12 Hungry Films

Another one I should have listed in the previous post: Kurosawa’s MADADAYO. His final film as director. I loudly bemoaned the fact that it didn’t get a UK release at the time it was made, nor even after A.K.’s death. I was thrilled to finally get a copy. Then I failed to watch it. I look forward to getting Fellini’s last film, VOICE OF THE MOON, also denied a UK release, so I can fail to watch that too.

Here’s my list of films I’m aching to see (although whether I’ll watch them if I find them is apparently doubtful) –

1. THE DIARIES OF MAJOR THOMPSON. Preston Sturges’ last movie, described as “almost defiantly unfunny” by one biographer. But it’s hard to find anybody with a kind word for THE BEAUTIFUL BLONDE FROM BASHFUL BEND either, and that one, though not prime Sturges by the furthest stretch of hyperbole, has a fair few laughs.

2. There are lots of Julien Duvivier films unavailable, or unavailable with subtitles. LA BELLE EQUIPE may be the most historically important one. And it’s got Jean Gabin in it.

3. L’AMORE. I’ve yet to really get into Rossellini, so this interests me more for the presence of Cocteau and Fellini as writers, and Fellini as actor. Maybe it would help me appreciate Roberto R.

4. A GIRL IN EVERY PORT. I know Howard Hawks is considered to have really come into his own in the sound era, and especially once the grammar of Hollywood talkies had formalised into the Golden Age of the late thirties and forties, but shouldn’t SOME of his silent work be worth seeing? Particularly this one, which features Louise Brooks as a prototypical Hawksian dame.

5. DANCE OF THE SEVEN VEILS. Ken Russell’s Richard Strauss film, suppressed by the Strauss estate. Reportedly the most extreme of Mad Ken’s TV films. Soon to be available in the US in a box set of the Great Masturbator’s BBC works. But I probably won’t be able to afford it. NB There are lots of other TV works by the Mastur which I haven’t managed to see either.

(STOP PRESS — apparently it isn’t in the set, despite being listed on Amazon.)

6. PHANTOM. This early Murnau classic is available from Kino, but I can never afford it (or when I can, the prospect of three other films for the same price as this single one always tempts me) and has aired on TCM a few times, but I’ve never managed to get a stateside correspondent to record it. The clips I’ve seen are truly mouth/eye-watering. They turn my eyes into salivating little mouths, is what I mean.

7. I was going to put Victor Sjostrom’s THE OUTLAW AND HIS WIFE, but remembered that I have a fuzzy off-air NTSC VHS of that, so it really belongs on the previous list. Big Victor directed my all-time favourite film, HE WHO GETS SLAPPED. So, in the wake of David Bordwell’s brilliant piece on it, I choose INGEBORG HOLM from way back in 1913.

8. If Duvivier’s availability suffers from an unjustified downgrading of his reputation (as I believe), Robert Siodmak’s obscurity is a mystery. His Hollywood output is mostly obtainable with varying degrees of effort, but the only pre-American work out there appears to be PEOPLE ON SUNDAY and PIEGES, which isn’t exactly “available” but can be had if you know the right people. PIEGES is a dream of a film, a slick thriller that prefigures the American noirs and would be essential to an understanding of the man’s oeuvre. So who knows what else is required viewing? And the post-American period is almost equally underrepresented. I managed to see NIGHTS, WHEN THE DEVIL CAME, and was bowled over by it (a serial killer in Nazi Germany… some subjects may be too striking to actually do badly). DIE RATTEN is considered an important part of post-war German cinema, but you can’t see it. I’d like to.

9. INN OF EVIL. Of course my shame at not having watched THE HUMAN CONDITION yet should preclude my mentioning more Masaki Kobayashi, but this one sounds too enticing. The fact that there are IMDb reviews suggests it is possible to see the thing.

10. THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED. I can’t believe there isn’t a thriving black market trade in copies of this one. Jerry Lewis’s Holocaust movie is something of a legend, its release forestalled by legal disputes, its reputation as the ultimate bad-taste artistic folly fuelled by only rumour and a few witness reports (I like Dan Castellanata as an actor but I don’t necessarily trust him as a film critic). Some of Lewis’s later films are problematic enough even without death camps, but this demands to be seen.

