Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This Week In Tickets: 14 September 2009 to 20 September 2009

Before getting to the customary page from my calendar, let's look at a page from the program of the Boston Film Festival:

BFF Program

Now, keep in mind, they only have one screen at Kendall Square this week. Obviously, that page is a pretty spectacular misprint. That is, sadly, what I've come to expect from the BFF lately. Unfortunately, I don't have a phone with a camera, and didn't have my battered-but-still-functional six-plus-year-old 2MP brick with me this weekend, or I would have been able to take a picture of the thing that really annoyed me beyond all reason - the signs on the festival's table that said the other two films supposedly playing Tuesday night had had their times "changed".

Look, folks make mistakes. I'm occasionally embarrassed to come back to reviews a few weeks later, find some missing word that would have been caught if I'd been using a real word processor rather than a text editor or just been paying closer attention. Just be honest and admit you've made a mistake. Stick a photocopied erratum into the program, calling it an error. Don't put up signs that imply that the times in the program were at one point accurate, because that doesn't make you look more competent, it makes you look both incompetent and insincere.

That's a pretty small error to complain about, I admit. But it just seems so typical of the BFF experience, especially compared to just about every other film festival I've visited. The old BFF, even though the people running it were more or less invisible, was at least professional. Here, though, every single film I saw was greeted with the exact same amount of mild enthusiasm.

And that's why, when you look at this:

This Week In Tickets!

... you only see three tickets from the festival, rather than a patchwork where I try to figure out how to cram all eight I'd originally planned to see over the weekend in. As much as I liked Racing Dreams, I just couldn't bring myself to stay after In/Significant Others. It was a thoroughly bland movie that thought it was clever, and looking over the rest of the schedule, the rest seemed to be more of the same: Nothing that promised excitement or invention, but which would prompt an identical "wasn't that awesome?" from our hosts afterward.

Congratulations, guys. You've killed my enthusiasm for the first festival I went to and enjoyed. Thank goodness for the Archive, eh?

Waterloo Bridge

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 14 September 2009 at the Harvard Film Archive (James Whale: Of Monsters, Melodrama and the Production Code)

One of James Whale's first movies, and it's not bad as pre-Code melodramas go. It's kind of charming, in that they just don't make movies that are this earnest any more. It's got Mae Clarke as a fallen dancer who is reduced to streetwalking to support herself, and not doing that well, but who still has the requisite Heart Of Gold, especially when she meets a kindly fellow American in London, and he is so Good that she is inspired to become the better person that she always has been.

To be honest, I don't know if you could make a movie like this any more. It's just as simple as it sounds, but that works for it, most of the time. There's familiar supporting characters with broad accents. And there's an ending which just strikes me as empty irony. Maybe it was devastating once upon a time, but now it's just the sort of anti-cliché that is no longer surprising.

Impatient Maiden

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 14 September 2009 at the Harvard Film Archive (James Whale: Of Monsters, Melodrama and the Production Code)

A year later, Whale re-teamed with Mae Clarke for a third film - she was also Elizabeth in Frankenstein - and I liked it a bit better than Waterloo Bridge. It's a bit more comedic, recognizing that its set-up is kind of contrived, and the broadly-sketched supporting characters (Whale never met a thick accent he didn't like, it seems) are a bit funnier. It's more than a little overwrought - I think Lew Ayres's character decides he is basically done with Clarke's after she says she's not thinking marriage after one date.

This one is hypocritically moralizing in its own way - failure for a girl of nineteen to settle down with the first nice man that comes along leads to being ostracized, a burst appendix, and potentially death, while the man who didn't trust her has no loss of standing. The characters are charming and there are a number of funny bits, and Clarke is able to rise above the way her character is seen by outsiders.
Waterloo Bridge & Impatient MaidenHappy FlightMotherhoodIn/Significant OthersRacing Dreams

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