK. it's a painfully honest film about the fact that in America marriage and pimping are not unrelated

As for same-sex marriage, the reports suggest the fix is in. The decision has been made, the top "Mainstream" editors know it and are dutifully feeding taht fact to the public the better to "cushion the blow." The fact of the matter is same-sex marriage is abell that will not be unrung. All the right-wing blather about "traditional marriage" inores the enormous changes the institution has undergone thanks to women's suffrage, birth control and Roe V. Wade.

Societies are not static in the way the fascists (aka. "Conservatives") demand. The closet is over. Neil Patrick Harris has gone where Rock Hudson feared to tred. And eberybody loves Ellen (no last name necessary.) The whole show has to go national. For even if Prop 8 were to be overturned there's the Federal statutes to deal with.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I'd forgotten about that Vertigo salute, Noel.

Try Googling Vertigo plus Bill's website "People-vs-Dr.Chilledair"

The Siren said...

Okay, I thoroughly enjoyed this thread but it has spun way too far out for me to respond to each separate comment as I usually at least try to do.

So--late 50s/early 60s sex comedies. They often have a wonderful vintage look to them, but mostly, I would rather sleep in a hairshirt. I'd rather watch the out-and-out melos like The Best of Everything or Peyton Place or even Marjorie Morningstar (speaking of Kelly). I know its reputation has risen in recent years but I didn't even really like Kiss Me Stupid, dearly as I love Wilder, because it was just so smug about its smut.

I vastly prefer the Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedies to anything else discussed; those are amusing but have a real bite, and aren't so damned pleased with themselves as something like the execrable Guide for the Married Man. Flickhead, I should re-listen to the theme though, obviously.

Bob Cummings: I don't mind him. So shoot me. I actually kind of liked him in Dial M for Murder, too, as it added a little fillip to Milland's evil. You're thinking, well, look at what she's running around with! Geez!

I love Barbara Parkins and believe that marvelous voice alone could bring me down gently from a bad trip, no problem.

mndean said...

I never had much truck for those "life of a successful man in business" genre movies that started in the '50s. Even some that are related, such as Susan Slept Here struck me the same way. I found them all smug and leering to a certain degree, and they often had some depiction of how grotesque older women get, using a caricature of them to prove it. I remember how Tashlin used Joan Blondell in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and was really offended. The same year she was in This Could Be The Night and her older woman character was treated much more sympathetically. The Doris Day films may have been less offensive, but I washed my hands of this genre before I ever saw many of them.

X. Trapnel said...

"By the '60s that more pained, more fragmentary view of the Pacific Theater and the ongoing conflicts of the East had matured into an understanding that it was all just good fun."

Brilliant, Gerard; I'd only add that all the fun was contained acorn-like in the shore leave scenes in Mr. Roberts.

DavidEhrenstein said...

You're quite right about the Rock and Doris films. They're genuinely satirical sex comedies. In Pillow Talk Doris played a successful, independent businesswomen whose feathers get ruffled when she encounters Rock's reckless bachelor. It's a fluffy comey but these were real issues now as then. Lover Come Back is even better as Rock and Doris play competing ad executives. He tries to outdo her by promoting a mysterious product whose actual identity is kept from everyone. It's all about the sell rahter than the thing sold. And in this the film is absolutely correct about the nature of advertising. They were a great sophsiticated comedy team, and while the jokes aren't as fresh as when the films came out their playing is still astonishingly fast and crisp. You'd have to look long and hard to find actors today who have their comedy reflexes.

Uncle Gustav said...

I recently came across this source for hard to find movies on DVD. I can’t vouch for their quality, but they do offer a lot of stuff that’s otherwise out of reach: Yammering Magpie Cinema (I kid you not).

Yojimboen said...

Kiss Me Stupid is an almost movie - Kim Novak is almost at her sexiest (but her bovine characterization kills that) and it's the film that Peter Sellers almost died on (it could only have been better); Ray Walston was a rather desperate last-minute substitute.

