Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Song at Midnight

Maxu Wiebang's adaptation of Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera has a lot of atmosphere going for it...Wait, I thought I heard something...As I was saying, Song of Midnight has all the elements of the Phantom story-a disfigured protagonist who lurks the halls of the opera house waiting to make a star of his great love and...there it is again!

I better move on to another topic...The most famous version of The Phantom legend...or at least the one I have the monster model of (above) is the 1925 Lon Chaney version...Wait! That noise again!

I hear something else...something lurking... Oh, I know what that is! I just saw the pre-Broadway production of the musical Phantom of the Opera in New Orleans and anything I see close to that is going to make me think of the song Music of the Night (Clearing throat)...Nightime sharpens, heightens each sensation...darkness stirs and wakes the imagination...Silently the senses abandon their defenses...Helpless to resist the notes I write...For I compose the music of the NIGHT!!!!

Damn you, Andrew Lloyd Webber!

Friday, April 20, 2018


Spring in a Small Town

The post-war setting for Spring in a Small Town is as important an element to this film as the story itself. The rubble and decimated house is a character onto itself, though rarely referred to directly.

The plot is about a formerly prosperous man that now lives in a ruined shell of his former house with his wife in a marriage that has mutual caring, but is lacking in passion. A doctor and friend of the man comes to town after a long absence. What the man doesn't know is that the doctor has had a previous relationship with the man's wife and their feelings for each other are repressed but still very much alive. To complicate matters, the woman's sister develops a crush on the doctor and the patriarch has escalating health problems which the doctor is called upon to assist with.

It sounds like a bit of a soap opera when you describe it, but the black and white cinematography and the great shots of these characters experienceing their personal passions among the wreckage of their surroundings make for a subtle but captivating film.

Springtime in a Small Town

The remake of  Spring in a Small Town, with the slightly altered title Springtime in a Small Town. has a couple of strikes against it right off the bat. First, it is a remake of a beloved movie (at least in China) that doesn't have a lot of action elements for the film to update to begin with. It also has to balance the line between being faithful to the original while being distinctive enough to justify a reason for remaking it. Color photography also seems like a drawback here.

I watched the second film right after the first and think the remake certainly has merit in its own right.  It is interesting to note the similarities between this film and the original and note where director Tian Zhuangzhuang decided to make some changes. Springtime in a Small Town is worth seeing, but the original alone may be enough for some viewers who may not want to make a second trip into the rubble.  

Sunday, April 15, 2018


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


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: 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 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 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!"