Thursday, June 25, 2015

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 26 June 2015 - 30 June 2015

Places are getting a jump on the holiday next week, but the weekend still has some good stuff, including in places you might not expect to find fun summer movies.

  • The Brattle Theatre, for instnace, has the local opening of Big Game, which reunites Rare Exports director Jalmari Helander with that film's young co-star Onni Tommila; this time Tommila plays a young Finnish boy doing a solo hunting rite of passage when an escape pod from Air Force One lands in the game preserve, meaning he is the only one who can protect the American President, played by Samuel L. Jackson. That takes up most of the week until Thursday, but there is still time for Tremors on 35mm at 11:30pm Saturday as part of "Reel Weird Brattle: 25 Years Weird" and a free "Elements of Cinema" screening of Jacques Tati's Playtime with Emerson College professor Peter Flynn introducing the film and leading the discussion afterward.
  • Another foreign-but-very-accessible-and-fun film gets a small opening at The West Newton Cinema: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared was one of my favorites at the Fantasia Festival last year. It starts out with the explosives-loving man of the title escaping his nursing home and his adventures - both present-day and in memory - just get weirder from there.
  • They and The Coolidge Corner Theatre are also the only places opening A Little Choas (with the Coolidge splitting it between the screening room and big screen #2), despite the preview playing a lot at the multiplexes earlier this year. Distribution is weird! It's a nice-looking movie with Kate Winslet as a landscape designer commissioned to create a garden at Versailles by King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman, who also directs) and falls in love with a married colleague (Matthias Schoenaerts).

    The Coolidge also picks up IFFBoston alum The Wolfpack for a week in the 14-seat Goldscreen and wraps up the summer-camp set of midnights with a 35mm print of The Burning, an out-there slasher which has young Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter in the cast. Bet they don't last long. Also on 35mm is Monday's Big Screen Classic, thought by many to be the best movie ever made, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo.
  • Two more IFFBoston movies open at Kendall Square this weekend: The Overnight is a dark comedy directed by Patrick Brice, featuring a young family making new friends in a new city, although things apparently get weird once they start hanging out together. Kind of the same basic idea as Brice's Creep, which for some reason seems to be going straight-to-VOD rather than getting the full trilogy made and released in a year that was expected.

    They also get Eden, a drama set against the backdrop of Paris's 1990s club scene, featuring the music of Daft Punk (among others). The folks who liked it at IFFBoston really seemed to like it a lot. There's also a somewhat unusual one-week booking: Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy, which will see Pather Panchali, The Unvanquished, and The World of Apu play at various times throughout the week. There's also a one-night presentation of Faberge: A Life of Its Own, a documentary on the famous jewelers and their eggs.
  • The week's big opening is Ted 2, Seth MacFarlane's follow-up to his film about a boy whose teddy bear came to life and, like him, grew up to be a lovable but foul-mouthed loser. It gets a bunch of screens at the Somerville (where a scene or two from the first was filmed), Apple Fresh Pond, the Embassy, Fenway, Boston Common, Assembly Row, Revere, and the SuperLux.

    Also getting a wide opening is Max, whose title character is a bomb-sniffing dog in the US Marines who winds up living with his handler's little brother after being sent home from Afghanistan with PTSD, only to find new troubles/adventures. It was probably the most tonal whiplash I've gotten from a trailer all year, and plays at the Capitol, Apple Fresh Pond, Fenway, Boston Common, Assembly Row, and Revere. For something more conventionally bizarre, Boston Common has Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water back for $5 noon screenings (and late night shows starting Monday).
  • The Somerville Theatre begins Saturday "Midnight Specials" this weekend, with Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy the first of eight late-night 35mm prints.
  • After the big opening, Apple Cinemas Fresh Pond is the only place keeping ABCD 2 around for a second week, and that just for late-night shows. You'll need to speak Tamil for their other Indian film, Indru Netru Naalai, also playing late nights. They also pick up the Jaws baton this weekend, showing Spielberg's classic at 2pm from Friday to Monday.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts concludes The Roxbury International Film Festival, which has a filmmaker or two in attendance on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  • It's Members' Weekend at The Harvard Film Archive, so all you members have probably already received an email saying what secret rarities they will be pulling out of the vaults for you!
  • The Regent Theatre doesn't seem to be listing the Spike & Mike's 2015 Festival of Animation programs on-line, but the Spike & Mike website shows it as running through Monday and a little poking around the ticketing system shows "Sick & Twisted" screenings on Friday & Saturday at 10pm.
  • Free outdoor screenings listed on Joe's Calendar include The Princess Bride and Yellow Submarine on the waterfront Friday night (with Maleficent in Revere) and Batman at Bloc 11 in Somerville on Monday.

See last week about doing nothing but packing (and going up to Maine to give birthday presents to my nieces in exchange for cake) and then actually moving on Tuesday, but there should be a way to fit Big Game, Jurassic World, The Overnight, and maybe Tremors into the schedule.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Ark of Mr. Chow

Both seeing and writing about this movie took time that probably should be going into packing up the house for next week's move, but "guy who worked on Starry Starry Night" grabbed my eye, the description of it looked entertaining, and I wanted to get out of the house.

Not really worth it, especially since it didn't feel nearly as satirical as every description suggested. I do wonder, as I often do when seeing movies coming from China, if I am missing a little bit. There's a bit of back-and-forth about how looking for elites is contrary to something that I suspect means a bit more in the film's native land.

Oddly, no previews for other Chinese movies before it in a very sparse screening (admittedly, 5pm isn't exactly niche presentations' busy time), which is quite a change after a run of having one import after another every couple weeks for the first few months of 2015. I'm curious about what's up with that - are the likes of China Lion gun-shy about competing with the American blockbusters, is a generally quiet period over there, or are the Chinese studios also releasing big action pictures that, instead of getting a day-and-date release, will hold out for a bigger distribution deal in North America?

Shao Nian Ban (The Ark of Mr. Chow)

* * (out of four)
Seen 20 June 2015 in AMC Boston Common #1 (first-run, DCP)

The likely-studio-supplied boilerplate that has shown up in a lot of listings about The Ark of Mr. Chow describes it as a satirical look at the Chinese "Youth Class" system, and if it's what passes for satire in China, well, it's a tremendous disappointment to all of us who ever heard that the Chinese symbol for "satire" is "laughter with knives". That's probably not quite true anyway, but even the loosest definition of satire would seem to demand something more barbed - or at least funnier - than what Yang Xiao comes up with here.

The "Youth Class" was a program begun in the People's Republic of China in 1978, aiming to place the best and brightest children of fifteen (or younger) in college. Twenty years later, Chow Zhiyong (Sun Honglei) is recruiting a new class for the school where he teaches, ignoring the communications asking him to stop. We meet five - Fung Ho-cheung (Li Jiaqi), an eleven-year-old prodigy; Mike (Wang Yuexin), a delinquent drop-out working in a nursing home; Dafa (Liu Xilong), an eccentric from the provinces; Cho Lan (Zhou Dongyu), a reserved girl with a crush on Mike; and Way (Dong Zijian), a rather average-seeming boy who has been pushed to the head of the class by his ambitious mother. At school, the boys quickly develop a crush on dance student Elaine (Cici Wang), although Chow would greatly prefer they concentrate their attention on International Mathematical Competition.

Director and co-writer Yang Xiao was in a Youth Class himself, back in 1994, so he comes at the subject with first-hand experience, and in some ways, that appears to limit his perspective as much as inform it: While Way is the narrator, meaning we inevitably see the film from his point of view (which includes staying in a dorm with Fung, Mike, and Dafa), it's still somewhat surprising just how much of a cipher Lan is compared to her male classmates. The opening segment where the audience is introduced to the various students and see some of their background skips right over her, and we only get brief hints at her personality. It's fair that a film mostly focusing on brilliant boys out of their league focus on that, perhaps - Cici Wang's Elaine is similarly vague as a hormone-charging woman in red - but it feels like it's doing gifted young women an injustice.

Full review on EFC.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 19 June 2015 - 25 June 2015

It's a weird week when the film with the fourth-most locations in Boston is the Bollywood picture.

  • It's a pretty far behind the pole, though, because Inside Out, the new film from Pixar, is opening all over the place in 2D and 3D. It's a whimsically-animated story about the emotional impulses inside a person's head being personified and going on an adventure through her memories and subconscious after a cross-country move has them out of whack. Supposedly one of the best things they've done in years, which is saying something. It's at the Capitol, West Newton (2D only), Belmont Studio (2D only), Apple Fresh Pond, Fenway, Boston Common, Assembly Row, and Revere.

    Also opening at the multiplexes is Dope, a Sundance selection that stars Shameik Moore as a kid from a tough Los Angeles neighborhood hoping to change his nerdy image at an underground party even while doing everything he can to get into a good school. Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, who seemed to make a big splash with The Wood fifteen years ago and then completely disappear. It's at Apple Fresh Pond, the Embassy, Fenway, Boston Common, Assembly Row, and Revere.

