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Ordet, 1955

Morten Borgen (Henrik Malberg) lives with his three adult sons, as well as the wife and children of his eldest. Mikkel (Emil Hass Christensen) is agnostic, though his wife, Inger (Birgitte Federspiel) is incredibly devout. Johannes (Preben Lordorff Rye) has had a psychological break and now believes himself to be Jesus Christ. Anders (Cay Kristensen) is in love with the daughter of a family with different religious beliefs from the Borgens. The conflict about whether the two young people can marry causes a feud between Morten and the young woman's father, Peter. Things get further complicated when Inger's pregnancy takes a bad turn.

This movie will give you shivers, though it does take a little while for the narrative momentum to build to that point.

The film begins by laying out the different belief systems of the family members. It's interesting, and I appreciated that it did a good job of conveying what it is like when others try to dictate your response to situations based on their beliefs. In one scene, Inger advises someone to pray. When they respond that they are praying and it isn't helping, she's like "Well, maybe you just need to pray some more!". This conflict is given more depth later when Morten and Peter explicitly get into a debate about religious belief--Morten claiming that religion should be about joy and Peter expressing that it is actually about suffering.

In a turn of events that is both powerful and frustrating, Inger's horrific childbirth experience becomes a litmus test for the "truth" of the different characters' beliefs. And things kick off in a horrible fashion with Peter basically saying that he hopes Inger dies so that it will teach Morten a lesson about suffering. As Inger languishes, characters not only have different outlooks on how to regard her situation (including the town doctor, who at one point bluntly asks something to the effect of, "What do you think helps more: your praying or my medicine?" But characters also imply that their belief is not just about handling Inger's dire situation, but even influencing it. It is implied that the right kind of belief will save her life.

And just to talk about Inger's childbirth scene: GOOD GRIEF! It's maybe one of the worst things I've ever seen. Inger lays on a table, surrounded by the midwife, Mikkel, and the doctor. And no one talks to her or tells her what is happening. No one asks her what she is feeling or explains what they are doing. At one point the doctor, without warning, just starts cutting her open to facilitate the birth. And even the framing seems designed to put the focus of the scene on the other characters and specifically the male characters. Inger's face is almost always excluded from the frame.

It's hard to talk about the final act without giving away really key plot elements. But the last 20 minutes or so are pretty amazing. The characters really hash out their different beliefs and especially when it comes to Mikkel you can sense the internal turmoil of choosing between having no faith and having faith that might not be rewarded. While on a personal level I don't agree with the view that I think the film is ultimately espousing about faith and belief, I do think that the ideas are powerfully presented. I would imagine that for people whose beliefs do align with the film's conclusions, this would be a real jolt.

Lastly, I want to mention the look of the film which is absolutely gorgeous. This is the second Dreyer film I've watched this month, and darn if the man doesn't know how to use light, shadow, and space to the best possible impact.

I would highly recommend this film, and I would also warn anyone who hasn't seen it that it took me about 40 minutes to really warm up to it. There is a lot of talk and little action for the first third or so, but do not let that deter you. Once the pieces are all in place, the whole film comes together beautifully.


I thought I'd seen this, but maybe I haven't. Clearly I should since Dreyer might be a top 5 director for me. Definitely top 10.



Victim of The Night

First things first, that poster in no way reflects the movie and was obviously just an attention-grabber. It's not a "sexy" film at all and Joanne Woodward is never in her underwear, on the contrary, she's as buttoned-up as one could be.

I happened on this, as I often do, on Sunday morning on TCM. I frequently just watch whatever they have on and I am rewarded more often than not.
This was not grabbing me.
I have never really connected with Henry Fonda. His brand of aw-shucks earnestness works less than Jimmy Stewart at his aw-shucksiest, for me. He's fine when he's not doing that, like in 12 Angry Men or certainly OUaTitW, but even in a movie like The Lady Eve, which I really enjoy for Stanwyck, he annoys me.
I hung around for Jason Robards, who is always worth hanging around for.
The story here is that a a family is passing through Laredo on their way to buy a farm at the same time that an annual high-stakes poker-game is in play. The husband (Fonda) is a recovering gambler and gets the itch and buys in. He eventually bets their life-savings on a hand but with no more money to put in the pot, he is required by house rules to retire from the game, forfeiting all of his chips and leaving his family destitute. Under the strain he has a heart attack and his prim and proper wife, Mary (Joanne Woodward), who's never played a game of poker in her life is forced to find a way to finish his hand or end up in the poor-house.
The movie actually becomes quite amusing and clever once Fonda mercifully suffers his coronary and gets off my screen and I found myself genuinely sucked into the proceedings by the combination of some clever writing, Robards, Paul Ford as the bellicose bank-owner Mary tries to convince to stake her, and Woodward herself, who can't keep her accent straight but is quite good otherwise.
There is more to this film than meets the eye and if anyone decides to watch it I highly suggest you do not know anything about it going in. It has its surprises and I suspect the movie would be a lot less entertaining if one knows what they are going in.
Overall, a delightful little film.



