#94 The Third Man

Watched: March 27 2017

Director: Carol Reed

Starring: Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard

Year: 1949

Runtime: 1h 44min

The Third Man Poster

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Holly Martins (Cotten) arrives in post-war Vienna to start a job provided for him by Harry Lime (Welles) only to find that his friend has died. As Martins starts looking into the accidental death, things don’t add up. Conflicting witness statements and suspicious characters convince the mystery writer that there is something strange going on and he starts to investigate with the help of Harry’s (somewhat illegal) girlfriend, Anna Schmidt (Valli).

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It’s a long and winding road to get at the truth. And it’s almost as if there’s symbolism in the sets and cinematography.

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We cannot really say much more about the plot without spoiling the film. Suffice to say, Holly’s suspicions are not unfounded and his investigation takes him deep into the murky waters of war profiteering in post-war/early cold war era Vienna. There are twists and turns aplenty and it’s an exciting and engaging watch.

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It’s a wet dream for cobblestone aficionados everywhere!

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What stands out the most in The Third Man is the incredible use of shadows which reminded us a bit of the early German expressionist films we watched, just turned up to 11 (as did a lot of the angles). The beautiful architecture of Vienna with the juxtaposition of the gorgeous buildings and the rubble of the collapsed structures was beautiful, although we’re sure Austrians may disagree with that.

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For horror fans, there’s also a creepy balloon guy.

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Wet cobblestones, lots of arches, scary shadows, and a strangely beautiful sewer system make the film very visually appealing. There’s also a decorative lampshade – the very epitome of the Noir trope. The performances are great, with Welles being nicely menacing and slick.

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As we said, cobblestone aficionados need look no further for a fix.

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Neither do fans of Orson Welles’ strange charm

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Seriously though – very attractive sewer! We can see ourselves turning it into some sort of Gothic paradise.

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What we learned: War is the mother of invention. Also, sister the oldest is a little shadow slut. She loves her some good shadows!

Next time: White Heat (1949)

#91 Criss Cross

Watched: March 20 2017

Director: Robert Siodmak

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally

Year: 1949

Runtime: 1h 28min

Criss Cross

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Steve Thompson (Lancaster) has returned to Los Angeles after a year’s absence, and he quickly reconnects with ex-wife Anna (De Carlo) – the main reason he left town a year earlier. While they seem to be ready to start their relationship again, Anna is also pursued by local gangster Slim Dundee (Duryea) and after a series of miscommunications with her ex-husband as well as pride on both their parts, she ends up marrying Dundee.

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Her new marriage leads to a lot of sneaking around dark parking lots with her ex. That’s what you get for marrying money instead of…whatever it is Steve is to her. Passion perhaps?

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When the lovers are caught in Steve’s house, he tries to cover up their affair by suggesting to Anna’s criminal husband that they join forces for a heist. As an armoured truck driver, Steve offers to be an inside man on a pay roll robbery as long as no one gets hurt in the process. What could possibly go wrong in this scenario?

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Alarm bells should have rung when everyone else showed up at the party in variations of this outfit

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Criss Cross explores a lot of the typical Noir tropes, such as the good guy whose fate is sealed through a mix of circumstances, bad decisions and, of course, the love for a Dame. In addition, there’s the usual: flashbacks, heists, double-crossings, chain-smoking, heavy drinking, gorgeous dresses, the protagonist’s voice-over, and a gradually darker and darker story line.

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As pictured here, Criss Cross also features the typical Noir trope The Decorative Lampshade. Classic!

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The Dame here is fairly innocent and nice compared to a few others we’ve encountered so far, although looks can be as deceiving as a Dame. Anna almost seems another victim – of men in her case, who treat her fairly crappily and might be to blame for her Dameyness (totally a word!), though some of the responsibility might lie with her (her alternative may have been to end up like the barfly in the Round Up). Her descent into victimization may be just a side effect of her learning that her new husband is not as easy to manipulate and control as her ex, but it may also be that Steve (and the audience) are given a glimpse into why she is who she is.