    For special presentations, Boston Common has $4.99 tickets to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 this week (every day at noon, Monday to Thursday at 10pm as well); half-price for that seems fair. Fenway and Revere, believe it or not, win the race for the first Boston-area screenings of Jaws this year, with DCP screenings on Sunday and Tuesday.
  • Third place goes to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a coming-of-age film that seems to land right on the border of really great and funny and kind of insufferable for most people; I liked it at IFFBoston. It's playing atThe Coolidge Corner Theatre, Kendall Square, and Boston Common.

    The Coolidge also continues its June Summer Camp series with a 35mm print of Ernest Goes to Camp at midnight on Friday and Saturday; those looking for nastier midnight fare can also check out Angst, about a man released from jail after serving ten years for murder and is feeling the urge to kill again. On Sunday morning, they have this month's Goethe-Institut German film, We Are Young. We Are Strong., which recreates the 1992 Rostock anti-immigrant riots. They'll also have 9pm shows of Saturday Night Live documentary Live From New York in the screening room nightly.
  • The big Bollywood opening at not just Apple Cinemas Fresh Pond and Fenway, but Boston common as well, is Anybody Can Dance 2 (ABCD2), a Disney-backed film that has Prabhudheva return as a Mumbai dance teacher who, this year, will bring his crew to a competition in Las Vegas. It's split between 2D and 3D shows, and two and a half-hours of Bollywood dance numbers strikes me as an excellent use of 3D. Held over with subtitles are Dil Dhadakne Do at Fenway and Hamari Adhuri Kahani at Apple, while the latter also opens Vinavayya Ramayya (if you know Telegu) and has screenings of Premam (if you know Malayalam).

    If your taste runs more to Chinese, The Ark of Mr. Chow opens at Boston Common at roughly the same time it plays China. It's a satire of the intense academic system in China, in this case showing socially unprepared teens sent to college before they are ready. Writer/director Xiao Yang was the editor on Starry Starry Night and also did effects work on that film, so his debut feature has my attention.
  • In addition to giving Me and Earl and the Dying Girl a couple of screens, Kendall Square also opens the documentary that played IFFBoston the night before, The Wolfpack. This one focuses on six brothers who have grown up mostly shut away from society, most recently in a New York apartment, who nevertheless came to love movies and would meticulously recreate them. They and West Newton also open Testament of Youth, starring Alicia Vikander as a girl in a small English town who is accepted into Oxford when women rarely went to college, but feels the need to volunteer alongside her brother and friends when World War I breaks out.
  • The Brattle Theatre opens the recently rediscovered and restored Losing Ground, a 1982 picture that was one of the first features made by an African-American woman, which aside from its unique perspective also seems to have interesting things to say about art and academia. It plays Friday-Sunday, although only Sunday afternoon to make way for a Father's Day 35mm double feature of The Shining & The Royal Tenenbaums.

    There's also a "Reel Weird Brattle" presntation of Richard Stanley's Hardware at 11:30pm on Saturday, but the real out-there treat comes Tuesday, when director Myroslv Slaboshpytskiy will be on hand to present The Tribe, easily the most astounding film I saw at Fantastic Fest last year and a hit at IFFBoston and other festivals - it's a shockingly harsh story set at a school for the Deaf in Ukraine, told without dialogue or subtitles for the signed communication, but very clear nonetheless. It's tough to watch, but worth it. It bumped one of the Ingmar Bergman's Fifties to a different night, but there are still two more this week - 35mm prints of The Seventh Seal on Wednesday and Wild Strawberries on Thursday.
  • The Somerville Theatre is a week away from starting its summer programming, but will be hosting a program of selections from Brooklyn's Animation Block Party at 2pm on Saturday afternoon; admission is $5 and includes plenty of films from local animators, many of whom will join founder Casey Safron for a Q&A afterward.
  • Between holdovers and the new openings The West Newton Cinema can take your money for twelve movies on its six screens this weekend, but they will also be hosting a special screening of last fall's The Good Lie at 2pm Saturday to note World Refugee Day.
  • Harvard Film Archive adds a third summer retrospective to the mix this week with The Complete Sam Fuller, which has a lot of good stuff. The opening selections are Pickup on South Street (Friday 7pm), The Crimson Kimono (Sunday 7pm), and The Naked Kiss (Monday 7pm). They still continue paying tribute to Robert Altman, though, with Vincent & Theo (Friday 9pm) and Fool for Love (Sunday 4pm), while Titanus Studio takes Saturday with The Professor, aka Indian Summer, at 7pm and The Demon at 9pm. Everything is in 35mm this week, and with Member's Weekend coming up, it looks like time to re-up my membership there.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts has one screening of A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence Friday afternoon as part of its Roy Andersson program, but will spend most of the week as thefor The Roxbury International Film Festival, which continues with screenings of shorts and features by and about people of color all week, many with filmmakers in attendance. Note that Monday's events will be at the Shirley Eustis House, while Tuesday's "Dinner and a Movie" presentation of 12 Months will be at Haley House Bakery & Café, both in Roxbury.
  • The Regent Theatre has two screenings each of the Spike & Mike's 2015 Festival of Animation programs, with double features on Friday and Thursday. $15 for the pair, $10 if you want to see only the "Classic" or "Sick & Twisted" shows.
  • Free outdoor screenings listed on Joe's Calendar include the rescheduled "Coolidge at the Greenway" 35mm presentation of American Graffiti on Tuesday, Groundhog Day and Soul Power in different parts of the waterfront area on Friday night, and Back to the Future at Bloc 11 in Somerville on Monday. Looks like a lot of these programs have been cut this summer.

My plans should really start and end with "locking myself in the house and packing things", but I'm going to try and hit the furniture store for Jurassic World, catch Inside Out and The Ark of Mr. Chow, and see what room there is for Dope, Sam Fuller, and ABCD 2.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Screenings I shouldn't have bene able to make it to: Jauja & Archie's Betty

I was supposed to go to my cousin's wedding on Saturday and was at the bus station in plenty of time to catch the 8am to Portland, ME, and was walking up to the counter when I discovered that I didn't have my photo ID in my wallet. You need one of those to purchase a bus ticket for post-9/11-paranoia reasons, so I had to catch the train back to the house, look around, go to the place where I thought I might have dropped it, no luck, look around, and feel kind of miserable. The irony is, I think I lost it while making a copy so that I could mail in an application for a new passport to replace the one I lost in Montreal last year. It takes being a special kind of dumb to lose one form of ID will replacing another one.

It gave me a little time to start clearing out the house, though, and then take in a double feature at the Brattle - Juaja, which I really liked, and Darkman, which was the first R-rated movie I saw in a theater, and... Well, it's still certainly something, from when Sam Raimi was still downright weird but not really close to polished yet, Liam Neeson was still trying to fake an American accent on occasion, and Frances McDormand hadn't found her niche. It's one of those movies that's not very good but, damn, if Raimi could do something that crazy again!

Sunday, I went to Archie's Betty, which I had missed during its first weekend at the Institute of Contemporary Art because I was doing the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and as a guy who is both kind of excited for the Archie reboot with Mark Waid and Fiona Staples and trying to justify those pricy-but-great-looking Bob Montana comic strip collections despite all the crap I have to move and all the bespined comic books on my shelf that I haven't read yet.

Gerald Peary presenting ARCHIE'S BETTY at the ICA

Gerald Peary directs, and he always comes across as a pretty great guy, one who has been a good friend to movie institutions in the Boston area in a way that not all critics manage. I really wish I liked either of his movies a little more because of that, because both Archie's Betty and For the Love of Movies are both about subjects that he clearly feels a great deal of passion for. Looking at my review of For the Love of Movies, I see a lot of similarities between the two movies - he actually fits a lot of information into them, but doesn't necessarily choose what to spend time on wisely, and as a result they feel a lot less effective than they perhaps are.

It's interesting that a guy who has had a pretty good run as a film critic and teacher seems to stumble a bit when trying to create his own. It's worth remembering that analysis and creation are related but distinct skills, and it's harder to go from one to the other than you might think.

(While I'm piling on - he's got some weird takes on the voices of the Archie characters!)

Nearly missed the noon screening, though, because Fan Pier has really built up since I was last there, and I think the sign coming out of the Silver Line station was pointing in the wrong direction. It almost makes the ICA hidden, which is a shame - it's a neat museum and one of my favorite screening rooms in the area, especially when the curtains are open and the screen is just hanging there.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 13 June 2015 in the Brattle Theatre (first-run, DCP)

Jauja opens with an explanation of the title, a mythological land that was always somewhere over the horizon in Patagonia, although these things are always exaggerated. That's probably the right "it's not really totally real" attitude to have with this movie, which doesn't waste time in plunging its lead into a beautiful but sanity-destroying nightmare.

That would be Gunnar Dinesen (Viggo Mortensen), a Danish engineer in Nineteenth-Century Argentina on a contract to work on a desert fort. He has brought his daughter Ingeborg (Viilbjørk Malling Agger) with him, but is alarmed when the much-older Lieutenant Pittaluga (Adrián Fondari) wishes to take her to the governor's ball. Inge, on the other hand, has eyes for Corto (Diego Roman), and when they steal away into the desert, Gunnar pursues alone, despite warnings that doing so is madness.

Right at the top of the film, Inge says she would like a dog that will follow her wherever she goes, and it's easy to look at what follows and say she already has that. That wouldn't really be correct, though; a dog is loyal and protective without question or apparent desire for itself, while Gunnar is clearly panicked at the idea of Inge growing up and making certain decisions for herself. He tends to initially state her age as fourteen rather than fifteen, fairly close to the line between a girl being considered a child and a potential bride in that time, and one of the totems he clings to when following her is a child's toy. When the film is nearing its end and Gunnar's viewpoint is perhaps becoming more hallucinatory, his fears don't exactly center on finding his daughter dead.

Full review on EFC.

Archie's Betty

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 14 June 2015 in the Institute of Contemporary Art (special presentation, DCP)

There's probably a fairly decent documentary short to be carved out of Archie's Betty, although it would probably take the sort of ruthless editing and change of focus that leaves it an altogether different film. The short feature that got made isn't bad, but it's a little too concerned with itself more than its subject, and those just interested in the origins of the Archie Comics gang might want it pared down.

Though others are often cited as the creators of Archie Andrews and his high-school classmates - writer Harry Shorten and MLJ Magazines co-founder John Goldwater (whose family still owns what is now Archie Comics) - Bob Montana is considered by many to fit that role best. He illustrated the character's first appearance in Pep Comics and would later draw the newspaper strip for about thirty years. In 1988, lifelong Archie fan Gerald Peary wrote an article in The Boston Globe's Sunday magazine section that about how Montana spent his teen years in nearby Haverhill, Massachusetts, and how the town frequently served as the template for the comics' setting of Riverdale, with many characters based directly on his classmates. As the film starts, Peary is returning to Haverhill and that article, looking to fill in some gaps and correct errors.

There turn out to be enough of both that Peary seems like he might have been better off pulling what he could from the article but never actually mentioning it. The first half or so of the film spends so much time on what he wrote back then that what he says later in the movie has a hard time carrying the same weight. That's unfortunate, because the actual story is just as interesting, even if it often clashes with the initial narrative of Montana immortalizing that image of small-town America. Peary seems unable to let Haverhill go in the editing room, even though it forces the film down a number of blind alleys until it's forced in another direction.

Full review on EFC.

Friday, June 12, 2015

San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2015 Day #04: Charlie Bowers, "Emak-Bakia", "Ménilmontant", Why Be Good?, Norrtullsligan, Sherlock Holmes (1916), and The Swallow and the Titmouse

Sherlock Holmes Day!!!!

That's roughly what my social media output looked like Sunday morning, as the interest that had been there since the discovery was announced and built up slowly as I convinced myself to go to the festival, regressing a bit when moving expenses and stuff came up, and then saw a steady increase as I actually got there, finally exploded into "holy crap, I'm going to see a performance I've read about ever since I first discovered Sherlock Holmes in elementary school, this is a huge deal!!!!"

SFSFF allows you to camp out, so even if I wasn't going to be getting the most I could from my pass, I would have shown up at 10am for the Charlie Bowers program anyway. You almost had to if you wanted a good seat - with the front row blocked off so the tech crew and musicians could have the front of the auditorium to themselves (often giving a tantalizing view of the organ underneath the stage that strangely never got used during the weekend), and an extra four or five rows marked as being reserved after 6pm on top of the six rows in the center of the orchestra section that had been reserved all weekend, you had to claim space early. I grabbed a second/third row center seat and declared it mine just as soon as I was done with the delicious stuffed french toast at Orphan Andy's around the corner.

First up was the Charlie Bowers program, which is some pretty astonishing live-action cartoon stuff, both in terms of how accomplished and how incredibly broad it is; we always talk about how the silent masters were doing their thing without CGI and the like, but Bowers was blending live action, animation, and visual effects in the same way much later filmmakers would, creating some of the weirdest and funniest silent shorts you'll see. Many were lost and only some have been rediscovered, and though made in Hollywood, Serge Bromberg felt it appropriate to present them in French with subtitles, as that is where "Bricolo" re-emerged and found some appreciation later on.

We stayed in France, more or less, for an "Avant-Garde Paris" program after that, and, man, if I were the break-taking type, that would have been the time, because the sound checks between programs hinted at just how painful the first short ("Emak-Bakia") and its accompanying music by Earplay was. Mainline a whole festival, and the odds are that something will disagree with you, but that was a rough one. Liked "Ménilmontant" a fair bit, though.

I went for lunch after that, but I had the sort of paralysis that comes with too many options, walking around Castro street until the Sliders burger shop became the best choice time-wise. Not a bad one - I respect any restaurant that has a great big charcoal grill right out where you can watch your burger get cooked - but I tend ty Yo over-think this sort of thing a lot when you're in an area with a lot of places to eat with only so many meal slots to visit them. It's a real peril when trying to vacation spontaneously.

I did make sure that something was left in my seat, so it was still waiting for me when I got back for Why Be Good?, which wound up forming something of a prototype female-empowerment double feature with the one that followed, Norrtullsligan (it's from Sweden). Both are darn entertaining movies, although there were times when the cheering in the middle came less from a well-executed joke than by women in the 1920s calling men on their exist double-standard crap. Of course, it being the 1920s, there was a bit of a limit to how progressive these movies were going to be - where the former seems to get to the right ending for the wrong reasons, the latter is just puzzling. I guess you just have to cheer baby steps in the past while working for big strides in the present and future.

That brings us to the main event, when stuff like this started showing up on screen:

Was I getting excited? You bet. I'm not the most serious Sherlock Holmes fan you'll find by a long shot, I've read about Gillette's tremendous popularity and influence on the public image of this character, along with the popular exchange of Gillette asking Arthur Conan Doyle if he could have Homes get married, to which Doyle replied he could kill Holmes for all he cared, from early on, and to be to actually see it... It's a big deal.

Because its such a big deal, I'm not sure I can assess the quality of the film with any degree of accuracy. It's pretty good, maybe great, certainly seldom disappointing, enough so that is starts to blend in with the buzzy feeling of seeing something precious thought lost. Maybe I'll be better able to render judgment with a few more viewings (I've got the Blu-ray on pre-order and hold out hope for screenings in Boston and maybe at Fantasia), but that can wait.

Knowing that it's hitting home video in October, though, does mean people are going to be able to take it for granted that it exists very quickly, especially if they're among the large folks who come to fandom via the recent explosion of new Sherlock Holmes material and adaptations. That's especially relevant given that the producers of the BBC'S Sherlock are prominently acknowledged in the credits for the restoration. It's also a good thing, I wager; as intriguing as lost art is, it's much better to have the thing than to not have it and be able to look down at those one deems ungrateful.

As expected, the film got a lot of applause from the audience, probably nearly as much from those who are silent fans as the Sherlock Holmes people. All of us, after all, enjoy the discovery of something previously hidden.

And, finally, The Swallow and the Titmouse, serving as something of an encore. That one has an interesting story as well; it was made in 1920 but put on the shelf by its studio, who apparently found its hyper-realistic style too unusual; when it was rediscovered sixty-two years later, the edit had to be recreated from six hours of raw footage. The result is impressive, even if, like the feature the occupied the 10pm slot the night before, it's material for an audience that enjoys both silent and art-house films.

Sometime during the evening, I got an email from United saying that my flight had been canceled to switch airplanes, which put a hitch into Monday which would have been more frustrating if the Red Sox game I was now not going to be able to make hadn't been postponed (that I didn't make it anyway, because getting Wednesday afternoon off just wasn't happening, is kind of neutral itself. If I were smart, I'd have taken advantage of the situation and done some touristy stuff Monday morning and caught The Deadlier Sex and Bert Williams's Lime Kiln Club Field Day (arguably a far more important rediscovery and presentation than Sherlock Holmes as one of the few silents made with a black cast) and then did what I could to sleep on the flight home, but I was wisely or sadly thinking in terms of being able to get into Boston before the T shut down. A missed opportunity, for sure.

I've got to say, though, if you like silent film, you owe yourself a trip to San Francisco some year. It probably won't become a part of my regular routine, unless something else grabs m my attention like Sherlock Holmes, but it's a great event in a cool location, relaxed in knowing it's a niche without becoming snobbish. It's jumping right up to the same "favorite, even if I can seldom go" level as New York Asian.

"A Wild Roomer"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival: The Amazing Charley Bowers, 35mm (?))

The first of the four Charley Bowers shorts to play Sunday morning can't exactly be called conventional, but you can sort of fit it into a type (the highly-mechanized house) if you're of a mind to. At first, it doesn't necessarily seem like a particularly brilliant example; it goes from a few disappearance effects of escalating complexity to something of a dragged-out plot where "Bricolo" (as writer/director/star/animator Bowers's character was known in France, the source of the print) must demonstrate a home-automation invention successfully in the forty-eight hours to inherit a great deal of money.

The jokes are of a type, but the execution isn't; Bowers creates a mechanism that can do anything with its dozens of buttons and then has it do so with stop-motion good enough to occasionally pass as puppetry. It's after that when things truly get anarchic, as Bricolo climbs on this thing and starts tooling around like it's a locomotive, smashing through anything in his way after teasing the audience with hints of Buster Keaton-like precision.

