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11 Foreign Language movies to go

By FŁnf Seen Filmfestival, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69103654

Fabian: Going to the Dogs - (2021)

Based on the novel by the fascinating Erich Kšstner - which was published in the Germany of 1931, just prior to the Nazis taking power. The main thing that goes against Fabian is that it's 176 minutes long, and didn't really need to be (I'm sure the filmmakers would disagree) - but it's good for the most part. It's the story of writer Jakob Fabian, whose life in Berlin begins to deteriorate when he loses his job as an advertising copywriter - his friend can't get his thesis passed in a university controlled by fascists, and the love of his life becomes the lover of a film studio boss to advance her career. Pushed and pulled by the hedonism prevalent on one side and political violence on the other, he begins to unravel - and nobody can seem to help. Many are willfully blind to what's happening in the country. Fabian can't get anywhere in 1930s Germany - he's too morally upright. It's good as a reflection of the times we're currently going through, in an economic and political sense. It lacks a little cohesion (and I mean, just a little - slightly) and there's that problem of how long it runs, but I'd still recommend it to anyone interested in the period. There are obvious parallels to Cabaret.

7/10
__________________
My movie ratings often go up or down a point or two after more reflection, research and rewatches.


Latest Review : God's Not Dead (2014)



I remember watching this a couple of times as a kid but then never hearing of it again and basically forgetting it existed until just now.
I can see that. When I was little we watched The Absent-Minded Professor and The Shaggy Dog many many times, and yet you talking about childhood watches is the first time I've thought of them in years.

The overall goofy nature of Visit to a Small Planet would make it more than passable fare for kids.



Son. of. a. bitch. Lolita was amazing. I've never seen a dramedy like that before, and Sue Lyon was a perfect Lolita Hayes, Now I gotta go on a James Mason marathon.



Bram Stoker's Dracula -

Watching Coppola's Dracula, one I usually reserve for Halloween. This flick is so outrageously, rediculously, terrifically over the top, but if you've ever read the original, the book by Bram Stoker, allowing for a century of cultural change about what you can say in a book or movie, Coppola's version of the blood sucker really fits the book's feel, Victorian English supernatural craziness. Most of it was done with traditional stagecraft rather than digital FX, so it looks very retro. It has nearly lurid sex, like the original (adjusting for the time period), and Dracula does NOT look like Bela Lugosi, but a reanimated corpse.

It has Tom Waits as Renfield, a perfect casting decision with his gravel-voiced strangeness and Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, the raging vampire hunter. Winona Ryder as the fragile Mina is perfect and Keanu Reeves as the shallow Harker is just about right and red-haired Sadie Frost gets to play Lucy. There's even an American cowboy, Quincy (Stoker's name for an American cowboy), part of the retinue. This color-boosted Victorian parlor-horror is the one to see, the only version I recall that did show baby-eating, as in Stoker's book




Son. of. a. bitch. Lolita was amazing. I've never seen a dramedy like that before, and Sue Lyon was a perfect Lolita Hayes, Now I gotta go on a James Mason marathon.
Odd Man Out.

It's directed by Carol Reed who also did two of my all time favorites, The Third Man and The Fallen Idol.



Bram Stoker's Dracula -

Watching Coppola's Dracula, one I usually reserve for Halloween. This flick is so outrageously, rediculously, terrifically over the top, but if you've ever read the original, the book by Bram Stoker, allowing for a century of cultural change about what you can say in a book or movie, Coppola's version of the blood sucker really fits the book's feel, Victorian English supernatural craziness. Most of it was done with traditional stagecraft rather than digital FX, so it looks very retro. It has nearly lurid sex, like the original (adjusting for the time period), and Dracula does NOT look like Bela Lugosi, but a reanimated corpse.

