Cinema Penitentiary Diary: June 1 – June 11, 2015

  1. Madame Bovary (Chabrol) REVIEWED Madame Bovary (Minnelli) REVIEWED
  2.                                                                                                   The Decameron, Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life is vulgar, funny, sweet, sly, near-pornographic, fantastical, murderous, sexy, revolting, shocking, infantile, hungry, lazy, and devious. It is the stuff of literature, the stuff of dreams, and the stuff of life.  Pasolini’s Eden is a garden of sin, but sin without knowledge, an innocent romp through the guts of satiety . Like Fellini’s Satyricon, it is a random sampling of the  infinite passions that pull us through through the  random days of our lives. Retreat, Hell  Director Joseph H. Lewis is on Sam Fuller terrain in this Korean War drama that dramatizes just how little the officers care about the lives of the soldiers, even when their deaths serve no purpose.  Multiple Maniacs Cheap, sickening, and mercilessly funny, John Waters’ career began in a cesspool of nastiness that might have sealed his fate, but instead opened the doors of Hollywood for him and his jolly band of perverts.
  1. Pretty Poison Who’s zooming who? Anthony Perkins seduces Tuesday Weld by pretending to be a secret agent, while she manipulates him into committing murder. A critical smash in its time, it is now largely forgotten, and begs rediscovery. The Fountainhead Even Ayn Rand haters have to cut her some slack on this one.  King Vidor’s film of Rand’s best novel  stars Gary Cooper as the architect who demands that his buildings be built according to his specifications on the basis that a man’s work belongs to him alone. Patricia Neal is excellent as the woman he loves, but scorns because she is intimidated by the power of the scabrous morons who rule the world.
  2. Move Over, Darling James Garner was no substitute for Rock Hudson, but as the sixties threatened to make the Doris Day formula obsolete, there were few actors who could even come close to Rock’s expressionless transparency. The Boys in the Band  Today,  many gays may be offended at what could be called stereotypes, but in the sixties, this play was lauded as the  first honest and direct attempt at portraying several different personality types common among gay men.  The film version is filled with laughter and pathos, and remains supremely entertaining to this day.
  3. The Vanishing This Dutch thriller is the most terrifying movie I have ever seen, and it is even scarier the next morning, when you wake up and think about it. Twenty-five years later, it is scarier yet. Avoid the pathetic remake.  The Pope of Greenwich Village Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts are every bit as good as Mean Street’s Harvey Keitel and Robert DeNiro in this similarly themed drama of friendship and stupidity on the periphery of a criminal world.
  4. Long Day’s Journey into Night Sidney Lumet, one of the finest and most under-appreciated of US film directors, brings this monolithic play flawlessly to the screen. Katherine Hepburn writes the book on stage acting for the screen, and her performance here may mark the pinnacle of that art. Mommy is not really such a bad film, but I hated it, from the pretentious use of a non-existent aspect ratio to the sentimental sympathy given the horrid little snape  who does nothing but ooze his personal putrescence  across the screen. Wild Horses REVIEWED  Invitation to a Gunfighter  Coming nine years before the similarly themed “High Plains Drifter,” this Yul Brynner western was too far ahead of its time to find an audience,  and probably plays much better today than it did in 1964.
  5. And Justice for All the travails of a lawyer played by al pacino was at the bottom of my list when this norman jewison picture came out in 1979. and god knows i couldn’t stand jewison’s directing. so i skipped this one, but just a few years later caught part of it by accident when it  played for one day on a double feature at the theater i managed. and man, was it hilarious.  and today this satire on the injustice system is more relevant than ever. in fact, there was just a story in the news right out of the movie. Baby Mama I never knew there was a whole sub-genre of pregnancy movies, and was even more surprised to see the top-drawer talent they attracted.  this one about a rich woman who hires a lower class con artist to carry her baby is one of the better ones.  And the Ship Sails On  everyone who wrote about this movie made it sound bad, and the only way you could see it in most cities of the US was on video tape, so I ended up missing it, and didn’t get around to seeing it until now.  boy, what we missed!!!  why was Fellini, as well as several other major European directors who continued making films into the eighties and beyond, dropped into obscurity in his later years?  I didn’t even know about his final film, 1990’s “The Voice of the Moon,” until this month, and it looks promising.
  6. What to Expect When You’re Expecting another pregnancy movie, this time with several expecting couples. i don’t usually seek out this kind of movie, and was surprised at how much i liked it.  even cameron diaz, who i generally cant stand, was pretty good.  Satan Never Sleeps Communists bust up a Catholic mission in China, while priest William Holden rebuffs the romantic advances of a Chinese girl. This wasn’t the kind of thing a kid was used to seeing in the late fifties, so it seemed pretty forbidden and strange, but it’s not much more than a soap opera powered by political propaganda.  Hardly in the same league as “The World of Suzie Wong.”
  7. Nine Months This high-toned pregnancy comedy with Hugh Grant isn’t nearly as good as the working class comedies. Pride of the Yankees Gary Cooper’s genius is that he give the same performance as Lou Gehrig, the humble, starry-eyed baseball hero, and Howard Roark, Ayn Rand’s egotistical genius, and have each character come across with opposing personality traits intact.  Bye Bye Birdee  I wouldn’t be surprised if  Phil Ochs’ golden-suited  performance at Carnegie Hall was inspired more by the fictional Conrad Birdee than Elvis Presley
  8. Away We Go And this indie pregnancy picture sucks. Babies But this new-agey documentary about babies in all corners of the world is pretty fascinating. Slightly Scarlet It is rare to find a film noir I haven’t seen before that is any good, but this was excellent.  I had not even read the Raymond Chandler story upon which it was based, so the whole thing was pretty fresh.
  9. The Intruder Director Roger Corman blames the failure of his civil rights drama on its controversial subject matter, but i think people stayed away because it looked cheap. When he had all the resources of Studio Hollywood at his fingertips, Corman was as creative as he was efficient. But he was no good out in the street with a rag tag crew. Critics can go on and on about how some of the top directors of the seventies got their starts in the business with him.What they don’t say, however, is how much Corman taught them about directing. Dark Victory REVIEWED A Stolen Life REVIEWED

7 thoughts on “Cinema Penitentiary Diary: June 1 – June 11, 2015

  1. Bill, I ♥ Pride of the Yankees. I swear Gehrig and Cooper could be brothers; their essence as wholesome dedicated heroes was so similar I would mistake one for the other if they shared the same room. You reminded me I’d like to see The Fountainhead and The Pope of Greenwich Village. Your diary is an interesting idea. I have been watching a lot of films, but don’t feel compelled to review every one. Another blogger does a Friday review of what she’s watched over the week with just a paragraph synopsis and a rating. I’ve toyed with the idea.


    1. I’ll probably stick primarily with this format for awhile, as the rewrite of my second novel”the mayor is a gringo” is taking up most of my time,and there is not enough to work on the film essays i would like to write. if you haventseen the fountainhead, you have another exquisite cooper performance ro look forward to. i would also recommend two of his final films from 1959 – they came to cordura and the wreck of the mary deare.


      1. I’ve been wondering where you’ve been. I’m happy your creative writing is going well. Blogging steals my time, but I think its important to keep blogging because it keeps your mind active and it’s good practice, not to mention comments and discussions are fun and I learn a lot. I’m super happy with the way my manuscript is progressing, but it’s tiring to concentrate on the research and implementing it into the fiction and the shaping a paragraph devoid of grammatical errors and the incubation period the characters need to blossom….it’s easier to write about films and respond to friends on the blogosphere–instant gratification.
        Anyway, your second novel sounds great! I know you live in Peru and that’s a unique angle not many can write about with deep authenticity. Your perspective would be interesting to read, Bill. Cheers, mate.


      2. I think the novel is the most difficult form to work in. You have to work at it day and night and keep the whole of it in the front of your mind at all times. Im only watching one or two movies a day now, mostly as a respite from the novel. I lost control of my first draft, and now am writing an entirely new beginning, which includes a completely different background for the main character, then I have to cut everything that doesnt fit in with the new material. Im glad your manuscript is going well, and that you are keeping up on your blog. even after resubscribing to it, i have not been receiving notifications of your postings. i just checked in and saw there is much here i havent read, so im going to get to it now.


      3. Hi Bill. I read the first chapter of (the old?) The Mayor is a Gringo where the narrator is in Boston who works at the theater. At the end, mad men dangle him out the window….
        I haven’t a clue why you don’t get notifications, but I always am glad when you give me your two cents. Conversations make the whole blogging experience worthwhile.


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