#344- Days of Heaven

Quick recap: Bill, a laborer, convinces his not-girlfriend to marry their hopefully-dying-soon rich boss. When he doesn’t kick the bucket as promised, it gets awkward quickly.

I’d have a difficult time choosing between Richard Gere and Sam Shepard, although I’m willing to bet neither of them smelled very good

Fun (?) fact: The locusts were really peanut shells (thank god). The film was then reversed to make it seem like they were ascending into the sky. I’m still traumatized.

 

My thoughts: Terrence Malick, during a discussion of an upcoming film: ‘You know what would really knock this film out of the park? poetry!’

Days of Heaven looks similar to other Malick films in that the words and symbolism can be confusing but the scenes are gorgeous so I don’t mind. In a Malick film, don’t ever take anything at face value. Not war, not criminals on the lam, and now, not migrant workers looking for some quick cash. Days of Heaven was a bit easier to digest than the other two I mention, I think because there was a lot of religious symbolism I recognized. The film doesn’t have much dialogue between characters, which my 1001 movie book deemed ‘silent movie-esque’. I tend to agree with that statement, although there is plenty of narration to explain the plot. Despite getting the theme of the movie rather quickly, I still had some lingering questions after it was over:

  1. Why couldn’t Bill and Abby pretend like they were married instead of brother and sister? Watching them make out would’ve made everyone much less uncomfortable
  2. How expensive was soap in the early 1900s? Because it seemed like no one bothered to use it and if that’s true, how could you attract anyone?
  3. Were locusts that big of a deal back then? What a nightmare.

Overall, though, I was entirely invested in the characters from the beginning. Bill was kind of a jerk but also really young and in charge of his sister. Then again, it was his idea to marry off the love of his life so I don’t really think he thought things through. I loved the tense showdown at the end between Bill and the The Farmer, even though I never could reconcile who should’ve ‘won’. Honestly, even if this movie had no build up or resolution, I still would’ve loved it because it is beautiful.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Blue

 

 

 

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#343- The Cranes Are Flying

Quick recap: Boris and Veronica are young lovers torn apart by war in Soviet Russia.

Fun (?) fact: This was one of the first movies to come out from the USSR that didn’t involve propaganda.

The 3rd line in this movie is about the cranes flying so I appreciate not having too think too heavily of the title

My thoughts: Am I bad person for wanting this to be chockfull of propaganda? I find those films fascinating because I like to see if I actually come around to the idea.

Salt of the Earth and All Quiet on the Western Front: YES

Storm Over Asia and Sergeant York: big fat NO

Alas, this was not one of those films, but instead another depressing one about war and its consequences. War is hell, y’all.

Right off the bat, I totally bought into Boris and Veronica’s relationship. They weren’t just cute together, but their playful banter felt genuine and not too over the top gloopy. I especially loved his nickname for her: squirrel. What I didn’t love was that he volunteered to go to war and literally left the next day. And even more than that, I was crushed that the two didn’t see each other before he shipped out. Like I said, I was all the way invested in this relationship. Now, I don’t claim to know a lot about Russian history so I’m not even going to try and sum up went on the war. All I know is that it was rough and not just for the soldiers. Even with a victory, I knew that the characters faced a long road ahead of them. And boy did they ever! For starters, Veronica’s parents are killed in an air raid. And then when she moves in with Boris’ family, his cousin Mark rapes her during another air raid and the two have to get married. AND THEN BORIS DIES. This movie was on a whole other level of drama I was not prepared for. As sad as it is, apparently Russian audiences really identified with the plot at the time. This movie was the first time many of them felt like it was ok to grieve for their suffering and hardships. It really made me think about all the bullshit governments put the common people through for the ‘greater good’.

Aside from the stellar acting and plot, there were many scenes and close ups that were gorgeous. The camerawork felt modern and had it not been in black and white, I might think this movie was a recent addition. Cinematographer Sergey Urusevsky used hand held cameras for much of the movie, and is one of the first to do so. The result isn’t shaky, thank god, but instead, seems like a more intimate look into the lives of a family going through a horrible time.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Days of Heaven

 

#337- Jules and Jim

Quick recap: Jules and Jim are best friends living in France and they love to share everything: clothes, experiences and a woman named Catherine.

I can’t choose, but I think I’m mostly Team Jim. But only after he shaves the mustache.

Fun (?) fact: Jeanne Moreau, who played Catherine, went over and above when it came to helping the film succeed. Because of the tiny budget, she used her own car to carry props around and also helped cater some scenes. When her stunt double showed up drunk, she jumped into the river on her own and when money ran out, she financed the rest.

My thoughts: Oh my god, what a whirlwind of a movie. Reading the synopsis on the dvd cover, I expected some sort of buddy romance comedy, like There’s Something About Mary. But a little more high class, because it’s French, you know. What I got instead was the craziest love triangle I can recall seeing and an ending that made me gasp out loud several times. Which I haven’t done since watching The Post (but only because Iforgot it was around the time of the Watergate Scandal).

