#195 Shoot the Piano Player

Watched: August 26 2018

Director: François Truffaut

Starring: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michèle Mercier, Albert Rémy

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 21min

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Charlie Kohler/Edouard Saroyan (Aznavour) is a piano player in a dive bar, but a former classical concert pianist. When his brother Chico (Rémy) seeks him out to shelter him from a couple of gangsters he’s pissed off, Charlie gets dragged back into the criminal family he’s avoided for years.

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“Just ran into the weirdest dude out there. Told me all about his marriage and his wife, completely unprompted. Oh, and also, I’m chased by some thugs and I need you to help me escape.”

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Simultaneously, the shy and slightly awkward musician strikes up a relationship with waitress Léna (Dubois), but the gangsters follow them one night and the couple are kidnapped. However, they get on surprisingly well with their kidnappers.

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Although not as well as Charlie gets on with his friendly neighbourhood prostitute next door

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They get out of that fix unharmed, but as the gangsters become more and more determined to use Chico’s family members to track him down, Charlie realises he must flee and leave his girlfriend behind. Lest she ends up like his first wife…

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“So, first there was the wife. That ended badly.” “How badly?” Well, she’s dead. Then there’s my neighbour Clarisse, but she’s more of a very good friend.” “How good?” “Oh, very, very good… But I swear I’m actually a good guy. Just very unlucky.”

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Shoot the Piano Player is very different from our last encounter with Truffaut, The 400 Blows. It’s a bit Noiry, with the flashbacks, the past the main character cannot escape, the general bleakness and the occasional voiceover narration.

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The trigger happy gangsters complete the picture (we loved them, although their casualness and easy conversation with their victims made them even scarier than your normal movie thugs)

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It’s often sad, dark and depressing, but there are some fantastic laugh-out-loud moments which help alleviate the whole affair somewhat. We’ve been missing the noirs a bit lately (there were so many of them for a while there!), so we really enjoyed this one. Worth watching for fans of French New Wave, Film Noir, thrillers, dramas, and Truffaut in general.

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Or fans of pianos. Or, indeed, people who hate piano players with a fiery vengeance.

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What we learned: Even super polite and likable kidnappers can be ruthless killers.

Next time: Spartacus (1960)

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#194 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Watched: August 25 2018

Director: Karel Reisz

Starring: Albert Finney, Shirley Anne Field, Rachel Roberts, Hylda Baker, Norman Rossington, Bryan Pringle, Edna Morris

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 29min

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Arthur Seaton (Finney) is an Angry Young Man who works in a factory and spends his weekends drinking, annoying the neighbours, and sleeping with his coworker’s wife, Brenda (Roberts).

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He’s also heavily into competitive drinking, which never fails to impress the ladies

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Even striking up a relationship with the charming and beautiful Doreen (Field) does nothing to break his illicit affair. However, he runs into trouble when Brenda becomes pregnant while Doreen is ready to go to the next level.

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After months (?) of courtship, she’s ready to actually let him in the door

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Arthur is immature and oppositional, but he’s charming and seems to have a good heart. Although it’s sometimes deeply buried… His greatest fear is to turn into his parents, who he feels have not really lived life – just survived it. Still, getting away from that life is harder than it seems, and while he has ambition, he has no real outlet for it, or any sort of plan to alter the direction of his life.

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It’s hard to save up for adventure and excitement when you drink up your paycheck every weekend

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Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is an early British New Wave kitchen sink drama (check out our terminology!), and the very sophisticated, educated and cultural Sister the Oldest actually read the book at some point. Oh yes.

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It was during one of her breaks from watching television, which are few and far between…

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It’s an engaging film, and we loved it. When it comes to social realism, none of them would be our first pick for weekend entertainment, but we never regret watching them. This particular one was also not quite as bleak as we were afraid it would be, although we suppose Arthur’s greatest fears were likely to come true judging by the ending…

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One man’s dream is another man’s nightmare. We’re just not sure which side of that Arthur is on right now.

