Posts Tagged “7.9”

1967

July 18, 2009
San Jose CA — California Theatre — 70MM
France / Italy
French / English / German
124 Minutes
Comedy
Jacques Tati
#87 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

I was lucky to catch this in 70MM at the beautiful California Theatre in downtown San Jose. It was my first exposure to Director Jacques Tati, who appeared in the film as “Monsieur Hulot”, but there isn’t really a main character. In fact, there is absolutely no discernible dialog in the whole film. It’s in French and German and English, but you can’t really pick up on what anyone’s saying. It is all background noise. Hulot stumbles from place to place, first to a huge bureaucratic building, then to a fancy dinner club, then to a guy’s apartment, but here’s the thing: we have no idea why he is wherever he is. There is also an American tourist who follows her tour group around from gray building to gray building, never seeing any of the sights that made Paris famous (except in creative window reflections.) The two of them will cross paths, but again, we don’t know why. They’ll end up at a department store, in a traffic circle, and in a splendid lengthy scene in a restaurant on its grand opening day.

The film was made in 1967 by its crazy director who took two years, mortgaged his financial future, and actually built a small city outside of Paris in which to film it. He also never, I mean not once, filmed anyone or anything in close-up. There are no shots, I don’t think, with one actor only. Shots are held for long periods of time and in the background and corners things are happening. There are also cardboard cutouts on buses and in building windows and in the far background whose purpose appears to be populating the frame. At other points, live actors will be frozen in the background and only “come to life” at certain points in the scene. Not sure what that choice was about.

But if ever a film was full of whimsy, and not manufactured whimsy, like CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY or THE TRUMAN SHOW (even if you like those movies.) How a story with mumbled far-off dialogue and no plot and no explanation for why people are doing what they’re doing can be so compelling and interesting is beyond me? The entire thing is funny, but there aren’t many laugh-out-loud moments.

I very much liked the experience.

7.9 IMDB

Playtime @ Amazon

PLAY TIME

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1975

DVD — LiveTweet
USA
English
124 Minutes — June 30, 1975
Thriller
Steven Spielberg [Close Encounters Of The Third Kind; Raiders Of The Lost Ark; E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial; Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom; The Color Purple; Empire Of The Sun; Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade; Always; Hook; Jurassic Park; Schindler's List; The Lost World: Jurassic Park; Amistad; Saving Private Ryan; Artificial Intelligence: AI; Minority Report; Catch Me If You Can; The Terminal; Munich]
#106 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A man-eating shark causes havoc off the Long Island coast.

Still incredibly fun after more than 30 years. This was a Live Tweet (660 tweets during the film) whereby people announce information and frivolous minutiae about the film and many that have nothing to do with the film. The ratio of watching the screen to watching the laptop is probably 1 to 5. But it was a fun pick. Hollywood considers the industry to be cut in half between Pre-Jaws and Post-Jaws. Now the marketing is at least as important as the plot and acting. Jaws either heralded great entertainment or the death of real artistry.

7.9 Metacritic
8.3 IMDB #107 All Time
** Halliwells

Jaws @ Amazon

JAWS

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THE TOUR
2008

March 6, 2009
Cinequest 19
Serbia / Bosnia and Herzegovina
Serbo-Croatian
108 Minutes
Action / Adventure / Comedy / War
Goran Markovic

Notes:
The Bosnian War. A formerly glorious acting troupe, in need of a change of scenery (and some pocket money) embarks on a tour of the divided country. The manager insists that they’ll be thought of as heroes from Belgrade coming to help the troupes with morale. They arrive in a huge Bosnian Hummer-type vehicle after dodging mortar fire. An indifferent general has, of course, changed the itinerary. They will play once in town and they again at the front lines. Mis-steps ensue. Some humorous. Some funny in a more “we’re all in this together, why are we shooting each other” way. It turns out that no one cares that these actors have appeared on a TV series. Music is terrible. Bad news is telegraphed by single low note on a piano.

7.9 IMDB

THE TOUR

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2004

November 18, 2008
PBS — P.O.V.
USA
English
57 Minutes
Documentary
Jan Krawitz

7.9 IMDB

BIG ENOUGH

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2008

October 19, 2008
San Jose Camera Cinema Club
USA
English
80 Minutes — December 10, 2008 (limited)
Drama
Kelly Reichardt [Old Joy]
Michelle Williams [Dawson's Creek; Dick; If These Walls Could Talk 2; The Station Agent; Brokeback Mountain; I'm Not There]

Another incredibly slow-moving (in the best possible way) story from Kelly Reichardt who also directed the quiet and beautiful OLD JOY, which was about two ex-hippies in search of an Oregon hot springs. This one is about Wendy, played with steadiness by Michelle Williams, a woman “just passing through” a tiny Oregon town when her car breaks down. She is on her way to the fisheries of Alaska in order to make some money. Her partner on this journey is Lucy, her loyal dog. We meet Wendy as she’s woken up by a security guard as she sleeps in her car. He wants to be kind to her, but rules are rules, and he helps her push the car off the Walgreen’s property.

