W.S. Van Dyke – I Live My Life (1935)

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Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A brisk romantic/comedy Joan Crawford vehicle capably directed by W.S. Van Dyke and gamely written but not one of the better scripts by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It’s from the short story “Claustrophobia” by A. Carter Goodloe. It’s the usual class warfare Joan Crawford film of that era with the good looking actress dressed chic and defending her free-spirited upper-class superficial lifestyle in her argumentative romance with the commoner Brian Aherne, who thinks the high society crowd are idlers and lightweights.

Bored heiress Kay Bentley (Joan Crawford) travelling with her dad (Frank Morgan) on his yacht meets on the Greek island of Naxos handsome Irish archaeologist Terry O’Neill (Brian Aherne), who’s on an archaeological dig for the Pygmalion statue. Learning that he thinks very little of the society jet set Kay tells Terry she’s Ann Morrison, the secretary of Mr. Bentley. They kiss and he falls madly in love, surpisingly following the attractive secretary to New York where he hopes to marry her. Learning the truth, the two have a spat but nevertheless grow fonder of each other. Continue reading

Robert Downey Sr. – Moment to Moment (1975)

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Also known as TWO TONS OF TURQUOISE TO TAOS TONIGHT, and even as JIVE, this is a movie you’ve most likely never seen. Highly personal and at the same time completely illogical, this cacophonous comedy has virtually no semblance of a storyline or plot. The great Elsie Downey, the director’s then-wife and the mother of his children (who are featured prominently throughout), drives the film with her boisterous performance in what may very well be more than 10 roles. Shot and edited piecemeal over a few years, MOMENT TO MOMENT is a collage of everything from staged scenes to home movies, and features a soundtrack by the legendary Jack Nietszche and David Sanborn. No matter what you call it, this film is surely Downey at his most avant-garde and absurd.—Anthology Film Archives. Continue reading

Robert Downey Sr. – Pound (1970)

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There’s something liberating about director Robert Downey’s films, even when by rights they should be put on a leash by their small budgets and settings. Never was the case truer than in POUND, the kind of project that major studios would run a mile from. Long out of circulation, Downey’s film populates a dog pound with different human characters who pace about their cage, uncertain about their future. Some wait in hope for their owners to redeem them, others plot to escape, but most wait to see if they will make it to the end of the day without getting ‘The Needle’. It seems like a cute gimmick to have human characters playing dogs, but Downey has never been one to play by the rules, even if they would provide an interior logic to his story. The dog-human switcheroo isn’t as straightforward as it should be: the first camera angle inside the pound shows us the characters as dogs, the second shows them again as people. But are we still to treat them as ‘dogs’? They have a TV set in their cage; can understand human speech; and are revealed in flashbacks as having human lives outside of the pound. Continue reading

Chantal Akerman – Demain On Demenage aka Tomorrow We Move (2004)

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Director Chantal Akerman helmed this offbeat comedy about a mother and daughter who find themselves living together again for the first time in many years. Still reeling emotionally from the recent death of her husband, Catherine (Aurore Clément) has chosen to leave her old home and move in with her grown daughter, Charlotte (Sylvie Testud). While Charlotte is sympathetic, she’s something less than enthusiastic; her mother’s mood swings and the clutter of her collected belongings are cramping her home and her style, and when Catherine decides to revive her career as a piano teacher, the constant parade of youngsters bludgeoning the keyboard makes it all but impossible for Charlotte to complete her latest writing project. Catherine and Charlotte decide to look for more spacious living quarters, while Charlotte is also in search of her own office space. As a steady stream of prospective tenants check out their home, Charlotte makes friends with a pregnant woman looking for a new flat (Natacha Régnier), while her search for a space of her own brings Charlotte a relationship with a like-minded realtor (Jean-Pierre Marielle) and an unlikely collaborator in Michelle (Elsa Zylberstein), a poet who enjoys tinkering with Charlotte’s prose. Continue reading