Monday 12 July 2021
Films can be escapist fun from the shittiness of real life. So let's escape.
71. (1930.) Mona Lisa (1986)
Bob Hoskins was a great actor. Here he plays a slow-witted but well-intentioned man, which is a necessity to get the story where it wants to take us. To his credit, I kept overestimating his character exactly as I was supposed to. (The title is not an accident; the Mona Lisa is a famous painting because you see in it what you want to see.) I didn't love the film, but I respect it.
I want to see a Coke
72. (1931.) Lisztomania (1975)
I don't respect Lisztomania, but I admit it has its moments. It's a totally bonkers musical film falling somewhere between biopic of Franz Liszt and allegory about music's power to brainwash the masses. I don't know if Liszt did drugs, but the filmmakers sure did, and they informed the script: It starts all fun and euphoric excitement, but it takes more and more effort to top the previous experience and by the end you just want it all to stop. (The Jack Kirby's Thor-influenced Frankenstein's monster Superman is about three musical bridges too far.) The turning point, as is so often the case, is the mid-film song-and-dance number in which Roger Daltry rides a giant erection straight (in)to the devil. The film wants to say a lot about too much, but the ultimate moral of the story is that what may look like a great metaphor on paper is often unwatchable garbage on screen.
73. (1932.) Mahler (1974)
An earlier film made by the same writer/director as Lisztomainia. This watches more like a conventional biopic of dour, difficult composer Gustav Malher. I found to my surprise that I missed some of the latter film's enthusasiam.
74. (1933.) Walk a Crooked Mile (1948)
This buddy cop early Cold War procedural goes out of its way to have the g-men make mistakes that result in lost lives. I cannot believe that the FBI was ever this incompentent whatever the social mores of the day were. They ignore a man dressed as a priest, discount the possiblity that a woman could be the guilty party, and accuse the naturalized citizen because he has a suspicious accent. Well, okay, maybe that last one still holds.
75. (1934.) One Sunday Afternoon (1948)
On the opposite side of the entertainment spectrum from "geo-political crime drama" is this traditional Broadway-style musical adapted into a film in which it takes all three acts to teach the irritatingly dim protagonist that his best buddy is not a good person. I enjoyed the songs, settings, actors, and the reminder that life at the turn-of-the-20th-century was just all-around rotten. (I don't think that last bit was intentional on the part of the filmmakers. I might have been reading my own biases into a world where women were either trophies or slaves, "painful" dentisty was the only option, and lynch mobs were still considered justice.) I judge the film to be a good way to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon when football is not an option.
77. (1936.) Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)
Did I say "escapist fun"? The takeaway here could have been "if you take agency, you can make a good life for yourself," but it's not. If fictional 1980s protagonist "Precious" was a real person, she would in all likelihood have died in obscurity decades ago from a disease forced upon her by her abusers, and the film doesn't let you forget that uncomfortable fact. It's more a "life sucks so let's do what we can to make it less painful for one another" scenario. It's a useful reminder and a good film.
More to come.