Dodsworth: I love a surprise

I had planned to watch The Third Man last night. I had planned to watch the hockey game (Stanley Cup finals). I was undecided which way to go. Maybe I’d see how the first period went and, if not well, switch to the Carol Reed movie?

As it turns out, William Wyler took the decision out of my hands …

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High Sierra: When the bad guy is the good guy

I recently finished reading Stefan Kanfer’s Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart. (The title is from something Raymond Chandler said of Bogart.) So of course, I’m back to watching Bogart movies, at least for the time being.

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20 Movies: Chinatown (1974)

The problem with listing these 20 movies is that I’m building a list of movies I want to see again. But I guess that’s not such a bad thing.

With Chinatown, we get an enthralling mystery and one of the best examples of what a strong script will do for a movie.

Chinatown (1974)
directed by Roman Polanski

Chinatown, a wonderful movie, is an example of what a script can do for a film.

It’s like finding the right music at a party. Someone feels compelled to dance, then another and another.

Soon, everyone’s up dancing. And dancing well.

In Chinatown, just about every artist is dancing their damnedest because the script has pulled them onto the floor. Director, actors, lighting people, costume designers … they’re all performing at their highest level.

It’s Robert Towne’s script that has done this.

One of Roman Polanski’s great talents is creating mood and few films do it so well and so quickly as the opening of Chinatown. I can’t think of many movies I would watch simply to see the opening credits but the look and the marvellous music of the introductory credit sequence is just so good with its period lettering and sepia tone (which carries through the movie), that you’re hooked even before the movie has presented its opening shot.

Modelling itself on the film noir style (particularly films like Howard Hawks’ movie The Big Sleep), the film’s mystery is created by presenting the story through the eyes of detective Jake Gittes, the Jack Nicholson character. We know what he knows, we’re puzzled by what he’s puzzled by, we’re misled by what misleads him. In fact, just as Bogart was in just about every scene of The Big Sleep, Nicholson is in just about every scene in Chinatown, either as a participant or as an observer.

But the film isn’t dependent on Nicholson. Faye Dunaway is perfectly cast as the enigmatic, and troubled, Evelyn Mulwray. It’s hard to imagine anyone else but Dunaway in that role. The movie is also bolstered by brilliant supporting performances, particularly John Huston as Noah Cross.

I also love the leisurely way the movie unfolds. Unlike the quick cuts and thrumming soundtrack of most current movies, Polanski takes his time. And it works so well. This may be the reason why it works. You’re seduced by the mood, and become involved with the characters, and thus the story.

Chinatown is a great, fascinating movie that illustrates the importance of beginning with a great script.

See: 20 Movies – The List

Chinatown (the trailer)

Finally, The African Queen

I saw on the TCM home page something that caught my eye: (1951) being released on March 23, 2010 in a “Commemorative Box Set.” I care less about the box set business than I do about this note (found in the information on Amazon): “Fully Restored using state-of-the-art restoration process.”

I have been waiting forever to get a decent copy of this movie on DVD. You would think this would have been one of the movies that had been released as a DVD long ago — and released several times over. But that has not been the case. I believe rights problems may have made a mess of things (if I recall correctly). Maybe it was public domain? I no longer remember.

The point, however, is that it is finally coming, if a little pricey because it’s a box set. On the other hand, I find what is included intriguing. Amazon lists the special features as:

– Fully Restored using state-of-the-art restoration process

Includes all-new hour long “making of” feature with never-before-seen images and commentary

Collectible packaging highlighting Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn

Second disc with the original Lux radio broadcast of The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Greer Garson (Audio CD)

Reproduction of Katharine Hepburn’s out-of-print published memoir: The Making of The African Queen or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind

Collectible Senitype®: a four film frame card illustrating the Technicolor® process

8 images inspired by original theatrical lobby cards

The release date is March 23. And apparently there will be a Blu-Ray version too. I am waiting.