Sight and Sound Top 250 #185 – Paris, Texas (1984)

As we finally get back to our trip through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Movies of All Time list, we come to #185, Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas. And as always I’ll note that for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience.

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ptp01Paris, Texas isn’t a place on a map, it’s a place in the soul.

Yeah, I know, sounds like a bit of advertising copy, doesn’t it? For all I know, it could very well be. (Hey, anyone out there looking for blurbage for your film? Drop me a quick message.)

There are some actors who I love seeing in the cast list for a movie because I know that no matter how bad the movie itself may be, at least that actor is going to give me an enjoyable performance. One of those actors is Harry Dean Stanton. I can’t exactly put my finger on why it is that I have that reaction, but there it is, And hey, there’s HDS’s name right a the top of the billing for Wim Wenders’s 1984 outing Paris, Texas. Okay, I tell myself, at least I know I’m in for something I’m going to like about this film.

And the truth is that there’s actually quite a lot to like about it.

Paris, Texas is the story of Stanton’s Travis Henderson who disappeared from his family’s life four years earlier. When he turns up on the edge of a south Texas desert, dehydrated and either unable or unwilling to talk, he is taken in by a doctor who contacts his brother, Walt (played by another favorite character actor, Dean Stockwell), who agrees to come pick him up. Since Travis refuses to travel by plane, the two brothers drive back to Walt’s home in Los Angeles where he lives with his wife Anne and Travis’s son Hunter. Walt and Anne have been raising Hunter as their own since Travis and his wife Jane disappeared.

pt003Along the road, Travis slowly begins to open up to Walt, and we find out a lot about what has happened to him in the time he has been missing. Upon arriving at Walt and Anne’s house, the relationship between Travis and Hunter is at first strained, but eventually begins to thaw as the two learn to trust each other, and they begin to bond. Eventually Anne reveals to Travis that though they’ve had no contact with Jane since she left, she has been making regular deposits in a bank account for Hunter and that those deposits have been made on the same day each month at a bank in Houston. When Travis decides to go to Houston to try to track her down, Hunter declares that he is coming along too.

pt004I think that’s about as far as I want to go with a plot synopsis, because to go any further, I’d have to give away too many of the twists that lie further along the road.

As I said at the top, I expected from the beginning to be entertained by the performances of both Stanton and Stockwell, and I definitely was. As Travis, Stanton puts in a near-perfect performance as a lost soul slowly regaining both his memories of and his connections to his past. For his part, Stockwell displays just the right combination of love for and exasperation with his brother. Of course, much of the credit for both of these performances must go to director Winders who gives this relationship just the right amount of room to breathe.

pt001Probably the most surprisingly good performance in the film comes from young Hunter Carson who plays Travis’s son Hunter. In a role that could have come off as mawkish or annoying, the young actor instead shows just the right amount of self-confidence to be neither.

As far as the look of the movie, one of the most striking aspects of the film is Wenders’ use of color. From the striking blue skies of the outdoor scenes to his palate choices for the various characters to his lighting choices which highlight each, this is a tour-de-force example of what can happen when a director is in sync with his cinematographer, as Winders obviously was with long time collaborator, Robby Mueller.

pt006If there is any nit to be picked with this film, it might be the ending which I can see some as finding too ambiguous for their taste, but in my book strikes just the right note of both hopefulness and loss. Interestingly, according to Wenders, he actually started shooting with only half of a script, with screenwriter Sam Shepherd wanting to see how the main characters played off of each other before he finished the writing.

One other aspect of the film that I have to make note of is the completely fitting score which was recorded by blues guitarist Ry Cooder and works perfectly to set the mood for the film and is completely in place for the atmosphere the director is trying to achieve.

It’s often said that for many people on a long trip it’s not so much the destination, but the journey. Whichever is your preference, I highly recommend this Texas road trip.

Here’s your trailer (which, I feel I should point out, really doesn’t do all that good a job of giving you a true feel for the actual movie, as is all too often the case.):

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Sight and Sound Top 250 – #003 Tokyo Story (1953)

As we continue our more-liesurely-than-intended stroll through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Movies of All Time list, we come to #003, Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story. And as always I’ll note that for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience.