Agreed: "...it was just so smug about its smut."

But it does contain for me one of Wilder's (or Izzy's) funniest, though unashamedly filthiest lines, when in the morning clean-up after the party, Dean Martin(?) picks up the empty l-o-o-o-ng-necked chianti bottle (used throughout the film as an unsubtle phallic symbol) Walston says, "Wait, don't throw that out, there might be a deposit on it."

Billy and Izzy, the dirtiest boys in town.

Gerard Jones said...

That "deposit" line was so extraordinary that for a while I tried to talk myself into believing it was an accident. But nah.

Just as an amusing aside, I found this user comment at IMDb: "Does anyone know what happened to all the footage shot with Peter Sellers - proving very hard to track down (or find if it's been deleted)."

Somehow charming, this generation that thinks of physical film being thrown away as having been "deleted."

And speaking of generations...I know Siren doesn't want us to get too much into politics here, but one of the most encouraging signs to come out of Prop 8 poll analysis was the size of the generational divide. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but it was something like voters over 50 favored 8 by a 60-40 margin and voters under 30 opposed it by the same. The country is ready for change. We just need to keep slugging. (And campaign better this time--last year we didn't take the opposition seriously enough until it was too late.)

DavidEhrenstein said...

The other thing , far less reported, was the new generaion of gay and lesbian kds. I went on several marches here in L.A. it my jaw hit the ground at how many "out" youngsters there are -- replete with boyfriends at an age where gay men of my generation had toruble admitting they were gay to themselves. Some supercool straight allies showed up at the marches too, including the lovely Drew Barrymore and the babe-a-licious James Franco.

Yojimboen said...

Hear hear.
Never underestimate the Mormons.
Friendly Persuasion my ass.

Gerard Jones said...

And X: Mr. Roberts was pivotal, wasn't it? Seismic, even. Most of it in the tradition of thoughtful exegeses of the war (embodied in Fonda) but with the lighter stuff popping up, moving into position to take over (embodied in who else but Jack Lemmon, the coming impersonator of Everyman). There's even the explicit passing of the torch at the end, which comes as a tonal shift and not just a change of personnel: where Fonda's assaults on Cagney's palm tree are quiet, dignified acts of democratic push-backs to authority, Lemmon's is all shtick--mugging, stomping, jerking.

Mind you, I mostly like Lemmon in the role, but talk about a cultural and aesthetic shift expressed by actors--and not an entirely felicitous one, either.

Yojimboen said...

Wait! They were Quakers. Sorry about that. But keep watching out for those Mormons.

Gerard Jones said...

David: my son, at 16, is growing up in a peer group for whom it's just understood that a certain number of kids will discover they're gay in adolescence and it's no huge deal. It's just part of the unfolding on the way to adulthood. Of course, we're in San Francisco...I know it's different in Manteca and National City and Marysville. But even in SF this wouldn't have been the case a decade ago.

Gerard Jones said...

And yes, please, do not confuse Quakers and Mormons. The Mormons have never even pretended to stop at "friendly persuasion." Before engaging in any poitical battle with the Latter Day Saints one should Google "Mountain Meadows massacre." The methods have changed the end-justifies-the-means ethic has not.

X. Trapnel said...

And don't forget that goofy glissando trumpet blat (Franz Waxman, how could you?) at the very end. Real Lemmon music.

Still, the film's politics do reflect Hollywood trying to have it both ways: Democrativ vs. authoritarian, but democracy must be delivered from above. A comparison with La Grande Illusion might be instructive. Gabin and Dalio aren't beside themselves with worshipful admiration of Fresnay; their business is survival--life--and Renoir is clearly with them. By contrast, Doug Roberts is always shown as a higher being who has a rendezvous with death, as hazily romantic as Renoir is clear-eyed about the cult of death that binds Stroheim and Fresnay ("I would have shot you too" says F to S in fraternal spirit).