In many ways, this resembles a Keaton short (specifically "The Electric House"), but Bowers isn't Buster - he's not quite a natural performer, and his particular skill is not as immediately visible as the great silent comedians. It doesn't stop him from making a pretty funny movie, though.

"Now You Tell One"

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival: The Amazing Charley Bowers, 35mm (?))

Charley Bowers spent most of his career doing cartoons, both on paper and film, and I wouldn't be surprised if "Now You Tell One" is his best job of merging that medium with that of silent comedy . It's an extremely funny short, even as it's thoroughly crazy.

It starts with a local liars' club and tales that involve, among other things, elephants in the capitol, but those lies are too pedestrian. One finds Charley "Bricolo" Bowers with his head in a cannon, and while that doesn't get explained, we learn about his miracle grafting formula, which he proposes to use to help a pretty girl rid her farm of a very aggressive mouse infestation.

How aggressive? Sorry, that's one of the short's funniest visual gags and there's no way I'm ruining that for anybody. I laughed hard, though, at the sheer cartoony goofiness of the joke and how impressively Bowers and company animated it. Throughout the movie, Bowers (and co-conspirators Harold L. Muller & Ted Sears) set up and knock down a lot of jokes like that, creating an obvious punchline and then a spiffy visual denouement. It's a constant stream of good gags, at just the right spot between animated cartoons and deadpan silent comedy to excel at both.

"Many a Slip"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival: The Amazing Charley Bowers, 35mm (?))

Banana peels, we're told with all seriousness near the start of "Many a Slip", are responsible for over seventeen thousand broken legs every year. This may well be true for people living in a world of slapstick comedy, as is the idea that "inventor" of Rube Goldberg contraptions can be an entirely reasonable job description for one like Charley Bowers's "Bricolo" character. Put them together, and you see him hired to create a high-friction banana.

It's goofy as heck, but Bowers and his usual cohorts squeeze a fair number of gags out of it, both with large-scale gadget humor and animations of the "slipperiness germs" (Bowers's science may have been a bit fanciful). Bowers plays off Corinne Powers as his understanding wife quite well, and while the ultimate revelation is a bit of a cliché, there is something pretty clever about winking at the audience about how this slapstick bit has become a standard and then making the opposite of the usual gag even funnier.

"There It Is"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival: The Amazing Charley Bowers, 35mm (?))

It's a bit odd to see Charley Bowers, after three other shorts where he is basically playing "Charley" (or "Bricolo" in France) playing such a speciic character, in this case "Charley MacNeesha", a kilted detective from Scotland Yard who has come to America to figure out what is going on in an old house, specifically as regards "The Fuzz-Faced Phantom" (Buster Brodie).

That Phantom is right out of a 1920s comic strip - I've seen dozens of characters with his short stature, bald head, and busy facial hair flipping through collections of old comic strips - and, wow, does he look weird transplanted that directly to live action. He's in the middle of a bunch of absurd slapstick that makes almost no sense (think the characters who pop out of every door or window in a cartoon), but which gives things a frantic absurdity. That's matched by Bowers playing MacNeesha as a fairly exaggerated Scot, blunt and cheap as well as tending toward traditional dress. Oh, and he's got an animated insect sidekick named MacGregor.

Even more than Bowers's "Bircolo" films, this movie is a constant stream of gags with little to no set-up - presenter Serge Bromberg compared it to a live-action Tex Avery cartoon, and while Avery isn't necessarily my favorite of the classic cartoon directors - deadpan Droopy is my favorite creation of his, and I kind of liked the more straight-faced Bowers films a bit more than this. That's a relative statement, though - there are a lot of funny moments in "There It Is", and Bowers can still make a twenty-minute film zip like one that only runs ten. That's a great skill to have, and it's a shame that Bowers is one of the more forgotten silent comedy geniuses.


* * (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 35mm (?))

I'm afraid I don't have much to say about this "cinepoème" by artist Man Ray; it's got a lot of nicely photographed images, but, boy, do they seem random on first blush. Many of them are spinning or fairly extreme close-ups, which makes discerning any sort of meaning or idea from them much harder.

It might have been more bearable if not for the discordant music provided by Earplay. Sitting in the theater between shows, I was hoping that they were all just warming up individually so that it sounded weird together, but, no, that's how it was meant to hit your ears. It's probably somewhat in the spirit of what Man Ray was trying to do but in the middle of everything else, I found it extremely grating.


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 35mm (?))

I was dealing with some serious film-festival fatigue by the time "Ménilmontant" played, but even if that had me a little reluctant to love the film whole-heartedly, or fully connect all the dots of the story (I initially thought it was a flash-forward/catch-up thing, and it's hard to get out of that mindset), but there's no denying that Dmitri Kirsanoff made an exceptional short film, really mastering the tools of cinema (silent and otherwise) in telling his story.

Take the opening sequence, a picture of desperate, shocking violence that immediately grips the viewer and then lets him or her imagine the worst. It's a horrifying bit of crime that shocks all the more because Kirsanoff doesn't add much in the way of context; it's just assumed that this is common. Then it moves to the country, and two small girls whose life seems like an idyllic contrast until we see them visit their parents' graves. Then they are older, back in the city, but soon pulled down to the same sort of sad circumstances as their murdered parents.

Kirsanoff produces, writes, shoots, directs, and edits, and in some ways it is the last that is the most impressive as he fits two decades into a 38-minute short, ruthlessly picking out the defining moments and sharply jumping between them. Despite that, he also finds time to explore those moments fully, building human drama around the two young women rather than simply showing them as part of the urban underbelly that grinds through people with no care for them as individuals.

That leaves Nadia Sibirskaia and Yolande Beaulieu doing the only things Kirsanoff can't directly handle himself in bringing these characters to life, and while they aren't doing the most complex acting job, the deliver the heightened emotion needed without overdoing it, both in their individual stories and as they re-encounter each other toward the end. They become the final pieces needed to make the film heartbreaking rather than clinical, even if it may not necessarily be completely tragic.

"Ménilmontant" is an impressive small film, and I half-suspect that the places where it seems to fall short may be more on me than the material. I hope to see it again under different circumstances to see if it just clicks then.

Why Be Good?

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 35mm)

A modem viewer might, at times, find himself or herself winging hands while watching Why Be Good?, feeling like the filmmakers were so close to being on the right track with its message. I'd remind those folks that it was probably fairly progressive for 1929, and that focusing on the moment or two when it isn't means missing out on all the things that make it a charming and funny romantic comedy.

It wastes little time introducing us to its two halves. First up is Winthrop Peabody Jr. (Neil Hamilton), the dashing scion of a millionaire department store owner (Edward Martindel), having one last blast as a free man before being employed the next day. Then there's Pert Kelly (Colleen Moore), an aptly-named flapper who can out-Charleston anybody on the dance floor and isn't exactly shy off it. They met at a nightclub called "The Boiler" and hit it off, making a date for the next night, but that's before a tardy Pert gets called in to see the new personnel manager at work the next morning, creating a sticky situation that Winthrop Sr. only makes worse.

We may see Neil Hamilton first, but there is never much doubt that this is Colleen Moore's movie. She spent a fair chunk of her career playing characters like Pert Kelly, and if it was generally with the same sort of energy she brings to this one, it must have been an enjoyable run. Pert has a winning confidence and enthusiasm when she's out on the town, sure, but it transforms rather than disappears when she's at work or arguing with her father. Moore makes silent dialogue "sound" snappy by how she moves when delivering it, and she makes the most of an expressive face, especially when Pert's impulsiveness has her s seeming to switch directions quickly. She's naturally very funny, and doesn't have to change things up much when the writers give her material that they want the audience to take seriously.

Full review on EFC.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 35mm)

I wonder, half in jest, if today's independent and foreign film fans had great-grandparents who hoped for movies like Norrtullsligan to play their city, grumbling that every terrible Poverty Row slapstick one-reeler showed up at their neighborhood theater but not an intelligent, true-to-life drama about working women from Sweden. If it did - without being cut to pieces with new intertitles that changed the whole story - those early cineastes were lucky; there is a lot going on in this feature that one doesn't see that often in the best-remembered American films from the silent era.

The title refers to a group of four secretaries living in an apartment, mostly working for the same large company, although Eva (Renée Björling) works for an undertaker, figuring she'll be dealing with a better class of people than, say, Pegg (Tora Teje), whose boss (Egil Eide) is described as understanding but shown as touchy. The other two flatmates are Emmy (Linnéa Hillberg), who has been at it the longest and has an aching back to show for it, and Baby (Inga Tidblad), young and optimistic to be an easy target for both men and union organizers.

