Sunday, January 02, 2005

Movies Viewed

Forever Amber -- is not a great movie. It is not terrible, however. There is a certain amount of spectacle. Some of the supporting cast -- most notably George Sanders as Charles II -- are marvelous. There is a scene set at a performance of "Romeo and Juliet" which is fascinating. This was an early Technicolor film and the print that I saw seems not to have aged well.

The Clearing -- is a thriller, but not really. The movie is really interested in illuminating its characters through the unfolding of its events. It is not interested in providing little shocks along the way, in "thrilling" you. Nor is it interested in tying up anybody's life in a nice, manageable package. Robert Redford, Helen Mirren and Willem Dafoe all seem to appreciate the opportunity afforded them by this film; they turn in admirably subtle performances.

The Postman Always Rings Twice -- I'm going to have to watch this movie again. It is almost universally acclaimed as a top-notch noir but, after my first viewing, I merely liked it. It didn't grab me the way I felt it should have. John Garfield does a very good job and Lana Turner does as good a job as I've seen Lana Turner do. Hume Cronyn and Leon Ames are standouts. Cecil Kellaway does a number of interesting things which, however, don't quite add up to a coherent character for me. The motorcycle cop (I cannot identify the actor) was a small role that bugged the hell out of me. He seemed to be too dumb by half. The movie as a whole seemed softer, glossier than I wanted it to be. Some intriguing ideas seemed to get buried and some (perhaps inevitable) implausibilities seemed too much at the fore. I much preferred Double Indemnity, Out of the Past, and about fifteen other noirs I can think of. Still, James M. Cain himself seems to have liked the movie and I've read some glowing reviews. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood. Like I said, I'll have to give it another chance...

Boogie Nights -- Paul Thomas Anderson reminds me of the Robert Altman of M.A.S.H. and Nashville or the Spike Lee of Do the Right Thing. He likes to gather a bunch of people together around some activity and show us all the interactions. This film is about a group of pornographers in the late 70's and early 80's, just as videotape began to rise to prominence as the preferred medium. Interestingly, although it is a very different movie (and a very different sort of movie), Paul Schrader's Auto Focus is also concerned with the impact of videotape on the production of pornography -- in particular, amateur pornography. Anderson is very sympathetic to these people, whose talents are modest but whose ambitions propel them forward. Unfortunately, in just about every case, they have had to ignore some aspect of the situations they are in. In the course of the movie they will have to come up, hard, against realities for which they are poorly prepared. There is surprisingly little nudity and virtually no salaciousness in this film. I wouldn't have thought that I'd ever call a movie about the demimonde of pornography a sweet film but, well, this one is...

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