Friday, February 26, 2016

Film Review: Wings

"Wings"  *** (out of ****)

"Wings" (1927) takes flight!

"Wings" has earned a significant place in the history of cinema for being the first motion picture to win the best picture Academy Award at the first award ceremony.

Film historians have pointed out at the first Academy Award ceremony there were two best picture awards given out. One was worded as "Best Picture, Production", which is the award "Wings" won, and the other was called "Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production" which was awarded to F.W. Murnau's "Sunrise" (1927). This distinction in the awards have lead some historians to believe was a prime example of the film community attempting to separate "mainstream, audience movies" and "artistic movies". The first award ceremony was the only one to have these two awards.

If this theory is true it provides audiences with an interesting way to interpret "Wings". "Wings" is a commercial, mainstream Hollywood picture but it is not an "important" movie. Important meaning the movie doesn't say anything. It makes no social commentary. It says nothing about the nature of war. A few years prior to the release of "Wings" there was a World War I movie directed by King Vidor called "The Big Parade" (1925). It was a powerful anti-war movie taking a strong stance arguing against war. Two years after "Wings" another World War I movie won the best picture Academy Award, "All Quiet On The Western Front" (1930) it too was a strong anti-war movie with very gritty battle scenes.

"Wings" on the other hand makes no attempt to offer such a commentary. An anti-war stance is not the point of "Wings". "Wings" follows two young men who are eager to enlist in the war to fight and join the air service so they can become pilots. The men and war in itself are presented as heroic. The movie also takes the plot convention of telling its story through the eyes of a romance. The two men both love the same woman but she only loves one of them. Meanwhile another woman loves one of the men but he doesn't notice her.

"Wings" is only interested in two things; romance and aviation scenes. You could almost hear a trailer for "Wings" saying it is "filled with romance and thrills". "Wings" is Hollywood fluff. It is a fun, exciting and at times entertaining movie but has a slim plot and goes on a bit too long. "Wings" is over two hours but the majority of the movie shows the audience air combat sequences, which are admittedly well done and fun to watch but do little to further advance the plot of the movie.

The romance in "Wings" isn't given the proper attention to justify its presence in the movie. It does nothing for the movie and only provides an excuse to show audiences silent film superstar Clara Bow, the "it" girl of the 1920s. The romance is meant to humanize the two male leads and supply a backstory for them and give the movie the opportunity to "milk" human drama and sentimentality for all its worth. But, as it stands now, "Wings" can never properly bridge the romance sequences with the cliff hanging aviation scenes and make it all come together.

Younger movie fans and readers may not know who Clara Bow was and won't understand the "it" girl reference. Ms. Bow epitomized the 1920s "flapper era". Prior to the release of "Wings" Ms. Bow starred in a romantic-comedy called "It" (1927) - the most popular movie Ms. Bow starred in and the one best remembered today. The movie was about the "it factor" - "it" meaning an indescribable quality a person has which makes others attracted to them. The "it" girl label stuck to Ms. Bow and became her nickname throughout her career.

In "Wings" Ms. Bow goes against type not playing a wild flapper or a woman who even acknowledges her beauty. As the character Mary Preston, Ms. Bow plays the sweet, innocent girl next door in love with a boy who doesn't notice her. As if!

The boy Mary is in love with is Jack Powell (Charles Rogers). Perhaps because the two are neighbors and Mary is always around Jack doesn't see Mary as a "girl" but rather a "friend". Jack is in love with Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston, best known to us old-timers for starring opposite comedian Harold Lloyd in several comedies). Sylvia however is in love with David (Richard Arlen), whose family in the wealthiest in town. Nothing is ever mentioned if that is why Sylvia loves David, but his wealth is referenced as an "advantage", I'm sure Bernie Sanders would agree.

Because Jack views David as a rival for Sylvia the two men do not like each other. The war however brings the two of them together and a friendship ensues. David never tells Jack that Sylvia doesn't love him and tries to protect Jack from this fact. Jack, for his part, rarely mentions Sylvia's name, as to not rub in the "fact" Sylvia chose him over David.

Little is done with this scenario as "Wings" then becomes preoccupied with air combat sequences, credited by some as the most impressive ever done in Hollywood at the time. Some believe Howard Hughes tried to "one up" this movie when he made "Hell's Angels" (1930), which also featured impressive air combat sequences.

The air combat sequences are meant to display the heroic nature of war and the bravery of the men. Here they are putting the lives on the line, fully aware of the danger involved. Outside of trying to excite the audience these sequences don't do much. If "Wings" had a point of view and wanted to make some sort of commentary then these battles sequences would become more meaningful. And, to clarify a "commentary" doesn't mean anti-war. The movie could have been a movie honoring the bravery of these men and not say anything anti-war. But it doesn't do that either.

Still one has to admit the performances do what they are supposed to do. Boy, they sure had expressive faces back then, didn't they! Of course because "Wings" is a silent movie the actors must express everything with their body language and facial expressions. Mr. Rogers is able to capture the innocence of a young boy in war. There is a naive quality he possesses. Mr. Arlen appears to embody a more "mature" quality. Both characters are young boy but Mr. Arlen's character seems more aware of his surroundings and understands the danger involved in what they are doing. Both men are contrasted, for a brief moment, with a more experienced pilot, Cadet White (Gary Cooper, strangely given a high billing though he only appears in one scene), who has a "doom and gloom" mentality and believes there is no such thing as luck. When your number is up, its up.

Outside of the aerial sequences the most visually striking scene takes place in a Paris nightclub. The sequence involves interesting tracking shots, moments of humor and hints (maybe more than hints) of sexuality. The title card states the soldiers go to the nightclub to forget about war. With all the beautiful women at the club it is not difficult to guess what is making the soldiers forget about war and what it now on their minds.

Although "Wings" is not a great movie it is entertaining. The romance sequences and the war scenes don't gel together properly and compete for screen-time which prevents the movie from becoming something greater. Ms. Bow seems wasted in the movie and makes one think she was an after thought. The star of the movie is the aerial sequences. This is what "Wings" cares most about. And it is fun to watch. There is also the historical significance of "Wings" which makes it deserving of attention.

