Movies Watched in January 2017 Part I

We’re only ten days into the new year and I’ve already seen at least five films that could be considered masterpieces. I’ve also knocked off two films from my Blind Spot 2017 series, one discussed here and another that I hope to write up soon.

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Brief Encounter (1945) David Lean
FilmStruck (1:26)

Previously discussed here as part of my Blind Spot 2017 Series

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A Trip to the Moon (1902) Georges Méliès
Flicker Alley Blu-ray (0:15)

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The Extraordinary Voyage (2011) Serge Bromberg, Eric Lange
Flicker Alley Blu-ray (1:18)

When Flicker Alley announced last month that its Blu-ray release of A Trip to the Moon (1902) was going out of print and that they were offering it at a discount, I jumped on it fast. (The discount has since expired, but you can still get the Blu-ray.)

Anyone who loves and appreciates film already knows what an important place A Trip to the Moon holds in cinematic history, so I’m not going to belabor the point here. The work is only 15 minutes long, but it is amazing it what it does, how it does it and how it continues to influence films over 100 years later. For modern audiences watching the film who may not “get it” or may dismiss it as a charming relic from ancient history, I urge them to watch the documentary also included on the Blu-ray, The Extraordinary Voyage (2011) which not only explores the life of Georges Méliès, creator of A Trip to the Moon, but also details the process and importance of film restoration better than any other documentary I’ve seen. If you love movies, this is a must-own, not only for yourself, but also to show others.

https://vimeo.com/118084630

5/5

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The Boss (1956) Byron Haskin
(1:29)

We’re used to seeing John Payne as a sort of everyman trapped in situations not of his own making, trying to find freedom, redemption, etc. It’s a bit jarring to find him here as a World War I veteran coming home to take the controls of a political machine from his brother (Roy Roberts), and becoming a real nasty. Although this may be Payne’s most unlikable role, it’s also perhaps his finest performance. The film features a Dalton Trumbo screenplay and an early performance by Joe Flynn, who was in about a zillion TV shows during the 50s and 60s, most notably McHale’s Navy.

3/5

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Hell or High Water (2016) David Mackenzie
Lionsgate DVD – library (1:42)

Previously discussed here

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In a Lonely Place (1950) Nicholas Ray (5x)
The Great Movies – library (1:34)

I previously discussed this amazing film during my Noir City DC stint last year, but wanted to show the film as part of our Great Movies series at the library. 34 people braved the weather on a nasty, snowy night to see the film and discuss it afterward. Only four of those people had previously seen it and I’m still getting comments from people who loved the film. If you haven’t seen it, you must.

5/5

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Black Narcissus (1947) Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Criterion Blu-ray (1:40)

With each Powell and Pressburger film I see, I keep thinking, “These guys just can’t top themselves any further” and yet they do. Black Narcissus certainly deserves far more space than I have time to devote to it here, so I’ll only say that this story of a group of Anglican nuns being placed in a remote Himalayan mountainside dwelling examines so many themes and emotions you could write dissertations about them. The use of Technicolor combined with Jack Cardiff’s brilliant cinematography will literally steal the breath from your body.

5/5

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La La Land (2016) Damien Chazelle
Regal Waugh Chapel Stadium 12 & IMAX (2:08)

Previously discussed here

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Napoléon (1927) Abel Gance
BFI Blu-ray (Region B) (5:32)

I’m not even going to try. The first 15 minutes of the film alone will knock you into the middle of next week and it just gets more impressive as you watch for over five more hours, a stretch of time that feels more like 15 minutes. I honestly wouldn’t know where to start talking about this monumental masterwork. Maybe after I’ve seen it again I’ll be able to give this a full review. I’ll just say that you simply must see it.

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Currently the film is available only through a release from BFI, a Region B release that requires a region-free Blu-ray player. There are rumors that a U.S. release is coming, but some of those same rumors claim that the film may look and will certainly sound different (with a different soundtrack). Silent film historian Kevin Brownlow should be given an award (or several) for spending the last 50 years of his life piecing together and restoring the film. See it and you’ll understand why.

