Monday, January 24, 2005

When have you really seen a movie: Dark Journey and Nothing Sacred

Topic for discussion, as I horrify my little brother in the IM window with tales of what life was like before DVD: When does it count that you've seen a movie?

As I mention below, for some unknown reason, WGBH aired Nothing Sacred in black and white. I can't think of why, honestly; I suppose I can imagine some B&W prints being struck of a Technicolor film because studios are as cheap as any business, and I didn't see a Turner logo after this one like will occasionally happen with old films on GBH/GBX, so I imagine it's some old print the station picked up.

But, anyway, it begs the question - this is a color film, so can I really say I've seen it if I've only seen it in B&W? What about seeing a widescreen film in crop-o-vision, or a non-English film dubbed? How about seeing it on network TV?

And even if I can say I've seen it, with caveats, do I really have any business reviewing it? I'm missing a crucial component, and even if I say flat-out that the movie was messed with before I saw it, is my review useful?

Dunno. Anyway, on to the reviews:

Dark Journey

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 22 January 2005 in Jay's Living Room (WGBH)

Spy stories are a little like time travel stories in that if they aren't a little confusing, they're either not doing their job right or are highly simplified. Espionage is a complicated game whose best players specific skill is in not letting the other teams know which side their on or even that they're anything other than spectators. It's especially tough when a present-day audience is watching a movie made in 1937 which takes place in 1918.

One of the reasons that [i]Dark Journey[/i] becomes more confusing than it truly needs to be is because, despite taking place in Stockholm and featuring British, Swiss, French, German, Swedish, and Dutch characters, everyone in the cast except Conrad Veidt is from the UK and pretty much retains their English accents. And while in many cases that's praiseworthy - no serious movie wants to be laid low by silly-sounding accents - here, it doesn't work. There's no way to tell that Madeline Godard, the proprietrix of a dress shop who uses her business trips to Paris to smuggle information to British Intelligence, is anything but English until we're told she's Swiss.

Read the rest at HBS

Nothing Sacred

* * * (out of four)
Seen 23 January 2005 in Jay's Living Room (WGBH - shown in black & white)

What is the minimum standard of reproductive faithfulness that should be met when you see (and, especially, review) a movie? I ask this because when Nothing Sacred was recently used as late-night filler on a Boston public TV station, it was in black-and-white, despite the prominent credits for Technicolor. Even in monochrome, it's still an eminently watchable, funny screwball comedy. I can certainly recommend it on that count, but that raises the question as to whether the movie I'm recommending is the movie you'd be seeing.

The story comes through clear enough - after his most recent story as exposed as a fake, journalist Wally Cook (Fredric March) seeks to rehabilitate his career with a story on a woman in Vermont dying of radium poisoning. Just as he arrives, though, Miss Hazel Flagg (Carole Lombard) learns that her diagnosis was, in fact, a mistake, and she's in perfect health. But when the newsman offers to take her to New York City, she plays along, as does her doctor, who has his own grudge against this newspaper. But when New York pours its heart out to her, Hazel starts to feel a little guilty, while Wally starts to feel a little smitten.

Read the rest at HBS

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