For Valentine’s Day: “I Know Where I’m Going” (1945)

i-know-where-im-going

Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller), a most stubborn woman; and her bemused admirer Torquil (Roger Livesey)

I know where I’m goin’/and I know who’s goin’ with me/
I know who I love/But the dear knows who I’ll marry.   – Scottish folksong

*****

Ever since childhood, Joan Webster has known exactly what she wants from life and how to get it.  Her latest objective involves marriage to a wealthy British industrialist.  The wedding is to take place on the Isle of Kiloran, off the west coast of Scotland.  Unfortunately, Joan only gets as far as the Isle of Mull before being detained by bad weather.

While waiting for the wind and rain to die down, Joan gets to know some of the more unusual inhabitants of Mull:  Catriona, a shaggy-haired huntress who wanders around the island with a pack of deer hounds, and Colonel Barnstaple, a rather inept falconer.  And oh yes, there’s Torquil (Roger Livesey), a kilted fellow with gentle eyes and an easy smile, who cannot stop looking at Joan from the moment she steps off the boat.

It’s pretty obvious from the beginning of this lovely romantic comedy what will happen to Joan in the end.  The fun is in watching her helplessly trying to resist the charm and attraction of Mull, its people….and of course, Torquil.

Note:  Look for ’60’s/’70’s singing star Petula Clark, who plays the bespectacled child of a rich family in this film.

You can download a rental copy of I Know Where I’m Going by clicking onto the following link:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A5IXIR4/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=spcooperveriz-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B00A5IXIR4&linkId=7b30636c7784fc983d38ebe04ee04f2f

********

Directors Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell were known for their collaboration on a series of 1940’s and ’50’s British films which ranged from gentle comedy (I Know Where I’m Going) to fantasy (1946’s A Matter of Life and Death, 1948’s The Red Shoes) to exotic drama (1947’s Black Narcissus).  A Powell/Pressburger production always featured great art design and cinematography.  The ballet film The Red Shoes is perhaps the best example of this duo’s artistry in visual presentation.  The exquisite ballet sequence in the middle of the film was the primary reason that Red Shoes won the Academy Award for Best Production Design and Best Original Music Score.

********

Pluses:  Gorgeous shots of the Island of Mull (yes, there is such a place), delightful performances from those playing the inhabitants of Mull, good romantic chemistry between lead actors Hiller and Livesey.  Opening credits humorously set up the storyline.

Minus:  I really cannot think of any.  If you’re looking for big drama or huge laughs, don’t see this picture.  If you’re looking for a gentle love story with some enjoyable supporting performances, definitely see this picture.

Cast:  Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey, Pamela Brown, Finlay Currie, George Carney, Nancy Price, Catherine Lacey, Captain C.W.R. Knight, Petula Clark.

Director(s):  Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Unrated.  (I should warn PETA sympathizers that there’s a brief scene where a trained falcon picks away at a dead rabbit.  They do hunt in Scotland.)

Black and white

Length:  93 minutes

 

 

New Beginnings: “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (1974)

ellen-burstyn

Ellen Burstyn in her Academy-Award winning role as Alice Hyatt, a widow forced to remake her life as a waitress in Arizona

It strikes me that I haven’t written any articles about 1970’s movies.  With this in mind, I’ve perused that decade for films that focus on a theme we’re all familiar with at the beginning of January:  New beginnings.  I settled on Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.

Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) is a hopeless romantic.  Since childhood, she has dreamed of getting into show business as a singer.  But she was somehow sidelined by life.  At age 35, she is married to a boorish, indifferent husband and has an irritatingly precocious 11-year son.

Life hands Alice a second chance when her husband is killed in a traffic accident.  Alice and her boy leave their home in New Mexico, and Alice finds work as a saloon singer at a piano bar.  However, an unfortunate interlude with an abusive boyfriend (Harvey Keitel) forces both mother and son to flee to Tucson…and Alice ends up as a waitress at the local diner.

This isn’t exactly the endpoint that Alice dreamed of.  The work is hectic.  The customers are rough.  And an abrasive coworker named Flo (Diane Lane) doesn’t exactly endear herself to Alice when she announces:  “Everybody, listen, we got us a new girl.  It’s her first day on the job….And everybody can see that she has big tits on her.  But hands off–let the girl do her work.  If there’s going to be any grab-assing around here, grab mine!”

Nevertheless, it looks as if Alice may have another chance at romance.  A local rancher (Kris Kristofferson) who frequents the diner is looking at her with cow eyes.  Will things work out this time, or is Alice once again searching for love in all the wrong places?

