#385- Sabotage

Quick recap: A movie theater owner somehow gets involved with a terrorist group who want to SABOTAGE London. His wife and her little brother get dragged into the mess as well, which is usually how these things go.

The opening scene is a ‘Webster’s dictionary defines…’ trope

Fun (?) fact: Sabotage is not to be confused with the title ‘The Secret Agent’, the book the film is based off of. And also not to be confused with The Secret Agent, also directed by Alfred Hitchcock the same year but about something completely different.

Not many dames in this movie and only one spinning newspaper

Thoughts and observations:

This feels like my millionth Hitchcock film and although there were several director tropes I recognized, Sabotage still feels novel. I think what sold me is that the audience knows who the bad guys are from the very beginning so the tension comes from finding out when they will get their comeuppance. I really enjoyed the characters although I never really understood the relationship between Mrs. and Mr. Karl Verloc. They were married, obviously, but the two didn’t seem to match at all. Plus, there’s the dirty business of not knowing that her husband was a wannabe terrorist.

The best part of Sabotage is how dark it goes for a movie made in the 1930s. SPOILERS AHEAD. YOUVE BEEN WARNED.

I connected with Stevie, the little brother, early on in the film and appreciated how he could bring light into some really dark scenes. When Verloc told him to drop off the film canisters (along with the bomb) at Piccadilly Circus, I wasn’t worried because Hitchcock is known for building suspense. I actually just assumed that the bomb would be a dud so I audibly gasped when it went off and blew the bus up (as well as Stevie). Hitchcock said he regretting killing a character the audience had learned to sympathize with and promised to never to do it again. Until Psycho, that is.  It’s a dirty trick but really effective.

The end of the movie was also a whirlwind that I’ll keep from spoiling except to say that although there is a resolution, people were still killed and harm was done. I appreciate when the main characters don’t live happily ever after but are instead left to pick up the pieces.

Watchability score: 4/5

Up next: Alice

 

#381- L’Atalante

Quick recap: Juliette marries Jean, a ship captain. She learns that living on a ship isn’t as romantic as it sounds and actually really sucks most of the time. Except for the cats, of course.

Fun (?) fact: This was the last film Jean Vigo directed before his death at the age of 29. This was definitely NOT a fun fact but it’s all I have. Have some more cats!

Thoughts and observations:

Excluding the fact that the wedding party was all dressed in black and somberly waved her off, I can’t imagine Juliette had any idea what she signed up for when marrying Jean. Maybe she imagined an exciting adventure as her new husband steered the ship to faraway ritzy places. Maybe she imagined settling into her role as caretaker for the shipmates and earning their respect in return. At the very least, she must’ve enjoyed the thought of being on the river, blue sky as far as the eye could see.

Instead, she got:

  • A very dirty ship with hardly enough room for everyone
  • Days full of fog and cold weather
  • cats. SO MANY CATS
  • Jules, who is best described by the picture below-

So, I’d say not an ideal beginning to any new marriage. I totally understand how frustrating it must’ve been for Juliette to be so close to Paris and not be able to experience it.Considering all the new situations she was thrust into, it’s a wonder she didn’t try to escape sooner. I really love how she tried to adapt to all these things and it was Jean who ultimately pushed her away. Which I guess is why working with a spouse is a bad idea, but that’s a rant for another day.

Jean Vigo may have been young, but he really had a strong understanding of couples and their needs in any relationship. It says something that I was able to identify with both characters, even when they were being ridiculous and stupid. Maybe I didn’t abandon my spouse in a foreign town without any money or way to contact me, but I know what that’s like to be angry at the person you love the most. The reunion at the end of the film, although a result of ridiculous coincidences, was very sweet and gave me hope for these characters continuing relationship.

Now, onto the most important part of the film: THE CATS. There were SO many cats of all kinds- old ones, kittens, hyper ones and honestly I could’ve used more of them. They are all taken care of by Jules, which I thought was a wonderful way to show his humanity even though he looked and acted so rough. My favorite scenes were when someone would be sitting somewhere and a cat would just fly into the scene because you know that had to be someone’s job. I don’t think I’d want to be a cat wrangler in another life but I would’ve loved to watch the mayhem.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Gaav

#376- Earth

Quick recap: A group of farmers get together to buy a tractor, which makes the landowners angry and then BOOM! Communism is formed.

