Movie Diary 10/27/2021

The Informer (John Ford, 1935). First re-visit of this film in many years. One thought: Victor McLaglen’s performance is terrific. (He won the Oscar, yes, but that does not relate to terrific-ness.) McLaglen uses his huge body and expressive face to great effect here, and his drunkenness is entirely credible. Pulls off that final scene like a champ, too.

Indiscreet (Stanley Donen, 1958). Nice to look at, which Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman have much to do with, and Grant gets up to some silly dancing. (So, automatically worth a watch.) There’s one nice sequence, indicating that this is a Grown Up Movie for 1958, when the two walk home wordlessly through London in the night, with the expectation that they will go to bed together for the first time when they get back to her flat, and when they get there Grant stands at her door and says, “Good night?” so that the question mark is just barely distinguishable, and she invites him in, and the audience is allowed to imagine what happens next. Sadly, the whole thing hinges on some sitcom-level deception – supposedly Nora Ephron said it was her favorite film, which comes as little surprise – and the mechanism becomes tiresome halfway through.

In Celebration (Lindsay Anderson, 1975). This is one of those American Film Theatre productions, bringing a play to the screen – in this case, a David Storey play that had been produced for the stage a few years earlier with the same director and cast. The material feels familiar: Three adult sons gather in a coal-mining town for their parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, with various skeletons exercised, including a dead child in the past. Still, Anderson has a fine eye for revealing gestures, like the way the father (Bill Owen) fusses with the tin of cigarettes he keeps on the mantel. One of the sons is an early part for Brian Cox, and Alan Bates is excellent in a very animated role, the most troublemaking son. For all that, the most astonishing performance comes from Constance Chapman, as the matriarch, who communicates a lifetime of mixed feelings with every turn of her head or weary half-smile.