54. Marty


by Joel Bocko

“I think of this as a great rainy afternoon movie. You’re flipping through the channels on one of those great lazy Saturdays…it’s summer but it’s raining outdoors and you’re stuck inside. You come across a classic movie channel (AMC, TCM–take your pick) and pause. What’s this? Ernest Borgnine? You always like him, why not stop for a moment and watch. It looks like it’s just beginning. ‘Marty’? Yeah, you’ve heard of it, vaguely. Won the Oscar or something, but it’s been kind of forgotten. So you start watching and before long you’re totally enchanted, completely charmed, by the simple story and realistic characters. Who can’t sympathize with Borgnine’s sensitive butcher, hanging out with his Italian friends and their goofy conversations about Mickey Spillane, all the while pining away with his heart of gold for a girl that his buddies call a ‘dog’? The conversations have the kind of natural humor and warmth that remind you of the old days hanging out with your pals. As you watch the movie, you find yourself enthralled and you never change the channel, watching it till the end, realizing that you’ve seen this plot riffed on and spoofed on various TV shows, films, and cartoons over the years. When the movie’s done, you’re really excited–this is one of those films you discovered on your own and nothing can beat that thrill.

“Now, this isn’t the way I saw ‘Marty’–I rented it and now own it on DVD–but it’s the spirit I get from it. I love the conversation between Marty and his best friend, its street poetry that’s entertaining without being false, in the diner as their Friday night lays out ahead of them. I love Marty and Clara’s walk, their honesty and his enthusiasm; you worry is he going too far, being too gregarious for the shy Clara? Will it work? I love the preparations for Sunday Mass, the fight between the married couple, and Marty agonizing over standing up his girl while his friends have an amusingly banal and silly conversation in which they keep repeating themselves. It’s really just a charming and wonderful film, joyful even in its sad moments. If you don’t enjoy it, what can I say, but my recommendation comes completely honest and from the heart. This is one of those personal favorites that also happens to be an underrated classic–but just underrated enough so that the joy of discovering it on a rainy Saturday afternoon remains undiluted.” – Me, April 24, 2003, my first online review (IMDb)

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 © 2014 by James Clark


      I notice that, in an interview with Slant Magazine, filmmaker, Jonathan Glazer, claims not to have seen Her. Also, he says, “I’m very bad at detecting themes in my work… I suppose it’s [the affinity between Her and Under the Skin] in the air or something…” This, hardly unique to him, penchant for misrepresentation brings us to some necessary infill, perhaps, though, especially pressing in the task of charting where Glazer’s films go and where that leaves us. Disclaimers aside, the three feature films he has brought forward over the past fourteen years are discernibly steeped in strivings central to a filmic avant-garde, as rooted in a wider showdown with conventional rationalist securements. Equivocation is “in the air” and we have to care enough to get a handle on its roots and the kind of fruition being allowed to see the light of day.

We’re starting in this seemingly odd way, to address A Slightly Pregnant Man (1973), because we have also in our sightline Glazer’s Birth (2004), which might well be called A Slightly Reincarnated Man. Glazer hopes to keep the general public happy with the notion that he’s simply a not particularly unusual craftsman of arcane cinematic images which he himself cannot comprehend and which trigger musings that the viewer plays for days to come. That kind of transaction is right up the alley of consumers of rock concerts and TV ads (rock and product filming being a big part of his professional career). It benefits, over and above its monetary rewards, from being an outburst unimpeachable in its variable intimations. As a spokesman for his feature films, he looks to that vein so useful in popular entertainment to disarm those possibly alarmed by brash unconventionality. He’s offering, he’d like us to believe, no more than a sensuous tingle from which we can and should bail out at any time it proves discomfiting. For all its corporate savvy, that gambit is seriously questionable. Interviewers and enthusiasts positively struck, as they should be, by the multiple assets of the three features to date, are dismayingly ready to imagine that the highly complex discursive narratives are tantamount to short-loop, gallery-bound video art—optical   and aural tone poems. But the films as such, though aptly felt to amount to problematic suspense, are built like a Swiss watch, delivering an undertow expertly laced with avant-garde consequentiality. That is to say, a degree of friction obtains here, intrinsic to the phenomena being traversed. (I doubt that in his early days as a director of stage plays he’d have been so loath to admit he knew something about the history of his art, as distinct from the technical craft. Glazer’s rather incongruous approval of the work of the great stylist, Stanley Kubrick, has faked many of those viewers who want to believe that it always comes down to the gratifying variety of humankind as established several thousand years ago.) Continue Reading »


© 2014 by James Clark


    Emeric Pressburger, of the British filmmaking team, along with Michael Powell, known as the Archers, has been quoted as emphasizing that a film should have “a little bit of magic…” Though their team name implies precision, straight to the point, shooting, there was from out of their shooting range (so long ago) one memorable treatment of the seemingly crystal clear subject of romance, namely, I Know Where I’m Going (1945), that can, I’m sure, validly lay claim to conjuring real magic.