Wendy keeps a log of money spent on her way to find fortune in the Klondike and her funds have dwindled lower than she’s comfortable with. She needs her car fixed and she needs some new dog food so she heads to a store where her urge to save a few more dollars results in a shoplifting charge which results in her dog being lost, which results in her world being turned upside down.

The plot isn’t much. Woman and dog break down on their way to Alaska. But to paraphrase Gene Siskel, it’s not what the film is about, but how it’s about what it’s about. Michelle Williams drops all of her glamor in order to play a woman who does all of her bathing in a Shell Station bathroom. She is distrustful of everyone but her dog. She is estranged in some way from her family, although we are never told what happened. Her license plates are from Indiana and she’s made it as far as Oregon. She doesn’t really hesitate to shoplift, she is comfortable around the homeless who join her in line to recycle cans. She also constantly hums the same tune as she walks from place to place. The time frame of the film is probably three days. And some of the scenes are made up of the mundane things one does while waiting for a car to be fixed, or in Wendy’s case, the auto repair shop to open.

Strangers help her and she helps strangers. The film can be seen as an example of the hidden underclass whereby one financial emergency (or simply a larger-than-expected bill) can devastate a person. She has just about enough money to make it to Alaska–until her car breaks down. She moves in a working class circle. She laments the job market with the Walgreen’s guard. She has no address nor phone number to offer people if they ask. The slide into homelessness could not be more slippery. It’s been reported that the director began thinking of this story after hearing right-wing blowhards blame the victims of Katrina for not leaving New Orleans before the storm hit. Why didn’t they just hop in their SUVs and head north? There is a sizeable group of people for whom a tiny car repair, or a massive hurricane would alter their existence completely. As each new expense pops up for Wendy to deal with, Williams’ eyes reflect a barely-hanging-in-there sensibility. It’s no wonder the homeless guy she meets in the woods is talking to himself. Life is hard. You try your best to get by.

Williams is spectacular in the role. Her wide expressive eyes tell us that she can’t possibly accept another setback. She stays mostly silent, except when speaking with her dog. The unconditional love of a pet might just be keeping her alive. There are scenes of Williams’ face when speaking to a store manager, a cop, a dog pound employee, where she hits it just perfectly. She has realistic breakdowns and seems to bring out the best in people with her open, available face.

And I probably won’t forget the scene involving a tiny kindness by the security guard. I may have teared up.

This film isn’t for everyone. You will feel every one of its 80 minutes. There are long passages where nothing happens and nothing is said. A substantial part of my enjoyment was probably based upon my own life. I have slept in my car (an Acura, not an Accord) in chain store parking lots in Oregon. I’ve been awoken by cops in the morning and told to move on. I’ve taken a train through the Pacific Northwest surrounded by other young people on their way to the canneries. I’ve had cross-country trips stalled because my VW couldn’t go another mile. I’ve “just passed through” most of the towns in Oregon and Washington and Northern California.

My love of the vibe and pacing of this film may be because I’ve been in Wendy’s exact situation, and it certainly rang true for me watching it unfold on the screen.

Like OLD JOY, give WENDY AND LUCY a chance to wash over you. Don’t watch it if you’re already tired. Just observe and you’ll be rewarded.

7.9 IMDB

WENDY AND LUCY

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1953

July 24, 2008
TCM
USA
English
118 Minutes — August 5, 1953
Drama / Romance / War
Fred Zinnemann [Oklahoma!]
#878 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

Burt Lancaster [The Swimmer; Atlantic City; Local Hero; Field Of Dreams]

Montgomery Clift [A Place In The Sun]

Deborah Kerr [An Affair To Remember]

Donna Reed [It's A Wonderful Life; The Benny Goodman Story]

Frank Sinatra [Guys And Dolls; The Manchurian Candidate]

Life in a Honolulu barracks at the time of Pearl Harbor.

OW: Picture, Director Fred Zinnemann, Screenplay, Supporting Actor Frank Sinatra, Supporting Actress Donna Reed, Cinematography, Editor
ON: Actor Burt Lancaster, Actor Montgomery Clift, Actress Deborah Kerr

*** Halliwell’s
7.9 IMDB

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Written by Michael W. Cummins