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ts1aWhen I wrote about Yasujirō Ozu’s Late Spring (which stands at #015 on the list), I noted that Ozu’s films were one of those holes in my film watching experience that I had hoped to fill b exploring the movies on this list. I think it was obvious then that I found he was a director that I was glad to have uncovered, and that I was definitely looking forward to seeing more from the master director. Thus it was with a great sense of anticipation that I approached Tokyo Story, the film that is considered to be his greatest work.

I’m extremely happy to say that the movie rewarded every bit of that anticipation.

Once again, Ozu takes a very simple plot – an aging couple who live in the country decide to go to Tokyo to visit their children and grandchildren – and turns it into a masterpiece of the cinema.

Both written (along with Kogo Noda) and directed by Ozu, the story becomes a slow exploration of the relationship of family and friends and though it often explores the disappointment that can be felt by both the younger and older generations when it comes to those relationships, it always comes across as honest and heartfelt and never delves too far into the possibly more maudlin aspects of these relationships. One feels that in the hands of a less talented or less assured film maker Tokyo Story could easily have become much more confrontational than it is – Cat On a Hot Tin Roof with all of its shouting and it always-underlying sense of heat and desperation this is not. Instead Ozu turns his focus inward instead of outward and lets the characters be still and contemplative rather than forcing them to blaze and boil.

ts3As proved true with Late Spring, Ozu takes his time with the story and brings a stillness to the work that allows it to become almost meditative. There is very little motion to his camera work, and indeed he allows the camera at times to linger and continue to focus on a location even after the characters and action have left it, thus allowing his audience time to contemplate the actions and scenes that they have just seen along with the words that have been said in a way that I suppose could be extremely off-putting to more modern audiences who are used to being rushed from one scene to another by directors who seem to be hoping that their audiences not think about what they have just witnessed for fear that they might find that the film maker has in some way come up short of his intentions.

ts4Ozu also shows a sense of confidence in his actors by never forcing them to go over the top with either their voices or their actions, instead letting their performances match the moment in the film. This is not to say that their are never harsh words said, nor strong emotions expressed, but they are done so in a way that fits each of the characters and there is a sencse that both types of moments, the quiet and the loud, are there to serve the purpose of the film and in truth it feels like there is rarely an extraneous word spoken nor an undeserved or unearned tear shed.

Of course, much of the credit for this must also be shared with the cast, especially Chishū Ryū and Chieko Higashiyama who play the elderly couple with a sense both of foreboding, as though they know from the start that this will be the last time that they will get to see all of their family but also with a sense of tenderness and love towards each other which shines through even the darkest moments of the film.

Summed up, Tokyo Story is one of those rarities in cinema – a realistic seeming portrayal of the heart of a family that is incredibly full of heart and respects its characters, actors, and audience in a way that truly earns it one of the top spots in the list of all-time greats.

Here’s your trailer:

Sight and Sound Top 250 – #054 North By Northwest (1959)

And here we are, back again with another look at one of the world’s best movies as designated by the Sight and Sound Top 250 Movies of All Time list. This time around, it’s #054 on the list, Alfred Hithcock’s North By Northwest. And as always I’ll note that for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience.

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I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.

nw1No one is going to dispute, I think, that Alfred Hitchcock deserves at least one, if not many places on this list. As a matter of fact the problem that most of those who filled out ballots likely had, considering the continued quality and the volume of the master craftsman’s work was limiting the number of Hitch’s films that they voted for.

Obviously, considering that it took the number one spot in this particular poll, the majority of them ranked Vertigo the highest of all of Hitchcock’s films. But even if you take that as the consensus (which I feel certain not everyone would. For my own part I’ve noted before that while I may not consider it his best movie, my favorite of the director’s films is Rear Window.

So what is it that puts North By Northwest in the position it obtained on the Sight and Sound list this time around?

I suppose it comes down to the fact that it is very much a compilation of a number of the director’s favorite themes.

First, you have the everyman accidentally caught up, through a case of mistaken identity into a plot which he at first not only has no control over, but has no idea what is going on, why strange things seem to be going on around him, nor even why people whom he has no awareness of seem to think they know him.

nbnw01Second you have the spy vs spy theme which allows Hitchcock to interweave characters and plots and slowly reveal the various layers of machination that are going on to the point that although the audience does have those moments of suspense which are a Hitchcock trademark where the audience knows more than the protagonist, there are still more reveals to come which can easily alter not only our perception of current events, but past ones, and make us question just who the true “good guys” (if there even are any) are and just who is loyal to whom and who we should truly be rooting for.

