Movie Diary 8/2/2010

Limbo (John Sayles, 1999). Seems a little more interesting than it did when it came out, almost experimental: the first half is a Sayles social drama, with a light touch (except for two inexcusable exposition scenes), the second half a plot-driven  melodrama that allows Sayles to mess with audience expectations about how things like this are supposed to turn out. It’s in Alaska.

The Far Country (Anthony Mann, 1954). James Stewart takes the herd to Alaska, finding the Northwest to be much like the West, gunplay-wise. Stewart’s character is one of the most carefully drawn in his Mann films, a prickly and staunch and rather unpleasant individualist, the kind drawn to Alaskan away-ness.

The Law (Jules Dassin, 1959). Leading this lollapalooza is Gina Lollobrigida, but there’s also Yves Montand, Marcello Mastroianni, Melina Mercouri, and Pierre Brasseur, all of which ought to make it a little meatier than it is.

Bad for Each Other (Irving Rapper, 1953). Young Chuck Heston in a real pulp-novel plotline, though a bit too clean in execution to really bite into the noir possibilities.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (Tamra Davis, 2010). As annoying as another film about Basquiat must sound, especially another one made by an actual friend of his, this documentary makes a strong case for the artist. (full review 8/6)

Desperate Journey (Raoul Walsh, 1942) and Northern Pursuit (Raoul Walsh, 1943). Part of a new Errol Flynn set: all WWII-themed, 4/5 are directed by Walsh. The first is a crisply-shot ensemble piece with Flynn and the members of his bomber crew trying to get across occupied Europe after a crash; it has a blithe (a times weirdly breezy, given the circumstances) attitude, plus Ronald Reagan finding a rare moment of distinction with a scene of double-talk. The other one is less jokey, but duller. Flynn plays an Aussie in the first film, Canadian in the second; his accent does not vary.