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72 years ago...

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Spellbound (1945)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Country: United States
Length: 111 minutes
Type: Mystery, Romance

Measured against the high-standard of Alfred Hitchcock films, 'Spellbound' is a mixed bag. Ingrid Bergman's assured, talented and diligent female Psychoanalyst, is offset by laughably sexist dialogue like "The mind of a woman in love is operating on the lowest level of the intellect" that she doesn't challenge. Although perhaps we are just being shown the male-dominated world she works in. After all, a lot of the men in the film are shown to act inappropriately or irrationally (driven by murderous and sexual desires) and she outsmarts them all. A new Director arrives at the mental hospital where she works (played by a startlingly young looking Gregory Peck, in only his fourth role) and they instantly fall in love but all is not as it seems. In my opinion, we needed an extra opening scene where the two lovers meet before getting to the asylum. Them meeting at the asylum means there is a ticking clock until the truth is discovered, making the romance very rushed by necessity. Miklós Rózsa's score is overbearing, which is often a result of having to force us feel for the rushed love story.

There is lots to enjoy too. A dream about a murder is set within a 3D Salvador Dalí painting, a series of opening doors powerfully represents emotional emancipation, and two red frames (in an other wise entirely B&W movie) are used to illustrate a suicide. Michael Chekhov does a brilliant turn as a twinkle-eyed old Psychoanalyst, who is Sigmund Freud in all but name. The best sections of the movie are the parts exploring the inner workings of the mind, the man-on-the-run element was unnecessary and underdeveloped. The film would have perhaps been more effective if they'd never left the Hospital.



Another Michael Curtiz film next.
(07-31-2018, 03:13 AM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]...two red frames (in an other wise entirely B&W movie) are used to illustrate a suicide. 

I completely missed that when I watched it, but you're right.

Really enjoying your reviews, BTW.
(07-31-2018, 09:25 AM)Garp Wrote: [ -> ]
(07-31-2018, 03:13 AM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]...two red frames (in an other wise entirely B&W movie) are used to illustrate a suicide. 

I completely missed that when I watched it, but you're right.

Really enjoying your reviews, BTW.

Thanks, your reviews make good reading too. I only just caught those frames myself and had to rewind to check I hadn't imagined it. They look like this:

[Image: spellbound-pic1.jpg]
Gave Within Our Gates (1920) a watch, yesterday. Incredible film, I loved the scene where the black reverend has to play the Griffin-esque fool for the white men. And that lynching scene was so incredibly well shot and edited that it was hard to watch, yet I couldn't look away.

However, I have to say, I really didn't like how it ended. With the Doctor basically telling Sylvia that she should love her country, because of African-American involvement in US imperialism. It felt weird and gaslighty, and kinda subverted the message of the film up til that point.
^ I'd be interested to see it again if I ever got the blu-ray (http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film5/blu-ray_r...lu-ray.htm).




72 years ago...

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Mildred Pierce (1945)
Director: Michael Curtiz
Country: United States
Length: 111 minutes
Type: Film-Noir

I'd heard nothing about 'Mildred Pierce' going in but what a masterpiece it turned out to be. Kind of a twisted Film Noir inversion of 1937's 'Stella Dallas'. A mother's relentless pursuit of the "Mom's Apple Pie / American Dream" results in everything in her life being destroyed. Joan Crawford plays a housewife who will do anything to get her daughter the finer things in life. We watch as she doggedly works her way up from a waitress, to the owner of a string of successful restaurants. No matter how hard she works, or how much she makes, it's never enough to satisfy the vain and selfish desires of her spoiled-bitch child. Mildred is always selfless and kind but to a point where you suspect some kind of suppressed self-destructive impulse. The film explores suicide, obsession, murder and Lolita elements. At a certain point, I could see where the story was going but that only made it harder to watch, as you can see Mildred's doom approaching but she can't. Every shot is lit to perfection and drenched in shadows and every opportunity is taken to shoot from unique angles. Superb work from Cinematographer Ernest Haller and Director Michael Curtiz.



The first film out of liberated Paris next.
73 years ago...

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The Children of the Gods (1945)
Director: Marcel Carné
Country: France
Length: 190 minutes
Type: Romance, Drama

'Les Enfants du Paradis' is commonly known as 'Children of Paradise' in English but that's a terrible mis-translation. It's set in the theatre world of 19th century Paris, so the title refers to the cheap-seats (The "Gods"), therefore I think 'The Children of the Gods' is much more appropriate. The story occupies roughly the same Parisian time period that people will be familiar with from 'Les Misérables'. There is a large cast of characters but we focus mainly on four men (all real historical people), a lovelorn mime artist, a gregarious actor, an assertive count and a dangerous criminal dandy, who all love the same woman 'Garance'. I'm sorry to sound shallow but actress 'Arletty' looks too old at 46 to play Garance. These men all fall obsessively in love with her at a mere glance, for no other reason than her dazzling, earth-shattering beauty... but it's a movie, so you just go with it.

