Hooray! We’ve reached number 200 on the list! 20% done! 200+ blog entries! And many, many hours spent in front of the TV! Tonight, we shall toast with bubbles and celebrate, but not before bringing you another very short film review of a very short film.
The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film is a series of strange and absurd slapstick comedy skits shot in the English country side. The title is almost longer than the film itself, and there’s very little we can say about it other than that it was amusing and reminded us a bit of Monty Python, so we would not be surprised if this was an inspiration for the comedy group. Which, if we’d bother looking it up, we’re sure we’d find was true.
Our second encounter with Monsieur Hulot (Tati) was perhaps even more enjoyable than our first. Mon Oncle introduces us to his extended family: his sister, his brother-in-law, and his adorable nephew. Oh, and their dog, of course. Cannot forget the dog.
Hulot’s brother-in-law Charles Arpel (Zola) and sister Mme. Arpel (Servantie – who doesn’t even have a name in this) live in their ultra-modern and technologically advanced house Villa Arpel, where everything goes wrong on a regular basis. In addition to their fancy house, they have son Gerard (Bécourt) and the aforementioned dog, both of whom like to play with strays.
While the Arpel’s try to keep up appearances to their neighbours, colleagues and anyone who should happen to pass by, Gerard is disenfranchised by it all and loves spending time with his unassuming uncle. However, Charles thinks Hulot is a bad influence, and that he should get a proper job, a proper house, and a proper life. Like he has.
There’s so much in this movie we loved! The opening credits, Mme. Arpel’s plastic house dress, the traffic moving in time with the music, the dogs, the hats (oh, the hats!), the slapstick, the hark back to the silent movie era (especially Modern Times), the trotting secretary, and the garden party populated by the worst kinds of people in the world.
A musical classic which we, like probably most of you, have seen numerous times before, there’s nothing not to love about Singin’ in the Rain. In the late twenties, silent movie stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont (Kelly and Hagen, respectively) have to make the transition into talkies or fade into obscurity.
They have one problem though – Lina Lamont has the most grating, annoying voice in history, and an accent which in no way matches her glamourous image. The solution: get aspiring actress and Don’s love interest Kathy Selden (Reynolds) to dub all of Lina’s dialogue and singing, against the star’s wishes.
Gene Kelly is, as always, amazing, as are Reynolds and O’Connor. The romance between Don and Kathy is very sweet – after the initial bickering which all film romances must go through, they are actually adorable together. Meanwhile, Cosmo’s snarky one-liners, cheerful disposition and fantastic physical comedy and dance moves make him the ultimate sidekick.
We love the musical numbers, the many many films within the film, the discrepancy between the stories Don tells the media vs. the real version of events, the physical comedy and basically everything about this film. It’s just a magical experience which will make you happy no matter what, and if it doesn’t you might need to see a doctor because you have no heart and you’re probably dead inside.
Modern Times is Charlie Chaplin’s comment on the Great Depression and the struggles of modern society, and he is clear in his condemnation of the eradication of humanity within the capitalist ideals of modern industrialisation.
The Tramp has got a job working in a factory straight out of Metropolis, and spends his time turning screws on an assembly line to maximise efficiency. After his boss tries out a new “feeding machine” on him (to reduce break time and thereby increase production), he finally snaps and has a mental breakdown.
After being advised to “take it easy and avoid excitement,” he inadvertently leads a worker demonstration and is arrested. In prison, he gets high on cocaine (again, without really realising it) and stops a mass breakout, earning him a position as the jailers’ pet.
He gets out of jail against his will (in prison, he is given food and clothes, which is quite a high quality of life during the depression) and immediately starts trying to find ways in which to get back in. He finds his opportunity when a young girl is caught stealing a loaf of bread, and he takes the fall for her.
The girl (Goddard) and the Tramp spend the remainder of the film trying to make a life for themselves, working as singing and dancing waiters in a café while doing their best to keep her out of the claws of something equivalent to Child Protective Services (which is where her siblings went after their father died). There are many complications, and some wonderful scenes (including an amazing skating bit in a shopping centre) but the two of them manage to be quite happy together even though their lives are unstable at best.
