Friday, May 30, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for June 1-7

TCM TiVo Alert 
June 1–June 7


A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (June 2, 8:00 pm): If you consider all of the films starring music bands put together quickly to capitalize on their popularity, you'd be hard-pressed to find more than a handful that are even mediocre. This one starring the Beatles is the best of the bunch – by a lot. The premise of the film is basic: it's a look at a couple of days in the incredible lives of the Fab Four at the height of Beatlemania as they run from screaming fans and prepare for a TV show in which they'll perform. While I'm a huge Beatles fan, I much prefer their music from 1965 to 1969. However, the songs in this 1964 film are among the best of the early Beatles' music, including the title track, "Can't Buy Me Love," and "I Should Have Known Better." The biggest surprises are the script is clever and the four come across as charming and witty, at ease with funny one-liners and amusing sight gags. They'd try to repeat the magic a year later with "Help!" The soundtrack is better, but the film is a silly throwaway piece of fluff more in tune with this genre.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (June 3, 8:00 pm): Besides This Is Spinal Tap, I have seen this film more than any other, and that's well over 50 times. Each time I watch it I am more impressed by how visually beautiful and stunning it is, and how sophisticated the special effects are, particularly when you consider the film was released in 1968. The storyline can be extraordinarily challenging to understand even to those who've seen it more than 50 times. This is not a movie to see once, and it's almost a crime to watch this groundbreaking film on a small screen. It's an important piece of cinema with so many moments of brilliance and amazement. There are few films I enjoy watching more than 2001 as it's the story of mankind, a higher power, artificial intelligence and what happens when they come together through advances in technology. Watching it is an incredible experience no matter how many times you see it.


GO GO MANIA (June 2, 9:45 pm): While this film is no more than a compilation of British rock ‘n’ roll acts, it’s still a wonderful trip down Memory Lane for those of us who came of age in the ‘60s. The Beatles, The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Peter and Gordon, all the icons of the British Invasion, plus some that never lasted, such as Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Sounds Incorporated, and the Spencer Davis Group. Also look for Matt Munro singing the theme song for the 1963 bond movie From Russia With Love. Now that’s nostalgia.

NIGHT AND FOG (June 3, 6:45 am): A disturbing and heartbreaking documentary featuring the abandoned grounds of Auschwitz and Majdanek while describing the lives of those imprisoned there. It alternates between the past and present (1955) while using both black and white and color footage. These are disturbing images, as director Alan Resnais makes a powerful and eloquent statement about man’s inhumanity to his fellow man by showing the contrast between the lives of the SS guards and the prisoners, the horrific medical experiments, and cremation of the bodies. This film has been used as a teaching tool in French schools since 1961. It still holds its power today.


ED: C. This dissection of middle-class life, told in three stories, has its ups and downs, but not enough ups as far as I‘m concerned. Of the three stories, the one with Gerard Depardieu as a middle manager in a textile firm is by far the most interesting, and the segment about the actress (Nicole Garcia) the least interesting. We’ve seen her story endless times already. Biologist Henri Laborit’s commentaries make for a good counterpoint to the action, but only for so long; after a while they become stale, and I wonder if Alain Resnais could have dispensed with it altogether and come up with a better movie. It’s interesting (anything is more interesting than his Last Year at Marienbad) but not interesting enough. 

DAVID: A-. This 1980 French film takes the theories of Henri Laborit, a scientist, writer and philosopher, who comments throughout, about human behavior and turns them into a satire. It creates a fascinating contrast. Among the best moments is we're shown interactions among people which are cross-cut to Laborit dryly discussing and showing how lab rats react to stressful situations. It's a clever-funny film even though there are many dramatic aspects. Gerard Depardieu is outstanding as a naive farm boy who comes to the big city to be a textile executive only to lose it after 20 years on the job. The other stories revolve around an ambitious and self-absorbed politician and his mistress, an actress who sacrifices her personal happiness while falling for a lie. The showdown between the latter two at the end of the film is quite powerful. As a bonus, we see clips of various French actors, including the legendary Jean Gabin, who represent the film's three main characters.

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

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