Nathan here. A few weeks ago you may remember our “What We Watched” made a triumphant return, and we promised to catch you up on the rest of what we had to watch in the month of March. Alec, sadly, decided to opt out of this part, but I’m here to fill you in on what we missed.
To be honest, I don’t think I’m qualified to judge this movie as it misled me so much. Based on the packaging, I thought it was going to be a friendly little film where Helena Bonham Carter teaches a boy to cook; instead, it turned out to be a depressing film about a food critic who had a terrible childhood in a world where no music plays except that of Dusty Springfield, and Helena Bonham Carter didn’t even come into the movie until the second half. I don’t really know what to say about it, except it made me sad, and was a little disappointing.
Recommended? Just be aware of what you’re getting into if you decide to watch it. It’s not happy.
A film that Jonathan Rosenbaum once called the most anti-American movie ever made and probably one of the most ridiculous, bombastic, and over-the-top films I have ever seen, Mr. Freedom is a strangely fascinating satire about America in the 60s, communism, socialism, advertising, race, religion, everything. Made by American expatriate photographer William Klein, who later went on to work with such “political-chic” filmmakers, as Francois Truffaut dubbed them, such as Godard, Chris Marker, and Alain Resnais, it tells the story of a completely brainwashed and commercialized America attempting to extend its sphere of influence into France to fight off a Soviet invasion of Switzerland. Leading America is Mr. Freedom, a racist, right-wing, fascist nut-job, the head of an army of blood-crazed brutes, football players, cheerleaders, and supermarket workers. The film also features cameos by French cultural icons such as Serge Gainsbourg and Yves Montad. While the movie is enjoyable to an extent, mostly because it is so ridiculous, I suggest you don’t watch it unless you have a thick political skin. For example, the American embassy is a supermarket run by car-hop-esque girls, and China is a giant inflatable dragon. If you get offended easily, go for some Michael Moore.
Recommended? See above.
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
The heartwarming story of Kevin Clash, the man behind Elmo, Being Elmo is a really nice documentary, especially for those of us who adore Jim Henson. While it is on one level a story about being a puppeteer and the Muppets, it is more a story about human affection and love, and I think that even if you aren’t fond of Sesame Street or The Muppets, (which I don’t know how you couldn’t be, but whatever) you will probably enjoy this movie. Oh yeah, and when they showed the footage of Jim Henson’s funeral. I cried. And that makes me more of a man than you.
The Great Gatsby
Why is this film so bad? With a stellar cast made up of Mia Farrow, Robert Redford, Sam Waterston, and others, a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola, and a story based on one of the greatest American novels ever penned, it seems perfect. But it’s terrible. Stylistically, it does not suit the novel at all, much of the acting is wooden and hammy, Douglas Slocombe’s cinematography is dark, gray, and drab, and it’s just a chore to sit through. Ugh. It makes me wish even more that Fellini was still alive, as he is the only one in my mind who could make a great adaptation of this novel. But maybe some books aren’t made for the screen, maybe they are so inseparably connected to the language that they can’t be adapted.
Recommended? No. No. No.
Heathers is a terrifying movie, not so much in that it is scary, but that it is just peculiar, and ridiculous, and it puts me on edge. I’m surprised we were allowed to watch this, a film about teenage suicide, in my film studies class, but so we did. If I had seen this in 1989, maybe I wouldn’t feel so gross after watching this movie, but this satire of teen films and high-school life just feels weird and odd. And I understand that it is a satire, but at the same time, it becomes so caught up in its own ridiculousness, caught up in trying to be like David Lynch, or John Hughes on a bad day, that it just becomes weird and a little weak. And I’m not saying its a bad film. It just makes me feel weird.
Recommended? It depends on the mood you’re in.
Most of you have probably seen this, so I won’t waste much time with it. While many people claim that The Godfather is the greatest film ever made, or the greatest American film ever made, I don’t necessarily agree with that opinion, but despite all that, it’s still a really fantastic picture regardless. It’s incredibly well-done, and if you haven’t seen it, you really need to get on that.
Although I really like Jean-Luc Godard, his films sometimes confuse me, and it’s that way with this film. I wouldn’t say it’s his “oddest” film, because it’s really not, but even though I like it, there’s still a confusing and pretentious element to it. But that’s Godard for you, as he is incredibly pretentious, but that’s probably part of the reason why I like him. Anyway, this films tells the story of Paul, an idealistic wannabe-intellectual, played by Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave) poster boy Jean-Pierre Léaud, and his struggle to sustain a relationship with Madeleine, a rising young pop star. The film changes what it wants to be throughout, sometimes becoming a statement on the Vietnam War, other times a pseudo-documentary, but regardless of what it actually is, it’s still very good.
Before watching Rififi, I think I had an image in my head of what it should be, an image which turned out to be wrong and left me a little disappointed in the beginning of the film. Part of the reason why I prefer French gangster films, particularly those of Jean-Pierre Melville, over many American gangster films, is that they have a remarkably different feel and more removed perspective, whereas American gangster films are more in-your-face. I expected Rififi to feel more “French”, but I shouldn’t have, as it was made by Jules Dassin, an American filmmaker who was blacklisted in the 1950s and moved to France. The film tells the story of Tony le Stéphanois, a gangster who wants to get out of the game but is dragged back in for one final jewel heist. I found the first bit a little disappointing, but once the robbery began, I found the film as fulfilling as I originally expected it to be. The middle of the film is what hooked me, as it climaxes with a 20-minute-or-so almost silent break-in sequence that is fairly masterful.
Recommended? If you want to get into French gangster movies, I wouldn’t start with this. I would probably say start with Melville’s Bob le Flambeur or Le Samourai, but this is definitely a film you should see, as it is very good, and is a good segue from American gangster films of the 50s to foreign gangster films of the same period.
Be Kind Rewind
Be Kind Rewind is, sadly, a film I found more engaging just because of its premise rather than because of what it actually is. A film about Mike, an employee at a struggling video store, and his friend Jerry, who becomes magnetized and subsequently erases all the tapes at the store, I really enjoyed it because of all the movie-related jokes, because, you know, that’s the kind of thing I’m into. But some plot elements were a little jumbled together and not quite clear, or at least in my perception, and I thought with some straightening out, this film could’ve been great. However, it’s still good and funny, especially if you love movies.
Day for Night
One of the greatest films of Francois Truffaut’s career, Day for Night is a blissful ode to the cinema. With an incredible cast, beautiful dialogue, and fantastic use of montages, it is truly one of the greatest movies ever made about movies and they people who spend their lives making them. As a lover of film, it resonates with me, and it is a film I recommend to anyone who adores the cinema.
All previous editions of What We Watched can be found here.