Posts Tagged ‘movies and television’

Mafioso

March 24, 2008

Woefully underrepresented in the domestic DVD market, Alberto Lattuada is probably best known in the US for his delightful low rent show biz farce Variety Lights, an early collaboration with Federico Fellini. 1962’s Mafioso stars the priceless Alberto Sordi (The White Shiek) as a Sicilian who has become a successful business and family man in Milan. A trip back to the ancestral home in Sicily makes clear that his family ties can’t be easily walked away from. Mafioso is for the most part a frothy light comedy but by the end reveals its dark undercurrents. Bravo to Criterion for this essential release.

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Ann Sheridan

February 18, 2008

At times, I Was A Male War Bride feels like it’s going to transcend its idiotic title and become a romantic charmer. Poor Cary Grant is saddled with a loutish character in a transparent effort to establish the type of conflict that works effortlessly in movies like It Happened One Night but seems painfully labored here: he doesn’t win our sympathy when he has to endure the protracted humiliation laid out for him. The look of discomfort on his face throughout the movie seems like it’s coming from Cary Grant and not the character he’s playing. The revelation of this movie is Ann Sheridan. She calmly takes Grant’s abuse and gives back better than she gets. She alone makes this movie worth watching. The directors of the day should have searched the earth for scripts worthy of her talent.

City for Conquest

January 23, 2008

Part of the Tough Guys DVD box set (now reissued as Gangsters Volume 2), this 1940 Warner Brothers obscurity is a taut bundle of New York City energy with a big heart. James Cagney shows restraint and depth as a moderately ambitious fighter whose middling success is overshadowed by his longtime love’s sudden fame as a dancer. The acting is sympathetic from top to bottom. Elia Kazan, in a choice role as a childhood crony of Cagney’s character, doesn’t waste the opportunity. Anthony Quinn is a little stiff (he somehow made it work for him in La Strada) as Cagney’s slick rival but he has pretty good moves on the dance floor and Ann Sheridan does a nice job as the conflicted Peg. The bustle of late 30s Manhattan provides the backdrop throughout this lovable melodrama.

Sawdust and Tinsel

November 26, 2007

At long last available on DVD in the US, Sawdust and Tinsel is a fond favorite dating back to that Ingmar Bergman class I took at UW many years ago. While it doesn’t quite hold up to the glorified memories I had of it (Bergman’s typical 50’s era clash of comedy and humiliation seems a bit clumsier than I’d remembered) it’s still a wonderful example of the great one moving beyond his moralistic 40’s melodramas into full fledged artiness. The dingy circus milieu and mismatched couples predates La Strada by a year or so and Harriet Anderson is sensational as always. We still patiently await a high-end Criterion release of Bergman’s neglected The Magician.

Woman In The Moon

November 20, 2007

Fritz Lang’s batty space melodrama from 1929 takes 5 intrepid travellers to the moon in search of… gold! Following his previous stunner Metropolis, Woman In The Moon is a late blast of Lang’s unfettered visual genius before his more restrained but not less brilliant Hollywood period. A special salute to the actor Fritz Rasp who brings a unique ferocity to his role as the treacherous, shape-shifting Walt Turner.

Tora Teje

November 10, 2007

Three cheers for the Swedish actress whose sophistication and wit carry the day in the chaste 1920 romantic comedy Erotikon. Part of the challenge for movie directors working with great stage actors in the silent era was to scale down the broadness of their acting style to fit the cooler medium of cinema. Tora Teje gracefully brings her stage powers down to a naturalized level that allows her to be an electric and thoroughly modern character.