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What we learned: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Next time: Shoot the Piano Player/Tirez sur le pianiste (1960)

#192 Peeping Tom

Watched: July 11 2018

Director: Michael Powell

Starring: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer, Maxine Audley

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Man with daddy-issues goes on killing spree. Hated by critics.

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“Oh, this pointy thing? I just use it to get the best possible angle for a portrait shot.”

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For those of you who want more context than the initial summary, Mark Lewis (Böhm) is an aspiring film maker who shoots soft porn during the day and murders at night. His neighbour Helen (Massey) takes an interest in the socially awkward weirdo, and we learn that Mark was used as a guinea pig by his psychiatrist father who studied fear.

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Daddy also filmed the child abuse. Father of the year!

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Peeping Tom was initially hated by critics and basically killed the career of its director, but time has worked in its favour and it is now a beloved classic. And we absolutely loved it!

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We loved this movie almost as much as this guy loves his camera. Which is a bit of a love/hate-relationship to be honest.

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We were enthralled from the very beginning, with the camera point-of-view, and we were on the edge of our seats throughout. Mark is a complex and strange character; is the real him the awkward and timid man he is in social situations, or is it the dynamic take-charge man we see when he’s about to commit murder?

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We’re sure this woman was super-impressed by his sudden alfa-maleness just before she was brutally murdered

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As horrible as Mark is, we’re also forced to sympathise with him learning his backstory, and Helen (who we really liked) actually falls for the guy.

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Who wouldn’t fall for a guy with such an impressive set-up?

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It’s a must-see for horror fans (or movie fans in general), and it works fantastically as a double bill with the upcoming Psycho. Get out your blankets, wine (or tea – we don’t judge) and snacks, and enjoy!

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It’s also very pretty. Just saying.

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What we learned: First rule of serial killing: lock your damn door!

Next time: Psycho (1960)

#191 La Dolce Vita

Watched: August 5 2018

Director: Federico Fellini

Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée, Yvonne Furneaux

Year: 1960

Runtime: 2h 54min

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Jesus is out flying in Rome, followed by journalist Marcello Rubini (Mastroianni) whose pursuit of religious iconography is momentarily distracted by a bunch of sunbathing girls on a rooftop.

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The failure of all major religions: not enough sex appeal

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We continue to follow Marcello as he chases stories, fame, love, sex and meaning, and on the way he encounters a series of more or less fortunate events.

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The most famous of which is fountain-bathing sex-symbol Sylvia (Ekberg)

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In addition to the failed seduction of Sylvia, Marcello hangs out with intellectuals at a party, sleeps with an aristocrat in a prostitute’s bed, and saves his girlfriend’s life when she tries to kill herself (because of his philandering).

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It’s challenging keeping your affairs secret when all your best friends are photographers and all your lovers are famous enough to get their pictures printed in magazines

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Among his other adventures are reporting on children who see the virgin Mary (and others killed in stampedes brought on by this), partying with daddy and some showgirls, kicking it with aristocrats and film stars, ghost hunting, lover’s quarrels, murder/suicide, drag queens and growing into a proper douchebag.

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We weren’t kidding about the douchebag thing

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There’s been so much said about La Dolce Vita by people much smarter than us that there’s really very little we can add. We loved Iris and the costumes, and while the movie is almost 3 hour long, it never gets boring. Marcello is somewhat hard to read, but the society falling apart all around him is oh so easy to see.

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Nothing says “disillusioned” like sitting down in the sand in a white suit

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It’s a fantastic movie and you can see its influence in numerous other films and other works of art. It’s one of those classics where even if you haven’t seen it, you still sort of have. However, if you really haven’t, it’s well worth your time.

What we learned: If your man is a serial adulterer, don’t try to kill yourself. Just leave him. You’re better than that. Live your life! Also, fucking paparazzi, man. Oh, and also modern society and stuff, etc.

Next time: Peeping Tom (1960)

#190 Eyes Without a Face/Les yeux sans visage

Watched: August 4 2018

Director: Georges Franju

Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Edith Scob, Juliette Mayniel, Béatrice Altariba

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 30min

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A woman dumps a faceless body in the middle of the night. The body is found and identified as Christiane Génessier (Scob) by her father, Doctor Génessier. Her face was destroyed in a car accident caused by the doctor and she is presumed to have killed herself.

