Monday, April 22, 2013

My Week of Movie Watching

Other Men’s Women – Another pre-code curio from William Wellman., this one from 1930. It revolves around a couple of rail engineers - One happily married, the other a drunken playboy. Trouble ensues when the married one invites his buddy to stay with him and his wife (Mary Astor), and the drunk falls for the wife. This was a grind for me up until the time that the cheating starts, and then it got considerably more interesting ,as the adulterers (although they don’t appear to have sex) deal with what they have done to the cuckolded husband. The film builds to a conclusion that would seem to be logical, except that it flips the characters from what you would expect. As a result, it leaves a bit of a funny taste in the mouth. A lukewarm recommendation.

The Drive By Night – Humphrey Bogart and George Raft in a trucking drama from Raoul Walsh. The two leads play a couple of brothers trying to make a go of it in the trucking industry. They strike up a deal with a wealthy former colleague (Alan Hale) for steady work, but things are complicated by Hales' bat-shit crazy wife (Ida Lupino) who once was involved with Raft and still wants him. Bogie is only fourth-billed here, and wouldn’t really explode until the following year with High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. Thus, it’s not really a Bogie role, and it’s a bit distracting. Lupino is sexy and suitably vile as the femme fatale. Recommended.

One Wonderful Sunday – A lesser known Kurosawa from 1947 traces a pair of young lovers as they struggle with crushing poverty. This is pretty good, if a tad contrived. Some of the situations are a bit predictable, like finding themselves short on a restaurant bill, but there are also some moments that are utterly charming, including an impromptu baseball game. The specter of WWII hangs over everything (the guy is an ex-soldier), and the shots of a ruined Tokyo add an extra melancholy to the story.

Scandal – Another pre-fame Kurosawa. This stars Toshiro Mifune as an artist who unwittingly ends up in a sex scandal involving a beautiful singer (Shirley Yamaguchi). The film follows their efforts to fight the sleazy tabloid that published the story. This film was truly an unanticipated little gem, mainly for the performance of the great Takashi Shimura as the couples’ self-loathing alcoholic lawyer. Shimura’s Hirutu means well, but is weak. He succumbs to his vices and then feels worthless afterwards. In some ways, it foreshadows his greatest role as the disenchanted bureaucrat of Kurosawa’s Ikiru. Very highly recommended.