"Wings" could have been a great movie. Some of the ingredients are here but the movie  and the director, William A. Wellman, aren't interested in characters or plot, they are only interested in the technical aspects of the movie. Because the aerial sequences and the Paris nightclub scene are so well done viewers can't deny Mr. Wellman had a good eye. He had the talent to make a really good movie he just needed to be interested in making one. For me, the best movies Mr. Wellman directed were are "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943) as well as the James Cagney gangster picture "The Public Enemy" (1931).

So, if "Wings" is not a great movie, why did it win an Academy Award for best picture? First of all, we need to rid ourselves of the notion only great movies win Academy Awards. The Academy Awards are nothing more than popularity contest, even going back to the first award ceremony. This leads us to understand why "Wings" won the Oscar. Up against "Wings" for best picture was the entertaining gangster movie "The Racket" (1928) and the dramatic weeper "7th Heaven" (1927). "Wings" by comparison was the most visually arresting and exciting. What is interesting to note is all three movies are silent as were the movies nominated in the "artistic" category.

If "talkies" were the future of movies, which was still debatable at this juncture, the "old guard" was going to hold out as long as it could and honor silent movies and what better silent movie to let win than "Wings". Only "Wings" could compete with the excitement of seeing a "talkie" like "The Jazz Singer" (1927), which was not nominated in any category. Warner Brothers was instead given an honorary award for the movie. That alone could serve as justification for "Wings" winning the best picture award.

Movie lovers with an interest in the history of cinema should see "Wings", especially those with an interesting in seeing all the best picture Academy Award winners.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Film Review: Three Smart Girls

"Three Smart Girls"
*** 1\2 (out of ****)

All's fair in love and war when "Three Smart Girls" (1936) try to reunite their divorced parents in this Universal Pictures romantic musical - comedy.

The Academy Award nominee for best picture, "Three Smart Girls", may not been very well remembered by today's movie fans however at its time of release Universal Pictures was betting heavy on this light romantic musical-comedy because it was set to star the studio's latest discovery, Deanna Durbin, making her feature film debut and credited as the studio's "new discovery".

Outside of us old-timers few may remember the soprano singer, Ms. Durbin, who began her acting career playing a sweet, innocent teenager with an incredible singing voice who had an impressive vocal range. Initially signed to a contract with MGM, Ms. Durbin was seen to be competing with another impressive young female singer, Judy Garland. MGM allowed Ms. Durbin's contract to expire before doing more than featuring her in a short movie called "Every Sunday" (1936), which Ms. Garland also appeared in. By that time Universal Pictures immediately signed her up and introduced the public to her in this feature length movie.

The plot behind "Three Smart Girls", which was written by Adele Comandini and was nominated for an Academy Award, centers on three sisters; Joan (Nan Grey), Kay (Barbara Read) and Penny (Durbin) who find out their father, Judson (Charles Winninger), who they have not seen in 10 years, is going to marry an American socialite Donna Lyons (Binnie Barnes). This, the young girls suspect, will crush their mother, Dorothy (Nella Walker), who is still in love with their father. What can the girls do? The girls, who currently live in Switzerland with their mother, decide to visit their father in New York and prevent him from remarrying.

Upon meeting Donna and her mother (Alice Brady), the girls believe Donna is a gold digger and hatch up a plan. The only way to prevent Donna from marrying their father is by making Donna believe a man with even more wealth than their father is interested in her. Since Donna doesn't love Judson she will follow the money and this will end the girls' problem.

With the help of one of their father's employees, Bill Evans (John King), the girls hire a penniless Hungarian count, Arisztid (Mischa Auer) to make advances at Donna and take her out on the town. Due to a comedy mishap however Arisztid never meets Donna as the girls mistakenly confuse Arisztid for Michael Stuart (Ray Milland) who really is wealthy.

In true romantic-comedy style there is almost an eligible bachelor for each sister to find love along the way with as well. For Joan there is Bill and for Kay there is Michael. In the case of Penny, she is shown to be too young to worry about boys. Instead her character is used to soften the image of Judson. Since he has not seen his daughters in 10 years and at one point in the movie doesn't even remember their names, audiences require a reason to like him and even want him to reunite with his ex-wife. As "Three Smart Girls" progresses a bond is shown forming between Judson and Penny showing Judson to be an "acceptable" father.

Although "Three Smart Girls" is a light movie and an extremely pleasurable piece of Hollywood escapism the movie does enforce some gender stereotypes. Judson is presented as a man perhaps going through a mid-life crisis. As a result of this crisis he may marry a much younger woman. The woman he may marry is shown to be a gold digger, an old stereotype associated with women - all they care about is money. The three daughters are schemers. The ex-wife is still in love with her husband and wants him back.

It is however the light plot which makes "Three Smart Girls" work. The movie doesn't seem to have much ambition and succeeds in the goals it reaches for itself namely being a breezy entertaining Hollywood movie. This is accomplished thanks to a very good supporting cast of character actors. The names Charles Winniger, Alice Brady, Mischa Auer and Franklin Pangborn may not mean much to those unfamiliar with classic Hollywood movies from this era but their presence adds a great deal of humor to the movie. Much of the movie's success lies on their shoulders as much as it does on Ms. Durbin's.

That was the great thing about the old studio system. You could get so many good character actors in a movie, each that had their own following, and bring them all together, give each a scene or two to display their comedic abilities and move on. By the end of the picture you had several good scenes would made an audience laugh or smile.

There are admittedly plot holes in "Three Smart Girls". One has to suspect too many scenes were edited out to keep the length of the movie short and to make sure there was not too much going on that did not involve Ms. Durbin. Remember, according to Universal Pictures, Ms. Durbin was the strong selling point of the movie.

One scene rather bizarrely cut from the movie has to do with Bill discovering the Hungarian count never did meet Donna and demanding the money back which he gave the count in order to make a good impression. Why would you not include this scene in the movie? At the very least it would have been worth a laugh or two. Can you imagine Mischa Auer cowardly defending himself attempting to provide Bill with an explanation?

Much more could have also been done with the situation involving Michael Stuart being mistaken for the Hungarian count and his disinterest in Donna and interest in Kay. Many laughs could have come from this scenario and it could have been used to slowly build the romance between the two characters engaging in comedic jealousy.

And even though Ms. Durbin does have a very good singing voice there aren't any good songs in "Three Smart Girls". This has to make one appreciate Cole Porter or George Gershwin. Those composers would write scores for Broadway shows and would sometimes have two or three hits songs in a show. Some composers are lucky if they get one hit song in a movie or play.