Just a heads up you put Stroheim not Sternberg, but I watched this last year and thought it was a great film. I'm yet to see any Pabst or many Louise Brooks who I have heard great things about so, unfortunately, can't comment on your references here.

Have you seen any other Sternberg films? I was blown away by Underworld which along with Scarface seems to me to very much be an early template that would inspire much of the crime films people love today.
Whoops! I'll fix it.

This was my first Sternberg, though I've got my eye on the Criterion set they have of the other films he made with Dietrich. It's far from my first Dietrich.

Underworld sounds right up my alley. I love classic gangster films. Have you seen Public Enemy, Little Caesar or the Roaring Twenties? The first two pre-date Scarface and the Roaring Twenties pushes very close to the modern crime film in scope and conscience.



Well, I wonder if there isn't some bias of time involved as I remember when we saw it in the theater back in '84 we were all really, really impressed. Of course, I was 11. But nobody I knew could do that.
Modernity certainly has not been kind to the film but has added a large amount of charm that may or may not have been present during the initial release. That said, I can't see the leads getting past the first round of So You Think You Can Dance. The bar has gotten too high.



Whoops! I'll fix it.

This was my first Sternberg, though I've got my eye on the Criterion set they have of the other films he made with Dietrich. It's far from my first Dietrich.

Underworld sounds right up my alley. I love classic gangster films. Have you seen Public Enemy, Little Caesar or the Roaring Twenties? The first two pre-date Scarface and the Roaring Twenties pushes very close to the modern crime film in scope and conscience.
I've seen three Sternberg films so far. Those two and The Docks of New York which I also thought was great. What stood out about Underworld for me was how violent the whole thing is for its time. Some awesome set-pieces.

I shamefully haven't actually seen any of those. I love James Cagney but those films are from three directors who I haven't really got around to exploring properly so far, although I've heard great things. I love the only Walsh film I've seen and both Wellman films I've seen.
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I'm yet to see any Pabst or many Louise Brooks who I have heard great things
My first, and so far only, encounter with Brooks happened last year. I watched It's the Old Army Game, which is a silent WC Fields comedy. Brooks was only a side character but I was completely smitten, and not in a va-va-voom way. She just seemed to have that rare "thing" where you can't take your eyes off a person when they're on screen. So I've been looking forward to seeing one of her more substantial roles.
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Ordet is a movie I like a lot but would hesitate to recommend to anyone because of it's glacial pace. Glad to hear some of you are into it.
Day of Wrath is another good one that I don't see mentioned enough.



My first, and so far only, encounter with Brooks happened last year. I watched It's the Old Army Game, which is a silent WC Fields comedy. Brooks was only a side character but I was completely smitten, and not in a va-va-voom way. She just seemed to have that rare "thing" where you can't take your eyes off a person when they're on screen. So I've been looking forward to seeing one of her more substantial roles.
I've just checked and I think it's actually the case that I haven't seen any of her films yet. I'm friends with a screenwriter of decent success who told me that when he was younger the first thing he tried to write was a biopic for Louise Brooks and that he was a big fan.

Silent cinema is an era where I tend to absolutely love all the films I watch for it, yet still have so much to explore, especially relative to other eras.



I've seen three Sternberg films so far. Those two and The Docks of New York which I also thought was great. What stood out about Underworld for me was how violent the whole thing is for its time. Some awesome set-pieces.

I shamefully haven't actually seen any of those. I love James Cagney but those films are from three directors who I haven't really got around to exploring properly so far, although I've heard great things. I love the only Walsh film I've seen and both Wellman films I've seen.
I've had my eye on DONY for a bit too. Criterion has them and the Last Command, which is of high interest due to Jannings, so I'll probably have to pick it up too.

What Cagney have you seen? He's among my favorite actors and I think he often gets short changed as a caricature despite having a ton of versatility and realism. Any guy that can do White Heat, Footlight Parade and Yankee Doodle Dandy is a powerhouse of a performer.

What have you seen from Walsh and Wellman?



I've had my eye on DONY for a bit too. Criterion has them and the Last Command, which is of high interest due to Jannings, so I'll probably have to pick it up too.

