QUICK TAKES – 08.15.10

Alphaville (1965)

Grade: A- | 1st Viewing

When there is a combination of Jean-Luc Godard, science fiction, film noir, and social satire I wasn’t expecting an easily digestible film. However, I was surprised to find that Godard’s inventive tale of Lemmy Caution, the French version of Phillip Marlowe, was one of his most accessible films that I’ve seen. The film predates Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece 2001 by three years and you can see where some of the influence came from.

The city of Alphaville is under control of a supercomputer that speaks like a smoker through a voice box and prohibits free speech and open thought in a 1984-like world. Lemmy Caution seeks to destroy the computer by feeding it poetry and mental puzzles while he also teaches the beautiful Natacha how to love.

Eddy Constantine makes a great noir-detective and Anna Karina turns in another great Godard performance as the emotion-less love interest. The only time the film suffers is when Godard does his usual bit of telling you his ideology rather than showing you. Dialogue heavy scenes work in most of Godard’s films, but science fiction isn’t the place for it.

Gaslight (1944)

Grade: B | 1st Viewing

Ingrid Bergman is phenomenal in George Cukor’s Hitchcockian thriller about a woman being psychologically tortured by her husband. Bergman plays a young singer who moves back into the same house where her aunt was murdered years ago with her new husband. Her anxiousness over living in the place where her aunt died causes her to believe she is going insane, which is encouraged by her husband.

The film is a smart look at a case of psychological abuse and demonstrates a case of early female power with Bergman’s tour de force final confrontation with her husband. My main problem with the film was that it’s supposed twist was pretty much predictable from the first shot. There was never a moment where I believed Bergman was actually insane despite her excellent performance.

A Single Man (2009)

Grade: B+ | 1st Viewing

I really hope that Colin Firth doesn’t return to films like Mamma Mia or Bridget Jones’ Diary anytime soon. His performance in Tom Ford’s visually rich film is the best I’ve seen from the eloquent Brit and was the key to making the film good. Ford’s first directing attempt isn’t perfect, but he shows some great panache and creativity in the way he frames the talented cast. As expected from the fashion icon, every outfit looks like it is right out of GQ or Esquire.

Some of the visual tricks that Ford used I thought were a bit gimmicky, such as the color changing or disappearing when the emotions change. However, the film was obviously a labor of love and the brilliant performances make it a treat, specifically Firth and Julianne Moore.

What movies did you see last week?

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  • Jose

    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. 1st viewing

    I might be hanged for this, but I really hated this movie. Having read 2/3 of the trilogy, this seemed to me like a lifeless adaption of the first part. The storyline was rushed way too much, the guy that played Bloomkvist was quite boring and Noomi Rapace was quite stiff as the heroine Lisbeth Salander. Too much backstory was taken out that resulted in dehuminizing Lisbeth, and I’m not ussualy a “book purist” (those people that get annoyed whenever every little thing gets changed from the book to screen), but wow did they take out a lot.

    And in the novels, the murders were actually quite shocking but in the movie it just seemed likme it was added on just because it was in the book and served as a distraction from the cold case.

    D.

  • Quinn

    “Rear Window” – 1st Viewing
    Fantastic, one of my favorite Hitchcock films. Great performances, great script, sublime direction. The suspense was almost unbearable in some scenes, *SPOILER like the scene when Lisa breaks into Thorwald’s apartment and he comes home! And the scene when Thorwald comes to Jeff’s apartment was terrifying. SPOILER*
    A.

    “City Lights” – 1st Viewing
    The whole movie was excellent, but the just the last scene is better by half of the movies the have come out this year. It was one of the finest, most moving moments in any movie I have ever seen, and it was superbly acted, written and directed. The movie was hilarious and charming.
    A.

    “A Prairie Home Companion” – 1st Viewing
    A marvelous, uplifting film – and Altman’s last. The performances all absolutely fantastic, everyone is a stand-out. I was surprised by Lindsay Lohan now shes obviously a train wreck, but in this film she was excellent. One of my favorite things about the film was the Angel played by Virginia Madsen, who came to cheer up the cast of the radio show and escort one of them to the afterlife.
    A-.