The director, Henry Koster, was born in Germany as Herman Kosterlitz and had only directed a handful of German language movies and one Hungarian language movie prior. "Three Smart Girls" would be his English language directorial debut. Due to the success of "Three Smart Girls" Universal Pictures would have Mr. Koster direct several more musicals starring Ms. Durbin including "One Hundred Men and A Girl" (1937), "First Love" (1939) and this movie's sequel, "Three Smart Girls Grow Up" (1939). However Mr. Koster's career would extend beyond Deanna Durbin musicals. He would also direct "The Bishop's Wife" (1947) for which he would receive a best director Academy Award nomination as well as the Danny Kaye vehicle "The Inspector General" (1949) and "Harvey" (1950) starring Jimmy Stewart.

There may be some who wish "Three Smart Girls" would do more but they are missing the point and ignoring the pleasures to be had in "Three Smart Girls" for exactly what it does. This isn't great drama, great romance or great comedy. What it is however is really good Hollywood entertainment which makes you smile and has a fun collection of characters. That is why you should watch "Three Smart Girls".

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Film Review: Pygmalion

"Pygmalion"  *** (out of ****)

Americans often believe the British are superior then them. Americans, despite a revolution you may have heard of, hold the British in very high esteem. One of the areas in which Americans feel the British are superior to them has to do with language. In England, American believe, they speak the queen's english. It is only there one can hear the language spoken properly. My family comes from Hungary, so we never had a pre-occupation with the English. We never even looked to them for tea and crumpets.

Language however plays in important role in this screen adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's play of the same title, co-directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard.

Besides language there is also an issue of social standing and the English view of class. Which is quite fitting when one considers this movie was released two years after  Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson, who had been twice divorced. Although, officially, the English objected to this marriage due to Ms. Simpson being divorced, there was clearly a social conflict. A king was going to marry an American, divorced woman?

What is often believed to set America apart from the United Kingdom is in America there is no class system. How anyone can believe this is beyond me, but, we will save that argument for another time. In America you can be born into a working class family but die a millionaire. In the United Kingdom, everyone has their place in the world. If you were born poor you will die poor. There is no social mobility.

How "cute" then the British have made a romantic-comedy on the very notion of a poor woman moving up the social ladder and falling in love with a "gentleman". The poor flower flower girl, with no education, becomes a lady and meets the queen. Only in the movies!

"Pygmalion" (1938) was nominated for four Academy Awards, including best picture, and won one for its screenplay, which Mr. Shaw co-wrote along with Ian Dalrymple, Cecil Lewis and W.P. Lipscomb.

Most viewers may not be familiar with this screen adaptation of "Pygmalion" but may have seen the musical version of it which premiered on Broadway in 1956 with an Alan Jay Lerner - Frederick Loewe musical score and renamed "My Fair Lady". It starred Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews and was later turned in a film which also starred Mr. Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. It would win the Academy Award for best picture and seven other awards.

Audiences will know the basic story. Professor Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard), renowned professor of phonetics. He believes he is able to tell exactly where someone from from by their accent. He meets a poor flower girl, Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) and wages he can turn her into a "lady" in six months by teaching her the proper way to speak.

Leslie Howard, whose father was Hungarian, was a well respected British actor who received two acting Academy Award nominations during his career. One of those nominations was for his performance in "Pygmalion". He was able to cross over to American films during the early days of "talkies". He was a stage actor and again, because he was English, many felt he would be able to speak properly on camera. Remember, after the silent film era many actors saw a decline in their careers because of their voice.

For as good an actor as Mr. Howard may have been, and he was a good actor, watching his performance in "Pygmalion" one can't help but feel this is an exaggerated caricature of a performance. Can someone sincerely except Professor Henry Higgins as a real-life person you might meet on the street or is the character more symbolic, representing the "middle-class morality" we hear mentioned often in the movie? My instincts tell me the Professor Higgins characters, as well as the other characters in the movie are symbolic.

If the characters are symbolic then the question becomes, what do they represent? What impression is the movie making on the audience? Some might feel the movie is cruel in its depiction of the working class. In one scene Eliza is shown screaming and yelling at the very thought of taking a bath. Professor Higgins constantly talks down to her, referring to her as a "guttersnipe". What does this tell us? Do the wealthy and educated feel they have the right to speak to the poor, the "undeserving poor", as they are referred to as in the movie, in such a manner? Is this what a society with a class system accept?

"Pygmalion" is credited as being the first movie Wendy Hiller ever appeared in, however this is not true. She made an appearance in a movie a year prior. If Mr. Howard seems to give an exaggerated performance, Ms. Hiller at times doesn't do enough. Sure, Ms. Hiller has her exaggerated moments as well, kicking and screaming while taking a bath for one, and her constant crying and complaining about events going on around her but there are moments when Ms. Hiller appears on-screen and is unable to generate any sympathy from the viewer, especially this viewer.

One of the more interesting characters is Eliza's father, Alfred Doolittle (Wilfrid Lawson), who is willing to sell his daughter to Professor Higgins for a five pound note. Again, we must ask the question, what kind of message does this send to the audience? What kind of stereotypes is this reinforcing. The poor are so ruthless, so desperate they are willing to sell their own children for money? But it is Alfred who may in fact be the smartest character. Alfred has street smarts. He knows his place in the world and how society sees him. Alfred is the one to speak about "middle-class morality" and refers to himself as part of the "undeserving poor". Alfred knows more about life than Professor Higgins.

There is going to be a debate regarding the end of the movie and the fate of Prof. Higgins and Eliza. Even the Broadway play changed Mr. Shaw's ending for commercial appeal. What I find most interesting in the final "confrontation" between the two characters, neither is terribly clear about what they want. Does Eliza love Higgins? Why? At no point in the movie does Eliza utter the words "I love you" nor does Higgins. For a movie dealing with language is it not ironic that neither character can say what they mean? Only our poor, ignorant friend, Alfred Doolittle is able to express himself in a clear, concise manner where the audience never has to wonder what does he mean.

Visually there is little impressive in "Pygmalion" though I wouldn't call it a "play on film". I don't particularly find "Pygmalion" to be romantic, a great satire or much of a comedy. The satire doesn't go far enough to fully make its point. There is nothing romantic about the movie and the relationship between Prof. Higgins and Eliza. Audiences will find more to enjoy, in that aspect, while watching "My Fair Lady". The humor is dry at best though there is one wonderful sequence involving Eliza telling a story at the home of Prof. Higgins' mother, while she is entertaining guest.

