Monday, June 09, 2003

Portrait of a Lady (1996) dir. Jane Campion
Jane Campion's well stylized and only slightly unconventional take on the "perfect English novel" by Henry James is highly recommended. Nicole Kidman, who plays Isabel Archer, convinces us of her transformation from independent woman to kept woman. John Malkovich is good but he would have been better if he smiled a bit more and acted less crazy. Isabel's other suitors are exceptionally portrayed. Mary-Louise Parker and Shelley Winters are rather unsuited for this film, however.

Calamity Jane (1953) dir. David Butler
This upbeat, Doris Day musical has some really entertaining songs in the first half, strung along a necessary but boring plot. Day, especially in her joyous songs, has a deep glow in her voice that is all too rare in singers of any stripe. She also pulls off her hick mispronunciations with hilarious flair. Howard Keel beams as Wild Bill. Overall, it's a jolly lollipop if you don't mind the anti-feminism.

Touch of Evil (1958) dir. Orson Welles
Welles uses edgy camera shots to emphasize the evil in this noirish tale of an honest Mexican cop (Charlton Heston) in an uphill moral battle against a corrupt American detective (Orson Welles). What's un-noirish here is that the central woman, the Mexican's wife, is not a femme fatale. Overall, this film has an uneasy Lynchian quality that makes it far more disturbing than others of its ilk.

Spider (2002) dir. David Cronenberg
Spider is a depiction of the interior life of a schizophrenic in a halfway house. The director and actors show technical prowess in spades, but the plot is too cold to make the film have any significant effect.

The Winslow Boy (1999) dir. David Mamet
This period piece is exquisitely stylish in its English prose as well as its Edwardian costumes. It is an adapted theater work about how a problematic (albeit not dysfunctional) family deals with their scandalous reputation and financial strain when they try to prove their adolescent son's innocence. Although accused of a trivial crime, he is clearly innocent so his father is obliged to defend his son's honor to the last.

Rio Bravo (1959) dir. Howard Hawks
Singing cowboys, even in the best of circumstances, seem a little tacky. Remove the singing from this film, however, and you have an archetypal Western well narrated with the directorial eye of Hawks. The depiction of the heroes' personal struggles makes them more three-dimensional than the typical Western hero. Walter Brennan is outstanding as a tough but eccentric geezer.


Post a Comment

<< Home