Pegg is not just the film's protagonist - the other girls are her friends and we also meet the boy she's working to put through school (Lauritz Falk) but her cousin and rich aunt (Stina Berg) - but also its narrator. That may seem like an odd thing for a silent movie to have (and I wonder if it's a Scandinavian thing; Norway's Pan was also told though not shot first-person), but it's not, really. Many silent films will often precede a scene with an ironic title card; having it clearly come from Pegg rather than some arch omniscient writer gives these words a bit of teeth. Pegg confronts bitter ironies rather than winnking ones, and when she notes a social ill, it's a source of genuine frustration rather than something to be shrugged off as just the way it is. It also gives director Per Lindberg and star Tora Teje the chance to play her character as keeping her head down and trying to get by without feeling like she's passive or unengaged compared to the rest of the cast.

Full review on EFC.

Sherlock Holmes (1916)

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 35mm)

Last October's announcement that a complete nitrate negative of a Sherlock Holmes film starring William Gillette made in 1916 had been found in the Cinemathèque Française may not have had quite the same impact on the film world as, say, a similar announcement about Fritz Lang's Metropolis a few years prior, but it's still a big deal to film-lovers in general. For fans of the character, it's mind-blowing; as many pieces of imagery associated with Holmes comes as much from Gillette's much-revived 1899 play as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories, but for many decades, we've had to take the scholars' word for it. Now it can be up on the screen in tinted black-and-white for the first time in nearly a century, and generations of fans should be pleased.

It follows the stage production closely, introducing Alice Faulkner (Marjorie Kay), whose sister has recently died leaving her in possession of correspondence that could undermine the Grand Duke of a small European country, and when she refuses to hand it over, a pair of nearby grifters (Mario Majeroni & Grace Reals) see an opportunity. Once they hear that the government has hired Sherlock Holmes (Gillette) to retrieve the letters, they join forces with James Moriarty (Ernest Maupain), a master criminal intent on both blackmailing the Duke and having his revenge on Holmes.

Though one of America's most celebrated actors at the turn of the Twentieth Century, Gillette only made this one film (he was also meant to adapt his other hit play, Secret Service, but that did not happen); he was sixty-two in 1916, wasn't likely to be a leading man in productions other than this one, and by many accounts ignored director Arthur Berthelet in favor of longtime compatriots from his touring company. It's not surprising, then, that the film's Holmes looks a bit weary, but in certain ways that makes the story work even better than it might have: Moriarty needs no introduction to those who don't know the name, as it is clear just by looking at the pair that Holmes and Moriarty have been battling for some time, and though Gillette was initially nervous about giving Holmes a love interest, he does have the air of someone ready to have more to his life than crime-solving.

That trait is not the dominant one, though, and one can immediately see why Gillette was said to embody Sherlock Holmes from the moment he took the stage in 1899. His Holmes is stern, sometimes bordering on cold, but unlike Benedict Cumberbatch's high-functioning psychopath, possesses the sort of empathy that would see him dismiss crimes the police couldn't ignore. While it's a bit jarring to see his heart skip a beat upon meeting Alice, it is something Gillette quickly integrates into his character. The overall impression is of a man who is capable enough to be in control of most situations without and can assert his intellect while only seeming a little boastful. His active mind, probing senses, and general curiosity are on display from the start, making his methods clear enough that this silent version of the play need not stop for long, multiple-title-card explanations.

Full review on EFC.

L'hirondelle et la mésange (The Swallow and the Titmouse)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 35mm)

It's kind of surprising to see that The Swallow and the Titmouse was considered so non-commercial as to go unreleased when it was made, and kind of not; the audience that would go for its style of storytelling today is a niche one, although the appeal of its inside look at the rivers of France and Belgium must have been even greater. That's what happened, though; the film vanished into obscurity even before leaving it until an assembly cut was found sixty years later and restored, demonstrating that the film business has been making great art difficult to see since the 1920s.

L'Hirondelle and La Mésange of the title are not birds but barges working the rivers. Pierre Van Groot (Louis Ravet) is their captain, and the crew is mostly family: his wife Griet (Jane Maylianes) and her sister Marthe (Maguy Deliac), along with their dogs, chickens, and other small animals. They lack a pilot, but hire Michel (Pierre Alcover) in Antwerp, where Pierre also obtains diamonds to smuggle into France, as one does. Affection soon blossoms between Marthe and Michel, encouraged by Pierre, but he may be more interested in that secret cargo.

This may be an art movie, but it's one with a pretty straightforward plot when you get right down to it, and while the suspense is a bit muted compared to some of the more melodramatic movies with similar plots, it develops into something enjoyably noirish as the film goes on. It never completely becomes a thriller, but it's a great deal of fun to watch as director André Antoine and writer Gustave Grillet tease the story out and Antoine even applies some flourishes that have characters emerging from the shadows in a way that presages film noir, while the methodical way things are laid out will later be echoed in policiers. It's got an ending to match, too.

Full review on EFC.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 12 June 2015 - 18 June 2015

It's Jurassic World or bust at the multiplexes, apparently.

  • And Jurassic World is playing in a lot of theaters. I'm kind of curious how the folks 22 years younger than me or so are anticipating it, and if that plays into the theme of how, in the movie's world, people are getting jaded about dinosaurs. Nice cast in Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Vincent D'Onofrio, and I liked director Colin Trevorrow's Safety Not Guaranteed. Jurassic World plays in 2D and 3D at the Capitol, Apple Fresh Pond, the Embassy, Jordan's Furniture (Imax 3D), Fenway (including RPX), Boston Common (including Imax 3D), Assembly Row (including Imax 3D), Revere (including AVX), and the SuperLux.

    If that's a bit intense, AMC Boston Common starts a series of some of the year's earlier films with $4.99 screenings of Paddington at noon daily. Regal Fenway has an advance screening of Inside Out on Tuesday with making-of and interviews afterward. You can also add The Somerville Theatre the the places playing Love & Mercy.
  • Kendall Square doesn't have that opening there, but turn over half their screens nonetheless. One of them gets The Connection, which shows the European side of the events that inspired The French Connection, featuring Jean Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche. Speaking of drugs, they also have Heaven Knows What, featuring Arielle Holmes as a heroin addict desperately in love with a man who asks her to slit her wrists (Caleb Landry Jones).

    For something lighter, there's Live From new York!, Bao Nguyen's documentary look at the early years of Saturday Night Live. A more dramatic comedy appears in The Farewell Party (also playing West Newton), in which the residents of a retirement home in Israel help a terminally ill friend, and soon find more people with interest in similar assistance.

    The scheduled one-week booking there is also on a reduced schedule, with only two or three shows a day for Aloft, which stars Jennifer Connelly as a mother who abandoned her son (Cillian Murphy) twenty years ago and is meeting him again. Given the six-year age difference between the actors, I'm guessing that's in different time periods.
  • In addition to The Farewell Party, The West Newton Cinema is the only place in the area playing a new adaptation of Emma Bovary with Mia Wasikowska in the title role and Era Miller, Paul Giamatti, and Rhys Ifans in the supporting cast. They also open When Marnie Was There, although I see no indication on the website as to whether it is in English or Japanese; dubbed is more likely.
  • The Brattle Theatre has a weekend booking of Jauja this weekend, with Viggo Mortensen as an engineer who arrives in Argentina during the late 1800s with his daughter and then plunges into the jungle to find her when she goes missing. It is said to be gorgeous, and comes from noted Argentine director Lisandro Alonso.

    The "Reel Weird Brattle: Class of 1990" show on Saturday night is Sam Raimi's Darkman on 35mm, a reminder that Liam Neeson's recent turn toward action-heroism has precedent. They follow it up Tuesday with a Trash Night show, which hasn't been named yet. On Wednesday and Thursday, they start a series highlighting Ingmar Bergman's Fifties, with 35mm prints of Summer with Monika on Wednesday and Smiles of a Summer Night on Thursday. Note that Smiles is moved up from the 23rd, in part because of new programming for that date and because the print for the previously scheduled Sawdust and Tinsel was in bad shape.
  • Fenway and Apple Cinemas Fresh Pond both continue to show Dil Dhadakne Do for the Indian-movie fans, and also both open Hamari Adjhuri Kahani, a romance between a single mother and a hotel magnate. If you don't need English subtitles, Malayam comedy Premam and Telugu romance Kerintha play as well.
  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre has midnight screenings of The Stranger on Friday and Saturday night; it's got some nifty performances and atmosphere but is also one which can't bring itself to use the word "vampire". The other midnight show is the original Friday the 13 in 35mm. Friday, Saturday, close enough.

    Also on 35mm is Monday's Big Screen Classic, Preston Sturges's Sullivan's Travels, one of the few movies that gets to be earnest and also funny about its seriousness. Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake are pretty great in it. They go the other way on Thursday night, showing peculiar VHS footage in The Found Footage Festival's Salute to Weirdos. Should look great blown up to the size of Screen #1.
  • Harvard Film Archive continues their two summer retrospectives. The Titanus Studio pictures are Numbered Days (Friday 7pm), Dario Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Saturday 9:30pm), Cronaca Nera (Sunday 5pm), and Sweet Deceptions (Monday 7pm). The Robert Altman pictuers are A Wedding (Friday 9pm), M*A*S*H (Saturday 7pm, including rare short film "Ebb Tide"), and Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's HIstory Lesson (Sunday 7pm). All are 35mm except "Ebb Tide".
  • The Museum of Fine Arts continues The Films of Roy Andersson with more screenings of You, the Living (Friday), the premiere of his new feature A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday), Giliap (Saturday), and A Swedish Love Story (Sunday).