The epic 3-hour runtime is crammed with narrative action, poetic dialogue and dramatic characters so the pace never flags. My sympathies for the four men as they compete for Garance's attention varied from scene to scene. The plays they act in, cleverly mirror the ups and downs of their own fortunes. A French viewer more familiar with the tropes of Commedia dell'arte would no doubt appreciate this symbolism more, as three of the characters represent the stock roles: Pierrot, Columbine and the Harlequin.

The theatre district was one huge set, so big that you'd easily mistake it for a location. Amazing considering this was shot before, after and during the war. Deliberately delayed so it could be released after the liberation of Paris, Marcel Carné's film premiered just a few weeks before new elections were held and then ran for a whole year. France was back and so was it's film industry "Vive la liberté!". 'The Children of the Gods' has been voted the greatest French film ever, I'm not sure that's true but it might be in the running. Only the ending spoiled it for me because a couple of plot threads are left unresolved.



The first film in the list by Roberto Rossellini next.
72 years ago...

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Rome, Open City (1945)
Director: Roberto Rossellini
Country: Italy
Length: 105 minutes
Type: Drama, War

'Rome, Open City' ('Roma Città Aperta') portrays the Italian Resistance's struggle to evade capture during the Nazi occupation of Rome. Roberto Rossellini started work on the film just two months after the Allies had driven the Nazi forces out of the city. We are shown many levels of the Resistance network but the main focus is on a Catholic Priest Don Pietro Pellegrini (based on a real person, played sensitively by Aldo Fabrizi) who uses his position to help. Rossellini shoots in a gritty, Documentary style among the still bomb damaged buildings. There is no Hollywood happy ending and some of the torture scenes towards the end would be considered "strong" even today. It's a film about martyrs, rather than heroes and Don Pietro's fate has obvious parallels with that of Jesus.





Another Billy Wilder film next.
72 years ago...

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The Lost Weekend (1945)
Director: Billy Wilder
Country: United States
Length: 99 minutes
Type: Drama, Horror

This was my second viewing of Billy Wilder's 'The Lost Weekend' and I was still unprepared for how uncompromisingly raw it is for a Hollywood film of the mid 40s. Ray Milland puts in a tour de force performance as Don, an alcoholic who was once a writer. Interestingly, the story begins years after he went off the deep end, when almost everyone he knows, everyone who cared for him, or loved him, has long since given up hope of him recovering, or has begun to despise him. Wilder plays it like a Noirish Psychological-Horror movie, the Theremin score underling this aspect. The shots of spiral staircases and extreme closeups of crazed eyeballs, feel very Hitchcock.

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The most unforgettable scene has Don hallucinating a mouse crawling out of the wall, then a bat circles, swoops down and bites the mouse's head off, blood running down the wall. Inducing Milland to scream and rave in a way that is genuinely disturbing. There are definite similarities to the withdrawal scene from 1996's 'Trainspotting'.

This period trailer is amusing for attempting to market a film that is 100% about alcoholism... while avoiding ever mentioning alcoholism Big Grin :



Another Film Noir next.
72 years ago...

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Detour (1945)
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Country: United States
Length: 68 minutes
Type: Film Noir

'Detour' is a short B-Picture Noir, shot for a tenth of what major-studio Hollywood was working with. The budget limitations and lack of polished stars actually work in it's favour. A low-rent Piano player (Tom Neal) hitchhikes from New York to Los Angeles to be with his girl. Along the way he meets a man and a woman who turn out to be a couple of borderline psychos and without really doing anything bad on purpose, he gets mixed up in murder, theft and fraud. The grubby cheapness of everything on screen perfectly captures a world of paint-peeling motels and rough road-side diners, which an A-picture might have been tempted to glamourise. Actor Tom Neal went on to get mixed up in crime and murder in real life. 'Detour' lapsed into public-domain so can be found on youtube quite easily:



Another film from The Archers next, hurray!
72 years ago...

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I Know Where I'm Going (1945)
Director: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 88 minutes
Type: Romance

'I Know Where I'm Going' is like a love letter to Scotland from The Archers (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger). Wendy Hiller plays a young headstrong Englishwoman who always "knows where she is going". She travels to Scotland to marry her much older wealthy fiancee who is staying on the remote Isle of Kiloran. Except bad weather prevents her from making the crossing, forcing her to stop and smell the proverbial roses heather. The longer she is stuck, the more she falls in love with the windswept Scottish countryside, the local people and their simple way of life, the folk music and of course Roger Livesey, who turns out to be the ancestral Laird of Kiloran.

The weather cleverly works in sympathy with Hiller's emotions, as her feelings for Livesey increase (endangering her pre-planned nuptials) the land is wracked by storms. When she finally realises that she loves him, the sea is becalmed. The closer she gets to Kiloran (The man), the further she gets from reaching Kiloran (The island). It's stuff like this that make the script so perfectly written and conceived. We get a lot of Romantic-Comedies these days but I don't think we get so many genuine heart-felt, crowd-pleasing Romances like this one. Every time I watch 'I Know Where I'm Going', I get more impressed with it's subtle brilliance.



Another William Wyler film next.
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