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“Yes, yes, definitely my daughter. I would recognize her lack of face anywhere.”

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The body is buried and no one questions its identity, but what is the deal with all the missing girls in the area? The ones who resemble the presumably dead girl? The one with the ruined face and the surgeon father..?

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They’re certainly not having their faces removed and transplanted to Christiane. No siree!

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Doctor Génessier is riddled with guilt and hubris, and despite his daughter’s protests he’s trying to repair the damage he’s done, leaving in his wake a trail of faceless bodies. With the help of former patient Louise (Valli), he kidnaps young women, removes their faces, and tries to transplant them onto his own daughter who he keeps locked up in the house like the stray dogs he experiments on.

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At least the prisoners can take comfort in each other’s company

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We love everything about this film! The circusy music, the surgery shown in excruciating detail, the haunting mask and outfits of Christiane which make her look like a doll, and the ending with the gorgeous final shots – there’s nothing here not to love.

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She’s like the adorable ghost of a life-sized doll wandering about the mansion, bonding with animals Gothic Disney-princess style.

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Daddy is a giant douche whose pride is more important than the happiness of his daughter, even if he tells himself he’s doing this for her. Also, there’s some seriously shoddy police work going on – we mean, why would they send in Paulette (Altariba) for a consultation with the doctor without keeping an eye on her or instructing her to report back when she was discharged? Amateurs.

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“Yeah, this is what you get for shoplifting!”

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Terribly unprofessional police work aside, Eyes Without a Face is a haunting horror movie which should be on everyone’s to-watch list. It’s terrible and beautiful, and it reminds us of a twisted and dark fairytale. Love it!

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We prophesize a Disney remake

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What we learned: Looks aren’t everything.

Next time: La Dolce Vita (1960)

#189 Breathless/À bout de souffle

Watched: July 19 2018

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 30min

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Michel (Belmondo) steals a car and sings and narrates his way towards Paris. The misogynistic crook ends up shooting a cop who catches up with him and is soon wanted all over France.

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“No worries. I’ll just don a hat and some shades and Clark Kent my way out of this mess”

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For such an unlikable man, Michel has a way with the ladies and manages to get some money out of one female friend before moving on to the main object of his desires, American journalism student Patricia (Seberg). He tries to convince her to run away with him while she tries to figure out how she feels about the man she spent a few nights with.

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“Eyes up here, tiger!”

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Michel wants to be a tough guy and he models himself on Humphrey Bogart. Patricia is also trying to figure out who she is – perhaps the Bonnie to his Clyde? With the police closing in, they are running out of time and decisions must be made. Who are they really?

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I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Humphrey-and-Audrey

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Breathless is stylish and artsy, sometimes with a documentary feel to it, while other times it feels more like a romantic comedy or a noir. We love how cool it is, the breaks in the fourth wall, the cuts and close-ups, the opening line and Patricia’s gorgeous stripy clothes (really – she only wears stripes).

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With many to choose from, this dress remains our favourite

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It’s definitely a must-see for anyone with even a slight passing interest in French new wave cinema.

What we learned: Don’t fall for someone who generalizes about your gender every time you don’t do what they want.

Next time: Eyes Without a Face (1960)

#187 Beat Girl

Watched: July 11 2018

Director: Edmond T. Gréville

Starring: Gillian Hills, David Farrar, Noëlle Adam, Christopher Lee, Adam Faith, Oliver Reed

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 29min

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Jennifer (Hills) is a poor little rich girl with daddy issues and a need to distinguish herself and find her identity. She spends her time with sort-of boyfriend Dave (Faith), a musician with a magical guitar that can play all instruments, and his beatnik friends in a bar in Soho.

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As all teenagers, they are the only ones who have found the real answer to life. Skipping school and living for kicks, unlike those other squares!