It has Tom Waits as Renfield, a perfect casting decision with his gravel-voiced strangeness and Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, the raging vampire hunter. Winona Ryder as the fragile Mina is perfect and Keanu Reeves as the shallow Harker is just about right and red-haired Sadie Frost gets to play Lucy. There's even an American cowboy, Quincy (Stoker's name for an American cowboy), part of the retinue. This color-boosted Victorian parlor-horror is the one to see, the only version I recall that did show baby-eating, as in Stoker's book

I love Bram Stoker's Dracula to death and back. However, you're the first I;'e seen compliment Reeves on his performance. Honestly, I thought he was a bit out of his depth. He didn't have all the raw emotion Harker had in the book and his accent was cheesy. I legit felt like I could've done a better acting job.

But I agree that Tom Waits was incredible in his role. Every time he was on screen, it was a real treat.



Victim of The Night
As a dissenting voice, I saw Bram Stoker's Dracula in the theater and every few years I keep going back to it hoping it will be better than the last time I saw it but each time I just think it's a silly hot mess.





Visit to a Small Planet, 1960

An alien youth called Kreton (Jerry Lewis) sneaks out of school and takes a trip to Earth, where he insinuates himself into the family of Major Spelding (Fred Clark). This includes an interest in Spelding's daughter, Ellen (Joan Blackman), much to the dismay of Ellen's boyfriend Conrad (Earl Holliman). Meanwhile, a neighbor tries to capture evidence of Kreton's alien origins.

There's a Portlandia sketch where a woman is making flirtatious eye contact with a man in her yoga class. Then at the end she goes to speak to him and he is whiny and petty and the spell is completely broken. This dynamic describes almost every sequence in Visit to a Small Planet.

I was underwhelmed by The Nutty Professor, and this film is certainly no gem either. But there's a frustrating number of times that Kreton, in his open naivete, is really likeable, only for over-the-top facial expressions or physical comedy to take things to a grating place.

There are some charming moments. A first drink of alcohol has Kreton walking up the walls and on to the ceiling in that old practical effects trick. Ellen and Kreton go to a beatnik gathering where Kreton ends up performing a dance with a woman, played by Barbara Bostock. Bostock is really funny in this role, and demonstrates a kind of controlled absurdity that would have made the rest of the film far more palatable.

The movie clips along with minor laughs, mainly courtesy of trained animals and practical effects/wirework. Lee Patrick is fun as the bustling Spelding matriarch who is totally nonplussed by any of the plot developments. Blackman is enjoyable as Ellen, but the character is hampered by corny dialogue and the requirement that she fall for Kreton.

Watchable, but nothing more.

As far as Lewis goes, I think The Bellboy, The Ladies Man and The Disorderly Orderly are the most appealing he's been. I generally find him easier to take as a performer when he's not talking, and the first two of those keep his dialogue to a minimum.




Parallel Mothers




SF = Zzz


[Snooze Factor Ratings]:
Z = didn't nod off at all
Zz = nearly nodded off but managed to stay alert
Zzz = nodded off and missed some of the film but went back to watch what I missed
Zzzz = nodded off and missed some of the film but went back to watch what I missed but nodded off again at the same point and therefore needed to go back a number of times before I got through it...
Zzzzz = nodded off and missed some or the rest of the film but was not interested enough to go back over it



Odd Man Out.

It's directed by Carol Reed who also did two of my all time favorites, The Third Man and The Fallen Idol.
Yeah, Odd Man Out is pretty great. Harrowing, but great.




Le Boucher (1970, Claude Chabrol)

Chabrol got on my radar after seeing the wonderful La Cťrťmonie, so I decided to try another film from him. This one could easily have been directed as a giallo/slasher horror movie but of course that's not what Chabrol is interested in, so what we get instead is a low-key psychological study focusing on the secret mental struggles and motivations of the characters, rather than the visceral horrors of the serial murder spree underpinning the plot. It's a movie about suspicion and obsession and their corrosive effects on relationships. There's a compelling mystery and a slow buildup of suspense - sort of like a Hitchcockian thriller, only in a French rural setting. No unexpected shocking plot twist at the end to shake things up, but did it really need one? I don't think so. I think it's just fine as it is.



Odd Man Out.

It's directed by Carol Reed who also did two of my all time favorites, The Third Man and The Fallen Idol.
Odd Man Out was a superb film, but grim. In fact it's grimness rather puts me in mind of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1963).

