Posts Tagged “8.4”
January 12, 2010
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
112 Minutes — December 16, 2009
CRAZY HEART is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 85. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 CRAZY HEART Discussion
• 22:06 To Sum It Up
• 22:37 The Last Five®
• 1:00:08 GLAAD Award Nominees
• 1:07:02 Credits & Outtakes
, Scott Cooper
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July 22, 2009
Belgium / France / Italy / Germany
French / Albanian / Russian
105 Minutes — July 31, 2009
Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne [The Child]
Arta Dobroshi plays Lorna
We are immediately dropped into these characters’ lives. We are trusted to catch up on our own. Without someone spelling out every character and every motivation. This fact alone makes the first moments of LORNA’S SILENCE compelling. Lorna is at the bank where she makes a deposit. She is married, though clearly unhappily, to a man named Claudy, whose emaciation tells us that he’s an addict of some sort. Lorna is as cold as can be to this man. What has he done (besides get hooked on smack) to make her treat him this way? We are mostly in hand-held closeups at this point–in fact, this “you are there” quality will make the whole experience of the film much more visceral.
Claudy is clearly in terrible shape. He’s looking for companionship from Lorna, trying to get her to play some cards with him before bed. She then announces, I’m going to bed, adding “are you coming?” Which throws us for a loop as her body language, stoic face, and coldness towards him doesn’t exactly spell marital bliss. Alas, he needs to get his bed roll out of the other room and she sleeps in her bed while he tosses and turns out in the living room while trying to kick heroin–and not for the first time. This sounds like every other junkie-trying-to-clean-up movie that’s ever been made, but this heroin portion of the film really isn’t important. The film is about so much more.
They live in a dismal, drab apartment. She continually pulls out her ID to tell people she cares about that she’s “nearly Belgian.” The story becomes more clear. She has married Claudy in order to get a green card. She’s Albanian. The terms of the arrangement are spelled out: $5,000 Euros for marriage and $10,000 Euros for a divorce. Lorna is in a hurry for this divorce because it will be her turn to get paid when she marries “The Russian”, a crime boss of some stature. And so on, and so on, and so on.
What if you wanted to immigrate to a new country, but couldn’t do it legally? A sham marriage might be just the ticket. But the authorities are used to such capers, so it would really help Lorna’s case for divorce, if her Belgian husband abused her. But he can’t. So desperate and lonely is he, that her occasional tiny displays of caring and compassion mean everything to him. Perhaps she’s been supportive in prior attempts at quitting drugs.
There are harrowing scenes where he demands that she lock him in their apartment while she goes to work as a drycleaner so that he can’t leave to make a buy. Even more hard to watch are the scenes where Lorna pleads with Claudy to beat her, so that she can file a police report and get her divorce quicker. But he won’t. So she’ll have to bruise herself and blame it on him. But she’ll need a witness.
Lorna seems dead inside most of the time, but her eyes come alive with sparkle during the few meetings she has with her boyfriend, Sokol, another immigrant who is always traveling here and there to pick up whatever work he can. They all answer to Fabio who has the connections, the seed money, and the gun to run the whole enterprise. This is a story about the people we don’t notice. It reminded me of DIRTY PRETTY THINGS.
If Lorna claims spousal abuse, she’ll be questioned thoroughly, but if her husband were dead (he is a junkie after all), wouldn’t that make the whole situation a bit easier? Lorna wants to be rid of Claudy, she wants the $20K the Russian has promised, she wants to be out from under control of Fabio, and she wants to open a cafe with her beloved Sokol. But to her horror, she realizes that she has a conscience. If Claudy overdoses by his own devices, she can’t be held morally responsible. But if he really tries to get clean, asking her for help, doesn’t she have to support his decisions? Things aren’t as easy as they first appear.