Third, there is that of the femme fatale, taken directly from the best films noir; the beautiful woman who may or may not actually be in distress, or who could just as easily be a part of the manipulations drawing our “hero” further and further into the ever tightening web which is surrounding him.

Tnbnw04hen, once you take those themes and add to them the incredible set pieces and action scenes such as the infamous crop-duster scene and the climactic fight on Mount Rushmore along with a number of smaller scenes such as the confrontation at the Rushmore Visitor Center and the escape from Vandamm’s house, and you have that mix of the grandiose and the small moments which make up the best of Hitchcock’s thrillers.

Oh, and let’s not forget to note the incredible performances. Cary Grant is, as almost always, pitch perfect in his depiction of advertising executive Roger Thornhill, who is mistaken, or at least seemingly so, for master spy George Kaplan, and Eve Marie Saint plays her role of perhaps innocent, perhaps not Eve Kindall to the hilt. Nor are they alone. Supporting characters, such as James Mason as Phillip Vandamm, Leo G. Carroll as The Professor, and Martin Landau as Leonard are all spot-on, as one would expect not only from such veteran actors, but from the way that Hitchcock always seems to be able to pull even from lesser actors than these.

nbnw02Finally, one has to consider the score by Hitchcock regular Bernard Herman, which, while it may not be one of his most stand-out efforts still works incredibly well within the film and helps both to support the ongoing action when needed and to contrast it when that is what is called for. Nor can one fail to note Robert Burks’s cinematography which plays such an important role in capturing just the right moment in just the right way that it allows the master to truly make the most of the script. There is a reason that Burks was Hitchcock’s cinematographer on twelve of the director’s films, beginning with 1951’s Strangers on a Train right through until 1964’s Marnie. The only Hitchcock film he was not part of during that period was Psycho.

In the end, what we have in North By Northwest may simply be the height of the master director’s action-thriller films. It is a film that combines and highlights so much of what he tried to accomplish throughout his career that it definitely deserves a high place not only on a list of his best, but, as it obviously has achieved, of the best films of all time.

Here’s your trailer:

Sight and Sound Top 250 – #156 The Shining (1980)

Yep, it’s been awhile, but it’s finally time to renew our voyage through the most recent Sight and Sound Top 250 Movies of All Time list, this time around, it’s #156 on the list, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. And as always I’ll note that for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience.

sh1There’s been so much written and said about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, it’s possible interpretations and influences  – there’s even been a documentary, Room 237, exploring it’s different possible (though more than a little outlandish) meanings – that it’s tough to really know where to begin with it.

Therefore I’ll simply start with this declaration: for many, including me, The Shining is very possibly THE horror movie.

This film, the tale of a man – Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance – gone quite mad, very simply has it all. From the Stephen King book from which the story comes, through Kubrick and Diane Johnson’s screenplay, John Alcott’s cinematography, Kubrick’s direction, Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind’s score, and the rest of the cast and crew, this movie stands as one of the true masterpieces of horror cinema, very much deserves its place on this list.

One of the reasons this movie is so hard to write about is that it feels like one of those that pretty much everyone has seen and already has their own opinion about. I know that there are many – including Stephen King himself – who do not share my point of view on it. As a matter of fact, in the afterword of his sequel novel Doctor Sleep, King professed continued dissatisfaction with the Kubrick film writing”…of course there was Stanley Kubrick’s movie which many seem to remember — for reasons I have never quite understood — as one of the scariest films they have ever seen.”

sh2At the same time, I know that there are going to be many out there who, though they may have seen images and clips from the movie, have never actually sat and watched the whole thing. After all, it was made in 1980, which means that an entire generation of movie-goers have been born and come of age since its release, and though foe a long time it seems as though one couldn’t turn on the television without it popping up on one cable channel or another, however, those days, I suspect are long past.

So, for those of you who haven’t seen it, rather than re-invent an already well-made wheel, here’s the plot summary from Wikipedia. It’s quite long and obviously spoiler filled, so I’m going to set it off as a blockquote. For those of you who don’t want to read the whole thing, or want to avoid the spoilers, simply meet me further down, below the indentation.

