Movie Diary 2/7/2023

Amsterdam (David O. Russell, 2022). I had to find out how such a star-studded movie could come and go without a ripple, and – okay, now I get it. The movie’s an odd concept to begin with, with an exceedingly peculiar Christian Bale performance at the center (I get why he’s transformed his body before, even if I don’t approve, but why is he so gaunt here?), and the editorial rhythm is somehow consistently off. For all that, it’s pretty entertaining, with a larky Beat the Devil kind of spirit – a screwball comedy awkwardly corseted into a tale that includes post-WWI trauma and the stirrings of American fascism in the 1930s. Plus, every 15 minutes somebody makes an entrance and you get to say, “Wait, that person is in this movie, too?” (Among those pleasures are a spot-on Andrea Riseborough and the unexpected double act of Michael Shannon and Mike Myers.) Oh, and Bale is funny. The thing will probably get re-discovered and applauded at some future date, although a true cult following seems unlikely.

To the Devil a Daughter (Peter Sykes, 1976). Never saw this post-Exorcist exercise in devil cinema, which has Nastassja Kinski (who could only have been 15 or so at the time, which is a little troubling) as Satan-spawn, sprung from a nunnery and tended to by horror novelist Richard Widmark. The haphazard plotting is interrupted by a few shots of Seventies spice, all of which adds up to a leaden experience. Christopher Lee is there to keep everything moving along sinister lines, and it was shot by David Watkin, so at least some of the London locations are handsome (but who thought it was a great idea to set half the movie inside Widmark’s apartment?). Honor Blackman and Denholm Elliott provide some relief.


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