#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

 

#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

 

#390- The Nutty Professor

Quick recap: Professor Kelp is tired of being bullied by everyone so he creates a potion to turn him into a stronger version of himself. What emerges instead is Buddy Love- a handsome but absolute jerk of a person.

Is it weird that the pigtails turned me off more than Professor Kelp’s nerdy look?

Fun (?) fact: Here’s some hot 1960s gossip for you: Buddy Love was apparently based off of Jerry Lewis’ partner Dean Martin. What a scoop!

Baby Professor Kelp is the most offensive part of the movie. Fight me

Thoughts and Observations:

As my ten-year-old put it, ‘ That movie was………something. Not what I expected at all’. And to be fair, I agree wholeheartedly with him. When I suggested watching the movie together I roped him in by saying it was a light comedy. I think my exact words were, ‘It’s got NUTTY in the title! You can’t go wrong with that!’

It didn’t take long at all to realize how very wrong I was. The meanness of the bullies in the film didn’t bother me as much as I thought they would, which was surprising. Lewis worked hard to make sure everything was over the top in that regard. If I had to put my finger on it, I guess I felt mostly annoyed at the character of Professor Kelp more than sympathetic. Sure, the Dean of the college could’ve been nicer but this guy just blew a hole through a classroom on top of constantly letting football players stuff him into cabinets. And then there is the matter of Kelp having a mad crush on his student Stella, who looks 35 but wears pigtails for some unknown reason. I was so relieved when it came time for the transformation to happen because no matter what emerged, it had to be better than Kelp.

And here comes the second time I can admit wrong- what emerged was not in fact better. Buddy Love, Kelp’s alter ego may have been better looking but he was an absolute jerk to everyone, including Stella, his crush. Sure, Love could sing well and had a presence that made girls swoon but he was so awful. I did eventually have sympathy when Love transformed back to Kelp in front of everyone at the dance and admitted how awful both parts of him were. It was a really touching scene in a movie filled with so many cringeworthy moments.

The 1001 movies book that I get my research from made an excellent point that in some ways, Jerry Lewis playing Professor Kelp vs Buddy Love was showing Lewis’ public vs private side. The entertainer in different forms, so to speak. I don’t know much about Lewis to comment but I think that theme is one that almost anyone can relate to, to some extent.

Watchability score: I’ll go with 3/5 although my son would give it a 2.

Up next: Gallipoli

 

#389- Chimes at Midnight

Quick recap: Prince Hal loves his good buddy Falstaff until it’s time to become king and then he completely breaks off the friendship.

Fun (?) fact: Orson Welles had to actually slim down for the role of Falstaff.

Thoughts and observations:

Shakespearian language is beautiful, I suppose, except that I only understood about 10% of the movie. Maybe 15% if I’m feeling generous. To make matters worse, there wasn’t a subtitles option so I had to listen carefully like some commoner. About halfway through the movie I decided to stop trying to pay attention to what was said and instead treat Chimes at Midnight as if it were a silent film or a film in another language. And it worked, for the most part. I read the synopsis afterward, quite proud of myself for getting the gist of the movie.

But only getting the gist of a movie does not a good movie make. Was it well acted? Sure! Did the music set the tone? Definitely! Was the setting appropriate for the plot? Of course. But I just don’t see the point of ANOTHER film based on Shakespeare. This movie was made in 1965, coming right after several versions of Shakespeare plays and right before many, many more. Now, I’m a bit biased in this regard because literally the only version I have every enjoyed is Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Minus the battle scene, which I’m still not entirely sure who was fighting who, making a film version didn’t add to the play at all. Same costumes as I’m accustomed to, same stale language, same pompous acting. And from the research I did (which was very little) really the only thing people loved was how fat Orson Welles was. If that’s the only criteria here, then this movie is a MASTERPIECE. I have no idea how Welles was able to move around and didn’t just keel over the second the director yelled, ‘cut!’. He actually went on to live another 20 years, which I’m more impressed about than anything else I learned from this movie.

 

Watchability score: 2/5. There are plenty of other films to watch if you want to see kings doing king things.

Up next: The Nutty Professor