I loved The Fallen Idol, although I got sick of the kid continually whining, "Mr. Baines!" Some of the night street scenes previewed what was to come in the phenomenal The Third Man. Lovely.





The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown, 1957

Laurel (Jane Russell) is a movie star whose new film, The Kidnapped Bride, is about to hit theaters. But on the night of the premiere, Laurel is kidnapped for real by a recently exonerated prisoner, Mike (Ralph Meeker) and his slightly dim-witted friend, Dandy (Keenan Wynn). The only problem is, everyone assumes that Laurel's disappearance is a publicity stunt.

Movies are full of nice-guy kidnappers and their feisty female hostages, a weird variation on the romantic-comedy that has to get things just right or else end up coming off as actually pretty creepy, really stupid, or both. Unfortunately for The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown, many of its story beats are just a bit off and neither the romance nor the comedy land all that well.

One good example of the film failing to land correctly is an early moment where Laurel has first been kidnapped. Insisting that they let her out of the car, she struggles a bit with Mike while Dandy drives. Upset that she won't cooperate, Mike punches her in the face. Now, to be clear, this is a film where every major character sustains head trauma at some point. People get knocked on the head with everything from telephones to weighted wigs. But this punch in the car is just . . . a woman getting punched in the face. There's nothing funny about it, nothing slapstick in the way it is staged.

Russell does a pretty good job as Laurel, starting out as someone who is more manipulative, but then warming up to her captors as she learns more about them. The best comedy beats come from Laurel's immediate understanding that no one will believe that she has actually been kidnapped, and then her offence at the low amount they plan to demand from her studio as ransom. Wynn is fine as the dim Dandy. I suppose the character gets some credit for being like, "Hey, maybe let's not punch her in the face."

Ralph Meeker's acting in the film is weird, in that it feels like it belongs in a different, more serious film. Mike is stoic and withdrawn, and there is a character of a police detective who helped get him released from jail who notes that Mike is angry and that he worries about how Mike might lash out. This is all actually kind of interesting . . . but not in this movie. Meeker's Mike is too subdued, and it has the effect of making his moments of lashing out against Laurel feel really ugly. He's constantly telling her that she's a fake, that no one cares about her, that she's shallow, and mocks her for worrying about sexual assault (with that old chestnut, "Don't flatter yourself"). And this is in addition to frequently manhandling her and threatening her. If this were a thriller it would be perfect, but it isn't a thriller and it creates a rift in the tone of the film.

The movie does move along at a decent clip, so despite all of the stuff that doesn't quite work, it's not the worst way to spend 90 minutes. But with all of the talent present, it feels like there was a better movie in there somewhere.








SF = Z


[Snooze Factor Ratings]:
Z = didn't nod off at all
Zz = nearly nodded off but managed to stay alert
Zzz = nodded off and missed some of the film but went back to watch what I missed
Zzzz = nodded off and missed some of the film but went back to watch what I missed but nodded off again at the same point and therefore needed to go back a number of times before I got through it...
Zzzzz = nodded off and missed some or the rest of the film but was not interested enough to go back over it



11 Foreign Language movies to go

By http://www.impawards.com/2020/emma.html, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62400268

Emma - (2020)

Well, after enjoying Pride and Prejudice I thought why not give Emma a whirl considering it's a relatively new adaptation. It was pretty good, but I have to reserve the term "greatness" for it's production design, costumes and sumptuous visuals. It feels like a time machine, because there is so much detail and loving care put into making this look beautiful and authentic. I've never cared all that much about costume design before, but now I can't help but search out and watch Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, for that film won the Best Costume Design Oscar in 2021 - I would have been thinking Emma would have won (Best Makeup and Hairstyling also went to MRBB over Emma.) The story is in similar vein to Pride and Prejudice, being chiefly about rich and spoiled young ladies sorting out who they'll eventually marry. While this was the best looking thing I've seen in ages, I say bring on Ma Rainey's Black Bottom!

