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Broadway Melody of 1940

Unmemorable though not insufferable, with a decent Cole Porter score, glittery MGM art direction, and entirely too much plot. The stars are Fred Astaire, George Murphy, and Eleanor Powell, aka the Good, the Bad, and the Anxious. Norman Taurog directed. 102 min.

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The In-Laws

Cinematographer David Walsh made a specialty of rescuing visually inept directors, and after boosting Howard Zieff (House Calls) and Herbert Ross (The Goodbye Girl), he almost managed to redeem the truly irredeemable Arthur Hiller (Love Story). At least he’s the only likely source of the bracing confidence that runs through this 1979 feature, an ungainly […]

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Gallipoli

Classy and lifeless—a prettily photographed, heavily directed antiwar film (1981) that elicits only pity for its two young Australian protagonists, caught up in a suicide battle in World War I. The film spends most of its 100-minute running time developing the friendship between the two boys, while tipping the audience off to their ultimate fate—it’s […]

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Body Heat

Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 noir fable is highly derivative in its overall conception, but it finds some freshness in its details—which is what you might expect from the screenwriter of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back. Surprisingly, Kasdan shows more flair as a director than a writer: his images have a dark, […]

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The Postman Always Rings Twice

A literal-minded, stylistically conservative version of the James M. Cain pulp classic, which is to say a complete betrayal of it. Bob Rafelson’s direction has none of Cain’s lean hysteria; his Frank and Cora drift through their sex-drugged, sadomasochistic affair in a tone of depressed naturalism, without any invigorating sense of sin or transgression. When […]

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Frantic

Louis Malle’s first film (1957), made when he was 24, is a surprisingly suspenseful reworking of the perfect crime/sexual tension formula. Also known as Ascenseur pour l’echafaud (Elevator to the Gallows); with Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, and an improvised score by Miles Davis, playing with European musicians.

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The Bounty Hunter

Part two of Sergio Giral’s “Slavery Trilogy” is a portrait of Francisco Estevez, a bounty hunter who tracked down runaway slaves for the plantation owners of Cuba. He hatches an obsession for Melchora, the runaways’ legendary female leader, and the violent acts he commits in her pursuit appall even his white employers (1977).

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One Hundred Men and a Girl

Universal survived the Depression thanks to Boris Karloff and Deanna Durbin, the latter horror being a reedy-voiced child star who infected a number of late 30s musicals before creeping puberty ended her career. This is one of her more tolerable vehicles, with Deanna seducing Leopold Stokowski (1937). Henry Koster directed.

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You and i

Caught in a moral crisis, a Soviet scientist leaves Moscow for Siberia, where he meets and falls in love with another emotional refugee, a young woman who once attempted suicide. Larissa Shepitko directed (1971).