This film is full of magnificent little moments. Claudy’s treatment ends and he promises to cook Lorna dinner. She receives a letter from a judge telling her that her divorce is final. Claudy, though expecting this to happen eventually, is not okay with it happening so soon, and puts on his jacket in order to go out and meet his connections. She refuses to let him go and he must physically fight her to get out of the apartment to score dope to drown his sorrow at losing his sham wife. This is a wordless scene that lasts about ten minutes. They awkwardly wrestle, she grabs him, she throws his key out the window after locking them both in, and then she reverts to the only urge that can possibly challenge the need for heroin. It is an incredibly touching scene–something I won’t soon forget. She is giving herself to him for comfort, for congratulations, for her own guilt about taking advantage of him, for thousands of other reasons. No dialogue is necessary.
This is actress Arta Dobroshi’s first major role and she is magnificent. Her big eyes are perfect at projecting hope, fear, apathy, and desperation. A scene where she’s questioned by some cops is a superb use of few words going a long way.
The film unfolds as a sort of mystery. Who is The Russian, what is the relationship between the two people who share the apartment, why does Lorna deposit money in the bank? The Dardennes make us do the work in finding out. It is easy to believe that Lorna was living her life in Belgium well before we started following her. There is a feeling of us sort of happening by, the camera picking up her story by accident, though it could be many immigrant’s story.
The last ten minutes play better as metaphor than as plot and I’m not sure they’re successful. But the rest of the film is spectacular.
, Dardenne Brothers
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July 20, 2009
Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954. Charleston High School in Mississippi finally integrated their single high school in 1970. In that year, the seniors had two proms. One for the white kids and one for the black kids. And that’s the way it continued until Charleston’s most famous resident, Morgan Freeman, offered in 1999 to pay for a single prom, provided it was integrated. He was turned down. So he tried again in 2008. This time the schoolboard and the seniors themselves said yes.
The high school has 415 students, 70% of whom are black.
The documentary crew gave cameras to a dozen or so students, probably the most outspoken of the group. All of the kids were fine going to an integrated school and living in an integrated town. At least all of the ones who appeared on camera. One white senior male was photographed behind a screen for fear that his family would see him brazenly say things like “I’ve had white lovers and black lovers and it’s what’s inside that counts.”
Whenever something comes up that speaks for the other side–that is, the racist side–the cameras aren’t there to capture it and we see events unfold with animation. People in this town may be racist, but they also are careful. A white girl claims that a black girl threatened her and then brought a gun to school the next day. We hear from the black girl but the white one is nowhere to be found.
A prom committee is formed and rules are established. One white girl resigns from the committee because she would not be attending the mixed prom, though she would go to one if it were white-only.
Meanwhile, the townspeople are reacting. We hear from several parents, who remember their own segregated proms. We meet one white senior girl (who looks to be about 14) who openly talks about her black boyfriend (who looks, maybe 15). They aren’t particularly demonstrative at school. They don’t hold hands in front of people, and neither has ever been allowed to visit the other one’s home. They claim to be in love, and with West-coast 2009 eyes, they seem like a naive, though cute couple. But to people stuck in the past in Mississippi, they might just represent the downfall of the human species.
The woman’s father is by far the most open about his thoughts on their relationship. He is one of those “you can either love me or hate me. I hope you love me, but if you don’t, keep to yourself and I’ll do the same” type of southerners. He claims to have plenty of black friends, but he feels like his girl will be hurt when she gets out into a real world that won’t approve of her boy choice. The boy’s parents take a more “be careful” approach. The man tried to punish his daughter by grounding her and taking her cell phone, but she stayed with the boy. As the school’s sole interracial couple, the prom has extra meaning for them.
We need tension, and it comes in the form of some parents paying for and holding a white-only prom after all. A meeting is held in someone’s house and two of our interview subjects recount being there and hearing a father say “no black boy is going to rub up all on my daughter at a dance” and they take off denouncing the meeting and the prom. Some white kids refuse to go, but others don’t. And the ones who went received much less scorn than I would have expected. They took dates to a party to which an entire ethnic group was excluded. And they didn’t feel particularly bad about it.
