Monday, January 01, 2018

This Week In Tickets: 25 December 2017 - 31 December 2017

If I make the New Year's Resolution to try and maintain this weekly round-up of what I've seen again this year, should I technically start today (1 January), or after that first week? It'd probably look cleaner if I went for next week, but more committed this way. Soooo...

This Week in Tickets

Merry Christmas! As usual, mine involved traveling to Maine because that's where the brothers with the cute little girls live, and the brothers with the adorable nieces control where holiday gatherings happen. I made my way back to Boston on Tuesday morning, and then once I'd put by Christmas loot away, it was time to finally check out the new multiplex in South Bay with The Greatest Showman and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The verdicts: Acceptable theater, disappointing musical, sci-fi action that holds up to repeated viewings.

After that, it was too darn cold to leave the house once I'd already arrived home from work (I put doing laundry off until I could do it in sweet 20-degree-Fahrenheit daylight temperatures on Saturday), which made Friday a good night to start drilling into a pile of unwatched discs with Tetsuya Nakashima's Confessions. Pretty good, although it won't be getting a blog post until that other Japanese movie I'd been intending to watch can be paired with it.

I did venture out on Saturday evening to catch The Liquidator, one of the weekend's two not-very-good Chinese releases, although it's certainly got a fair amount of potential. Sunday gave me the opportunity to end the week and year on a high note, as the Brattle closed out their Edith Head tribute with three of the movies she worked on with Alfred Hitchock. I saw the last two - Notorious and To Catch a Thief. Both are near-perfect.

And then, I came home and rang in the new year taping all those ticket stubs into the planner. I suppose I could work backwards and assemble these for the whole year, but, honestly, I've got a whole bunch of other projects like that. Instead, let me point you to my Letterboxd profile which has basically functioned as this part of the blog in real-time since March 2017, probably the longest I've kept it updating regularly. Indeed, you'll notice the reviews below are copied, pasted, and edited from there, although here is where you get them in a form that's not just raw "swiping around on the phone on the subway afterward" form.


* * * * (out of four)
Seen 31 December 2017 in the Brattle Theatre (Edith Head: Queen of Seam, 35mm)

This may not quite the "in too deep" movie from which all others are descended - there have been stories about people going undercover and over their heads forever - but it certainly feels like Hitchcock and Ben Hecht created a blueprint that other filmmakers couldn't help but follow because of its perfection, even when they weren't irretrievably lifting the plot. It's a perfect machine of a movie, not a piece out of place. Even though its story may seem simple and unadorned in the aftermath of seventy years of films that have filled the details out and added twists and layers onto the story, it doesn't feel primitive so much as primal.

More than many spy movies to come after it, Notorious perfectly captures the casual cruelty and blinkered pragmatism of the field, with the perfect central irony being that the person who cares about Ingrid Bergman's Alicia is much more cruel than the ones who don't. The people actually running the mission seem almost unaware of what they're asking, detached in a way that Cary Grant's Devlin finds impossible, and his lashing out is thus all the more hurtful. The sharp inhumanity of it makes the eventual confession of love even more tender and powerful, a scene Hitchcock, Bergman, and Cary Grant handle masterfully. It makes the lean efficiency all the more useful come the end, as there's no gear-shifting in a finale that moves from horrific cold-bloodedness to guileless romance to cold fury.

To Catch a Thief

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 31 December 2017 in the Brattle Theatre (Edith Head: Queen of Seam, 35mm)

Every time I see this, I'm reminded anew just what a wonderfully odd and unique part of both Alfred Hitchcock's and Grace Kelly's filmographies it is. Not only is it about as laid-back as you can imagine Hitchcock being - the story is kind of a lot of spinning in place to get to the final rooftop chase - but it's really the only time Kelly has really seemed sexy on screen, someone who understands her attractiveness and doesn't mind using it as an asset, rather than this goddess to be admired in hopes of finding favor. She's a delight, and it's a shame she didn't do it more often in her short career.

The lack of plot doesn't really bother in part because it's an exceptionally enjoyable Technicolor trip to France, a joyous delight to look at, especially in 35mm. Not a perfect print, but when it's good, it's a reminder of why so many people prefer film to digital (even if I could probably be convinced to splurge on remastered 4K discs if Universal went there). Really, probably the only thing that keeps it from perfection is a scene of Cary Grant apparently slapping a panicking woman unconscious. What the heck, old movies?

Full review (from a Hitchcock series) on EFC.

The Last Jedi in DolbyThe Greatest ShowmanConfessionsThe LiquidatorNotorious & To Catch a Thief

No comments: