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Archive for the ‘U.S.A.’ Category

Suspicion ; 1941

Friday, January 1st, 2010

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Actors: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, Dame May Whitty
Country: U.S.A.

First of all, happy new year! I hope that everyone had a lovely 2009 and that 2010 will be even better.

Although I am always scared and have a sense of dread before watching a Hitchcock film, I never regret it afterwards. Suspicion is definitely not an exception to this rule and I was at the edge of my seat throughout the whole film. Underneath all the suspense, there were also moments of warm-fuzziness and humour, which I enjoyed immensely. My only problem with it is the rushed feeling at the end, but it sort of makes sense since Hitchcock didn’t want the ending that it is in the final cut. The plot is great, hands down, but what makes this film great in my opinion is the lighting and how that effects the mood of the scene. This may seem trivial but I loved how the milk glowed in the scene where Johnny (Grant) takes it up to give it to Lina (Fontaine) and even when he first enters into the scene, it makes Johnny’s entrance terrifying, thus the audience relates to the fear that Lina feels. I heard in a documentary that Hitchcock actually put a little light in there to make it glow. Although Hitchcock did not want the ending that ended up in the final cut, I thought that because of it, it had the little twist that I always look forward to in Hitchcock films

Even though Joan Fontaine won the Oscar for her performance in this film, I thought that it should have been Cary Grant who got the recognition for his acting. I always saw Grant in romantic comedies so when I saw him in this role, I was surprised by how well he was suited for the part. I never really saw Cary Grant as an amazing actor, but when I saw him in this film, I couldn’t help but think that he was splendid.

I am astounded by how Hitchcock films never fails to disappoint me and I hope that everyone else who watches this film enjoys it as much as I did.

IMDb Link: Suspicion
Where to buy: Amazon.com

The Damned Don’t Cry ; 1950

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Director: Vincent Sherman
Actors: Joan Crawford, David Brian, Steve Cochran, Kent Smith, Hugh Sanders
Country: U.S.A.

It saddened me to see the great Joan Crawford in this B-movie with almost no glamour and bad acting. The only reason I can’t hate this film is because Crawford’s performance is excellent, the cinematography, and the quick and witty dialogue. Although this film looks like a cheap movie even from the beginning, somehow ths story and dialogue keeps you intrigued the whole time. I really thought that I wouldn’t enjoy this film when I watched the first few minutes of it, but as I kept watching, it got better and better. To see Crawford as a woman who will do anything she can to get what she thinks she deserves made me think how similar her character was to Crawford’s own life story. The cinematography is that of a film noir’s, which adds to the cheap look of the film. Although Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity made the film noir style look glamourous, this film didn’t do such a great job. Nevertheless, the camera movements and the editing was effective for this film although the lighting was a bit questionable at times. I was surprised by the scene when Ethel (Crawford) gets beaten by George (Brian) because I didn’t think such behaviour would be allowed to be shown due to the Hays Code. But maybe the censors thought that Ethel deserved what she got.

I really admire Crawford for her acting and how she was able to rise up to become the huge star that she was. While I do admire her and love her as an actor, I can’t help but notice how much her face changes. During her flapper era, she was the embodiment of what I thought a flapper was, at least appearance-wise. She had wide eyes, the hair, and the dance movies, and she looked like a girl who wanted to have fun. She definitely matured with her looks as one can see in Grand Hotel and I thought she became even more gorgeous, or should I say glamourous? I thought Crawford was very pretty during her flapper years but I can see why people in the 30s thought Crawford was beautiful. Even I said, “Wowee~ No wonder so many people said she was gorgeous!” But when I saw her in The Damned Don’t Cry, I couldn’t help but think that her looks became harder and her eyes became more intense and almost frightening. While in some moments of this film I thought I saw her old, beautiful looks, I couldn’t help but think that Crawford looked terrifying. And even later in her career, I think that she becomes a shadow of her former self and almost becomes a caricature of herself. Her trademark Crawford smear is almost laughable while also being a bit creepy and her features are so hardened that she no longer has the glamourous look of a beautiful woman. My first Crawford film was The Women and I was head-over-heels with her looks, but my mom remarked, “She looks scary! Well, pretty I guess, but scary…” I guess Crawford’s transformation started even as early as the late 1930s. While Crawford’s looks have diminished, her acting abilities are still intact. I cannot deny Crawford’s talent as an actress and would say that she is definitely one of the best actresses that MGM ever had, possibly even beating Greta Garbo.