The white parents hire a lawyer who speaks to the film crews in their stead. He begins saying things that make them look worse while trying to make them look better. One obvious question for a lawyer is “why won’t those parents speak to us?” To which he replies “They don’t want to appear racist.” By holding a white-only event, they don’t want to appear racist. Nice.
Clips of Freeman driving around, clips of kids worried about dresses and tuxedos and big enough limos and whom to go with begin to take over. Beauty parlor scenes, texting, music apprehension. It all seems pretty normal.
One thing that isn’t easy to see is that just about everyone we see in town is poor. These kids come out of trailers and walk down milk crate steps while dressed in beautiful, colorful outfits. It seems like the town much more alike than the older generations would lead you to believe.
The film is most successful in documenting an anachronistic town, with a single small high school, who can’t seem to get their head around racial diversity and interaction, more than 50 years after the Supreme Court ruled on the matter.
PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI
, Paul Saltzman
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July 14, 2009
San Jose CA — Camera 3
French / English
103 Minutes — May 15, 2009
Drama / Family
Olivier Assayas [Clean; Paris, Je T'aime]
A woman celebrates her 75th birthday at her country home just outside of Paris. Her two sons and one daughter are there, as are her five grandchildren and housekeeper. She is concerned about getting old and takes her eldest son on a tour of the home, pointing out valuable art pieces and furniture and suggesting what he should do with the home and its furnishings when she’s no longer around. This type of conversation is always fraught with meaning and emotion, and the son puts off any serious discussion, but knows that he will some day need to take control as executor.
Mom dies and the siblings must decide what to do with the house. Frederic is the only one of the three who lives in Paris. His younger brother, Jeremy, works for the shoemaker Puma in China, where he’s just been offered a five-year committed promotion. Adrienne, played by goddess Juliette Binoche, is a artsy designer presently living in Manhattan. The home is full of artwork by their great-uncle, a man that the oldest can barely remember, but who the world remembers as a genius. Should they sell the house and auction the art or keep it as a family meeting place.
Anyone who’s been in a similar situation with their own family can relate to this issue. If you keep a home that few family members will be able to take advantage of, are you simply putting off the inevitable split that all families face? Should you keep it as the legacy of your beloved mother? What if one kid needs cash and another kid would rather have the family home available for use? How do the grandkids feel about visiting grandma’s house, without grandma being there?
On paper, this seems so dry as to be unwatchable, but somehow, director Assayas finds a way to show us exactly how these siblings interact. There are no black sheep, no one is out to get the others, no one is pilfering the really good stuff before the others can see it. But by the same token, no one is going to roll over and let the other two decide what’s best for them. They have three separate lives now and live on three separate continents. How will they come to an equitable conclusion?
The interaction between siblings is very honest. They kid, the get upset, they comfort each other. We don’t need them to say things out loud, we can watch how they deal with each other. The daughter isn’t serious about men, the younger brother has some guilt about living and working in China, the older brother has some anger about being put in the position to figure everything out.
There are three scenes that stick out in my mind.
–After the funeral, when all the siblings are in Paris, perhaps for the last time, they have a dinner at Frederic’s house. Wine is consumed, food is prepared (Quiche, natch), and the discussion begins in earnest about what to do with all that mom left behind. Frederic’s idea of keeping the house completely as it is, complete with housekeeper is met with differing levels of unhappiness by the other two siblings. Subtly, the wife of Frederic and the wife of Jeremy, realize that she should probably be in the kitchen instead of out at the table discussing the inner-workings of their in-law’s family. This was so realistic as to be shocking. One picks up a coffee cup, the other takes a dirty plate in. We see them in the kitchen, not talking, simply letting the three siblings reminisce and decide important things without their input. Anyone with in-laws know that they’re influence on family members is exercised behind closed doors.
–A group of art experts descends on the shuttered home and in one continuous shot, we go from room to room as the siblings and the experts go through art pieces, commenting on their relative scarcity and value, then we leave and go to the next room where pictures are being packed up and such. By the end of the film, you feel like you have some mental image of the layout of the home and its grounds.
