Wednesday, March 6, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for March 8-14

March 8–March 14


ROME, OPEN CITY (March 8, 8:00 pm): The first, and best, of Roberto Rossellini's Neorealist Trilogy. The other two, Paisan and Germany Year Zero, air after it on TCM. Rome, Open City is about a small group of Italian resisters in the city under Nazi occupation in World War II. The 1945 film, made shortly after Italy was liberated by the Allies, shows the horror and devastation to the country with the Nazis in control and with the assistance of some Italians. This impressive film, which uses many nonprofessional actors (thus the neorealism), tells a gripping story of love, honor, betrayal, integrity and valor. The film’s ending is tragic and touching.

THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET (March 14, 9:45 pm): This is another excellent film from 1945 about a Nazi occupation. But this movie, based on a true story, has the Nazis occupying a house in Manhattan in 1939 in which a spy ring is located. The movie, done with the cooperation of the FBI, is filmed in semi-documentary style and is quite interesting. Nazi recruiters ask a college student with a German heritage to be part of the spy ring. He goes to the FBI, who ask him to do it and report what is happening. The film is filled with suspense and drama with a plot twist you don't see coming. It has a few over-the-top moments in terms of praising the FBI, but it's definitely worth your time (it's only 88 minutes long) to watch it.


THE RULES OF THE GAME (March 9, 3:30 am): Director Jean Renoir’s satiric farce of the manners of the French is a classic and one of the best films ever made. A group of wealthy aristocrats assemble for a weekend hunting party at a country chateau on the eve of World War II. Before long, however, the façade breaks down with the guests, hosts and servants involved in rather complex romantic problems. Renoir’s point is that beneath the polite and civilized façade lies a world of casual cruelty and betrayal, for we are all playing by the rules of society (“the rules of the game”), and those that don’t suffer the consequences. The film itself is beautifully made with every shot and frame composed with care and an eye to the overall story. Anyone interested in the history of cinema or just looking for a good movie should take this one in. You won’t be disappointed.

MADE IN THE U.S.A. (March 10, 3:00 am): I can sure pick ‘em, can’t I? Here’s another one you’ll need the DVR to record. This is a witty and wry sort of political noir essentially about people that behave as if they’re living in a movie. Self-appointed private eye (Anna Karina) is investigating the death of her former lover. As she progresses the bodies begin to pile up, awash in stage blood. In addition, Godard uses backdrops colored in vivid primary colors of blue, red and yellow that reaches out and grabs our attention. Neon signs and electronic news ribbons dominate their scenes. When Karina removes her trench coat she’s garbed in some kind of clingy dress in loud pop art colors, further hypnotizing the viewer. Notice the police chasing her: Godard, who loves cultural references (Where do you think Tarantino stole it from?), names his cops Paul Widmark, (director) Donald Siegel (Karina is named Paula Nelson, a reference to Siegel’s Baby Face Nelson starring Mickey Rooney), Robert McNamara, and Richard Nixon. (Also look for allusions to characters in American movies.) Watch Karina break down the fourth wall with comments such as, “You can fool the audience, but not me.” Ignore Godard’s pretentious Marxist rantings – and yes, the film does get lost in itself – but just sit back and concentrate on Karina. She combines a sexual intellectualism with a playful flirtiness that left me in complete awe, and totally in love. Don’t miss this one.


ED: A-. The Canterville Ghost is very loose adaptation of the Oscar Wilde story, updated to meet wartime audiences. Charles Laughton is his usual excellent self as the ghost condemned until the arrival of a distant descendant to his castle (Robert Young) gives him hope that he may be redeemed. Though the story is ever so slight – as if they bowdlerized Wilde – the sterling cast makes it an enjoyable outing. Margaret O’Brien turns in another strong performance as the castle’s less-than-thrilled heiress, and there is good chemistry between Laughton and Young. As I said, the film’s strongest point is the performance of Laughton who keeps the film centered on comedy rather than ghostly thrills. Jules Dassin, in one of his early directorial assignments, keeps the film moving along at a tight, steady pace, holding a firm rein on the actors to keep the film from meandering, and displaying some of the techniques he’ll put to good use in later films. Hey, it’s not one of the great cinematic masterpieces, BUT it is a film that both parents and their children can enjoy and one that will make them laugh. 

DAVID: C+. The premise of this 1944 movie is ridiculous. Charles Laughton plays a cowardly ghost who befriends a little girl and a relative (Margaret O'Brien). He is rescued from his doomed afterlife of attempting to haunt his family's castle by an American soldier (Robert Young), who is also a distant relative, during World War II. How do we know they're all related? They all have the same distinctive birthmark. Sounds like the plot of a bad episode of The Patty Duke Show. The casting saves this film from being a total bomb, but even that can't help this movie from rising above the very generous C+ I give it. Laughton hams it up even more than usual to save this film. But there are times when he goes over the top. Yeah, I know, Laughton over the top? O'Brien is cute and Young is charming. However, the plot is silly, and the attempts at being sentimental come across as forced. Also, the special effects look outdated even for the time.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

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