I highly recommend this film for everyone. I know that many of my friends who are interested in older films are women, but maybe this can be a film that one can watch with a boyfriend or father since it has action, intrigue, and all the good stuff that appeals to everyone.

IMDb Link: The Damned Don’t Cry
Where to buy: Amazon.com

The Pool ; 2009

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Posted by Maddy

Director: Chris Smith
Actors: Jhangir Badshah, Venkatesh Chavan, Ayesha Mohan, Nana Patekar
Country: U.S.A.

As much as I don’t wish to compare this film to the hit of 2008 Slumdog Millionaire it’s hard not to draw comparisons. This film focusing on lower class Indians is another example of India viewed from the eyes of a foreigner. Chris White, an American filmmaker, tells a story of a foreign land, in the foreign land and in a foreign language. But this film is much quieter than its successful counterpart and manages to tell a better story without the overt glamour of Slumdog.

The Pool is about the “room boy” Venkatesh, an eighteen year old from a small rural town trying to make a living without having any education. He cleans hotel rooms and sells plastic bags with the help of his friend Jhangir, who is in the same situation as him. Jhangir is a realist compared to Venkatesh and chides him for spending his free time perched in a mango tree overlooking the property of a rich family. This family, consisting of a father and a daughter, spend their time in the backyard but never in the pool, much to Venkatesh’s puzzlement. Venkatesh manages to get a job working for the family and while working in the vicinity of his desire learns about the troubled family and gets an opportunity to leave his lifestyle for a better one.

The simple cinematography and on location shooting gives the film a realistic feel. Though fiction, one can understand that there are thousands of Venkatesh’s and Jhangir’s all trying to make a living out of nothing. Not necessarily a sad film, it has its bitter sweet ending, but the films’ stark realism highlights a situation that is certainly not desperate but a problem none the less. The real triumph of the film is in its story telling. An underlying story of the film is the story of the family Venkatesh works for. A father lives with his daughter away from the big city for reasons unknown. The daughter, a rebellious teenager has a strained relationship with her father. In two sentences, the first by the father and the second by the daughter manage to explain not only why they don’t go swimming in the pool, but why their relationship is so strained and even give a light to what had happened before hand. Very little of what happened is made explicit and it is up to the audience to fill in the gaps. Yet this low key style of story telling is the highlight of the film.
Subtle, quiet and thoughtful The Pool shows a side of India that wouldn’t be seen from Bollywood. In the spirit of the quiet American indie films that have been popular over the last ten years The Pool is about normal people with normal lives. The authenticity of not only the story but the actors, for many of whom it was their first film, manages to make this film resonate more than it should. Nothing extraordinary, but good filmmaking none the less, The Pool demonstrates how what is left unsaid is the best way to say it.

Red-Headed Woman ; 1932

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Director: Jack Conway
Actors: Jean Harlow, Chester Morris, Lewis Stone, Leila Hyams, Una Merkel
Country: U.S.A.

I loved Red-Headed Woman because I wish I could be like Lillian (Harlow)! To have that much charm to seduce every man she likes is something that not every woman can do.

