The Rare Review

Movies, books, music and TV

Depardieu’s Hung Up On “The Woman Next Door”

Suspend disbelief here and there, and you’ll enjoy the Francois Truffaut flick The Woman Next Door (1981) which, though it isn’t saying much, was seen by more Americans than any other foreign film in ’81.

Again, as in other Truffaut movies, there is amatory passion.  Adele H. never quite committed adultery, however; Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant do.  Woman is about the monstrousness of temptation.  Depardieu’s first mistake is not informing his nice wife that before he married he once had a love affair with new neighbor Ardant; he keeps it a secret.  Naturally he soon learns that he and Ardant can’t be just friends.  The tragedy which ensues is especially jarring in a movie this typically lyrical and basically simple, plainly lacking in gravity.  Film buff  Truffaut insisted on his achievements being serious but not grave, which is why there is something of Hitchcock in this tragedy.  But whereas I am not convinced the estimable Hitchcock was an artist, I believe Truffaut was.

(In French with English subtitles)

Fanny Ardant

Cover of Fanny Ardant

Commercially, Going “The Whole Nine Yards”

Bruce Willis stars in The Whole Nine Yards, from 2000, as a hit man who moves next door to a law-abiding dentist (Matthew Perry) with marriage and money troubles. The dentist’s contemptuous wife (Rosanna Arquette) urges him to rat out the hit man, for a price, to an enemy gangster, but the dentist intends no harm. And Arquette secretly wants him to die. Boy, does the threat of violence pervade.

Director Jonathan Lynn‘s and scriptwriter Mitchell Kapner‘s film is an effective comedy of killing and treachery, and it beats the blazes out of woke comedies. It has nothing to say but is not a thumbsucker. The plot Kapner offers is flawed but engaging. The flick is all commercial rawness. Perry is fun and supple; Arquette is raffishly dandy. Amanda Peet is committed and sapid and pretty nude. Wait, I mean she is a pretty nude.

“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” And I Like It

Not enough good one-liners crop up, but there are amusingly mad sight gags, to be sure, in Stanley Kramer‘s It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). And I respect that it’s full of plot and detail—far from indifferent to these elements—and that its cast is, well, largely appealing.

Spencer Tracy is creditable but Sid Caesar is a farce artist not at all uncommanding or charmless, which is practically the case with Terry-Thomas too. Ethel Merman is funny and means comic business while Edie Adams—inadequate in her acting—is at least fetching. And she has more life in her than Dorothy Provine does.

The screenplay is by William and Tania Rose. Theirs is not a great comedy, but they’ve given Mad what most great comedies possess: a certain sadness behind the hilarious occurrences.

The Film, “Intruder in the Dust” Succeeds

Intruder in the Dust (1949 film)

Intruder in the Dust (1949 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A brave old lady (Elizabeth Patterson) initiates the digging up of a dead body after nightfall to see what kind of bullet was used to kill the person.  The boys who assist her are brave too.  What prompts this action—a plot device in Clarence Brown‘s Intruder in the Dust (1949)—is the swift arrest of a black man, Lucas Beauchamp (Juano Hernandez), for the murder of a white man.

The film, based on a William Faulkner novel, is set in the South and was shot in Faulkner’s home town of Oxford, Mississippi.  A finely directed piece, it concerns the perennial struggle for the rule of law, for just procedures for every accused individual (a lesson needed in today’s America).  Lucas has a friendly relationship with a white boy called Chick (Claude Jarman, Jr.) and, in fact, with money, for he is a well-off farmer in a slowly changing America.  But the townspeople disdain his pride, and desire a lynching, and yet scriptwriter Ben Maddow does supply a few essentially good people.  In the case of the murdered man’s father (a strong Porter Hall), this seems to be due to the gent’s having been seasoned by harsh life—the very thing Faulkner never ignored.

I Shan’t Finish “1900”

The film 1900 (1976), by Bernardo Bertolucci, is a long and high-budget Italian period piece. Its cynical vulgarity and ugly inanity drove me to stop watching it after two hours and nine minutes.

It’s the kind of film a sexual liberal of the Seventies would put out. Two boys talk about their exposed penises. As men they are in bed together with one (prostituting) woman. An aging landowner instructively exhibits to a girl of about fourteen a member that will ever be non-erect. Had enough sex stuff yet? In themselves only one of these scenes is artistically bad (the two boys), but all are part of an offputting two-hour whole. The nine minutes beyond the two hours I saw were stupid (why is Robert De Niro so passive before Dominique Sanda?) I don’t regret not finishing 1900.

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