Thursday, September 12, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for September 15-22

September 15–September 22

SUMMER WITH MONIKA (September 15, 2:15 am): It's directed by Ingmar Bergman with Harriet Andersson in the starring role. Need I write more? Even if Bergman films aren't your thing - and if that's the case, it's time to review your cinematic priorities - this is well-worth seeing. Andersson's portrayal of the adventurous, wild and sexy Monika is unforgettable. Monika and Harry (Lars Ekborg) are working-class teenage lovers who steal Harry's father's boat and spend a memorable summer together. Monika gets pregnant, but isn't interested in the family live while Harry embraces it. The film explores topics such as lost innocence, responsibility, freedom, oppression, hopelessness and abandonment. The film was released in the United States in 1955, two years after its Swedish debut, to little fanfare. A year later, it was cut to focus on the nude scenes in an effort to market it in the United States as a sex film.

SUNRISE (September 16, 8:00 pm): This 1927 film, directed by German Expressionist F.W. Murnau, is one of my favorite silent dramas. It's the story of a farmer (played by George O'Brien) who falls in love with a city woman (Margaret Livingston) visiting his small town. She manipulates the man into killing his wife (Janet Gaynor), but he has second thoughts. The film is impressively stylized with the characters showing a wide range of emotions and wonderful cinematography, particularly in how scenes are filmed in the city and the country.


REAR WINDOW (September 15, 8:00 pm): This was the very first Hitchcock film I saw. I was about 8 and Mom was a big, big Hitchcock fan, so I have a sentimental attachment. However, if I were to recommend a Hitchcock film for a newcomer to start, this would be the one. It’s an almost perfect bend of plotting and acting. The tension can be felt throughout, especially as it builds towards the climax. Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly are wonderful as the couple and Raymond Burr is clearly in his element as the heel. (I remember asking my mother how could Raymond Burr be the bad guy because he played Perry Mason.) It’s the perfect Hitchcock for the novice – and if you have children you want to introduce to Hitchcock’s films, there is no better choice than this.

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (September 16, 2:15 am): It’s another late-into-the-night showing, so set your recorders. And, no, you won’t be disappointed, unless you have trouble watching a silent film. This is a thoroughly engrossing film about a madman’s revenge. The expressionistic sets give it a surreal, otherworldly feeling, as if one was in a nightmare. And though many critics and historians see the ending as a cop out, it still fits the film as a whole. (Really, how else could they have ended it?) When they speak of “Essentials” on TCM, this is one of those true essentials.

WE DISAGREE ON ... LA JETEE (September 20, 8:00 pm) 

ED: A. I must admit there aren’t many shorts I’m wild about, but for some reason this is an exception. Perhaps it’s the weirdness of it all. Perhaps it was the manner in which I saw it – in a classroom played along with Un Chien Andalou for a class titled “The Screenplay in Literature,” back in my undergrad days. Whatever, it interested and amused me. Its director, Chris Marker, is known for documentaries. This was one of the few works rooted in fiction that he undertook. And of the other works of his I saw, I have to admit I was not impressed. Marker is an avant-garde filmmaker, with narrative within narratives, much like Godard with films inside films. All in all I think I’ve seen about 10 of his works, and this is one of the only two (the other being Sans Soleil) that I liked.

DAVID: C+. The concept of this film, that isn't even 27 minutes in length, is quite clever. Made up entirely of still photos, except for a single brief moving picture shot, it tells the story of a post-apocalyptic society in Paris (after World War III, according to the narrator who is the only person who speaks, besides a few moments of incoherent talk). Those who "won" the war control society, which is forced underground because of the damage caused by WWIII. Through the use of simplistic-looking technology and injections, they force prisoners to dream in efforts to break through to the past and eventually the future. They want to resume life above ground, but because of war contamination, they can't. However, they can monitor people's dreams. The film focuses on one man who is haunted by the same dream about a woman on an airport platform. As the film moves on, he falls in love with the woman, eventually breaking through to the future by living in the past until we come to the end. The film is considered one of the best shorts ever made. It sounds pretty cool, right? It has potential, but alas it falls flat. Nearly every movie made could stand to trim a few minutes off its running time to make it tighter. This film is no exception despite its brevity. It drags even though it's only a bit longer than a TV sitcom. I saw it again the other day and while it promises a lot, the delivery is a near failure. Also, while I realize it's science fiction, the flaw in the conclusion ruins any semblance of logic. The still-photo concept is much more clever in concept than its implementation. 

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

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