So what exactly do I think about this film? First I would like to start by saying that I give it a thumbs up. One can’t find films like this when the Hays Code was in effect and I thought that this film was the epitome of what was acceptable pre-code. You can watch this film for yourself and see what I mean. I don’t find Jean Harlow to be beautiful, but she is glamourous and perfect for this role. I cannot imagine anyone else playing the part because the way Harlow moved, glanced, and looked was dead on for the role for Lillian. Something about Harlow made me understand why so many people love her to this day; the way her makeup accentuated her features and her large, almost tragic, eyes definitely drew me in. She was also an amazing actress and I enjoyed watching her in a comedy and I liked her just as much in this film. This is my second film with Chester Morris (the first being The Divorcee) and I thought he was suited for this role. I don’t really like him much for some reason… maybe it’s his slicked back hair that doesn’t do much for his profile. Leila Hyams as Irene was GORGEOUS. When I saw her, I couldn’t help but keep my eyes on her. Although she is beautiful, I still thought Harlow stole the show with her acting.

For all pre-code film fans, this is a must watch. I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t enjoy this film because modern day viewers can see that life back then was just the same as today and it’s interesting to see that scandalous things were portrayed in films in the past.

IMDb Link: Red-Headed Woman
Where to buy: Amazon.com (VHS) ; Amazon.com (Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 1 DVD set)

Anna Karenina ; 1935

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Director: Clarence Brown
Actors: Greta Garbo, Fredric March, Freddie Bartholomew, Maureen O’Sullivan
Country: U.S.A.

I have yet to read Tolstoy’s classic novel due to my fear of Tolstoy that was instilled in me as I was a child. Although I have enjoyed one of his novels, Anna Karenina always scared me despite it being one of my mother’s favourite books thus I decided that I’ll take the easy way out and watch the film to educate myself a bit and perhaps make me less intimidated by the book. It was an enjoyable film for the most part, but I didn’t find it to be anything special. I usually like Garbo when I watch her films, but I thought that her acting wasn’t as great as everyone says it is; I thought her voice inflections, tone, and pitch were odd at times and not right for the scene. I know that Garbo is known for saying more with her face than her lines, but even I wasn’t impressed and thought everything was not right. It’s a gorgeous film to watch but it just didn’t do it for me. None of the other actors were any better and I felt that everything was too overdone. This film was a big disappointment for me since I do adore (well, it’s more like love/hate, but while watching this, I did like her) Garbo and wanted to like this film. The only thing saving it would be Garbo’s beauty and Adrian’s lovely designs. Yes, I stooped down to the level of superficiality for this film.

Just like Grand Hotel, Garbo is presented in a dramatic fashion with a cloud of smoke and then the beautiful face emerges from it. Oh MGM, how overly dramatic you can be!!!

I would recommend this film for Garbo fans, Anna Karenina and Tolstoy enthusiasts, people interested in Clarence Brown’s works, and people interested in old costume films. Oh and Fredric March fans as well (ALTHOUGH I REALLY CAN’T SEE WHAT THE HUBBUB ABOUT HIM IS). I can’t find anything special about this film, but that doesn’t mean that it should be thrown in the “don’t watch it” bin.

IMDb Link: Anna Karenina
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Waterloo Bridge ; 1940

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Actors: Vivien Leigh, Robert Taylor, Lucile Watson, Virginia Field, Maria Ouspenskaya
Country: U.S.A.

I adore this movie so much. Not many films can make me cry, but Waterloo Bridge has succeeded in making me cry twice. I did enjoy watching the original version of this film, but this is the one that has a special place in my heart.

What surprised me was the transformation that Myra (Leigh) went through from the beginning towards the end. I guess it’s the makeup and clothes, but something about Myra looked cheap and gaudy when she was at the Waterloo Station looking for a prospective customer. I suppose the way Myra held herself and glanced around that made me realize what her job was, but even her physical appearance gave away her profession. I can’t point out what it is because the makeup is fine and her clothes are nice, but there’s just SOMETHING that is different. I can only point it to Vivien Leigh’s fine acting that pulls the point across and makes the pretty clothes and normal makeup look cheap. It’s just like Mae Clarke’s performance in the original: it’s just something that I can’t put my finger on that makes the audience know even though the action of their profession isn’t seen.

Robert Taylor was fantastic as Roy and I loved everyone else in this film. I have no complaints about this film and I wish that more people knew about it. And boy, Vivien Leigh is as gorgeous as ever.

