In which I make a half-hearted attempt to sum up the last few months
Currently reading A Family Daughter by Maile Meloy. One of those books that seems so simple to write and is so entertainingly readable that you don't notice the complexity until you start to explain it to someone else. Apparently, the book the protagonist has written is Meloy's first novel, which I haven't read. Now I'm not sure if I should read it or not, as the descriptions of it in this book don't make it sound very promising. (I probably will, as I'm loving this one).
Saw The Messengers by the Pang Bros. Peculiarly conservative ghost story, but entertaining, and with worthy scares (and plenty of soundtrack-go-boo moments). I was particularly creeped out by the legs of the little ghost boy which appear briefly beneath a sheet being shaken onto a bed (this moment is in the trailer, so no need to run out and see it). I like that the farm comes equipped with an Allis-Chalmers--movie tractors are generally John Deeres, as that's as far as Hollywood knowledge of tractors goes, but Allis-Chalmers were some of the best, and have a distinctive look. Curiously, the brand name was "worn off" of the tractor in the movie. Allis-Chalmers has been defunct for 20 years, so it couldn't have been because anyone cared about the rights to the name. Maybe they were just worried that there was a copyright holder out there somewhere who'd attack if the name appeared on screen. I noticed that the brand name of the harvester the dad is using at the end of the movie was front-and-center. Another thing I liked was the way characters heads would disappear off the bottom of the screen. this happened repeatedly and was successfully eerie. Don't know why Dylan McDermott isn't getting more roles. He's kind of a limited actor, but he's very handsome in an interesting way.
Final shot: family tableau, pan up to sky
Been seeing lots of Mizoguchi at the NWFF. My favorite so far has been Sansho Dayu. I'd seen it before many years ago, and hadn't thought much of it, but it had extraordinary power for me now. The sister's sacrifice suddenly made sense to me, and I completely bought the mystical power of the mother's song (was it really just the birds?). I guess I'm just more compassionate in my old age.
Final shot: family tableau, pan across to beach scene (workers oblivious in the foreground).
Less impressed with Utumaro and His Five Women. It's rare that a film about an artist is all that satisfying, and this is no exception. Apparently, the author of the book on which it is based objected to the lack of eroticism in this movie, and sent a nasty letter to Mizoguchi. I actually appreciate a lack of fidelity to literature: Life of Oharu is also far from faithful--descriptions of the book make is sound more like Terry Southern's Candy, instead of the delicate, compassionate story of the movie. Still, Utumaro could have used some juice from somewhere--by the end, I was paying so little attention that I missed a murder.
Final shots: Oharu walks offscreen; Utumaro's paintings rain down for a while.
Also at NWFF, their composer series featured a Bernard Herrman double-bill: Vertigo and On Dangerous Ground.
This must be about the 20th time I've seen Vertigo, and it didn't wreck me like it did the last couple of times. Maybe I'm finally immune to romanticism pushed to psychotic extremes.
Final shot: oh, come on. You know it.
On Dangerous Ground was billed as Herrmann's only film noir, but it wasn't the least bit noir. The first half was a police procedural, and the second half was a man-hunt, and, um, the third half was a sentimental romance. Less noir in mood than Vertigo, that's for sure. Very entertaining though. And with Nita Talbot as a pouty underage thing in a bar, and va-va-voom Cleo Moore as a small-time thug's gal. You know how I know this isn't noir? Sure, Cleo gets roughed up a little, but she survives, and none of the characters have anything to say about her one way or the other. (I've got to see some of Cleo's movies with her hubby Hugo Haas again some day. Pretty much every one of them get a "BOMB" rating from Leonard Maltin, but I remember seeing them on tv in junior high and enjoying them very much, and especially the va-va-voom parts.) Ida Lupino is pretty hot, too, as the blind girl (and co-director).
Final shot: I actually kind of forget, but I think it's an embrace between Robert Ryan and Lupino. Might as well be, anyway.
That's all I can think of now. I've already forgotten most of what I've done.