7/10


By The artwork is believed to be owned by the film's production companies. - https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/martin_eden, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61462187

Martin Eden - (2019)

I found Martin Eden a little bit boring, and the titular character insufferable. It's based on the Jack London novel, and updated to an indeterminate modern age (the 1970s would be my best guess.) Eden (played by Luca Marinelli) is a lower class sailor who crosses paths with a wealthy family after saving a young disabled guy from thugs. He peruses their library, gets quite taken with a few of the books there, and suddenly decides he wants to become a writer - despite only have a primary school education. He's blocked from entering university, and so decides to learn by himself - and thus his struggles begin. He writes non-stop, and has his writing rejected for years (his love leaves him, for he's a pauper who everyone sees as a dreamer.) Eventually, after years, he develops not only into one of the great writers, but also a political revolutionary. You know what? After writing about it, I kind of like it a little more - but it did drag a bit, and I still consider the central character to be a maddening and pretentious twat.

6/10



As a dissenting voice, I saw Bram Stoker's Dracula in the theater and every few years I keep going back to it hoping it will be better than the last time I saw it but each time I just think it's a silly hot mess.
I may have been too young for it when it was out in theaters, but I do watch the Treehouse of Horror version every October, which I think is a heck of a lot more fun than Coppolaís version.

I was actually saying something similar to my partner tonight when we were watching The Shining (their idea for an ironic fatherís day movie). Everything there is to get out of Kubrickís nearly 3 hour movie I can get out of 8 minutes of Simpsons spoofing. And I do actually like that movie (just not nearly as much as most people, it seems). Coppolaís movie sure is pretty, but I get my fill of that iconic Dracula look pretty quick.



"Homer, did you remember to lock the front door of the house?"


"...d'oh!":





Chipping away a bit more at my needlessly long backlog from the past week+.

Documentaries:

1. Thatís Entertainment! (1974) ó A bittersweet farewell to the MGM musical, even for somebody like me who generally canít stand musicals, hates Code Era Hollywood and has always found MGM movies to be the most boring / removed from reality of the major studios (if I see that old lion roar, I can be pretty sure that Iím in for a bad time). Set amidst the studioís crumbling backlot edifices and hosted by their broken-down stable of aging stars, itís an invaluable introduction to the golden years of the MGM musical, even if it lacks a certain critical distance from it and is peppered with more than the occasional back-handed comment about the clips being shown.


2. Thatís Entertainment! III (1994) ó A bit of much needed perspective is included here that that the original lacked. A bit stiffer, granted, but an invaluable collection of footage, fascinating alternate takes / behind the scenes documentation and general introduction to Code Era musicals all the same.


3. Inning by Inning: A Portrait of a Coach (2008) ó An occasionally fascinating documentary about a successful college coach. It ended up being a bit too repetitive / shouty for me by the end of it, but Linklaterís narrative skills easily finds the through-line that most other documentarians would have struggled with.


4. Thatís Entertainment, Part II (1976) ó No matter how much more polished this is than the first movie, thereís no hiding that this is the unused B roll from MGMís musical catalog, needlessly padded out by clips from a bunch of non-musicals.


5. Original Cast Album: Company (1970) ó Some great music, but not much more interesting than listening to a soundtrack.


6. Thatís Dancing! (1985) ó Real ďhow do you do, Fellow KidsĒ vibes from this one.



Victim of The Night
I may have been too young for it when it was out in theaters, but I do watch the Treehouse of Horror version every October, which I think is a heck of a lot more fun than Coppolaís version.

I was actually saying something similar to my partner tonight when we were watching The Shining (their idea for an ironic fatherís day movie). Everything there is to get out of Kubrickís nearly 3 hour movie I can get out of 8 minutes of Simpsons spoofing. And I do actually like that movie (just not nearly as much as most people, it seems). Coppolaís movie sure is pretty, but I get my fill of that iconic Dracula look pretty quick.
It is worth Bram Stoker's Dracula existing just for the Treehouse Of Horrors episode.
The Shining one is great too. "If we come back and everyone's slaughtered... I owe you a Coke."