What exactly does "Pygmalion" have to say about the class system? The poor? The women's lib movement? I'm not sure. If someone feels the they the answer it is through their own research and interpretations of the Mr. Shaw's text other than this movie.

At best "Pygmalion" is something of a light division. I can't speak harshly against it yet I can't gush praises at it either. I'm more mystified by the movie than anything else.

The other co-director of the movie, Anthony Asquith, would go on to direct one of my all-time favorite films, "The Browning Version" (1951), it may be the finest movie Mr. Asquith ever directed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Film Review: All Quiet On The Western Front

"All Quiet On The Western Front"  **** (out of ****)

The professor tells his impressionable young students the fatherland needs them. He romanticizes going into battle. Young women will flock around them. There is glory in war. They will be heroes. And, if they should died, they will be honored. A symbol of pride.

That is how the Academy Award winner for best picture, "All Quiet On The Western Front" (1930), begins.

The scene, with the power of hindsight, is meant to incite anger in the viewer. Here is an adult, a professor, someone whom you would expect would watch out for the welfare of his students, convening, tricking his students into going to an early grave. The professor never directly tells the boys they must enlist, he only implies it.

Over the years I have name dropped "All Quiet On The Western Front" and called it my personal favorite of the early war films. Most recently in a review for King Vidor's anti-war masterpiece "The Big Parade" (1925) I once again mentioned this movie and wrote it is slightly better because it has more gritty battle scenes, which make the movie seem more realistic. But, after watching this classic again, I find there is much more to enjoy and stir your emotions than the battle scenes. Scenes like the one with the professor also rattle the viewer and is one of many scenes which makes a powerful anti-war statement.

"All Quiet On The Western Front" is one of the most complete anti-war movies I have ever seen. Anything negative that could be said about war - all aspects of the nonsensical nature of it, is explored in the movie.

Although "All Quiet On The Western Front" shares a lot in common with "The Big Parade", it improves upon the minor faults of that movie. "The Big Parade" starts off strong, with similar scenes like the one with the professor, showing how delusional people are in their concept of war, egging people on to enlist, but, then the movie spends too much time establishing a friendship between the characters, in an attempt to flesh them out and make them sympathetic to the audience. When "The Big Parade" does this, it loses some of its bite. We don't see the men on the battle field until an hour into the movie, when it once again makes a strong anti-war commentary.

"All Quiet On The Western Front" doesn't spend as much time dwelling on the comradery between the soldiers instead it focuses on the fear the young men face and the horror of fighting on the battlefield. One scene in particular does something I have never seen in a war movie before, when one of the soldiers hears a bomb explosion in the distance it is subtly suggested the young man has soiled his pants.

It is because of moments like this that add value to "All Quiet On The Western Front" as the movie attempts to display a realism, a poetic realism, not seen in many war movies. The movie was based on a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, who fought in World War I and was wounded, and is perhaps his most famous piece of literature. It is because of Mr. Remarque's own experiences "All Quiet On The Western Front" is able to capture the small details which make it so powerful.

While "All Quiet On The Western Front" does not focus on the individual soldiers it does mainly center on Paul (Lew Ayers, in only his fifth screen appearance and second credited role). Paul is supposed to be the "leader" among his friends, all of whom have accompanied him in the army. Paul will go through the greatest transformation starting off as a young, idealistic boy to become a war weary, battle tested, cynical man.

Paul ends up befriending Kat (Louis Wolheim, whom some viewer may recognized from his role in the silent gangster film, "The Racket" (1928), which was also nominated for an Academy Award). Kat is older than Paul and has already experienced the horror of war. Kat serves as a father figure to Paul and the other younger soldiers. Kat guides the men on the battlefield and at a certain point in the story becomes the only character Paul is able to relate to after Paul feels alienated from his family when he returns home while on leave.

This friendship and their scenes together are meant to humanize the men and add moments of warmth and humor to the story to serve as a balance to the violence and death the viewer sees in every other scene.

In one of the many ways "All Quiet On The Western Front" attacks the nature of war is when a group of soldiers, Kat and Paul included, discuss how did the war begin. The men initially agree wars begin when one country is offended by another country but soon make fun of this idea as they joke, what happpens, a mountain over here upsets a pond over there? Then the soldiers declare they personally do not feel offended and do not view the "enemy" as such. Who are they fighting this war for? What is it being fought over? What benefits will the men get if they die?

It is so gratifying to hear these kind of conversations in a war movie, in any movie really. How often do Hollywood movies attempt to expose these "hidden truths"? One character even mentions the profits to be made by the gun manufacturers. When did you ever hear such talk in a Hollywood war movie? What a radical difference in tone and ideas American cinema would revert back to after this country entered into World War II where once again, like the professor at the beginning of this movie, Americans would hear the message of the glory of fighting for the homeland and the honor to be had in dying for one's country on the battlefield as young, poor, working class men, were drafted, while their wealthy counterparts received deferments.

Two other emotionally stirring moments occur when Paul does return home. Back home he finds a lot of "back seat generals", men, including his own father, who give Paul advice on how to win the war. As Paul tries to explain the conditions on the battlefield the men simply brush aside his words and ideas. Paul is only a soldiers but these men know how to win. They read the newspapers, they understand how the war is being fought and with them in control, leading a regiment the war could be won in a matter of days.

Is this the way it is in real life? Every Joe feels they are an expert because they watch the news and they know better then the men fighting on the battlefield. Paul even runs into his old professor, who is still rallying the troops, getting them to enlist. Paul gives the boys a speech which challenges the professor and his lopsided, distorted view of reality. Unfortunately the students are not receptive, another comment on society. If you try to speak against the propaganda being perpetrated you are labeled the enemy.

The second emotional sequence deals with Paul and his first kill. He is stuck with the soldier he has wounded. Paul goes through great remorse. He didn't know the man. The man had never harmed him. Paul didn't know know his name. And now, he has died because of Paul. This is war. The lives of innocent people ending at the hands of other innocent people all in the name of a government, a country which has been offended by another country.

This says nothing of the battle scenes which are gritty as we see dead bodies and blood. Yes the movie was made in 1930 and perhaps could not dare compete against the violence seen on movie screens today but for audiences in the 1930s "All Quiet On The Western Front" was as brutal a movie as they come.

