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Weekly Mishmash: June 28-July 4

The Group (1966). I always wanted to see this filming of Mary McCarthy’s popular “dirty book” from the ’60s, and was delighted when it showed up on TCM’s schedule saluting director Sidney Lumet. The film follows a clique of 1933 graduates from a women’s college as they get jobs, fall in love, marry, gossip, etc. An interesting film enlivened by a young and attractive cast, many of whom (Candice Bergen) were making their film debuts. Some of the then-shocking topics dealt with haven’t aged very well, though, and the film completely fails at capturing the feel of the ’30s. I also thought the film came across as shrill when it needed a more naturalistic touch. There are a few noteworthy performances in its favor, however. Jessica Walter as the Group’s gossip was the best. I also enjoyed Joan Hackett as the modern one, Elizabeth Hartman as the political one, and Shirley Knight as the traditional one. Not quite as campy as I though it would be, which in this case is a good thing.
Dusty Springfield — Reputation And Rarities. A treat. Released in 1990, Reputation was Dusty Springfield’s first album in eight years and her umpteenth comeback attempt. Although it spawned several hits in the U.K., it frustratingly wasn’t released in the U.S. until this expanded version came out in 1997. The first single was the beautiful Pet Shop Boys collaboration “Nothing Has Been Proved” from the film Scandal. With lush arrangements by Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti, I remember being wowed by the tune and its video when it got (infrequently) shown on VH1 in 1989. Being associated with a British art film didn’t help its fortunes, however. I believe the song was just too sophisticated for U.S. consumption. Luckily, it was successful enough in the U.K. to warrant a full side of Dusty/Pet Shop Boys collaborations for Reputation. Their five tunes are all brilliant, probably because Dusty seems game enough to do anything. Second single “In Private” is a retro-flavored delight, as is her cover of the vintage Goffin-King tune “I Want To Stay Here.” Album closer “Occupy Your Mind” takes her into the kind of electro-experimental territory that Madonna would later take on with Ray Of Light. She even raps on “Daydreaming” — and pretty well, too! The album is fleshed out with an a-side of nice contemporary pop produced by Dan Hartman and others. Recommended. Below, the stylish video for “In Private”:

When A Woman Ascends The Stairs (1960). Poignant Japanese melodrama about an aging prostitute (aren’t all Japanese melodramas about prostitutes?) played with understated grace by Hideko Takamine. Fearing that her career as a bar hostess may be coming to an end, Takamine desires to open up her own bar. She doesn’t have the money, however, which causes her to weigh the option of marriage with one of her clients. She also has to deal with family members taking advantage of her. This film sometimes played itself out like a soap opera, albeit a bleak and absorbing one. It also boasts a nifty, jazzy score and lots of lovely night scenes of a city in transition.

2 Thoughts on “Weekly Mishmash: June 28-July 4

  1. B Smith on July 9, 2009 at 7:07 am said:

    Is my brain failing, or did Dusty sing a couple of tunes written/arranged/etc by Richard Carpenter?

  2. You’re thinking of “Something In Your Eyes” from about 1986, B. Dusty did a guest vocal on that. Brain OK!

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