Vanwall said...

In my late '60s high school library, there wasn't a copy of "Catcher in the Rye" - oh, no, it was too subversive and adult for the school board I guess, but dammit, there was a copy of "Mr. Roberts", a much more adult and, for me, subversive book - who screened that stuff? I read it as a freshman, and it edumacated me in the ways of drinking, gambling, whoring, fighting, vandalizing, and shacking up...and all about the mindless ennui of wartime, the sudden end to good comrades, the casual sadism of lesser men under pressure...all in a nice pocket size reference work. The swearing I picked up on my own. "Mr. Roberts" wasn't a sex comedy at all, and the Ensign Pulver there was much more adult than Lemmon's goofy portrayal, and the whole novel was less hammy on the whole, and the movie gutted most of it anyway. I hadn't seen the movie yet, but when I did, I was pretty disappointed - what in the hell did they do to "my" book? I had the same epiphany about MASH, having also read it, and before the movie was even filmed. They took all the bimbo/bozo sly sex innuendos they could and shoved 'em thru a meat grinder to make those two.

Gerard Jones said...

X, you're right. Calling even the better parts of Mr. Roberts a thoughtful exegesis is a bit much. I don't know that Hollywood ever provided such while the survivors of the war were in charge. They just seem thoughtful in contrast to the trumpet-blat portion of the program.

Which reminds: let us know, Siren, if you ever find a Japanese movie that really tackles their part in the war. I've never seen one either, and I'm not convinced they exist. The Japanese have a very strange relationship to that war--strange, at least, to those of us who don't grasp the full Japanese relationship with shame and denial. As often as the Japanese educational establishment gets pounded by the Chinese and Koreans for white-washing the war, and as often as they promise to fix the textbooks, the next edition still always misses the point. Sometimes I think there's a really thorough-going cultural neurosis. The Something Nasty in the Woodshed they will never be able to look straight at.

But if there are exceptions I'd love to see them.

Gerard Jones said...

Vanwall, thanks for pointing us toward Mr. Roberts the novel. I think I knew vaguely that the movie was based on a book, but I'd never thought about it. So many big Hollywood movies were based on books that were hot for a moment and are now forgotten, most often deservedly. This one sounds like the real McCoy...I'll check it out.

Vanwall said...

Masaki Kobayashi's great "The Human Condition" trilogy, starring Tatsuya Nakadai in one of the best performances in cinema history, IMHO, would be the Japanese films that pull very few punches, if any, about WWII, at least in the Manchurian area. It's still a profoundly Japanese viewpoint, but one without blinders - it's brutal.

My in-laws, especially my mother-in-law who was driven from place to place in Europe during WWII and afterward, first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets, has related a number of incidents that are compelling reasons for them to never forget, and possible never forgive both of those regimes, and their toadying Axis-wanna-be collaborators, who were as evil or worse. There was a particular incident of wholesale slaughter of men, women and children on a train she lived thru by sheer chance and her father's nerve, all because the Ustaše hated any non-Croatians, and here was a chance to indulge in blood-lust. There's a country that will never, ever have an expiational film.

Gerard Jones said...

Vanwall: I've only seen the first of the Kobayashi trilogy. I was very impressed, have meant to the see the others, but haven't gotten there yet. Now I really want to. Why did I not come away seeing it as an act of taking responsibility for the Japanese role in the war? I'm not sure. Perhaps because it was so much about POWs that it said nothing about the Japanese brutality toward the citizenry of Manchuria and China. (But of course that wasn't its intent--not a flaw, just not what it was.) Or maybe the fact that Nakadai played such an everyman (and beautifully!) that it seemed to suggest that the whole problem was the universal brutality of war, not the essential Japanese attitude of the time toward non-Japanese. (But that, of course, makes it a far more human and compassionate the story--the alternative could easily become a bilious screed.)

I will try to see the others reasonably soon and think about them. And in between I'll read Mr. Roberts. And contemplate Bob Cummings.

