Attenborough, Feig, Peyton, Tourneur, Werker

Oh! What a Lovely War (Richard Attenborough, 1969). The feature directorial debut of Richard Attenborough adapts a hit British musical that used era-appropriate songs to slyly satirize the pretty geopolitical messiness that fed into and then prolonged World War I. Though initially intriguing in its brash theatricality, the film’s conceits quickly prove to be stiff and overly distancing. It begins to come across as a revue with only the thinnest of through lines, especially as it stretches to a overlong running time pushing two and a half hours. There are scattered pleasures, led by Maggie Smith as a bawdy music hall … Continue reading Attenborough, Feig, Peyton, Tourneur, Werker

Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Five

#5 — Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947) I wouldn’t necessarily term Out of the Past the best film ever made that clearly qualifies as film noir (at least one film above it on this personal tally fits squarely into that cinematic subcategory), but it is without question the work of art that I would project onto a wall to answer any questions about what makes that amazing convergence of shadow, cynicism, and fang-sharp dialogue so enthralling. It slaloms expertly around every last milestone of the form, formulating into a picture that could have been used as a template. It’s sharp … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Five

Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Thirty-Seven

#37 — Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942) Lots of films have indelible images, those visual moments that don’t just endure in the memory but are so closely, solidly associated with a single work of art that any approximation that follows, no matter how tangential of glancing, automatically stirs comparison. There is no way, for example, for a horror film director to set a smart, evocative scene at an indoor swimming pool without calling to mind Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People, at least for a certain breed of film fan. (Those who think the horror genre started with Friday the 13th likely escape this … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Thirty-Seven

Jones, Kubrick, LeRoy, Park, Tourneur

Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, 1933). This big musical from the tail end of the Pre-Code Hollywood era is fascinating for its many contradictions, beginning with the framing of Great Depression challenges with a notably defeatist cheer. The production numbers are the handiwork of Busby Berkeley (the songs are by Harry Warren and Al Dubin) and they show off his skill at mesmerizing vastness. “We’re in the Money” is probably the most famous, but others are more interesting, especially the lengthy “Pettin’ the Park,” which includes a strikingly sexy moment involving a bevy of beauties changing behind a sheer … Continue reading Jones, Kubrick, LeRoy, Park, Tourneur

Fleischer, McQueen, Perry, Sturges, Tourneur

The Swimmer (Frank Perry, 1968). This is definitely an odd one. It’s not hard to see why this has become something of a cult classic, its relative obscurity combining with the floridly executed proto-seventies moody grit creating a fairly singular viewing experience. Based on a John Cheever story, the film casts Burt Lancaster as a middle-aged stalwart of the self-anointed suburban upper class who decides on a whim on day that he can cross the vast distance from one house to his own home entirely by following a path that takes him through all of his many neighbors’ backyard swimming … Continue reading Fleischer, McQueen, Perry, Sturges, Tourneur

Ozu, Polley, Sullivan, Tourneur, Zenovich

Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic (Marina Zenovich, 2013). Richard Pryor had a life that was singularly amazing (deeply troubled childhood, an impact on the art of stand-up comedy like no other, and a personal life fraught with peril and bad decisions), so much so that it seems almost impossible to contain it within a single film. He couldn’t do it with the thinly fictionalized Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling, and Marina Zenovich–inadvertently, no doubt–does her level best to prove that the documentary feature format similarly has no hope of containing the man’s unbalanced magnificence. She clicks through the … Continue reading Ozu, Polley, Sullivan, Tourneur, Zenovich