by Sam Juliano
More moderate temperatures have descended on the metropolitan area as some rain has cascaded on the region as if to portend what could be in store for April, traditionally the wettest month of the year. While I wouldn’t quite recommend putting those winter coats in mothballs just yet, it does appear that Father Winter has nearly gone into hibernation. These benign observations however, may serve as a jinx, so readers are advised to roundly reject them. Baseball fans are no doubt in their own kind of nirvana as the season is set to commence this week. Yours Truly of course is a lifelong Yankees rooter, and has reason to be optimistic this year in view of the spate of new acquisitions.
The romantic countdown ballot phase is nearly over with any and all ballots still outstanding due no later than tomorrow evening (April 1st) by 11:00 P.M. I believe we have received in the neighborhood of 22 or 23 ballots, and may well get a few more before the deadline. Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. will probably have the final Top 75 results ready for the inner group of people who cast ballots or were privy to the constantly updating e mail chain a few days later, or by the end of the week. Readers of course will learn the results peace meal during the course of a three to four month Monday to Friday essay presentation that will launch on Thursday, May 1st. Some titles have been reserved by specific writers, but all this is tentative as some of these films may not even make the final cut, while others may draw multiple statements of interest. Latest report from Angelo: As of this morning 25 ballots have been cast!
Locally the five-week ‘Complete Hitchcock’ Festival at the Film Forum has ended, with the ‘Tout Truffaut’ two week run officially starting. Lucille, Sammy, Danny and I were busy taking in the various screenings and events of the week in what was surely one of the more active weeks in quite a while. When I have time I will discuss the entire festival in a separate post. I managed to see 40 of the 53 films screened over four and a half weeks, though I have already seen the ones I didn’t watch in the festival.
Topaz *** (Monday night) Hitch at Film Forum
The Trouble with Harry (1955) **** (Tuesday) Film Forum
Family Plot (1976) *** 1/2 (Tuesday) Film Forum
The Manxman *** 1/2 (Thursday) Film Forum
Frenzy (1972) **** 1/2 (Thursday) Film Forum
The 400 Blows (1959) ***** (Sunday) Truffaut at Film Forum
The Lunchbox **** (Friday) Montclair Bow-Tie Cinemas
Noah *** 1/2 (Saturday) Ridgefield Park Starplex
Francois Truffaut’s THE 400 BLOWS is one of the supreme achievements of the French New Wave, and it remains poetic and deeply moving in its simplicity and universal truth. The final freeze frame shot is one of the cinema’s most celebrated and unforgettable moments, and as the boy Antoine Doniel, Jean-Pierre Leaud delivers one of the landmark children’s performances of all-time as Truffaut’s alter-ego, and the film is shot in magnificent black and white around the Eiffel Tower and contains a melancholic bittersweet score that once heard is ingrained in the mind. A definitive study of the misunderstood child, and early juvenile delinquency.
Hitchcock’s THE MANXMAN features a love triangle and the tragic consequences of some mistakenly applied news. I like the film better after seeing it on the big screen than I have in the past, though I acknowledge the performances are uneven. Still, Hitchcock’s style is in full flourish portending the greatness ahead and the sometimes stilted melodrama still packs and emotional wallop.
FRENZY is thought by many to be Hitchcock’s last exceptional film. It contains a hefty dose of black humor and a different take on the Jack the Ripper theme. A police inspector and his dotty wife provide the film’s laughs in a dining room in their home. THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY contains plenty of laughs and some stunning color cinematography. FAMILY PLOT is Hitch’s final film, and while not remotely among his best, is better than the critics of the day thought of it. Noteworthy for some fine performances, including one in the lead by pipe-smoking Bruce Dern. The spy thriller TOPAZ has some arresting moments, but it is largely an uneven film that divided the critics upon its 1969 release.
Darren Aronofsky’s new Biblical epic NOAH mostly focuses on the psychology of the characters, including the darker side of Noah and the results are better than expected, though the films ambitions insure there would be flaws. Russell Crowe and Ray Winstone are especially exceptional, and the idea of the stone watchers is successful. THE LUNCHBOX is an utterly charming and witty Indian drama that recalls the great Ray, but forges his own path with chance and a romantic context against all odds. The melancholic underpinning enhances the emotional depth. One of the cinema’s greatest actors Irrfan Khan again delivers a wonderful performance.
Lucille and I joined a lifelong friend and his daughter to see THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL on Sunday night. This was the second time I have seen the film, and I am happy to report it held up marvelously well.
I also watched the Bulgarian film ARMOURLESS KNIGHTS on DVD on Saturday afternoon. Allan had reviewed this quite glowingly at the site weeks back.