The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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nitin
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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#201 Post by nitin » Mon Jan 06, 2020 10:54 am

Yasujiro Ozu’s Good Morning is a tremendously warm and delightful little film that gradually crept up on me with its greatness.

It is deceptively simple in both form and narrative but Ozu layers what would otherwise be a gentle throwaway comedy in most hands with some pretty insightful critique about societal structures and communication. His visual style is also meticulously used in this film with great use of architectural lines to block and frame a lot of the compositions. But best of all, he has a tremendous ensemble cast that interact superbly and I could have watched them for another hour going about their ordinary lives.

Criterion’s blu is from a 4k restoration by Shochiku and it is a total knockout. It is a massive upgrade from BFI’s blu which I will be selling off.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#202 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:52 pm

nitin wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 10:54 am
Yasujiro Ozu’s Good Morning is a tremendously warm and delightful little film that gradually crept up on me with its greatness.

It is deceptively simple in both form and narrative but Ozu layers what would otherwise be a gentle throwaway comedy in most hands with some pretty insightful critique about societal structures and communication.
This is hands-down by favorite Ozu and it’s as much for the terrific social commentary as the fart jokes and cute dynamics of youth. I love that the film does a complete roundabout on the wheel of perspective, resenting conformity and challenging the value of ideology while succumbing to a position that such simple practices of social engagement do hold a value that connects human beings and perseverates kindness and interaction amongst people who are inherently different in personality, a wonderful way to look at culture as perhaps subjective in worth but a necessary and welcome gift for collective support. I love how the children may resent and question these practices as is developmentally appropriate and yet hang onto their own principles rigidly with silent treatment, rejecting the dominant order for their own ethical standards, becoming antisocial based on a different system of communication. I love the toilet humor and how it contrasts with the outer layer of appropriateness in social mores, and yet adults are participating too, the basic most juvenile humor binding people together behind closed doors as much as the socially-imposed ones do outside, showing that despite the personality difference on an executive functioning level, we are all people, we all have commonalities and we can all laugh. I love how laughing and being together is seen as the best experience, better than laughing or being alone. I love this movie.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#203 Post by tag gallagher » Mon Jan 06, 2020 10:11 pm

Here is a link to my "restoration" of Rossellini's India matri bhumi, in the original French, with subtitles - an mkv:
https://1fichier.com/?356yzfy1yg

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#204 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jan 07, 2020 1:01 am

Goha: A subtly spinning narrative that functions as both a realistic depiction of cultural process in familial customs and a kind of whimsical fantasy. The camera captures events in the unfiltered documentary type stock which makes the colors and characters seem less artificial, and yet the angles used and frequent cuts are reminiscent of a restrained Raul Ruiz. Even still, there’s a fairy tale vibe I can’t shake in the outlier that is Sharif as he transcends expectations and motives of his family and village while the filmmakers stress his imagination and intelligence even without taking the obvious routes here. I didn’t love this but I admired it a great deal and it’s a worthwhile spin on the morality tale.

Force of Arms: Curtiz goes for the horrors of war and warm blossoms of romance at once and the result mostly works in zigzagging between the gentle and the chaotic. There’s no metaphor or balance here, just love as a reprieve from the trauma, and war as the magnet that unbinds one from their connective life source. The defense mechanisms each exhibit as they cope with their separation are appropriately vulnerable, and the melodramatic tones are short-lived in favor of realistic suppression, psychological displacement, and unstoppable personal passion. I admire any movie that shows two people in love having their own individual experiences while together, trying to access the other through an inward focus to understanding how to express themselves, an authentic self-consciousness rarely presented in the era. The darkness that permeates the mise en scene aptly describes the shadows the lovers find each other in, as well as the space in which they find themselves apart. The jumping narrative shifts perspectives near the end to make the love itself the central character by showing it to be the only linear and consistent structure, while refusing to hail it to a magic platform.

