NITRATE FILMS

   


Shut the hell up, Muttley!

Wendy and I weren’t  fans of the slight snickering we heard from the audience during some of the festival’s movies. We’re willing to be lost in the story and time period of the film we’re watching. Click on to the Indiewire article above. It says it best.

REVIEW OF FESTIVAL FILMS   

With my talk of these films, it won’t really be for their Nitrateness, but for the films themselves. I opted out of seeing Phantom of the Opera. A gal’s gotta eat.

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EARLY SUMMER ( “BAKUSHU” ) ( 1951 ) ~ Yasujirô Ozu

I am fairly new to Setsuko Hara, only really learning of her upon her death. I’ve only seen one other film of hers ( “No Regrets For Our Youth” ) and she charmed me. Well doggone it, she’s done it again. As “Early Summer” unfolds, I kept waiting for the plot to happen…the thing; what’s it all about. You know, the conflict. Then came the dawn, and I began to realize that Ozu is showing us a slice of life. He showed me the life of a Japanese family that was the same as one from the States.

When I saw Setsuko pick up a briefcase~like folder and put on her shoes I thought “Is she going to work? Is she going to work?! IF SHE GOES TO WORK, I’LL…” She went to work. She waits for her morning train just like all working stiffs do. I was in shock, totally not expecting this, her working in an office. Independent! Not looking to get married. Getting together with her girlfriends. We see her nephews and their gang of friends playing with toy trains like my brother used to do. And parents’ regret for their lost child. Friendships, loss, compromises, walks on the beach and fields of wheat. Ozu has such a light magical touch with this film. How can I describe it. It floats heavy topics on air. Am I making sense? No? See the movie. Then we can talk. 

As I say, I’m new to her work, but one of my friends has this to say about Setsuko Hara.

Yeh.

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THE BACHELOR & THE BOBBY SOXER ( 1947 ) ~ Irving Reis

What can I say about Cary Grant and Myrna Loy that hasn’t been said. They are like fine wines. ( Has THAT been said already? ) Mature, to be savored. So this movie…you know the story. Loy wants to cure her bobby soxer kid sister of a crush she has on handsome playboy bachelor, Cary Grant. ( I don’t need no cure! ) The plan: give teen Shirley Temple the hair of the dog that bit her; make Grant date her. She’ll tire of him. Wanna bet?

Heeeeere’s Johnny…

Needless to say everything backfires. This is a bit screwball ( picnic race ), a bit drawing room ( the Happy Birthday night club scene ) and the touch of the serious. The writing won Sidney Sheldon an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and it’s very well~done. From top~to~bottom the film is cast perfectly. What you get with this classic film is a cast of supporting players who’ve been around for a minute and know what they’re doing. The leads as well are pros: Rudy Vallee is sufficiently officious, teenage Shirley Temple is quite the hottie. It gets a little awkward remembering her singing the “Good Ship Lollipopand seeing her flowering pouty pubescence here. But Shirley is good. She walks a fine line between school girl crushing and being a flirtatious young woman. ( The young actor who plays her boyfriend Jerry ~ Johnny Sands ~ is such a cutie pie in his basket ball short shorts and his angst at losing Shirley to an older man. ) But it’s Cary and Myrna. Myrna’s pretty much the ‘straight man’ anchoring everything. Her disapproval, chilly. You want to win her over. And Cary…gaaaad, he’s just willing to be silly ( “You remind me of a man” ) and get downright physical. But he has a serious moment on the porch with Myrna. He’s just so wonderfully willing in this fluff of a movie with a serious undertone of young love.

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ANCHORS AWEIGH ( 1945 ) ~ George Sidney

ACK!! I wasn’t all that thrilled to see this but I did. 143 minutes? I like staring at Gene Kelly’s thighs as much as the next gal, but come on. This is what I’d call my hostage movie; not a movie I’d normally see but being a captive audience here at the fest would be the way to get through it.

What a sweeeeet movie. I wound up charmed by it.

Though a tiny bit long, I enjoyed myself with this film. Discussing this movie with Wendy ( which is how I get my good ideas ) it was cool how the movie crafted itself to feature the strengths of each man. Frank Sinatra dances with Gene Kelly…Gene sings with Frank. It was kinda weird seeing Sinatra as that “Golly-gosh-boy-next-door-type” ( nope, I’ve never seen this film before ) instead of his ring-a-ding-ding, love ‘em and leave ‘em persona. Astaire is my guy but seeing Kelly in big glorious color on that screen in 35mm I was really able to appreciate his skill as a dancer of several styles of dance. He pirouettes in place, hoofs, and even dances ( with Tom & Jerry ) and with unsmiling little Sharon McManus ( a sort of Margaret O’Brien-type ), who TOTALLY keeps up with him and nails it.

  

I could’ve done without José Iturbi ( Meh!! Give me Cugie!! ) but I was totally impressed with that piano scene in the Hollywood Bowl. Wendy said it before I did but I was thinking the same thing…would it have killed ‘em to put one little Black kid amongst all those kids playing piano? What a statement it would have made. The story is basically the age~old thing, two sailors in love with one girl, though one guy tries to hide it. Kathryn Grayson was lovely. Pretty girl, fantastic voice though not yet strong in the acting department. But I must say when you see the moments of Grayson in this technicolor, she takes your breath away. I really did enjoy the sweetness of this movie, in no small part to that wunderkind of cuteness, child actor Dean Stockwell. I want to smother him with kisses.

