#289- Forbidden Games

Quick recap: Two children cope with the horrors of war by creating a pet cemetery (but not the Stephen King kind).

What a lovely romp this movie was!

What a lovely romp this movie was!

Fun (?) fact: The movie was originally shot as a short but was then changed to feature length. By that time the actress who played Paulette had lost her baby teeth so for many scenes she wears false ones.

The boy called this owl 'The Mayor' and now I want to change my cat's name

The boy called this owl ‘The Mayor’ and now I want to change my cat’s name

My thoughts: Picture it: A board room, somewhere in France. Let’s go with a board room in the Eiffel Tower because that’s about the only landmark I know. In walks René Clément, director of Forbidden Games and the writer for the screenplay, Jean Aurenche.

René: Alright, I like the plot of the film, but I feel like it should be more sad. Children growing up in World War II is depressing, but we can do better.

Jean: What if we kill off the girl’s parents?

René: It’s a start. I like where you are going with this, but let’s dig deeper.

Pierre, the custodian, who has apparently been standing in the corner of the room this whole time: Kill a puppy.

René and Jean stare at Pierre for a moment, stunned.

Pierre: And then have an old lady throw the dead puppy in the river as the little girl watches. The little girl will fish the dead puppy out of the water and then carry it around for awhile while crying.

René: Break out the champagne, Jean! We have a hit on our hands!

 

As this totally accurate scene shows, Forbidden Games is another depressing war film. It’s sweet how the boy, Michel, takes care of the little girl Paulette, but there’s just so much that is sad.And then you add in all the dead animals and I could barely watch many scenes. There’s a particularly sad exchange between the two children as Michel explains to Paulette that her parents are dead and have been buried in a mass grave. She reasons it is because they are cold and need a spot to warm up and that’s where the idea of a cemetery is born. It was heartbreaking to watch that and it doesn’t help that those two kids are just about the cutest I’ve ever seen. For now, though, let’s turn back to that board room in France as René and Jean try to write an ending to their movie.

René: I think we’ve hammered home the point that war is hell with all those death scenes. How about a happy ending to give the audience a break?

Pierre, who still hasn’t left his corner, spits on the ground in disgust.

Jean (stammering): Paulette has to leave Michel’s family and is reunited with a distant Aunt?

Pierre walks over to Jean and slaps him in the face with all his might. Jean, holding back tears, stands up.

Jean: How about Michel is about to be beaten within an inch of his life and Paulette is taken away to live in an orphanage? She waits at the train station and sees all these reunions around her. Someone yells the name, ‘Michel’, which causes her to run away from the nun, in search of the only person alive who cared for her.

Everyone in the room high fives and opens another bottle of champagne. Pierre nods ever so slightly and leaves the room, his job done.

He returns seconds later to gather the trash from the bin, remembering his real job, nods again, and walks out.

Final review: 4/5. Depressing as hell, but an interesting perspective at least

Up next: Glengarry Glen Ross

 

#276- Lola Montés

Quick recap: Lola Montés is based off the real life dancer and courtesan Lola Montez. The film jumps through several points of Montés’ life from her rise to fame, her various lovers and her sad ending as a spectacle at the circus.

 

 

reminds me of a certain courtesan who danced at the Moulin Rouge

reminds me of a certain courtesan who danced at the Moulin Rouge

Fun (?) fact: Back in 1955, audiences didn’t like that the movie jumped around chronologically so it was re-edited so that events were shown in order. Audiences liked that even less and the movie initially bombed at the box office, thus proving that this is why we can’t have nice things.

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My thoughts: Here’s a great ‘Yo Momma’ joke: ‘Yo Momma’s so easy that she became a sideshow freak because she slept with so many guys!’ Okay, that might not be a GREAT joke, but this is the 1800s we are talking about, so work with me on this. Lola Montés is a beautiful film about a disgraced woman who ends up in the circus, which is kind of a crazy place to end up. But it’s also kind of motivating? Like, I’ve done some stupid things in my life but I haven’t been made to join the circus yet so I’m at least doing something right.

For about 75% of the movie, I was convinced that this was one of the greatest films I have ever seen. There was so much symbolism and so many great metaphors about double standards for women. When men sleep around, they are considered heroes but when women do it, they are freaks. There’s a scene at the end of the film where men can pay a dollar to kiss the hand of such a sleazy woman. It’s beautifully tragic to see her standing there, behind bars as men stand in line for the chance to touch her. But at some point, I realized that no, this is literally about a woman who sleeps with rich white guys and joins the circus because she can’t find anyone to take care of her anymore. Still sad, but no longer tragic when it’s a literal circus and not a metaphorical one.