–The teenage grandchild “borrows” the home for a party and another long continuous shot followers her as she flutters from group to group, unpacking food, changing the music, taking a hit off a joint, flirting with boys, etc. while in the background a surprisingly large number of kids arrives via moped, car, and bicycle. The girl feels every bit as powerful as her grandmother once did on the same land. The way the camera floats over everyone and notices things and moves effortlessly from room to room, not really focusing in on any one teenage participant in particular. The camera continues outside, down a hill, and to the swimming hole where some kids are cooling off. Really good stuff.
This film had no agendas, and the most important character was the house and its furnishings. Families might be destined to break up in our global world. I didn’t feel the filmmaker lamenting that fact, merely observing it.
After my grandparents died about 15 years ago, there was some serious thought to the rest of the family (their three kids, and we five grandkids) keeping the family cottage on a lake in Michigan so that we could continue to visit. But then we realized that the family was spread out in Seattle and San Jose and DC and the chances of us ever visiting again were pretty slim, especially as one big group. But the fact that even today we talk about that house, with its grassy hill, it’s murky lake water, the aluminum dock, makes us long for those days. We clearly don’t lament the loss of the house as much as the loss of our visits there with Grandma and Grandpa.
, Olivier Assayas
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May 29, 2009
PBS — American Masters
Arthur Dong [Family Fundamentals]
Informative documentary about the history of Chinese-Americans in Hollywood films. Unlike the Jewish film community or the Black “Race Films” of the early 20th century, Chinese-Americans had few, if any, people who looked like them represented on movie screens. Great old footage and interviews with the pioneers of Chinese-American filmmaking are included. Also included are the examples of white actors pretending to be Asian. I suppose if you lived in the 1940s in Iowa, perhaps you didn’t realize that Charlie Chan didn’t look Asian at all. A nice eye-opener.
, Arthur Dong
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February 5, 2009
118 Minutes — October 10, 2008
Comedy / Drama
Mike Leigh [Life Is Sweet; Naked; Secrets & Lies; Topsy-Turvy]
The one movie this fall that will put a smile on your face.
Poppy is always happy. Always. No matter what happens to her, no matter how those around her are feeling.
The opening scene of Happy-Go-Lucky shows Poppy riding a bike around London. She stops at a bookstore and tries to engage the silent and brooding clerk in a conversation, but he doesn’t take the bait. She continues smiling, looks at the shelves and as she’s leaving, she says “it’s okay now, I’m leaving”. She goes outside to find her bicycle stolen, but instead of swearing or crying she continues the smile and says to herself “I didn’t get the chance to say goodbye.”
This is not a normal person. But you know what? I fell for her. She’s like a sociology experiment come to life. What if you met every situation with a happy go lucky attitude? How would you change those around you, how would you be treated–that is, can you will yourself to happiness? This film argues that yes, if you react to every setback and rude person and heartbreak and, once in awhile, danger, with overwhelming (some would say oppressive) positivity, your world will be a better place.
There are problems with this way of living. Because she is acting so different than other people, strangers aren’t sure how to react. I remember an experiment I did as part of a college course where I entered a crowded elevator and faced the back while people got on and off. This caused a frenzy. Just doing one thing that people don’t normally expect completely messes with their day.
Poppy’s friends are used to her and are happy most of the time, also. She teaches young children at a grammar school where her happiness works in her favor, no matter how serious her classroom management issues become. She’s happy clubbing, she’s happy trampolining and taking Flamenco classes and visiting her uptight sister, and meeting potential boyfriends. She’s even happy while taking driving lessons from a red-faced, belligerent, racist driving instructor who never cracks a smile during the whole of the film. These scenes border on terrifying. What if her smiling disposition causes real violence in a man who clearly needs help. But you sort of believe that no harm can come to her.
