The Siren doesn’t usually post about the truly random movie thoughts constantly flitting around her brain, but she’s been pondering this all weekend and wanted to hear what her patient readers had to say. It’s prompted by looking at the schedule for Fritz Lang in Hollywood, an incredible series scheduled for the Film Forum in January/February 2011. Now the Siren has Lang on the brain anyway, what with For the Love of Film (Noir) working to preserve a remake of a great Lang movie, and writing about the terrific House by the River at Fandor--available here, and no firewall anymore. The Siren has a hell-or-high-water must-see series list that includes (but is not limited to) The Secret Beyond the Door, You and Me, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Joan!) and An American Guerrilla in the Philippines, none of which she’s seen yet. But there’s also Moonfleet, which she saw again recently on a very good DVD, but yearns to see on a big screen.
So the Siren got to thinking. Of all the movies she’s already seen on DVD, TCM or VHS, which ones would she most like to see on a big screen in a great print?
Here are five. This list is just for starters, of course, but these are very serious yens. The fact that they’re all black and white is...interesting. And unplanned.
1. The Crowd. The Siren’s twins were about seven months old and still waking up in the middle of the night from time to time. The feed/change/settle routine for a total of two (2) babies usually equaled about 90 minutes of activity, and ended that morning at about 5 am. The Siren was in the habit of putting on TCM during this process. So she gets the last baby to sleep and is about to collapse back in bed, and goes back to the living room to turn off the TV. And noticed The Crowd was about to start. And thought, “Let’s take five minutes to see how this looks.” A little over 100 minutes later, it was time to get ready for work. And when the Siren, so sleepy she was swaying slightly on her feet, ran into an equally movie-mad colleague (we used to share custody of a VHS of Letter from an Unknown Woman), she chattered at him about The Crowd to the point where he put up both hands and said, “I have never seen you like this about a movie.”
Perhaps it isn’t the sort of quote people pick for an ad in Variety, but “So good mothers of infant twins choose it instead of sleep” is one hell of a recommendation.
The Crowd isn’t on DVD. Now the Siren is very, very cognizant of the special issues involved in preparing a good DVD release of a movie as old as The Crowd. She knows she whines a lot. But this isn’t merely the best silent movie the Siren has ever seen. Without hesitation she will name it as one of the greatest movies ever made in this country or anywhere else. So hearing that there is no Crowd on DVD is like planning a trip to MOMA, only to have them tell you that Starry Night has been stashed in the broom closet. Well, let’s hope Warner Brothers is on the case.
If, however, the Siren could see this one on screen, hand on heart, she promises to shut up already about the DVD.
2. The Long Voyage Home. You know who else wants to see this on a big screen? John Nolte of Big Hollywood. The Siren can’t remember his exact words, but the phrase “crawl over broken glass” may have occurred in there somewhere. Mr. Nolte’s love for John Ford, and appreciation for this lesser-known film, is one of those heartwarming instances of cross-aisle harmony that sustain us all in these partisan times. This is another that the Siren watched by chance on TCM, and the brilliance of Thomas Mitchell, the incredible tenderness and sympathy afforded these men doing a spirit-sucking and lonely job, and above all the deep-focus cinematography of Gregg Toland put her in traction. If John should be in town when this one comes on screen, in a gesture of Ford-loving solidarity the Siren will not only crawl with him to see it, she’ll buy his popcorn, as long as neither one of us brings up Obama. Or Jafar Panahi.
(The screen grab above is from a series posted at Six Martinis and the Seventh Art, always and forever one of the Siren's favorite stops on the Web.)
3. Love Affair. Because Christmas is coming, and the Siren yearns to see Charles Boyer give Irene Dunne her present.
4. The Fallen Idol. The Siren regards The Third Man with the same awestruck reverence as everyone else--more, even. There are, she suspects, not that many fans of the movie who went so far as to name their only daughter Alida. And yet, given a choice between Harry Lime and Baines larger than life, at the moment she’d pick Baines. “We ought to be very careful, Phil. 'Cause we make one another.” “I thought God made us." “Trouble is, we take a hand in the game.” This screened last year at Film Forum--while the Siren was in Paris.
(Gorgeous screen grab is from Coffee, Coffee, And More Coffee, where Peter Nelhaus is in the habit of posting coffee-drinking images from all kinds of movies. Patient readers should stop by and thank Peter for this dose of Michele Morgan.)
5. David Copperfield. David Ehrenstein, where are you? Are you still banging the drum for early George Cukor? Because the Siren is right there with you, and she’s never seen an adaptation of Charles Dickens (her favorite novelist) to surpass this one. Nor will there ever be a Micawber to equal W.C. Fields. And Karen shares the Siren’s love for Freddie Bartholomew.
In conclusion, speaking of movies that deserve restoration, big-screen unspooling, DVD cases with luxurious little booklets and just one whole hell of a lot more respect than they have received in the past, let’s talk about Julien Duvivier’s La Fin du Jour. The Siren mentioned that Dennis Cozzalio posted about it, but she didn’t do his splendid essay justice. It’s an elegant, deeply sympathetic and altogether marvelous piece of film criticism that will make you want to bite your arm off at the elbow in frustration if you haven’t seen this tantalizingly hard-to-find masterpiece. Really, please, go read it.