#402- Man of Marble

Quick recap: A young filmmaker tries to make a documentary about a former communist hero but instead finds a lot of depressing facts instead.

I loved Agnieszca and her boldness

Fun (?) fact:  Bricklaying competitions were totally a thing, probably because there wasn’t much else to do.

I’d totally watch bricks being laid by this guy

Thoughts and observations:

Despite not understanding what was going on some of the time, I think Man of Marble is an important watch. Essentially, it’s about a man opening his eyes to corruption and finally seeing how government let him down. Mateus Birkut started out as a simple bricklayer, building structures for the Communist party in Poland. One day he is chosen to lead a team of men to a brick laying record. Birkut is adorably confused by the sudden fame and quickly becomes tired of the constant attention. After completing the record, however, he warms up to the idea of being the face of the party. It isn’t until years later that his hands are ruined by sabotage that he realizes being a part of the propaganda machine isn’t what he wanted.

What makes this film unique for me is that the audience learns bits and pieces of the story just like the filmmaker Agnieszca. It reminded me of a limited series podcast, where each episode would be her interviewing an important person at a different time in Birkut’s career in order to work out where he currently is. Actually, her film gets canceled because it makes everyone look bad and only at the very end does she think to track the guy down. Spoiler alert: he’s probably dead. Her fixation on this simple bricklayer is an attainable way to track the horrors of the controlling party at the time. By showing his downfall and entire life ruined, she is also essentially filming the downfall of Communism.

Watchability score: 4/5

Up next: When Harry Met Sally

#401- The Rules of the Game

Quick recap: A bunch of rich people do dumb rich people things like have affairs with their friends and needlessly kill small animals. And despite being on the brink of a war, no one mentions anything related to Hitler’s escalation.

Fun(?)fact: Although partly a myth, the film was really unpopular when it was first released. One person tried to burn down the theater it was playing in using a lit newspaper.

Thoughts and observations: 

A conversation with my 11 year-old, after we had finished watching this movie-

Me: You are a trooper for sitting through two hours of subtitles and watching something made in the 30s!

B: You didn’t like it? I thought it was really funny!

Me: Maybe I just didn’t get the humor. It’s probably something complicated like every character stands for a different aspect of high society.

B: I just thought everyone was ridiculous, especially the guy who couldn’t get out of the bear suit. The one part of the movie I didn’t like was when everyone went hunting and killed all those rabbits and birds for no reason. I hated them

Me: Well, anyway, I’m going to do some research and find the true meaning of what this movie was about. French films are always way more complicated than they appear.

 

And then after ‘hours’ of research (I read the full Wikipedia article), I realized that my kid hit the nail on the head. This movie is about the ridiculousness of society and how they could throw parties and fall in love and get stuck in bear suits when World War II is on the cusp of beginning. And the hunting scene was put there to show how casually the rich felt about the taking of innocent life. If that wasn’t too on the nose for you, there is also a scene in which two women discuss getting the new Diphtheria vaccine. Because when you are rich, that is just a choice you can make. Good thing we’ve never had to revisit that discussion ever since then!!

 

As it turns out, my son would make a good reviewer one day. Then again, he hasn’t sat through the pile of French films I have and developed his own jaded attitude. One day, kid. One day.

Watchability score: 3/5 for me. If you are 11 though, apparently this is a 5/5

Up next: Man of Marble

 

In Retrospect pt.4

It’s been three years since I started #300 on my list but it felt like much longer. I enjoyed this set of films as much as the others and once again, my hope is to always watch more! Cheers to the next 100! Now, on to the superlatives!

Movie most likely to remind me that I can’t tell Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart apart:

Man of the West

 

Movie that lets me down again and again:

Grease

 

Movie that reminds me how much I love Heather Graham:

Drugstore Cowboy 

 

Movie I most regret not loving:

Heat

 

Movie that makes me want more Chuck Yeager (RIP):

The Right Stuff

 

Movie that stuck with me the longest:

Jacob’s Ladder

 

Movie with true events that most resemble a horror film:

The Killing Fields

 

Movie with most paranoid characters:

The Ear

 

Movie that makes me appreciate Hitchcock’s depth:

Sabotage

Movie referenced by the Simpsons:

Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song

 

 

#400- The Quiet Man

Quick recap:  Sean Thornton (played by John Wayne) moves back to his hometown in Ireland, where he falls in love with a feisty redhead and makes an enemy of her brother.

Fun (?) fact:  Maureen O’Hara whispered an unscripted line in John Wayne’s ear at the end of the movie to get a genuine shocked expression on his face. Neither she nor he or director John Ford ever revealed what that line was.

Thoughts and observations: 

Seeing as this is my 400th review, I chose a film I could easily snark on. So much low hanging fruit- from the casting of John Wayne to the ridiculous Irish accents, I was planning to let loose! But alas, I can’t, because I have fallen in love instead with The Quiet Man.

It may be the pandemic talking, but even the crowd scenes were lovely and made me feel like I was watching a real village. The horse races, the fishing obsession, the large gatherings to watch a man drag his wife across the countryside-I wanted to be part of all of it. The residents of the town all had stereotypical personalities and VERY thick Irish accents but it only added to the charm of the film. It was absolutely believable by the end of the movie that a person like John Wayne would settle in and find a wife just like Maureen O’ Hara.

What really drives the film for me is seeing Sean Thornton’s journey to truly fitting in to this sometimes backwards society. When he first rolls in (literally, in a horse any buggy) to Inishfree, he wants to move in immediately but his mind is still planted in the US. He initially scares Mary Kate Danaher by just walking up and saying hello and it takes him awhile to understand that things are done differently around here. I love how the movie is as much about character growth as it is a romance film. By the end, Sean has his girl after beating up her brother (also a tradition?) and all is right with the world…

Which leads me to my one big complaint about the movie- how often Sean shows that he ‘owns’ Mary Kate. The first time they have any sort of real interaction, she sneaks into the house he just bought and tidied up a bit. Upon catching her there, he kisses her hard and I can only imagine how bruised her lips must’ve been after that scene. This happens several more times when Sean loses his patience, including their wedding night when Mary Kate refuses to have sex with him for very (in her mind) valid reasons. And then there’s the penultimate scene where he literally drags his wife across the countryside, sometimes even pulling her hair so that he can ‘collect’ her dowry from her brother and they can finally consummate their marriage. Everything ends up fine and this was what audiences liked to see back then but geez, it’s still hard to watch and enjoy.

Watchability score: 4/5

Up next: My retrospect of the last 100 films