Jack Torrance arrives at the mountain isolated Overlook Hotel, 25 miles from the closest town, Sidewinder, Colorado, interviewing for the position of winter caretaker, planning to use the hotel’s solitude to write. The hotel, built on the site of a Native American burial ground, becomes snowed-in during the winter; it is closed from October to May. Manager Stuart Ullman warns Jack that a previous caretaker, Charles Grady, developed cabin fever and killed his family and himself. In Boulder, Jack’s son, Danny Torrance, while brushing his teeth, has a terrifying premonition about the hotel, viewing a cascade of blood emerging from an elevator door, before falling into a trance. Jack’s wife, Wendy, tells a doctor that Danny has an imaginary friend named Tony, and that Jack has given up drinking because he dislocated Danny’s shoulder following a binge.

sh3The family arrives at the hotel on closing day and is given a tour. The chef, Dick Hallorann, surprises Danny by telepathically offering him ice cream. To Danny, Dick explains that he and his grandmother shared this telepathic ability, which he calls “shining.” Danny asks if there is anything to be afraid of in the hotel, particularly room 237. Hallorann tells Danny that the hotel has a “shine” to it along with many memories, not all of which are good. He also tells Danny to stay out of room 237.

A month passes; while Jack’s writing goes nowhere, Danny and Wendy explore the hotel’s hedge maze. Wendy becomes concerned about the phone lines being out due to the heavy snowfall and Danny has frightening visions. Jack, increasingly frustrated, starts acting strangely and becomes prone to violent outbursts.

Danny’s curiosity about room 237 overcomes him when he sees the room’s door open. Later, Wendy finds Jack, asleep at his typewriter, screaming in his sleep. After she awakens him, Jack says he dreamed that he killed her and Danny. Danny arrives with a bruise on his neck and traumatized, causing Wendy to accuse Jack of abusing him. Jack wanders into the hotel’s Gold Room and meets a ghostly bartender named Lloyd. Lloyd serves him bourbon while Jack complains about his marriage.

sh4Wendy later tells Jack that Danny told her a “crazy woman in one of the rooms” tried strangling him. Jack investigates room 237, encountering the ghost of a dead woman, but tells Wendy he saw nothing. Wendy and Jack argue over whether Danny should be removed from the hotel and a furious Jack returns to the Gold Room, filled with ghosts attending a ball. He meets the ghost of Grady who tells Jack that he must “correct” his wife and child and that Danny has reached out to Hallorann using his “talent.” In Florida, Hallorann has a premonition that something is wrong at the hotel and flies back to Colorado. Danny starts calling out “redrum” and goes into a trance, referring to himself as “Tony”.

While searching for Jack, Wendy discovers he has been typing pages of manuscript repeating “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” She begs Jack to leave the hotel with Danny, but he confronts her, and threatens her before she knocks him unconscious with a baseball bat. She drags him into the kitchen and locks him in the pantry, but she and Danny are trapped at the hotel; Jack has sabotaged the hotel’s two-way radio and snowcat. Later, Jack converses through the pantry door with Grady, who unlocks the door…

Actually, I think I’m going to cut the plot synopsis short there, because I really want to encourage you to watch the movie yourself. SO if you want to know how it all ends, well, you know what to do.

Ultimately, The Shining (and I suppose I should make it clear that I am only talking from here on about the movie, and not the book or the later TV adaptation) is an ambiguous movie. Is it a ghost story? Is it a haunted house movie? Is it a movie about possession? Is it perhaps a story about spiritual if not physical reincarnation? Is it the tale of one man’s descent into madness or is Jack Torrance already slightly mad even before hr and his family move onto the Overlook? Perhaps what happens is simply the fulfillment of his destiny. Or perhaps he has been another ghost all along.

sh5And in the end, do any of the above possibilities matter? No, not really. Because it is this ambiguity that largely gives the movie it’s power. It is, in large part the not knowing, the continuous pulling the rug out from under the viewer that makes the movie not just frightening but unsettling in a way that so few horror (or actually I would call this a terror movie) movies old or new really seek to be and even fewer actually accomplish. What Kubrick pulls off here is a spot-on definition of the term “masterwork” in that it exemplifies a master of his craft bringing every bit of his skill and everything that he has learned about the art of filmmaking to bear in the telling of what could otherwise have been – as we have seen in so many other films that have come before and since – merely another mundane film about a family (or any other group of people) trapped in a lone place with a killer (or at least potential killer) on the loose.

