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Author: EarlD Page 1 of 296

Appreciating “Tamara Drewe”

A once ugly young woman, Tamara Drewe, has always liked and fallen for men; and now beautiful, she turns their heads as well. She does so in the dull English village to which she returns, and what vexing scrapes—in Stephen Frears‘s film Tamara Drewe (2010)—the poor, straying girl gets into!

Based on a decent graphic novel, the movie is very enjoyable, even if it ends with a certain triumph for a disgustingly mischievous teenage girl (Jessica Barden). Gemma Arterton is pleasant as Tamara, but strikingly, delightfully true are most of the other actors, such as Roger Allam (Nicholas) and Bill Camp (Glen). I haven’t paid much attention to Frears’s direction over the years; here, it is excellent.

Angel And The Duke: The Movie, “Angel and the Badman”

Cover of "Angel and the Badman"

Cover of Angel and the Badman

John Wayne resists being entirely convincing as a badman (a compound word?) in the 1947 Western, Angel and the Badman.  This is the first movie Wayne produced, and he wanted it to have capital acting, but he himself does not really fill the bill.  Gail Russell does, however, as the “angel,” the naive Quaker girl who, like the other devout Friends, approves of generosity and disapproves of violence.  Russell is capable of innocence—and quiet appeal.

Wayne plays Quirt, a man not of the quirt but of the gun, for his outlaw ways.  Harry Carey shows strength and depth as the middle-aged marshal who wants to hang Quirt, and who bluntly tells Russell’s Penelope not to gaze “bug-eyed” at the varmint.  “There’s no future in it,” he murmurs, but Penelope loveth Quirt. . . The beliefs of the Quakers slowly induce Quirt to change for the better, even if he retains a take-charge, aggressive mind.  Except at the very end, this change is presented subtlely, wisely, in director James Edward Grant‘s script.

Besides Russell and Carey, other actors shine here as well.  Probably the only dreadful performance is by Lee Dixon as Randy McCall, Quirt’s former partner in crime.  Enacting a slimy nerd, he’s facetious.


Hey There, Gorgeous Girl: “Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me”

Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me (1972) is a Francois Truffaut comedy—really, a tragicomedy—in which a woman accused of murder tells her tale to a sociologist penning a thesis. Camille Bliss, acted by Bernadette Lafont, was mistreated as a child but got her own back. Is she a mere tramp through her present behavior? Dunno, but this is a typical slapdash-for-entertainment piece from Truffaut, the best thing about it being the cast. Charles Denner, Guy Marchand, Andre Dussollier are all here.

Notwithstanding she makes too many faces, Lafont is terrific, an intelligent farceur, her screen presence necessary. She has a European look with gorgeous brown hair and perhaps the most comely bosom ever put on film.

By the way, yes, Kid contains a maddeningly silly story.

(In French with English subtitles)

French Film Ain’t What It Used To Be: “Man on the Train”

Cover of "Man on the Train (L'Homme du Tr...

Cover of Man on the Train (L’Homme du Train)

In 2004’s Man on the Train, Jean Rochefort plays Manesquier, a bachelor who offers lodging to, and befriends, a middle-aged bank robber named Milan (Johnny Hallyday).  Friendless and lonely, Manesquier finds himself secretly longing for the kind of gutsiness and abandon he sees in Milan, who, for his part, warms to the quiet conventionality that the old bachelor is beginning to hate.  Each man nigh unconsciously slips into behaving a bit as the other man does.  A kind of desperate role-playing, this, while the routine danger of death abides (Manesquier has health problems).  However, both men go to their individual fates—in screenwriter Claude Klotz’s almost nihilistic vision of the world.

Ingenious for its characterization, dialogue, direction (by Patrice Leconte) and cinematography, Man on the Train is nonetheless, sadly, a failure.  James Bowman has rightly commented on the film’s “willingness to romanticize criminals,” i.e. Milan.  Watch the film from beginning to end and you’ll see what Bowman means.  That’s bad enough, but another thought provoked is that of whether an aging intellectual would ever really envy an outlaw’s life.  Yet whether he would or wouldn’t, the matter ought to be examined with a more acceptable climax and denouement than  Klotz has purveyed in this movie.  That denouement is all that keeps Train from out-and-out nihilism, and it’s lousy.  Over and above, the film is thin and rather talky, not unlike Ingmar Bergman at his worse.

Leconte’s direction is tasteful and painstaking.  Klotz’s screenplay leaves much to be desired, but at any rate his dialogue is terrific.  No admirer of the music of Schumann, Manesquier nevertheless says he likes Schumann because he “appeals to my love of failure.”  In another sequence Milan, substituting for Manesquier in the tutelage of a boy, praises a fictional character, Balzac’s Eugenie Grandet, because she waits and waits for her fiance’s return.  Says the bank robber, “I think she’s magnificent.  People nowadays don’t have that kind of patience.”

(In French with English subtitles)

Again, “The King of Marvin Gardens”

I have already reviewed The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) but was unfair to the film by claiming that Bob Rafelson‘s direction is derivative of Fellini and Antonioni. I don’t believe it quite is. Rafelson is his own man, one who regrettably settled for a clearly second-rate story idea and script, written by Jacob Brackman, for his art picture.

I still say King is about the tragic unfulfillment of dreams taking place amid fading respectable culture. It’s a culture Jason Stabler (Bruce Dern) sinks his claws into, whereas his brother (Jack Nicholson) is reluctant. But then, he is a frustrated and sometimes dishonest artist of sorts—and sexually restrained to boot. From beginning to end in the film, there is empty-world shabbiness. But also there is too little drama until the last twenty minutes—and even too little poetry so the picture is not much like, say, Antonioni’s Eclipse. It’s just not wholly uninteresting.

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