Les dragueurs: Unsurprisingly this was amazing. An early nouvelle vague type is anything but politically correct for our times (including a rape joke that is actually funny because it’s meant to be an antisocial statement and is only a gag because of the female response, disempowering the male while empowering themselves), and yet it doesn’t paint these skirt-chasers as heroics to emulate. It’s a series of misadventures which then become significant adventures documenting growth and personality, and underlines the humor inherent in social predicaments that arise with any strong will that will undoubtedly not be reciprocated by another living, breathing person. The narrative also reveals the depth of humanity behind the chaser and the chased, not enough to make a statement or persuasion on their qualities but the aim is to hint at the dimensions that are there, a reserved position of authenticity that the French would master in the years to come. Loneliness, selfishness, desire, and empathy are all acknowledged, and the intent behind the characters becomes more complicated as we explore the invisible nature’s behind the cloak of aggressiveness. Thoroughly entertaining and, like many early entries of the movement, mood-shifting and self-consciously serious when it counts. Also, there’s an early shot that seems to be a clear inspiration for one of The Graduate’s most famous, though that film definitely took the idea and amplified it.

The Cheaters: Marcel Carné draws as good a composite as there ever was of the general thrills, social games, and creative escapes from the banal sought by developing youth, to experience, learn, and join as participants in a social world to feed their own identity development, emotional needs, and imagined tangible measures of pleasure and security. Carné has shown a knack for fleshing out characters with liberal time and space before but rarely as tightly as he does here with morals as loose and flexible through nonjudgmental experimentation that is the new wave. There is a rapid feel to the pace even though it simultaneously lingers on character mannerisms and interactions to signify patience. There is no fat on this bone, regardless of its many details and curious births of mini-narratives, because they all serve the multifaceted space of the film’s world to be traversed, and signal the possibilities of experience for our characters. It’s rare to see a movie that’s at once a laid-back ‘hangout’ type and one so insightful about the acute existential problems of young adults in a purgatory state between teenage years and adulthood. There is so much validation and empathy in treating the simplest of experiences seriously, and also a playful vibe coating most scenes to remind us of how such an attitude is possible to adopt even under strenuous or powerless circumstances, an idea that the French in this era really drove home often as self-conscious humility, but is really a sign of resilience and honesty. Never have I been to attracted to and disinterested in the bohemian lifestyle all at once. Fans of the ‘aimless’ youthful hangout movies like Linklater’s only need to turn here for the original, better bag of goods. Oh and it’s probably raunchier too! Look out for a cameo of one of the poster boys of the movement as a random partygoer early on (in what may be the best depiction of a party I’ve seen in, maybe ever? Even more than the later more extravagant one).

I’ll be surprised if my final list doesn’t have both of these French films on it. They’re just incredible and worth seeking out for anyone who is looking for more nouvelle vague in their lives.

nitin
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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#205 Post by nitin » Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:13 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:52 pm
nitin wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 10:54 am
Yasujiro Ozu’s Good Morning is a tremendously warm and delightful little film that gradually crept up on me with its greatness.

It is deceptively simple in both form and narrative but Ozu layers what would otherwise be a gentle throwaway comedy in most hands with some pretty insightful critique about societal structures and communication.
This is hands-down by favorite Ozu and it’s as much for the terrific social commentary as the fart jokes and cute dynamics of youth. I love that the film does a complete roundabout on the wheel of perspective, resenting conformity and challenging the value of ideology while succumbing to a position that such simple practices of social engagement do hold a value that connects human beings and perseverates kindness and interaction amongst people who are inherently different in personality, a wonderful way to look at culture as perhaps subjective in worth but a necessary and welcome gift for collective support. I love how the children may resent and question these practices as is developmentally appropriate and yet hang onto their own principles rigidly with silent treatment, rejecting the dominant order for their own ethical standards, becoming antisocial based on a different system of communication. I love the toilet humor and how it contrasts with the outer layer of appropriateness in social mores, and yet adults are participating too, the basic most juvenile humor binding people together behind closed doors as much as the socially-imposed ones do outside, showing that despite the personality difference on an executive functioning level, we are all people, we all have commonalities and we can all laugh. I love how laughing and being together is seen as the best experience, better than laughing or being alone. I love this movie.
One of my favourite scenes was the little brother holding up his hand with the talk symbol to his teacher and her thinking he wanted to go to the toilet! It works as a single self contained joke, a recurring toilet themed joke, and also stands for at least 2 of the more serious themes in the movie.