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Bruises are an easy way to evoke sympathy in both exes and audiences (which does not mean the sympathy isn’t justified, by the way).

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Likewise, Steve is not as much of an anti-hero as many other Noir characters – apart from his obsession with Anna (and his tendency to fight with her), he seems to be a fairly ordinary man with a normal family and a steady, average job.

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Until he starts planning heists, that is. As far as we know, that’s not completely normal. Well, perhaps planning them is, but going through with them is another story!

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All in all, we thought this was another wonderful and suspenseful Noir from Robert Siodmak, a master of the genre. Great movie – great rhumba music, courtesy of Esy Morales and his Rhumba Band. Good times!

What we learned: When you Double-Cross a Double-Crosser… It’s a Criss-Cross! Also, organizing a heist to cover up an affair may not be the best idea…

Next time: Jour de Fête (1949)

#74 A Matter of Life and Death

Watched: January 15 2017

Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Starring: David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey, Raymond Massey, Marius Goring

Year: 1946

Runtime: 1h 44min

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Also known by its alternate title

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As Peter Carter (Niven) is plunging towards certain death in a shot up plane May 1945, his final moments are shared with radio operator June (Hunter) and the two, as people are wont to do in these intense situations, fall in love. He ejects from the burning aircraft without a parachute and is surprised to find himself alive on shore some moments later. Surely, the fall should have killed him?

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How much imagery of nudity, flutes and goats do you need to convince yourself you’ve reached hell?

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Turns out, it should have. Up on the celestial plane, the clerics are confused about the lateness of his arrival until they find that his Conductor, a very camp Frenchman (Goring), lost the pilot in the fog and thus neglected to collect his soul.

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“Bonjour! Je suis le campest Frenchman you’ll ever meet. Bon bon, mon petit fromage!”

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Unfortunately for the clerics of the afterlife, in the few hours of “extra” life Peter got, he met and fell in love with June which greatly complicates things. As he is not at fault here, is it fair to take him away just as he has found the love of his life? Since it was their mix up that caused this to happen, the celestial beings grant Peter a trial with his life at stake.

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Celestial trials have the most impressive courtrooms

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Meanwhile, in our own world, June has enlisted the help of a doctor friend of hers, Dr Reeves (Livesey, of Colonel Blimp-fame), as her new love is suffering headaches and possible hallucinations after jumping from a plane without a parachute… Naturally, the medical professional diagnoses Peter with head trauma and recommends surgery, to coincide with the patient’s heavenly trial.

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Which leads to some beautiful shots!

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This was a beautiful and engaging film which we completely loved. The relationship between Peter and June is lovely, although a bit hasty. She’s either very wonderful or very naïve to stick by him when he starts talking crazy after they’ve known each other for all of a day. The trial becomes very political, and much of the criticism against England from the USA could have been modern criticism against the US, which is very interesting to observe (especially given the newly instated president..). It’s like both countries have a history of proclaiming themselves above others and trying to impose their rules on other nations…

The sets are beautiful and impressive, especially on the other plane.

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Such as the stairway, or escalator, to heaven, for instance

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In a way, this film is like an opposite Wizard of Oz, as our world is in glorious technicolor while the other world is in drab black and white. Then again, our world is supposed to be the desirable one so it makes sense. A Matter of Life and Death has humour, excitement, adventure, romance, political undertones, history lessons, camp Frenchmen and gorgeous shoes! What’s not to love?

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A film so good it has its own stamp!

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What we learned: make sure you have a law degree before cheating death. Also, we have found the winners of the mannequin challenge of 1946!

Next time: La Belle et la Bête/Beauty and the Beast (1946)

PS: confused about the numbering on this? Check out this disclaimer!

#37b (or something) The Thin Man

Watched: January 16 2017

Director: W.S. Van Dyke

Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy

Year: 1934

Runtime: 1h 31min

Disclaimer: This film was added at 37th place (chronologically) after we had already reached (the old) no. 71 (now no. 73) and as such we throw it in here. The next post will be #74 but that does not mean we’ve skipped #72 and #73. Confused? Read this disclaimer. We’re sure it’ll explain everything.

