(Okay, let’s start with a quick recap of the “rules”, shall we? The basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.
This was a very interesting week for this column. My usual procedure when preparing to write it is to take a quick look at the upcoming release schedule over at Box Office Mojo, pick out what looks to be either the most likely to be the big release of the week or, alternately, the most interesting, and then start thinking about what track I want to take to find something to pair it with. Usually the first step is to take a look (or another look if it’s a film that I’m already familiar with) at the trailer to see if that inspires some connection. if not, then I’ll maybe look at what seems to be the theme of the film, or maybe some other aspect of it that stands out. Honestly, it’s usually not a very long or complicated process. Every once in awhile, if I’m really stuck, I’ll ask a friend of mine who might have more knowledge on a particular topic or genre for suggestions, but in the end, the final choice is always the pairing that appeals to me the most.
What complicated things this weekend was that there was no stand-out big hit release this weekend. It almost seemed as if all of the big studios decided to take this weekend off for some reason. Now, of course, it’s become pretty standard for them to avoid each other when it comes to the big movies, to give a bit of lee-way to a film that is almost assuredly going to suck all of the oxygen out of the air (or, more directly stated, suck all the cash out of everyone’s wallets), and sometimes, if there’s a really big blockbuster coming out they’ll give it an extra weekend to make its mark before throwing a challenger out there, but honestly.this isn’t that kind of weekend. Somehow I can;t bring myself to believe that everyone was quaking in terror at the thought of going against the only movie going into wide release this weekend, Playmobil: The Movie, and at the same time, there is nothing that opened last weekend that would cause anyone at the studios to say “Well. we better stay out of the way of that monster”. But still, for some reason, it’s a wide-open weekend.
Okay, so even with that, there’s still the “what looks most interesting to me personally?” option. The problem there is that, though there may be a dearth of truly huge movies opening this weekend, the smaller films that are making an appearance contain a number of movies that look like they could either be truly interesting or at the least quite entertaining. I actually went through a little game with a friend of mine where I had him try to figure out which of the movies on the list i would choose to feature and what I might pair it with, and he went through four of them and a couple of hints before finally figuring it out, and even then he wasn’t sure what the pairing would be.
So what were the candidates? Well, there’s Little Joe, a science fiction flick about the dangers of genetically modified flowers that seem to manipulate the emotions and thoughts of anyone who comes in contact with their “pollen”. That could have been a great one to pair with the original Little Shop of Horrors. (Credit, by the way, to my friend, he was the one who came up with that double feature.)
Or, there’s Dark Light, which Box Office Mojo describes thusly: “A woman returns to her family home and discovers it to be inhabited by monsters.” There also seems to be some hullabaloo about her daughter going missing and her being suspected of having done something dastardly. I dunno, but honestly I’m still feeling a bit burnt out on horror, so I decided to give that one a pass though I suppose you could make a case for pairing it up with The Amityville Horror.
Another candidate is En Brazos de un Asesino. or In the Arms of an Assassin, which immediately gave me vibes reminiscent of Leon: The Professional, though of course that movie thankfully didn’t have the “will they or won’t they” vibe that this one seems to be giving off.
Finally, however, I decided to go with a movie whose trailer I had seen a couple of times already at our local art-house theater and which I found intriguing, if not perhaps the most profoundly original concept ever.
There have been a number of movies, especially period pieces, which have concerned themselves with the concept of the “trapped woman”. Sometimes she is literally trapped, as in locked into a room or a house, but just as often the trap is societal: she is trapped in a loveless marriage or by her station in life or by the expectations of others or some other force or combination of forces.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (the original French title is Portrait de la jeune fille en feu) appears to be another exploration of this idea. the twist this time is that the “lady” of the title is not yet married, merely betrothed. As a matter of fact,she has never even met her husband-to-be and has no real idea of what her life with him will be like. Of course, since they have never met, he also has no idea of even what she looks like, and has refused to go any further with the wedding until he sees a portrait of her. Her family, desperate for the marriage to happen has hired a number of painters, but each of them has quit, because she is so obstinate and hard to work with.
Finally, they hit upon the idea of hiring an “undercover artist” who will pose as a sort of “friend for hire” for the young lady. She will be a companion to her to go on walks with her, spend time with her, get to know her and memorize her features and the paint the portrait in secret.
Obviously, there’s no way this idea is going to backfire at all, right?
Now, I’m going to assume that this is a film that most people will not have heard of, and since i don’t recall seeing the trailer running every fifteen minutes or so in the midst of whatever network programming I’ve been watching lately, why don’t we go ahead and take a look at it now, and while you;re watching it, see if you can pick out the specific shot that made me certain of the movie I would be pairing it with.
Go ahead. Take your time, and I’ll meet you on the other side.
There, did you catch it? The scene where the “lady” of the title is running toward the cliff seemingly about to hurl herself over to her inevitable death? Did it remind you of anything? Think way back to the classics. Back to Hitchcock. Back to Manderlay. Back to Rebecca.
For those of you unfamiliar with it, Rebecca is the story of a young girl (we are never even told her real name who meets the wealthy Maxim de Winter while she is serving as the paid companion to a friend of his. They are soon married, and she is quickly brought to his cliff-side manor known as Manderlay.
The couple’s happiness is short-lived, however, as it seems that Manderlay is haunted, if not by the actual ghost, then at least by the memory of the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca. There is more than just a touch of mystery about how she died, and many of the people in the house and the surrounding town are having a hard time letting go of her and accepting Maxim’s new bride as the true mistress of the house. Foremost among these is the (honestly quite evil) housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.
Rebecca was nominated for a total of 11 Academy Awards, and wound up winning two, including Best picture. It stars Joan Fontaine as the second Mrs. de Winter, Lawrence Olivier as Maxim, and Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers.
Here’s your trailer