nitin
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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#206 Post by nitin » Tue Jan 07, 2020 8:01 am

Claude Chabrol’s debut film Le Beau Serge is a fascinating character study focused on a young man who returns to his hometown village from Paris for a short stay and his childhood friend Serge who has turned into a self destructive alcoholic.

Taking cues from Rossellini’s cinema from the same decade, Chabrol shoots on rural location, uses a mix of professional and non-professional actors, makes great use of his location setting to visualise the psyche of his characters, and stages a Catholicism influenced ending that ends on a hopeful but ambiguous note.

The characterisations, including the various supporting characters in the village, are all infused with a connective history such that the way everyone talks and behaves seems to be informed by everything that have seen, done or heard before.

I saw it off Criterion’s blu but Eureka’s now OOP blu is from the same 2k restoration and looks largely excellent (the blacks look a little boosted on the Criterion but at least in caps it looks like the Eureka is a little less boosted).

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#207 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:22 am

nitin wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:13 am
One of my favourite scenes was the little brother holding up his hand with the talk symbol to his teacher and her thinking he wanted to go to the toilet! It works as a single self contained joke, a recurring toilet themed joke, and also stands for at least 2 of the more serious themes in the movie.
Yeah, the message that mutually-understood communication practices are necessary to get one's needs met is well-played, but also noteworthy is how the children use a nonverbal method of communication, which I understand is a large part of communication in eastern cultures (compared to verbal in western), so the kids' manipulation of this culturally-consistent detail is both rebellious and conforming to/well within the realm of their social context. I'm not well-versed on eastern cultures but I wonder if the silent treatment and eye-contact/body language/non-verbal communication has a larger significance in younger generations imposing the method while older generations who may be influenced by western cultures are becoming more privy to verbal means, or if there are idiosyncrasies that western cultures may miss as a result of ignorance (I'm sure there are). Forgive me if this post is incorrect or ignorant in and of itself, but I think the film is probably saying a lot about the clash, blending, and potentially uprooting of culture in Japan, even beyond the key variable of technology by way of the television which in many ways serves as the film's focal point to expose the generational shifts in perspective.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#208 Post by Drucker » Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:38 am

The Love Of A Woman, Gremillon's final film, is something I haven't gotten out of my head since watching it last night, and could certainly crack my top 20. The film does a superb job of balancing so many different tones, featuring a protagonist that loves her work, values the advice of friends and advisors, and faces an ongoing conflict between the calling of her profession as a doctor, and desire not to be alone. There are early moments in the film where she fields these warnings, being told for example that she will fit in the community after perhaps twenty years. Against her expectations, she falls in love with someone, and their first major romantic encounter occurs while a trusted mentor, the previous school teacher in the area, dies. The rest of the film beautifully switches between her desire to be with the local sailor she's in love with, her abilities and love of being a doctor, and living up to the expectations of the aforementioned mentor. The way the film not only balances these tonal shifts but also details the processes behind them is really well done, and the ending is absolutely beautiful.