*******

In researching Alice, I read reviews that came out when the film was released in 1974.  I found it interesting that many critics of the time felt wrote that Alice Hyatt’s odyssey was an expression of feminism and women’s lib.  From a 2017 viewpoint, I don’t find this to be true.  Yes, Alice leaves her former married self to go out on her own.  Yes, she achieves a certain amount of self-understanding that she didn’t have at the beginning of this story.  However, the fact is that she dumps the ashes of one relationship, only to run into the arms of another lover at movie’s end.  Although the boyfriend is certainly an improvement over the dead husband, he has some of the same domineering qualities.  Not so sure that this meets anyone’s definition of women’s lib.

One thing that we can all agree on is that in addition to great supporting performances from Harvey Keitel, Diane Ladd, the little boy who plays the maddening but lovable son, and so many others, Ellen Burstyn really makes this film.  Her Alice is vulnerable, adventurous, tough, perseverant, and frustratingly adolescent, all at once.  There are times that we want to grab her and shake her, and others where all we can do is cheer her on.  The character is truly multi-dimensional, and it takes a fine actress to pull all of this off.

********

Most of us know director Martin Scorsese for his dark crime films like Mean Streets (1973), Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995) and The Departed (2006).  Although he has more than once ventured outside of this genre, his films are typically dark, serious, and splattered with more than a little blood.  Alice is probably Scorsese’s sunniest film to date.  Even so, there are some violent moments, like the scene where Keitel’s Jekyll-and-Hyde character assaults and scares the living daylights out of Alice.

A television spin-off of Alice, starring Linda Lavin, ran from 1975 to 1984.

You can purchase a DVD copy of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore by clicking onto the following link:

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=spcooperveriz-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B000286RO8&asins=B000286RO8&linkId=55c416d23eb864caba362a7f8eea30a4&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff

You can download Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore through Amazon Instant by clicking onto the following link:

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=spcooperveriz-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B000I154MU&asins=B000I154MU&linkId=b3d8aada819f9509eeaed049440d1f7e&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff

Pluses:  Great performances by Ellen Burstyn, Diane Ladd, Alfred Lutter (Alice’s son), and Harvey Keitel.  Gritty, realistic atmosphere.  Evocative music that supports film’s plot line (Selections include All The Way to Memphis by Mott the Hoople, You’ll Never Know sung by Alice Faye, Daniel sung by Elton John).

Minus:  Kris Kristofferson not as memorable as the other players; a minor quibble.

Cast:  Ellen Burstyn, Alfred Lutter, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Bush, Diane Ladd, Valerie Curtin, Lelia Goldoni, Vic Tayback, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, Murray Moston.

Director:  Martin Scorsese

Rating:  PG

In color.

Length:  112 minutes

Sources:

“Martin Scorsese.”  Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  1 January 2017.  Web.  2 January 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Love Actually (2003)

 

love-actually

Actor Hugh Grant, once again required to do a silly dance in a movie

Poor Hugh Grant.  For several years, film makers everywhere have required this dapper heart throb to do the goofiest things in his rom/coms.  This year, he performed a stiffly executed Charleston in Florence Foster Jenkins.  In the movie I’m about to review, 2003’s Love Actually, he executes a Terpsichorean faux paux to the tune of the Pointer Sister’s “Jump.”   Don’t even ask about his vocal rendition of “Good King Wenceslaus” later on.

Nevertheless, it’s all part of the fun in this fluffy, cheerful romp where Londoners look for love during the holidays.  British director Richard Curtis, who wrote the screenplay for 1994’s hilarious Four Weddings and a Funeral, attempts in this film to conduct at least ten separate tales about romantic relationships within a span of 136 minutes.  Assisting him are the following celebrated thespians:  Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”), and Bill Nighy.

Plotline examples:  1) A widower (Liam Neeson) coaches his step-son through the heartache of puppy love; 2) The newly-elected PM (Hugh Grant) inconveniently falls for one of his staff; 3)  The PM’s sister (Emma Thompson), who thought she was happily married, slowly realizes that her husband (Alan Rickman) may be having an affair; 4) A struggling writer (Colin Firth) falls for his Portuguese housekeeper; 5) Rickman’s employee (Laura Linney) pursues a relationship with a handsome coworker, but is thwarted by the neediness of her mentally ill brother.

