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Weekly Mishmash I: May 17-23

Once again, the Mishmash has gotten so unwieldy it must be split in two. Look for Weekly Mishmash II: The Sequel in tomorrow’s
Bordertown (1935). I vaguely recall watching this one a long time ago, when I was delving into Bette Davis’ lesser-known vehicles. A second viewing, courtesy of TCM’s great Latino Images In Film fest, confirms why it didn’t linger in the memory. It’s a pretty lousy melodrama with ugly racist overtones. Paul Muni hams it up as an earnest Mexican lawyer who turns to saloon keeping after losing his one big case. Davis enters the picture when she commits a crime of passion to get her share of Muni’s cojones. She then has little to do but grow progressively more insane as the film goes along. I enjoyed the pretty and understated Margaret Lindsay as Muni’s other romantic interest, but her character does a jarring 180 degree turn at the end. Ridiculous as it was, this story got an equally ludicrous but more entertaining re-do as They Drive By Night (1940).
Il Conformista PosterThe Conformist (1970). I actually first heard about this Bernardo Bertolucci film via the 1992 cinematography doc Visions of Light. Gotta tell you, this is one gorgeous looking movie. Widescreen vistas of shiny marble, blowing leaves, pastel colored oriental lanterns, and light streaming through horizontal blinds are lovingly captured by Vittorio Storaro’s camera. The storyline, about a restless man who is assigned to rub out his one-time college mentor in Mussolini-era Italy, also delivers the goods. Somewhat oblique at times, but very chic and beautiful. This film doesn’t have any recognizable actors in the cast (not to me, anyhow), which aids tremendously in its spell.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006). An escapist fantasy in the mold of a Sex and the City episode, albeit one redeemed by fun performances from Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt. This was pretty much what I expected — nothing more, nothing less. The drama is diluted by the fact that Anne Hathaway’s character appears never to be in much danger, a central theme in Chick Lit (how I hate that term!). Mostly I came for La Streep and the fabulous wardrobe, neither of which disappointed.
L.A. Confidential (1997). Watched this for the third time, after purchasing the super duper deluxe-o DVD edition. Still amazing. Wonderfully cast, dense and satisfying plot, perfect eye for ’50s Los Angeles. It still slays me that the treacly blockbuster Titanic stole the Best Picture Oscar award from this. There is truly no justice in this world.
Party Girl (1995). Flix recording. A half-baked indie comedy that floats by on the considerable charm of its star, Parker Posey. As a party girl turned serious librarian, Posey strikes all the right brittle yet appealing notes. This film’s plot, what little there was, had a strange message (live it up now, or you’ll end up a bitter, fat old busybody?). Ms. Posey was all right, but what little enjoyment I got from this film came from its tres ’90s urban settings, wild fashions, and phat music. Nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

2 Thoughts on “Weekly Mishmash I: May 17-23

  1. Cristiane on May 25, 2009 at 3:01 pm said:

    Isn’t Visions of Light a GREAT documentary? One of my favorites. Bordertown is pretty awful – one of Bette’s hammiest performances, and Paul Muni’s greatness continues to elude me, I have to say. Right now, I’m watching a charming English flick – So Long at the Fair (1950), starring the unbelievably gorgeous young Jean Simmons and Dirk Bogarde. It’s a nifty little thriller, based on the old urban legend about the brother and sister who go to (in this version) the 1896 Paris Exposition and the brother disappears and everyone denies that he was ever there. Worth seeking out.

  2. Visions Of Light is excellent. I kinda wish they’d re-release it on DVD with higher quality clips (guess they had to rely on scratchy prints back in ’92).

    Thanks for the recommendation on So Long At The Fair.

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