If you don't mind saying, where do your in-laws come from? I'm guessing Serbia. When I was over there in the '80s I talked to an older Croatian guy who was convinced that Tito had been kidnapped by the Russians during the war and replaced by a look-alike. I got the sense it was because he couldn't imagine why else a Croat would put unity with the Serbs ahead of Croatian nationalism.

DavidEhrenstein said...

John Ford walked out of Mr. Robert halfway through production, leaving Mervyn LeRoy to finish the film. The old man decided that the whole thing was about homo-sex-uals.

Why I have absolutely no idea.

The film version was an enomous hit and sold out every show a Radio City Music Hall for months.

I was pretty lucky, gerard. I went to the High School of Music and Art in New York City (aka. Communist Martyrs High) I always have to say "No, not the Fame school -- the other one!" But now they're the same school combined and located behind Lincoln Center. I went to the old campus on Morningside Heights near NYU.

Class of 1964.

That means I sarted Highs School the same year George Clooney and Todd Haynes were born.

It was astonishingly easy to come out in that environment. I gather that it's a similar situation in many places today. I certainly hope so. Adolescence is traumatic no matter what your sexual orientation might be. It's the years when you discover who you're going to be for the rest of your life.

A terrifying prospect.

Vanwall said...

My mother-in-law was of Polish-Swedish-Serbian extraction, and the family were moderately well known in Belgrade before the war. Her father was some kind spook before, during, and after the war, with the family having a connection to the anti-Nazi coup just before the Yugoslavian invasion. They ended up on a farm in the south of France, where they hid Canadian and British RAF bomber crews being smuggled out of Occupied France. I have a few of their silk hankies printed with maps of France. He was some kind of Resistance operative by then, and she even smuggled papers in her bicycle past the Wehrmacht sentries on occasion - who would suspect such a nice little blonde girl who spoke German so well?...they were all amazing linguists. She ended up marrying a Frenchman after the war, and thus and so 'til today.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here's one of my old Music & Art classmates. His most recent work has been directing Mad Men.

Gerard Jones said...

David, I'm glad to know that even in '64 there were safe places to discover who you were. That's always been one of the good things about the showbiz community. I've been sort-of reading, sort-of skimming this book called Joan Crawford: Hollywood Martyr; the subtitle tells you its shortcomings, but it has some interesting points to make about the acting community in that regard. This may be one of filmland's greatest gifts, in the end: making heroes and daily companions of people who are willing to live in a broader world than most of us.

Of course, there will always be the John Fords. Can't for the life of me see what's homosexual about Mr. Roberts, unless one is inclined to believe that sailors are all...you know...that way.

Gerard Jones said...

And such stories, Vanwall! I'm always a bit stunned when I encounter a "real person" with direct, biographical connections to historical narratives like the French and Yugoslav resistances. But then, I get a similar reaction from people whose parents weren't old enough to participate in the war, when I retell my mom's stories as a riveter and my dad's of serving shipboard in the Pacific Theater. It all feels like the stuff of movies after a while.

Interesting to think about: my dad LOVED Mr. Roberts, but he hated Ensign Pulver and had no interest in the genre of war comedies that were spun out from it. I think in Cagney he saw all the superior officers who'd pissed him off during the war and in Fonda he saw the sort of dignified resistance he wished he'd been able to afford. Some of his favorite war stories were about his passive-aggressive tricks to annoy the brass. And he always portrayed himself as calm and quiet. Lemmon's histrionics didn't fit his image of the heroic everyman.

mndean said...