The movie has aged nicely. It is still a rewarding experience. A film ahead of its time. It is able to rattle us even today. For me, it is one of the finest motion pictures to even win the best picture Academy Award, and I am someone who is usually very critical of the Academy.

Younger audiences should see this movie. It has influenced countless war movies which have followed but few have been able to duplicate what has made this one a masterpiece.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Film Review: It Happened One Night

"It Happened One Night"
*** 1\2 (out of ****)

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert make it happen in Frank Capra's "It Happened One Night" (1934).

Frank Capra's "It Happened One Night" may very well be one of the most quintessential romantic comedies of all time engaging in a battles of the sexes, class and populism.

The movie helped re-enforce the formula of two opposites falling in love with one another after going on an adventure together, leaving the audience with a "love triumphs" message. Examples of its influence on today's romantic comedies would include "How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days" (2003), "Two Weeks Notice" (2002) and "The Proposal" (2009).

For its efforts "It Happened One Night" went on to earn five Academy Award nominations and won in every category it was nominated including best picture, director, best writing and awards for both of its lead performers. The first time such a feat was ever accomplished during the award ceremony.

Claudette Colbert stars as Ellie Andrews, the spoiled, self-absorbed daughter of millionaire Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly). Ellie, against her father's wishes, has married King Westley (Jameson Thomas). Ellie says the two are in love but her father believes King is a gold-digger and has vowed to keep the two separated until he is able to have the marriage annulled. Alexander "kidnaps" Ellie and takes her on their ship. After days of going on a hunger strike Ellie jumps ship leading her father to start a desperate man-hunt for her.

Ellie hopes to reunite with King in New York. She buys a bus ticket and meets Peter Warne (Clark Gable) a newspaper report with a drinking problem. Peter was recently fired by his editor (Charles C. Wilson) due to his drinking interfering with his writing. Peter, wanting to keep face, pretends he quit instead.

Although Peter initially does not recognize Ellie, when he learns of her identity he agrees to help her reunite with her husband if he has exclusive rights to her story. Reluctantly Ellie agrees.

Here the immediate clash of personalities occurs. Peter is meant to be the "every man", the character the audience can relate to. He is the working class. Unlike Ellie and her father Peter has to work. Peter has street smarts. He knows how to stretch the value of a dollar. And, like most people audience members may know, Peter is an "expert" on everything, consistently saying his knowledge about this or that subject should lead him to write a book on the topic. He represents the "populist".

Ellie, while young, headstrong and attractive, doesn't know about the "real world". Ellie has been sheltered and protected by her father due to their wealth. She doesn't have street smarts. On her own she would not be able to embark on this adventure from Miami to New York by herself? And so the tone is set. The working class slob will face off against the wealthy lady of privilege.

Of course there is also the element of gender and stereotypes associated with gender roles. Who really has more cunning? Which one of them, a man or woman, would be able to get by on their own? At its heart though "It Happened One Night" does re-enforce the stereotype what a woman needs is a strong man. A man to put her in her place. Nothing wrong with yelling and shouting at a woman and every now and then threatening to hit her once in a while. This kind of relationship between the strong man and the more submissive woman has found its way in film after film from Federico Fellini's "La Strada" (1954), Woody Allen's "Sweet and Lowdown" (1999) and Tony Gatlif's "Transylvania" (2006).

At this point in his career Clark Gable was known for his roles mostly playing gangsters. Mr. Gable brings the same brute force associated with those characters to his role here. This time however he is required to balance it with a softer side to help make the romance work and gain the audience's sympathy. One could also make the argument "It Happened One Night" helped cement Mr. Gable's position as a leading man. Look at the movies he appeared in after this movie. He would routinely play in romantic comedies, essentially playing the same type of character portrayed here. Watch him in "Love on the Run" (1936) with Joan Crawford. Once again Mr. Gable plays a reporter paired with a woman on the run.

Ms. Colbert had gained attention appearing in Ernst Lubitsch's musical - comedy "The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) and Cecil B. DeMille's "Sign of the Cross" (1933) but I would also make the argument one could easily say "It Happened One Night" cemented Ms. Colbert as a leading lady. Here Ms. Colbert goes through more of a transition than Mr. Gable's character. Ms. Colbert demonstrates an ability for comedy, a screen presence which makes her relatable to audiences and a feminine delicacy for romance.

How strange then to consider neither actor was the original choice for their respected role. The joke around Hollywood was no one wanted the role. Prior to Ms. Colbert accepting the part it was offered to Miriam Hopkins, Bette Davis, Loretta Young, Myrna Loy and Carole Lombard. Ms. Loy and Ms. Lombard would have been excellent choices for the part, especially Ms. Lombard.

For the male lead Robert Montgomery was suggested but turned down the offer. He too would have been perfect for the part. Although I've never read it anywhere I believe another good choice would have been Melvyn Douglas. Younger audiences may not be familiar with any of these names but both Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Douglas often played semi-comical lead roles. Men who were well versed but also know-it-alls.

The director, Frank Capra, got his early start in cinema writing and sometimes directing comedies starring the "forgotten clown" Harry Langdon. Mr. Capra directed what is often considered the finest silent comedy Mr. Langdon appeared in "The Strong Man" (1926). Mr. Capra, born in Italy, was identified with making American movies which dealt with patriotism and American values. "It Happened One Night" does have a populist appeal but this is not "Meet John Doe" (1941) or "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" (1939). It is not as overtly political as either of those movies.

"It Happened One Night" has secured a reputation as one of Mr. Capra's best known movies however upon its theatrical release the movie was not a box-office success initially. The movie received some positive reviews from the sheep (movie critics) but it was strong word of mouth from the public which helped it find commercial success.

The cultural impact of "It Happened One Night" can be seen when the American Film Institute (AFI) created its list of the 100 greatest American movies in 1998, "It Happened One Night" made the list in the number 35 spot. Ten years later, when a revised list was created, once again it made the list. AFI even included it in its 10 best romantic comedies list, in the number three spot.

You can also see how a movie like "It Happened One Night" may have influenced "Roman Holiday", also about a reporter on an adventure with a woman of privilege.

"It Happened One Night" is unquestionably a classic which deserves to be seen by today's movie audience. They may not know it but "It Happened One Night" has been an influence on how American romantic comedies are made. I wouldn't refer to it as Mr. Capra's best movie, how do you not love "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946)?, but it is surely among his finest achievements.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Film Review: Heist

"Heist"  **** (out of ****)

Master of deception.

