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City Lights (1931) August 25, 2013

Posted by badblokebob in : Comedy, Romance, 4 stars, 1930s, silent films, 2013 , add a comment

2013 #10

The first review from What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…? is perhaps Charlie Chaplin’s most acclaimed work…

It Happened One Night (1934) August 19, 2013

Posted by badblokebob in : Comedy, Romance, 5 stars, adaptations, 1930s, 2013 , add a comment

2013 #2

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert star in the first film to simultaneously win the Oscars for Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay.

#58a: M - British version (1931/1932) December 7, 2012

Posted by badblokebob in : Thriller, Crime, 3 stars, 1930s, British films, alternate & director's cuts, 2012 , add a comment

The 100 Films Advent Calendar 2012 reaches the end of its first week with this modified version of Fritz Lang’s masterpiece…

George Sanders as The Saint, Part I August 18, 2012

Posted by badblokebob in : Editorials, Thriller, Crime, adaptations, 3 stars, 1930s, Adventure, Mystery, 2012 , add a comment

In the ’30s and ’40s, RKO adapted Leslie Charteris’ series of novels about a modern-day Robin Hood called the Saint into a series of eight films — you may recall I reviewed the first last month. Five of these films starred “Russian-born English film and television actor, singer-songwriter, music composer, and author” (and, later, voice of Shere Khan in Disney’s Jungle Book), George Sanders.

Being the kind of completist I am, I’ve naturally watched all of these films (also because they’re entertaining and were all on TV at once); and, being massively behind on posting reviews as I am, I thought I’d share my thoughts on them in two or three clumps. The five Sanders films were produced in a period of under two years (from March 1939’s The Saint Strikes Back to January 1941’s The Saint in Palm Springs), so it doesn’t feel wholly inappropriate.

As ever, my thoughts lie behind these pretty pictures…

#59: The Saint in New York (1938) July 26, 2012

Posted by badblokebob in : Thriller, Crime, adaptations, 3 stars, 1930s, Mystery, 2012 , add a comment

The Saint in New York is available on iPlayer until 31st July.

My review:

#44: La Règle du jeu (1939) April 17, 2012

Posted by badblokebob in : Comedy, Drama, 4 stars, 1930s, world cinema, 2011 , add a comment

aka The Rules of the Game

I watched La Règle du jeu a year ago today, possibly the longest time I’ve ever waited before posting a review. I actually wrote this months and months ago, but sort of intended to re-watch it (especially as it’s been on Film4 plenty) to try to craft something better. But I still haven’t, and with a whole 12 months gone by — and plenty of new films needing to be watched — I’ve decided just to post this and be done with.

And it’s halfway through April and there’s still three more reviews from last year to post, never mind the nearly-40 from this year.

Jean Renoir | 106 mins | TV (HD) | 4:3 | France / French | PG

La Regle du jeuSometimes you watch one of the most acclaimed films of all time and find yourself with very little to say about it. La Règle du jeu — or, as it’s commonly known in America thanks to Criterion’s incessant title translation (in fairness, that’s probably the most sensible way to combat the mass attitude of “argh! it’s in Foreign!”), The Rules of the Game* — is certainly one of those films. Regularly voted into the top three on Greatest Films Ever Made lists, it sits at exactly #3 on the last iterations of both They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?’s 1000 Greatest Films and Sight & Sound’s decennial Top 10 (one of only two films to have appeared in all six to date; the new one’s later this year).

RULES OF THE GAME, the mutant, French cousin of DOWNTON ABBEY

- Patton Oswalt

What little I can say is that it’s a farce, but also a drama, which clearly has Something To Say — I believe I read that Renoir said it’s intended to be more about the lifestyle and the time it’s set than it is about a story. That kind of idea can often lead to pretension, but here it works. The story is simple yet complicated — it’s all about people having various affairs, basically, but there’s a lot of them and they’re constantly shifting. I’m not sure how Proper Film Critics would feel about this link, but I felt a certain affinity for Gosford Park while watching. Either I’m being plebby and there’s nothing substantial there, or that’s something that merits a more considered comparison. There’s some great camerawork — not flashy, not drawing attention to itself, The Rules of the Gamebut a lovely use of long takes, fluid movement and deep focus to keep the action flowing seamlessly.

And I agree, it is very good, but unlike Citizen Kane (which I instantly admired, though really need to see again to shake off the shackles of its Importance and just appreciate by itself — hello, Blu-ray!), I didn’t really see why it’s often rated so highly. I imagine there’s something I’m missing; possibly some historical significance. There’s a lot packed in, and I can see how multiple viewings could reveal even more going on. Perhaps a better researched awareness of the period (beyond the obvious Eve Of War, though that’s important) and of French class structure at the time is necessary to get the full richness of Renoir’s vision. The fact it was banned by the French government due to being bad for morale, then also banned by the occupying Nazis, suggests it did have a lot of social relevance.

Not one of my favourites, then, but a definite “must try again”.

4 out of 5

* OK, this ‘criticism’ doesn’t stand-up to much scrutiny — it’s not like every UK DVD/Blu-ray release of a foreign film has the original language title on it. But I was inspired by the fact the BFI DVD does call La Règle du jeu by its original title, and numerous other foreign films retain their original titles on UK releases too, whereas you rarely see a Criterion release without a translated title. I also appreciate there’s some kind of cultural snobbery involved in this comment even coming to mind. For these reasons I was going to delete the comment, only I liked part of it too much. So much for kill your babies.

Um, anyway… ^

#79: Holiday (1938) November 22, 2011

Posted by badblokebob in : Comedy, Drama, Romance, 5 stars, adaptations, 1930s, remakes, 2011 , add a comment

aka Free to Live / Unconventional Linda

George Cukor | 91 mins | TV | 4:3 | USA / English | U

HolidayHoliday stars Cary Grant as an everyday chap who falls in love with a girl who, it turns out, is a wealthy heiress type… but who it also turns out may not share his views on the future. Her kooky sister, played by Katherine Hepburn, on the other hand…

You already know how Holiday ends, don’t you? You may not even have heard of the film, but having read those two sentences, you know. I knew. We all know. Unless there’s a twist, of course. Sometimes there is, especially in older films where they weren’t as slavishly concerned with hitting demographics and all that. So I won’t say if there’s a twist or not.

What I will say is, I loved Holiday. I’d never even heard of it before it turned up on BBC Two in a week of similar stuff, like His Girl Friday (which I’d seen, and reviewed), Bringing Up Baby (which I saw, and reviewed) and It Happened One Night (which is still sat on my V+ box). I’d heard of all of those, but not this, but I’m glad I watched it by association.

It doesn’t have quite the hilarity of His Girl Friday, but I thought it had more substance than Bringing Up Baby (as much as I enjoyed that too). I suppose you would say it “spoke to me”, what with Grant’s character’s desire to go off and do something he wanted to do instead of get locked in to the dull corporate world, and the family’s insistence that a sensible city job where he’d earn a fortune is more appropriate. I can’t say I’m in the same situation — I wouldn’t mind the chance of a highly-paid job, if you’ve got one going spare — but I could relate well enough.

He's not going on holiday... or is he?Holiday is not the funniest of comedies — though I did think it was funny — instead hitting a level of dramatic/character interest that I didn’t predict. I think it’s more a personal favourite than an objective Great Film (but then, one might argue, what is?), so the best I can do is encourage you to seek it out if this kind of film from this kind of era is your kind of thing.

5 out of 5

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