One of the very first prison escape movies, Grand Illusion is hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. Jean Renoir’s antiwar masterpiece stars Jean Gabin and Pierre Fresnay as French soldiers held in a World War I German prison camp, and Erich von Stroheim as the unforgettable Captain von Rauffenstein. Continue reading
In this boxing drama, a prizefighter is left by his money-grubbing showgirl wife who aspires to be a movie star. The fighter’s manager is tickled by the turn of events and immediately snaps the boxer out of his love-struck funk and sets him a challenging training program. Sure enough the fighter makes a strong comeback. As soon as the fame and fortune starts rolling in, the avaricious wife shows up at his door. She fires his manager and hires her secret lover in his place. Soon the fighter begins losing again. Just before the championship bout the old manager proves that his wife is being unfaithful. That is only the beginning of the end for the champ. ~allmovie.com Continue reading
Natalie Wood was never more beautiful, and the battle of the sexes was never more fun. It’s great to see a love story that doesn’t resort to foul language or adult humor, but simply witty dialog and the vagaries of human nature.
Tony Curtis plays a tabloid reporter trying to get the goods on Helen Gurley Brown (Natalie) and her personal life to find out if she actually knows anything about sex and relationships. To this end, he impersonates an acquaintance (Henry Fonda) who is having problems with his jealous wife (Lauren Bacall) so that he can pose as a patient and seek her advice.
The confusion caused by this impersonation just leads to more problems, naturally. However, this is just a sideshow to the reporter’s attempted seduction of Dr. Brown and the glorious mayhem that ensues. Continue reading
The Gift of Love is a remake of 1946’s Sentimental Journey, with Lauren Bacall in the role originated by Maureen O’Hara. Upon learning that she hasn’t long to live, Bacall, the devoted wife of Robert Stack, adopts young Evelyn Rudie so that her husband will never be lonely. After his wife’s death, however, the pragmatic Stack grows weary of little Evelyn, who prefers a “fantasy world” to real life. Stack returns the girl to the orphanage, whereupon Bacall’s spirit intervenes to set things right. The material was maudlin back in 1946, and even more so in 1958; still, it’s nice to see that Lauren Bacall could play a sweet, benign role when given the opportunity.
They Shoot Horses Don’t They? is set in the dark years of the l930s, when dance marathons became popular as a way for desperate people to compete for prize money. Sometimes the events would drag on for weeks as contestants pushed themselves far beyond the point of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, the dancers shambling around the floor in a half-dead stupor. People would then pay to sit in the bleachers, watch the event and cheer on their favourites. Taken from hard-boiled pulp writer Horace McCoy’s novel of the same name, Jane Fonda plays a bitter young woman paired up with Michael Sarrazin for the ordeal. Gig Young portrays the unctuous MC of the event, bringing equal parts compassion and sleaze to his role. Many of the film’s images are unforgettable, such as “the derby”, a heel-and-toe race around the dance floor with bouncy, light-hearted music to accompany the miserable spectacle. It’s a powerful, tragic period piece that reminds us of the privations of the Great Depression. In the largest sense, the film has existential overtones that go far beyond the story of enervated dancers staying on their feet for a month or more. This film brought home a string of Academy Award nominations for the cast and director Sydney Pollack and a win for Young. Continue reading
“Spring in a Small Town” is a remarkable fusion of classic form and the convincingly real. It moves from its central character, Yuwen, who is isolated in a small town, and in an arranged marriage with an ill neurasthenic husband, Lyan; and moves too from a truly enduring acting job by Wei Wei as Yuwen.
The story revolves around memory: memory of love, and memory of a pre-war period of youthful promise. These moments of being are stirred to life by the visit of the husband’s long estranged friend Zhang, who is now a city doctor. Zhang means renewed life and vigor at the desolate, war ruined estate of the noble Lyan, and love and passion to Yuwen, who happens to have been someone she once loved as a teen. Continue reading
Marguerite is a courtesan in Paris. She falls deeply in love with a young man of promise, Armand Duval. When Armand’s father begs her not to ruin his hope of a career and position by marrying Armand, she acquiesces and leaves her lover. However, when poverty and terminal illness overwhelm her, Marguerite discovers that Armand has not lost his love for her. Continue reading