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When her rich architect dad Paul (Farrar) brings home his new French wife Nichole (Adam), Jennifer is less than impressed. She rejects all of Nichole’s attempts at forming a relationship, even though her new stepmom might just be the only one who really tries to understand the girl.

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It helps that the daughter and the new wife are practically the same age

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Paul is more interested in his vision of a future city he wants to build than he is in his daughter, which drives Jennifer to increasingly risky behaviour to get his attention. When a local stripper recognizes Nichole, Jennifer makes it her mission to dig up dirt from her stepmother’s past, which puts her on the radar of dangerous strip club owner Kenny (Lee).

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“I am Dracu… I mean, I am Kenny! Dammit.”

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We really enjoyed Beat Girl despite our sympathy for Jennifer being a bit limited. Maybe we’re too old to empathise completely with a spoiled girl playing at being special and shocking, although we can understand her motivation and we like that she shows some spunk and self-preservation, especially in her dealings with Kenny.

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Pictured: not the father figure you’re looking for.

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Still, she’s a bit of a pretentious bitch. However, we loved the opening scene, the music (by John Barry), the now dated slang used by the teenagers, and the very salacious strip tease.

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FYI, if you like women who know their way around a sheet, this is the film for you!

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It’s a well-scored and interesting perspective on the disenfranchised post-war generation and well worth watching.

What we learned: Play with fire and you’ll get burnt. Also, we need Dave’s magical guitar!

Next time: Black Sunday (1960)

#183 The 400 Blows/Les quatre cents coups

Watched: July 4 2018

Director: François Truffaut

Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy, Patrick Auffay

Year: 1959

Runtime: 1h 39min

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Antoine Doinel (Léaud) is a pretty average kid. He lives with his self-centred mother (Maurier) and nice enough, but very strict, stepfather (Rémy) in a small apartment in Paris. He doesn’t do too well in school and occasionally gets in trouble, although his best friend René (Auffay) seems to be the instigator at least some of the time.

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“I’m thinking we should hire some hookers and then kill some puppies?” “Yeah, I was thinking more like skip school and go to the fair..?”

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After he’s caught skipping school and lying about his mother’s death to cover for it, Antoine runs away from home. It only lasts for a day or so though, but when his teacher later accuses him of plagiarising Balzac, Antoine runs away again. This time for a while, and with more serious consequences.

 

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“Copied” sounds so harsh. I prefer “inspired by.”

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Antoine is misunderstood and/or ignored throughout the film. None of the adults in his life take the time to listen to him, and his actions are very often misinterpreted and harshly punished, such as his homage to Balzac and his return of the stolen typewriter (which, granted, he did steal earlier).

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Considering the irony of being caught returning stolen goods…

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We loved The 400 Blows. While it’s a fairly tragic tale of a talented but misunderstood young boy who gets into all sorts of (quite serious) trouble, it’s not all bleak. We loved the P.E. sequence with the rapidly diminishing student body, the centrifugal carousel, the shrine to Balzac and the kids watching the puppet show.

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Not to mention the extremely disruptive students

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Without spoiling it, the ending is also (possibly) optimistic, with Antoine standing at several thresholds and between two chapters of his life. There are four more films made about the same character played by the same (wonderful) actor, and we’re tempted to make a night of it and watch them all. In about ten years when we’re done with everything on the list

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In case you were wondering, we do bring this amount of energy and enthusiasm to every single film screening. Every. Single. One.

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What we learned: Life is hard for kids. Also, parents have responsibilities beyond feeding their children.

Next time: Special Bonus Post! Oboy oboy oboy!!!

#180 Rio Bravo

Watched: May 17 2018

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Claude Akins, Ward Bond, John Russell

Year: 1959

Runtime: 2h 21min

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A brawl (of the murderous kind) in a saloon leads to the arrest of Joe Burdette (Akins), criminal brother of a local hot shot rancher. As many forces are looking to get Joe out, sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne) enlists the help of former deputy Dude (Martin) to keep him safely locked away, despite Dude’s alcohol problem and the fact that he was one of the reasons for the brawl in the first place.

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“We’re getting the band back together!”

