Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

26 May 2008

Because I Am Procrastinating...

I am supposed to be re-reading Hamlet so that I can teach it next week. But I don't really feel like working, and tomorrow is a day off... at least until rehearsal at 6:00p.

Anyway, a few movies that I have watched recently but not yet written about:

I had been missing Bette Davis. I have seen a ton of her movies (by which I mean twenty-two), and since I usually only rent films I haven't seen before, Bette is generally on my backburner. Still, there are a couple of classics I haven't seen and since I hadn't seen Edmund Goulding's The Great Lie (1941) or Anatole Litvak's All This, and Heaven Too (1940), I rented them and had a mini-Bette Davis fest at my house. Both films are quite enjoyable. The Great Lie is a kind of high society soap opera with a husband who "dies" in a plane crash and a baby who Bette passes off as her own. Mary Astor won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing the "other woman" in the scenario. The film is cute and funny, but Bette's character isn't all that much fun. She's earnest and sweet and always tries to do the right thing. Still, it's a good movie. The leading man is George Brent, and he's appropriately dapper. All This, and Heaven Too is much better. It (of course) is also a soapy melodrama, but All This takes place in France, where Bette is a governess to four children who love her dearly. They are the children of a duke and duchess in France (Charles Boyer [so gorgeous] and Barbara O'Neil [over the top.]) Anyway, Charles begins to fall in love with Bette (he isn't in love with the wife anymore, because she's a total nutjob), but they never act on anything and are always above board and proper about things. Of course, all this is doomed to end in tragedy. The thing is, the tragedy in ll This, and Heaven Too really works. I found it sweet and rather moving. Boyer and Davis are both very good in the film, and the story succeeds on its own merits. I liked it rather a lot, and I think it's worth the rental. Not as good, perhaps as The Letter, from the same year, but still quite good.

Dans Paris (Inside Paris) is a Christophe Honoré film (the guy who brought us Ma Mère). Dans Paris, however, is much more engaging than Ma Mère, and I liked it quite a bit. It's a small film, with not too much to say, but it says what little it has to say with panache and verve. It stars Romain Duris and Louis Garrel as brothers who live with their father and are trying to solve the problems of Duris's depression (which mostly has to do with how much he loves his ex-wife. It's an interesting little story about sadness and parenting and brotherhood. Worth the rental if you're into off-beat French stuff with fairly greasy young men (like I obviously am.)

Michael Apted's Gorillas in the Mist: the Story of Dian Fossey was appropriately dry, melodramatic and rooted in 1980s politics. I was mostly bored but I didn't hate it. It's a serviceable kind of thing that runs out of steam and has nowhere to go. I've seen worse.

Also from 1988, today I saw Beaches. I had never seen it. It's a big movie in gay culture, right? I'm not quite sure why it's such a big movie in gay culture, but I liked it a lot. The direction is absolutely terrible (Garry Marshall wasn't good in the 80s either, turns out) but Beaches is a surefire tearjerker. Let's be honest about things. I was crying way before we got to the end.

I think the reason I was so sensitive to Garry Marshall's inadequacies as a filmmaker while I was watching Beaches was that Ryan and I watched Zabou Breitman's The Man of My Life (L'Homme de Sa Vie) this afternoon and it's just lovely. It's a very showy film in terms of movie-maker's tricks, but also very beautiful. L'Homme de Sa Vie is the story of Frédéric, a man with a wife and little son who is on vacation in Provençe (or somewhere) for the summer but has a long conversation one night with his gay next-door neighbor, and the neighbor just gets under his skin. A bit like that Éric Rohmer film Ma Nuit Chez Maud. But The Man of My Life tells the story sort of backwards. We never see the whole conversation between the men. Instead, we move forward with the story and then as Fred thinks about his life, etc, he remembers the conversation in little bits and pieces. It's quite interesting and I recommend it to anyone who likes showy movies... or pretty movies.

One more flick. After seeing his brilliant George Washington, I rented David Gordon Green's All the Real Girls, and I want to move it to my list of all-time favorites. It's ponderous and sweet. I have been feeling affectionate toward love stories of late and All the Real Girls is a really nice one: very cute but never cloying. And I am totally in love with Paul Schneider. I want him to marry me.

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