#367- Cairo Station

Quick recap: So, there’s this station, see? And it’s in Cairo. And there are a lot of crazy characters who work there, such as Qinawi the disabled newspaper seller, Hanuma, who illegally sells Pepsi (I think?) and her fiance Abu Siri who is a decent guy, mixed up in all the madness.

This was a gorgeous cast of people

Fun (?) fact: There isn’t much out there about this film, unfortunately. The best fact I could find is that Youssef Chahine is the director as well as the main character, Qinawi.

My thoughts: Proof that I know next to nothing about the world around me, I was shocked by how modern Egypt looked in Cairo Station. There was plenty of traditional clothing but there was also a very Western looked that I wasn’t expecting. It reminded me of the book Persepolis and how modern Iran was before the Islamic Revolution. Granted, this was only a tiny slice of life in the city but I would’ve loved exploring the underground scene and up-and-coming rock and roll acts.

What I wouldn’t have loved back then? A creepy guy like Qinawi hanging around. It’s genius how the director showed Qinawi’s creepiness throughout the entire movie, even in the first couple of scenes, and yet because he was disabled, I overlooked everything. The pinups that decorated his shack? He was lonely and wanted a woman. Spying on Hanuma as she dressed? It was only because he was worried about her. Buying a knife and repeatedly stabbing a woman? Ok, that’s when I started to have suspicions. But really, I found it so progressive to have the main villain as a mousy disabled guy that everyone pities. And that all the women in the film were creeped out by him but their husbands and boyfriends didn’t believe them. Time and time again, these women were told that they must’ve done something to deserve the lascivious stares and were ignored. It wasn’t until the very end of the film, as Qinawi had kidnapped Hanuma that everyone jumped into action.

Although the main plot was interesting and unique, the subplots were difficult to follow at times. There was one about a union forming and another about a young girl being ripped away from her lover. It was hard to figure out what I was supposed to focus on at times, which I guess is the point of filming in a busy train station. I did love the various ‘artsy’ close-up scenes and dramatic music but it all felt too much sometimes.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Project A II

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#361- Trouble in Paradise

Quick recap: Gaston is one of the best con artists out there. He falls in love with Lily, who is just as cunning as he is. When they join forces to rob a rich woman, however, the plan goes off the rails.

two women in love with the same man? That’s trouble in paradise for sure!

Fun (?) fact: Trouble in Paradise was banned from public viewing once the Hayes Code took effect in 1935. It wouldn’t be until 1958 when people were allowed to watch it again.

So saucy to show a woman’s garter!

My thoughts: Is it possible to name your child Gaston and he not grow up to be a huge jerk? I feel like that name just seals his future somehow. Anyway, This was a fun movie to watch, especially since it was made in the pre-code era. Obviously there have been monumental films made during the Hayes Code but there is something about watching a director have fun with the story and not worry about getting in trouble. I think it also helped Trouble in Paradise feel much more natural than if it had been made just a few years later.

I think I was most surprised by how funny much of this movie was. Many times I’ll watch something and be able to tell that something is meant as a joke but it never makes me laugh. This movie definitely did, many times. My favorite scene is in the beginning when Lily and Gaston have dinner together. At one point she announces to him that she knows he is really a con artist, and he announces that he also knows she is one. They then take turns giving back various objects stolen from one another when the other wasn’t looking. It’s funny but it’s also ridiculously cute to watch these two criminals fall in love. I really liked their chemistry and when Gaston started falling for Mariette, the rich woman he wanted to rob, it made me angry that he picked the wrong woman.

As is also the stereotype in these early films, everything works out in the end. The solution was complicated and I’m still not sure who conned who,  but Lily and Gaston ended back together so that’s what matters. Apparently, director Ernst Lubitsch had what was called the ‘Lubitsch Touch’ which meant adding sophistication and wit to his movies. It’s very clear that Mariette and Gaston just want to have sex with each other but the audience has to read through the lines to figure out what is really said. In a time when raunchiness was starting to show through in many films (and the reason why the Hayes Code was created), it was nice to have a director trust his audience to really get what was going on without having to spell it out.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Anatomy of a Murder

#358- La Dolce Vita

Quick recap: Marcello Rubini proves that the paparazzi are really just the worst.

