Four for early August.

13Aug12

I’ve watched several films this month that I wanted to review and planned to, but in the end a holiday abroad meant I never got around to it. Now I can’t write about them, because that breaks my golden rule of only writing with my immediate reactions and thoughts in mind. It’s hard work recalling everything that stood out, and justified enthusiasm is even harder to retain and duly release weeks on.

So the following four will sadly have to get a measly few lines instead. They were all interesting and worthwhile, even when they were bad. Here goes nothin’.

Husbands and Wives – This short Allen film from the early 90s is way under-looked. It’s about break-ups and how marriages go stale and how humans simply might not be built as monogamous swans – all that Up In The Air stuff he returns to so often and does so well. The difference here is that it’s the darkest humour he’s done, and Interiors aside it’s probably the most serious and dramatic film in his oeuvre. But the difference is that, unlike Interiors, it works. It was shot around the same time that Farrow discovered Allen’s affair with Su-Yi, and yet they somehow finished the film anyway. That knowledge alone ups the tension. But then there’s the fact that, paradoxically, the film ends up being a great paean to marriage as a long-term, stable, loving institution. Yes, not accommodating the conflicting desires of another and acquiring sexual freedom may have its perks. But they soon pale in comparison to the joys of having someone with which to share everything. It’s a conservative case by example for staying strong through thick and thin, and banishing any foolish thoughts that insist an alternative may be better. Allen may seem to have been rejecting that message at the very time he shot the film, but fortunately history has proven otherwise. Su-Yi and him clearly are long-term companions. So there’s no stench of hypocrisy to cloud the atmosphere. He’s ended up living in a way loyal to the film.

Midnight Cowboy – So let me get this straight: a 60s film about a male prostitute packed with sex and psychedelia won Best Picture? The Academy was hipper then than it is 40 years later, as last year it lacked the balls to even acknowledge Shame? It’s quite astounding that this won awards. Voight plays a Texan faux-cowboy hustler pursuing happiness by heading for New York on a greyhound bus, checking into a cheap hotel and hitting the streets immediately. The freedom soon dries up once his money is spent, his naivete shows, and he’s left in God-awful poverty scrounging off a guy who swindled him but turns out to be equally poor and hopeless. That guy’s Hoffman, and the quaintest of friendships soon flourishes. It’s all very American; a bonkers mixture of bohemian liberty and a dark economic reality. Do yourself a favour; check it out.

Bringing Up Baby – I bought myself a colossal Cary Grant collection off Amazon for my 21st, and this Howard Hawks screwball with Hepburn is the first I’ve caught. Grant plays a geek-zoologist tracking down the final bone for his dinosaur sculpture, at least until he gets caught up in the transportation of a leopard called Baby courtesy of the calamitous Hepburn. I hadn’t seen her in anything before, but she came across as riotously free and funny. The film was worthwhile for one scene alone of Grant following and cursing a dog who has buried the dinosaur bone. The rest of the gags that fill it were icing. Lick it up.

The Usual Suspects – Much recommended by friends, but I could barely stand it. A plot denser than Tinker Tailor and no more interesting, only Spacey’s mystical performance offered a hint of redemption. Yes, the twist is a real and huge one, but I didn’t find myself wanting to reflect on the way it recoloured everything. Probably because I couldn’t reflect. There’s enough names in the preceding ninety minutes to rival a Russian novel. Bring a notepad and you might stand a chance.

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