Also I saw a couple of movies myself.
135. Berlin Alexanderplatz (1931, Dir. Phil Jutzi) – The original film adaptation of the novel. Having not read the original novel this version does seem to hit the same main points as the miniseries version, though it really doesn’t work in such short amount of time. Seriously, even without Fassbinder as a comparison this just feels too quick and sudden at 83 minutes in length.
This version all leads to a fairly out of place happy ending too, which is disappointing but honestly kind of surprising considering the original novel’s author worked on the screenplay. The special features on the blu-ray set suggest the production was troubled (Apparently the lead actor playing Franz Biberkopf was really worried having the character being too grimy would hurt his star image, among other things).
The first five or so minutes that focus on Franz leaving prison are probably the best part. One of the interviewees in the special features even compares this segment to the “city film” genre since there’s a lot of shots of the chaotic bustle of city life (People walking about, trains and cars running etc.) without too much focus on narrative. He specifically mentions the classic film Berlin: Symphony of a Great City in talking about this segment and while that film/genre is not the first thing that came to my mind watching it, it does seem like a totally valid comparison to me.
136. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (AKA Chapter John 3 Wick Parabellum, 2019, Dir. Chad Stahelski) – Like the first two Wicks this is kind of light on story but with excellent action, neon lights, and references to classic films (I’m pretty sure a scene where Wick stabs a guy in the eye is even a nod to Un Chien Andalou). Fun stuff, can’t wait for Chapter 4.
137. The End of Summer (1961, Dir. Yasujiro Ozu) – The most unerotic story of a love affair since Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac.
Well it’s not fair to expect something sexy here anyways since this is an Ozu movie and the affair in question involves people that are at least in their 60’s. If anything more emphasis is put on the children of the man involved react to it. Not one of my favorite Ozu’s to be honest- it really is the same kind of problem I had with Lancelot where it really does seem like this should be provoking more of a reaction out of the characters involved instead of a couple of stern comments here and there.
Also what the hell was with the ominous music in the ending? The way the birds start flying in even made me think of Hitchcock’s The Birds, even if that came out after this.
138. The Vault (2017, Dir. Dan Bush) – This is a bank heist film with the twist of…THE BANK BEING FUCKING HAUNTED!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH SNAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!! FUCKING GHOSTS SAVE THE BANK FROM THE BANK ROBBERS!!!!!!!!!!!
Well I call it a twist but the supernatural aspect was spoiled by the Netflix description. That it was in the “horror” section should have been a giveaway too. Thing is, I’m guessing during the production of the movie they were thinking that the ghosts would be a twist since despite a few lines of foreshadowing no actual supernatural incidents start happening until roughly a third to halfway through the film. Perhaps the comparison could be made to something like From Dusk Till Dawn.
Unlike From Dusk Till Dawn though this movie is much more bland than my first paragraph suggests. It’s just kind of dull more than anything, it never really gets nuts the way this nuts kind of premise needs to really work.
139. The Big Clock (1948, Dir. John Farrow) – A guy at a news agency is framed by his corrupt boss (Charles Laughton) for the murder of a woman. Not a whole lot to say about this one either, but its just a really solidly done noir. The news building that the lead works at in particular has a really fun art deco-ish design.
140. Irma La Douce (1963, Dir. Billy Wilder) – Mostly solid romantic comedy about Jack Lemmon as a disgraced police officer falling in love with a prostitute. It really isn’t as risqué today as it would have been back in the day, though beyond that I think it’s just a solid example of its genre, which is what I’ve come to expect from a lot of these more lighthearted movies from Billy Wilder.
141. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (2019, Dir. Quentin Tarantino) – Ohh boy, I finally got around to the new Tarantino. I’m still processing this one and am not quite sure what to make of it, though I did like it overall.
The movie it reminded me most of was Hail, Caesar! from the Coens since that movie was also a tribute to an older generation of Hollywood (In HC its 50’s, in OUATIH it’s the early years of the New Hollywood), both pay heavy tribute to the western genre from basically the only major directors that even make westerns anymore (The Coens had made No Country For Old Men (Which I would argue is a western) and True Grit prior to Caesar and would go on to make The Ballad of Buster Scruggs afterwards, whereas Tarantino had made Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight), and both make comedic versions of Leftists the antagonists (In HC you have the Communist screenwriters, and in OUATIH you have the Manson family*), both rely of restaged/remade scenes of old films, and of course both the Coens and Tarantino have a postmodern collage aesthetic going on (Moreso with Tarantino though I think it’s there with the Coens as well).
*(This is a weird similarity though because in Hail, Caesar! I get the impression that the Coens have more distaste for them being screenwriters than they do for being associated with Communism, and in OUATIH I don't think Tarantino has no sympathy for what the Manson family kids are going on about. The reveal of Pitt's trailer home for example immediately being contrasted by DiCaprio's rather nice home being explored in way more detail immediately comes to mind and certainly evokes recent discussions in culture about income inequality and such).
Anyways as far as OUATIH itself goes I did like how laid back it was- it seemed even more plotless than Jackie Brown did. I could watch DiCaprio do those western scenes for ages. The guy playing Bruce Lee was very charismatic too. Really I thought all of the performances just worked.
Right now the biggest mystery though is what to make of Brad Pitt's character, specifically since the ambiguity of whether he killed his wife or not
doesn't seem to really get resolved in the movie. Its especially weird since its largely Pitt's character who fights off most of the attackers from the Manson family in the ending, "fixing history" and preventing Sharon Tate from getting murdered (Who's played very well by Margot Robbie btw)
. I'm not entirely sure what Tarantino is getting at here beyond a general "morality is complicated" type message. When you compare it to movies like Django Unchained or Inglourious Basterds, Django and Aldo are more inherently sympathetic, though Pitt in this movie always seems a bit more distant to me because of that ambiguity. I'd be curious to know what other people though of him here.
I haven't read too much about the film, except for a very good article by Jeff Smith on Bordwell's website that contextualizes a lot of the movie.
There's a brief followup piece
"[Cinema] is a labyrinth with a treacherous resemblance to reality." - Andrew Sarris