May is moving quite a bit slower than usual, but I’ll eventually start lining up more viewing possibilities for you. In the meantime, here are a few films I saw early in the month. I hope you’ll find at least one or two to investigate (or avoid, as the case may be):
The Woman on the Beach (1947) Jean Renoir
Strange noir story about a Coast Guard officer named Scott (Robert Ryan) who discovers the lovely Peggy (Joan Bennett) gathering wood on a local beach. Although Scott is engaged (to Nan Leslie), he’s strongly attracted to Peggy, who is married to a blind man named Tod (Charles Bickford). Scott is convinced Tod is not only suspicious of Scott’s motives, but also faking blindness. An odd, uneven little film that vacillates between compelling and ineffective.
Moonlight (2016) Barry Jenkins
DVD – library (1:51)
This is one of those rare instances in which you can actually believe the hype. This Best Picture Oscar-winning film traces three stages in the life of its protagonist Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes) in a coming-of-age story that’s powerful more for what it doesn’t do as much as for what it does. I plan to explore this one more fully in the future, but needless to say, I was quite impressed.
Ride the High Country (1962) Sam Peckinpaw
Warner Archive Blu-ray (1:34)
It was director Sam Peckinpaw’s second film and star Randolph Scott’s (above left) last, after a career that spanned over 100 films. The film stars another guy who’d made a few movies in his time, Joel McCrea (above right) as Steve Judd, an ex-lawman who’s seen better years and probably should pack it in and go home, but agrees to guard a gold shipment from a mining camp to the town of Hornitos, California. Judd’s friend Gil Westrum (Scott), along with the young Heck Longtree (Ron Starr), agree to help. Ride the High Country contains elements of the traditional western combined with the new directions the genre would take, some from the hands of directors like Peckinpaw. The new Warner Archive Blu-ray is excellent.
Transpecos (2016) Greg Kwedar
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:26)
Previously discussed here
Ace in the Hole (1951) Billy Wilder
Criterion Blu-ray (1:51)
The Great Movies Series, Severna Park Library
Briefly discussed here
Starry Eyes (2014) Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:38)
Man, this is the longest 98 minutes I can remember spending in a long time… Sarah (Alex Essoe) is a young woman who longs to become an actress, yet her trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder) keeps getting worse. She finally lands a role in an upcoming horror film, but things start getting weird. I think I’ve simply seen too many “Hollywood is evil” horror movies and while this one does have a few things in its favor (a good performance by Essoe and some gruesome scenes as we approach the end), Starry Eyes offers a story with very familiar territory without adding a lot that’s either fresh or inspiring.
My Name is Julia Ross (1945) Joseph H. Lewis
This little film packs a lot into a very small amount of space and the result is an excellent noir thriller. Nina Foch plays Julia Ross, a woman looking for a job via a new London employment agency. She’s hired as a personal secretary to a rich widow named Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Whitty), but when she arrives, her entire world is turned upside down. The film also stars George Macready in one of his nastiest roles (which is really saying something).
More to come… Let me know if you’ve seen any of these or if any of them appeal to you.
Photos: BFI, The M Report, DVD Beaver, Pretty Sinister Books