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Together with comic relief Stumpy (Brennan) they must defend the jail, the sheriff’s office and the town, something which proves difficult when Joe’s henchmen and Big Brother Nathan (Russell) get involved. Reinforcements (reluctantly) arrive in the form of young gunslinger Colorado Ryan (Nelson) and, in another way, poker player Feathers (Dickinson).

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“Age gap? 24 years is no age gap! My last boyfirend was 78.”

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How will this ragtag team of alcoholics, kids, oldies, cripples and (gasp!) women manage to survive until the Marshall comes to pick up the condemned prisoner? Why, with song and explosions, of course!

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First we sing. Then we blow shit up.

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Rio Bravo has everything you could ever hope for in a western – rugged men; feisty women; fancy, semi-colour-coded hats; shootouts; explosions; horses; clearly defined bad guys and romance.

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One man learns that there exists a different kind of romance than that between a man and his horse

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We loved the silent scene at the start, the tension throughout, the character names (Chance, Stumpy, Dude and Feathers – are we sure this isn’t a cartoon?) and Angie Dickinson. Clocking in at well over two hours, this movie just flies by and was great family entertainment when we sat down to watch it with our parents and brother on May 17 – the Norwegian national day. After a day of wholesome fun with nephew and niece, what’s better than watching a bunch of manly, yet sensitive, men kill each other?

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“Hear that, boys? The crowd is ready for an encore!”

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What we learned: Wild West men were surprisingly sensitive and in touch with their feelings. Also, some will go to great lengths to ensure justice is served.

Next time: Sapphire (1959)

#177 Imitation of Life

Watched: April 28 2018

Director: Douglas Sirk

Starring: Lana Turner, John Gavin, Juanita Moore, Sandra Dee, Susan Kohner, Robert Alda

Year: 1959

Runtime: 2h 5min

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On a busy beach, aspiring actress/model Lora Meredith (Turner) is looking for her daughter. She finds the girl in the company of an African-American lady, Annie Johnson (Moore), who she hires as a live-in babysitter after learning she and her daughter are homeless.

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Ah – the good old days when you could invite random people you met at the beach to come live in your home and it didn’t end in murder-robbery but lifelong friendship.

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Lora goes to see a theatrical agent, Allen Loomis (Alda), who basically tells her that to succeed she must prostitute herself, something she’s not yet quite desperate enough to do. However, she gets a break when a playwright likes her honest critique of his play, and is soon catapulted to stardom, much to the chagrin of love interest Steve Archer (Gavin) who’d rather have her be a stay-at-home mom and his wife.

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“Why would you possibly desire to have your own career and make your own money when you can just shack up with me? I forbid it!”

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Lora and Annie stay friends for the next 10+ years, as the former finds success and the latter eventually gets paid for being her maid. Their daughters grow up, but while Lora’s daughter Susie (Dee) is a well-adjusted blonde with a private school education, Annie’s daughter Sarah Jane (Kohner) is light enough to pass for white and develops some serious identity issues.

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“This is America! There’s no way anyone will treat you differently just because they find out that you are black!”

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As is tradition, we loved this Sirk film more than we thought we would. Sarah Jane, though an atrocious dancer and slightly annoying, is a tragically intriguing character, Annie is just the best, Susie is pluckily charming, and Lora is self-centred yet understandably ambitious. And there are also some men there, more often than not screwing up the women’s lives.

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There are also gorgeous costumes and sunglasses to die for

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Lora and Annie’s friendship seems to be fairly mutual even though Annie works for Lora, but we learn that Lora knows absolutely nothing about her friend’s life outside of the house, which is very telling.

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“Friends? What friends? But you cease to exist when I leave the house, don’t you?”

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Imitation of Life is about friendship and family and heritage and sexism and racism and authority. And probably lots of other things as well. We loved it, and we’re now off to plan our funerals. Those things are not to be left to chance.

What we learned: If you love someone, apparently it gives you the right to decide for them. And control them. And be petulant if they make their own decisions. Also, racism sucks!

Next time: North by Northwest (1959)