#336- The Philadelphia Story

Quick recap: Tracy Lord, daughter of one of the richest families in Philadelphia is about to get married for the first time. The only things standing in her way are her ex-husband and a tabloid reporter, who also just so happen to be in love with her. What’s a girl to do?

ok,Katharine, give me the ‘oh, you guys’ look and boys, why don’t you just stand around her and…I don’t know, just point at her scalp. Perfect!

Fun (?) fact: 3 things I learned about James Stewart that endeared him to me even more:

  1. he never expected to win Best Actor for the film and planned on sitting at home instead of attending. A person tipped him off that he should show up anyway in a dress jacket, and he ended up winning.
  2. The Oscar has the word ‘Philadelphia’ misspelled on it
  3. Stewart never felt that he deserved the award, instead saying it was ‘deferred payment for my work on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’

Of all the James Stewarts in the world, he’s the James Stewartest.

I’m just saying, if there had been a James Stewart/ Cary Grant buddy comedy, maybe the world would’ve been better off

My thoughts: To kick this off, I’d like to first acknowledge the elephant in the room: High Society. I watched it way back in the beginning of this blog and if you care to click the link, you will find that I didn’t enjoy it very much. I still stand by that review, except that now that I know it was just a remake, I kind of wish I could go back and lower my score. Which, I totally could, considering this is my personal project but something something about precedent and high standards and all that.

So, without a doubt, I enjoyed The Philadelphia Story infinitely more than High Society. The main reason being that I didn’t have to sit through all that silly singing. The plot made much more sense this time around although I still classify it as ultimately silly. And I also LOVED the casting her. It makes even less sense to me why Grace Kelly would be chosen for the role Katharine Hepburn was made for. There was so much chemistry here, especially between Hepburn and Grant. Stewart seemed like an odd choice but he totally made it work. Everyone here was just perfect and although I didn’t really laugh much, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

That being said, this movie is hella problematic. In the very first scene, Dexter is leaving Tracy and as he is about to drive off, she storms out and breaks one of his golf clubs. This sends him into a rage and he comes after her, knocking her to the floor. Thereafter, the incident is referred to almost as a wistful, funny memory most couples have. I spent most of the movie either being disturbed by the lengths Dexter was going to in order to win Tracy back (like giving her a model of their honeymoon boat as a wedding present) or admiring him for his persistence. I still don’t know how I feel about their relationship but at the end when they decide to SPOILER remarry, they seemed genuinely happy and hopefully had both matured since then.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Jules and Jim

 

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#335- High Noon

Quick recap: A bad guy is on the noon train to get revenge on a marshal who sent him up north to be hung. The marshal, against almost all advice, chooses to fight him and his gang rather than running away.

I’d gladly watch two hours of Lloyd Bridges smirking

Fun (?) fact: considering a book has been written about the filming of High Noon, there is a ton of trivia to choose from. I’ll go with the most salacious though because I don’t do that enough- Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly carried on an affair throughout the duration of filming. Is this what it feels like to be Perez Hltion? Is Perez Hilton even a thing anymore?

I will not mention Gary Cooper’s age. I will not mention Gary Cooper’s age. I will not-

My thoughts: Right before starting High Noon, I realized I’m just about burned out on the Western genre. I started out with dread and that quickly turned into head over heels love. There are a few stinkers, to be sure, but it’s been a good run so far. Thankfully, this film is one of the better ones on the list and knowing that John Wayne despised it until the day he died is the cherry on top. Maybe I’m not done yet. Westerns, I wish I could quit you.

One of the most unique aspects of High Noon is that it is almost entirely shot in ‘real time’, as Marshal Kane waits for the noon train. The anticipation is palatable, not just because I wanted to see who would arrive but also because it’s a race against the clock. Had this been a montage, I don’t think I would’ve been as empathetic to Kane as he tried to drum up support as well as attempted to keep his bride from leaving him. Whoever wrote this 1001 movies list must be a sucker for the technique like I am because there are several movies that play out like this one did. Two that come to mind are Cleo from 5 to 7 and Run Lola Run.

As a whole, High Noon isn’t better or worse than other Westerns I have watched lately. I was a little ‘meh’ when it was over, and then I learned that the whole movie is an allegory for the Red scare. Shortly after High Noon was released, screenwriter Carl Foreman was blacklisted from Hollywood, due to alleged communist ties. In this light, the film takes on a much more important role to me. At the time, most people were terrified of these meetings and knew that they didn’t have much choice with what might happen. Most actors and directors chose to distance themselves from anything that might label them ‘unpatriotic’ but there were a few that stood up to McCarthy and ultimately, it finally faded away. Marshal Kane knew that he could run and hide and probably go on to live a normal life, but that would be wrong. It’s so satisfying to see one person fight for what is right, whether it is a showdown in the Wild West or a bunch of teens in high school. High Noon is the happy ending we all need.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: A Philadelphia Story

#334- Night and Fog

Quick recap: It’s a documentary about the Holocaust.

