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Inside Daisy Clover (1965)
Unclassifiable, odd film
This movie often seems surrealistic, sometimes comic, sometimes despairing and it has musical numbers which come from another dimension entirely--they are a mix of Busby Berkeley and 1960s design. The film seems like an eccentric comedy at first with 15 year-old tomboy Daisy (Natalie Wood) and her wacky mother (Ruth Gordon) both competing over who can chew scenery faster. Suddenly, she's plucked by sinister studio head Christopher Plummer and turned into a star. The studios of the time were certainly often sinister, but I found the dispatch of Ma Clover to the mental institution a bit of a stretch. The film has other implausible moments plus a tone of anachronism as the songs, by Andre and Dory Previn, are 1960s Broadway in style. Many scenes of loneliness and isolation--a strangely deserted Santa Monica pier,an empty desert motel, a studio that always seems empty, even the sound stages seem empty. You rarely see the bustle you expect in a film set at a studio or in Hollywood. This is an odd, fascinating, 1/2 successful film.
Interesting as view of love as economic issue
I agree with other comments about this being a little-known gem with a terrific cast and that it is a pleasure to see Thelma Ritter in a leading role. Cukor's direction is efficient and he's particularly good with long, unbroken takes which help the actors gain momentum and relate to each other. What I found interesting was that the film is very direct about marriage as an economic proposition and how it is often a business arrangement. The other interesting quality is that many of the scenes are almost surreal in their grotesqueness. I really like seeing Scott Brady in a romantic lead, he's very fresh. The film is interesting as a Fox film made right before their turn to CinemaScope the next year with the somewhat similar, and inferior, How to Marry a Millionarie. This film would have been in color and 'scope if made later. It also has some location shooting which was a growing trend at Fox and other studios during this period yet the pacing and dialogue-driven quality of the film is much like a screwball comedy from 10 years earlier.
I think this is a very under-rated film
I don't think this is a typical western at all. For the first half-hour it keeps viewers in the dark about situations and at points its twists seem more like those of a film noir. It also has an odd shift in tone. The first 1/3 is pretty light and it gets progressively grimmer and darker as the characters head south into Mexico. I think the key to its excellence is that there is a moral drama going on here between James Stewart and Dean Martin and they are both excellent and very moving. The fact that they are two of my favorite actors obviously has something to do with my opinion. In particular, Dean is much better then his reputation would suggest. The film has a very exciting climax, good supporting cast, some good dialog and is nicely shot, in Panavision, by western specialist William Clothier and has a Morricone-inspired score by the great Jerry Goldsmith.
Narayama bushikô (1983)
Tough stuff but asks the basic questions
I was a little surprised by a few of the negative comments below since I don't consider this film to be at all slow or dull. Many foreign and Asian films (Tsai Ming-Liang, Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, Hou Hsiao-Hsien for example)are far more grueling and slow whereas this film is loaded with narrative events, humor, eroticism (of various sorts, not all involving contact between humans and other humans)and a profound meditation on community, responsibility and mortality. If one finds this slow then I'd imagine most foreign films besides Amelie would be off-limits. I have rarely seen a film that forces one to confront such disturbing yet important subjects. In this village where scarcity forces all over 70 to be taken to Narayama mountain to die, a 69 year old woman who is still energetic and capable must settle her son's affairs before taking her final journey. Pondering how one would live in a place where for years one would know that at 70 this would happen is one key question. Further, what are the final things one must do before dying. Finally, the film makes us confront the literal truth of bodily decay and corruption in the scenes at Narayama Mountain.
Prime Cut (1972)
The most absurdist allegory ever made about hating America
This film is completely absurd. Do not try to apply standards of plausibility. The surrealist narrative indicts America as a horror-show of violence, white-slavery and cannibalism. People are turned either into meat (to eat) or sex workers. The only heroes are old-styled Chicago mobsters (granted ethnic identity as opposed to the film's white-bread, midwestern all-American villains)who represent "decency" in this twisted moral universe. The cinematography and composition for the 'Scope frame are excellent and many moments have a sort of time-capsule feel. See a luxury hotel in Kansas City circa 1972! The Chicago loop (and what films were playing in its grindhouses)! The preternaturally cool Lee Marvin is the "hero," Gene Hackman is the villain whose name, inexplicably, is "Mary Ann" and Sissy Spacek makes her film debut. Directed by Michael Ritchie around the same time as his relatively gentle satires of America: Smile and The Candidate. If you can't see this letter-boxed or in a theater, don't bother.
Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970)
Pretentious yet exemplary of its period
Obviously, this would never be financed by Universal Pictures today as it partakes in the usual artiness and experimentation typical of its period. Faye Dunaway-who has never looked better-plays an ex-fashion model ruminating over her career and tragedies. Her psychology is trite-likes older men, perhaps frigid or a nympho or something, rape victim and all this explains why her modeling and beauty render her unhappy. Rather slow, full of rack focus pulling, telephoto lensing, deliberate compositions (the director, Jerry Schatzberg, had been a fashion photographer. Ultimately pretentious but worth seeing once. Odd casting of a young Roy Scheider as some form of a rake (he never played that part again unless one counts All that Jazz).