1931-1940

Raffaello Matarazzo – Treno popolare (1933)

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Plot: Lina, Giovanni and Carlo take the Roma-Orvieto train for a trip to the countryside.

Quote:
One of the beacon films of the European cinema of the Thirties. Celebrating the sound film as a rebirth of cinema, Treno popolare combines and harmonises, with genius, several characteristics of the cinema of the period. Talking pictures, of which it is too often said that they rendered cinema theatrical, also accentuated and stimulated realism. (…) This realism, born from sound and the possibility to make characters speak in their own langauage and with their true voices, here extends to a unanimist depiction of Italian society, and notably of the petite bourgeoisie of the time, portrayed with great veracity in its daily activity and behaviour. And the fact that the film is entirely staged in exteriors makes it possible to assign it its place – it precedes Renoir’s Toni by a year – as the first neo-realist work. Read More »

Aleksandr Medvedkin – Schastye aka Happiness [+Extras] (1932)

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Aleksandr Medvedkin’s Happiness, as rowdy as any Soviet silent movie, is a comic parable composed of equal parts of Tex Avery and Luis Buñuel. It satirizes the plight of a Soviet farmer who finds himself providing for the state, the church, and his peers at the expense of his personal satisfaction. A hapless young prole, Khmyr, is tasked by his wife with the goal of going out in the world and finding happiness, lest he end up dead and dissatisfied after a lifetime of toil, like his father. Through stylistic exaggeration and a systematic attack on pre- and post-Revolutionary Russia’s dearest institutions, the movie achieves a wide-ranging, and deeply wounding, attack on the limitations placed on personal freedom in Russian society Read More »

John Ford – Stagecoach [+Extras] (1939)

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A Ford-Powered ‘Stagecoach’ Opens at Music Hall; Mickey Rooney Plays Huck Finn at the Capitol
In one superbly expansive gesture, which we (and the Music Hall) can call “Stagecoach,” John Ford has swept aside ten years of artifice and talkie compromise and has made a motion picture that sings a song of camera. It moves, and how beautifully it moves, across the plains of Arizona, skirting the sky-reaching mesas of Monument Valley, beneath the piled-up cloud banks which every photographer dreams about, and through all the old-fashioned, but never really outdated, periods of prairie travel in the scalp-raising Seventies, when Geronimo’s Apaches were on the warpath. Here, in a sentence, is a movie of the grand old school, a genuine rib-thumper and a beautiful sight to see. Read More »

Hiroshi Shimizu – Hanagata senshu aka A Star Athlete (1937)

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Quote:
From acquarello at Strictly Film School Blog: Hiroshi Shimizu’s government-pressured, militarism-era film A Star Athlete is a breezy, refreshingly lighthearted, and subtly subversive slice-of-life comedy that centers on an all-day student march in formation and armed combat drills through the rural countryside for military training exercises. Shimizu demonstrates his deceptively facile adeptness and virtuoso camerawork through a series of extraordinarily choreographed plan sequence shots: a track-and-field race around the campus track between the school’s start athlete Seki (Shuji Sano) and his constantly spurring – and sparring – team mate (Chishu Ryu); an extended dolly sequence of the students’ march as bemused villagers and flirtatious, love-struck young women alternately respectfully step aside, playfully trail, obliviously obstruct, and amorously chase the dashing students in uniform; a mock battlefield charge assault through muddy fields as a guilt-ridden motley crew of travelers on the road scramble to flee from the students in a mistaken belief of being chased in retribution for their petty transgressions during their brief stay in the village. Read More »

Roy Del Ruth – The Maltese Falcon (1931)

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Synopsis:
Sam Spade is quite the womanizer. When his secretary tells him the new customer waiting outside his office is a knockout, he wastes no time before seeing her. It turns out she’s a knockout with money. And she wants to spend it on his services as a private detective. She has some story about wanting to protect her sister. Neither he nor his partner, Miles Archer, believes it. But with the money she’s paying, who cares? The job proves to be more dangerous than either of them expected. It involves not just the lovely dame with the dangerous lies, but also the sweaty Casper Gutman, the fey Joel Cairo, and the thuggish young Wilmer Cook. Three crooks, and all of them are looking for the statuette of a black bird they call the Maltese Falcon. Read More »

Ken G. Hall – Thoroughbred (1936)

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Thoroughbred (1936)
Tommy Dawson (Frank Leighton), would-be horse trainer, buys an emaciated stallion called Stormalong on a trip to New Zealand. When it loses its first race, the insecure Tommy vows to sell it, but Tommy’s fiancé Joan (Helen Twelvetrees), a much better judge of horses, rescues Stormalong. With Tommy’s mother, Ma Dawson (Nellie Ferguson), Joan turns Stormalong into the greatest racehorse in Australia. As the Melbourne Cup approaches, an international crime syndicate decides to kill Stormalong. Tommy has to foil the plot on race day. Read More »

W.S. Van Dyke – Night Court (1932)

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Quote:
Judge Moffett is as crooked as they come and the Board of Judicial Corruption is after him. So he hides out in the poor part of town. While there, she drops the bankbook that Moffett has listing his accounts and Mary returns it to him. But Moffett thinks Mary saw the book and he puts her away for six months on a trumped up charge. Mike is overcome with grief and when he comes to his senses, he talks to Mary who tells him about the book. This gets Mike beat up and put on a boat to South America, but he jumps ship and plots his revenge. Read More »