And, like most of the best stories, be they told in film or otherwise, the end result for each viewer is as dependent upon what they bring to and invest in the movie itself. That’s why, once again, I’m going to refrain from much more commentary and simply recommend that you watch the movie for yourself. If you’re a first time viewer, I think you’ll find that you’ve uncovered a gem, and even if you’ve seen it before, I think you’ll find that it rewards repeated viewings.

Here’s your trailer:

Sight and Sound Top 250 – #009 The Passion of Joan of Arc (1927)

Continuing our voyage throught the most recent Sight and Sound Top 250 Movies of All Time list, this time around, it’s #9 on the list, Carl Theodore Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. And as always I’ll just note that for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience.

ja0Well, this time out, I not only get to mark another movie off the Top 250 list, but also off of my own personal “I really should have seen this movie before now” list. Of course by now you’ve  figured out that I’m talking about Carl Theodore Dreyer’s silent 1928 classic The Passion of Joan of Arc (or, giving it it’s proper French title, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc).

Actually it’s a lucky thing that any of us are able to see the film at all, considering all of the troubles that beset the movie both before and after its production.

As soon as the production of Joan was announced, there were protests by French nationalists because of the director and because it had been rumored that Lillian Gish was to star as Joan. As Jean-Jose Frappa famously summed up these objections,

…whatever the talent of the director (and he has it)…he cannot give us a Joan of Arc in the true French tradition. And the American ‘star’…cannot be our Joan, wholesome, lively, shining with purity, faith, courage and patriotism. To let this be made in France would be a scandalous abdication of responsibility.

Then, before its premiere, the Archbishop of France and French censors ordered a number of cuts be made, demands to which the studio acceded, over the protests of Dreyer. Finally, the film had it’s public premiere in October of 1928.

ja1Then, in December of that year, the original negative of the film was destroyed in a fire, leaving only a few prints available, and most of those were heavily damaged. Fortunately Dreyer was able to piece together a new version made from alternate cuts of the film. This new version, however, was also destroyed in a lab fire in 1929.

In subsequent years, various recuts and editions were released, including a truly bastardized version which cut the film down to 61 minutes in 1933, and a 1951 recut by Joseph-Marie Lo Duca which became the prevailing print even though Dreyer objected to it.

ja2For years, it seemed as though there was no real chance that audiences would be able to see anything that truly resembled the director’s true vision for his film.

Then, in 1981, an employee of the Dikemark Mental Hospital  in Oslo, Norway, found several film canisters in a janitor’s closet that were labeled as being The Passion of Joan of Arc. These canisters were sent to the Norwegian Film Institute where they languished for three years before finally being further examined. When they finally were, it was discovered that they contained a copy of Dreyer’s original cut prior to government or church censorship.

These reels were finally restored, and in 1985, the closest thing to a definitive version was finally released to the public.

ja3As far as the film itself, there can be no doubt that Dreyer has created a true masterpiece, though it is a very unconventional one. The director for the most part eschews establishing shots and even the expected mid-range shots, instead spending most of the film giving us extreme close-ups which truly allow the emotions of the characters to come through. Also, through his decision not to allow the actors to wear make-up and to shoot them with mostly only the available light, he really does capture a sense of intensity which heightens not only the viewer’s empathy with Joan’s plight, but the furiousness that is brought by her interrogators.

Even when Dreyer does give us scenes of transition, such as when the action moves into the torture room, he chooses his shot in such a way that gives the room an unexpected starkness that serves only to heighten the viewer’s curiosity and the sense of dread which permeates the film.

ja4There are even times when the film seems to border on the abstract and the expressionist, such as the shots of the spiked spinning wheel which occur during the torture scene.