Modern Times is a beautiful and melancholy film which we really enjoyed. We loved the girl and her feisty and proactive personality, and the Tramp, though a hazard and fairly egocentric, was charming and funny. It was also interesting to go back to silent films after so many talkies, where everything spoken was recorded, broadcast through a machine or sung. One of our favourite Chaplin films for sure!
What we learned: once younger siblings are removed from your life, you never spare them another thought.
And we’re back to silent films. This time a tramp, a blind flower girl and a suicidal millionaire point out the vast differences between the rich and the poor. There’s also some very aggressive twirling on a dance floor and a well choreographed boxing match.
City Lights is not as devastating as The Gold Rush (as in we didn’t have to take breaks to cry our eyes out), but it has some of the same melancholy and a certain sense of despondency.
The Tramp meets a beautiful, blind flower girl and (at first inadvertently, then knowingly) tricks her into thinking he is rich. He also befriends a millionaire by stopping him drowning himself and thus gets the means to woo her (note to self: be on the lookout for suicidal millionaires).
Unfortunately, each time the millionaire sobers up he forgets all about the Tramp, so his income is sporadic at best. Still, all our favourite scenes were with the two of them including the aforementioned aggressive dancing.
We kind of preferred the Tramp when he was a prospector, probably because this time he tricks the blind girl into thinking he’s something he’s not. He is still funny and sweet though, and he means well. After reading an article about sight-restoring surgery, he decides to get a job and help out the flower girl. Hence the boxing match (as well as an actual job as a street sweeper, but that is less well choreographed..).
There’s slapstick, lots of physical comedy and everything else you’d expect from Chaplin, including a soundtrack composed by him which works really well with the visual. The ending is slightly ambivalent so feel free to interpret that as you wish. An enjoyable watch, but not as wonderful as some of the other films we’ve seen for this project. However, given the awesomeness of the list, it’s still miles better than most films in the world.
Things we learned: drunk friends aren’t real friends. Unless you get them drunk again.
Holy mindfuck, Batman! Un Chien Andalou is a surrealist short film made by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, and as such, you know you’re in for something a bit different. Two seconds in I, the oldest sister, realised I had seen it before, and then I remembered. There’s eye-stuff. Now, none of us is a stranger to gore (in fact, we often revel in it), but… I don’t like stuff involving eyes. I am never prepared for eye-stuff. I can’t even wear contact lenses because I’m scared of touching my own eyes.
The Younger Sister couldn’t even keep watching after the first minute (which is where the eye-stuff is) but Sister the Older kept going (despite my phobia). And apart from the scene with the razor blade and the eye it’s an enjoyable watch. Grotesque, absurd and surreal things are strangely attractive, and this film checks all those boxes.
After several comedies (and other uplifting films) in a row, the time had come for something more disturbing. La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (original title – check out our French skills!) tells the story of the trial and (spoiler alert!) execution of Joan of Arc. It was believed to be a lost masterpiece for many years until a copy was found in 1981, and check out where:
The film is a disturbing display of the time-honoured tradition of men standing in judgment of women. Joan, aged 19, is tried for heresy by the church after leading French troops by order from, according to her, God. The judges use torture and extortion to make her confess and lecherous guards ridicule and tease her, but she does not break. While a few of the judges are sympathetic and kindly towards her, most of them are treacherous and very “unchristian” indeed.
Joan is played by Maria Falconetti who gives an outstanding performance. It is worth watching the film for her alone (as well as the gorgeous lighting). Whether Joan was a saint or just a mentally ill teenager is never made clear, but that is not really important. The villains are the priests and judges either way with their lust for power and fear of anything that might take some of that power away. And their fear and hatred destroy something beautiful and innocent.
This was a disturbing watch (whisky had to be brought out at one point), but well worthwhile. However, is this really what they used to show mentally ill Norwegians? I think we just discovered the origins of black metal.
In this rollercoaster ride, the exquisite Buster Keaton portrays a slightly creepy hair-sniffing tintype photographer who falls instantly in love with a charming young lady played by the beautiful Marceline Day. He finds out that she works for MGM News Reel and promptly decides to get a job there as a cameraman. Which is kind of stalkery, but he is so nonthreatening that he gets away with it. He is also adorably uncoordinated with the camera, and slapstick ensues.