What Cagney have you seen? He's among my favorite actors and I think he often gets short changed as a caricature despite having a ton of versatility and realism. Any guy that can do White Heat, Footlight Parade and Yankee Doodle Dandy is a powerhouse of a performer.

What have you seen from Walsh and Wellman?
I've only seen two Cagney films but they contain two of my favourite performances of all time. One is Yankee Doodle Dandee which I was quite trepidatious going into but ended up lovely largely due to his magnetism on the screen. It's such a dynamic performance and it really makes the film.

The other is Ceiling Zero, a criminally underseen Howard Hawk's film that would probably be in my top 50 of all time. I bought a copy of it on DVD online which I think is from France and titled "Brumes" but the film was in full English. I think that Hawk's Only Angels Have Wings which revisits a lot of similar stuff is better, but love both of the films and in particular Cagney's performance.

From Walsh I've only seen Pursued which would be in my top 25 films of all time. I love Westerns, but this stands out as a favourite due to its unique imagery. It's more of a noir in many ways with its plot and slightly disturbing themes, but its a film beautifully told through imagery. If you haven't seen it I would highly recommend it and there's a great video essay on it from Tag Gallagher for Sight & Sound on Youtube.

From Wellman I've seen The Ox-Bow Incident which I thought was a great all-round Western and A Star Is Born which I watched more recently and was blown away by. I think I watched the latter on MUBI around the time Bradley Cooper released his new version. I wasn't sure how much I was going to enjoy it, especially when it starts with Vicki's humble beginnings, but it soon swept me into its dark world. Fredric March is absolutely incredible. My impressions of Wellman are that he seems like an efficient director, every scene seems to convey a lot of meaning, filled with detail but without excess.



It's been a while since I saw this film. I watched it years ago when I did some free online course in Scandinavian Film and TV. I think I had to do a small essay regarding the themes of faith, but what I really noticed about the film was similar to you - Dreyer's visual presentation of the story. Some of the cinematography and how he captures certain scenes and sequences is amazing. Your enthusiastic review makes me want to revisit the film. There was a member on here @bluedeed who was a big fan of the film and I know he also loved Dreyer's Gertrud which I am yet to get to.

So far the only others from him I've seen are The Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr which I know we talked about recently, a superb director.
Yeah, the composition/lighting is amazing.

I was also delighted and floored to read that the actress who played Inger had audio recordings of herself actually giving birth and they used some of that audio in the childbirth sequence.



BROKEN BLOSSOMS
(1919, Griffith)
A film with a title that starts with the letters A or B • A film from before 1920



"In every group there is one, weaker than the rest — the butt of uncouth wit or ill-temper"

Broken Blossoms follows Cheng Huan (Richard Barthelmess), a Chinese immigrant that travels to Britain to "spread the gentle message of Buddha". Although things don't go that well for him, he falls for Lucy (Lillian Gish), the abused daughter of a brute boxer (Donald Crisp).

Grade:



Full review on my Movie Loot thread
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I've only seen two Cagney films but they contain two of my favourite performances of all time. One is Yankee Doodle Dandee which I was quite trepidatious going into but ended up lovely largely due to his magnetism on the screen. It's such a dynamic performance and it really makes the film.

The other is Ceiling Zero, a criminally underseen Howard Hawk's film that would probably be in my top 50 of all time. I bought a copy of it on DVD online which I think is from France and titled "Brumes" but the film was in full English. I think that Hawk's Only Angels Have Wings which revisits a lot of similar stuff is better, but love both of the films and in particular Cagney's performance.

From Walsh I've only seen Pursued which would be in my top 25 films of all time. I love Westerns, but this stands out as a favourite due to its unique imagery. It's more of a noir in many ways with its plot and slightly disturbing themes, but its a film beautifully told through imagery. If you haven't seen it I would highly recommend it and there's a great video essay on it from Tag Gallagher for Sight & Sound on Youtube.

From Wellman I've seen The Ox-Bow Incident which I thought was a great all-round Western and A Star Is Born which I watched more recently and was blown away by. I think I watched the latter on MUBI around the time Bradley Cooper released his new version. I wasn't sure how much I was going to enjoy it, especially when it starts with Vicki's humble beginnings, but it soon swept me into its dark world. Fredric March is absolutely incredible. My impressions of Wellman are that he seems like an efficient director, every scene seems to convey a lot of meaning, filled with detail but without excess.
I enjoy YDD quite a bit. It's crazy how many genres Michael Curtiz essentially perfected the formula for but with both that and Night and Day, it's hard to see musical biopics that don't live in his shadow.

If you want any Cagney recs, I've got a few. I think Public Enemy, White Heat and Footlight Parade should be priorities.

