An insufferable movie snob wanders off the beaten track, comes back and talks about what he has seen.
My Week of Movie Watching
February 23, 2015
Red Desert – The first color effort from the great Michelangelo Antonioni. Monica Vitti plays the wife of a successful factory manager, who is dealing with severe emotional problems. Richard Harris plays an associate of her husband, who enters into a relationship with her. Desert returns to the same topics that Antonioni often visited; namely loneliness and alienation. What makes this film so memorable is its location. Essentially the entire film is set in an industrial area of Italy, and the landscapes of mud, slag, and fog mesh nicely with the sickness and anguish of Vitti’s character.
Paths of Glory – Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant examination of the insanities of war. Kirk Douglas plays a colonerl who is forced to choose 3 random soldiers for court-martial after an ill-advised offensive goes badly. Kubricks’ visual artistry is in the forefront here, and battle has never been rendered any better. I’ve seen Paths a couple of times now, and this time I was interested in the film’s ostensive villain, General Mireau (George McCready). He is the one who first receives the insane order for the offensive, and although he doesn’t agree with it, he goes ahead. In this way, there is really no difference between him and Douglas’ Colonel Dax. When he gets enmeshed in the repercussions at the end, it is strangely poignant. Highly recommended.
Girl on a Motorcycle – Groovy and sexy film directed by renowned cinematographer Jack Cardiff (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes). Marianne Faithfull plays a young bride torn between her feelings for her earnest but boring husband (Roger Mutton), and her exiting, but emotionally cruel lover (Alain Delon). The film takes place over the course of a motorcycle trip to Germany to visit Delon, and is told in multiple flashbacks. This one is ultimately a no-go for me. Faithfull is sexy as hell, and I was interested early on, but I got tired of her inane narration. I also felt that the film made the two men almost comical caricatures, as opposed to real people. Not recommended.
Bigger Than Life – Interesting 1956 film from Nicholas Ray deals with a critically ill teacher (James Mason) who gets a new lease on life when he is prescribed cortisone, only to have the side effects of the drug turn him into a cruel martinet. That encapsulation might make this sound movie-of-the-weekish, but what makes this movie refreshing is that there are other things going on here, too. Even before his addiction, Mason’s Ed confesses to his wife Lou (Barbara Rush) that they are “boring”. The film’s sub-story is the stifling pressure of maintaining a proper exterior for those around you. A great, little known film that you should check out.