#360- The Young and the Damned

Quick recap: A group of boys from the slums of Mexico City resort to crime in order to survive.

Jaibo’s ill-fitting overalls are all you need to know he is up to no good

Fun (?) fact: The movie was very poorly received when it first came out but after people had a chance to calm down, they realized that it held a lot of truth. The Young and the Damned is now considered one of the greatest Mexican films of all time.

My thoughts: I’ve seemingly been caught in a ‘wayward youths’ movie vortex as of late and it’s hard to tell whether I can escape any time soon. I’ve lucked out up until now because almost all of the films have a glimmer of hope attached, even though most of the movie is very grim. (I’m looking at you, City of God)

The Young and the Damned, as I should’ve gleaned from the title, is a different beast altogether. It lured me in at first, making me think this was just a cute cautionary tale about bad boys who drink and smoke but who are just little scamps in the big picture of things. And actually, that part might be true until the Ultimate Wayward Youth, Jaibo, shows up, after breaking out of reform school. The boys immediately take to him as he shows them how to rob a blind man of his money. It’s a cruel scene, but nothing I haven’t seen before. They take it to a new level however when they chase the man and throw stones at him. That’s when I realized no one was playing around. Every actor in the film is believable as a corrupted youth. I was blown away with how complicated they showed their characters to be. As mean as some of the boys are (including a scene where Jaibo straight up murders a kid), it’s very obvious that the director fully believed poverty was to be blamed for all this hard lives.

Pedro, the main character, is about as real a kid as you can get. He tags along with the gang but never really does the bad stuff. He befriends a lost boy and gets him food to eat and he does his best to listen to his mother, even though they both know she can’t really take care of him. He gets caught up with Jaibo, however, and thus starts his downward spiral that ultimately ends in his tragic death. His murder really broke me in a way that is hard to convey because I wasn’t expecting that kind of ending at all. I kept thinking something good would eventually turn up but it didn’t. The final scene of the farmer throwing his body down a hill is so sickening but really hit home the point that Mexico City was in a crisis with poverty at the time. And it’s a reminder that we haven’t moved forward as much as we think we have.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Trouble in Paradise

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#356- Diabolique

Quick recap: A wife and her husband’s mistress team up to kill the husband, who’s really a jerk. After murdering him and dumping his body in a pool, things start to get weird. Weirder than a wife and mistress teaming up, even.

My partner teacher and I when we are supposed to be watching the kids at recess

 

Fun (?) fact: Director Henri-Georges Clouzot beat Alfred Hitchcock to the rights to the film within a few hours. Don’t feel bad for ‘ol Hitchcock though, he later bought the film rights to another novel by the same author and called that film Vertigo.

Just a couple of teachers unwinding after a long semester

My thoughts: Before I start my review, let me just point out that two teachers having time to pull off a murder such as this one is ridiculous. Real teachers are so tired at the end of term that all we do is drink and sleep. Not carry out heavily detailed plots to murder loved ones.

You’d think I’d also point out the absurdity of a mistress and wife teaming up but that’s where you are wrong because I loved it. If you take out the murder this becomes a buddy movie that writes itself. The wife, Christina got on my nerves with her ‘delicate heart condition’ and wearing pigtails even though she’s like 30. But Nicole, the mistress, balances her out perfectly. The movie can be slow at times but the acting is so good that I didn’t really notice the lull. I’d love to add more about Nicole and Christina’s relationship but I can’t because there is a crazy twist that I just don’t have the heart to spoil right now.

seriously, the movie made me promise not to tell anyone

The entire movie is a slow build to something wonderful and actually terrifying so the pay off is worth it. After Michel’s murder, he keeps popping up everywhere, even though the women dumped him into a pool. The creepiest part for me was when the clothes he wore when he died were brought back to the school via a dry cleaners errand boy. It was such a tiny detail but all the possibilities as to how it happened made everything all the more spookier. That’s all I can say for now, except to go search this movie out for yourself and DON’T SPOIL IT!

Final review: 4/5

Up next: back to normal with La Dolce Vita

#351- Irreversible

Quick recap: A tragic night is told in reverse chronological order

just about the only screenshot I can show

Fun (?) fact: As if the film wasn’t gruesome enough, a low frequency sound was added to the first 30 minutes which causes nausea and dizziness. 3 people fainted during the Cannes showing and it’s claimed that 200 others walked out.

My thoughts: My main draw to Irreversible was the reverse chronological order format. Each scene ends at the moment as the one previous to it. For example, one scene starts as a group of friends walks to a party and ends as the two men talk about their sexuality. The previous scene started as the two men discussed their sexuality and ended as the woman left the party. It’s an interesting concept and made me pay attention more because I didn’t know what would be important later on. The beginning of the movie, which is really the end of the night, wraps up what happened but I didn’t realize it while watching because I didn’t know what would be significant.

The rest of the movie is disturbing on SO many levels. Nudity, graphic violence and a 10 minute full rape scene are just some of what I had to endure. Was it a worthwhile film for the list? Maybe? But probably not. I hesitate to throw full support for the movie because it’s just so dark for no good reason. Director Gaspar Noé began Irreversible as a study of married life and as his plan went on, the idea become more dark. So it’s not that he wants us to learn anything from this; he just wants to throw as many disgusting things as he can for the sake of art. The first 20 minutes are of the main character Marcus in a gay club, searching for a man. Noé was afraid he would come across as homophobic in the scene so he played one of the characters participating and enjoying himself, as if that makes it ok. The rape scene is just as horrible as you would imagine (please don’t) but later on we find out that the woman who was raped was also pregnant. What’s the point of adding that detail other than to shock and bum everyone out?

Final review: 2/5

Up next: La Dolce Vita

#341- The 400 Blows

Quick recap: A young boy in France gets into a little trouble, which leads to big trouble down the road.

Once you go Balzac you never……something something

Fun (?) fact: The 400 Blows is a bad translation of the French phrase ‘Faire les quatre cents coups’. It’s actually an idiom that roughly means ‘to raise hell’. The 400 Blows has a better ring to it, even if it doesn’t really make sense.

My thoughts: Here we have yet another coming of age story set in France. By the end of the list I think I’ll have more memories of being a male youth in the 50s and 60s in France than my own actual childhood. That’s not to say that this movie was bad, of course. Far from it. The problem is that I watched The 400 Blows after watching other subpar coming of age French films so what seems a tired addition is actually the opposite. The 400 Blows is the gold standard other films should try to be.

The character of Antoine Doinel is as close to a realistic kid as I have probably ever seen in a movie. He’s a scoundrel for sure, but only in the way a kid with a rough home life turns out to be sometimes. I felt so much sympathy watching Antoine get into more and more trouble but it thankfully never turned into pity, an emotion I hate experiencing during a movie. It broke my heart when he finally got caught stealing the typewriter and had to spend the night in jail. At the same time, though, here is a relatively smart kid who could’ve made a different choice so many times but didn’t. Going to the observation place seems like the best place for a kid like him but a part of me was also thrilled when he escaped a little while later.

Like Jules and Jim, the other Francois Truffaut directed film I’ve seen, The 400 Blows is filled with gorgeous panoramic shots of France. My favorite shot happened as the two boys decided to run around town since they had been suspended for the rest of the term. They run down several flights of steps and through a neighborhood, ending up at a children’s puppet program. I felt the same emotions as the boys probably had- freedom and a bit of apprehension that this can’t go on forever. The 400 Blows is a beautiful film, not just for the visuals but for the humanity of the characters.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her