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We’re so glad this one made the list! Sister the Oldest has seen this one before and loved it then as she loves it now. It’s a boozy adventure of the best kind, with wonderful characters and banter.

Nick Charles (Powell) is a retired private detective, enjoying a life of leisure, and copious amounts of cocktails, with his charming and charmingly rich wife, Nora (Loy), and their terrier, Asta.

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“These are just my breakfast drinks!”

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An old acquaintance, Dorothy Wynant, approaches the former detective as she suspects her father is in trouble, but Nick refuses to take the case, on account of the retirement and all. However, soon after, Mr Wynant’s secretary is killed and the plot thickens considerably when Dorothy’s father, who’s missing, becomes the chief suspect. Nick, egged on by Nora who thinks all this detective business terribly exciting, takes time between cocktails to look into the matter.

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Clink!

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The Thin Man is one of the funnest, booziest mystery comedies you’ll ever see. There are eccentric characters, dysfunctional families and lots and lots of drinks. The quick banter between Nick and Nora is magical, and their relationship is something to aspire to (in its own way). In addition, Nora has the best fashion sense, and the the dog is adorable. This film should be everyone’s traditional Christmas viewing, along with Gremlins and Die Hard, of course. Enjoy!

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True love!

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What we learned: We need to purchase lots of stripy chiffon. Also, do NOT make this film into a drinking game where you try to keep up with Nick…

Next time: A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

#48 The Wizard of Oz

Watched: October 02 2016

Director: Victor Fleming, Mervyn LeRoy, King Vidor, George Cukor, Norman Taurog (clearly, it takes a village…)

Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke, the Munchkins

Year: 1939

Runtime: 1h 42min

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Really? Do you really need a recap of this? OK, fine, let’s sum it up.

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Girl kills woman and takes her shoes as trophy (in her defense, they’re very pretty)

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Girl goes on adventure/quest with new friends

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Girl is chased by mutant minions of sister of first murder victim. She goes on to also kill the sister.

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Her enemies now slain, the pink, poofy witch finally lets girl go home to her own family

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We love it!

What we learned: there’s no place like home. Also, we do NOT trust that smug bitch Glinda.

Next time: Fantasia (1940)

#44 Bringing Up Baby

Watched: September 17 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant

Year: 1938

Runtime: 1h 42min

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Screwball comedies are always fun, and Bringing Up Baby is no exception. This was another rewatch which we enjoyed as much as the first time around (despite our dislike of having wild animals as pets).

Paleontologist David Huxley (Grant) is trying to assemble a Brontosaurus skeleton and also secure a 1 million dollar donation to his museum. Meanwhile, his path keeps crossing that of heiress Susan Vance (Hepburn) who, after several chance encounters, falls madly in love with him and comes up with increasingly complicated excuses to keep him near.

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You can see why she likes him. It takes a man secure in his masculinity to pull off this look.

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Susan, believing David is a zoologist, talks (read: cons and guilts) him into helping her transport her leopard, Baby, to Connecticut, and the scenes with them singing “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” to soothe the (relatively small) cat are among the funniest in the film.

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“Are you sure this is going to work? Because right now she looks at me like I’m lunch…”

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There are mix ups, wardrobe malfunctions, romance, snappy dialogue and everything else you’d want in a farcical screwball comedy. Grant and Hepburn are adorable – their performances and chemistry really make the film, and Hepburn is amazingly good at balancing being annoying with being wonderfully charming. In the end, Susan saves David from a entering into a disastrous marriage, and he finally has all the bones he needs to finish his Brontosaurus. All in all, a happy ending, and we had a blast with this one.

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“Well, fellas, I’m not gonna brag, but despite the connotations of this pose, I will fight the temptation to make a dick joke. You’re welcome.”

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What we learned: when a man is wrestling a leopard in a pond he is in no position to run anywhere. Also, there’s an abundance of leopards in Connecticut in spring.