Ask any con artist and they will tell you the trick of a good con is to distract you. The right hand never knows what the left hand is doing. As long as you, the sucker, is not aware of what is going on around all sides of you, you will be easily taken.

David Mamet's "Heist" (2001) is a nearly flawless masterwork demonstrating this concept.

Playwright, director and screenwriter, David Mamet, may be best know to audiences for creating stories dealing with cons and con artists. Most sheep (movie critics) declare the best movie he ever directed was his directorial debut, "House of Games" (1987). For example the late film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert, listed the movie as the best film of 1987. An honor he would never again bestow upon any David Mamet movie.

I have always been luke-warm to "House of Games". It was clever and did have interesting moments but it did not have characters the viewer could ever come to care about. There is too little of a plot and too many twist and turns. "Heist" on the other hand, along with "The Spanish Prisoner" (1997), for me are among Mr. Mamet's very best films. In the case of both movies Mr. Mamet has given the viewer something and more importantly someone to care about. There is an emotional investment in what the audience is watching. How will everything end up? Will the hero get away with it all? We ask because we care.

Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) is an old, professional thief. He knows his business. There is nothing Joe hasn't seen. Joe has all the angels figured out. But one day Joe makes a mistake. He and his crew attempt to rob a jewelry store in broad daylight. The plan nearly goes perfect except for the fact the store's security camera captures Joe's face. He's burnt he tells his crew. Whether he likes it or not this will have to be Joe's last job.

As with everything else in "Heist" things aren't what they seem and very little goes as some characters have planned. Joe may have thought retirement is in his future but his fence, Mickey (Danny DeVito) refuses to pay Joe and his crew; Bobby (Delroy Lindo), Pinky (Ricky Jay) and Joe's wife Fran (Rebecca Pidgeon) until they complete another job involving a Swiss bank. Joe tells Mickey he was seen on a security camera and has to go into hiding but Mickey won't hear of it. The plan has already been set in motion. Joe and his crew will have to go through with the heist as previously planned.

Some readers will immediately think to themselves "oh boy! Here is another one of those "last heist" movies". It is true Mr. Mamet and "Heist" go through a well known story-line; old criminal wants to call it quits but needs to go through one last heist before he can retire. "Heist" however is not a movie to be enjoyed because it gives the viewer something they have never seen before.

Critics of the movie have expressed the problem with "Heist" is it does not go through any new material for Mr. Mamet. It is the same kind of argument made against filmmakers like Woody Allen; he simply makes the same movie over and over again. In the case of both men the criticism is balderdash.

"Heist" may not break any new ground regarding its plot but it is well made. Mr. Mamet's dialogue is always a pleasure to listen to. The actors are extremely enjoyable to watch. Watching "Heist" the viewer should feel they are in good hands. In the hands of a man who knows this genre inside-out. They should not complain "Heist" is another con movie directed and written by David Mamet but feel confident here is man who knows how to tell these kind of stories.

Instead of categorizing "Heist" as a con movie some viewers may want to consider "Heist" as a noir movie. It may not seem to neatly fit into the genre as "Double Indemnity" (1945) does but "Heist" also deals with back room deals, double-crosses and a femme fatale in the Fran character. In fact it is the relationship between Joe and Fran which is one of the more interesting aspects of the movie.

You just never quite know what is real in "Heist". Are these events really happening or is it part of the con? Without revealing too much Joe decides to send Fran to speak to Mickey and Mickey's nephew, Jimmy (Sam Rockwell) to tell them Joe has decided to go forward with the Swiss bank job but the question more than once comes up is Fran playing Joe? What exactly is Joe and Fran's relationship? They are supposed to be married but they do not ever seem to show great affection towards one another. With leads us to the age old question in noir movies, can you ever trust a woman? Trust is a key question in any David Mamet movie. Do we ever really know anyone?

The one person Joe does trust however is Bobby. Their relationship is interesting because here are two men the viewer suspects have known each other for many years. They speak in a kind of code. Most of the characters in "Heist" speak in code. Only those "in the know" really know what is being said.

And that is one of the other great things about "Heist" - the fantastic cast and the wonderful interplay they have with one another. I don't know how believable Gene Hackman and Delroy Lindo are as con-artist, I've never met a con-artist, but they are sure entertaining. The same goes for Danny DeVito. He may not act the way a real fence would but Mr. DeVito gives a very lively performance and adds humor to the movie. Both Mr. DeVito and Mr. Hackman are well suited to deliver the cynical, short-hand dialogue Mr. Mamet writes.

David Mamet writes some of the best dialogue you will hear in modern cinema. It is said Mamet uses a metronome when he writes so his words flow to a certain rhythm. Viewer should love the intricacy of his choice of words. Everything is so deliberate. There is no excess in his dialogue. Everything written serves a purpose.

To be honest there are things in "Heist" which may have went over my head. I may have missed some things in "Heist". This is a movie you have to watch more than once. They may notice clues in the dialogue and the glances characters gives one another. This is a movie which makes the audience think. But, that is also the fun watching "Heist". There is a lot going on. This is not a cookie cutter, second-rate movie. This is top of the line entertainment from a truly gifted writer.

"Heist" was released two months after America suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history. In some ways it is interesting since here is a movie which tells us don't trust anyone. Be suspicious of everyone. People aren't what they seem. There was a lot of paranoia in this country shortly after what happened that September. "Heist" reflects that mentality.

I first saw "Heist" in a theatre when it was released. At that time I was impressed with the movie and eagerly declared it one of the best films of 2001. On my top ten list of that year I placed it in the number four spot. Watching "Heist" again, 15 years later, I find that I am incline to agree with my original assessment of the movie. In fact, if anything, I find that I enjoyed the movie more a second time around.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Film Review: At Long Last Love

"At Long Last Love"  *** (out of ****)

It has finally arrived in "At Long Last Love" (1975)!

The lead characters in Peter Bogdanovich's musical "At Long Last Love" stagger into their lavish apartments one by one after spending an entire night out drinking and partying. The characters are millionaire playboy; Michael Olivier Pritchard III (Burt Reynolds), spoiled rich girl; Brooke Carter (Cybill Shepherd), chorus girl Kitty O' Kelly (Madeline Khan) and the poor but happy lucky gambler and Italian lover Johnny (Duilio Del Prete).