11. Anything at all by Alessandro Blasetti? Or any of the countless Riccardo Freda films that can’t be seen? Mario Bava’s last work, the TV film VENUS OF ILE? The unseen early works of Max Ophüls? There are too many candidates for this penultimate slot.

12. A note of optimism — I’ve longed to see Nick Ray’s films for a very long time, as it’s measured in Scotland. And finally it seems like WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN and THE JANITOR are on their way into my feverish clutches, to join the heaps of the great unwatched in my living room.

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13 Responses to “12 Hungry Films”

  1. Madadayo is a masterpesce! The best film ever made about a cat.
    It’s also extremely subtle, dealing as it does with a beloved professor and his students who stage an annual reuinion to salute him as an esteeemd master — and to get drunk and act silly (a la Ozu’s overgrown-boy businessmen.) When the professor’s cat goes missing the sttudetns move heaven and earth to get it back. Deeply, deeply moving.

    L’Amore consists of two films>One is the highly controversial The Miracle starring Anna Magnani as a peasant women who believes God has taken the form of a tramp (Federico Fellini!) who has impregnated her — and she’s about to give birth to Christ all over again.

    The second in La Voix Humaine by Cocteau, filmed as a tour de force for Magnani at her most ineffable. Rossellini himself played the unheard (by us at any rate) lover at the other end of the line. And as we all know he DID leave her for some Swedish acress whose name eascapes me at the moment.

    There is literally NOTHING like Magnani in this film. Seeing it will force you to rethink the entire concept of acting.

  2. L’Amore is among Rossellini’s finest. In my view, even if they are seperate pieces, they have to be seen together in one sitting. Anna Magnani is just stunning in these two films. And you can get a real sense of the film’s power by seeing them together than if you do by seeing it seperately.

    ”Il Miracolo” is aside from it’s controversies is a great moving ironic film. And Fellini borrowed the ideas of this film for his films with Giulietta Masina. Fellini for his role bleached his hair blonde and has no dialogue just a singular sullen expression on his face. You’d be hard pressed to find the later flamboyant figure in that role.

    Jerry Lewis’ film about the camps is suppressed by him at his own wishes. Likely he abandoned the film and the film isn’t done editing and the sound and the sort. The reason there isn’t a black market for it might be that Lewis is really supressing the film. Black market for such kinds of films develop out of tacit collaboration with the makers and Lewis doesn’t want that.

  3. According to Lewis, a legal dispute with the screenwriters stopped Clown from getting released. The cutting copy or work print is kept in a vault somewhere and I think the reason there aren’t pirate copies is nobody’s ever had it telecined. Lewis doesn’t talk about the film now, becomes irate when it’s mentioned. He’s taken so much stick for it, and basically nobody has seen it…the film can’t defend itself properly until it’s made available. I’m not sure who has to die for that to happen.

    Madadayo has a number of defenders, including Kurosawa fan Alex Cox: “It’s not sentimental: it’s ABOUT sentimentality.”

    So why does L’Amore never turn up? If the Catholic church could be provoked into getting upset about it again, it’d be a sure-fire million-seller.

  4. It was a best seller in it’s own time for sure. The film is kind of the Italian version of ”The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” with Anna Magnani playing the uh…heh heh…Betty Hutton role. The Preston Sturges masterpiece for some reason not only got through the code and became a box-office success and got Oscar nominations but it never got any religious controversies of any kind. Which is shocking really. One of the rare oasis of open-mindedness in a time that was very conservative.

    Of course Betty Hutton is still a sweet small-time gal and is utterly harmless. While Anna Magnani’s earthy working class sensuality represented a very clear threat to the repressed bourgeosie unlike Giulietta Masina’s waifish roles with Mr. Masina.

    I doubt if ”The Day The Clown Cried” will ever make it to mainstream theatres I suppose that eventually it’ll get screenings in festivals or for Lewis completists. Not unlike the screenings of Kubrick’s ‘”Fear and Desire”’ a film which Kubrick rightly supressed and can be seen at special screenings only.

