Monday, June 30, 2014

The Films That I Saw: June 2014

Summer is heating up and for those who wanted to avoid the usual blockbusters to tackle blind spots and other films, it’s a good time for that. Yet, there is something else that has been distracting me and has taken away from my film viewing as of late. That is the World Cup. It’s an event that happens every four years as it’s bigger than the Olympics, the Super Bowl, and any other event. It’s about a sense of unpredictability as well as the discovery of new stars in the game. I don’t consider myself a sports fanatic as I don’t watch sports at all but the World Cup is different because there’s teams to root for and idea to see great teams collapse.

So far as I’m writing this at the moment, I’m happy to see that many of the European teams including former champions like Spain, England, and Italy go home early while seeing countries like Colombia and Costa Rica get the chance to go forward and make their countries proud. I’m saddened that Mexico just got eliminated by the Netherlands as I think this is Mexico’s best team so far while I’m hopeful that the U.S. makes it to the quarterfinals though they might have to face Argentina. Especially as I think the U.S. are doing very well despite not having Landon Donovan be in the team. I’m also glad that the team is getting the attention of the public in the hopes to boost the exposure of futbol (or soccer as you Americans call it).

One of the things about the Cup that I like are the discoveries not just from Mexico in the goalie Ochoa as well as reactions of its coach Miguel Herrera. There’s also Robin van Persie from the Netherlands who does prove that man can fly, even if it’s for a few seconds. Then there’s Luis Suarez who did bite that guy from Italy. He makes Mike Tyson look like a schoolboy. So far, my favorites are Brazil and Argentina while I’m also rooting for the U.S., Costa Rica, and Colombia as they’ve done a lot to impress me as I hope a team from CONCACAF makes it to the semi-finals.

In the month of June, I watched a total of 34 films, 24 first-timers and 10 re-watches. Not surprisingly due to the World Cup as it was more about futbol than films but it‘s the World Cup. There’s no excuse for that. One of the highlights of the month is my Blind Spot assignment in Imitation of Life. Here are the top 10 first-timers I saw for June of 2014:

1. All That Heaven Allows

2. L'Atalante

3. Mauvais Sang

4. Written on the Wind

5. Year of the Dragon

6. The Immigrant

7. Law of Desire

8. There's Always Tomorrow

9. Small Change

10. Chef

Monthly Mini-Reviews


I liked the first film for its humor and the fact that it had old people kicking ass. This one was OK as the highlights are John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Mary-Louise Parker, and Anthony Hopkins. Yet, it feels like it’s not really trying to do anything at times where Bruce Willis is obviously phoning it in. Even as much of the action feels familiar as does the twists where it also features a badly-tanned and dull performance from Catherine Zeta-Jones who allowed herself to get her scenes stolen by the much funnier Parker.

This is 40

For anyone that has not read Alex Withrow’s review on this film, read it now if you haven’t seen it because everything he said about this film is absolutely smacked on. It was horrible. I expected better from Judd Apatow but he ends up making a very overlong and overwrought film that makes me wish I would die before I reach 40. It is never funny and there’s moments that feels extremely unrealistic. It’s also quite smug at times where it thinks it is trying to be clever but it’s not. It’s a fucking horrible film and a complete indication that Judd Apatow needs a new editor and a co-writer to actually make sense of what the fuck he is trying to say.


I think Ryan Reynolds is a decent actor but one who should invest in either playing supporting characters or as a comedic foil in a full-on comedy. Yet, he should never carry the film because he’s not that charismatic as he and Jeff Bridges really don’t have any chemistry where the latter tries to make the film work along with Mary-Louise Parker. The film is a fucking disaster as it has so many bad visual effects and moments that are just idiotic. It wants to be so many things but none of it really works. It’s never funny nor engaging as it is really an uninspiring film that doesn’t really say or do anything.

30 for 30: Hillsborough

I finally caught up on this episode of the 30 for 30 series as this one is definitely one of the most harrowing episodes of the series. Especially as it relates to an incident that left 96 people dead due to overcrowding and poor organization from the police. Yet, this was a film that showcased a whole lot more about what happened and how police officers tried their best to help the people that were being crushed as there’s stories about corruption and lots of injustice that left families feeling wounded. Especially as there were officers who carried the guilt over the lives that were lost as they would become victims by the people they were supposed to work for as this is something many sport fans should see.

30 for 30: June 17, 1994

For anyone who was alive around that time certainly knows about that day where O.J. Simpson went on a high-speed chase in a White Bronco. Yet, it’s a documentary that plays into what happened on that day where so much happened such as the opening day of the 1994 World Cup in the U.S., Arnold Palmer playing his last U.S. Open, the New York Rangers celebrating their Stanley Cup victory, and the New York Knicks trying to win the NBA championship. All of which got overshadowed by Simpson’s chase as he was accused of killing his ex-wife and a friend. It’s a very dizzying documentary about not just this day but how it would change sports and pop culture for years to come.

Top 10 Re-Watches:

1. The Conformist

2. Batman Begins

3. Flags of Our Fathers

4. Rudo y Cursi

5. Changeling

6. Enough Said

7. An American Rhapsody

8. Thor: The Dark World

9. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

10. The Jewel of the Nile

Well that is all for June. Next month, I’m just going to focus on a lot of old-school American films from the post-war period as well as the films of the New Hollywood era plus a few films by Michael Cimino who is my next Auteurs subject while my Jean Vigo piece will be released in July. The only reason it’s not out because Courtney at Cinema Axis is currently serving jury duty which I don’t recommend having done that 12 years ago and it is an excruciating experience. In theatrical releases, the definite films I’m going to do are Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Lucy and hopefully films like Boyhood and Snowpiercer. Before I close this piece as I’ve been spending much of my time on the World Cup. I want to make a list of some of my favorite World Cup commercials that I’ve seen so far:

© thevoid99 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Small Change

Directed by Francois Truffaut and written by Truffaut and Suzanne Schiffman, L’Argent de poche (Small Change) is the story about the life of a group of children who go through many antics through many different moments in the course of an entire school year. It’s a film that plays into the lives of children through many different events as they come of age through mischief and some serious moments. Starring Jean-Francois Stevenin and Virginie Thevenet. L’Argent de poche is a remarkable coming-of-age film from Francois Truffaut.

The film is a simple exploration about the life of a group of children in a small town as they go to school where their teachers often comment on their behaviors and the problems they face. Much of which is told in a very loose style from Francois Truffaut and co-writer Suzanne Schiffman in the course of an entire school year where children come of age. Throughout the course of the film, there’s stories about first-love, mischief involving botched haircuts and two brothers making money off of schemes, a teacher with a pregnant wife, and a new student who has been very secretive about the abuse he suffers at home. While much of the story is told in a humorous fashion, it does have some commentary about the way children act and how they deal with their situations. Even as they’re seen by adults such as parents and teacher who watch to see these activities as well as to try and relate to these children.

Truffaut’s direction is quite simple yet very lively as he aims for something that feels more realistic and loose in terms of the way he directs children as many of the people in the film are non-professional actors. Much of the direction is quite stylized but also full of whimsy and wonder where there’s scenes that goes beyond the idea of realism as it relates to a young baby named Gregory. Truffaut’s compositions are often engaging in the way he shoots the children and adults where he makes them feel like real characters as there’s no such thing as good or bad people with the exception of the family a boy named Julien (Philippe Goldmann) lives with as he secretly hides his abuse.

The tone of the film does become serious in its third act as it relates to Julien’s secret that includes this very engrossing monologue from a teacher (Jean-Francois Stevenin) to his students about their rights to have a good life as well as the injustice they would face as they come of age but with choices. Through Truffaut’s direction, it’s a moment that is very poignant without being overbearing. Overall, Truffaut crafts a very mesmerizing film about the year in the life of children in a small French town.

Cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as much of it is straightforward while it features some stylish lights for the scenes of Julien walking through a carnival as he watches kids having fun with their parents. Editors Yann Dedet and Martine Barraque-Curie do nice work with the editing as it is quite stylish with some jump-cuts as well as fade-outs to give the story some structure in its loose tone. Production designer Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko does amazing work with the look of the classrooms as well as the apartment where many of the characters live in. Costume designer Monique Dury does wonderful work with the costumes as many of them play into the personality of the kids as they would often wear the same clothes. The sound work of Michel Laurent is terrific for the atmosphere that goes on at the school as well as the apartment and things that goes on outside of the school. The film’s music by Maurice Jaubert is superb for its playful orchestral score as well as some songs that plays into the situation of the characters as it adds to the film’s unique tone.

The film’s cast is brilliant as many of the performances add to the sense of realism and whimsy of the film as the standouts include Richard Golfier as a kid who gets a botched haircut, Sylvie Grezel as a young girl who uses her father’s megaphone, Bruno Staab as a teenager who tries to show a boy how to woo girls, Pascale Bruchon as a young girl who would write a letter to her cousin in the beginning of the film, Geory Desmouceaux as a boy named Patrick who endures his crush on a student’s mother and later encounter his first love, and Philippe Goldmann in a tremendous performance as the troubled boy Julien. The film’s superb adult cast includes notable performances from Chantal Mercier as a strict teacher, Nicole Felix as the mother of the baby Gregory, Tania Torrens as a boy’s mother that Patrick has a crush on, Virginie Thevenet as the schoolteacher’s pregnant wife, and Jean-Francois Stevenin in fantastic performance as the schoolteacher who gives the film’s famous monologue.

L’Argent de poche is an incredible film from Francois Truffaut. Not only is the film one of Truffaut’s most accessible and exuberant films of his career but also a very realistic and tender portrait about the lives of children. Especially as it’s told with such whimsy that it is a film that children could relate to as well as adults. In the end, L’Argent de poche is a phenomenal film from Francois Truffaut.

Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine & Colette - The Soft Skin - Fahrenheit 451 - The Bride Wore Black - Stolen Kisses - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Bed and Board - Two English Girls - Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me - Day for Night - The Story of Adele H. - The Man Who Loved Women - The Green Room - Love on the Run - The Last Metro - The Woman Next Door - Confidentially Yours

The Auteur #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)

© thevoid99 2014

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Written and starring the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, that consists of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske, and directed by Chandrasekhar, Beerfest is the story of two brothers who gather some old friends to train for a beer-drinking competition known as Beerfest to avenge the honor of their late grandfather from German relatives. The film is a simple comedy that is just about a bunch of guys training for a worldwide beer-drinking competition in Germany and challenge some of the world’s best. Also starring Cloris Leachman, Jurgen Prochnow, Mo’Nique, Nat Faxon, Eric Christen Olsen, Will Forte, Blanchard Ryan, Ralf Moller, Gunter Schlierkamp, and Donald Sutherland. Beerfest is a hilarious and entertaining comedy from the Broken Lizard comedy troupe.

The film is a simple story about two brothers who travel to Germany to spread the ashes of their late grandfather in his homeland only to encounter the annual worldwide Beerfest drinking competition where they are humiliated by their German cousins as they vow revenge on their late grandfather by forming a team of their own with a few friends. It’s a film that doesn’t require much plot as these two brothers come to Germany only to return humiliated as the oldest Jan Wolfhouse (Paul Soter) gets a black eye from the trip as he and his younger brother Todd (Erik Stolhanske) want to fight back by gathering some of their old college friends in the hot dog eating champion Phil “Landfill” Krundle (Kevin Heffernan), the Jewish scientist Charlie “Fink” Finklestein (Steve Lemme), and Barry Badinrath (Jay Chandrasekhar) who has fallen on hard times as he becomes a male prostitute.

The film’s screenplay doesn’t just explore the Wolfhouse family background as their related to the Beerfest organizer Baron Wolfgang von Wolfhausen (Jurgen Prochnow) but also how closely related he is to their late grandfather Johann (Donald Sutherland) through their great-grandmother Gam-Gam (Cloris Leachman). Along the way, the Wolfhouse brothers discover an old family recipe that was once considered lost as it would attract the attention of von Wolfhausen and eventually lead to a confrontation at the next Beerfest between the Americans and the Germans. Yet, the film has a lot of antics not just in the beer-drinking games that emerge but also in the characters plus a lot of references to the film Das Boot not just in a foot-long boot-shaped glass but also in a scene where von Wolfhausen is inside a submarine and says that he gets anxious about being in a sub. The script continuously adds a lot of jokes but also maintain the bond between a bunch of guys trying to train for an entire year for a beer-drinking competition.

Jay Chandrasekhar’s direction is pretty simple in terms of its compositions while he does manage to maintain a sense of consistency in terms of the jokes and comedic antics. Even as some of the drinking games that are portrayed are quite outrageous though a lot of them are real. Though the film is set in Colorado and in Germany, much of the film is shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico where it plays into the culture of beer-drinking though much of the alcohol is consumed is really non-alcoholic beer. Chandrasekhar’s compositions are quite simple in terms of its close-ups and medium shots while it features some very silly moments such as the gang drinking ram urine to prepare for the competition as well as some of the tension between the gang. Some of the partying is quite racy and juvenile where the gang isn’t afraid to be silly but also break the fourth wall at times such as Badinrath realizing who he really slept with. The film’s climax is the Beerfest competition as there is so much at stake but also some big discoveries about the secret into drinking the Das Boot glass. Overall, Chandrasekhar creates a very engaging and witty film about a bunch of guys drinking beer for a worldwide beer-drinking competition.

Cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco definitely creates a nice look to the film's scenes which includes some of the scenes at the Beerfest competition. Editor Lee Haxall does terrific work in the editing in the use of montages and other rhythmic cuts for the film‘s humor. Production designer Clark Hunter, with set decorator Gabriella Villarreal and art director David Baca, does amazing work in creating the festival that is Beerfest while costume designer Tricia Gray creates some wonderful uniforms for the various countries playing in the event.

Sound editor Gregory King also creates some superb work on the film's sound, notably the way quarters hit the glass. Music composer Nathan Barr creates an excellent yet exuberant score to emphasize the momentum of Beerfest. The soundtrack features an array mix of music ranging from acts like Del the Funkee Homosapien, the Meters, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Bulletboys, AC/DC, Kool & the Gang, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Poison, Eagles of Death Metal, and the German techno group Bubbles who play the same track that appeared in Super Troopers.

The casting by Venus Kanani and Mary Vernieu is brilliant as it includes some notable small appearances from M.C. Gainey as a priest, Aaron Hendry and Michael Yurchak as English beer-drinkers, Candace Smith as a drunken fantasy of Badinrath, Philippe Brennikmeyer as the Beerfest referee, Bjorn Johnson as a German man that would take the Wolfhouse brothers to Beerfest, Blanchard Ryan as Landfill’s wife, and James Roday as an unfortunate messenger who would bring von Wolfhausen the beer that his American relatives have brewed. The film also features some very funny cameos from Willie Nelson at the end of the film and Donald Sutherland as the Wolfhouse brothers grandfather. Mo’Nique is hilarious as Gam-Gam’s nurse Cherry who is very funny about the things she says while Cloris Leachman is a riot as the Wolfhouse’ great-grandmother Gam-Gam who always say filthy scenes while carrying a secret about the family.

In the role of the German team, Nat Faxon, Will Forte, Eric Christian Olsen, Ralf Moeller, and Gunter Schlierkamp are excellent as they all have some funny lines to say while Jurgen Prochnow is superb as their leader Baron Wolfgang von Wolfhausen as he gets some funny things to say including references to Das Boot which he was in. Finally, there’s the Broken Lizard troupe in truly remarkable roles with Erik Stolhanske and Paul Soter in terrific performances as Todd and Jan Wolfhouse, respectively, as the two brothers who are eager to seek vengeance for their grandfather and great-grandmother’s honor. Steve Lemme is very funny as the Jewish scientist Fink as he tries to discover the secret of Das Boot while bringing some funny Jewish humor. Kevin Heffernan is a riot as Landfill as a former beer-drinker who is eager to help the gang as this beer-drinking machine. Finally, there’s Jay Chandrasekhar as the troubled Barry Badinrath as a man on hard times who joins the team to try and redeem himself while dealing with his own demons in the past involving ping-pong.

Beerfest is an excellent film from Jay Chandrasekhar and the Broken Lizard comedy troupe. Not only is it a fun film to watch but also one that has some substance and characters to root for. Even as it is plays into the craziness of beer-drinking competitions and beer-drinking games in a worldwide forum. In the end, Beerfest is a marvelous film from Broken Lizard.

Broken Lizard Films: (Puddle Cruiser) - Super Troopers - Club Dread - (The Slammin’ Salmon) - (The Broken Lizards Stands Up) - (Freeloaders (2012 film)) - Super Troopers 2

© thevoid99 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

Super Troopers

Written and starring the Broken Lizard comedy troupe that consists of Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske and directed by Chandrasekhar, Super Troopers is the story of a group of state troopers who try to uncover a drug ring as they’re in danger of being shut down in favor of a more competent state police department whom they despise. The film is an ensemble comedy that features a lot of shenanigans and a bunch of guys trying to keep their jobs while dealing with all sorts of crazy shit. Also starring Marisa Coughlan, Daniel von Bargen, and Brian Cox. Super Troopers is a witty yet very entertaining film from the Broken Lizard team.

Set in Vermont near the U.S.-Canadian border, the film revolves a group of misfit state troopers who find themselves in danger of being shut down until they find some mysterious drugs as it relates a series of mysterious deaths and discoveries while they deal with the rival state police department. It’s a film that doesn’t require much plot but rather characters and situations as the Broken Lizard team create a film where there’s a bunch of guys trying to do their job but also have some fun in the process. Some of which involve shenanigans in the way they conduct their business such as busting young potheads or do small jokes while stopping people for speeding and such. Yet, the guys find themselves in trouble as the state police department are not only getting their work done but also gain the favor of the local government who wants to shut the state troopers down.

The film’s screenplay creates these characters who are all quite interesting as well as provide much of the film’s brash but also engaging humor. Leading the pack is the second-in-command Thorny (Jay Chandrasekhar) who is the most responsible person of the gang as he also has a kid named Arlo (Christian Albrizio) with his hippie girlfriend Bobbi (Amy de Lucia). The rookie Rabbit (Erik Stolhanske) is someone who is very good at his job while also likes to have fun while enduring some hazing as well as some pranks. The nice-guy Jeff Foster (Paul Soter) and extreme wild-man Mac (Steve Lemme) are known for their pranks with Foster having a crush on police dispatcher Ursula (Marisa Coughlan) while Mac likes to do crazy shit. Then there’s Farva (Kevin Heffernan) who is the troopers dispatcher after being demoted for his behavior as he is treated with less respect by his fellow officers and their superior Captain O’Hagan (Brian Cox).

Yet, they all have foes in the state police led by Captain Grady (Daniel von Bargen) who often gets in their way to do the job as he and O’Hagan battle it out over who can do their job better. Especially when it comes to this drug bust involving marijuana and a dead body in a RV where the troopers try to do a valid investigation and get the job done so they can save their jobs. Still, there are complications as it relates to the personal lives of the troopers as Jeff’s relationship with Ursula has its own problems considering that they’re working for different teams though Ursula is much friendlier towards the troopers as she is trying to get into the field with the other cops. Even as she would play a crucial role in the investigation as it leads to the film’s climax.

Jay Chandrasekhar’s direction is quite straightforward in terms of the compositions he creates while knows how to film comedic moments with such ease. Yet, he starts the film with this very silly and off-the-wall scene where Thorny and Rabbit stop a trio of stoners into a game only to be involved in a high-speed chase with Mac as the driver. It sets the tone for what is to come in terms of its humor where it is quite racy but also full of fun. Much of the film is shot in upstate New York to play into that world of American northeast while there’s a lot of joke that are involved in some unique wide and medium shots. Even in scenes where can be quite crude yet maintain something that isn’t too out there as Chandrasekhar knows that it has to say something to tell the story. Overall, Chandrasekhar and the Broken Lizards troupe create a very smart and very offbeat comedy about a bunch of state troopers doing their jobs and have fun.

Cinematographer Joacquin Baca-Asay is excellent as it is quite straightforward for much of its interior and exterior locations with some unique lighting for some of the scenes set at night. Editors Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, and Jacob Craycroft do terrific work in the editing as it‘s straightforward while emphasizing on some style like jump-cuts and some inventive montages such as Farva getting drunk at a party. Production designer Ben Conable, with set decorator Jocelyn Mason and art director Johnny Hardesty, does nice work with the set pieces from the trooper station as well as the restaurant where the gang eats as well as the design of the reefer bags with the Johnny Chimpo logo.

Costume designer Melissa Bruning does wonderful work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the exception of the uniforms the state troopers and police wear. Sound editors Frederick Helm and John Salk do superb work with the sound in terms of the sound effects and the way the sirens sound. Music supervisors Barry Cole and Christopher Covert does fantastic work with the soundtrack as it features this mix of rockabilly, electronic music, and kitsch with some upbeat score pieces from the Southern rock band .38 Special that adds to the film’s offbeat humor.

The casting by Jennifer McNamara is amazing as it features some cameo appearances from Lynda Carter as the state governor, John Bedford Lloyd as the town mayor, Charlie Finn as a fast-food cashier, Jim Gaffigan as a driver Mac and Foster stopped, Jimmy Noonan as a mysterious trucker named Galikanokus, Christian Albrizio as Thorny and Bobbi’s son Arlo, Amy de Lucia as Thorny’s hippie girlfriend Bobbi, and Blanchard Ryan as a woman on a billboard that Mac whacks off to. Andre Vippolis, Joey Kern, and Geoffrey Arend are hilarious as a trio of stoners who gets arrested with Arend being the funniest while Philippe Brenninkmeyer and Maria Tornberg are terrific as a German couple Thorny and Rabbit stop as the latter seduces Rabbit on the job. Dan Fey and Michael Weaver are good as a couple of state police officers while James Grace is quite funny as the big brute of the police that Mac always fight against. Daniel von Bargen is excellent as the smarmy police chief Captain Grady who has no respect for the troopers and O’Hagan. Marisa Couglan is wonderful as the police dispatcher Ursula who is the only cop that seems to care about her job as she also has feelings for Foster.

Brian Cox is great as Captain O’Hagan who tries to tell his troopers to do their job and not get into any pranks while he is also a very funny man with a few pranks of his own as he gets his moments to be hilarious in the film’s third act. Paul Soter is superb as the nice guy Foster who likes to have fun while trying to woo Ursula as they work together on the case. Steve Lemme is fantastic as Mac as this man of extremes who likes to drive very fast and do all sorts of crazy shit such as getting into fist-fights and wear metallic jock-straps. Erik Stolhanske is brilliant as the rookie Rabbit who deals with the pranks and hazing as well as endure Farva. Jay Chandrasekhar is incredible as Thorny as the second-in-command who tries to do his job and deal with his family while being the one who leads the investigation. Finally, there’s Kevin Heffernan in a hilarious role as Farva as the guy who always get the butt of the jokes as he has some behavioral issues that prevents him from going back to be a trooper as he is often a liability to the state troopers.

Super Troopers is a marvelous comedy from the Broken Lizard comedy troupe. Armed with a great cast including a hilarious supporting turn from Brian Cox, the film is definitely a smart and entertaining comedy that isn’t afraid to be silly or childish while letting the audience have fun with them. In the end, Super Troopers is a fantastic film from Jay Chandrasekhar and the Broken Lizards troupe.

Broken Lizard Films: (Puddle Cruiser) - Club Dread - Beerfest - (The Slammin’ Salmon) - (The Broken Lizards Stands Up) - (Freeloaders (2012 film)) - Super Troopers 2

© thevoid99 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Law of Desire

Written and directed by Pedro Almodovar, La ley del deseo (Law of Desire) is the story of a complicated love triangle between a homosexual filmmaker, his transsexual sister, and an obsessive stalker. The film is an exploration into not just homosexual love but also transsexuality as the film showcases Almodovar creating something that mixes melodrama with the edginess of his early work. Starring Antonio Banderas, Carmen Maura, Eusebio Poncela, Bibi Andersen, and Miguel Molina. La ley del deseo is a ravishing yet intensely-gripping film from Pedro Almodovar.

The film explores a very complicated affair between a revered homosexual filmmaker and a stalker whose sick obsession would lead into trouble as it would also involve the filmmaker’s transsexual sister. It’s a film that plays not into just obsession but also a man who has put himself into this troubling relationship as he’s in love with another man who has gone on a holiday. Meanwhile, his sister Tina (Carmen Maura), who was once his brother, is trying to make it as an actress while taking care of their niece Ada (Manuela Velasco) whose mother (Bibi Andersen) is away in Japan. For Pablo Quintero (Eusebio Poncela), his relationship with Antonio (Antonio Banderas) starts to become overwhelming where Pablo would write letters to Antonio as a woman so that Antonio’s mother (Helga Line) would believe that her son is straight. Unfortunately, things become complicated as writer/director Pedro Almodovar creates something that is this wild mix of melodrama with suspense as well as dark humor.

The film’s screenplay not only showcases an affair that becomes chaotic but also a woman’s life as she is looking for something good in her life while caring for her niece as they’re both seeking some form of spiritual comfort. Tina is a woman who has been locking up a secret that her brother doesn’t want to know as she tries to live a life without a man with the exception of Pablo. Pablo’s relationship with Antonio is really a fling as he’s trying to work on a script for a new film yet remains devoted to his lover Juan (Miguel Molina). Once Antonio finds out about Juan, troubles brew as Almodovar would present this in a very melodramatic yet eerie style that is dark but also would push Pablo into facing his own faults. Especially as it’s third act forces him to deal with his consequences over his relationship with Antonio and how it nearly destroyed his own relationship with Tina.

Almodovar’s direction is filled with style not just in terms of the compositions he creates but also in the mood. The way he opens the film where a young man is masturbating is a showcase of what is to come from Almodovar as there this air of shock value. Much of it involves some racy sex scenes between two men which was very out there during the mid-1980s in the age of AIDS yet Almodovar doesn’t go too far but rather showcase a sense of passion in the relationship between Pablo and Antonio. The character of Tina is another aspect of the film that is quite daring since she is this transsexual character who thinks of herself as a woman but if she’s going to be in a fight. She’ll fight like a man and don’t care if she gets hit as there is that complexity to the character.

Much of Almodovar’s compositions are very entrancing from the slow pans on the dolly camera that he creates as well some unique camera angles and wide shots to present this lush world that is Madrid in its discos, cinemas, theaters, and clothing boutiques to present something that is very lively. Yet, there is that element of darkness and danger that occurs in the third act as its climax is very chilling but also very ambiguous over what is happening and such. Overall, Almodovar creates a very rich yet haunting film about a filmmaker coming to terms with himself and the people he surrounds himself with.

Cinematographer Angel Luis Fernandez does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography from the way some of the nighttime exteriors are shot as well as some of the interior lighting as well as the vibrancy of Madrid and other locations in Spain. Editor Jose Salcedo does amazing work in creating some unique cutting style from split-screens as well as rhythmic cuts and dissolves to play into the drama and suspense. Art director Javier Fernandez and set decorator Ramon Moya do fantastic work with the look of Pablo’s apartment as well as the religious shrine that Tina and Ada pray to along with the theatrical sets that Tina would perform in.

Costume designer Jose Maria de Cossio does excellent work with the costumes from the shirt that Pablo and Antonio would wear to the clothes that Tina would wear including a Betty Boop t-shirt she and Ada would wear as pajamas. The sound work of Jim Willis is superb for some of the atmosphere of the locations as well as the use of voiceovers that often occur whenever Pablo is writing. The film’s music by Bernardo Bonezzi is terrific for its mixture of Spanish-based balladry with some orchestral music as the soundtrack includes some classical pieces and Spanish ballads that play into the film’s drama.

The film’s wonderful cast includes some notable small roles from Rossy de Palma as a TV interviewer, Victoria Abril as a girlfriend of Juan, Nacho Martinez as a sympathetic doctor that helps Tina and Pablo, Fernando Guillen and Fernando Guillen Cuervo as a father-son police team, Helga Line as Antonio’s mother, and Bibiana Fernandez (in her Bibi Andersen alias) as Ada’s often-absent mother. Manuela Velasco is very good as Tina and Pablo’s niece Ada who always seek some spiritual answers while preferring the company of Tina and Pablo than her mother. Miguel Molina is terrific as Pablo’s lover Juan who goes on a holiday to find himself while dealing with the state of their relationship as he would eventually cause a schism between Pablo and Antonio.

Carmen Maura is phenomenal as Tina as this transsexual actress who deals with her identity as she wants to become an actress while dealing with the work that her brother is writing as it’s a role that is quite ballsy but also one that exudes femininity as it’s one of Maura’s great performances. Eusebio Poncela is brilliant as Tina’s brother Pablo Quintero as this filmmaker who writes about the struggles of women and homosexuality as he tries to juggle his own relationships as well as how his work sometimes cause tension between himself and Tina. Finally, there’s Antonio Banderas in a remarkable performance as Antonio as this very troubled and obsessive stalker who is in love with Pablo yet couldn’t deal with sharing Pablo with anyone else as it’s a very dangerous and intense performance from Banderas as well as one of highlights in his collaboration with Almodovar.

La ley del deseo is an incredible film from Pedro Almodovar that is highlighted by the top-tier performances of Antonio Banderas, Carmen Maura, and Eusebio Poncela. The film isn’t just one of Almodovar’s quintessential films but also one of his darkest and most dangerous as it showcases what he can in explore transsexuality and homosexuality. In the end, La ley del deseo is a lurid yet sensational film from Pedro Almodovar.

Pedro Almodovar Films: Pepi, Luci, Bom - Labyrinth of Passion - Dark Habits - What Have I Done to Deserve This? - Matador - Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! - High Heels - Kika - The Flower of My Secret - Live Flesh - All About My Mother - Talk to Her - Bad Education - Volver - Broken Embraces - The Skin I Live In - I'm So Excited - Julieta - Pain & Glory - (The Human Voice (2020 short film)) - (Parallel Mothers)

The Auteurs #37: Pedro Almodovar Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Written on the Wind

Based on the novel by Robert Wilder, Written on the Wind is the story of a woman who marries into an oil family as she would fall for her husband’s best friend. Directed by Douglas Sirk and screenplay by George Zuckerman, the film is an exploration of a woman who becomes part of a very dysfunctional and decadent family as she tries to make sense of the family she‘s married to while dealing with her feelings for husband‘s best friend. Starring Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone. Written on the Wind is a sensational yet wild film from Douglas Sirk.

Based on a real life incident involving the tobacco heir Zachary Smith Reynolds and torch singer Libby Holman, the film is an exploration into the chaotic world of a Texan oil family whose adult children are spoiled and troubled as they besmirch the reputation of the family as an heir’s wife and his best friend are caught in the middle. Much of which play into an heir trying to find happiness in his life as he meets an executive secretary in New York City as he woos her into marrying him. Though it seems to be a major change and a step into maturity for Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack) as he would introduce his new wife Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall) to his father Jasper (Robert Keith). Trouble would brew due to the presence of Kyle’s younger sister Marylee (Dorothy Malone) who has gained a reputation for being a nymphomaniac as she also wants longtime childhood friend Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson) who secretly has feelings for Lucy.

George Zuckerman’s screenplay doesn’t just explore the desires of what Kyle and Marylee Hadley want in their very lavish but often empty lives. The script also explores Lucy and Mitch being in the middle of this chaotic world where Lucy was reluctant to be wooed by Kyle yet finds him fascinating as he was very honest about his alcoholism and such. While Mitch would watch Kyle be with Lucy as he would suck it up and accept it, he becomes overwhelmed by Kyle and Marylee as he wants to leave the entire world of the Hadleys though he still has some loyalty to Japser. While he knows about Kyle’s alcoholism and does pity him, Lucy has no clue on how severe it is as she and Kyle try to start a family only for things to not go as quickly as Kyle wanted. Adding to Kyle’s already fragile state is Marylee whose desire to want Mitch would have her be manipulative to Kyle over the idea that Mitch and Lucy are having an affair which isn’t true. It would add to the heightened sense of drama that would play out as it would be very sensational but also lurid considering the kind of behavior that Marylee has.

Douglas Sirk’s direction is very stylish as well as being a bit over-the-top of times since it does play into his sensibilities on melodrama. While he keeps much of it restrained and somber early on though the film begins with Kyle driving very fast to his home as a gunshot is then heard. It then flashes back to something less dramatic when Kyle meets Lucy for the first time where he’s about to have lunch with Mitch as it starts off as this very straightforward romance with some very lovely compositions in its use of medium shots and close-ups along with a few low angle shots. The film becomes more stylized in its compositions once the film is set in Texas where Sirk adds something that is very dark once Marylee comes into the picture as she is this firecracker that likes to push buttons. While she may have some air of innocence over what she wants to have with Mitch, there is that layer of darkness about her that does drive the film. Especially where it would have this soaring and sensational idea of drama where it is very strange at times but also offbeat considering how over-the-top it can be. Overall, Sirk crafts a very mesmerizing yet visceral film about two people caught up in the world of a very dysfunctional family.

Cinematographer Russell Metty does phenomenal work with the film‘s very rich and colorful Technicolor-based cinematography with its stylish approach to lighting for some of its nighttime interior scenes as well as the way some of the locations in Texas plus the old river that Kyle, Mitch, and Marylee used to play at. Editor Russell J. Schoengarth does excellent work with the editing as it‘s straightforward in terms of its cutting strategies while playing to the film‘s unique rhythm for its melodramatic moments. Art directors Alexander Golitzen and Robert Clatworthy, with set decorators Russell A. Gausman and Julia Heron, do fantastic work with the design of Hadley mansion as well as the bar that Kyle likes to go as well as the posh hotel suites in Miami where Kyle hoped to woo Lucy at.

Costume designer Bill Thomas does amazing work with the design of the gowns that Marylee and Lucy wears as the former is very lavish and provocative while the latter is more classy as it both plays to their personalities. The sound work of Leslie I. Carey and Robert Pritchard is terrific for the way the Hadleys‘ cars sound when they‘re speeding to the atmosphere of the parties they old. The film’s music by Frank Skinner is brilliant for its soaring and lush orchestral-based music as it plays to the melodrama while there‘s some jazz-based themes that play into the world of Marylee while music supervisor Joseph Gershenson brings in some jazz-based pieces into the music soundtrack plus a ballad written by Victor Young and Sammy Cahn that opens the film.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable small roles from Robert J. Wilkes as the bartender at the bar that Kyle likes to drink at, Harry Shannon as Mitch’s father, John Larch as one of Marylee’s lovers, Roy Glenn and Maidie Norman as the house servants of the Hadley home, and Edward Platt as the longtime family doctor who examines Lucy as he becomes concerned if Kyle is the real problem. Robert Keith is excellent as Marylee and Kyle’s father Jasper as an oil man who treats Mitch like a son as he watches the behavior of his children with great despair as he questions about his failings as a father. Dorothy Malone is amazing as the very lurid and slimy Marylee Hadley as this nymphomaniac who likes to cause trouble while wanting to pursue Mitch in every way she can.

Robert Stack is brilliant as the troubled Kyle Hadley as a playboy who wants to have the good things in life when he meets Lucy only to succumb to his own insecurities and alcoholism as he loses sight of everything as well as his friendship to Mitch. Lauren Bacall is incredible as Lucy Moore as this woman who is wooed by Kyle as she is baffled yet charmed by his personality only to deal with his alcoholism and insecurities as she wonders if she made the right decision as she starts to have feelings for Mitch. Finally, there’s Rock Hudson in a glorious performance as Mitch Wayne as this simple yet kind man who devotes his loyalty to Jasper Hadley while trying to deal with Kyle’s alcoholism as well as his own feelings for Lucy as it’s a role that has Hudson be tough but also be grounded as someone who had seen a lot and knows what is important as it’s one of Hudson’s finest performances.

Written on the Wind is a spectacular film from Douglas Sirk that is highlighted by the performances of Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone. Along with the beautiful cinematography of Russell Metty and Frank Skinner’s lush score, it’s a film that is quite touching but also very intense in terms of its melodrama while not being afraid of being dark and be critical about rich American families. In the end, Written on the Wind is a remarkable film from Douglas Sirk.

Douglas Sirk Films: (t Was een April) - (The Court Concert) - (To New Shores) - (La Habanera) - (Boefje) - (Hitler’s Madman) - (Summer Storm) - (A Scandal in Paris) - (Lured) - (Sleep My Love) - Shockproof - (Thunder on the Hill) - (No Room for the Groom) - (Has Anybody Seen My Gal?) - (Meet Me at the Fair) - (Take Me to Town) - (All I Desire) - (Taza, Son of Cochise) - Magnificent Obsession (1954 film) - (Sign of the Pagan) - (Captain Lightfoot) - All That Heaven Allows - There's Always Tomorrow (1956 film) - (Never Say Goodbye) - (Battle Hymn) - (Interlude) - (The Tarnished Angels) - (A Time to Love and A Time to Die) - Imitation of Life

© thevoid99 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

There's Always Tomorrow (1956 film)

Based on the novel by Ursula Parrott, There’s Always Tomorrow is the story of a toy manufacturer who falls in love a former employee as he feels unloved by his wife and children. Directed by Douglas Sirk and screenplay by Bernard C. Schoenfeld, the film is an exploration into a married man’s decision to leave his family and embark into an affair with someone who cares about him. Starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Joan Bennett. There’s Always Tomorrow is an engrossing yet touching film from Douglas Sirk.

The film plays into the life of a toy manufacturer who deals with the neglect of his family where he meets an old employee as he spends time with her and starts to fall in love unaware that his teenage son believes that an affair is happening. It’s a film that doesn’t require much of plot but rather an exploration into a family man who wants to regain some joy in his life as he feels like whatever plans he has with his wife is pushed aside for their youngest daughter. The film’s screenplay showcases the sense of frustration and ungratefulness that Clifford Groves (Fred MacMurray) endures from his family yet he would find some comfort in his old flame in Norma (Barbara Stanwyck) who had reinvented herself as a successful fashion designer. All Norma wants is to see how well Clifford has done and meet his family only to gain the disdain of his son Vinnie (William Reynolds) and teenage daughter Ellen (Gigi Perreau) who think the affair is happening though Vinnie’s girlfriend Ann (Pat Crowley) thinks that nothing is happening.

Douglas Sirk’s direction is quite simple yet contains some mesmerizing images and compositions into the way Sirk would frame some of the drama. Much of it involves some medium shots, a few wide shots, and some close-ups where Sirk plays into Clifford’s own sense of feeling unappreciated for what he’s done as his family seem to do other things. Sirk’s framing is very tight as he showcases the loneliness that surrounds Clifford while the scenes involving Clifford’s time with Norma are much livelier as the compositions are much looser though the scene where Norma eats with Clifford and her family is very tense. Especially as the drama starts to intensify in the third act when Vinnie and Ellen become very suspicious to the point that they would confront Norma.

Yet, it’s a very poignant scene where it is about not just Norma but Vinnie and Ellen in how they treat their father. What is more startling about the film other than its subject matter of adultery and the neglect of a family is how it ends where it’s very ambiguous which is pretty unusual for a melodrama made in the 1950s. Overall, Sirk crafts a very compelling story about a family man dealing with being neglected as he falls in love with an old flame.

Cinematographer Russell Metty does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to convey the melancholic mood that surrounds Clifford while showcasing some unique lighting schemes to display the happiness he conveys when he‘s with Norma. Editor William Morgan does nice work with the editing as it‘s pretty straightforward with its seamless approach to rhythmic cuts to play into the melodrama as the editing also includes some dissolves and fade-outs. Production designer Alexander Golitzen and Eric Orbom, with set decorator Russell A. Gausman and Julia Heron, do amazing work with the look of the home Clifford lives with his family as well as the holiday resort he and Norma were at as they rekindle their friendship.

Costume designer Jay A. Morley Jr. does fantastic work with the design of the gowns from the dresses that Norma wears and creates to the more simpler dresses that Marion, Ellen, and Ann wears. The sound work of Leslie I. Carey and Joe Lapis is terrific for some of the scenes such as Clifford and Norma dancing to an old song as well as the sound effects of a toy robot that Clifford hopes to sell. The film’s music by Heinz Roemheld and Herman Stein is superb in its soaring yet somber orchestral score to play into the film‘s melodrama while music supervisor Joseph Gershenson brings in a soundtrack with some classical music and a standard that Clifford and Norma loved.

The film’s excellent cast features some notable small roles from Jane Darwell as the family cook Mrs. Rogers, Race Gentry as Vinnie’s friend Bob who also saw what Vinnie saw about his dad, Myrna Hansen as Bob’s girlfriend Ruth, and Judy Nugent as Clifford’s young daughter Frankie who is always calling on her mother unaware of her actions in causing her mother to neglect her husband. Pat Crowley is terrific as Vinnie’s girlfriend Ann who is troubled by Vinnie’s reaction to what he might’ve seen as she thinks that Norma isn’t a bad person while calling out on Vinnie’s immaturity. Gigi Perreau is wonderful as Clifford and Marion’s teenage daughter Ellen who is confused by the idea that her father is having an affair as she becomes lost in her confusion. William Reynolds is superb as Clifford and Marion’s son Vinnie as a late-teen who might’ve seen or heard as he becomes angry about his father’s supposed affair with Norma only to act in a very immature way.

Joan Bennett is brilliant as Clifford’s wife Marion as this woman who finds herself becoming busy with her youngest daughter as well as other duties as she unknowingly neglects her husband. Barbara Stanwyck is phenomenal as Norma as this old flame of Clifford who has reinvented herself as a successful fashion designer who wants to see what Clifford is up to as she also realizes she’s still in love with him while dealing with the realities of what their affair might cause. Finally, there’s Fred MacMurray in a marvelous performance as Clifford Grove as this very kind, loving man who feels unappreciated by his family for what he’s given them as he finds comfort in Norma where he tries to wrestle with his need to be happy and his devotion to his family.

There’s Always Tomorrow is a remarkable film from Douglas Sirk that is highlighted by the performances of Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. Not only is this an intriguing film about adultery but also what would drive a man to risk his own marriage and family life as he becomes neglected by the people he loves. In the end, There’s Always Tomorrow is a splendidly rich film from Douglas Sirk.

Douglas Sirk Films: (t Was een April) - (The Court Concert) - (To New Shores) - (La Habanera) - (Boefje) - (Hitler’s Madman) - (Summer Storm) - (A Scandal in Paris) - (Lured) - (Sleep My Love) - Shockproof - (Thunder on the Hill) - (No Room for the Groom) - (Has Anybody Seen My Gal?) - (Meet Me at the Fair) - (Take Me to Town) - (All I Desire) - (Taza, Son of Cochise) - Magnificent Obsession - (Sign of the Pagan) - (Captain Lightfoot) - All That Heaven Allows - (Never Say Goodbye) - Written on the Wind - (Battle Hymn) - (Interlude) - (The Tarnished Angels) - (A Time to Love and A Time to Die) - Imitation of Life (1959 film)

© thevoid99 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

2014 Blind Spot Series: Imitation of Life (1959 film)

Based on the novel by Fannie Hurst, Imitation of Life is the story of two different mothers from different races who come together to deal with the rebellious nature of their respective daughters. Directed by Douglas Sirk and screenplay by Eleanore Griffin and Allan Scott, the film is a modernized update of the story that had previously been told in a 1934 version as it deals with the ideas of race, genders, class, and other social changes all revolving around a widowed actress and her maid who share their own issues with their daughters. Starring Lana Turner, John Gavin, Sandra Dee, Dan O’Herlihy, Susan Kohner, Robert Alda, and Juanita Moore. Imitation of Life is a gloriously rich and sensational film from Douglas Sirk.

The film revolves around two women who meet by chance as they both raise their respective daughters during an actress’ rise to stardom and fortune. While she would gain the loyalty and advice of her maid, Lora Meredith (Lana Turner) would also contend with compromises about her career and eventually compromise in her own life as a mother to her daughter Susie (Sandra Dee) whom she would unfortunately neglect as Susie would look to the maid Annie (Juanita Moore) as a maternal figure while falling in love with longtime family friend Steve Archer (John Gavin). Adding to the drama is Annie’s own tumultuous relationship with her daughter Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner) who is born white due to having a white father she never met as she deals with having a black mother as she wants to be accepted as white. All of which plays into Lora and Annie coming to terms with not just their own failings as mothers but also what they tried to do for their daughters.

The film’s screenplay has a unique structure where it plays into Lora’s rise and struggles to make it as an actress in the first act. Upon that first scene where she meets Annie when trying to find Susie (Terry Burnham) who was playing with Sarah Jane (Karin Dicker). It’s also on that day where she meets Steve Archer as Lora would invite Annie and Sarah Jane to live with her and Susie since Lora needed someone to help her as she tries to make it as an actress while Annie needed a place to live with her daughter. While Steve would become a friend to the four women, he is uncomfortable with Lora’s own ambitions to succeed though she would have to contend with people like agent Alan Loomis (Robert Alda) who want her to cheapen herself and later on, playwright David Edwards (Dan O’Herlihy) who would make her a star but wants her to continue to star in his comedies that Lora would get tired of in the film’s second act.

It is around that time where Steve suddenly returns to Lora’s life as well as the life of Annie and their daughters which suddenly becomes complicated. Though Susie would enjoy all of the perks of having it all, she feels neglected by her mother’s busy schedule as she finds comfort in Annie and Steve. Lora would eventually realize the errors of her actions as she tried to do the best she can while she would also watch Annie’s relationship with Sarah Jane start to fall apart where the latter feels ashamed in having a black mother in the belief that it would not give her things that white people have including Susie whom she becomes envious of. For Annie, all she wanted from Sarah Jane is acceptance and to have Sarah Jane know that she‘ll always be there no matter what.

Douglas Sirk’s direction is truly mesmerizing from the way he opens the film with its very crowded yet lively scenes in the beach to the intimacy in the apartment where Lora lived as she would share it with Annie and their daughters. Much of it has this heightened sense of drama since it plays to Sirk’s idea of melodrama but he also had something to say in terms of race relations and how some can be filled with shame for having a certain skin color. At the same time, Sirk takes shots into the idea of ambition where Lora’s rise to stardom would come at a heavy price as she would neglect Susie in favor of her career as it would be something that Lora would deal with as she becomes compromised in her career aspirations.

Sirk’s direction is filled with dazzling imagery and gorgeous compositions including some wide shots of the posh house the four principle characters live in as there’s some unique shots where one character is on the top floor, another is in the stairs, and another is on the first floor through this low-angle shot. There’s also these lavish scenes in some of the parties that Lora has where Lora is the center of attention but the driving force is Annie who is comfortable behind the scenes as she is treated with respect by some of Lora’s guests. It all plays into the world that Sirk has created but one that would drive a schism into Lora and Annie’s own relationship with their daughters. Especially as the film’s ending plays into what is gained and lost in this journey the four women have been in as Sirk isn’t afraid to be melodramatic. Notably as it makes sense into the decisions that Lora has make and the price she paid while clinging on to the people that mattered to her. Overall, Sirk crafts a very enchanting yet evocative film about mothers and their relationships with their daughters.

Cinematographer Russell Metty does tremendous work with the film’s very rich and colorful Technicolor-based photography to capture the beauty of some of the film’s locations as well as the textures in some of the colors along with some lighting schemes that adds to the film’s beauty Editor Milton Carruth does excellent work with the editing with its seamless approach to rhythmic cuts to play into the drama as well as its use of fade-outs and dissolves for its transitions plus an inventive montage of Lora‘s rising success. Art directors Alexander Golitzen and Richard H. Reidel, with set decorators Russell A. Gausman and Julia Heron, do amazing work with the set designs from the cramped apartment Lora, Annie, and their daughters live during the first act to the more spacious, posh home they would live in throughout the film.

Costume designer Bill Thomas does fantastic work with the colorful and stylish dresses that Susie and Sarah Jane would wear to express their personalities while the gowns worn by Lora are designed with great style by Jean Louis. The sound work of Leslie I. Carey and Joe Lapis is terrific for some of the intimacy that occurs in the parties as well as some of the locations including the places where Sarah Jane would work. The film’s music by Frank Skinner is brilliant for its lush and somber orchestral score that plays into the melodrama that includes the title song written by Henry Mancini and Sammy Fain as well as a gospel performance from the legendary Mahalia Jackson who appears in the film.

The film’s superb ensemble cast includes some notable small performances from Terry Burnham as the young Susie, Karin Dicker as the young Sarah Jane, and Troy Donahue in a brief role as Sarah Jane’s secret boyfriend. Robert Alda is terrific as Lora’s agent Loomis who is very slimy until he realizes that she won’t compromise her ideas as he makes her a star. Dan O’Herlihy is excellent as the playwright David Edwards who realizes what kind of talent Lora has where he has her in all of his plays where success goes into his head. Susan Kohner is amazing as the confused Sarah Jane as this woman who is half-white and half-black as she tries to be accepted into the world of white society only to lose sight of who she really is. Sandra Dee is wonderful as Susie as a young woman who falls for Steve while deals with her mother’s absence as she tries to make sense of what her mother does and what she wants in her own life.

John Gavin is brilliant as Steve Archer as an aspiring photographer who has a hard time dealing with Lora’s ambitions until he returns to her life where their friendship is suddenly renewed as he also deals with some of the issues in the family. Juanita Moore is phenomenal as Annie as this no-nonsense and caring maid who is devoted to Lora while also being her closest advisor as she tries to deal with Sarah Jane’s rebellion as it’s a role that is very complex that goes beyond the expectations of a character that could’ve been a stereotype. Finally, there’s Lana Turner in a dazzling performance as Lora Meredith as this ambitious actress who is driven to become a success as she goes through her faults as a mother in not being there enough for Susie as well as her friendship with Annie whom she cares for very dearly as it’s Turner in one of her defining film roles.

Imitation of Life is an incredible film from Douglas Sirk that is highlighted by the performances of Lana Turner, Juanita Moore, and John Gavin. It’s a film that is melodrama at its finest in terms of its visual language, towering story, and lavish performances that add to the film’s soaring yet slightly over-the-top tone. It’s also a film that wasn’t afraid to be a product of its time with something to say yet manages to be very relevant more than fifty years since its release. In the end, Imitation of Life is a splendidly rich and exhilarating film from Douglas Sirk.

Douglas Sirk Films: (t Was een April) - (The Court Concert) - (To New Shores) - (La Habanera) - (Boefje) - (Hitler’s Madman) - (Summer Storm) - (A Scandal in Paris) - (Lured) - (Sleep My Love) - Shockproof - (Thunder on the Hill) - (No Room for the Groom) - (Has Anybody Seen My Gal?) - (Meet Me at the Fair) - (Take Me to Town) - (All I Desire) - (Taza, Son of Cochise) - Magnificent Obsession (1954 film) - (Sign of the Pagan) - (Captain Lightfoot) - All That Heaven Allows - There’s Always Tomorrow (1956 film) - (Never Say Goodbye) - Written on the Wind - (Battle Hymn) - (Interlude) - (The Tarnished Angels) - (A Time to Love and A Time to Die)

© thevoid99 2014