Friday, March 07, 2008

My Week of Movie Watching

The Harder They Fall (1956) – Humphrey Bogart’s last film, and one of the sourest flicks ever to come down the pike. It tracks the rise to a no talent Argentine giant to the top of the heavyweight boxing ranks. (It’s based loosely on the career of the “Amblin’ Alp”, Primo Carnera). Bogie is good as a down-on-his luck sportswriter who gets stuck in a shady enterprise and can’t get out of it. The film, however, belongs to Rod Steiger, in classic scenery-chewing form as a heartless promoter.

Gate of Flesh (1964) – Another foray into the work of the Japanese maverick Seijun Suzuki. Like him or hate him, Suzuki never bores. This is a tale about a small band of prostitutes who gang together in post-war Tokyo, and try to survive with the help of a strict code of behavior. Their closed world is disrupted by the arrival of a wild ex-soldier. The film is a comment on the societal sickness of post-war Japan, and it’s a nasty one. Some will squirm at its violent /porn depictions of savage whippings and of a cow being butchered onscreen. It’s not an easy watch, but I do recommend it.

Lancelot Du Lac (1974) – Robert Bresson’s version of the King Arthur saga concentrates on the love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, and its final tragic consequences. This one is a heavy slog, even by Bresson's standards, as he spends an inordinate amount of screen time on totemic shots of feet, hands, door handles, etc. The film seems to suggest that the pride and arrogance of the two lovers leads to the destruction of the Knights of the Round Table. That’s my best guess ,anyhow.

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