RICK’S JOURNAL (My Film Career): THREE SHORT TAKES

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
Craig Gillespie
2007

Pushy, interfering people won’t leave Lars alone about the fact that he’s not dating anyone.  He shows ’em.  He shuts them up.  And unexpected people show tolerance, compassion and love once Lars embarks on his unconventional solution.

This is a visual story.  The shot of Lars’ brother and sister-in-law just before the camera finds Lars and Bianca on the couch opposite them is as good a visual surprise as I can remember.

All five principals are outstanding.  It is refreshing that the clergyman is not a villain.

The Mills Brothers in the forties had a hit song called Paper Doll, about a guy who preferred just that to a “fickle-minded real-life girl.”  Americans were astonished when the song was banned from British radio.

HOUSEWIFE
ALFRED E. Green
1934

There is none of  Baby Face‘s subtlety here.  Housewife features a script with no psychological validity and direction with neither invention nor spark.  This is only the second film in which I have not been impressed by the early Davis.  Maltin describes her as playing ” an unsubtle vamp.”  That says it.  The writing has her carrying on with that stick George Brent right in his own home before the eyes of wife Ann Dvorak.  She made me uncomfortable.  Perhaps that means she is good.  But when she first flounces into frame she is, for a moment, all that performing  drag queens would later make her.  John Halliday is an attractive surprise as the bachelor interested in the deserted wife.

This is a true melodrama in which the emotional entanglements are unraveled by an accident.

Warner cast Bette Davis in this film after Of Human Bondage.  Despite my continuing reservations about that performance, I can grasp the BD’s professional despair about  the judgment of her studio.

 A Man’s Job                       
Aleski Salmenpera*
2007
with Tommi Korpela
with Maria Heiskaven and Jani Volanen

A commentator on the imdb data base remarks that for a film about a part-time male prostitute, A Man’s Job is not at all erotic.  I know what the writer means, but there remains Korpela and his body  —  one of those perfectly developed ones that seem the result of genes rather than working out.  He is a good actor but also a sexy beast.  Let’s say, at the risk of being oxymoronic, that this serious film breathes an unerotic sexiness.  Perhaps sensuality is a better word.

All the sex in this story is occurring in a world devoid of real emotional relationships.  Juha, the handyman/whore, is at odds with his wife Katya, and she is at odds with herself and with the world. Cousin Olli has tensions with both of them. These three actors are excellent, and Korpela is charismatic.

But I never understood why handyman and Katya are raising Olli’s child. What I understood least, however, is why a special dinner in the frozen north of Finland is thought to be carry-out pizza. Or is that obvious?

*Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts and add an umlaut to the final a.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:  “the unending conflict between man and environment is one of the cardinal themes of documenatry art.”   Paul Schrader said that, writing about Bresson’s theme in The Diary of a Country Priest: “Bresson’s theme would seem to fit his pseudodocumentary…technique: the unending conflict between man and environment is one of the cardinal themes of documentary art.” (Paul Schrader, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer.  (Da Capo 1988, Univ. of Calif. Pess, 1972).

NEXT POST Friday, November 23.

See you at the movies,
Rick

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