TCM TiVo ALERT
November 23–November 30
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
THE FRESHMAN (November 24, 11:45 pm): It's a shame that Harold Lloyd is either largely forgotten or most film fans never heard of him because he was a brilliant comedian during cinema's silent days. (Of course his peak was about 90 years ago so it's understandable, but disappointing nonetheless.) In this 1925 film, Lloyd plays Harold Lamb, a naive guy who goes to college thinking life on campus is like it is in the movies. He learns out the hard way that the two are not the same and comes across to his classmates as a fool. He tries out for the football team and goes from being the water boy to playing the key role in the big game with hilarious results. Lloyd was the master of the sight gag, typically better at it than Buster Keaton and that's saying a lot, and there are plenty of them in this film. The plot is predictable, but Lloyd makes this a fun and funny film to watch and enjoy.
TOM THUMB (November 26, 9:15 am): A delightful 1958 film based on the classic fairy tale with Russ Tamblyn bringing great energy and an outstanding ability to entertain in the title role. The best part of this film, with a mostly British cast, is the performances of Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers as two criminals who try to exploit Tom by tricking him to be a part of their various swindles. It's geared toward a younger audience though there is plenty of humor, particularly from the two bumbling, very funny bad guys, to keep the interest of adults. The handful of songs are entertaining. While the special effects are dated, they are charming as well as impressive for its day.
ED’S BEST BETS:
LA POINTE COURTE (November 23, 4:00 am): Director Agnes Varda gained international renown with this study of a husband and wife trying to rescue their marriage interwoven with the life and times of Ste, a fishing village on the Mediterranean. Known only as Him and Her, the couple comes to the village because it’s the place where He grew up and still loves, while She is from Paris and has the requisite cosmopolitan tastes. Will they be able to work things out? Meanwhile, we are drawn into the drama that plagues the town: Will the father let his daughter marry the man she loves, even if he's kind of a wimp? Will the cops arrest the guy who harvested his shellfish from an off-limits stretch of water? Will the big-city couple stay together or split up? The movie’s climax takes place at the annual water-jousting tournament (which actually takes place in Ste each year), a sort of slow-motion skirmish where men knock each other off boats with medieval-style lances while onlookers cheer their favorites. This is the sort of film that will pull one in slowly and once in, it never lets up for a minute. The village life and drama is fascinating and the individual dramas compelling.
IL SORPASSO (November 28, 1:30 am): Road pictures are always fun to watch, and this is among the best. One Sunday morning, blowhard Vittorio Gassman demands to use the phone of shy law student Jean-Louis Trintignant’s phone. From this innocuous beginning, the two get acquainted, which leads to a invitation from Gassman for Trintignant to accept a ride that turns out to be a multi-day journey up the Tyrrhenian coast. During their voyage, the contrasting natures of the blustery, hot dogging, middle-aged Gassman and the quiet, conservative, scholarly young Trintignant clash and eventually rub off on one another as they both discover their perceived family lives aren’t what they supposed them to be, and which can only end tragically. Both Gassman and Trintignant are superb, and, along with director Dino Risi’s eye for analogy, make this a film to be caught and savored.
WE DISAGREE ON . . . WINGS OF DESIRE (November 25, 5:00 am):
ED: B-. Wings of Desire, a film about two angels Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander), who amble through Berlin offering solace to those in pain, even though they are invisible. Things go wrong when Damiel is inspired to seek mortality after watching an American actor (Peter Falk) shooting a movie, and a beautiful trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin) at a circus. This is a two-hour movie that only seems like five hours. If you want to see this, by all means record it, even of you’re staying up to sit through it. You will fall asleep. Wim Wenders is notorious for his arty-farty films, and this is no different. The idea of two angels wandering the streets of Berlin listening to people’s thoughts is amusing for about 10 minutes max, but Wenders stretches it out for about 90 minutes. The kicker is that none of the thoughts our angels are listening to has any sort of point whatsoever. I’m sure a lot of pseudo-intellectuals will wring their hands over this, looking for Deep Meaning, but take it from me, this is nothing more than pretentious hogwash. Oh well, the cinematography is excellent and it does boast a good performance from Bruno Ganz. For those who can’t quite place Ganz, he probably better known for being a phenomenon on You Tube for his portrayal of Hitler in Downfall, which many clever people have taken and made into parodies of Old Screwball by titling them “Hitler Discovers Hostess Is No Longer Making Twinkies,” or “Hitler Meets the Tralololo Man.” Stick with those - they’re far more entertaining than Wings of Desire.
DAVID: A. If you love film, you will love Wings of Desire, an ingenious and moving picture from 1987. The visually-stunning film focuses on Damiel (Bruno Ganz), an angel in Berlin around the end of the Cold War. He stands on top of tall buildings, in a crowd or nearly anywhere, watching people and listening to their thoughts, many of them quite depressing. Damiel and Cassiel (Otto Sander), an another angel featured in the film, can't really do anything to directly comfort people except touch someone's shoulder to give a little hope to those with troubled existences. It's beauty is in its subtlety. The acting is brilliant, particularly Ganz and of all people, Peter Falk, who plays himself. Falk is in Berlin to film a movie, and it turns out, he was angel who chose to give up his immortality to become a person. Falk's ability to play himself with an unexpected twist is one of the most compelling aspects of this most compelling film. Damiel is growing tired of being an angel and yearns to be a human. He tells Cassiel: "It would be rather nice, coming home after a long day to feed the cat, like Philip Marlowe; to have a fever, and blackened fingers from the newspaper; at last to guess, instead of always knowing.” Damiel falls in love with Marion (Solveig Dommartin), a beautiful trapeze artist who fears she will fall. For Damiel, it's love at first sight. He longs for the simple things humans experience, but often don't notice, such as touching someone or having a conversation. Damiel risks his immortality to have an opportunity at love. Is the film's tempo slow? Perhaps, but that allows the viewer to better understand Damiel's existence as an angel and the quandary he faces in choosing mortality and love. I agree with Ed about the excellent cinematography. It was done by Henri Alekan, who also had the same job in the 1946 French version of Beauty and the Beast, another magnificent film. Rather than a Deep Meaning, the film provides a simple lesson: It is the small things in life that make it worth living.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.