    They will also be the main venue for The Roxbury International Film Festival, a week-and-a-half-long celebration of films by and about people of color. It starts with An American Ascent on Wednesday and Romeo and Circus Without Borders on Thursday. Filmmakers will be present for Ascent and Circus.
  • The Institute of Contemporary Art has two more showings of Archie's Betty this Sunday, at noon and three o'clock.
  • The Regent Theatre has live shows for most of the week, but has the Just a Minute festival on Wednesday (with festival founder & producer on-hand). Thursday night's film, bipolar Disorder documentary Pack Up Your Sorrows, will also have guests, including the filmmakers and musician/star Meg Hutchison.
  • Joe's Calendar shows free outdoor films starting to pick up this week, with Kramer vs. Kramer and the Boston Harbor Hotel Friday and The Neverending Story at Bloc 11 Cafe on Monday. The real can't miss-one, though, is "Coolidge at the Greenway" on Tuesday, where the Coolidge will have the first of three monthly 35mm outdoor screenings with American Graffiti.

My plans involve a wedding in Maine this weekend, so I'll be putting off Jurassic World until I can see it at the furniture story next Saturday (hey, I want my dinosaurs actual size) and likely missing Archie's Betty on Sunday. I'll try and catch Jauja and The Connection, plus I've never actually seen American Graffiti. Still, this stuff I need to move won't pack itself.

Monday, June 08, 2015

San Andreas

The Showcase SuperLux in Chestnut Hill is kind of an exaggerated theater - highest prices, most upscale food menu, classiest decor - that it's probably easier to use it as a metaphor for the film you see than many other places. Take last evening's show, which I went to see there because I missed the cheapest 3D show by sleeping to a reasonable hour for Sunday morning and once you do that, you may as well go to the fancy place if you're going to have a snack with the movie. You know what I had? "Cap'n Chicken Strips", which is chicken in a Cap'n Crunch breading with buttermilk ranch. I've got to be honest, I really didn't get that much of a Cap'n Crunch flavor from it, but the basic concept couldn't get more "selling junk food and sophistication at the same time" if it tried.

It's not really putting on airs, though, and that's seeing San Andreas at a place like the SuperLux. It's pure Hollywood product executed in a very slick manner, not particularly refined, but pretty much what you expect. I kind of wish I was able to get past it's total commitment to "make it personal!", because it's almost a parody of such things, but by the same token I almost wish it went for deadpan acknowledgment. It's absurd that the movies create giant spectacles of the sort of thing that should be awe-inspiring on their own but feel the need to chip the story down to human size.

San Andreas

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 7 June 2015 in Showcase SuperLux #3 (first-run, DCP)

Movies like San Andreas cost a lot of money and the time of a lot of talented people, and yet they so often wind up as a battle between a dumb, pandering script and the basic competence of the cast and crew. The latter eke out a small victory here, I figure, because their work is still fairly easy to appreciate even when they're asked to execute something that doesn't make a lot of sense.

Take the opening sequence, for instance; it has a sense of fun in faking the audience out before setting up a tricky problem for Los Angeles Fire Department rescue pilot Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) and his crew, accompanied by a TV reporter (Archie Panjabi), to solve. That done, he gets down to nearly-divorced dad stuff, but while he's arranging to take daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) to college, a Caltech seismologist (Paul Giamatti) I is having his theories on earthquake prediction proven correct in tragic fashion at Hoover Dam. His model predicts that there is more to come, placing both Blake and her mother Emma (Carla Gugino) in dangerous situations in San Francisco and L.A., respectively. Too bad Ray is helping to coordinate rescue efforts for the entire city.

Nah, just kidding - that team described as too close to break up after serving together in the Middle East back during the opening is soon nowhere to be seen, with two dropped off-screen and the other one apparently ditched by Ray quickly walking away after telling him his shoelace is untied. After that, one kind of loses track of how much public and private property Ray appropriates and destroys while zipping right past thousands to millions of other people in need of assistance unless it would directly involve helping his immediate family. Granted, they tend to call him directly instead of 911 and often wind up running against the crowds for their own private rescue plans. On top of that, San Andreas is also the sort of movie that will briefly expect the audience to kind of enjoy someone getting squashed like a bug for the character flaw of being a bit of a jerk but apparently not feel that nature was not settling some sort of score with the other few hundred people being wiped out in the same shot. Given half a minute's thought, this movie becomes a quite horrifying display of how spectacle is supposedly meaningless unless the the audience cares about the characters and their personal stakes.

Full review on EFC.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

When Marnie Was There

I feel as if we have been bidding Studio Ghibli farewell for a long time - that between The Wind Rises, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, and now When Marnie Was There, we've been lamenting this end of an era on and off for several years straight. They absolutely deserve a long victory lap, and I certainly don't want them to just go away, but each time one of these is released, I feel lousy that it's ending.

And I'm really not sure how I feel about the end finally coming not with one from Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata, but very talented newcomer Hiromasa Yonebayashi. It's Yonebayashi's second film as director, after The Secret World of Arrietty, and is much stronger than that fine debut effort. He's not the only talented young filmmaker who has been working at Ghibli, but having that company in limbo makes one wonder what (and where) his next project will be. Will Madhouse or Toei or some other company hire him, will he work on developing his next feature in the hope that Ghibli will be more than a conent management company by the time he means to start animating?

Of course, it could be very interesting to see what becomes of Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Goro Miyazaki, and others working there if they do wind up elsewhere. Both of Yonebayashi's movies are in Ghibli's house style, and while the influence of that style reaches out beyond the studio itself (see, for example, A Letter to Momo), I'm very curious whether the people who made their mark at Ghibli will see working elsewhere as a chance to stretch in new directions or if they will carry what works with them.

At any rate, this potentially final final film is a good one. Niece-worthy, although I'm not exactly how much they'd like it. It's pretty easy to recommend the ones that are fun and full of fantastic images to them, but When Marnie Was There is kind of heavy at times. The almost-nine-year-old might be up for it, though I don't know how much she would go for smart ghost stories, but the younger ones might need a couple years before they appreciate something that is not quite so obviously exciting or friendly as the Disney material they love.

Omoide no Mânî (When Marnie Was There)

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 6 June 2015 in Landmark Kendall Square #2 (first-run, DCP with Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles)

Toward the end of When Marnie Was Here, I found myself feeling a delightfully paradoxical appreciation for how it was put together: It somehow feels simultaneously surprising and inevitable, with the symbolic and the literal overlapping in ways that should not have been deflating but instead strengthened the story. Not bad for a movie about 12-year-olds and in large part made for that age group, though it never feels the need to shout to get their attention.

The first of these girls we meet is Anna Sasaki, who looks at some of her classmates and says that there are people inside a circle and outside, with her among the latter. Soon after that, she has a serious asthma attack, prompting her guardian Yoriko to send her away from Sapporo to spend the summer with Yoriko's aunt and uncle, Setsu & Kiyomasa Oiwa, for clear air in the country. While sketching, Anna is transfixed by a dilapidated mansion across the marsh, once the vacation home of a group of foreigners although it has changed hands several times since then. Sometimes she sees lights in the windows, and one night at high tide she finds a rowboat docked nearby. She needs a bit of help when she reaches the mansion, and that's when she meets Marnie, a blonde girl about her age, who says they must be each other's secret.

That's the start of a gothic story, an odd choice when the main character is an antisocial pre-teen girl. It becomes fascinatingly appropriate, though - Anna, in her youthful way, is as withdrawn and cold as the women typically seduced by ghosts in the grown-up version of these stories; in fact, she's often more direct about her self-loathing than those protagonists. The offer of friendship is as much a temptation for a girl that age as romance would be for one five or ten years older, and in some ways it is even more believable that Anna would keep investing in it, even though she's clearly a smart enough kid to know that she is in the midst of something outside the ordinary.

Anna proves to be a fascinating creation; director Hiromasa Yonebayashi and character designer Masashi Ando (both collaborated on adapting Joan G. Robinson's novel with Keiko Niwa) envision her as sort of androgynous toward the start, a no-nonsense look that lends itself to adventuring and serves as a contrast to the design for Marnie, who is all pink dresses and long hair, although no delicate shut-in flower. As Anna grows over the course of the movie, she becomes more feminine, but it's not the same kind of super-girly look Marnie favors; rather a casual but mature image, and the introduction of a younger character serves to heighten the contrast.

Beyond visual design, Sara Takatsuki is giving an impressively nuanced vocal performance (at least, in the subtitled Japanese version I watched; I'm sure Hailee Steinfeld is fine in the English dub); getting across the numbness and anger that both define Anna early on, as well as the growing confidence and compassion she displays later. Kasumi Arimura gives Marnie a youthful excitement without it feeling exaggerated as it often can in animated features, hiding a sadness but not denying it. Nanako Matsushima shines as the worried guardian (I'm genuinely curious to hear what Geena Davis does in the dub), while Toshie Negishi & Susumu Terajima lighten a lot of scenes as the Oiwas.

