Sunday, November 05, 2006

Watched October 30 - November 5, 2006

So This Is Paris (Ernst Lubitsch, 1926)

Lubitch at his most light-hearted -- in this very very loose adaptation of the same French play that gave the world Johann Strauss's "Die Fledermaus". The four principals - Monte Blue, Patsy Ruth Miller, Lilyan Tashman and George Beranger -- are utterly perfect (and Myrna Loy appears as a maid -- in one her earliest roles). The sardonic intertitles are often a treasure in their own right.

Feet First (Clyde Bruckman, 1930)

This early Harold Lloyd sound films re-traces "Safety Last" to a considerable extent. But the high-altitude daredevil stunts just go on to long for me.

Shukujo to hige / The Lady and the Beard (Yasujiro Ozu, 1931)

Of all Ozu's surviving films, this may be his most purely comic film. No deep messages, but with superb performances (especially from Tokihiko Okada, our bearded hero, and Hiroko Kawasaki, our virtuous but practical, kinono-clad secretary) and utterly entertaining. As with Yamanaka's "Million Ryo Pot", one can clearly see Lubitsch's impact on Japan's western-oriented film makers here.

Munekata shimai / Munekata Sisters (Yasujiro Ozu, 1950)

Possibly Ozu's dullest (surviving) film. Ozu made this on loan to the new (and short-lived) Shintoho -- and they wanted a glossy adaptation of a then-popular novel that stuck closely to the books plot (and dialogue). Shintoho also picked Ozu's cast (a great one -- on paper) and crew. Though Ozu undoubtedly this his best shot, the dialog is stilted and the performances (from Kinuyo Tanaka, Hideko Takamine, Ken Uehara, So Yamamura and Chishu Ryu) are generally lackluster and unconvincing. While therre are some lovely shots, the pacing is pedestrian.

Man of Destiny (Desmond Davis, 1981)

One of the best performances (of those I've seen so far) from the new 10-play set of Shaw plays issued by BBC. Simon Callow (as Napoleon) and Delphine Seyrig (as the "mysterious lady" trying to intercept a compromising letter) are simply superb -- as are the two supporting cast members in this short-ish historical romance (or anti-romance). Perhaps even better presented than the delightful "You Never Can Tell" from this set (which we re-watched in order to show off to one of my children's friends).

Les noces de papier / Paper Wedding (Michel Brault, 1989)

The story of a South American political refugee (Manuel Aranguiz) with visa problems and a professor (Geneviève Bujold) who marries him to help him hang on to his right to reside in Canada. Unfortunately, the immigration bureau is not convinced of the bona fides of their marriage. In the process of learning enough about each other to fool the immigration judge that their relationship is legitimate, these two rather lonely people begin to care about each other in reality.

Though largely unknown south of the 49th parallel, Brault might just be the greatest living Canadian director (of feature films). While this film is softer-edged (and more fairy tale like) than Brault's earlier quasi-documentary work, it is nonetheless a wonderful film. And it is always a pleasure to see Bujold in a worthy film.

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