Life gets in the way sometimes, y’know?
I had grand illusions of continuing to post once a week, and of even scheduling posts I’d written in advance. No dice. But the good news is, I’ve started a Tumblr! And committed to posting once a day! …Right. It will mostly be an amalgam of this blog and my Twitter feed, so if you like either of those, it’s marleeonepostaday.tumblr.com. If you don’t, then you don’t like photos of Lauren Bacall or Fredric March either!
So what have I been doing lately? Actually, going to see films! In theaters! Usually I wait til it’s out on DVD and then get it from the library (read: poor), but there were a few too good to pass up.
Le pont du nord at BAM Cinematek.
I don’t know why I picked Le pont du nord out of TimeOut’s (I know, but my roommate has a mysterious admirer that keeps renewing her subscription) ‘art house and indie’ film listings – maybe because they described it as ‘hallucinatory.’ I’m going to make a confession: I’m not a huge fan of the French film school. French New Wave is not interesting or engaging to me. Rififi is probably the only exception. I speak French, not fluently, but pretty well, and I studied it in school, so I should appreciate the French perspective on film, right? Still kind of bores me. But ‘hallucinatory’ was intriguing to me, and the film was made in 1981, so how Shoot the Piano Player could it be? I’ve also had a disappointing history at BAM – mostly with their live performances, so again, why did I decide this movie was going to be worth it? Who knows. BUT IT WAS. The interwoven narrative structure and the way the audience received information was totally turned on its head. It was unlike anything you’ve seen; any story you’ve read or watched or heard of. Not French, not American – it doesn’t really belong in a film school. And it confuses everyone. My roommate and I discussed it endlessly on our commute home, and afterwards I looked up a few reviews. The New Yorker saw a spy vs. spy international thriller in it. And while Film Comment had some more articulate things to say than the New Yorker, they had no idea what it was about either! I loved it.
The film opens with a girl on a motorcycle, circling Paris. Once, twice, three times she crashes into a woman who has just arrived in town and cannot bear to be indoors. The younger girl (Pascale Ogier) takes it upon herself to follow the woman (Bulle Ogier, actually Pascale’s mother, although to me they look more like sisters in the beginning and Bulle seems to age into the mother role through the film), who meets up with a mysterious old flame. As the two traverse Paris, it is revealed that Marie, the woman, has just gotten out of prison and is desperate to reunite with Julien, her gambler beau, who seems to be in trouble and keeps putting Marie off for ‘trios plus jours’ (three more days). Baptiste, the young girl, follows Marie around spouting wisdom, but soon the two get mixed up with Julien, a briefcase full of ‘files’ he is holding as collateral for a gambling debt, and a map of Paris that resembles a French children’s board game full of traps. There is no explanation of Julien or the ‘Maxes,’ men who pop up to protect or steer Marie and Baptiste to or from danger, which is what led the New Yorker to spy vs. spy. Who is Julien in trouble with? Is Marie’s past coming back to haunt her? Is Baptiste even real? It is endearing in a Moonrise Kingdom sort of way, and open-ended like nothing else has been.
Dial M for Murder in 3D at Film Forum.
I love living in New York. I know L.A. is the ‘hub’ of film, Hollywood, and all that, but New York, for lack of a better phrase, is where it’s at. You want to see an Alfred Hitchcock in 3D? Forget Anthony Hopkins and Scarlett Johansson, New York has Film Forum! For one week only, they showed Dial M in 3D. I walked into the theater without my 3D glasses, not knowing it was in 3D, and immediately ran back to the lobby to put them on.
Dial M was the first film Grace Kelly made with Hitch, in 1954. It co-starred Ray Milland and John Williams and was made in Technicolor, based on a play by Frederick Knott. Another well-known Knott play adapted to the screen was Wait Until Dark (1967), starring Audrey Hepburn and a young Alan Arkin. Knott is known for his plays occurring in cramped spaces; both Dial M and Wait Until Dark take place entirely in one, one-floor garden/basement apartment (Dial M in London in northern Paddington, Wait Until Dark in New York’s Greenwich Village – maybe Wait Until Dark would have been more appropriate for Film Forum? Hmm…). What Hitch does with the one set script is to add the three dimensions in his camera angles. The 3D effects added later only enhance what Hitch already did. He was notorious (see what I did there?) for planning his films shot by shot before he went into production, and in 3D, you can see where he did. Often, the camera is behind the bar and we see Margo (Grace Kelly) facing us, as we look through the bottles on the bar, and behind her, adding the third dimension of depth, is Mark (Robert Cummings), reaching for her shoulder. Of course when Margo is being strangled across the desk and she reaches her outstretched fingers towards the camera, before finding the scissors, the hand pops out of the screen towards the audience in true 3D fashion. I can forgive that cheesy use of 3D on that iconic and easy image because in other instances, the 3D enhances the claustrophobia and emphasizes depth in Hitch’s carefully planned shots.
A Star is Born (1937) on Hulu.
Hulu and Netflix are the future of television. There, I said it. House of Cards was just the beginning; a smashing success of a beginning. Streaming television and movies is the way media is moving. I love Hulu partly because of their partnership with Criterion, but also because they have ‘forgotten’ classic films streaming for free. (Often for the more well-known Criterion films, a Hulu Plus membership is required, again, read: poor.) (Warner Archive, hook me up with a beta account!) I’d watched the 1954 version of A Star is Born with Judy garland and James Mason right after I watched Julius Caesar in which he played Brutus to a surprisingly articulate Marlon Brando as Mark Antony. Plus I already had an affinity for Mason from Eddie Izzard’s stand-up (he imagines God sounds like James Mason). Judy Garland I’d never been that keen on, but her acting, let alone her singing in “The Man That Got Away,” was truly phenomenal. So I was wary to the watch the 1937 version with no Masion and no Judy. I wasn’t a fan of Janet Gaynor, and I expected the Fredric March of The Best Years of Our Lives. Holy moly, I love when films smash my expectations. Janet Gaynor actually was cute and innocent and naturally talented like they kept saying she was, and Fredric March was the dashing silent star that Jean Dujardin was trying to be. It wasn’t cheesy; they both sold it. And at the end, as we watch March’s bathrobe toss in the incoming tide (Spoiler!), there was no other ending that would have worked, because Gaynor and March just sold the story so well.
What I’m looking forward to seeing?
The Place Beyond the Pines at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.
Essentially Drive + Blue Valentine, but I love Ryan Gosling (too much) and I love those two films, so why not?
Frances Ha at BAM Cinematek.
I missed the film at NYFF last fall (but got stuck in an elevator with Greta Gerwig and developed a career crush on Noah Baumbach’s assistant) and am so excited it is being distributed! I’m pretty sure that this film is my life/my generation, not Girls.
The General at The Museum of the Moving Image.
With a live orchestra scoring the film. I know. I’m dying.
And I promise promise promise to write more in the coming month.