  • You had a good week, Quinn. :)

  • So did I. I saw plenty:

    “The General” (First Viewing) – How this is the 18th best American film (according to the AFI) is beyond me. It’s very good, but for me it worked better as an action film than as a comedy. Solid, entertaining. Not great. B+

    “On the Waterfront” (Second Viewing) – Now this movie IS great. Marlon Brando might be better here than he is in “The Godfather”, and the entire movies is filled with powerful, visceral sequences. A

    “The White Ribbon” – Michael Haneke is an acquired taste, I think. I much preferred this film to the overrated “Cache”, though I still wasn’t completely in love with it. Technically, it’s stunning. Visually breathtaking as well. But it left me a bit cold at the end. Also, give us a satisfying ending once in a while, won’t you, Haneke? B+

    “Laura” – An enjoyable little mystery film, “Laura” is unfortunately dragged down by being at times completely preposterous. One minute the private eye couldn’t care less about the girl, then the next minute he’s obsessed. Didn’t buy it. Great performance by Clifton Webb, though. B

    And finally, I finished “The Wire”. Best TV show. Ever. Series Grade: A

  • Oh, “Laura” and “The White Ribbon” were both first viewings.

  • Darn, I forgot one.

    “8 1/2” – This is a really good, very visually inventive film that isn’t as good as most would have you think. It’s quite frankly a bit of a mess, and like “The White Ribbon” it lacks a resolution. I was never bored while watching it, but I don’t think I ever want to watch it again either. B+

  • Quinn

    Haha I did have a fantastic week.

    @G1000 “On the Waterfront” is possibly my favorite movie of all time. I think this is Marlon Brando’s best performance.

  • It’s not mine (“Duck Soup”, anyone?), but after watching it a second time it’s probably top 10. Magnificent film.

  • Just a colombian film “García” 5.5/10 Nothing exceptional.

  • Quinn

    Hey did anyone see “The Lovely Bones”?

  • Andrew R.

    Of the films you saw:
    Gaslight-Brilliant performance by Bergman. Her best, actually.
    Single Man-Outside of Firth and Moore, no.
    Haven’t seen Alphaville.

    Anyway, I saw Rosemary’s Baby yesterday. Very spooky, very good. Ruth Gordon deserved her Oscar, but the snubs in Picture, Actress, and a few other categories were insane.

  • Jose

    Quinn, I saw The Lovely Bones and it is horrrid.

  • Quinn

    I saw it too, and while it wasn’t great, it wasn’t horrid either. It was a big disappointment because to second I saw the trailer it became my most anticipated movie of last year. I finished reading the book for the first time about ten minutes before my friends picked me up to see it, and I was kind of shocked by how much was left out, and keep thinking how much better it could how been if they kept some of the left out parts. Also, I think the director, Peter Jackson, was to focused out the (outstanding) visual effects that he didn’t focus enough on the characters and their emotions and how dealt with Susie’s death, witch was what the whole book was about. But there were some bright spots, like the acting. I thought all the performances were excellent especially Saorise Ronan and Stanley Tucci. And the visuals and cinematography and art direction were outstanding and worthy of Ocar nomination, IMO. Despite alll the flaws, I liked it.
    B.

  • Jose

    I get what you’re saying, but like you said, since they took out how they dealt with Susie’s death and that was the whole point of the novel, I just saw no point in the movie other than to showcase the visual effects. Ronan was good, so was Tucci but there eally was nothing outstanding about them.
    C.

  • I loved The Lovely Bones. I’m a Jackson fan.

  • Quinn

    @ Jose – yeah I get what you’re saying too. I felt like the director wasn’t putting forth any effort into anything but the visual effects, by the actors were trying.

    Also, last night I saw “The Kids Are Alright”

    I don’t think its the best movie of the year (Its tied with “Inception for 2nd and “Toy Story 3” is No.1), but it is excellent. I don’t even know how to describe the brilliance of the ensemble cast. Annette Benning needs an Oscar. All of the other actors were brilliant as well. The writing was excellent.
    A.

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