I'll add that to my list as I'm wholly unfamiliar with that Hawks film. With HH, it seems I'm either entirely smitten with his film or fairly lukewarm. Yet to outright dislike one.

Pursued sounds good. I've only seen a handful of Walsh films (out of the 100 or so he's made) and though the bulk of his work is in the Western genre, I have found myself much more attached to his gangster films (Roaring Twenties, They Drive By Night, White Heat and High Sierra). He combines the two genres with The Lawless Breed but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped.

I need to watch the original version(s) of A Star Is Born. I've only seen the Cooper version which I liked much more than expected. Ox Bow Incident is among the most tragic and heavy westerns around and an exemplary "Western noir." I think Wings is also very worth watching, if only for it's iconic camera moves.

It's incredible how you can see a dozen films from these classic studio directors and barely stratch the surface of their output.





Love is a Ball, 1963

Etienne Pimm (Charles Boyer) has a semi-benevolent scam going whereby he helps titled-but-poor bachelors find wealthy wives. He has a small entourage who help stage events to help the couples fall in love. His latest project is a friendly-but-clumsy duke named Gaspard (Ricardo Montalban) whom he intends to pair with wealthy heiress Millie (Hope Lange). But when Millie develops a crush on a man Etienne has placed in her home as a chauffeur, John Davis (Glenn Ford), it threatens the entire operation.

I thought this was a fun little romp--a low-stakes romantic comedy that gets a boost from some above-average handling of its main characters.

Romantic comedies that pair wealthy women with less-wealthy men are often hard to watch, as they frequently trot out some really tired and obnoxious dynamics. She's stuck up, he teaches her a lesson. Or he's crude and she makes him more refined.

This film doesn't really go in either of those directions, and instead lets the characters find love through, imagine this, shared interests and enjoying each others' company. Millie is very into cars and John is a former racer. In their very first meeting, he tries to correct her mechanical work and she tells him to beat it and, winning my heart forever, tells him, "And don't call me honey." *chef's kiss*. The film indulges in a little of the obligatory "she bosses him around" stuff, but it doesn't fit that well with either of the characters and the two are soon given a real way to bond when Millie helps John work on repairs on his boat. From there, conflict develops as Millie is determined to compete in a car race and John is strongly opposed as he doesn't want her to get hurt.

Aside from a few broader attempts at humor with Millie's character (mostly in the first third), it is easy to like and empathize with these characters. When Millie discovers that she has been targeted for their scam, her reaction is completely understandable. John is a little more enigmatic--he just wants to be able to settle down into a quiet life--but mostly exudes an air of someone who is basically a good person.

In terms of hangups with the film, I only really had two.

The first is that there are some FABULOUS outfits in the film (especially Millie's Penelope-Pitstop-esque pink racing jumpsuit), and I wish that the costume design had been at that level the whole movie.

The other is maybe predictable, given the year of release, but it was kind of disappointing to see the way that Millie's idea of her own future get simplified so quickly when she decides to get married. She goes from someone who talks about loving machinery and racing and dancing and travel to someone who is totally stoked about getting to "take care of him and bring him breakfast every morning". And the problem is that we never hear John say what he will offer Millie. It would have felt so different if she'd added literally anything else to that statement. It's not hard to imagine Millie enjoying being someone's wife, but it does seem strange that all of her quirks, interests, and ambitions just seem to vaporize.

I would say that this movie lands a bit short. The central romance is fun and the performances are all solid, but it lacks a little something to boost it up into a more special category.




Thief (1981)

*** out of *****

Simple and well told story, featuring a great performance from James Caan and great cinematography. A solid debut for Micheal Mann.



PENINSULA



I think this film was a victim of cultural hegemonic forces and influences that made this film try to tap into the modern Chinese market and sensibilities. Not it only were there little bits and barbs tossed around like North Korea being and good thing and the increased presence of Hong Kong characters, the film just has the cheap, over-reliant on weightless CGI and extended, empty sequences punctuated by extreme melodrama. It did not feel like Korean cinema at all, even compared to its predecessor or other contemporary big Korean films, like Villainous.

Like modern Chinese cinema, there is still a deftness to the filming of action and a fearless imagination that makes it watchable, but without a strong anchorpoint like a great protagonist (it evokes Escape From New York but lacks a Snake Plissken) or plotting (basic post-apocalyptic MacGuffining) it just feels like a lot of bloat with little meat.

I was going to give this 3 stars until the climax sort of falls apart with some headscratching dramatic beats.

I wouldn't dissuade anyone from watching it but I also wouldn't expect another Train to Busan.