Me, getting home from work everyday

Fun (?) fact: I know I’m picking the most obvious one, but it’s still somewhat amazing. The term ‘paparazzo/i’ was coined in this film. Paparazzo is the name of  Marcello’s photographer friend who chases down celebrities and the rich in order to get the scoop first.

Everyone, yes EVERYONE in this movie is the worst. Even that kitten in the previous gif.

My thoughts: I wouldn’t round my relationship with director Federico Fellini up to BFF status just yet, but we have certainly spent a lot of time together these last few years. I was introduced to his style with Juliet of the Spirits but it was Amarcord that won me over. I put my trust in him completely as a director. And honestly, with his movies, I felt invincible. ‘ If I can grasp the themes of 8 1/2,’ I thought to myself, ‘then I can understand any movie!’. But it was not to be, alas. Fellini, we’ve had some good times together but I just don’t know if I can forgive you for putting me through this movie.

I guarantee La Dolce Vita is one of those films people who call themselves ‘film enthusiasts’ love to tout as one of their favorites. And it’s not that I think they are full of it. I just don’t GET.IT.AT.ALL. There is not one redeeming quality about this movie whatsoever, except maybe the camera work. The gorgeous shots don’t come close to make up for the 3 hours of watching insufferable people do the most insufferable things like:

gathering friends around to listen to their poetry on vinyl

taking a famous actress around town and wading into a fountain in the middle of the night

trying to start an orgy at a party but no one is really into it so everyone just walks out to the beach and looks at a dead stingray

I had to brush up on the plot on Wikipedia because everything was just so disjointed and weird. One scene is at a site of a supposed miracle and then right after that, Marcello is taking his father out to a cabaret. The passage of time is loosely one week spend on the main character’s life but that’s also not really true because the end of the movie happens possibly years into the future. I know the good reviewer in me should have read on in the article about theme and symbolism but honestly, I was too worn out by watching everyone pick the worst possible choices in life.

Final review: 2/5

Up next: My Fair Lady

 

 

#347- Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Quick recap: A group of students navigate a year of high school without much regard to actual learning.

Fun (?) fact: Before he was the lovable scamp we know today, Nicholas Cage got on everyone’s nerves during the shooting of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He bragged about his famous uncle Francis Ford Coppola and declared he would be more famous than anyone else. He finally shut up when people started doing Apocalypse Now impressions around him.

My thoughts: As much as I’d like to say I was the Spicoli, Stacy, or Linda of my high school, in all actuality I most closely identified with Brad’s friend, Arnold. He was the one listening to Brad’s problems and trying to be cool but instead just ended up burning the hamburger patties and taking a restroom break at the worst possible time. Watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High as a teenager, I never could shake the feeling that I was doing it all wrong. Not that I wanted to get pregnant or show up stoned to class, but there was a part of me that yearned for a quintessential high school experience American cinema had taught me was so important to have.

As an adult who has finally learned that there is no such thing as normal, I can finally embrace this movie for what it is: a teenage fairy tale. Maybe it’s not all that realistic, but it sure is entertaining and definitely captured the 80s spirit I pretend to know anything about. Thinking back on the various high school movies I’ve watched on this list alone, I think I’d much rather attend Ridgemont High than say the high schools in Grease, American Graffiti or the Breakfast Club. The kids are just as nuts but at least they feel and talk like real teenagers.

In a way, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is kind of a depressing movie.

Stacy- loses virginity to guy much older than her and then gets knocked up by a guy who doesn’t care about her

Spicoli- constantly embarrassed by his History teacher

Mark- his best friend sleeps with and then knocks up the girl he is in love with

And the list goes on. But through a different lens, these are all seen as typical teenage problems and nothing to be too concerned with. After all, being an American teenager just means having the most traumatic things happen to you but it’s cool because summer is almost here! Maybe I made the right decision in staying out of drama after all.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: A Man Escaped