For them life is something to enjoy. They are able to return to their homes at 6am and not worry about going to a 9am - 5pm job. They have enough money to lead a carefree lifestyle.

That is how it was in the Hollywood musicals of the 1930s that those of us grew up watching. We saw rich people travel to Europe for weekend getaways, never worry about money despite the fact there was a depression going on or have any responsibilities to speak of. The characters spent their time singing songs and looking for love.

This is what director Peter Bogdanovich is paying homage to - that wonderful era of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals or Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell pairings. Mr. Bogdanovich even has his characters sing the songs of Cole Porter, just as Fred and Ginger did in various movies and Broadway plays.

When "At Long Last Love" was originally released in theaters the sheep (movie critics) crushed the movie. Perhaps "modern" critics were too "hip" to appreciate Mr. Bogdanovich's old-fashion sensibilities and the nostalgia found in "At Long Last Love". Then a funny thing happened. A studio editor at 20th Century Fox, who distributed the movie, named Jim Blakely, had re-edited the movie without Mr. Bogdanovich's consent. This re-edited version was played on television and received positive audience reaction. In fact according to Mr. Bogdanovich people would walk up to him on the street and tell him how much they enjoyed watching the movie, which Mr. Bogdanovich couldn't understand due to the movie's initial reception. Later it was revealed to Mr. Bogdanovich what Mr. Blakely did. The changes were approved by Mr. Bogdanovich and it is this version which plays on occasion on the Fox Movie Channel, where I first saw the movie, and the version which I am reviewing. It has also been released on blu-ray.

There is not much of a plot in "At Long Last Love" unfortunately. Michael, while being driven home by his chauffeur, Rodney James (John Hillerman), nearly runs over the pretty chorus girl Kitty. There is an instant attraction on both of their parts although one has to wonder if Kitty isn't also attracted to Michael's money. Next there is Brooke, who lives with her maid, Elizabeth ( Ellen Brenan). Brooke doesn't have a job and lives off her mother who provides her with an allowance. Currently the mother is in another country and for the past three months has not sent Brooke any money. Normally Brooke wouldn't mind but the hotel she is living at would like their money. While at the race track, in a last ditch effort to win some money, Brooke and Elizabeth meet Johnny, who seems to have a lot and picks the winning horse in the race. This, more than anything, is what both ladies find attractive about Johnny.

For the next hour of "At Long Last Love" not much happens. The characters sing a lot of songs including " Friendship", "Down in the Depths on the 90th Floor", "But In The Morning No", "From Alpha to Omega", "Tomorrow" and "Find Me A Primitive Man". But not much else happens. Nothing is really developed between the would-be lovers, no further character development is provided and there is no conflict established. We are watching a bunch of people sing songs and nothing is really advancing a plot.

One can make the point none of that was important to Mr. Bogdanovich when he made this movie. And it may very well be true. One can argue the pleasure to be had in watching "At Long Last Love" is in the music, the nostalgia for classic Hollywood cinema,the costume and production designs and the cinematography. But will that be enough for the majority of audiences, especially younger audiences that may not be familiar with the musicals of the 1930s or any Hollywood movies of the era?

It is only after the first hour of the movie something happens and the lovers are separated and now it becomes a story of true love trying to find its way. Without revealing too much, none of this really makes any sense. The characters never seemed to be in love in the first place. It is hard to believe they would fight and scheme to be together and after watching so many movies from the era, as has Mr. Bogdanovich, you wonder if he didn't make a mistake and had the wrong characters get together by the end of the movie.

The performances in the movie are interesting at best. Everyone in the movie is attempting to act in a carefree, naturalistic manner, smiling and goofing around as they sing and dance. Not everyone comes out looking good. Burt Reynolds, who one can assume is meant to channel Clark Gable, fairs the worst. Mr. Reynolds was not a singer and depending on who you speak to, was not much of an actor either. Mr. Reynolds though has a lot of charisma on-screen and you have to remember in the 1970s and 80s was a major Hollywood star. Instead of singing he mostly speaks the lyrics.

The ladies in the movie; Ms. Shepherd and Ms. Khan come out looking better. Ms. Khan was a singer and Ms. Shepherd sang as well. Prior to the release of "At Long Last Love" Ms. Shepherd released an album singing Cole Porter songs, which may have served as an inspiration for this movie since Ms Shepherd and Mr. Bogdanovich were romantically involved.

Duilio Del Prete has good screen presence and at first I thought was meant to serve as the kind of character Erik Rhodes played in a pair of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals; the foreigner (Italian) who fashions himself a lover but no one else does. Thinking it over though his character may have been more inspired by Maurice Chevalier, who played a cliche French lover with a weakness for beautiful women. Mr. Chevalier also acted in several Ernst Lubitsch musicals and Mr. Bogdanovich is a great admirer of Mr. Lubitsch.

Given that "At Long Last Love" was meant to be a homage to the Hollywood musicals of the 1930s one wishes Mr. Bodganovich and his cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs would have shot the movie in black and white. The two men had previously collaborated on "Paper Moon" (1973) which was shot in black and white and would follow-up on this movie with "Nickelodeon" (1976), which was filmed in both color and black and white. Though "At Long Last Love" looks great the black and white cinematography would have been the icing on the cake fully setting the mood and nostalgia the movie was going for. But, Mr. Bogdanovich ruled against this since he had already made movies in black and white and didn't wish to continue.

Only a filmmaker such as Peter Bogdanovich could have given us a movie like "At Long Last Love". Here was a director who had a great admiration for Hollywood cinema of the 1930s and 40s. His prior movies were all in one way or another homages to classic cinema. His "What's Up, Doc?"  (1972) was heavily inspired by "Bringing Up Baby" (1938), "The Last Picture Show" (1971) was inspired by John Ford, "Nickelodeon" was about the early days of cinema and inspired by the great artist who tried to turn movies into an art form. Even today Mr. Bogdanovich tells stories with an old-fashion sensibility. His most recent release was "She's Funny That Way" (2015).

Unfortunately, for all his good intentions "At Long Last Love" cemented the end for Mr. Bogdanovich. Released before this movie was "Daisy Miller" (1974) also starring Cybill Shepherd. It was a box-office failure and with "At Long Last Love" it was a one-two punch. Two failures in a row. Nearly everything Mr. Bogdanovich released after this movie was met with poor critical and commercial success.

"At Long Last Love" is not a great movie but it is one to be appreciated. You have to admire what Mr. Bogdanovich was attempting to do. The movie does have a good musical score, mixing well-known Cole Porter standards along side lesser known tunes, very good cinematography and good production and costume designs.

How would a movie like "At Long Last Love" be greeted today? The movie was a bit ahead of its time. In the late 90s Woody Allen released his own movie musical, "Everyone Says I Love You" (1996), which was flooded with classic songs but took place in modern day Manhattan and Paris. Of course there was also "Moulin Rouge!" (2001), "Chicago" (2002) and "Nine" (2009) which tried to revitalize the genre. Only Mr. Bogdanovich went back to the genre's roots however.

"At Long Last Love" is worth seeing if you appreciate classic Hollywood cinema as you will be better able to acknowledge what Mr. Bogdanovich was aiming for. The movie is not so much a celebration of love as it is the musical genre.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Film Review: Jules & Jim

"Jules & Jim"  *** (out of ****)

When I first saw Francois Truffaut's "Jules & Jim" (1962) I was teenager. I didn't particularly enjoy the movie and thought it was over-rated. It is generally considered one of Mr. Truffaut's most influential movies. Of course at that time I hadn't experienced love. I had never been in a serious relationship. I didn't know what it was to love someone and fear losing them. I hadn't faced the fragility and complications of love. I understand Mr. Truffaut's movie now. I see intelligence in its observations.

In 1960 American audiences had experienced their first French New Wave film, Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" (1960). For many the movie symbolized a new direction for cinema. It was like a hurricane. An entirely fresh, invigorating new way to tell stories. There is a sense of that excitement in "Jules & Jim".

The French New Wave was a rebellious, avant garde movement which attempted to break free from the traditional story narrative. It broke the fourth wall - bringing attention to itself that it is a movie. The films introduced the term jump cut - an edit which gave the impression of a jump in time. They featured long tracking shots as well and sometimes focused on existential themes.

"Jules & Jim" begins with an almost circus theme score playing over a montage of images as movie credits appear on-screen. The music may remind someone of what you would hear in a Federico Fellini movie. The music suggest a fast-paced comedy. Something lighthearted and exaggerated. However the music doesn't match the images. As we begin to watch the movie we will also notice, the music doesn't match the tone of the movie either.

The movie, based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Henri-Pierre Roche, published when he was 74, is set in Paris in 1912 and follows Jules (Oskar Werner), an Austrian writer living in France, and his friendship with Jim (Henri Serre). Despite their contradictions or maybe because of them, the two men compliment each other's personalities and are inseparable. Jules is shy whereas Jim is an extrovert. Jules is looking for love as Jim is a ladies man.

The two men lead an extremely carefree lifestyle. They often meet at a local pub to discuss writing and women but never mention money or getting 9 - 5 jobs. Such realities of life are of no concern to the men. They are primarily interested in women. One woman however, Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) may cause a riff in their friendship and come between.

Catherine, like the two men, is a free spirit and not interested in a bourgeois lifestyle. As such both men are fascinated by her and would like to win her affection. The three are now inseparable. The "competition" among Jules and Jim for Catherine's heart never becomes vicious. There are no sneaky plans with each man trying to humiliate the other in front of Catherine. When Jules introduces Jim to Catherine he explicitly tells him "not this one", meaning, Catherine is mine. I have feelings for her. Don't try to steal her away.

In the end Catherine chooses Jules and the two agree to get married. As this happens war is declared. Jules fights in the Austrian army while Jim fights for France. Both are are afraid they might unknowingly kill the other on the battlefield since both men have lost contact with each other.

The war ends and Jules and Jim somehow are able to find one another. At this time Catherine and Jules have a daughter while Jim has never married. Jim visits the married couple in Austria. Catherine and Jules both reveal to Jim, separately, the marriage is in trouble. Catherine has a lover. She is bored with married life and with Jules. Jules however is still in love with her and can't let her go. Catherine is ready to get married to her lover and have a child. Jules gives Jim permission to seduce Catherine so at least Jules will be able to see Catherine now and then.

Feelings come and go. People say things and then wish they could take them back. Everyone thinks they understand their feelings but they don't. The one thing for certain though is Catherine doesn't love Jules anymore but is Jim the man for her?

This type of set-up would normally be the basis of a noir story. A woman who comes between two men, marries one of them and after being "domesticated" wants out of the marriage and tries to escape with another man. "Jules & Jim" isn't a noir story though. It is not a "happily ever after" love story either though it is a love story. What is interesting about it is the movie is named after the two men. The movie is just as much the story about the two men's friendship, their love for each other as it is about Catherine and either one of the men. The movie is about young love and facing the disappointment it brings. It is about friendship. It is about youth in general.

One problem some viewers may have is there is not really a likeable character. Catherine is somewhat likeable when first introduced and seems a perfect fit for the men but she never becomes a sympathetic figure. The audience feels for Jules. But the movie never pushes us too hard to really care of any one character in particular.

The performances by the three leads are good but honestly no one stands out. They are all essentially the same character. I could not say I enjoyed one performance more than another. When one character is happy all of them are happy. When one character is sad all are sad. There are very few moments when one actor is given a moment to individually shine in a scene. That is not a criticism of the actors as one must assume this was done deliberately by Mr. Truffaut.

What may distinguish "Jules & Jim" is the camerawork. The camera seems to flow and be as free-spirited as the characters. One of the most famous sequences involves a comparison between a Roman statute and Catherine's face. The camera breaks all conventional rules and photographys Catherine from her left and right side. It focuses on her lips and eyes. It is a duplicate shot of how a statute is captured. The sequence is meant to imply Catherine resembles the statue. A statute which both Jules and Jim became infatuated with.

Though I am able to appreciate "Jules & Jim" more now that I am older, as usual, I don't find myself in agreement with the general public. I would not agree this is one of Mr. Truffaut's best films. Of the movies released during this time in Mr. Truaffut's career I would have to say his debut film, "400 Blows" (1959) would be my favorite. I might even go as far as saying it is my all-time favorite of his movies.

"Jules & Jim" nevertheless is a movie worth watching. It has an important place in the history of cinema and those that consider themselves serious movie lovers should see the movie. If you chose to make this your first experience seeing a movie directed by Mr. Truffaut it may intrigue you to see what else he has directed. This is a smart movie about love and friendship.