There’s also really no way to overstate the perfection of the performance which star Renée Jeanne Falconetti brings to the film in the title role of Joan. At the same time embodying the hopefulness of the martyr in her belief that God will save her with an equal sense of the hopelessness of her plight, Falconetti is tragic in a way that I dare say no one has or will ever be on film again.

ja6Kudos also have to be given to the various actors who make up the court. Again, since so much of the film is made up of extreme close-ups of their faces, they have to use those faces to embody an extreme range of emotions without being able to resort to other tricks and tics of body language to do so.

All in all, The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of those transcendent films which truly shows what a skilled and passionate (no pun intended) film maker can create despite the enormous amount of interference from all quarters the Dreyer was faced with, and it’s a film that seems, much like Joan herself, something of a miracle that we are able to see today.

Here’s a trailer that was obviously made for a theatrical showing of the new restoration:

Sight and Sound Top 250 – #043 Some Like It Hot (1959)

Yeah, I really am trying to get caught up on writing about some of these. This time around, it’s #43 on the list, Bily Wilder’s Some Like It Hot. And as always I’ll just note that for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience.

hot1Billy Wilder’s output was so prolific that there was a point where I actually considered doing a bi-weekly series of posts called “A Year with Billy Wilder”. With 79 credits as a writer and 27 as director, covering pretty much every genre of film, it certainly seemed like a do-able proposition, but eventually I gave up on the idea, deciding to focus on other things instead. Nonetheless, the man was certainly a prolific film maker who often, I think, doesn’t get the credit that he deserves.

Fortunately, both for him and for us, he was able to strike gold more than a few times, and he certainly did with Some Like It Hot.

hot3Of course, when you have a starring cast like Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon accompanied by such stalwarts as George Raft, Pat O’Brien and Joe E. Brown, along with a screenplay which Wilder co-wrote with I. A. L. Diamond and a soundtrack full of wonderful songs, it would be pretty hard to go wrong.

Oh, and throw in the fact that Lemmon and Curtis spend much of the movie in drag and Ms. Monroe spends much of the movie in… well, let’s just say a lot less than Curtis and Lemmon,  and yeah, you’re pretty much destined to have a hit.

hot2It actually seems almost beside the point to note that alongside all of that, the movie is also very, very funny.

The plot itself is actually fairly simple: Lemmon and Curtis are two down on their luck musicians who, unfortunately for them, witness the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. Spotted by one of the gangsters carrying out the shooting, they go on the run, eventually disguising themselves as women and joining up with Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators, an all female band. It would seem as though the boys have found the perfect way to get out of town until it turns out that the band is headed to Miami, where it just so happens that the Chicago gangsters are also heading, for a conference of mobsters under the guise of a group called Friends of Italian Opera.

hot4Of course, it would be easy to simply ditch their disguises and Sweet Sue once they reach their destination. Or it would be if they hadn’t both fallen for Monroe’s Sugar Kane, the band’s vocalist and ukulele player.

Yeah, and it’s from there that the real complications begin to set in.

hot5Ultimately, the movie proves itself to be quite hilarious, in a way that puts today’s comedies. dependent as they too often are on profanity-laden scripts and scatological humor to shame, proving that you don’t necessarily have to be crude to be funny.

It should also be noted that Some Like It Hot was nominated for six Academy Awards including nods to Wilder for Best Director and Lemmon for Best Actor, both of which were well deserved.

Here’s a trailer for you:

Sight and Sound Top 250 – #250 Three Colors: Red (1994)

I should note here that just because I’m writing about the film that’s number 250 on the list,  Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red, that doesn’t mean that I’m done. Since I’ve been taking these out of order, pretty much at random or on an as-I-can-catch-them basis, there’s still plenty more to go. Meanwhile, for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience.

***I suppose I’ll also throw a quick Spoiler Warning up here,, since I will be discussing the ending not only of this film, butalso of the entire trilogy, but only in a vague way that probably won’t resonate as well for anyone who hasn’t actually seen the film. Nonetheless, here it is.***

r1In a way, it helps to know that the last scene of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors: Red (or, to give it its original title, Trois couleurs: Rouge) was actually the first scene of the entire trilogy to be shot. From that perspective one can look at everything that precedes it not so much as build-up to that final seemingly far too coincidental scene, but more of a how did we get to this point explanation.

Does that make a difference? Yes, I think it does.

