Movie Diary 2/2/2009

Movies watched over the weekend.

Phantom (F.W. Murnau, 1922). Murnau heading for the virtuosity of The Last Laugh, with some great set-pieces (literally: the sets are a superb technical feat). The storyline covers territory Murnau gets into elsewhere: forbidden, single-minded obsession and a strong sense of self-abasement.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1919). This movie has been in my head a lot lately. What amazes me is how alive it still is, 90 years later, and how well the (much debated) ending works. It’s one of the earliest examples of a film that looks back at you and implicates you in the watching. “Du musst Caligari werden,” for sure.

49parallel49th Parallel (Michael Powell, 1941). A really ingenious way to make a propaganda movie during wartime. And when else has Laurence Olivier looked like he had this much fun?

Pray the Devil Back to Hell (Gini Reticker, 2008). Even good documentaries must have too much music. Still, a fine story. (full review 2/6)

Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May, 1976). Mostly insufferable frowze through fumbled improv with Falk and Cassavetes. Some people seem to like it. There’s something crazy in there, but who wants to actually watch it?

Two Lovers (James Gray, 2008). Maybe this is because I saw it the night after Mikey and Nicky, but is Joaquin Phoenix a fusion of Peter Falk and John Cassavetes? This is Gray’s best film, by the way. (full review 2/13)

The International (Tom Tykwer, 2009). Quite possibly the best installation ever at the Guggenheim — oh wait, you mean that’s an action bloodbath scene for The International? (full review 2/13)

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