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86 years ago...

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The Public Enemy (1931)
Director: William A. Wellman
Country: United States
Length: 83 minutes
Type: Gangster, Drama

'The Public Enemy' is a sort of Gangster-film "escalation of hostilities", compared with 'Little Caesar' from just 4-months earlier. That film looks a little tame and phony next to this (Just a little). Jimmy Cagney plays Tom Powers, a total amoral and irredeemable bastard. Beryl Mercer is brilliant in the cynically written role of his mother, who still thinks Tom will come good. Donald Cook plays the older brother who knows what a villain Tom really is. Cagney grew up with these kinds of people on the Lower East Side, which is probably what makes his performance so believable. I was not expecting the shocking ending.



Next up is Fritz Lang's first sound film.
Finally got round to watching Intolerance in full. 1915 was a big damn year for film Tongue

Holy crap. I knew about the scale of this, but I had no idea just how big. The Great Feast of Babylon sequence was absolutely spectacular. That said, whilst held together by a unifying theme, the individual story lines had little to do with one another, which led to a strange pacing problem. I found myself getting very bored by the French storyline, so I'd often be waiting until it got back to Babylonian, Judean or American storylines.

This is another silent I'd like to see a fanedit of. Or rather, 4 fanedits of. One for each storyline. It also means you can cut around the cradle rocking which symbolizes.... something?

Much better than Griffith's previous work. Obviously a masterpiece of its time, but by today's standards, its editing is a bit meh.
(08-02-2017, 08:51 AM)Zamros Wrote: [ -> ]I found myself getting very bored by the French storyline

Yeah, it has little impact. I can't even remember what the point of it was.



86 years ago...

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M (1931)
Director: Fritz Lang
Country: Germany
Length: 111 minutes
Type: Murder, Crime, Drama

This was my second watch of 'M', a film about a child killer (played by Peter Lorre in his first starring role) and the paranoid mania that grips a city in the wake of his reign of terror. Whenever the killer is thinking about murder, he whistles Grieg's 'In the Hall of the Mountain King', the same tension-building audio technique that Spielberg would use for the jangling keys in 'E.T.' and the slow teasing of the 'Jaws' theme. With his first sound film, Fritz Lang is already innovating. Another 'Jaws' comparison could be made in the way the killer is withheld from the audience by showing his shadow, or his footsteps, long before we ever see his face.

As usual, Lang makes inventive use of the camera. What seems to be a gliding unbroken 4-minute take explores a flophouse (It's actually two takes with a crossfade disguising the join). A camera makes an impossible looking move through a tiny window pain. Cameras are mounted under a desk, up in a tree and peaking out of bushes to create a voyeuristic effect. Reportedly the film was partly based on the real-life mass murderer Peter Kürten, who had terrorised Düsseldorf just a year before 'M'. I'd never heard of the case but he makes Jack the Ripper sound like Ghandi.



Next up is the first of many films in the book by Jean Renoir.
(08-04-2017, 06:50 AM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]Yeah, it has little impact. I can't even remember what the point of it was.

Something something sectarianism?

M is sick. Fritz Lang's best film, imo.
(08-04-2017, 10:21 AM)Zamros Wrote: [ -> ]
(08-04-2017, 06:50 AM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]Yeah, it has little impact. I can't even remember what the point of it was.

Something something sectarianism?


I think it was religious intolerance with the French line.
Massacre of he Protestant Huguenots by Catholics on St. Bartholomew's Day.
My least favorite thread in that, as well.
85 years ago...

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The Bitch (1931)
Director: Jean Renoir
Country: France
Length: 96 minutes
Type: Drama

'The Bitch' (aka 'La Chienne') is the first of many films in the book by Jean Renoir. I've got a big DVD boxset of his films but only one of them is in the book which is unlucky Big Grin . I can't say I was blown away by this early entry but it was enjoyable enough. I found the film difficult to engage with because I didn't know exactly who the characters were, where they were going, or how I was supposed to feel about them until it was over. So this is probably the kind of film that is more rewarding on a second viewing. Michel Simon is terrific with a low key central performance as a seemingly mild-mannered clerk, disguising passions for painting and other things. The loveless relationship he has with his wife is very funny.



Next up is another Dreyer movie, hope it's as good as the last.
85 years ago...

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Vampyr: The Dream of Allan Gray (1932)
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Country: Germany
Length: 73 minutes
Type: Horror, Mystery, Ghost, Vampire

I didn't think 'Vampyr' was any way near the same league as Dreyer's last film 'The Passion of Joan of Arc' but it's still worth a watch. It's usually just labelled as simply 'Vampyr' but the original German title 'Vampyr: Der Traum des Allan Gray' is more fitting. Suggesting not a typical Vampire focused film but the weird dream-like vision of death that the movie really is (there is a Vampire in it though). The film was funded by Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg on the proviso that he would get the title role. Luckily he plays the part very well, not requiring much range, just to look thoroughly fearful.

The 'Masters of Cinema' DVD is worth tracking down for the audio commentary by Guillermo del Toro. He talks mostly about the themes, imagery, iconography and influence.



Next up is a Maurice Chevalier comedy.
85 years ago...

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Love Me Tonight (1932)
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Country: United States
Length: 89 minutes
Type: Musical, Comedy, Romance

I'm watching through this list so I can find gems like the musical comedy 'Love Me Tonight'. I'd never seen a Maurice Chevalier picture before... I only knew him because of this famous Marx Brothers routine from the year before...



...but I'm now an instant fan and this movie is a joy to watch. Chevalier is made of pure charisma, wearing hats at angles so jaunty it defies gravity! Coincidentally, this film felt just like a Marx Brothers movie (sans the actual Brothers). It's the same brand of silliness, pricking the pomposity of upper classes. Except, unlike many MB films the romance plot is first-class and the music and songs are almost the best bits.  In a twist on the predictable ending, it's the heroine who leaps on a horse to chase after the hero. Sadly only a post-code censored version exists but given the relatively raunchy humour that remains, goodness knows what was cut.

'Love Me Tonight' needs to have an HD release!



Another Renoir next.
84 years ago...

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Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932)
Director: Jean Renoir
Country: France
Length: 86 minutes
Type: Drama, Comedy

Like Jean Renoir's 'The Bitch' from the year before, this also stars Michel Simon. Coincidentally, that films ends with his character living on the streets and this starts with him in the same situation. You could almost fanedit the two movies together, if it wasn't for the fact that the two characters act quite differently.

A kindly bookseller (Lestingois) rescues the titular Boudu from suicide in the Seine and puts him up in his house. Unfortunately Boudu is either an ungrateful, selfish a**hole, or an innocent who genuinely has no concept of social norms. Eventually he even tests the patience of the easy-going Lestingois. Lots of fun shenanigans ensue involving the booksellers wife and the housemaid that he has on the side. Ironically, despite the chaos Boudo leaves in his wake, the other characters end up happier. The HD transfer looks stunning, as does the cinematography.



A prison drama next.
84 years ago...

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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Country: United States
Length: 93 minutes
Type: Drama, Political, Prison

This is an early Political-Message film. Hollywood showing audiences the horrors of the then Chain Gang system, in the hopes of influencing public opinion and changing policy. Paul Muni is outstanding as an honest man caught in a dishonest system. Where the prisoners have a kind of honor and the politicians have none. The cinematography is gorgeous, grim and grimy yet beautiful too. There are a couple of suspect scenes/lines involving Black prisoners which spoil this otherwise perfect movie. This would make an ideal double-bill with 'The Shawshank Redemption'.



An Ernst Lubitsch comedy next.
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