The characters are very likable. Probably for the first time (in terms of films we’ve watched for this project), the hero has fallen for a lady worth making good for. Sally is sweet and kind, and she tries to help him and give him advice when he accidentally double exposes all of his footage. She does not seem to care that he has very little money, and she appears to genuinely enjoy his company. No wonder, considering all the other douches creeping on her. At least Buster can do magic tricks!
The physical comedy is this film is wonderful. There’s an amazing one-man baseball scene, a hilarious stair-running bit, a brilliant scene on a bus and a very enjoyable running gag with a police officer. As well as a delightful scene in a dressing room, which I’m sure we would have enjoyed even if he didn’t get undressed…
Among its many merits, The Camerman has a shoot out scene which rivals that of Spaced (1999-2001), and there’s a bit with a monkey. It is considered by many Keaton’s last masterpiece as he lost creative control of his movies around this time and eventually descended into alcoholism. Which is not funny. But the film is. So if, like us, you have developed a major crush on Buster Keaton, this is a definite must-see.
Only the second Buster Keaton film and we’re already in love. He is so incredibly physically gifted, and when you combine that with his stony face you cannot avoid falling for him.
The plot is not overly complicated, but it works. A boat captain, Steamboat Bill, is being forced out of the business by a mogul named King(!). Simultaneously, the captain’s estranged son, the eponymous hero, is coming to see him for the first time since he was a baby (the son that is – not the father). Bill, Jr. is nothing like his father pictured or wanted which leads to one of the best make-over scenes in history.
Bill Jr.’s relationship with King’s daughter is also a source of discord between father and son. They have a kind of Romeo and Juliet-thing going on except with more slapstick and less murder and suicide.
If you ever need an excuse to watch Buster Keaton being awesome this is it (not that anyone needs an excuse). The main part of the film is just him doing spectacular stunts and showing off his (pre-B-Boy) power moves. It’s hilarious and awe-inspiring, and you can watch the whole thing here. It’s also educational; among other things we have now learned that coconut shells were the legos of the 1920s (in terms of damage to bare feet). If you need further prompting, Steamboat Bill, Jr. includes one of Keaton’s most memorable moments; the house falling-scene.
This was a new one for us. In a small town, a farmer is having an affair with a woman (read: femme fatale) who’s on vacation. Naturally, she suggests he kills his wife, sells his farm and goes to live with her in the big city. She has the whole plan worked out to the smallest detail, and he goes along with it.
The farmer’s wife knows about the affair (and is sad yet extremely passive about the whole thing) but when he suggests a boat ride, she seems to think that everything is fine once more. She is, of course, wrong (and naive – even the dog knows what’s up!). Once in the water, the husband attempts to go through with his diabolical plan. However, he cannot do it, and rows them to shore, where she promptly runs away (good girl!) and he chases after her.
Considering trying to murder your spouse will put a strain on any marriage, they deal with it in the best way possible: cake! Also flowers, wedding crashing, photography and dancing. And this is what I meant by saying it will toy with your emotions. The thing is, what he has done is despicable and unforgivable. Yet, the two of them are so sweet and adorable running around the city, drinking wine, dancing, chasing pigs and trying to put a head on a Venus de Milo statue, you end up wanting them to live happily ever after!
I suppose he realises that it was the lure of the exciting city that attracted him rather than the mistress or something to that effect, because he ends up doing everything the mistress talked about with his wife instead. And they’re adorable, which they have no right to be after what he almost did.
Now, the film doesn’t end here, but we don’t want to spoil the ending for you. It is worth watching in full, and you can easily find it on Youtube.
The film is beautifully shot with great use of light and darkness (which of course is very symbolic throughout). The wife is completely adorable (though annoyingly passive in the beginning), but the husband we’re not too sure about. The title suggests their humanity and that we shouldn’t judge them too harshly so we won’t. (It also suggests that the mistress is somehow less than human as she is clearly part of the story but it only involves two humans.) Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is still a bit of a feelgood movie and worth watching for the photography scene alone. Or the dog. Whatever rubs your Buddha.