OLDIES!

Older films seen in 2021, continued from the 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 editions. Most of these are really quick comments - typically scribbled down in 10-15 minutes without benefit of notes - and any resulting wit or insight should be viewed as an accidental by-product. Slightly more thoughtful capsules may be found on the now-defunct old reviews page.

All films, both from this year and the 18 previous ones, can be accessed alphabetically. Most can be viewed ranked by rating as well, though I'm still not sure what that's all about.

[Addendum, February 2009: I've now stopped doing reviews of new movies, but I'll continue to update this page; however, this is purely for my own benefit - since I can't always remember when I watched an oldie, so it's handy being able to find them here - and I won't be going any deeper or writing any more than I used to (probably the opposite). I am not reinventing this as a classic-movie site, nor do I set myself up as an expert on oldies. Or anything, really...]


EL (72) (Luis Bunuel, 1953): A bleak joke: the patriarch (see title), the respected man, the Mexican caballero, the friend of the Church, the landowner - or fallen landowner; he spends the film trying to get 'his' land back - as a foot fetishist, a middle-aged virgin, an obsessively jealous tyrant, finally a madman. Structurally ingenious in the way it shifts identification from Francisco to Gloria, through the device of having her tell her story in flashback (the middle section starts to resemble GASLIGHT), then back to him again; tonally also ingenious, Bunuel pulling no punches yet also finding comedy in the man's disintegration (Kubrick may have had this at the back of his mind for Jack Torrance, another patriarch who goes cartoonishly nuts) and touching briefly on the wife's enabling masochism. Also that opening scene is stunningly staged - fluid camera moves (and shots of feet!) equating the priest's quasi-lascivious devotion with Francisco's own - for a director not really known as a formalist.

DARK OF THE SUN (62) (Jack Cardiff, 1968): Any film that includes the line "What exactly is this mission, sir?" is prime old-Hollywood hokum - but this is surprisingly jagged and jarring, with a lot of bold ideas that don't work and a few incidentals that startle (e.g. pointing out Western complicity in African wars); way more violent than expected, too. The team includes an actual Nazi, plus Jim Brown as an unlikely African and 60s variation on the Magical Negro ("How come you don't hate whites?"; "Because I'm good"); the great Jacques Loussier score - borrowed by QT for BASTERDS - goes from jabbing excitement to catchy swoon, as striking and messy as the rest of it; the final act adds a moral component, early scenes include a shifty capitalist doing a Sydney Greenstreet impression. There's a chainsaw fight, a suggestion of sodomy, and LION KING kids will cry at the terrifying savages being called the 'Simbas'. A good time, despite everything.

THE STOLEN CHILDREN (83) (Gianni Amelio, 1992): Second viewing, first in 25 years. Any film that unites Dan Sallitt and Dale Thomajan is bound to be strong, but I'd forgotten how strong. One might say it's too genteel (the kids don't really seem traumatised), and I wasn't really on board till about halfway through - but the careful, reticent staging starts with reaction shots (the kids are very expressive) and small moments, moves into idyll with the addition of beautiful beach and pop music, then adds a sledgehammer coda. As perfectly controlled as any film I know, really.

THE KAISER'S LACKEY (60) (Wolfgang Staudte, 1951): Historical value clearly off the charts: an East German comedy condemning German nationalism (at one point, nationalist slogans are literally printed on toilet paper) and standing up for workers' rights and social democracy - six years after the war. Also notable for a blend of swooping, dollying camera moves - a shot through an open window and out into the street, that kind of thing - and fleshy, bombastic Werner Peters as the buffoonish hero, a coward, a drunkard, a sneak, a born lackey, a tyrant with his workers but cripplingly afraid of all authority; he's a memorable comic creation, crypto-fascist burgher personified, but the film seems to be a poor job of adaptation (the source is a hefty Heinrich Mann novel), lacking connective tissue so e.g. Peters is in love with a girl one minute and has abandoned her the next (it's explained, but was surely explained more lucidly in the novel). Momentum is lost, narrative lurches, set-pieces - like a rowdy bit of courtroom comedy - lack foundation; mostly just a bunch of bewhiskered Teutons toasting the Kaiser and scheming for power, which is fun admittedly.

JANUARY 1, 2021