IMDb Link: Waterloo Bridge
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Auntie Mame ; 1958

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Director: Morton DaCosta
Actors: Rosalind Russell, Forrest Tucker, Coral Browne, Fred Clark, Roger Smith
Country: U.S.A.

One of my friends told me that she wanted to be Auntie Mame. I was a bit confused since I only owned the movie and haven’t watched it yet and made a remark somewhere along the lines of, “Well, Rosalind Russell is quite beautiful and amazing…” When I got back home, I searched through all my films and decided that I must watch it to see why Auntie Mame is so amazing that someone would say that she wants to be her. After watching it, even I said, “I want to be like Auntie Mame!” She has fabulous clothes (duh, it’s Orry-Kelly after all), wit, charm, and intelligence. Not only that, she is open-minded about everything (well, except conservative bourgeois) and she has (had at one point) enough money to redecorate her house often. Although this film isn’t anything groundbreaking or spectacular, I think it’s a fun movie to watch. And who wants to give up the opportunity to see Rosalind Russell in Technicolor? She has aged so well that I was jealous.

What surprised me the most in this film was Patrick’s transformation in the middle; I thought with Auntie Mame’s influences, he would not become what Auntie Mame hated. But of course since this film is a feel good movie, all is well in the end.

This film has such lush colours that the visuals are great. Even the credits were fun to watch, which made me wonder if the late 50s had a thing for vivid colours for credits. Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life has gorgeous credits that have colours that can’t be described.

My final verdict: thumbs up!

IMDb Link: Auntie Mame
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Christmas in July ; 1940

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Director: Preston Sturges
Actors: Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Raymond Walburn, Alexander Carr, William Demarest, Ernest Truex, Franklin Pangborn
Country: U.S.A.

I finally got my paws on more Preston Sturges films and I was excited to watch them. I watched The Great Moment and was disappointed but I remembered reading that The Great Moment was butchered by Paramount (or one of the major studios) so I decided that I shouldn’t judge Sturges for that film. But then I watched this and wondered what in the world made Sturges make it. The acting was mediocre, although I did like Ellen Drew as Betty. It had some cute moments and I can see some of Sturges’ usual style but this film was so… bland. I wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone unless they want to see all of Sturges’ works; I can’t even come up with one redeeming quality for this film.

IMDb Link: Christmas in July
Where to buy: Amazon.com (DVD – part of “Preston Sturges – The Filmmaker Collection”) ; Amazon.com (VHS)

Waterloo Bridge ; 1931

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Director: James Whale
Actors: Mae Clarke, Douglass Montgomery, Doris Lloyd, Frederick Kerr, Enid Bennett, Bette Davis
Country: U.S.A.

I’ve watched the remake of this film and absolutely fell in love with it the first time I watched it. I forgot what the title was and it took me two years to hunt it down until my mom finally remembered what the title was. When I looked it up, I found out that it was a remake of an earlier film so I became even more curious about this film. Usually I hate remakes, but I adored the remake; that gets me wondering if the mindset that people carry about remakes is what tarnishes their reputation because I didn’t know the later Waterloo Bridge was a remake and liked it. I probably would have liked it nevertheless due to Vivien Leigh and the great story and acting. Anyway going on, at first I was indifferent while watching this (original) version due to the odd pacing and me wondering just where this film was going with the story. On top of that, sometimes Mae Clarke’s face expressions were hard to decipher. I really did like Mae Clarke as Myra and she was gorgeous yet had an air of tragedy, which was perfect for her character. Kent Douglass as the nineteen year old war soldier Roy looks completely innocent and is perfect in this role. I was surprised to see the young Bette Davis but her performance didn’t leave much of an impression on me, which makes me admire her even more for eventually becoming such a big star. It’s a shame that this was my first Davis film but it is still interesting to see her in one of her earlier films.

