Sunday, December 6, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for December 8-14

December 8–December 14


SUDDENLY (December 10, 6:00 am): This excellent 1954 film noir is when Frank Sinatra became a legitimate actor. Before this, he did some weak musicals and the highly overrated From Here to Eternity. In Suddenly, Ol' Blue Eyes is an assassin preparing to kill the president, who is making a stop in the quaint California town of Suddenly. Sinatra is an excellent bad guy, completely believable as a ruthless killer. There's a great supporting cast including Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates. The film is in the public domain so if you don't have TCM there are several other ways to see it. The next film Sinatra made was The Man with the Golden Arm, probably his greatest role. But without expanding his acting range in Suddenly, it's doubtful Sinatra would have been so memorable in Golden Arm.

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER (December 11, 8:00 pm): Warner Brothers wasn't known for making excellent comedies in the 1930s and 40s, and Bette Davis didn't become famous for her comedic skills. However, this 1942 screwball comedy is the exception to the rule. Davis is delightful and funny as Maggie Cutler, secretary to Monty Woolley's character. Woolley's Sheridan Whiteside is an arrogant, acerbic lecturer and critic who slips on the front steps of the house of an Ohio family, injuring himself in the process. Since he's going to be laid up for a while, Whiteside thinks nothing of completely takes over the house, leading to some funny and madcap moments. Woolley, who reprised the role he first made famous on Broadway, is the best part of the movie. While Davis didn't become famous for being a comedian, she is great here and showed legitimate promise as a comedic actress.  


LE BEAU SERGE (December 10, 10:00 pm): Director Claude Chabrol’s debut film is as masterpiece based on the theme that “you can’t go home again.” Scholar Francois Bayon (Jean-Claude Brialy) returns to his home village to recuperate and finds that his old school chum, Serge, who once held such promise, has become a hopeless drunk stuck in bad marriage. The beauty of the film is that while most directors would either concentrate on either the relationship or a sociological study of the village, Chabrol doers both, giving us a perceptive examination of the trials of life in a poor agricultural community and the ethical questions of how one tries to help an old friend. With solid support from Michele Meritz, Edmond Beauchamp and the young Bernadette Lafont, who comes oh-so-close to stealing the picture with a nuanced performance far beyond her young years. Look for Chabrol in a minor role as Truffe.

STORY OF WOMEN (December 10, midnight): Get out your recorders for this, but know that it is absolutely worth your trouble. This is a Claude Chabrol masterpiece about the story of Marie Latour, the last woman to be guillotined in France. Isabelle Huppert gives a magnificent, tightly nuanced, and extremely magnetic performance as Latour, whose crime is providing abortions. This is a film that should be shown in prime time, not during the graveyard shift.

WE AGREE ON . . . SUMMER WITH MONIKA (December 14, 8:00 am)

ED: A+. Ingmar Bergman’s 1953 film had quite a rocky introduction to this country, running into heavy flak from the censors, who objected as much to the ideas contained in the script as to the brief nudity. Even Films in Review called it “a clumsily, carelessly directed sexploiter about a stupid teenager.” Today it’s seen as a classic, and justly so – a fascinating story of Monika, a young, “liberated” working-class woman in Stockholm who falls in love with Harry, a naïve lower middle-class slacker. Their love affair consists mainly of Monika verbalizing to Harry her impatience with her life and her deep resentment of people she imagines have everything they could want. Harry steals his father’s boat to sail to a sparsely inhabited island, where they can indulge themselves to their heart’s content, but as the summer wears on, the love affair begins to peter out. Monika is still desperately unhappy, and now pregnant. They return to the city and try to stick it out as a family, but Monika, restless and irresponsible, unfulfilled in her need for entertainment and diversion, abandons Harry and their daughter. What the critics failed to discern is that the film is really a critical look at both the perils of young love and the all too harsh consequences arising from irresponsible romance. Because Bergman doesn’t obviously spell this out, the critics thought he was supporting their hedonism. Americans are not big on subtlety; they like to have everything spelled out for them. Summer With Monika is a brilliant film, shot practically on a shoestring, and with two standout performances by Harriet Anderson, who became a European superstar from this, and Lars Ekborg, who plays the lovestruck Harry. It’s seems somewhat quaint today, but then the real power of the film lay not in the brief nudity, but in the underlying idea of what happens when the irresponsible need for pleasure overwhelms everything else in life.

DAVID: A+. Even though we agree this 1953 Ingmar Bergman film is a classic, there is one point in which Ed and I don't agree. I look at Harry, Monika's love interest, as coming from some money and is more middle class or even upper middle-class than lower middle-class. His father's tastefully-furnished house – Harry lives there – is significantly larger than Monika's, less crowded and is in a much better neighborhood. Also, Harry's dad, who becomes ill early on, owns a boat. The class level might seem like a minor point to some, but it's significant as it impacts how the two characters react in situations. Like Monika, Harry works at a dead-end job and is a bad employee, but he has money to attend college and does later on. We completely agree that this is a brilliant film with great performances by the two leads: Harriet Anderson (Monika), who would go on to be an actor of major importance and Bergman's lover for a while, and Lars Ekborg (Harry). It's unclear in the opening scene if the two already knew each other or if Monika picks him up at a restaurant, but the love affair quickly turns very intense. Monika is a free spirit seeking a comfortable but exciting life and any excuse to get out of her parents' home which includes her much younger – and very loud – siblings. Her passion and great body easily convince Harry to quit his job, steal his father's boat while his dad is dying in a hospital, and escape for the summer. The brief nudity and talk of having sex – Monika gets pregnant – were controversial for 1953. But audiences only 15 years later thought nothing of it after movies became more liberal in showing naked bodies. Despite the freedom and lack of responsibilities, things aren't perfect as they run out of money and food. At one point, they have to fend off an impoverished guy who tries to steal from the boat only to get angry that there's nothing there and sets fire to Monika's belongings. Even then, it's obvious that Harry just doesn't have what Monika wants. Harry tries to fight the man, who beats him up until Monika smacks him in the head with a pot. Shortly thereafter, Monika, pregnant and hungry, goes to steal potatoes and apples they saw on the shore. Harry can't bring himself to do it though it's unlikely there would be a problem. Well, there is a problem when the landowners catch Monika and call the police. She escapes with a roast in her hands. With the weather changing and their situation only getting worse, they return to Stockholm, their hometown, to get married, Monika to give birth and the two to raise their daughter. But Monika is restless, bored, not interested in being a mother and doesn't like being poor. She is resentful while Harry goes to school so he can get a good job to provide for his family. She eventually abandons them in what we expect will be another failed attempt by Monika to find happiness. It's a powerful film about how some adapt to life and others refuse to do so. The cinematography is striking. Bergman makes Stockholm seem so congested at first, and then conveys a sense of never-ending space when the leads are on the cramped boat on the water. The closeups of Anderson are breathtaking, particularly one toward the end that shows such a coldness. She doesn't say a thing and the scene is no more than 30 seconds in length, but her glare of anger, disgust and unhappiness sent a chill down my spine when I rewatched it last week on Hulu. It's an impressive movie, but that's to be expected when watching a piece of art made by Bergman, the master of cinema.

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

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