The Cinema Penitentiary Dairies: Reviewing March at the Movies

Here, then, is a rundown of what I saw in March:

1. Effie Gray, Through a Glass Darkly
2. Winter Light, the Silence, Poltergeist, Man’s Favorite Sport
3. Two Weeks in Another Town, The Bad and the Beautiful, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
4. Hiroshima Mon Amour, JeTaime JeTaime, The Bandwagon, American History X
5. The Reluctant Debutante, The Long Long Trailer, Jules and Jim, And God Created Woman
6. Older Brother Younger Sister, Battle of the Roses, Vice
7. Summer Clouds
8. Basic Instinct
9. The Frogmen, Harlow (Carroll Baker)
10. Harlow (Carol Lynley), Red Dust, Counterfeit Traitor, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?
11. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Purple Plain, Halls of Montezuma, Winds Across the Everglades
12. Designing Woman, The Cobweb, Pork Chop Hill
13. Black Moon, Badlands, Top Five, In a Lonely Place
14. Winter Sleep, Yearning, Focus
15. Pale Flower, With Beauty and Sorrow, Where Love has Gone, Manhattan, R100, Platinum Blonde
16. Los Olvidados, Confidence, Ringu
17. Sudden Rain, China Girl, Inequality for All
18. Fear City, Dangerous Game, To Live and Die in LA
19. Driller Killer, Cruising, Walter, The Longest Day
20. Delicate Delinquent, Sad Sack, Jauja, Carlito’s Way
21. Rock a Bye Baby, Interstellar, Q
22. Geisha Boy, My Geisha, Visit to a Small Planet
23. The Bellboy, Cinderfella, The Cobbler, I the Jury
24. The Errand Boy, The Ladies Man
25 The Nutty Professor, Welcome to New York
26. Savage Messiah
27. Martin (Hache), Medicine Ball Caravan
28. Guns of Darkness, The Theatre Bizarre
29. Woman in the Dunes
30. The Gambler (1974)
31. The Gambler (2014)

Three months into 2015, and so few decent movies. I’ve taken up the slack by looking more thoroughly into the work of Vincente Minnelli, Mikio Naruse, Abel Ferrara, and Jerry Lewis. I have also started looking more deeply into the effects of movie stars playing in World War Two pictures, and how those roles transformed their screen personas. I have also started work on demystifying Marilyn Monroe by contextualizing her into the careers of other glamor girls such as Jean Harlow and Brigitte Bardot.

The month began poorly with “Effie Gray,” a dragging bore given false authority by the participation of Derek Jacobi and Emma Thompson. If you are interested in stories about women abused by artistic husbands, I suggest reading “Wife of Mr. Milton” by Robert Graves. I awoke from this afternoon nap to immerse myself in Ingmar Bergman’s Trilogy of Faith, which failed to hit me as hard as had previous viewings in my younger years. But although I was not touched by its religious and philosophical content, the trilogy remains at the very least a cinematic touchstone.

After a lifetime of trying to appreciate Howard Hawk’s “Man’s Favorite Sport,” I think I finally understood it as well as the reasons for its critical failure. It is essentially a 1930’s screwball comedy transplanted to an era of puerile romantic comedies. It failed for the same reason “Pocketful of Miracles,” Frank Capra’s superior 1961 remake of his 1933 “Lady for a Day” failed. It was a film out of time.

The eight Vincente Minnelli pictures I to see reinforced something I have always thought about the director. His melodramas are much superior to his musicals. I rate him second only to Douglas Sirk, hope in coming months to write something about him that will be worth reading. The same goes to Mikio Naruse, who never gained the international status he deserves simply because of the unavailability of most of his films. After seeing nearly a dozen of them this month, I am leaning toward rating his work above Ozu, who has always been considered the finest and most Japanese of Japanese directors. Were it not for its tragic ending, I would place his 1964 masterpiece among the top ten romantic films of all time.

One of the singular discoveries of the month was Nicholas Ray’s 1958 “Winds Across the Everglades,” which goes where few films of this time have dared to go, an ecological melodrama from the autobahn society. then there is Anthony Asquiths’s suspenseful “Guns of Darkness,” which has David Niven and Leslie Caron aiding an overthrown president of a fictional South American country in his flight across the border.

The best film of the month was Alonso Lisandro’s “Jauja” set on a desert beach in Patagonia. This picture exists outside of my intelligence range, so I need to see it a few more times in order to stretch capacity to fully embrace so that I may have a chance of saying something about it that is not as stupid as most of the articles now circulating it, articles that fabricate an affinity with Ford’s “The Searchers,” only because the protagonist spends an inordinate of scene time searching for his daughter.

In addition to “Effie Gray,” this month’s musts to avoid include “Vice,” R100.” and “The Cobbler.” A step below them are the movies that put me into a coma, and to which I did not return. They include “Serena,” “The Canal,” “Walter,” “50 Shades of Grey,” and “Love is the Devil.”

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