Let’s dip into its handsomely filmed black and white nuances of a Hebrides location and of London-studio-based interiors, to begin with one of the protagonists, Joan, and her War-era-styled ocelot-skin-patterned hat. There’s a war going on—most of the patrons of the first scene’s upscale restaurant are in uniform—but you’d never know it from Joan’s cracking the whip in the direction of her bank manager/father, to fork over her liquid assets on behalf of a sojourn to Scotland, where she’s scheduled to be married to the owner of Consolidated Chemical Industries (“Did you bring my money?”). As played by Wendy Hiller, an expert in transmitting peppy chain reactions, Joan goes on from letting her dad in on the happy event—rather late; and he’s not invited—to ordering drinks and demanding that he, the picture of Cromwellian asceticism, dance with her. “Come on, Daddy!” (He had, according to her [in a timid rebelliousness on being somehow touched by a rapidly and confusedly rebranding world], taught her to dance.) Her embodying an ebullient and stunning big cat (with a rich twinkle in her eyes and plush dimples) barely manages to say good-bye to her parent, who had accompanied her to a First Class compartment on the Scottish Night Train (“The Night Scotsman”), so absorbed does she become with “Hunter,” her fiancé’s rep in charge of travel plans. “I managed to prevent them from putting you over the wheel,” he reports (a useful lieutenant to her warrior Maid). We learn by a series of brief flashbacks that she had very early on acquired a taste for exceptional sensuous stimulation—as a 5-year-old she told Santa, by mail, “I want a pair of silk stockings, and I don’t mean artificial.” Continue Reading »

by Pat Perry

In 2007, Nathan Rubin memorably coined the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” to capture a familiar character/trope in romantic comedy: “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

There is probably no earlier or better example of this archetype than the character of Susan Vance (unforgettably played by Katherine Hepburn) in the legendary screwball farce Bringing Up Baby. From the first time we glimpse her, striding purposefully onto a golf course, till her final moments in Cary Grant’s rescuing grip as she dangles from a rapidly crumbling dinosaur skeleton, we know that Hepburn’s Vance is a force of nature, giddily marching to the strange rhythms humming inside her own, impenetrable brain – and absolutely the right match for Grant’s befuddled, deadly serious paleontologist.

If  “manic pixie dream girl” has come to be understood as a pejorative, it’s likely because this sort of pixilated dynamic is a tricky thing to pull off – often imitated, rarely duplicated. Two outright homages to Bringing Up Baby – Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up Doc? and James Foley’s Who’s That Girl? have had varying degrees of success (or, in the case of Foley’s film, no success whatsoever)  in convincingly capturing the enchantment that a madcap, free- spirited woman can have over a shy, serious, man who’s about to marry the wrong woman. Continue Reading »

Screen cap from the most chilling scene in John Stahl’s 1945 masterpiece LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN.

by Sam Juliano

It all comes down to generous gulps of Poland Spring, extended refuges into air-conditioned rooms and mental countdown towards one’s planned vacation.  Some of course are already on those vacations – beaches and resort amusements are very much a part of the daily itinerary.  Summer can be one’s eternal joy, but it comes with some baggage, especially if your region is prone to exceedingly high temperatures.  Since most regions so apply, one is usually engaged in a love-hate relationship with the season.

The Romantic Countdown continues to inch forward to the halfway point.  The high quality of the writing is a constant joy for readers, many of whom have been troupers in the comment threads.

Many thanks to our guardian angel Dee Dee for her continued work in revising the site sidebar.  Coincidentally enough her posters for the just started Femme Noir Festival at the Film Forum are highlighting some of my own recent movie-going as Lucille, Sammy and I took in two double features that launched the venture on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.  This past week we saw: Continue Reading »

Lady and the Tramp

by Joel Bocko

Lady and the Tramp is one of the great romances of all time…but it’s much more as well. In fact, the animated classic samples numerous mid-century film (and TV) genres. “Lady in Movieland” explores many of them while also observing Lady’s anxiety and eventual acceptance of a new member of the family (and what this means for her own comfort and independence). Hope you have as much fun watching this as I had making it.

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By Jon Warner


There have been several films that follow an inanimate object (or animal) as it is transferred ownership to different people, with the meaning or importance of said object changing depending on the situation and the person involved. Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 (1950) follows a Winchester rifle across several owners. Tales of Manhattan (1942) is a fascinating film involving several stories following a formal tailcoat. There’s also The Red Violin (1998). Even Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) and War Horse (2011) do something similar. Max Ophuls’ magnificent melodrama The Earrings of Madame de… seems to follow a similar pattern on the surface, as a pair of expensive earrings transfer owner several times. Ophuls’ film, though, seems to do something just a little different. It’s not really about following the earrings. In fact it is more about the motivations behind the giving and receiving of them than anything regarding chance transfer of ownership. Considering the monetary value of the earrings, no single person seems to give them a second thought until the earrings come full circle back to the original owner, as they are finally received as a gift of true love, becoming a glimmering example of both a failed marriage and an adulterous affair.

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