Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Reviews: Pandora's Box and Others

I'm trying to get at least a little better about sketching out a few comments on the films I watch, rather than just posting credits and grades without any substantiating commentary. Here, then, are some short notations on the three films I saw on video this week—Nikita Mikhalkov's 12, a 2007 Oscar nominee that premiered last year in American theaters, and two old dramas from 1944, the Eugene O'Neill adaptation The Hairy Ape and the Greer Garson-Walter Pidgeon vehicle Mrs. Parkington. I meant to write something comparably short about G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box, but with a film that seminal and thrilling, and even more so in 35mm projection with live-organ accompaniment at the Bank of America Cinema, who can hold to just a few words? Not me, surprise, surprise.

A mishmash of titles, to be sure, but hopefully if I can keep up this steady drip instead of the heaving cycles of feast and famine, you'll find things in the mix that interest or appeal to you.

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Blogger CCW said...

You've definitely sparked my interest to see both Parkington and Ape. I always relish the fabulous actressing of Hayward and Moorehead. Moorehead's tough but compassionate work as the warden in Caged is a performance I cherish, but, of course, she's was just great in pretty much every role she tackled, including the voice of the goose in Charlotte's Web. Hayward was also terrific is so many films; a particular guilty pleasure of mine is her catfight with Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls that ends with her wig being drowned in a toilet. And it doesn't get any better than her impassioned lip-synching of the Previn's "I'll Plant My Own Tree" under the multi-colored mobile.
I recently read the most interesting interview with Moorehead, conducted by journalist Boze Hadleigh, in his book, Hollywood Lesbians. I must say it's a quite uncomfortable chat at times and it reminds me a little of the infamous Michael Parkinson/Meg Ryan sit down. Anyway, Hayward and Moorehead worked together on many films, and, supposedly, Moorehead had a very intense crush on Hayward that was masked as sisterly or motherly affection. When asked about this, Moorehead would only comment that Hayward was "one of the best [actresses to work with]." How ironic and sad that both would die of cancer almost within a year of each other after being exposed to radiation in Utah on the set of The Conquerer.

9:26 PM, January 08, 2010  
Blogger Andrew K. said...

I love that your "short notation" is not at all substantial. O have a copy of Mrs Parkington I taped one day, but never watched. I grudgingly admit Greer Garson has never excited me.

12:04 AM, January 09, 2010  
Blogger Catherine said...

That screening of Pandora's Box sounds like a real treat! I love those once-off kinds of experiences.

I haven't seen any of these films, but I thoroughly enjoyed the reviews - hope you keep it up! For years as a little girl I kept getting Agnes Moorehead and Gladys Cooper mixed up, so I'm glad they're in a film together - I can finally prove to myself they're not actually the same person. On the topic, I think Boze Hadleigh is an utterly despicable person and I wouldn't necessarily believe a word he writes.

6:38 PM, January 09, 2010  
Blogger CCW said...

@Catherine: I agree with you on that. I've only recently discovered Hadleigh's work and I was initially excited to read his interviews with several of my favorite actors (like Moorehead, Sandy Dennis and Brad Davis), since many of them rarely gave in-depth interviews. But after reading several of his collections, I really question the validity of his work. His writing loaded with factual errors and I also don't like the antagonistic tone he takes in his questioning.

9:56 PM, January 09, 2010  
Blogger Andrew K. said...

Egads. "I love that your "short notation" is not at all substantial."

That's supposed to read "not at all INsubstantial" Colour me embarrassed.

1:04 AM, January 10, 2010  
Blogger Catherine said...

@CCW: oh, totally. My comment was definitely not a dig at you, so I'm glad you took it in the spirit it was intended! I've never actually read a full book by Hadleigh, but every interview I have read of his, along with everything I've read that others have said about him, just convince me that he is a Nasty Piece of Work. There's something almost pathological about his intense desire to "prove" certain Golden Age stars were gay or lesbian, and his aggressive hounding of stars in their old age - Stanwyck as a prime example - is nothing more than cruel and unhelpful.

7:50 AM, January 10, 2010  
Blogger Persona said...

You were way to nice to Pandora's Box, that is, your A minus was too nice compared to some of the rest of the review. You don't have to be nice just because it is a supposed classic or Louise Brooks is a babe or there is moralizing or it is the last of the silents from the era or whatever. I saw it at the Music Box years ago, and somewhat hate it. OK, now I'm trying to make up for your niceness by being overly mean I guess. But I did compare it to Jackson's King Kong here:

1:34 PM, January 10, 2010  
Blogger CCW said...

@Catherine: No offense taken =)

Yes, the Stanwyck interview is extremely painful to read, as is Judith Anderson's. And Hadleigh's interview with Cary Grant is just plain unbelievable on so many levels.

I did fairly enjoy his interviews with James Coco and Sandy Dennis, since both seemed to deflect his assaultive questioning through their warm senses of humor.

8:55 PM, January 10, 2010  
Blogger Calum Reed said...

O/T: Totally agree that Peggy Ann Garner is the story of 1945. What a performance! So soulful and assured.

4:33 PM, January 12, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@CCW and @Catherine: I've read Hollywood Lesbians, too, and I agree with your combined sense that Hadleigh is a smug, rude, and unpardonable bully when he's putting the full-court press on these women... which is most of the time. I do see the merit in extending younger lesbians and gay men and who knows who else the confidence that classic Hollywood included several people they can look to proudly as forebears, but he really sullies his own project through his self-serving and often cruel approach. Who knows how many people are driven back toward the closet by this sort of "reportage," but I can't say I'm entirely sorry to have read the book.

@Andrew: Perhaps I am so vain that I read your sentence this way originally, despite the typo. In any case, no offense taken!

@Cal: Absolutely. I'll have more to say about that film, but she's just stunning in it. Joan Crawford better be awful glad that Oscar siphoned Garner off to her own special Juvenile Award. Imagine Joan, of all people, losing to a young girl.

@Persona: I do think the opening and final thirds are so extraordinary that they more than redeem the congested middle phase of the movie to an overall level of A-. Sorry not to gratify your desire for a harsher mark, though. If anything, I'll be happy to tell lots and lots and lots of people that at least one reader thinks my grades and reviews might be too nice. Not the tendency of which I am usually accused!

11:32 PM, January 17, 2010  
Blogger Persona said...

You may be right about the beginning and ending being better than the middle. It's been too many years since I've seen it; for Louise Brooks alone (oh to be young again) I might be convinced to stare for another(quickly looking up the runtime) 109 minutes... 109 MINUTES?! Ugh, forget it. All I remember are keystone kops.

7:36 PM, January 29, 2010  

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