Mr. Curtis’ attempt to juggle all of these balls at the same time is quite ambitious.  However, I’m afraid the sum of the parts does not result in an integrated whole.  Some of the tales are funny, some poignant; but others are easily dispensible.  Regardless:  it’s lots of fun to watch all of these wonderful actors do their thing, especially Bill Nighy as an aging, Keith Richards-like rock star who is looking for one last hit.

So, in between decorating the tree and shopping for presents, you might want sit to down with some tea and scones, and watch this movie.  In addition to everything else, you will enjoy the score, which features tracks performed by Wyclef Jean, the Bay City Rollers, Maroon 5, Joni Mitchell, the Pointer Sisters, Dido, Norah Jones, Otis Redding, and many more.

Love Actually can be purchase in DVD form from amazon.com through the following link:

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=spcooperveriz-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B002LFAHBO&asins=B002LFAHBO&linkId=c021b0d2583348a46fb48b9e2ada807c&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff

Love Actually can also be downloaded from amazon.com instant video through the following link:

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=spcooperveriz-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B001JIFYSA&asins=B001JIFYSA&linkId=656affc5cf0ff072332305089d8877c6&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff

*****

Plus:  Good performances by seasoned actors, especially Nighy; enjoyable soundtrack

Minus:  Some of the plotlines are rather silly and unnecessary

Cast:  Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, Rowan Atkinson

Director:  Richard Curtis

Rating:  R for sexual scenes, nudity, language.  Definitely not for little kids!

In color

Length:  136 minutes

 

 

 

Holiday Movies: The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

shop“Well, I really wouldn’t care to scratch your surface, Mr. Kralik, because I know what I’d find.  Instead of a heart, a handbag.  Instead of a soul, a suitcase.  And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter…which doesn’t work.”   – Klara Novak, addressing her co-worker and nemesis, Alfred Kralik.

Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) and Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) work together in a small gift store in Budapest. Well…perhaps “work together” is overstating the situation.  The two clerks loath each other and are barely on speaking terms.  Thank goodness, Kralik has a romantic prospect outside of work; he has been receiving notes through a letter exchange from a young lady interested in dating.  Incidentally, Novak has been using the same letter exchange and also has an opportunity to meet someone special.

If you can’t figure out what happens next, you have probably never seen In the Good Old Summertime, You’ve Got Mail, or any other romantic comedies based on the plot line of this movie, which in turn was based on a play written in 1937 by Miklos Laszlo.  Suffice to say that both characters get a big surprise on Christmas Eve when they find out who they’ve been writing to.

What separates this movie from its successors is the elegant, gay tone set by the director, Ernst Lubitsch.  The quality that Lubitsch always contributed to his comic films has been referred to as “The Lubitsch Touch”:  Sophistication, wit, charm, and sparkling dialog which make each scene a delight.

Below are some typical examples of Shop dialog.  Note how often commerce, a major theme of Shop, is referenced:

******

First employee:   Always the first one [at work].

Second employee:  It’s none of your business…let me tell you.  It doesn’t hurt to be too early.

First employee:  What for and why?  Who sees you?  Me.  And who sees me?  You.  What does it get us?  Can we give each other a raise?  No.

*******

Customer:  How much is that belt in the window?  The one that’s marked $2.95?

*******

Errand Boy:  Well Doctor, I would say it’s a nervous breakdown.   What do you think?

Doctor:  It appears to be an acute epileptic manifestation and a pan phobic melancholiac with indication of a neurasthenic corpus.

Errand Boy:  Is that more expensive than a nervous breakdown?

*******

Shop is also graced with enjoyable supporting performances from veteran actors Frank Morgan and Felix Bressart.

So, get yourself into the Christmas shopping mood, fix yourself a nice hot toddy and watch this charming film.  It is frequently shown on TCM and can also be purchased from amazon.com on DVD via the following link:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002GSXKQU/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=spcooperveriz-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B002GSXKQU&linkId=bf8852940b10e22ab32ac33b87743ee4

You can also purchase it on instant download at the following amazon.com link:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004GAKENI/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=spcooperveriz-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B004GAKENI&linkId=58b459ccc1565eabe8205a750ffc141f

Plus:  Great performances by all, witty dialog, clever story with ending that’s both tender and funny.

Minus:  Can’t think of any; this qualifies as one of those classics you must see.

Cast:  James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, Frank Morgan, Felix Bressart.

Director:  Ernst Lubitsch

Rating:  Unrated

Black and white

Length:  99 minutes