5/5

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Paris When It Sizzles (1964) Richard Quine
DVD – library (1:50)

I’m afraid it’s a case of Paris When It Fizzles… This story about womanizing screenwriter Richard Benson (William Holden) and Gabrielle Simpson (Audrey Hepburn), the temp secretary hired to type his newest script, is cute for awhile, but gets tiresome quickly. If you want to see these two together, watch Sabrina (1954) instead. (Apologies to my friend J. who loves this one. Sorry, J….)

2/5

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The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) Anatole Litvak
Warner DVD (1:27)

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse is an odd little crime picture that works due to the charm of Edward G. Robinson, which makes your suspension of disbelief a little more reasonable than it would be otherwise. Robinson plays the titular doctor who decides to study and hang out with a group of dangerous criminals, helping them plan and commit jewel robberies while taking notes on how crime affects them psychologically, physiologically, and emotionally. All in the name of science, you understand. The film never takes itself too seriously but neither does it aim for something completely over-the-top. Robinson, of course, was a well-established name at this point, but Humphrey Bogart – even though this was his 16th film after The Petrified Forest (1936) – is still given only a supporting role as the leader of the gang. (This first picture might make you think we’re in film noir territory, but we’re really not, although it’s a great shot.)

3.5/5

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L’Avventura (1960) Michelangelo Antonioni
FilmStruck (2:23)

I’ll cover this film in my next Blind Spot 2017 post

Photos: Ravepad, O’Brother, Toronto Film Society, Once Upon a Screen, Daily Grindhouse, BFI, ithankyou, Making Nice in the Midwest, Alex on Film

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9 thoughts on “Movies Watched in January 2017 Part I

  1. Pingback: Movies Watched in January 2017 Part III | Journeys in Darkness and Light

  2. Thanks! I’m a big fan of Ray as well. THE LUSTY MEN is superb, woefully under appreciated. It’s been a fun month so far, but I fear I have set the bar too high for myself too early!

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  3. Nice mix of titles some of which I haven’t seen yet including unfortunately L’Avventura. It’s been on my list forever and I tried to DVR it recently but something went awry and it didn’t record, one of these days.

    Of those I have seen I love In a Lonely Place, if that’s the right word for something so dark. Just a brilliant film with some astonishing work by Bogart and Gloria Grahame. I also love the counterbalancing relationship of Frank Lovejoy & Jeff Donnell, their marriage isn’t perfect but they are able to work through their arguments in a way that is beyond the star couple because of his temper. I’m a big fan of Nick Ray with this and The Lusty Men being my favs of his films.

    Napoleon is indeed a masterwork, a big commitment of time but worth it. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen The Boss but I recall thinking it was a decent film for a low budget affair.

    I’ve never been as enamored of Black Narcissus as others seem too be. I think it’s a good film with amazing cinematography and Kathleen Bryon knocked me out but I wasn’t awed by the overall movie. Haven’t seen it in many years so I should give it a rewatch to reevaluate.

    Odd is a good word for Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (what a title! geesh!) but that cast makes it worth watching. EGR carries the film but Claire Trevor is equally good as yet another fallen woman redeemed by love. She’s a big favorite of mine.

    Couldn’t agree more about Paris When it Sizzles. It wants to be a saucy souffle but ends up more of a flat pancake that even the megawatt star power of Audrey and Bill Holden can’t salvage.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you! I’ll check out your L’Avventura review soon – I’ll be thinking about that one for a long time, but hope to put down some thoughts in the next few days. Yes, Napoleon is a must-see – absolutely amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. How did you like I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE? Love all the Val Lewton films (that I’ve seen). CLITTERHOUSE could stand a remake – but HOUSE OF GAMES is sort of a remake…

    Liked by 1 person

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