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barryconvex
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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#209 Post by barryconvex » Wed Jan 08, 2020 2:08 am

Little Fugitive (Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin & Ray Ashley 1953)

1950s Coney Island seen from the vantage point of a child gives the beach and the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel a sheen of the otherworldly and majestic. Engel's panning shots of wooden carvings of mermaids and Poseidon and montage of closeups of carousel horses right next to shots of corn on the cob soaking in water and the sun shining through the wooden slats of the boardwalk speak to both as well as highlighting Coney's singularity. There's no other place in the world like it and no other filmmaker has ever observed its attractions, beachgoers and the people who make a living there as well as Engel. It's a perfectly photographed film with at least two unforgettable images: the shot of the Wonder Wheel off in the horizon when the train is stopped at the station in Brooklyn and the coup de grace of 50s NYC cinematography-the parachute drop at dusk, which inspired a sense of wonderment in me that doesn't happen very often and which I imagine must've been similar to what the kid in the movie felt.

That kid, Joey (played by Richie Andrusco in the most natural child performance I've ever seen), runs off from his Brooklyn neighborhood and spends the day at Coney Island after his older brother and his friends play a mean trick on him. That's really all there is to it, storywise, and that's all there needs to be. What the filmmakers set out to do and what they accomplished with what they had at their disposal is nothing short of miraculous. LF is as fully realized as any film could be, capturing a complete world and the people that inhabit it. A lot of no budget movies through the years have proven that money is secondary to sincerity for the craft and respect for the subjects in front of the camera but it's inspiring to see it happen as it does here.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#210 Post by knives » Wed Jan 08, 2020 8:29 am

I'll be a heretic and say I prefer the other two Engels films if you can track them down. It's mostly down to the shift in how perspective is used for me.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#211 Post by barryconvex » Thu Jan 09, 2020 1:03 am

After LF I'm thinking the man can do no wrong. The old Kino dvd with all three films isn't too expensive but it's an old Kino dvd-is it at least semi-watchable?

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#212 Post by senseabove » Thu Jan 09, 2020 3:31 am

Little Fugitive is one I'm really looking forward to revisiting. I saw all three of the Engels & Co. films on MUBI a long while back, and LF was the standout by far. From my long-forgotten notes, it seems I thought Lovers & Lollipops was also good, more technically assured and as visually adventurous, but with a much less interesting story—a bratty stepchild and straining for upward mobility—while Weddings & Babies was a step down in both aspects. No idea how the Kino DVD looks.


Party Girl, Nicholas Ray, 1958 — I remember liking this quite a bit when I saw it a few years ago in a Ray retrospective, right as I was starting to explore classic Hollywood, but unfortunately some of the allure wore off this go-round. Lee J. Cobb is charmingly menacing, but Robert Taylor is as interesting and seductive as a navy blue blazer and Cyd Charisse never quite does more than just good enough. So it's all up to Ray, who puts some effective shine on things, but even some of those moments feel like call backs to better uses in other Ray, like the policeman's gargantuan shadow echoing James Mason's off-screen looming in Bigger than Life. And I'm half-convinced the WB DVDR is slightly cut:
SpoilerShow
at the end, when Cobb spills the acid, he just kinda... suddenly raises his arms and spills it all over his face? There doesn't seem to be any cause—no bright light, no gunshot, nothing thrown at him, which I scanned back to check. I don't remember finding that so jarringly unprovoked the first time I saw it, but maybe Ray was relying on first-time viewers just assuming they missed something. The watch "trick" still make as little sense as I thought it did the first time, though. It's not given enough development to be a symbol of how morally vacuous Taylor is when it's expedient, but it's labored over too much, with too prominent a position in the final moments, for it to be just a McGuffin.
And to top it off, Charisse's dances are lackluster. Worth watching if you're even a slight Ray fan, though.