Sunflowers are the gateway flower to other governments

Fun (?) fact: There’s a deleted scene where the villagers all gather and pee on the engine of the overheated tractor. It’s supposed to represent communism of course, but people thought the symbolism was a little heavy-handed.

Why yes, I do in fact have the score from Fiddler on the Roof stuck in my head now

Thoughts and Observations:

  • From what I can gather, the issue at hand is that these kulaks (landowners) realize that if they work together and share, they can be much more profitable. The other landowners decide against it and then get angry when collectivism works. Point: Communism
  • But I think at one point the villagers knocked down the resistant landowners’ fences, which just isn’t very nice. Point: Capitalism 
  • The landowners retaliate by having one of them murder the guy who bought the tractor. Point: Communism
  • The guy that was murdered was named Basil and he did this REALLY elaborate dance to show it to the angry landowners. Point: Capitalism
  • Basil’s father announces he is Atheist because of the murder and denies the priest the opportunity to officiate the funeral. Instead the villagers will sing songs about farm life and working. Point: Capitalism because that sounds boring as hell
  • The movie was very confusing because even the happy scenes were filled with ominous, angry music, like when the villagers used the tractor. I spent about 10 minutes thinking the tractor was evil because of the sound cues. Point: Capitalism, I guess.

Was title said in film?

Probably. The movie is silent with only a few cue cards so I’m sure it was muttered at some point, considering they are working the earth.

Final review: 2/5  capitalism wins again! But only slightly because if Communism had peppier music, I would’ve been all in.

Up next: The Ten Commandments

#373- Judge Priest

Quick recap: A judge dispenses good ol’ Southern wisdom with a lot of love and just a touch of racism.

Fun(?)fact:  Stepin Fetchit played Jeff Poindexter, a ‘stereotypical 19th century black male’ in Judge Priest. Despite mostly playing dim-witted characters on screen, Fetchit was considered very aggressive and cunning when it came to getting compensated like his white co-stars. He was one of the very first Black actors to fight for equal treatment in the entertainment industry.

My thoughts: If there is one thing I learned from this movie it is this: If you ever find yourself on trial in the Deep South, tell a story about your confederate great-great uncle while someone whistles Dixie. It’s apparently that simple. In fact, tying an issue somehow to the Civil War could really solve all of our current problems. See, many people in the South don’t believe that global warming exists and why should they? Right now it’s only affecting penguins and polar bears up north. However, rising oceans will become a problem very soon for states like Mississippi and Alabama, and there are a lot of confederate cemeteries there. Doing something about climate change pays honor and respect to those brave, racist soldiers!

Stepping off my soap box and back into this review, I really enjoyed most of this movie even though parts made me really uncomfortable. Judge Priest was a sweet guy and got along with almost everybody. And I think he was a good judge too, although a bit mischievous, like paying Poindexter to play Dixie to tug at the heartstrings of the jurors . Still, it seems as though 19th century Southern small towns weren’t really concerned with following all laws, as long as justice was served at some point. The beginning of the movie has Jeff Poindexter in front of Judge Priest, accused of stealing chickens. It seems an easy conviction until Priest reminds the prosecutor about various times he did basically the same thing. Maybe that wouldn’t fly in a big city but in this instance, people were satiated with the outcome.

It’s hard to land on a true opinion about this movie because so much of it is steeped in racist culture. Poindexter and Priest are considered friends but he still bosses him around and has him do unethical things for money as his puppet. And Aunt Dilsey is a sweet housekeeper but very stereotypical in that she lives for taking care of Priest and her main social activities consist of cooking and going to church functions. Still, there are glimpses that the director very much knew that these black actors were capable of so much more but maybe the audience wasn’t ready. It’s surprising to see a film about the South not completely turn into African-Americans being the butt of all the jokes. But maybe I’m just surprised because the bar is set so low.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Toy Story