This probably won’t be a surprise, but don’t expect much humor in this review. Hopefully your expectations weren’t that high to begin with.

Fun (?) fact: Director Alain Resnais was very careful to not use the word ‘Jew’ when referring to victims of the holocaust because he wanted to create something that condemned genocide altogether. He felt that using the term, although true, might lead people to believe the Holocaust was an isolated event when in fact, could easily happen to any group of people.

My thoughts:  It has recently come to my attention that I’m not the most fun person to be around. That’s not to say I don’t have other great qualities, but I don’t think ‘bubbly’ comes to mind when most people describe me. Case in point, I chose to spend my spring break watching a film about the Holocaust and my Friday night recapping the horrible things I saw.

For a documentary about the Holocaust, this was every bit as sad and horrifying as I expected it to be, and yet there were still parts I found shocking. As the narrator said, it’s unfathomable. Night and Fog was filmed in 1955, roughly 10 years after the war ended. Resnais interspersed images of the abandoned concentration camps with real footage of the prisoners there and even then, everything felt surreal and almost unbelievable. As the narrator says, images and film can only show so much. It is impossible to truly understand the constant fear and apprehension felt by everyone.

For a little 30 minute film, there were so many points touched on. Resnais said he wanted to make the film as an allegory for the situation going on with France and Algeria at the time, but that sentiment could be applied for any conflict. It’s depressing to think that lessons still haven’t been learned. Genocides have happened since then, not to mention the gradual embrace of the Nazi party again. It took everything to not turn away when the images of bulldozers pushing bodies into mass graves came on the screen, but it’s something that needs to be seen. Even in 1955, Resnais was already worried that people were becoming complacent again. The narrator (whose script was written by Jean Cayrol, a concentration camp survivor), mentions people taking pictures in front of crematoriums and selling the images as postcards. The most frustrating part of the film, though, was to see the SS officers deny any wrongdoing and any responsibility whatsoever. It is alluded to the fact that so many of these camps are situated just outside of big cities, implying entire nations of people who knew what was going on. And still, it happened. And still, it continues to happen.

Final review: 5/5. Essential viewing.

Up next: High Noon

 

#333- Le Samouraï

Quick recap: Jef Costello is either a great hitman or a really terrible one. After completing a job he almost immediately gets picked up by the police and questioned. He manages to weasel his way out, only to find himself in trouble with the guys who hired him. What’s a hitman to do?

maybe start by wearing different clothes than the ones that literally EVERYONE identifies you in.

Fun (?) fact: The quotation about samurai at the beginning of the film is entirely fictional. This movie actually has nothing to do with samurai.

and everything to do with looking cool

My thoughts:  Crime movies are a dime a dozen on this list, but very few of them come from France. And of those, this is the only one where I could’ve kept watching for several more hours and at the same time almost lost my sanity because of the incessant bird chirping.

Director Jean-Pierre Melville borrows much of the aesthetic for Le Samouraï from America at the time- slinky jazz clubs, dapper people running around everywhere. And yet, this is very much a French arthouse film. The first 10 minutes have no dialogue whatsoever and yet, the scene is so enthralling. I also loved that there is a mystery about who this hitman is and who hired him but I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be getting any answers. Le Samouraï exists within himself. It’s even impossible to figure out whether or not he is a ‘bad guy’. I mean, he killed someone, yes, but that guy could’ve been evil or something. So I ended up dividing my time between wanting the guy to come out on top but also wanting him to get caught and pay for his crimes. It was a rare feeling to not know how I’m supposed to feel about characters.

One reason the characters are so confusing is because the audience is just thrust into the story. We don’t know how many years the hitman has operated or what business the people who hired him have. In the first few scenes, the hitman sets out creating an alibi for himself before he commits the murder. He visits a woman, Jane, and expects her to lie for him, which she does, when the police call her into question. It is assumed that these two have some sort of relationship but it could also just be that she works for him specifically for this purpose. And the police themselves make this plot even more complicated. I could never figure out whether the hitman was really bad at his job and that’s why he was caught so quickly or if the police were really good at their job and it was only a matter of time. Once again, it was hard to know who to trust.

But above all, there is that stupid bird. God, I hated that bird. I recently lost some of my hearing due to sickness and it’s been both a blessing and a curse. But watching this movie, I heard every single chirp. EVERY. SINGLE. CHIRP. I’m sure there is a fancy French reason to put that in so many scenes but I don’t have the patience to find out. I’m not a fan of hurting or killing any animal but when the guys broke into the hitman’s apartment to leave a recording device, I half hoped they would put that poor bird out of its misery. I’m sure he hated his life as much as I hated hearing him but enough is enough.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Night and Fog