Movie Diary 11/20/2018

Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018). The Palme d’or winner, which unfolds in such a gradual way that it hurts the movie to describe just what’s going on. I don’t think it’s Kore-eda’s best film, but it is consistently intriguing, anchored by a great performance by Sakura Andô.

Cremator (Juraj Herz, 1969). The Ljubljana International Film Festival did a retrospective of Czech New Wave films, and I managed to see this strange title after hearing about it for years, a very Sixties film set during the period leading to the Second World War. It’s about the sociopathic manager of a crematorium and his idealistic beliefs that cremating people leads to some kind of spiritual cleansing. The role is played by the Peter Lorre-like Rudolf Hrusínsky, a purring beast with a nasty combover. As the war approaches, his life becomes increasingly depraved. It would be no surprise if this film had an effect on a young Terry Gilliam (there’s even some cut-out animation), and also no surprise that Herz had previously worked with Jan Svankmajer. This film is aggressive and over the top, and, I suspect, unforgettable. Herz died in April of this year.

The League of Gentlemen (Basil Dearden, 1960). A heist picture, with Jack Hawkins enlisting a group of former military men (all with something black on their records) for a bank job. The cast includes Richard Attenborough, Nigel Patrick, and Roger Livesey. It probably should be more fun than it is – the cornball joshing drags it down a bit – but the actors make it satisfying overall.

Twice Round the Daffodils (Gerald Thomas, 1962). A real odd British therapy-comedy about a ward of TB patients and their super-competent nurse (Juliet Mills). The tuberculosis seems to be standing in for shellshock, because the film is relentlessly about ideas of masculinity, and how the various men deal with the unmanliness of being confined by illness. They include lovesick Ronald Lewis, blowhard macho Donald Houston, predatory Lothario Donald Sinden, and Carry On star Kenneth Williams doing a very camp act. The women are an impressive lot, too; along with the sensible Mills, there’s Jill Ireland, Nanette Newman, and Sheila Hancock. Thomas directed the Carry On films.

 

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