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)

Movie Diary 11/1/2008

Catching up on movies watched the last few days.

The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (Eric Rohmer, 2007). One of those old man’s movies where everything seems without art and completely essential. (full review 11/7)

Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, 2008). Whatever you think of this movie (adapted from a novel), surely it is among the zaniest plots ever put on film: the horrors of life refracted through an episode of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” (full review 11/21)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1919). With live violin/piano work by Gunter Buchwald, a fitting sort of split-personality musical experience. And the film is still a rich commentary on lots of things, including the relationship of filmmaker and audience.

JCVD (Mabrouk El Mechri, 2008). I liked it, but when Seagal sees this he’s coming after Jean-Claude Van Damme. (full review 11/21)

The Invisible Man Returns (Joe May, 1940). Part of a Halloween triple-bill — and a perfectly decent B-movie, with Vincent Price unseen for most of the picture.

The Raven (Lew Landers, 1935). A Lugosi-Karloff vehicle that doesn’t need considerable childhood affection (although I have that for it) to qualify as a spiffy little horror show. Among other things, it’s awfully well-shot for a second-tier studio and a third-tier director, and leading lady Irene Ware is an appealing star-who-never-was.

Curse of the Werewolf (Terence Fisher, 1961). Somewhat slow and nonsensical, but it has a weirdly high number of memorable things in it, and Oliver Reed is a true rough beast.