Red is a movie that seems to be built on coincidence, on things happening in just the right way to either bring people together or keep (or in some cases tear) them apart at just the right time.

r6However, at the same time, it asks the question that we all ask at some time when we look back and think “How did I get here from where I was?”, namely: Was is all just coincidence, or is there some higher power or plan, some guiding force at work to get me here?

Well, when we know that the convergence of the seemingly unrelated stories told in the three films was actually not only planned from the start but is actually the kick start of the trilogy then we can see that, at least in the case of the films themselves, Kieślowski himself is providing that guiding hand. The film maker becomes the weaver of the web, the guiding hand of fate.

r4Of course, this is really true of any movie, the director is the force behind what happens on screen, but for a film that actually revolves around this “bigger picture” question, and almost demands that the viewer confront the idea of fate vs free will, and of the interconnectedness not only of the lives of various people but even the places and things around them, then watching all three of the movies from the perspective that they are actually providing the backstory to that moment can put the way one watches all of them into a new light.

Of course, all of this befits a film which is built on the third pillar of the ideals of the French Revolution, Fraternity, or the brotherhood of all mankind.

r2This interconnectedness also plays out in the film itself, which, though it seems at first as though it is going to be the story of model Valentine Dussaut (played by the absolutely gorgeous Irene Jacob who also starred in Kieślowski’s The Double Life of Veronique) actually turns out to be three stories in one. First, of course, is Valentine’s story, but it is also the story of a retired judge who Valentine meets after she accidentally hits his dog with her car. Then there is the third story, seemingly at first more unconnected to the other two, that of a young law student, Auguste.

Actually, of the three, though it is Jacob’s Valentine who is the focus of the movie, and though it is her picture that is the basis not only for the poster of the film and for most of the subsequent imagery, (deservedly so, as mentioned before, she truly is one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the big screen), and though she can be seen as the catalyst for much of which is to follow, for me it is the story of the judge, Joseph Kern (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant who is probably best known for his role opposite Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim’s And God Created Woman) that proves to be the most intriguing.

r5At first seemingly the most isolated of the characters in the film, it turns out that he may, in one way at least, be the one who is the most connected to the goings-on of the little world that surrounds him.

Or is he?

Actually, it is the judge’s situation and actions that are perhaps the most relevant to our own society today, and to the way that we interact with each other, as they beg the question of just how do we define interaction, and how well can we know people just by observing them and listening in on them? It could very well be said that the judge’s situation is a precursor to today’s “Facebook Question”, i.e. just because we label someone as our “friend” and we regularly check their status updates and sometimes reply to them, and may even have, at times, other online interactions with them, can we really regard them as friends even though we may have never even met them face-to-face?

r3Of course, the judge’s story involves much more than just that. It also begs the question of voyeurism and just how far one should be allowed or should allow oneself to go in spying on one’s neighbors, and at what point does casual observation cross the line and become truly intrusive, creepy, and even perhaps illegal, along with the question of what responsibility does one have towards those around them when they observe things that it seems like it might be in their best interest to know? Is there an obligation to inform them of it, or is it better to let them live on in ignorance, keeping that knowledge to ourselves? It is this last question that Valentine herself must confront when she discovers the judge’s secret life.

Of course, I suppose it’s not surprising that it’s this story line that most intrigues me, since the questions that it raises are essentially the same ones raised in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, which I have long said is my personal favorite movie from that director.

r7I realize that I haven’t really said much here about the design and composition of the movie, nor about the significance that it actually places on the titular color, but I think it rather goes without saying that the color, in all of its various hues is suffused throughout the film, and that its use is, of course masterful. Of course, much of the credit for that must go not only to Kieślowski, but to his cinematographer and frequent collaborator Piotr Sobociński who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for this film. (Kieślowski was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director for this movie, and he and co-screenwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz were nominated for Best Original screenplay. The film was also nominated for, and in some cases won, many other awards that year.

Unfortunately, Red also turned out to be the last film that would be made by this master craftsman, as he died suddenly in 1996 at age 54 during open-heart surgery following a heart attack.

Here’s where I’d usually leave you with a trailer, but I really hate the one that Miramax put together for their DVD release, and the only other one I could find didn’t have English subtitles, so I think instead I’ll leave you with this short “Three Reasons” video put together by Criterion which I think will give you a pretty good feel for at least the atmosphere and visual design of the film.