The editing and special effects in this film is fun to see since it’s obvious but still pretty good for its time. I wonder if they used the Schüfftan process, but it doesn’t look as seamless as it did in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Hmm… *ponders*

My favourite scene has got to be when Myra sees Roy leave and then puts on her hat and gets ready to go out again (ref. Picture 2). From her face expression and her getting ready to go out, somehow you know about her occupation. I thought Mae Clarke’s performance was at its best in this scene although the scene when she yells and cries when Roy comes in through the window is a close second.

Also a weird thing, the ending credits has “A Good Cast is Worth Repeating”; I wonder what the meaning of that is…

The beginning of the film is a bit slow but as the film progresses, it gets better and better. I do recommend this film although I can see how some people might not like it. It’s not as dramatic as it could have been or as tragic, but I think it was good nonetheless. The remake definitely smoothes out the rough edges and heightens the drama and the tragedy. It’s also interesting to watch a film that goes against the stereotype of pre-code films being racy and sexual. I would give this film about a 7.5 or 8 out of 10.

I’ll definitely write about the remake as well once I find my DVD!

IMDb Link:
Waterloo Bridge
Where to buy: Amazon.com (Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 1 DVD set)

Grand Hotel ; 1932

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Director: Edmund Goulding
Actors: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt
Country: U.S.A.

First of all, I would like to say “Happy birthday!” to the “Queen of MGM”, Norma Shearer. I didn’t have any more Shearer films with me so I decided to post about a film that Shearer would have been in except word has it that her fans begged her not to star in it. I wish that Shearer was in it, but I love the cast of Grand Hotel as it is. Nevertheless, happy birthday, and may you rest in peace.

The whole idea of Grand Hotel is stated by the Doctor (Stone) saying, “Grand Hotel. Always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.” Although it seems like it goes against all the drama that does happen in the film, it does show the nature of the hotel. People come in and go out all the time and although there are things happening in the place, in the end the stories that happen there doesn’t matter because it is replaced by the new flood of people that come. The drama that happened one time in Grand Hotel is all forgotten eventually.

Or at least that is my take on it.

I highly enjoyed this film the first time I watched it and when I watched it the second time around, I was more interested in how the hotel functions as a place. There is so much going on but everything is ephemeral there: the food, the music, the romance, nothing ever lasts. People change while they are in this hotel, but the hotel never changes and always does the same thing by serving the people under its roof. The story we see in this film is just a small fraction of what happened at that one period of time in the hotel’s history and it’ll soon just be irrelevant replaced by the new couple who come to the hotel in the end and eventually their presence and actions will be forgotten. I love that the hotel creates the opportunity of mishmashing between all kinds of different people such as a stenographer, an ill man, a ballerina, a baron, and a textiles business man. How the drama unfolds in this film is perfect and the ending is bittersweet. Surprisingly the second time around, I didn’t feel much sadness for Grusinskaya (Garbo) and felt even happier for Flaemmchen (Crawford) and Kringelein (L. Barrymore). I guess Grusinskaya was simply too selfish for me the second time around whereas when I first saw her, my fascination with Garbo and her beauty enraptured me.

Crawford’s performance in this film was spectacular. Even Garbo couldn’t outshine Crawford because Garbo seemed too overdone and almost not genuine. While I thought that she did portray her character well, Crawford’s timing and face expressions were performed so perfectly that I enjoyed every minute of her screen time. Her little talk with the Baron (J. Barrymore) was flawless because her body language and face expressions made it clear what kind of person she was. Crawford has such a presence in each scene that you have to see this film just for her.

Also, I have to point out my amusement of how long it takes for Greta Garbo to appear in a film. And on top of that, her entrance is always dragged out and her glorious face is always obscured by something and then makes a dramatic entrance. It’s almost laughable at times and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I saw how the bed sheets just happen to cover her face in Grand Hotel and the camera does almost a full circle until it gets to Garbo and her face.

I believe that this film was the first all-star cast film to ever be made in America. I think that MGM succeeded in creating a film that had the star power and a great story to go with it. I highly recommend it and just like how the hotel changes over time, your thoughts about the film and what intrigues you will change every time you watch it as well.

IMDb Link: Grand Hotel
Where to buy: Amazon.com