    I personally don’t like ”Madadayo” much. ”Rhapsody in August” was a very interesting film and seemed like the best way to cap of a career. I found it too preachy and the like. As to Mr. Cox, Kurosawa made better films dealing with sentimentality like ”Red Beard”.

  5. Morgan’s Creek is an interesting case: the censors basically looked at the script and said “This has a lot of elements we strongly disapprove of, normally…but it’s really funny.” They actually took the point that if something makes you laugh it’s not offensive.

    I don’t know I agree that Kubrick was right to suppress Fear and Desire. He was right to regard it as largely unsuccessful, but it was his first feature and he didn’t have the support of a studio or a big budget or experienced collaborators. No shame should attach to him. And it’s beneficial to Kubrick scholars to be able to see it. It would be even more beneficial if we could see a decent print.

    Of course, he also suppressed Clockwork Orange, in the UK. I guess Arthur could argue that he was right to do that as well, on quality grounds!

  6. I love a challenge… here’s what seems to be available:

    Phantom, of course
    seven by Riccardo Freda
    four by Alessandro Blasetti (three have subtitles)
    La Belle equipe (great quality, no subtitles)
    L’Amore (looks great, I’m gonna get this one myself)
    A Girl in Every Port (poor quality, though it claims to be from dvd)
    Ingeborg Holm
    Die Ratten (great quality, no subtitles)
    Inn of Evil (in hella widescreen)
    Ophuls “La Signora di tutti” and “Liebelei” with english subs

    So let me know if you ever need more stuff to fail to watch.

  7. Nah. Not really. ACO has a good music score by Wendy/Walter Carlos and McDowell is good in some scenes. It’s a bad film but not one that is beyond exhibition.

    In any case saying that he didn’t have a big studio, big budget or experienced collaborators isn’t much of an excuse since many directors started out like that and made decent films.

  8. And speaking of Mario Bava, deepdiscount.com is having a sale where one could get thirteen of his movies for $2.50 each, if one had time to watch thirteen Mario Bava movies. That’s cheaper than renting them.

  9. The Jerry Lewis film was mentioned by Mark Kermode and some texters on Simon Mayo’s radio show a couple of weeks.
    The review was of the Boy in the Striped Pajamas and they were talking about the difficulty of the subject matter and how easy it is to get wrong (and apparently Lewis gets it very, very wrong).
    Kermode expressed a similar desire as yourself to see said film but he had it that Harry Shearer was the famous reviewer.
    One texter claimed to have seen it a few years ago when it was shown on BBC 2. He could of course be talking nonsense but I’d love to see it. It sounds like its right up my alley!

  10. I think you’re right, it was Harry Shearer. The movie was CERTAINLY never shown on BBC2 — or anywhere else. Maybe the viewer was thinking of Which Way to the Front? or Lewis’ Jazz Singer remake where he plays a clown.

    One clue as to the film’s potential quality: Lewis apparently wears his usual chunky jewellery, pinkie ring etc IN AUSCHWITZ.

    I have pretty much all the available Bava already. Pretty much recommend all of them except the westerns.

    As to kubrick, of course, other directors have made great films without any major resources or experience. Kubrick took a little longer to learn the craft. I don’t want to be deprived of the chance to chortle over his mistakes and note his precocity in some areas.

    That’s great news about L’Amore, Blasetti, Freda (the quality of some of his releases is real poor: Samson and the Seven Miracles of the World is unwatchable)… I have those two Ophuls, plus a couple others without subs. But Inn of Evil and A Girl in Every Port would certainly get watched in a hurry! Me want!

  11. Rossellini’s L’Amore is a lovley film. I am a big fan of his work. My favourites are Franceso, guillare di Dio, Era notte a Roma, Europe’51, Il Messia, Giovanna d’Arco al rogo, India, The Age of the Medici La Prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV, Viva l’Italia, Journey to Italy and Stromboli, the very first Rossellini I ever saw and still perhaps my number one Rossellini.
    Stromboli should ideally be seen on the big screen in order to do it full justice.
    Peter

  12. I have a couple on disc, a couple on DVD… at some point, something will prompt me to watch them…

  13. As with most things in life, less is more.
    Peter

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