He Ran All the Way, John Berry, 1951 — John Garfield's last picture before his sudden death, with some excellent moments for him—one in particular with him in the background looking toward the camera, silent, while two others frame his face as they argue in the foreground. It wavers a bit plotwise, but it's a great entry in the "smart actors playing the hell out of just plain dumb characters" canon (which I have just decided is a thing after watching the wonderfully bizarre Mr. Skeffington the other night, but that's for another thread, another decade). Garfield play Nick Robey, a nervous drunk half-coerced into a robbery. When the job goes wrong, he desperately seduces a shy Shelley Winters to hide out with until it blows over. There's a give and take between his and Winters' characters that is fascinating but under-explored. It's an incipient Bonnie & Clyde story, and the incipience is what makes it interesting, but in particular I wish the script explored her desires, for him or just for something else, more. Otherwise, it manages to make a compelling home invasion movie out of Garfield's desperate clumsiness and Winters' confused desire. Currently on the Criterion channel.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#213 Post by knives » Thu Jan 09, 2020 8:25 am

barryconvex wrote:
Thu Jan 09, 2020 1:03 am
After LF I'm thinking the man can do no wrong. The old Kino dvd with all three films isn't too expensive but it's an old Kino dvd-is it at least semi-watchable?
They're good enough.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#214 Post by barryconvex » Fri Jan 10, 2020 11:57 pm

He Ran All the Way, John Berry, 1951 — John Garfield's last picture before his sudden death, with some excellent moments for him—one in particular with him in the background looking toward the camera, silent, while two others frame his face as they argue in the foreground. It wavers a bit plotwise, but it's a great entry in the "smart actors playing the hell out of just plain dumb characters" canon (which I have just decided is a thing after watching the wonderfully bizarre Mr. Skeffington the other night, but that's for another thread, another decade). Garfield play Nick Robey, a nervous drunk half-coerced into a robbery. When the job goes wrong, he desperately seduces a shy Shelley Winters to hide out with until it blows over. There's a give and take between his and Winters' characters that is fascinating but under-explored. It's an incipient Bonnie & Clyde story, and the incipience is what makes it interesting, but in particular I wish the script explored her desires, for him or just for something else, more. Otherwise, it manages to make a compelling home invasion movie out of Garfield's desperate clumsiness and Winters' confused desire. Currently on the Criterion channel.
I just finished watching this myself, and I could be way off the mark here, but I would almost swear that young Shelley Winters is a dead ringer for Greta Gerwig. As far as the rest of the film goes, I agree with sense's thoughts although I think I liked it even more than he did. Garfield certainly went out on high note-he's wound so tight here-ten cups of coffee tight, like a piano wire that's been tuned too high, one more turn of the screw and he's going to snap. Despite being young and lithe and really, quite attractive, Winters plays the homely girl, the girl a man settles for when his other options have failed. Their relationship is the core of the movie but it's never clear how they actually feel about each other. Sense is correct-the film could've gone much deeper into defining what Winters' actually wants. As written she only has two options: turn Garfield in or try to escape with him. The first route is understandable enough but the second is never adequately rationalized. Garfield's situation seems clear cut enough but his secondary motivations are difficult to read. He admits early on to using her but sees Winters in a different light when she's wearing a new dress with her hair done. Are his new feelings for her genuine or has desperation clouded his thought process? By the third act Garfield is so wracked with nervousness that he can't be sure if Winters really is attracted to him or just playing along to keep her family from being killed. The dynamic between the two is beautifully played and the tension escalates as the situation inside the apartment becomes more dire.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#215 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Jan 11, 2020 6:13 pm

A few more Quine:

Bell, Book and Candle is a deceptive entry in Quine’s catalogue because it supposes in premise that women finally have supreme power only to reveal the flip side that only through something like magic, a crutch completely devoid of personality strength and human worth, can they exert power and get a man to like them. How conniving! Stewart comes off in a similar state of blindness to his Vertigo protagonist (the similarities have already been mentioned, but I believe a closer analysis would reveal deeper thematic interests for each when using the other as a focal point) though his powerlessness is treated much more lighthearted here- almost inversely so (how could it possibly not, with the Hitchcock one of the very darkest psychological films ever made).