This is especially true when she walks home, through a scary part of town and walks towards a homeless man muttering to himself. She meets his eyes, signals that she understands him. walks with him a little ways, and then after some sort of unspoken signal between them, he leaves and she continues on her way home. On paper this sounds like an irresponsible, if not dangerous, turn of events. A young woman doesn’t head towards abandoned train tracks in the middle of the night to converse with a large homeless man. But as this is happening, we feel as if her happiness is some sort of protective shield. Who could hurt her, she’s just so happy?
Sally Hawkins pulls off this role by the sheer force of her will. She is perfect.
The problem with this film is that if you find her annoying, which is not only possible, but probable, you won’t want to spend time with her as she goes about her daily life. For some reason, I fell for her, and her story, from start to finish.
Happy-Go-Lucky @ Amazon
, Mike Leigh
, Sally Hawkins
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THE BICYCLE THIEF
January 1, 2009
93 Minutes — December 13, 1949
Crime / Drama
Vittorio De Sica
#14 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.
An Italian workman, long unemployed, is robbed of the bicycle he needs for his new job, and he and his small son search Rome for it.
The story could scarcely be simpler. A man (Antonio Ricci), out of work for a year is finally offered the job of poster-hanger. The only catch: he needs to use a bike at his job. Unfortunately, his bicycle is in a pawn shop, where he put it to get money for living expenses. When he tells his wife his dilemma, she wordlessly takes the sheets off their bed and heads down to the pawnshop for the exchange. That evening, his adoring young son, Bruno (you could spend the whole film watching him watch his father) cleans it and oils it. He knows every inch of it. The next morning, the whole family is excited. The man in his new uniform; the wife proudly packs his lunch; Bruno is happy to ride on the handlebars to his own job where his father promises to pick him up that evening.
Antonio’s job is to hang posters of Rita Hayworth. He is taught how and then sent on his way. Within minutes, a group of men watch him for awhile, and then one of them takes off on the bike while the others misdirect Antonio who chases the wrong man. 15 minutes of film time has passed. The rest of the movie is taken up with the man’s quest to find and reclaim his bicycle. He enlists friends to help him look in the usual marketplaces. He consults with a psychic. He threatens and follows people. He is in the middle of Rome–his chances are not good.
The story of the film is not the important part. It’s as if non-professional actors are appearing in a documentary about a bicycle theft, not a fictional story about a man’s lost bicycle. The difference is important. The townspeople Antonio comes into contact with don’t have an acting bone in their bodies and therefore the impact is much greater. We go into a church for Sunday services and it’s like we’re disturbing the worshipers while our protagonist is there. A rainstorm hits and we hide under an awning along with the rest of the neighborhood.
It’s hard to find a modern-day equivalent of the importance of this man’s lost bicycle. He will lose his job without it. His joy at finally having work that morning is dashed by noontime. The unconditional love of his son (looking like a ten-year-old Bruno Kirby) is something to behold. No trained child actor spends as much time looking into his father’s face as this boy. He walks at the same pace as his movie father, he checks the man’s face for understanding every few seconds, he makes sure it was okay to partake in a bit of wine at a cafe, and the look on his face in the last 5 minutes of the film is heartbreaking. I may never forget the boy.
THE BICYCLE THIEF is not an uplifting drama. But it shows us post-war Italy in a very specific way. We are in specific neighborhoods populated by specific people. We feel for this specific man and his world. Almost in spite of myself, and the hangdog expression of our protagonist, I found myself not only caring deeply about what happened to him, but feeling like I knew him and, more importantly, felt for him. I wanted him to get his bicycle back. I wanted to shout at the people acting as obstacles–those who didn’t believe his story or realize its importance. The survival of his family is at stake–this is no simple “find the toy for the sad man”. I wondered what I would do in the same situation. How long could I hold on to my dignity? What if my young son was watching my every move?
I was reminded thematically of WENDY AND LUCY about the woman and her dog who breakdown in a small Oregon town.
This film is rightly considered one of the best of all time. You’ll be sucked into its dreamlike pace and its documentary feel.
