Sunday, October 13, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for October 15-22

October 15–October 22


WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (October 17, 8:00 pm): Directed by Fritz Lang, this underrated film features three upper-management types fighting it out over who will be executive director of a major corporation with a newspaper and radio station, inherited by Vincent Price, who's father just died. Price does his usual excellent job as an eccentric in a very entertaining and engaging way. The winner has to produce a major exclusive on The Lipstick Killer, a murderer terrorizing the city. The film is fast-paced with smart dialogue and great acting. The cast includes George Sanders, Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino and Howard Duff.

ASHES AND DIAMONDS (October 22, 6:15 am): This is the last film of Polish director Andrzej Wajda's outstanding must-see war trilogy. This 1958 film tells the story of two Poles who are assigned to kill their town's Communist leader during the day the Germans officially surrender to end World War II. Wajda brilliantly captures the emotions of those who have survived the war, but are still fighting to move on with their lives. The story is wonderful as is the acting. It's best to watch the trilogy in order, A Generation (1954) and Kanal (1956) before Ashes and Diamonds, even though there is little carryover from one to another. But if you watch this film first, you'll want to see the others.


BREATHLESS (October 15, 12:00 am): Who can dislike a film dedicated to Monogram Studios? It’s Jean-Luc Godard’s first – and some say still his best – film. Jean-Paul Belmondo shines as a petty crook who impulsively kills a motorcycle cop after stealing a car. Idolizing Bogart and acting out his life as if he were Bogart, he tries to convince his American girlfriend (Jean Seberg) to flee with him to Rome. No studio sets here, with a budget of only about $80,000, Godard used the streets hotel rooms and cafes of Paris as his studio, melding street life into a veritable symphony of chaotic sounds. Through the use of hand-held cameras and placing the cameraman in a wheelchair, Godard makes maximum use of jump shots to convey the chaotic atmosphere felt by the main characters. Also watch for the appearance of Jean-Pierre Melville as the novelist Parvulesco. An inside joke: when Belmondo’s character, Michel Poiccard, receives a check from Tomatchoff, Poiccard asks how he can cash it, to which Tomatchoff replies, “Try Bob Montagne.” Poiccard’s reply: “But he’s in jail.”

NIGHTMARE ALLEY (October 16, 9:45 pm): Who knew Tyrone Power could act? Well, he’s utterly magnificent in this film from director Edmund Golding as ambitious carny worker Stan Carlisle, who learns the tricks of the mentalist con from Zeena (Joan Blondell) and her alcoholic husband, Pete (Ian Keith). Having absorbed the act, Stan leaves for the big time and become a famous mind reader, engaging in a confidence game that ultimately leads to his downfall. This is one of the classics of film noir – and an essential.

WE DISAGREE ON ... ANDREI RUBLEV (October 21, 2:45 am)

ED: A+. I can only say that the fact this movie not only could, but actually was made in the U.S.S.R. of the mid-60s, was in itself a miracle. It’s the story of the famous medieval Russian icongrapher and chronicles his struggle to retain his faith and artistry deriving from that faith in a world of unlimited cruelty, ignorance, and suffering. Little was actually known about Rublev, and much of the movie comes from the imagination of the director as to what might have happened behind the scenes and what was the motivation in certain instances. I mention this because while director Andrei Tarkovsky might have simply written it as a sweeping epic of its time, what the audience does get is a stunning work of the inner mind and the relationship of the ethereal to what is oft times cruel reality. And now a word of warning – this film moves at a snail’s pace and requires patience to absorb its plot and message.  The last time I saw it was over 30 years ago in New York with my friend during a triple bill of Russian movies. (He fell asleep during this, which enabled me to help myself to his big box of Milk Duds.) I don’t remember a lot of detail, but I do remember clearly the Tartar attack on the town. Also be warned that it is extremely bloody and I read that the Soviet censors wanted it excised completely from the film. Tarkovsky argued strenuously for its inclusion and won the day, but not the battle, ultimately, as the authorities banned it from being shown until 1971. I think that with today’s technology, the best thing to do is to watch it in increments, then reflect on those increments. As the film is divided into episodes, that should be easy.

DAVID: C-. Unlike Ed, I saw this film for the first and only time about six months ago, and his memory of this snoozefest (see his friend and Milk Duds above) from over 30 years ago is better than mine. I mostly remember that the movie is really long and boring. For all the talk from critics and cinefiles about the movie's moving portrayals of art, religion, passion, intensity, knowledge, suffering, beauty, symbolism, freedom, integrity, jealousy and individuality, the movie is about 3 1/2 hours and seems like it will never end. We really don't learn much about Rublev as this film is very loosely based on his life. Whatever the viewer is supposed to take from the movie is lost as it's extraordinarily confusing. I defy anyone who's seen it to truthfully say they were able to follow it. Did I mention that it's really long and slow moving? I must admit that parts of it are beautifully filmed and there are some compelling scenes, but overall I can think of much better ways to spend about 205 minutes than watching this movie. If you're into art, watching paint dry is one suggestion.

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

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