There's also a wonderful precision in how Yonebayashi crafts his picture, both in small ways and large. Observe how Anna sharpens her pencils with a sliding blade rather than a contained pencil sharpener or snaps them by pressing too hard; it establishes her as a bit more than sad, even if she is quiet in motion as well as voice. Watch her attempting to step into or row a boat for the first time - it's clumsy in exactly the way it should be for someone inexperienced. Check out how the coloring (an animated film's lighting) subtly shifts between scenes - and not so subtly in others, as we see the same bedroom occupied by two different girls. These are all places where an animated film might cut back, because those small details require a lot of conscious effort, but the attention to detail is appreciated here.

Some of that same precision is available in the writing, although my extremely limited Japanese leaves me wondering how much is translation, and may be different between the subtitles and dubbing script. For instance, the subtitles don't spell out the relationship between Anna and Yoriko initially beyond them not being biologically related - Anna calls Yoriko "Auntie", and Setsu finds that unusual, and I went to step-parent issues. Later, Anna's bluish eyes are noted, and it's hinted that the fact that she has some foreign ancestry might account for why she feels like an outsider, and that blonde-haired Marnie may be a way of helping her accept that about herself. Yonebashi and company don't really go that way in either case, but not only doesn't it feel like a misdirection, but the thoughts a viewer may have along those lines feel useful - they may not figure into the actual plot, but thinking this way allows the audience to understand Anna better, so that when the filmmakers do start connecting their dots, it feels like more than a puzzle being put together.

That feels extraordinary. When Marnie Was There already seemed like as exceptional an animated film as one can generally expect from Studio Ghibli, but the way it brings its ideas together while still remaining fairly simple deserves extra praise. Ghibli's future is undecided, but in Yonebashi, it either has an excellent future or a potentially great legacy, at least if his future projects are as good as this one.

(Previously on EFC)

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Next Week in Tickets: Films playing Boston 5 June 2015 - 11 June 2015

Back in Boston, looking to catch up on some things and look in on others.

  • The Coolidge Corner Theatre is among several theaters opening Love & Mercy, a biography of Beach Boys songwriter Brian Wilson, which has Paul Dano playing him as a young man and John Cusack playing him later in life, with Paul Giamatti and Elizabeth Banks as people involved with his psychological care. It's at the Coolidge, West Newton, Kendall Square, Boston Common, and Revere.

    The other opening is The Nightmare, a sort of combined documentary and horror movie about sleep paralysis from the director of Room 237 - it plays at midnight in screen #2 on Friday and Saturday before moving to the GoldScreen for 9:30pm shows from Sunday to Thursday. The other midnight show on Friday & Saturday is a 35mm print of Heavy Weights, part of their annual summer camp series. They'll also have a 35mm screening of Wild Style, the first hip-hop feature featuring grafitti artist Lee Quinones, Fab 5 Freddy, and other artists from the early days of New York rap, with director Charlie Ahearn on hand for a Q&A as part of their Cinema Jukebox program. There's also Open Screen on Tuesday, and a "Wine & Film" presentation of Eric Rohmer's Autumn Tale.
  • The Entourage movie got a jump-start on the weekend, opening at the Somerville, Apple Fresh Pond, the Embassy, Fenway, Boston Common, Assembly Row, Revere, and the SuperLux. The other big-deal comedy opening this weekend is Spy, featuring Melissa McCarthy as a CIA desk jockey suddenly thrust out into the field, with an interesting supporting cast of Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, and Jude Law. We don't see outright-funny Jason Statham often enough. It's at the Capitol, Apple Fresh Pond, the Embassy, Fenway (including RPX), Boston Common, Assembly Row, and Revere.

    Those opting for something scary can choose Insidious 3, a prequel to the other two movies which has co-writer Leigh Whannell taking over as director. It's at Apple Fresh Pond, Fenway, Boston Common, Assembly Row, and Revere.
  • In addition to Love & Mercy, Kendall Square has a couple more things worth catching, and it may be worth making sure you catch the right show. When Marnie Was There, for instance, will be screening in both an English-dubbed version (11:10am, 1:55pm, and 7:10pm) and in the original Japanese with subtiltes (4:25pm and 9:40pm). It is quite possibly Studio Ghibli's final film - nothing else is in production - and only booked for one week.

    They also get the new Andrew Bujalski film (and IFFBoston alum) Results, with Kevin Corrigan as a nouveau riche slacker who finds himself tangled up with dueling athletic trainers played by Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders. Producers Paul Bernon and Sam Slater will be there for the 7:05pm show on Friday.
  • Felix and Meira ended its one-week booking at Kendall Square on Thursday, but gets a couple of shows per day at The West Newton Cinema
  • Bollywood's Dil Dhadakne Do opens at both Apple Cinemas Fresh Pond/iMovieCafe and Fenway; it's got an impressive cast - Anil Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, among others. I am reasonably sure that one plays with English subtitles; less so about Unfreedom, a terrorist thriller split between New York and New Delhi.
  • The Brattle Theatre anchors a Sunshine Noir series with Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice, an exceptonally entertaining Thomas Pynchon adaptation starring Joaquin Phoenix that plays Friday to Sunday. Oddly, it's the only thing in the series not on 35mm, as opposed to double-feature-mates The Big Lebowski (Saturday), Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, Monday night's Harper, Tuesday's The Oustide Man and Repo Man (single features), Wednesday's Chinatown, and the Thursday night QT double feature of Jackie Brown & True Romance.

    The "Reel Weird Brattle: Class of 1990" show on Saturday night is The Spirit of '76, a time-travel comedy widely considered interesting but not very good. It's also on 35mm
  • Speaking of Robert Altman films playing in 35mm the Harvard Film Archive begins a retrospective on Friday with Nashville, followed by Kansas City at 9pm Saturday and Short Cuts on Monday. The also start the summer's other major retrospective, this one focused upon Italy's Titanus Studio; the first three entries being The Fiancés (Saturday 7pm), Days of Glory (Sunday 5pm), and Violent Summer (Sunday 7pm).
  • The Somerville Theatre has their monthly silent-film presentation at 2pm on Sunday, a 35mm deep-dive double feature of Play Safe and Show People. The latter is the more prominent, directed by King Vidor with Marion Davies and William Haines.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts will begin a series of The Films of Roy Andersson on Wednesday with Songs from the Second Floor. It also plays Thursday, as does You, the Living. They play in advance of his new, much-lauded film A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, which opens next Friday (the 12th).
  • The Regent Theatre has two film events this week: Sunday night they premiere locally-made comedy DJ Stan Da Man, with Chace Carson as a one time king of the clubs now reduced to the wedding business. Then on Tuesday, Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story with guest speaker Abe Ryneck.

Spy, Love & Mercy, and When Marnie Was Here look to be the new releases worth catching; I've also got San Andreas and Aloha to catch up with. The Sunshine Noir and Altman series merit a drop-in, as well.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2015 Day #03: Speedy, Visages d'enfants, The Donovan Affair, Flesh and the Devil, and Pan

I am not, by and large, a big balcony person when I go to movies, having at some point absorbed Gene Siskel's reasoning that one of the reasons movies are more exciting than television is that you look up, rather than down. Getting down in the lower rows makes the screen bigger, too. But, hey, might as well try a show or two there, just to get better feel of this theater in its entirety:

Kind of pretty, isn't it? I'm torn between thinking it could use a little touching up and liking that the place is showing some age and wear.

The first thing seen from that vantage point was Speedy, the latest to get a touch-up and stand-alone release from The Harold Lloyd Trust, Janus Films, and The Criterion Collection. It was his last silent, if I remember correctly, before he wound up in the awkward position of being excited about the new technology of synchronized sound, fully committed, but not really suited to it. Granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd was there with stories of her grandfather.

Next up was the fairly fantastic Visages d'enfants, looking gorgeous and demonstrating that the French have excelled at this sort of relatively unadorned look at how a child's mind reacts to traumatic situations for roughly as long as there have been movies. Really great, and readily available, but I don't know if I ever would have thought to check it out if I wasn't at the festival.

Then - lunchtime! My sister-in-law Lara recommended Ike's Place, which was a little ways up the road and had a line, but it was absolutely worth it; I had a "Super Mario" sandwich (meatballs, marinara, and mozzarella sticks) on their signature Dutch Crunch Bread, along with chips and a Dang! Butterscotch Root Beer. That is some really good food, and I missed the caramel-green apple lollipop in the bag until Lara mentioned it. Suffice it to say, it all comes highly recommended.

I was going to go back down to ground level after that, but those seats were pretty full up, so I headed back upstairs for the rest of the day. Probably for the best, as I think being close to the cast they had acting out The Donovan Affair might have been even more distracting. They had that cast because the print of Frank Capra's all-dialogue picture in the Library of Congress was missing its soundtrack, and nobody could find Vitaphone discs to match the print. Thus, when it's shown, a cast of voice actors does what they can to line up with it. I'm not sure that I am tremendously fond of the execution - it feels like they sort of skipped past dubbing a comedy to parody - but this "accidental silent" is a different experience, and comes with tales of trying to track down the original play, censorship logs, lip-reading and trailer audio that has no video.

