#381- L’Atalante

Quick recap: Juliette marries Jean, a ship captain. She learns that living on a ship isn’t as romantic as it sounds and actually really sucks most of the time. Except for the cats, of course.

Fun (?) fact: This was the last film Jean Vigo directed before his death at the age of 29. This was definitely NOT a fun fact but it’s all I have. Have some more cats!

Thoughts and observations:

Excluding the fact that the wedding party was all dressed in black and somberly waved her off, I can’t imagine Juliette had any idea what she signed up for when marrying Jean. Maybe she imagined an exciting adventure as her new husband steered the ship to faraway ritzy places. Maybe she imagined settling into her role as caretaker for the shipmates and earning their respect in return. At the very least, she must’ve enjoyed the thought of being on the river, blue sky as far as the eye could see.

Instead, she got:

  • A very dirty ship with hardly enough room for everyone
  • Days full of fog and cold weather
  • cats. SO MANY CATS
  • Jules, who is best described by the picture below-

So, I’d say not an ideal beginning to any new marriage. I totally understand how frustrating it must’ve been for Juliette to be so close to Paris and not be able to experience it.Considering all the new situations she was thrust into, it’s a wonder she didn’t try to escape sooner. I really love how she tried to adapt to all these things and it was Jean who ultimately pushed her away. Which I guess is why working with a spouse is a bad idea, but that’s a rant for another day.

Jean Vigo may have been young, but he really had a strong understanding of couples and their needs in any relationship. It says something that I was able to identify with both characters, even when they were being ridiculous and stupid. Maybe I didn’t abandon my spouse in a foreign town without any money or way to contact me, but I know what that’s like to be angry at the person you love the most. The reunion at the end of the film, although a result of ridiculous coincidences, was very sweet and gave me hope for these characters continuing relationship.

Now, onto the most important part of the film: THE CATS. There were SO many cats of all kinds- old ones, kittens, hyper ones and honestly I could’ve used more of them. They are all taken care of by Jules, which I thought was a wonderful way to show his humanity even though he looked and acted so rough. My favorite scenes were when someone would be sitting somewhere and a cat would just fly into the scene because you know that had to be someone’s job. I don’t think I’d want to be a cat wrangler in another life but I would’ve loved to watch the mayhem.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Gaav

#380- The Last Picture Show

Quick recap: A coming of age story set in a dying Texas town in the 1950s. Bleak doesn’t even begin to describe this film.

This movie is crawling with stars! Pictured here is Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges

Fun(?) fact: Orson Welles was the one to convince director Peter Bogdanovich to film in black and white.

And another BONUS FUN FACT: I have visited the real life town of Archer City, where this movie was filmed and based off of. Unfortunately all I remember are the massive bookstores owned by Larry McMurtry and a cat that followed me around.

see, Mom? My memory remains intact.

Thoughts and Observations:

Not having grown up in the 1950s I don’t know how accurate The Last Picture Show is, but I did grow up in a small Texas town and there were many scenes that felt uncomfortably familiar. This Larry McMurtry fellow might be on to something I think. My town didn’t have a tradition of parking our cars outside of a motel when our friends lost their virginity but we did have a bunch of old men who cared more about high school football than is healthy. We didn’t have teenagers sleeping with older women in unhappy marriages (I don’t think) but we did have our fair share of scandals that literally everyone knew about. And finally, I don’t remember my friends ever throwing a nude swimming party but there were plenty of times we rode around town and visited the couple of spots still open past 8 on a weeknight.

Don’t let the description fool you. This is not a Texan version of American Graffiti. Although this is a ‘coming of age’ movie, it happens as everything around them, especially the town is dying. I related to that more than anything I think. I live in a big city now and stores opening and closing is a daily occurrence. But in a small town, its impact is felt by everyone to some extent. And I think everyone goes through a shift at some point when they feel like they are too big for their town and it’s time to move on. I found myself thinking about this a lot during the movie. What would’ve happened to these teens had they lived in Dallas? Would Sonny have had a better life? Would Jacy have ended up with someone she truly loved? It’s interesting to see how the teens shaped the town and more importantly how the town shaped them.

  • If I had to rank the bleakest scenes, Billy’s experience with sex was the worst. Even worse than his death at the end of the film. I loved the character and I love how it showed Sonny’s humanity but it was a heart wrenching story to experience.
  • To the opposite end, I don’t know if I really enjoyed any of the scenes but I wish I could’ve seen more of the Picture Show since it seemed to be the hotbed of all teen activity and was the title of the film.
  • Cloris Leachman’s character Ruth was another sad one but I felt more sorry for her when she was having an affair with Sonny than when she screamed at him for abandoning her. Her life was hard, yes, but Sonny only offered her a false hope that couldn’t be sustained.
  • As mentioned, there are a ton of stars (both up and coming as well as established) and I had a tough time naming them, except for one :  Randy Quaid, whom
  • I recognized immediately.