“The epitome of Italian neo-realism, the slight human drama is developed so that it has all the force of King Lear, and both the acting and the backgrounds are vividly compelling” — Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008.
A–Tobias, The Onion
8.4 IMDB #106 All Time
The Bicycle Thief @ Amazon
THE BICYCLE THIEF
, AAN Screenplay
, Top 1000
, Vittorio De Sica
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December 22, 2008
138 Minutes — October 13, 1950
Joseph L. Mankiewicz [The Philadelphia Story; The Barefoot Contessa; Guys And Dolls]
#72 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 version of the list I used 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.
It’s all about women — and their men!
An aging Broadway star suffers from the hidden menace of a self-effacing but secretly ruthless and ambitious young actress.
Sure, it’s dated and melodramatic. But Davis is so great as a woman who has passed the unheard of milestone of being 40 years old and still trying to get the juicy parts on Broadway. Baxter is a star-struck fan when we meet her. But is she too good to be true? All the characters speak to each other in that “theater is the only true art form” way. There are awards and fur coats and drinks at fancy Manhattan clubs.
It’s a bit long and has several too many voiceovers from several too many characters. But I wasn’t bored. And Davis is so angry and so lacking in social skills when off stage that you really can’t look away. This film has the “fasten your seatbelts…” line. It also has a ditzy Marilyn Monroe in a small part as a new girl in town who takes any opportunity she can for her break. A slimy columnist points her in the right direction, towards the hot producer in town. Watch Monroe’s face light up as she switches into flirt mode. It is a sight to see.
OW: Picture, Director Mankiewicz, Screenplay Mankiewicz, Supporting Actor George Sanders
ON: Actress Baxter, Actress Davis, Supporting Actress Celeste Holm, Supporting Actress Thelma Ritter, Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction
“A basically unconvincing story with thin characters is transformed by a screenplay scintillating with savage wit and a couple of waspish performances into a movie experience to treasure.” — Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008
“The dialogue and atmosphere are so peculiarly remote from life that they have sometimes been mistaken for art.” — Pauline Kael
“Brilliantly sophisticated (and cynical) look at life in and around the theater, with a heaven-sent script by director Mankiewicz. Davis is absolutely perfect as an aging star who takes in an adoring fan and soon discovers that the young woman is taking over her life.” — Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide
8.4 IMDB All Time #75
All About Eve @ Amazon
ALL ABOUT EVE
, Anne Baxter
, Bette Davis
, Joseph L. Mankiewicz
, Top 1000
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December 9, 2008
Campbell CA — Camera 7
128 Minutes — November 26, 2008
Biography / Drama
Gus Van Sant [Drugstore Cowboy; My Own Private Idaho; To Die For; Good Will Hunting; Psycho; Finding Forrester; Elephant; Last Days; Paris Je T'aime]
Sean Penn [Taps; Fast Times At Ridgemont High; Bad Boys; The Falcon And The Snowman; At Close Range; Colors; Casualties Of War; We're No Angels; State Of Grace; Carlito's Way; Dead Man Walking; She's So Lovely; U Turn; The Game; The Thin Red Line; Before Night Falls; Mystic River; 21 Grams; Into The Wild]
MILK is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 64. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 MILK Discussion – Part 1
• 18:04 MILK Discussion – Part 2
• 32:58 To Sum It Up
• 33:34 The Last Five®
• 1:02:52 Credits and Outtakes
8.5 Critical Consensus
Milk @ Amazon
, Gus Van Sant
, Sean Penn
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July 19, 2008
Romance / Comedy / Drama
Billy Wilder [The Lost Weekend; Sunset Blvd.; Sabrina; The Spirit Of St. Louis; Some Like It Hot]
#55 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time
A lonely, ambitious clerk rents out his apartment to philandering executives and finds that one of them is after his own girl.
OW: Picture, Director, Writer
ON: Cinematography, AC Jack Lemmon, AC Shirley MacLaine, SAC Jack Kruschen, Art, Editing
8.4 IMDB #96
, Billy Wilder
, Top 1000
1 Comment »