AND ALEXANDER (December 18, 3:45 am): This 1982 film
was intended to be Ingmar Bergman's last – it
wasn't – and was first made as a five-plus-hour
miniseries for Swedish television. The three-plus-hour film, which is
shown on TCM, was actually released before the longer miniseries.
It's a touching tale about two children, Fanny and Alexander, and how
their joyful life is turned upside down when their father suddenly
dies and their mother marries the local bishop shortly after the turn
of the 20th Century. It's classic Bergman meaning it's excellent,
comes highly recommended, and is brilliantly insightful into life and
humanity. Yeah, it's long, but not as long as the miniseries, and the
quality of the story, dialogue, scenery and costumes, the
cinematography and Bergman's amazing touch makes this a worthwhile
film to see.
MORTAL STORM (December
20, 12:15 pm): It's quite surprising that this hard-hitting
anti-Nazi film was made in 1940 and released about 18 months before
the United States got involved in World War II. It's an
extraordinarily powerful film about what happens to a group of
friends in a small Bavarian town when the Nazis take over Germany and
attempt to conquer Europe. Not only is the acting outstanding,
particularly Jimmy Stewart as an anti-Nazi, and Robert Young, who
become a Nazi zealot, but the story is uncompromising and tragic.
It's one of Stewart's finest roles. It's still as relevant today
as it was in 1940.
D (December 15, 7:30 am): Director Vittorio DeSica
was known for his realistic portrayals of life in Postwar Italy. Next
to The Bicycle Thieves, this is his most important – and
best – film from that time. It takes a long, hard look at
the problems of the unwanted elderly, the protagonist being a
retired professor of linguistics at Bologna who can no longer survive
on his meager pension. Thrown out of his apartment for back rent, he
wanders the streets with his faithful terrier, Flike, Be warned, this
is the saddest owner and pet drama since Old Yeller, and
I'm not kidding when I say that this is a five hankie picture. The
film was instrumental in helping to reform the Italian pension system
into something more humane. Critically lauded in the '50s, it's
almost forgotten today, much like it's protagonist.
STREET (December 17, 4:15 pm): Anthony Mann directed
this rather novel noir about Joe Norson (Farley Granger), a postal
worker with money worries who impulsively steals $30,000 from a shady
lawyer (Edmon Ryan). But, unfortunately for him, though he though he
got away with it, he’s in for much more than he bargained, as the
money was blackmail from an innocent man framed in a sex scandal and
whom the lawyer later murdered. Soon Norson finds himself caught in a
web of deceit and murder, which will include his own if he doesn’t
act and act fast. Mann takes us through a labyrinth of cross
and double-cross, leading to one of the great chase endings. He uses
a great supporting cast, including Cathy O’Donnell, Paul Kelly,
James Craig, Paul Harvey, Charles McGraw, Whit Bissell, and Jean
Hagen (in an unforgettable performance) to bring the story to life.
With the aid of superb cinematography of Joseph Ruttenberg, Mann has
created one of the greatest noirs, and certainly one to catch.
DISAGREE ON . . . PARIS, TEXAS (December 17, 10:45 pm)
C-.. When David and I do this part of the Alert, he’ll
send me a film to disagree about. For this week he sent our subject.
But in his e-mail announcing his choice of film, he says, “Man, you
don’t like Wim Wenders, do you?” Well, David, you’re wrong in
your assumption. It’s not that I dislike Wim Wenders. I don’t.
It’s just that I don’t think he’s all that and a bag of chips.
There are some Wenders films I really like, such as Hammett, Kings
of the Road, and The End of Violence, to name a few.
And if I didn’t like Paris, Texas, I would have given
it a “D” or an “F” as a grade. My take on this film is that
it boasts a solid cast, great cinematography, but the direction is
bland, a triumph of style over substance, as the rather thin,
unrealistic plot isn’t nearly enough to support the move on its
own, and Wenders does a piss-poor job of fleshing out the characters
and their situations. It could have used a good paring down as it’s
too long and waiting for anything to happen can be quite
excruciating. It’s not a bad film – just one I can
watch and could care less about.
B+. A few weeks ago, Ed and I disagreed on Wim
Wenders' Wings of Desire (1987). This week, it's
Wenders' haunting and fascinating 1984 movie, Paris, Texas,
starring Harry Dean Stanton as Travis, who mysteriously emerges from
a Texas desert after being missing for years. The viewer is
immediately drawn to the stranger, who doesn't want to stop walking,
and is unable to communicate well or remember much about himself. It
turns out Travis' family life fell apart making him incapable of
functioning. He is reunited with his brother, Walt (Dean Stockwell),
who, with his wife, has raised Travis' son, Hunter (Hunter Carson).
Travis and Hunter hit the road looking for Travis' ex and Hunter's
mother, Jane (Nastassja Kinski), who also disappeared years ago.
Travis finds her at a peepshow in which she talks about sex and
anything else with strangers who can see her, but she cannot see
them. The two take turns delivering fascinating and insightful
monologues. The film is unique, original and somewhat bizarre, but
always interesting. Wenders does a fantastic job of storytelling with
this film, which isn't easy as the story he is telling is complex yet
compelling. While certainly different, Wenders and his acting cast
are able to make the characters seem so real, exposing the viewers to
their frailties, perspectives and personalities. It is both beautiful
and tragic. While I haven't seen many of Wenders' films, the ones
I've seen leaves me with the strong impression that he is all that
and a bag of chips.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.