TCM TiVo ALERT
July 23–July 31
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
BELLE DE JOUR (July 23, 12:30 am): Catherine Deneuve as a prostitute already sounds like it's going to be a good film even if the script is mediocre. It turns out the storyline of this 1967 film is excellent, the acting is fantastic and it's all expertly directed by the great Luis Bunuel. Deneuve is a bored and prim French housewife, with a very kinky side even though she's a prude when it comes to her husband. She ends up making some of those fantasies come true when she becomes an afternoon hooker at a brothel. The film blends reality and fantasy leaving the viewer wondering what is real and what isn't. While this can be frustrating in other movies, it somehow enhances this film. It's one of Deneuve's finest performances and is a landmark in mainstream erotic films even though it never shows any explicit sex scenes.
WILD STRAWBERRIES (July 28, 10:00 pm): You can't go wrong with any of the six Ingmar Bergman films TCM is airing on July 28, starting at 8:00 pm. They all come with my highest recommendation. However, if you have to choose one – and really, is there any reason to watch only one? – go with 1957's Wild Strawberries. Bergman isn't light viewing, but the insight into humanity his films provide are worth it. This film is about a 78-year-old professor (Victor Sjostrom) who is traveling across Sweden to receive an honor from the university of which he earned his doctorate. Accompanied by his daughter-in-law (Ingrid Thulin), he picks up young hitchhikers and through nightmares, flashbacks and reflections as well as observing his fellow travelers, he learns about his life. It's so brilliant and moving that the viewer also learns about himself/herself if that person allows it. It's easily one of the 10 greatest films ever made.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THE MUMMY (July 26, 12:15 am): Boris Karloff gives one of his strongest and best-remembered performances as Imhotep, an Egyptian mummy revived after thousands of years. Zita Johann co-stars as his reincarnated love. Billed as “Karloff the Uncanny” in publicity for this film, Boris lives up to the moniker – and then some. Watch for the great scene when archaeologist Bramwell Fletcher reads the magic scroll that brings Karloff back to life and laughs himself insane when Karloff revives and walks away with the scroll. The makeup was years ahead of its time, adding to the eerie atmosphere. It’s one Karloff performance not to be missed.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE (July 31, 2:15 am): No, it’s not the 1942 Ernst Lubitsch original, but the 1983 Mel Brooks remake. And it almost equals the original. Brooks merges the separate roles of Joseph Tura (played by Jack Benny in the original) and bit part player and Hitler imitator Bronski (Tom Dugan) into one Frederic Bronski, but is very careful not to go too far astray, and the changes he does make are excellent. But the real gem in this production is Mel’s wife, Anne Bancroft. As Anna Bronski, she brings to the role the love for her husband and the frustration with his antics. Brooks, like Lubitsch before him, has an excellent supporting cast and makes good use of each. Jose Ferrer makes for a wonderful traitorous Professor Siletski, and Charles Durning almost walks away with the picture as the hilariously inept Gestapo Colonel Erhardt. Usually I wince whenever a remake is mentioned, but this one is funny and well-paced. By the way, look for the tribute to Jack Benny.
WE DISAGREE ON ... LUST FOR LIFE (July 24, 8:00 pm)
ED: A+. When considering a biopic about a person as passionate as Van Gogh, one needs an actor who can be passionate without chewing up the available scenery. And in Kirk Douglas we have that perfect actor. He brilliantly conveys the emotional state of Van Gogh without resorting to stage theatrics or trying to outshine his co-stars. In fact, there are times throughout the film when Anthony Quinn, who won a well-deserved Oscar as Paul Gauguin, outshines Douglas in their scenes together. (More kudos to Douglas for placing the importance of his subject before his ego.) As with any quality production, it is absolutely essential to have a good director and an excellent supporting cast. And Lust for Life has both. Vincente Minnelli has the good sense to stand back and let the story unfold while getting superb performances from a stellar supporting cast, including the underrated James Donald, Henry Daniell, Lionel Jeffries, Niall McGinnis, Laurence Naismith, and the always-dependable Everett Sloane. But in the end it’s up to the star to carry the project, and Douglas does just that with a textured performance for the ages. This is a film I can watch time and time again without feeling bored.
DAVID: C-. You won't get an argument from me that Kirk Douglas is one of cinema's all-time greatest actors and that over the years, Anthony Quinn showed himself to be a fantastic talent who delivered great performances in the right circumstances. While Quinn won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his eight-minute performance in this 122-minute film and Douglas was his excellent self, this movie about Vincent Van Gogh, an interesting and intense figure in the history of art, does very little for me. I don't enjoy the story, how it's told, the pacing of the film or most anything else even though I recognize the strength of the acting. It's that strength in this overly melodramatic film that saves it from me giving it a grade lower than a C-. Not that it has much to do with this film, but while Van Gogh's life was fascinating, his art is highly overrated.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.