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SIRÉNA ( 1947 ) ~ Karel Stekly

Broadening my horizons at this festival ~ as one does ~ I watched this Czechoslovakian film about a factory where workers are mistreated and they go on strike. Good film. One family is featured in particular but they represent all who want to fight for better conditions. To strike or not to strike, the women are in this all the way; maybe a little egging on their man. The factory owner is a rich uncaring bigwig, but that doesn’t stop the workers from revolting. The faces are what you’d expect of Eastern European actors with hard to pronounce names…strong, compelling. The acting is top~notch, expressing their pain and ultimate sacrifices. Heartbreaking. There is a scene where the Mother has to let her daughter go with her fiancee to find a better life. The daughter is all she has left. She doesn’t want her to go and expresses that pain alone in her room, putting on a brave face when it IS time to say goodbye. It’s a universal story that can be plopped down in any setting where people must fight for dignity and fairness. It’s just, being made in Czechslovakia, it feels more real than Hollywood could display. What a compelling movie.

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ALEXANDER NEVSKY ( 1938 ) ~ Sergei Eisenstein

I have a feeling this was the big ticket item of the festival. I saw people excited by it on the schedule. ( “Nevsky’s com in’ and Nitrate’s got him! ) Eisenstein ~ a legend in cinema [ “Battleship Potemkin” ]. The movie was on an impressive scale and the scope of it was big ~ horses, landscapes, battles, extras. It wasn’t quite my cuppa.

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NIGHT AND THE CITY ( 1950 ) ~ Jules Dassin

I’ve reviewed this movie in depth here  but my gosh seeing this on the big screen in its actual original print threading through a projector in 1950 was something akin to seeing this with fresh eyes. Widmark’s desperation was more desperate, Googie was at her vicious googiest, Lom was more sinister, the death scene more poignant and I could really see the noose tighten around Widmark’s world.

 

I used to downplay Gene Tierney’s role ( Why Gene? Anyone could do this part of “the girlfriend.” ) And not that I didn’t like her performance before. But I now see the cachet of having this beautifully poised woman in this role; maybe to heighten the ‘whaddya-doin’-with-him? With this screening I really can see:

  • her waste of emotion for Widmark and her somewhat unrequited love ( her love for him wasn’t enough and he couldn’t return it ) paralleled
  • Francis L. Sullivan’s love for Googie ( dude you should have really walked away )
  • Hugh Marlowe’s love for her ( I found him downright sexy )

Maybe it all comes to focus for me because I’m sitting still, watching this in a movie theater. If so…that’s fine. I can really see it’s a movie about people chasing things not meant for them or out of reach. I say unequivocably, “Night and the City” is an under~rated (Day 20) masterpiece.

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SPELLBOUND ( 1945 ) ~ Alfred Hitchcock

 

This movie didn’t fare too well with the Nitrate crowd if I go by the couple of snickers sprinkled throughout the film. This disturbed me. WTF. Yeah, I’m saying it…WTF! This is a generalization when I say I think the TCMFF crowd has a more romantic soul when it comes to reacting to these old films and their dated movie conventions. Now admittedly

the love~at~first~sight and movie’s psychology is a little dated and pat and simplistic; it was farely new back in 1945. But I ask you, do you see the TCMFF crowd snickering at Peck and Bergman falling in love? I like “Spellbound.” My boy Hitch wraps his core message of murder, intrigue and sex in interesting MacGuffins of courtroom, vertigo, nature gone wild, peeping toms, religion, small town America…and in “Spellbound”…psychiatry.

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RESTLESS BLOOD ( “LEVOTON VERI” ) ( 1946 ) ~ Teuvo Tulio

Does she look insane? Yeah. ‘Cuz she’s lookin’ crazy in love.

WHAT THE HELL?!!!

What in the wide wide world of nitrate did I witness. In the festival’s section called “Blind Date With Nitrate” a surprise movie is shown.  The feature is described like this in their program:

“The Blind Date with Nitrate’ is our ultimate achievement in this endeavor. We offer no context other than a solitary image, a frame enlargement from the print itself. There is no language of enticement, no words to stand between you and the complete mystery of cinema.”

Now maybe I’d been primed by the overall academic vibe of the festival. And this was praised to the hilt by one of the programmers, so I was prepared to see a long lost serious Finnish film. What I got was an overwrought overheated almost Carol Burnett-like skit. As this film unfolded I was totally bewildered byRESTLESS BLOOD.” I didn’t know whether to take it seriously or laugh. No, I didn’t laugh. I shook my head a coupla times but laugh I did not. ( Read Indiewire above ).

It’s the age old story of two sisters in love with the same man. One of the sisters is blinded so her husband turns his attention to his sister-in-law. But get this, she’s really NOT blind. You know I don’t even want to describe the movie to you. ( Why should you escape! Go in like we did. ) I’ve had a month to think about it, and I gotta admit, there was something compelling about it. Guilt, pangs of desire, revenge. Oh yeah, revenge. Regina Linnanheimo brings to mind the most Bette of Davises when she becomes unhinged. As a reminder, this is a Nitrate print and it was graciously provided to the festival by KAVI, Kansallinen Audiovisuaalinen Instituuti ( National Audiovisual Institute in Helsinki. )

                                Regina Linnanheimo                 Toini Vartianen 

I might see the movie again now that I know what to expect. The movie is as wild a ride as you’ll ever see. Check out the trailer…if you dare:

 

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