As beautiful as the colors and costumes were, the acting left a lot to be desired. Martine Carol, who played Montés, was the perfect fit for the role but at the same time she didn’t really do much except sit there and look pretty or sad. I think it’s why I didn’t go full force in feeling sorry for her. And the guys she hooked up with were certainly rich and very white, but I didn’t get that there was much going on in the relationship besides sex. Which is basically what a courtesan is,I suppose. Or maybe it’s just the bias I have towards another tragic courtesan who learned that the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

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Final review: 3/5. Not bad, but also meh.

Up next: HORRORFEST

#262-Touch of evil

Quick recap: Charlton Heston plays a Mexican officer who gets caught up in a whole bunch of stuff- kidnapping, murder, theft, corruption and lots of jaywalking.

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Also starring Orson Welles, who has a little more than a ‘touch’ of evil going on

Fun (?) fact: Oscar winner Mercedes McCambridge is only in the film because she was having dinner with Welles. He gave her a leather jacket, cut her hair himself and gave her the line, ‘I wanna watch’.

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My thoughts: I think I might be suffering from Film-Noir Fatigue. Not that I’ve seen a bunch yet (there’s a LONG list), but in my mind most of them have formed a gelatinous blob of murder, mayhem and sexy dames. I really wanted to like this film, mainly because of Orson Welles, but at the end of the day, it just seemed like one more movie that fits the theme- no more, no less.

I’m going to back up a bit because it seems like I hated the movie and I really didn’t. Orson Welles in a fat suit doing an impression of Trump? Charlton Heston playing a Mexican official despite not looking hispanic at all? Marijuana benders? There’s actually a lot of camp in this movie, now that I think about it. But also some seriously good scenes, like the beginning, where the camera tracks a car as it heads through the US Mexico border and then blows up. That was neat. And I also enjoyed all of the scenes with Janet Leigh because even I can’t resist a sexy dame in trouble.

But there was a lot that just didn’t work for me. The weird, creepy night manager was such an odd choice to add to the film. I guess the point was the he was scared of his drug lord boss but his odd mannerisms overshadowed everything. And the Grandi boys on a weed bender also struck me as more funny than tragic. The real beef I had with the film, however, was the plot. It was hard to follow and I’m still not sure how everything adds up. I got that Hank Quinlan was a super horrible guy who put a lot of innocent people in prison, but that seems like the sort of thing people would find out about soon enough. Add in the drug lord stuff and the car exploding and it just seems more like a cautionary tale for Charlton Heston’s character about too much on his plate.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Trainspotting

 

 

#260- Rashomon

Quick recap: Three men discuss a recent murder and realize no one’s story can be trusted.

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He played unhinged perfectly, especially when he hissed

Fun (?) fact: Director Akira Kurosawa had trouble capturing the rain in the background so he added black ink to the rain machine.

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My thoughts: If you look at most modern trials, especially the high profile ones, it’s always extremely hard to prove what really happened. Even with a ton of evidence and a signed confession, that doesn’t always mean the defendant is guilty, or if he is guilty, has a really good lawyer that convinces the jury otherwise. This refusal for anyone to own up to anything makes for good entertainment, although it doesn’t necessarily make for good justice. Rashomon presents a unique case where everyone owns up to a murder, but no one tells the truth about who really did it, proving that things don’t really change.

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It’s German for ‘The bart, The’

Rashomon is a complicated film, even by today’s standards. The camera work, the frequent flashbacks, the conflicting stories all come together to make something fascinating and beautiful. The main theme (I think) is that human beings naturally suck and shouldn’t be believed or trusted. There’s a murdered man and everyone has his own interests at heart: The bandit, the wife, the murdered man himself, and the Woodcutter who saw it all. All stories are believable until questioned and then the process begins again with a new version. For me, the most complicated issue was the wife who claims she was raped. My initial reaction was that even if she enjoyed it, of course it’s still rape. Not even a question. But the bandit and husband disagreed and were quick to label her a whore, someone who will forever be damaged. It was very frustrating to watch, especially considering the recent conversations about assault that have come up because of the Stanford case. In the end, the Woodcutter settles the discrepancy by saying that yes the woman was raped but she also wanted out of her marriage and this was her escape, no matter how horrible the end result. For a movie made in 1950, it made me consider viewpoints I hadn’t entertained before.

Though I’m still not sure I trust the Woodcutter’s version of events, I appreciate that for all his hypocrisy, he is still a redeemable character. It showed me that although there is plenty of evil in this world, many bad things that happen occur because of selfishness and misguided acts. It’s important to remember that there is good, even when it feels like no one is being honest.

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Final review: 5/5

Up next: Pink Flamingos