Acting was great, scenery top notch, and music was adequate. Now let’s get to the meat of the this movie: The crazy sex triangle. I’ll try to break it down here as simply as I can but really, you need to see this for itself to really understand how absurd it all is.

  1. Jules and Catherine hang out and and eventually become a couple. Jim hangs around and the three do silly things like run around a lot and ride bikes. Jim is nonchalant about Catherine.
  2. Catherine falls into the river because she’s pissed off at Jules (as I have considered many times when being mansplained to). Jim rescues her and falls in love.
  3. World War I begins and the two fight against each other since Jim is a French citizen and Jules is German. Catherine is pregnant with Jules’ baby and they are married.
  4. After the war, Jim visits Jules and finds a sweet family. But Catherine is actually miserable, according to Jules, and she acts out by sleeping with literally everyone. She is currently seeing Albert, who wants to marry her and raise the kid as his own.
  5. Jim’s solution is to throw his hat in the ring and announce his love. Jules is cool with this and will gladly divorce Catherine in order to let her marry Jim. The three live in a weird poly commune and honestly, I’m here for it at this point. Everyone seems happy and I’m surprised something so progressive was shown back in the 60s.
  6. Catherine wants a baby from Jim but no dice. She decides she’s not actually in love with him and the two separate. Jules just exists in a weird cuckhold relationship.
  7. Catherine is pregnant!
  8. Nope. Lost the baby. Jim is over this. Jules enjoys being tortured by Catherine as she continues to sleep with everyone but him.
  9. Catherine keeps getting Jim to try and talk to her but he is so over this. She threatens to shoot him but he grabs the gun and walks away.
  10. Catherine finally gets him to herself. They get in the car to talk and she drives both of them into a river, where they die. I KNOW

So yeah, what an ending. And so much drama I was NOT expecting. Part of me is really pissed off at the treatment of Catherine because she was never asked what she wanted but she was also nuts so maybe this is exactly the way it should’ve gone. Either way, I think Jules got the raw end of the deal because he stayed in love with Catherine throughout all of this. I’m not really sure how there could’ve been a good ending, except for everyone reading ‘The Ethical Slut’ and having a poly board game night. Maybe that would’ve rightfully smoothed things over.

 

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Heat

#336- The Philadelphia Story

Quick recap: Tracy Lord, daughter of one of the richest families in Philadelphia, is about to get married for the first time. The only obstacles in her way are her ex-husband and a tabloid reporter who also just happens to be in love with her. What’s a girl to do?

ok,Katharine, give me the ‘oh, you guys’ look and boys, why don’t you just stand around her and…I don’t know, just point at her scalp. Perfect!

Fun (?) fact: 3 things I learned about James Stewart that endeared him to me even more:

  1. he never expected to win Best Actor for the film and planned on sitting at home instead of attending. A person tipped him off that he should show up anyway in a dress jacket, and he ended up winning.
  2. The Oscar has the word ‘Philadelphia’ misspelled on it
  3. Stewart never felt that he deserved the award, instead saying it was ‘deferred payment for my work on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’

Of all the James Stewarts in the world, he’s the James Stewartest.

I’m just saying, if there had been a James Stewart/ Cary Grant buddy comedy, maybe the world wouldn’t be in the mess that it’s currently in

My thoughts: To kick this off, I’d like to first acknowledge the elephant in the room: High Society. I watched it way back in the beginning of this blog and if you care to click the link, you will find that I didn’t enjoy it very much. I still stand by that review, except now I know it was just a remake, I kind of wish I could go back and lower my score. Which, I totally could, considering this is my personal project but something something about precedent and high standards and all that.

So, without a doubt, I enjoyed The Philadelphia Story infinitely more than High Society. The main reason being that I didn’t have to sit through all that silly singing. The plot made much more sense this time around, although I still classify it as ultimately silly. And I also LOVED the casting here. It makes even less sense to me why Grace Kelly would be chosen for the role Katharine Hepburn was made for. There was so much chemistry here, especially between Hepburn and Grant. Stewart seemed like an odd choice but he totally made it work. Everyone here was just perfect and although I didn’t really laugh much, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

That being said, this movie is hella problematic. In the very first scene, Dexter is leaving Tracy and as he is about to drive off, she storms out and breaks one of his golf clubs. This sends him into a rage and he comes after her, knocking her to the floor. Thereafter, the incident is referred to almost as a wistful, funny memory most couples have. I spent most of the movie either being disturbed by the lengths Dexter was going to in order to win Tracy back (like giving her a model of their honeymoon boat as a wedding present) or admiring him for his persistence. I still don’t know how I feel about their relationship but at the end when they decide to SPOILER remarry, they seemed genuinely happy and hopefully had both matured since then.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Jules and Jim