But it’s Novak whose character is the most curious. She is all-powerful to superficially control and yet powerless to authentically join with another; she is a witch, historically portrayed and believed to be the most self-actualized women especially of their historical time, and yet she loses her identity and conforms to blend with patriarchal America; she seduces and manipulates, taking the male-dominated role only to switch to the submissive as if it’s either her destiny (fatalism?) or her social culture is so overwhelmingly rooted in ideology and gender roles that she chooses to assimilate (to support domino’s thesis on Quine’s comedies); she even declares that love is synonymous with the ‘other’ and cries for not being able to be both herself and in love (or perhaps loved), a forced choice that’s conceptually tragic, whether it’s based in the truth or just her perspective as shaped by her social context.

I didn’t find this to work as either a comedy or a romance (it’s not very funny or romantic), but it does as a thinkpiece full of fascinating ideas. The subtext can work on its own, but when compared with the Hitchcock film from the same year with the same cast (and even the same looking apartment sets), there’s so much to pick at it’s a film scholar’s dream.

I also watched Operation Mad Ball but I don’t have much to say about it other than it wasn’t very funny. Lemmon has a few dry glances that made me laugh inside within the context of his social predicaments, but that’s about it. (I also rewatched some 60s Quine again in the wake of some underwhelming turns in his filmography, and Sex and the Single Girl and Paris- When it Sizzles are still amazing, so I’m not giving up hope on finding another comedy of his that works within genre. There’s already two in the 50s that do!)

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#216 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jan 11, 2020 8:29 pm

I don’t think you’re going to find another Quine comedy to cherish based on what I’ve seen that you haven’t written up/mentioned, but assuming you haven’t seen Drive a Crooked Road or the World of Suzie Wong, you’ve at least got a couple more great dramas ahead of you

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#217 Post by swo17 » Sat Jan 11, 2020 8:41 pm

Pushover is also good if Fred MacMurray doesn't make you want to die

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#218 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:25 am

I’ve seen all three but Pushover and Drive a Crooked Road are conveniently the last Quines I have left on reserve at the lib for a rewatch, though I may seek out any further blind spots this decade at some point. Strangers When We Meet may be my second favorite of his (those other aforementioned 60s films are all close) and I expect that more will be in consideration next decade overall - even if none will secure a placement as high as My Sister Eileen.

Fred MacMurray does make me pretty dysregulated but I seem to remember liking that film and finding it to be an engaging noir with some atypical features so we’ll see how a refresher goes. He can work for me when placed in the right role especially if he suffers or becomes a buffoon of sorts (or made out to be the supreme asshole, like in The Apartment) so a fatalistic noir can work - although I hate him in Double Indemnity to the point where it ruins the movie.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#219 Post by knives » Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:47 am

It Happened to Jane is a pretty good comedy, though I could see it being another case for you where the premise and themes is more compelling for you then the comedy.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#220 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:55 am

I mean I thought Full of Life and especially The Solid Gold Cadillac were very funny so the jury’s out on my Quine humor, though if it’s the themes that compel me that’s A-okay with me so I’ll seek it out. To be clear, I actually really enjoyed Bell, Book and Candle and found it very charming even if not sucked in by either intended genre trapping, which is probably more of a testament to Quine’s genius and willingness to lurk in darker corners than if it did lead me into one of those pockets.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#221 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:38 pm

A handful of noir viewings from the last few weeks:

Chicago Syndicate: This holds steady with most of the entertaining elements of a good noir: infiltration, double crossing, idiosyncratic supporting characters, use of multiple settings and plot points, and sudden bursts of brutality. There is a scene that rivals other more visual examples cringe-inducing violence against women with only audio, but it’s unbearable in its length against the amount of bystanders in the room.. unexpectedly unsettling. The parts all fit together to create something solid even if not particularly special in any distinct way- other than that late eruption of violence.

