Sunday, April 15, 2018

THE YOUNG AND THE DAMNED (1950, MEXICO)

The Young and the Damned (Los Olviados):
Even the title gives them no chance

Although made with meticulous realism and unquestioned fidelity to the facts, The Young and the Damned's (Los Olviados) qualifications as dramatic entertainments-or even social reportage-are dim...(The film) director Luis Bunel has assembled had no focus or point of reference for the squalid depressing tale he tells. He simply has assembled an assortment of poverty stricken folks-and has mixed them all together in a vicious and shocking melange of violence, melodrama, coincidence and irony.-Bosley Crowther, New York Times, March 25, 1952

I think Bosley Crowther is being more than a bit hard on Los Olviados. Mixing a film into a vicious and shocking melange of violence, melodrama, coincidence and irony successfully seems like no easy task to pull off to me. Life on the street for the poor is not an easy thing to watch as entertainment in any venue, be it in Mexico City (Los Olviados), Morrocco (Ali Zaoua, Prince of the Streets) or Rio de Janerio (City of God)-C. Cox, 1001: A Film Odyssey

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

DAYBREAK (1939, FRANCE)

Jean Gabin and Jules Berry display varying degrees of masculinity
in Daybreak


"This prototype of film noir, from 1939, is both a grim feast of prewar French acting and a catalogue of French moods on the eve of disaster." –Richard Brody, The New Yorker, November 10, 2014

Prototype of film noir is pretty much my impression of this film too. It tells the story of a man who commits a crime which we see the events leading up to it told in flashback. Seeing the story told unfold this way adds an element of style to the film, even if one can argue that it might take away some of the suspense. Directed by Marcel Carne (Director of the wonderful Children of Paradise) and stars French film legend Jean Gabin (Pepe Le Moko, Le Grande Illusion).-C. Cox, 1001: A Film Odyssey

Thursday, April 5, 2018

TABU (1931, BRAZIL)

Tabu: The natives aren't restless...yet

"It is an enchanting piece of photography synchronized with a most pleasing musical score."-Mourdant Hall, The New York TimesMarch 19, 1931

"Murnau fused locations and the finest studio lighting to make a reinvention of reality. Tabu and Sunrise are both masterworks. We are lucky that both of them survive."-David Thomson, A Biographical Dictionary of Film

As any good film student knows, The two major films in the CV of German director F. W. Murnau are the horror film Nosferatu (1922) and the tragic drama The Last Laugh (1924). Murnau's Tabu was not one I was even aware of until it popped up in an updated 1001 book edition. This story of love, island rituals and the abuse of power in the South Seas is pretty interesting in its on right. Murnau made the film with Nanook of the North's Joseph Flaherty and it's a little hard to tell at times during the island scenes with the natives whether we are watching a documentary or a work of fiction..But that's not necessarily a bad thing. The story is intriguing and the look of the film is distinctive. Looks like one more for the Murnau CV.-C. Cox, 1001: A Film Odyssey

Sunday, April 1, 2018

THE LADIES MAN (1961), THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963)

"The primary critical problem of Jerry Lewis is whether he should be taken seriously at all. Where American critics and audiences see him as the banal equal of, say, Abbott and Costello, European critics and audiences see him as at least the equal of Jacques Tati and the rival in comic imagination of Chaplin, Keaton, Langdon and Lloyd. For the European critic, Lewis' comic strength is the comically accurate depiction of the American mentality--its brash, vulgar overzealousness. They see Americans' intellectual distaste for Lewis as a symptom of our discomfort at seeing such a nasty reflection of ourselves in Lewis's comic mirror."-The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies, Second Edition by Gerald Mast p,303


Growing up during the 70's, it was pretty impossible to avoid Jerry Lewis for any entertainment consumer. He had largely stopped making star movie vehicles by that time, but there were the reruns of his movies (as well as those of him and his former partner Dean Martin) on television seemingly all the time. He was still on many a talk show during this period (Mike Douglas, Johnny Carson, Tom Snyder...you name it) and I always thought he was at his funniest as a talk show guest. There was even a short-lived Jerry Lewis cartoon (Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down!). And of course there was that annual Labor Day telethon for muscular dystrophy that Jerry hosted for decades.

Jerry Lewis IS The Ladies Man

For those wanting to sample Jerry as a 60's film auteur, The Ladies Man is a good place to start. The rather thin plot has Jerry swearing off girls after his sweetheart breaks his heart, only to find himself employed in an all female boarding house with dozens of beautiful women all about. But the plot doesn't really matter much here. It's about the gags. There is Jerry unsuccessfully trying to get comfortable in a bed, or trying to move something breakable (which he breaks of course), or trying to deal with all the peculiarities of the women of the house or the gag about him having to feed the house kitty, which is (spoiler!) actually a lion. The whole movie is framed around the boarding house, an elaborately built set which Lewis the director uses to great advantage. Lewis the performer is at his best here and if you don't like this one, Jerry may not be the guy for you.

Jerry Lewis IS The Nutty Professor

The Nutty Professor is probably Jerry's most famous role. Lewis plays the buck-toothed and nerdy Julius Kelp, who concocts a serum that turns him into the suave, if not obnoxious in his own way, Buddy Love, who many have thought (though Jerry dismissed the idea) was really Jerry's depiction of his former partner Dean Martin. Jerry plays the socially awkward Kelp and the obnoxious Love to the hilt. At least one critic (alternative Oscar author Danny Peary) thought he should have won the Academy Award for that year! Once again, if you don't like Jerry in this movie, he's definitely isn't the guy for you!

Now if I could just get my hands n a copy of The Day the Clown Cried!

Thanks for the memories, Jerry...or maybe I'll just shout out in a Lewis voice, "NICE LADY!"