That got us to 7pm, which tends to be the easiest sale of the day, in this case Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in Flesh and the Devil. A local mattress company also handed out fans in the shape of Garbo's face, which... Okay. I don't know if this was necessarily as steamy a movie as the opening talked about, but I did have to take my Brattle hoodie off. I'm going with "heat rises" versus the lower seats having a draft.

Also mentioned in the intro, and probably going to get special notice when you see the movie in San Francisco's Castro district anyway, is that this as much about the two guys as the femme fatale. One really does want to see them just kiss at the end. Given that the filmmaker talked about it killing him to tack a happy ending on for the studio (which was removed, at least for this screening), I wonder if he might have really meant a scene or two that misses the point instead.

Then, finally, Pan, which was probably the most divisive one in the program for the whole weekend, as much as a program of films 85 years old, minimum, is going to be controversial. This Norwegian film was slow and more than a bit weird, with an epilogue that just went on and on (half of the epilogue was said to have been lost until recently, and there were many comments that this may have been for the best). My favorite theory that I heard on the bus back to the hotel and the next day was that the main character introduced it by talking to his dog, and what came after was a dog's understanding of human relationships. Which is goofy, but when a movie has audience members even semi-seriously advocating such an idea, it's a little nutty.

Then it was back on the F-Line - and is it just me, or is it kind of disappointing when that means a regular bus rather than a vintage streetcar? - in order to do it one last time on Sunday.


* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 30 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 35mm (?))

The Brattle having two solid weeks of Harold Lloyd movies a decade ago - just before I went to my first Fantasia Festival, if I remember correctly - is a big part of what got me going to silents on a regular basis, but despite having the nifty box set that New Line put out that year, I haven't watched most of those movies since, other than the odd glut of Safety Last! screenings when that was the Janus/Criterion release du jour. A shame, because there are some really funny movies in there, including Speedy.

It is kind of odd now, both with the current economic situation and knowing that The Great Depression was just around the corner, to hear Lloyd's Harold Swift shrug off losing another job, because he can easily get another. Part of the fun of the movie, though, is looking at it as a time capsule of Twenties New York, from the fantastic Coney Island at night footage to just watching a ballgame. It's plenty funny around that, too, with Ann Christy proving one of Lloyd's best female foils, plenty of rapid chases, and energetic slapstick. I still think that the Civil War vets are kind of absurdly active even if you consider that a lot of people enlisted young, but that is a tremendously minor comparing about an extremely entertaining movie.

Original review on EFC.

Visages d'enfants

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 30 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, DCP)

French cinema is speckled with movies that play out from a child's point of view almost exclusively, without a flashback structure to remind the audience that the events shaped the protagonist's adult views or moments that make the kid too witty or clever. Not a great deal - it's a tremendously difficult thing to pull off - but enough for the past ten to stick in one's head. Visages d'enfants demonstrates that this goes back to 1925, and was being tremendously well-done then.

It starts with a funeral, as Jean Amsler (Jean Forest), a boy of about nine, sees his mother laid to rest. He mourns seriously and deeply, visiting the grave every Sunday and seeing his mother's portrait move when he says his evening prayers. Some time away from home is considered a good idea, but summer ends, and when he returns home, it is not just to father Pierre (Victor Vina) and little sister Pierette (Pierette Houyez), but to a new stepmother (Rachel Devirys) and her daughter Arlette (Arlette Peyran). He immediately resents Jeanne, but he hates Arlette, and she is none too fond of him either.

It is natural, and almost unavoidable, for filmmakers to approach stories along these lines in adult terms; even films like this with primarily young casts are generally being made for an adult audience, after all, and they often have the most active, pointed responses. Filmmaker Jacques Feyder, then, must make something that is simultaneously direct and indirect, showing the kids doing fairly ordinary things under a sometimes smothering layer of emotion, but also not burying it, either. Kids may sometimes go quiet instead of yelling, although that is generally not Jean's way, especially once the step-people are in the picture. So for much of the movie, the action is less about what these children are doing than the way that they are doing it.

Full review on EFC.

The Donovan Affair

* * * (out of four)
Seen 30 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 35mm with live dubbing)

I wonder how unusual for films to be half-lost in the way that Frank Capra's The Donovan Affair is. Usually, it seems, some percentage of the film's length is gone, either due to misplaced reels or capricious cutting; here, the entire length of the film is present but the soundtrack is missing. That's a bit of a conundrum for what was billed in 1929 as Columbia's first all-dialogue picture, and though there's no perfect solution, some compromise is worth it, because it's an energetic little murder comedy.

The body-to-be is Jack Donovan (John Roche), who owes money to Mr. Porter (Wheeler Oakman) and a number of other gangsters and had insinuated himself quite thoroughly into the household of millionaire Peter Rankin (Alphonso Ethier) - he's just getting around to dumping Mary (Virginia Brown Faire), the family's maid; friends with daughter Jean (Dorothy Revier), and blackmailing Peter's second wife Lydia (Agnes Ayres). Why he's invited to Peter's birthday party is anybody guess, but there he is, along with Porter, Jean's fiancé David (William Collier Jr.) and family friends the Lindseys (Hank Mann & Ethel Wales), with butler Nelson (Edward Hearn) making sure it all goes smoothly. Well, at least until the lights go out and Inspector Killian (Jack Holt) and rather less brilliant partner Carney (Fred Kelsey) are on the case.

The screwball mystery is a neglected genre today - I'm not sure how often it even shows up on stage, which was the original home of The Donovan Affair and probably where the genre works best. This is a good one, serving the audience a good mix of characters with some motive or another without requiring the party to be almost entirely an assembly of horrible people, which is nice, if you're going for light comedy rather than a group of psychopaths. The script is mostly fun, and does the audience the service of making sure that when it is stupid, there's some sort of payoff for it.

Full review on EFC.

Flesh and the Devil

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 30 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 35mm)

Though Flesh and the Devil was both the film that solidified Greta Garbo's image as a sex symbol in America and where she and co-star John Gilbert began their passionate real-life love affair, it's also the sort where one eventually wishes the two male leads would just kiss already. That's not happening in 1926, obviously, and trying to make the movie fit that narrative means discounting a lot of what's actually going on, but... Well, this film has enough heat for the main pot to boil over, and the overflow's got to go somewhere!

It starts in the army, where aristocratic young soldier Ulrich von Eltz (Lars Hanson) is frantically trying to cover for bunkmate and lifelong friend Leo von Harden (Gilbert), who has been on the town into the wee hours again. Though put on grunt duty, they are eligible for furlough a few weeks later, and at the first dance of the season, Leo ignores Ulrich's sister Hertha (Barbara Kent) and makes a beeline straight for the sultry Felicitas (Garbo). Alas, she turns out to be married, which leads to a duel, which leads to an exile to the African colonies, and when Leo returns, it seems everything but his and Felicitas's attraction has changed - but not to make things simpler.

The stories of how Gilbert and Garbo came together on this set - including a day where director Clarence Brown didn't yell "cut!" but just quietly speed the camera and left the set with the crew so that the stars could take the love scene to its logical conclusion - are Hollywood legend, and that heat certainly does make the screen. There's a fiery directness to Garbo's Felicitas, whether lusting after Leo or reacting to Ulrich innocently mentioning that he is quite wealthy; even after the audience gets some idea of how mercenary she can potentially be, it's not difficult to recognize her ability to draw men into her orbit at all.

Full review on EFC.

Pan (1922)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 30 May 2015 in the Castro Theatre (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, DCP)

There were some weird theories being spun on the bus after this screening of Pan, one of the relatively few films to come out of Norway during the silent era. That's okay; it's an odd movie that will occasionally try the patience of viewers looking for something out of the ordinary (which, admittedly, is nearly everybody going to a Norwegian silent movie at 10pm on a Saturday night). I mostly liked it, but of all the films at this festival, it's the one I'm least likely to recommend to my friends who don't already really like silent and/or foreign films.

After a brief introduction that says "this happened two years ago", the audience is given a proper introduction to Lt. Thomas Glahn (Hjalmar Fries Schwenzen), who lives in a cabin in the north of Norway and, being an excellent hunter, is able to live off the land with his dog Aesop. He's not a complete recluse, though, and becomes friends with Mack (Hans Bille), a local merchant, and as such acquainted with his daughter Edvarda (Gerd Egede-Nissen). Their attraction is immediate, but jealousy is not far behind, as Edvarda is also getting attention from the local doctor (Rolf Christensen) and Glahn has noticed the blacksmith's daughter Eva (Lillebil Ibsen).

Pan is a love story, though the introduction hints at something that doesn't last. It's got an air that isn't quite muted but which nevertheless seems to skip some of the high points one frequently sees and inverts others. And yet, for all that the emotional volume isn't turned up to the maximum, Glahn and Edvarda are having a frequently unnerving courtship, filled with jealousy, actions which admittedly are likely to raise more eyebrows now but were likely still off-putting ninety years ago (and others which seem utterly random), and oddly-reserved reactions. It is like watching two people who don't know how to be in love stumbling far worse than most who find themselves in such a situation.

Full review on EFC.