Split Second: I didn’t know that Dick Powell directed but I never would have figured this to be any director’s debut, let alone his! The setup and pacing are excellent and there are some shots, even seemingly simple ones, that are just a bit off to evoke a fresh viewpoint in the genre. The majority of the plot plants us in the chamber drama and makes for a fun premise and an easy space to develop characters, contemplate allegiances, and sympathize based circumstance. Like the best examples of this narrative split and blend (Detective Story, for one) the attention on each character and their relationships with each of the others is detailed to the point where we know all quite well before the 85 minutes are over. Not one of the better noirs of the decade but worth seeing.

Beware My Lovely: The inspired casting of Robert Ryan elevates this noirish thriller to a place just beyond a generic programmer. The plot is simple but it’s a treat to watch Ryan’s psychology deteriorate in the claustrophobic setting of Lupino’s home. What is set up to be akin to an extended segment of a killer vs. victim scene in a slasher, takes some unexpected shifts in pace and tone, filling in the details of a progression building while dipping into valleys of deceptively calm quietude that remain tense in their own strange melodramatic/horror hybrid. The feeling of being trapped has always been one of my own largest fears (physically as well as figuratively) and like Wait Until Dark the use of space is a confined playground as Lupino faces off against the unpredictable threat. The ending is puzzling and makes one question the characterization that came before, and in denying the expected path to catharsis, the film raises some curiosities on the process of pathologizing and leaves the viewer confronting their own prejudices and preconceived notions on the wish fulfillment of genre narratives.

Quicksand: Now this is a near-perfect noir. The title could not be more apt in describing the figurative process of our protagonist digging himself deeper and deeper into trouble through his own (il)logic. The fatalism exists in his own blockades between desire, conscience, and practicality. He ignores social consequences, doesn’t have strong executive functioning skills, and cannot overcome both the faults of his own mind and the environment to which he becomes increasingly tied to as he sinks into the sludge, weighed down by the people he ties himself to. What a horrific premise, to be void of skills to escape fate and trapped on a pathway to doom. This film is so creative and resourceful with ideas and effort that it becomes wild entertainment watching this car crash. Extra points for Mickey Rooney playing a lead who has an innocent/ignorant edge toward likeability, combined with a slow systematic progression of crime and understandable situations of self-preservation, so that we put on a ‘relativist’ hat and root for him up until (and perhaps through) his committal of the most immoral and unforgivable of offenses. Strongly recommended.

M: Joseph Losey takes the original and remakes it as a perfect noir infusing all the style, mannerisms, and attitude of the gritty cynicism and hard-nosed wit-lipped characters. The material’s grimy details are heightened and the fear and psychological toll on the victims and families exists in the same room with the detachment of those who have been living in a cruel world for too long, but never to the level of reaching a state of apathy. The music is surrealistically transitioning from diegetic and nondiegetic with eclectic range; the camerawork moves with steady intelligent form, masterful editing, and stylistic shot choices that spy in on our killer through wooden holes as if hiding ourselves; and the acting - especially David Wayne as the pathetic, tormented, sick killer who draws sympathy in his day-to-day pain authentically escaping into the role - is just wonderful, eerie, and captivating, down to the rotten gangsters and tough policemen with flat affects and tainted hope in mankind even if exhibiting determination to crack the case. One of the best remakes I’ve ever seen, deserving of all its praise, and one of Losey’s best films, maybe even the best of what I’ve caught so far. The confession scene alone is one of the most impressive, heartskipping bits of acting this decade, and no offense to Lang or Lorre, but it blows that film’s already excellent finale out of the water. Very strongly recommended.