Hm. My grandparents (on my mother's side) were also in Belgrade during the war (they originated in Montenegro, but my grandfather ran an import/export business in Belgrade), and their house was used as a way station to get a Jewish family out of the country. But only once. I think my grandfather was rather leery of doing too much since he had very young children (my mother, the middle child, was 7 when the war started, my younger uncle was an infant, and my grandmother was pregnant with another child who died in infancy). My mother has a few stories of the occupation, and has nothing good to say of the German soldiers. They killed very casually, even children. Nor does she have anything good to say about the priests of her faith, who were informers for the Nazis. The Italian occupiers were not nearly so bad and actually had some humanity, at least towards children. My mother had nothing but admiration for the British and French soldiers who came to help liberate them. At one time she spoke 5 languages, but when she got married and moved to the US, English was the hardest thing she had to learn, and she gradually lost all her other tongues.

My father may have had gripping stories about WWI (he was from Montenegro as well but fought for the Americans, who then let him immigrate), and the Depression, but he never spoke of either to anyone. We found his discharge papers in the safe deposit box after he died, and I know he got burned buying stock a month before Black Tuesday in an aviation concern. I found the stock in a box of papers in the garage of the family house. He was a pretty taciturn man.

Gerard Jones said...

My dad told fun, colorful stories about growing up in the Depression and serving in the Marines in the '40s. Made his early life sound like quite a series of light adventures. Then when he was very old and thinking about the end he started telling the horrible stories. Even then he wouldn't say everything, leaving me to learn things from other family members. Such was often the way of male storytelling then.

Gloria said...

"I blame Preminger's stint as Mr. Freeze on the Batman TV show. Sometimes old guys shouldn't be allowed to think they can be hip"

And he wasn't as good as the first mr. Freeze, who was dear ol' George Sanders.

As for Japanese productions about WW2 which don't keep a "safety distance": what about "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence"? (though the story was written by an European).

And, hum, while Bob Cummings wasn't my type of leading man, he was quite OK in "it started with Eve" with Deanna Durbin

Karen said...

Oh dear! A few days in Seattle at a conference and I'm 60 messages gone from where the discussion was when I left it!

Sex comedies: hate. Kiss Me Stupid: I don't hate it, but it's not a favorite, despite my abiding love for Ray Walston (formed during a youth watching My Favorite Martian--what?!?! Shut up!). I confess that that "deposit" line isn't ringing a bell, though, and I'm wondering if the whole thing just sailed over my head when I watched it. Oh, the shame!

Sex comedies, spy spoofs, war comedies...yes, they are definitely much of a muchness. There are exceptions, I think. I love the Flint movies because I just think James Coburn was spectacularly cool. Did anyone ever wear skinny white jeans better on screen? I ask you! And I love Wake Me When It's Over, which is so much more cynical than I would expect any film of the time to be.

Homosexuality in Mister Roberts?? I don't even know where to go with that. Yes, the novel is better (I still have my parents' Dell paperback copy, miraculously intact), but there are moments in the film that are so delicious that it's hard not to love: William Powell creating scotch from rubbing alcohol and Coco-Cola; Cagney's amazing speech about the college kids who scorned him when he was working his way through school: "Boy! Boy!" in that inimitable voice. And Lemmon reading the final letter from Mr Roberts makes me sob like a baby.

But...homosexuality? Geez. Where do people get this stuff??

Noel Vera said...

David E: found Bill's Dr. Chilledair website, but apparently they've taken off the Vertigo theme song. Ah well.

Yojimboen said...

Noel V - D'you mean this?

Yojimboen said...

Here's a 9 1/2 minute chunk of Vertigo.

Herrmann only gets better.

Karen said...

Noel Vera--hurrah for bringing up the ethereally beautiful and moving Grave of the Fireflies! For anyone who decries manga, Takahata is really the one to start with--this, and his quiet and moving Only Yesterday are really musts-to-see.

On reaction to the Playboy ethos, Hollywood was, indeed, confused and bemused and unequal to the task. For an inspired satire of the Playboy man, you can't do better than Elder & Kurtzman's brilliant (and long-suppressed) Goodman Beaver comic, in which the eponymous hero returns to Riverdale High, only to find Archie and the gang immersed in the Playboy lifestyle: