Decline and Fall: Exhibit 13,759
Sunday Night Journal — February 4, 2007

Recent Netflix Movies

Here are brief comments on some interesting, not necessarily good, films that we've rented from Netflix over the past few months. My wife picked the majority of them. She has a pretty good record at this point.

Children of Heaven: Iranian, by, I think, the same director who did The Color of Paradise, which is great. This one is not as good but still very much worth seeing. It involves two children and a very important pair of shoes.

Coffee and Cigarettes: a series of vignettes by Jim Jarmusch. Pretty slight, but intermittently amusing. Tom Waits and/or Iggy Pop fans may want to see it--their segment was my favorite, and each has a rather striking screen presence. Iggy is either a pretty good actor or is in fact more nerd-like than one would have imagined.

Lemonade Joe: That's LEEmoNAHduh YO-uh. A 1964 Czech parody of early Hollywood westerns (Tom Mix era). Amusing in spots but, as wife said, really not much more than ten minutes' worth of humor stretched out for well over an hour.

Born Into Brothels: A documentary about the children of prostitutes in Calcutta. Heart-wrenching, as you might imagine, but not utterly bleak. It's also about the effort of a photographer, Zana Briski, to save some of them.

Genghis Blues: Another documentary, about a blind blues singer in San Francisco who hears the throat singers of Tuva on the radio, figures out how to do what they do, and goes to Tuva for the annual singing competition. Beautiful. Leaves you thinking hippie thoughts: music does bring people together; why can't we just all get along and learn from each other? And what's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?

Antonia's Line: Strong women and the men they don't need. Strong, and tiresomely smug. The film is pretty to look at, though: the story takes place in a Dutch village ca. 1946-present.

The Big Sleep: Not the Bogart one, but the 1978 one with Robert Mitchum. Mitchum could have been the best Marlowe ever, with the right director. This is not bad, but something's missing. For some reason they decided to move it to England, which was a major mistake for a book deeply embedded in California. An elderly Jimmy Stewart is great as General Sternwood.

The Lady in the Lake: More Chandler. Yes, this and the previous one were my selections. Robert Montgomery as Marlowe, 1947. Pretty good, but marred by a gimmick: you're supposed to see everything literally from Marlowe's point of view, so the camera is "him," and so are you. Yes, that means you never see him except in a mirror, and in a couple of intro/outro speeches. There's a reason why the technique didn't catch on.

Divided We Fall: A very fine 2001 Czech movie about gentiles hiding Jews in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. I was wary of this one, as I really find those cat-and-mouse-with-the-villain situations excruciating to watch. But this is good. A more intricate and precise plot than you think it's going to be, entailing a moral choice which can't exactly be applauded but is hard to condemn.

The Hawks and The Sparrows: the first Pasolini film I've ever seen. Just plain odd, featuring a talking Marxist raven, but also with a strong Catholic flavor. Can't say it wasn't interesting, but I don't have much desire to see it again. The hawks and sparrows are, approximately, the rich and the poor.

Them!: Giant mutant ants move from desert to city (I guess it's LA). Don't bother if you don't like cheesy 1950s sci-fi/monster movies, but if you do, this is one of the better ones.

The Thing (from another world): Giant vegetable from outer space stalks (oops) people at an Arctic research station. Not very good at all, really--too many logic holes. James Arness (Marshal Dillon) is in both these: the hero in Them!, the alien in The Thing. (Yes, these last two were also my selections.)

I've previously commented on The Chorus, The Station Agent, and Saints and Soldiers.



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