Next time: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

#42 The Awful Truth

Watched: September 18 2016

Director: Leo McCarey

Starring: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy, Cecil Cunningham

Year: 1937

Runtime: 1h 31min

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After jealous misunderstandings and unexplained absences, Lucy and Jerry Warriner (Dunne and Grant, respectively) decide to get a divorce.

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“Meet Lucy and Jerry Warriner. Toast of the upper crust, headliners on the society pages… And oh yes, they’re getting divorced!”

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While waiting for their divorce to be finalized, Lucy moves in with her glorious aunt Patsy (Cunningham) and strikes up a romance with oil-rich idiot Daniel Leeson (Bellamy) who lives next door with his mother. Meanwhile, after a short affair with a showgirl, Jerry strikes up a relationship with socialite Barbara Vance, much to Lucy’s dismay.

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“You know as well as I do she won’t make you nearly as happily unhappy as me.”

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Through their shared custody of their dog, the soon-to-be divorcees are forced to meet each other on a regular basis, and they take every opportunity to try to sabotage each other’s affairs, with hilarious consequences. In addition, Aunt Patsy is always at hand with wonderfully snarky remarks.

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Aunt Patsy embodies snarkiness and delightful dance moves – all the things we aspire to possess!

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This was a new one for us, and a new favourite at that. Irene Dunne and Cary Grant were both great (they remind us strangely of Frank and Sadie Doyle, though without the supernatural complications), but our new role model is easily Cecil Cunningham’s Aunt Patsy. That girl was life! The Awful Truth is funny, charming, and has plenty of gorgeous outfits, and we loved it completely.

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What we learned: actually, what we didn’t learn was what the hell Jerry was really doing when he was supposedly in Florida??? Also, Aunt Patsy taught us the definition and consequences of rebound guys.

Next time: Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

#24 Scarface

Watched: August 23 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Boris Karloff

Year: 1932

Runtime: 1h 30min

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“This picture is an indictment of gang rule in America and of the callous indifference of the government to this constantly increasing menace to our safety and our liberty. Every incident in this picture is the reproduction of an actual occurrence, and the purpose of this picture is to demand of the government: “What are you going to do about it?”. The government is your government. What are YOU going to do about it?” So opens the most violent PSA of the ’30s, Scarface.

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“I’m gonna f**k some s**t up, is what I’m gonna do!”

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The man f’ing things up is Tony Camonte (Muni), ambitious strong-arm for the mafia and part-time overprotective brother. After being interrogated for the murder of his old boss, he teams up with new boss Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins) to run the Chicago underworld. Tony is simultaneously very smart and very stupid, and his ruthlessness, charm and excellent beer ordering system help him climb to the top, gradually taking over the territory as well as the boss’ girl.

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To be fair, she comes with the territory

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Gang war ensues and Tony spirals and grows gradually more insane, more ambitious and more ruthless. Despite everything though, he is very charismatic and strangely likeable at times, up until the point he completely ruins his sister’s life which effectively ends his operation.

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“How dare you fall for men similar to the only male influence in your life!”

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Despite the violence, there’s a lot of comedy in Scarface as well, especially in the form of Tony’s “seckertary” Angelo. There’s great use of shadows and we loved the “shooting the days away”-bit. We also liked the women in this; Poppy and Cesca were great, and Tony’s mother was no fool, unlike some of the other mafia mums we’ve seen.

Another one we’ll recommend if you like action, great clothes, cool characters and the absence of father figures (seriously – none of these gangster types in any of these movies have (good) fathers). The ending made us sad, though not so much for Tony as the ones around him. We’re now looking forward to rewatching the 1983 film of the same name!

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“I’m shooting in the rain, just shooting in the rain!”

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What we learned: Killers sure liked to whistle back in the day. Also, never get attached to the comic relief.

Next time: The Mummy (1932)

#7 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Watched: August 3 2016

Director: F.W. Murnau

Starring: George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor

Year: 1927

Runtime: 1h 34min

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Warning: This film will toy with your emotions.

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.

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“Scary ghost mistress lady made me do it. Honest!”

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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!

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Nothing like attempted murder to spice up a marriage!

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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.

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“Hah! Remember that time you tried to murder me?”

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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.

Next time: Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)