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domino harvey
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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#222 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:57 pm

All good movies I don't have room for on my ballot (well, maybe M). Chicago Syndicate is one of those unexpected gems that are promise to be just around the corner every so often when one ventures down the back alleys of noir ephemera. Wonderful movie that almost no one's seen, and Abbe Lane (AKA Xavier Cugat's young bride IRL) is great, though she spent most of her career in clubs with her husband and not on screen. Quicksand is one of those nightmares where doing one small wrong thing spirals out into a ridiculous serious of calamities-- noir is of course the genre of exploiting anxiety

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#223 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:36 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:57 pm
Quicksand is one of those nightmares where doing one small wrong thing spirals out into a ridiculous serious of calamities-- noir is of course the genre of exploiting anxiety
Aside from the pleasures in the passionate plotting in both quantity and quality of implemented tribulations for Rooney, this may be the film that best examples the ‘nightmare of anxiety’ that noir possesses, even if it’s not the best film that happens to exemplify the feeling.

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knives
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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#224 Post by knives » Mon Jan 13, 2020 7:56 pm

Jim Thorpe - All American (dir. Curtiz)
I can't remember the last film I saw that was so at war with itself. The direction and acting here is very empathetic giving a full sense of a complex man worth admiring. Yet, despite this the script and Steiner's horrendous score are loathsome beyond belief. Whereas the camera always meets Thorpe's eyes, falling when he falls, in the distance when he is, the script is Eisenhower nonsense narrated not by Thorpe, but Pop Warner. It's point of view as well is an assimilationist one that desire ultimately for all Natives to become American in the European sense. The film gives Thorpe two sidekicks with the more admirable one who the film treats as a complete person is fully assimilated like a normal Harold Lloyd while the other one is a bizarre grunting savage whose lone humanizing moment is one where he does a decidedly American act by writing a love letter (it reminds me of Murnau's Tabu in a lot of ways). The script is not only bad on the level of race, but also as football. Warner has a lame voice over that holds our hand like a bunch of idiots. We can see what is happening, we don't need you to tell us!

That score, man, is just the most absurd thing. It's largely a generic one, but mixed in with sounds and instruments to give the sense that's it's some Indian war dance or something. It's as if Steiner couldn't get past the idea that the lead was a Native and had to repeat that for us so we wouldn't either. That contrasts horribly with Lancaster's great performance which just lets us focus on Thorpe the man. There is so much I like about the film I want to claim it as good, but it is too hobbled for me to truly call it good.

As an aside I grew up for a number of years in Carlisle so I was quite surprised that all this actually occurred there. It's such a place of nothingness that it's surprising to find out it has a history of note.

High Society (dir. Walters)
Ouch, this is a bad one mostly thanks to Crosby's performance making all the wrong decisions. Kelly's reasonably fun especially when she gets shit faced, but anyone would have trouble working off that leaden frog. He works really hard to make his character as unlikable and obnoxious as possible. Though it doesn't help that her second option is a plank of wood. Fortunately Celeste Holm and Frank Sinatra are present to give a ton of laughs though like Louis Armstrong's smartly chosen chorus they're underused to the point where cutting them wouldn't effect things except the run time. Which brings me to the thing that most consistently annoyed me which is all of the attempts to lengthen this mess. The runtime is about 111 minutes, but between all of the two second plots, the overture, and other bits that's a boost of about 15 minutes.

Still, there are enough things here to raise it to a pleasant though soon to be forgotten trifle. The music is enjoyable if a little sleepy for example.

The Narrow Margin (dir. Fleischer)
A nice and lean noir that's whole reason for being seems to be showing off the talents of Marie Windsor which is admirable enough of one to warrant 70 minutes. The lead actor looks like a prettied up Jack Palance which works really well for the genre. I'm reading The Big Clock right now and this film's repetition of bug business reminds me of that which when mixed with how trains have been used as a metaphor in the past makes the film also come across as suspicious of money and its interests. The idea being that it's better to be a dead public servant than a living rich man.

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Re: The 1950s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#225 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jan 13, 2020 8:04 pm

Charles McGraw has a long and storied career of noirs. I quite enjoyed him recently in the rather minor Roadblock, uncharacteristically playing the sap. Not a particularly remarkable movie outside of containing one of the best lines in noir history:
SpoilerShow
”Can happiness buy money?”

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