  • I could go on and on about the characters but what really did me in was the setting. It’s no secret that I love Texas and its scenery and The Last Picture Show made me want to jump in my car and visit Archer City all over again. The scenes where Sonny headed out of town and watched the sunset felt so familiar and calming.

Final review: 4/5. I’d give it a perfect score but those nude scenes really snuck up on me.

Up next: L’Atalante

#373- Judge Priest

Quick recap: A judge dispenses good ol’ Southern wisdom with a lot of love and just a touch of racism.

Fun(?)fact:  Stepin Fetchit played Jeff Poindexter, a ‘stereotypical 19th century black male’ in Judge Priest. Despite mostly playing dim-witted characters on screen, Fetchit was considered very aggressive and cunning when it came to getting compensated like his white co-stars. He was one of the very first Black actors to fight for equal treatment in the entertainment industry.

My thoughts: If there is one thing I learned from this movie it is this: If you ever find yourself on trial in the Deep South, tell a story about your confederate great-great uncle while someone whistles Dixie. It’s apparently that simple. In fact, tying an issue somehow to the Civil War could really solve all of our current problems. See, many people in the South don’t believe that global warming exists and why should they? Right now it’s only affecting penguins and polar bears up north. However, rising oceans will become a problem very soon for states like Mississippi and Alabama, and there are a lot of confederate cemeteries there. Doing something about climate change pays honor and respect to those brave, racist soldiers!

Stepping off my soap box and back into this review, I really enjoyed most of this movie even though parts made me really uncomfortable. Judge Priest was a sweet guy and got along with almost everybody. And I think he was a good judge too, although a bit mischievous, like paying Poindexter to play Dixie to tug at the heartstrings of the jurors . Still, it seems as though 19th century Southern small towns weren’t really concerned with following all laws, as long as justice was served at some point. The beginning of the movie has Jeff Poindexter in front of Judge Priest, accused of stealing chickens. It seems an easy conviction until Priest reminds the prosecutor about various times he did basically the same thing. Maybe that wouldn’t fly in a big city but in this instance, people were satiated with the outcome.

It’s hard to land on a true opinion about this movie because so much of it is steeped in racist culture. Poindexter and Priest are considered friends but he still bosses him around and has him do unethical things for money as his puppet. And Aunt Dilsey is a sweet housekeeper but very stereotypical in that she lives for taking care of Priest and her main social activities consist of cooking and going to church functions. Still, there are glimpses that the director very much knew that these black actors were capable of so much more but maybe the audience wasn’t ready. It’s surprising to see a film about the South not completely turn into African-Americans being the butt of all the jokes. But maybe I’m just surprised because the bar is set so low.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Toy Story

#372- Beauty and the Beast

Quick recap: Stockholm Syndrome is alive and well in this classic fairy tale of a Beauty being made to fall in love with a Beast.

me, knowing that Monday is just around the corner

Fun (?) fact: Many, many people preferred the Beast to his alter-ego prince that he transforms into at the end of the film. Upon viewing this movie, actress Greta Garbo is said to have screamed, ‘ Give me back my beast!’

Now he’s just another white guy!

My thoughts: Of all the Disney princesses, I think Belle is my favorite. It used to be Ariel but at some point I realized how very stupid she is and so she was eliminated from the ranking. Sorry, 5 Year Old Me. This version of Beauty and the Beast is not sanitized like the cartoon version but there are still many similarities between the two. In fact, Walt Disney wanted to do a cartoon version of the fairy tale back in the 40s but once he saw this film he thought it would be pointless. When the animated feature was released in the early 90s it had several homages to this version, like the castle design and the magical items.

I wasn’t all that impressed with this movie right after watching it because it just seemed like yet another fairy tale brought to life. But, some of the scenes have really stuck with me, almost to the point of wanting to rewatch because I think I missed so much the first time. For one thing, there is a wonderful horror element I didn’t know existed but it totally fits. All of the candles in the castle are held up by torsos and arms and the statues have eyes that blink and follow Belle but they never talk or interact with her in any other way. When she arrives to take her father’s place, I love how she glides down the corridor, mist billowing around her and blowing the curtains. And then there is this sexual element that I completely missed. As the Beast falls for Belle, his hands start smoking when she is near. He is literally hot for her. And there is a bunch of symbolism about him giving her his ‘key’ to his ‘treasure’ which just went over my head completely. Put it all together, though, and you get this fairy tale that has so much more depth than I gave it credit for at first. There are a few nit-picky things about the plot that confuses me, such as why it was so easy for Belle to break her promise to the Beast when she knew how evil her sisters were. But every story has its holes so I’ll just let it be for once and  enjoy a good tale.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Judge Priest