An insufferable movie snob wanders off the beaten track, comes back and talks about what he has seen.
My Week of Movie Watching
February 2, 2015
The Clowns – Lesser-known 1970 mockumentary from Federico Fellini. The film follows Fellini as he hunts down some of France and Italy’s greatest clowns. The interviews are interspersed with sequences of performances. The performance sections are prototypical Fellini: wall-to-wall color, music, and humor. The best part of the film is it’s opening, as the director re-creates a childhood memory of a circus setting up outside his window. On the whole, I can’t really recommend this, because I found myself getting impatient with the performance sections, which seemed to run on longer than they needed to. Recommended for Fellini fans, but a disappointment for me.
The Man Who Would Be King – John Huston’s great 1975 film of Rudyard Kiplings’ story of two opportunistic soldiers (Sean Connery and Michael Caine) who travel to a remote Asian land with the thoughts of looting it. One way to look at this is as an updated version of an earlier Huston film – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, in which a man succumbs to greed, and is destroyed for it. It’s actually an interesting trivia bit that Huston had wanted to make this film for years, and had originally wanted to make it with Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable. TMWWBK is just a great movie experience; big stars, a great epic story, great location. It’s a classic movie-lovers movie, and highly recommended.
The King of Marvin Gardens – Second or third time trying to wrap my head around this disappointing Bob Rafelson/Jack Nicholson follow-up to Five Easy Pieces. Nicholson plays a depressive Philly late-night DJ who gets called to bail his wild huckster brother Jason (Bruce Dern) out of jail, and gets drawn into a deal about buying an island in Hawaii. It always feels like huge chunks of this film are missing. The deal is impossible to figure out – Dern just blabs snatches about it, and it’s so obviously a fool’s errand that I wasn’t sure why Nicholsons David takes it seriously. There are also a couple of female hangers on, played by Ellen Burstyn and Julia Anne Robinson, and it seems like the film doesn’t really know what to do with them. Burstyn is involved in the films climax, which is explosive, but also seems illogical. Not recommended.
Skidoo – I’m trying to imagine this movie being pitched to a studio exec. “So Jackie Gleason will play an ex-gangster who has to kill his best friend, who will be played by Mickey Rooney.” “He’ll have to do it in prison, and will accidently take LSD.” “Yeah, Yeah, and his daughter will be a hippie, and will hang with a bunch of other hippies, and they will end up living in Gleason’s home while he’s in Alcatraz.” “And there will be three guys who also played Batman villains: Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, and Burgess Meredith….. Four, if you count director Otto Preminger, who played Mr. Freeze!” “Oh, and don’t forget Jaws from the Bond movies! He’s in there, too” “Yeah, and God will be a character in this movie!!…He’ll live with an Amazon on a boat that is captained by George Raft!” “God??? …and who will play God?” “Why, Groucho Marx, of course!”
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – For perhaps the 20th time. This time, I took to comparing it to The Wild Bunch. Those are two very different movies, of course, but there are some intriguing similarities, as well. First of all they are set at approximately the same time, and both have the theme of men whose era is just about over. In each movie there is the appearance of a machine that accentuates this point. In WB, it’s a car; in BC&SK, it’s a bicycle. When Butch and Sundance tie up their sheriff buddy (Jeff Corey), and he tells them that they are going to die, and it will be bloody, it’s hard not to think of the Peckinpah film. There is the slow-motion gunplay. Persuasive in WB, but it makes an appearance in BC&SK, as well, and looks very much like it does in WB. Finally, and most obviously, the final, insane shootout in a foreign country. Both great films, and I’m not sure why I never noticed how they touch on these same themes.