Archive for June 26, 2018

Hitting the Wall

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2018 by dcairns

One usually hits a wall halfway through any intensive film festival, and Tuesday may have been ours. We saw lots of good stuff but didn’t make it to things we definitely had wanted to see, and I started a Luciano Emmer film and found I didn’t have enough concentration left to see it through.

We had planned a lie in, but couldn’t sleep so we headed to the Jolly for Raoul Walsh’s rowdy service romp WOMEN OF ALL NATIONS. Some thought it a weak entry, but I’m still impressed that they managed to get laughs out of El Brendel, world’s unfunniest dialect comedian. When jealous boyfriend Olaf, the strongest man in Sweden, appears, El B’s delivery of the line “It’s Olaf. And it’s all off,” lacks his usual smugness and really hit the funnybone on the head.

Plus Bela Lugosi as a cuckolded Arab prince.

This was followed by John Stahl’s SEED, introduced by Imogen Smith, who provided lots of interesting analysis of a slow but fascinating early entry in Stahl’s series of low-key melodramas on marriage and infidelity. “I hope you enjoy SEED.” We came to see Bette Davis playing a juvenile role, and stayed for the weird, ambivalent sexual politics. The film also finally made sense of the otherwise elusive appeal of John Boles. “You’re my measuring stick,” says one of the women in his life. And I can see how he’d be good for that, His head alone must be a good foot long.

Boles was back in SIX HOURS TO LIVE, supporting the equally rigid Warner Baxter, another man whose origin and purpose are still a total mystery. Raised from the dead by mad science, he might as well have not bothered. I call this one GRAVE-DIGGERS OF 1932. William Dieterle spent his time at Warners kicking against the regime of fast-paced delivery and short runtimes. Fox let him spread out a bit more, and the results in this one are a bit lugubrious at times, but with some genuinely exciting cinematic effects. A livelier cast would have pushed it over into greatness, but as it is, it’s enjoyably weird, and SIX HOURS TO LIVE did afford me half an hour of napping.

But you can’t see everything — maybe we should have gone to the 1918 TARZAN OF THE APES, or Zurlini’s CRONICA FAMILIARE with Mastroianni, and I’m sad we missed Pabst’s GEHEIMNISVOLLE TIEFE. We did listen to a lovely talk by Sir Christopher Professor Frayling about ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, but were too shattered to actually go see the film in the Piazza, which would have taken us up to around 1am, I reckon. By eating a leisurely dinner and hitting the sack, we hope to blast through some Maurice Tourneur, Segundo de Chomon, Henri Diamant-Berger, Sydney Chaplin, Mario Monicelli and Frank Borzage tomorrow. Wish us luck!

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It’s Alan Dinehart’s Festival, the rest of us just live in it

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2018 by dcairns

BACHELOR’S AFFAIRS, a 1932 Fox comedy, woke us up on Monday morning at the aptly-named Cinema Jolly (where the air conditioning now WORKS, making consciousness a joy rather than a distant possibility). It stars Adolph Menjou, Joan Marsh. Minna Gombell, and Alan Dinehart, even funnier and more Matthauesque than he was in THE BRAT. A very witty script and a glamorous deco look — ocean liners and masqued balls, a theme of the festival established in DAINAH LA METISSE, present and correct.

The New Year’s Eve party motif introduced in this one was picked up in the next entry, John Stahl’s silent melo THE WOMAN UNDER OATH, which dressed May McAvoy as a Columbine, a look also on show in CAROSELLO NAPOLETANO. The plot was ludicrous, the performances enjoyably theatrical, the lighting and framing at times extremely striking. Pamela Hutchinson introduced it with aplomb, setting the context admirably.

Getting up at this point seemed all too ambitious, so we experienced the ecstasy of Erik Charell’s CARAVAN again. Our second Charles Boyer film of the fest (he’s an aging roué in LUCKY TO BE A WOMAN, dubbed in Italian, those luscious lips moving much more slowly than the dialogue assigned him). Phillips Holmes is so good they named him twice. Loretta Young received today’s spanking, on horseback no less. Will there be a daily spanking? It’s shaping up that way.

Doing our laundry took longer than expected, but apparently Rene Clair’s LE SILENCE EST D’OR was packed out — Chevalier! — so we’d never have made it. Lovely film, but I have seen it, so I guess it’s less of a heartbreaker than some of the stuff I’ll be missing today…

Luciano Emmer’s LA RAGAZZA IN VETRINA was astonishing, and deserves a big long installment of The Forgotten all to itself — next week, I suspect. Star Marina Vlady, still stunning and charismatic, introduced it in person. Emmer is being retrospected all week, and now we know we must check out as many of the others as possible.

And then we finished with another John Stahl, IMMORTAL SERGEANT, which felt like the ur-text of HOW I WON THE WAR, a British army WWII tale with an unlikely assortment of accents. Featuring Tom Joad, Uncle Billy, Esmeralda, Hilary Aimes, the High Sheriff of Nottingham and a very young Heironymous Merkin.

We were back at the hotel before midnight, for once, and yet again failed to sleep soundly — I never do when traveling, and Fiona has a complicated releationship with sleep at the best of the time. So we’ll be out again today, two happy zombies, caffeinated and confused…