That’s right, due to various factors, I’ve fallen a full 66 movies behind in rounding up what I’ve watched. The last time I actually wrote one of this roundups (not counting the one that just disappeared into the internet when I was almost finished) was way back in June, and I was plenty far behind then. Ugh. I will catch up at some point as life around here starts to settle down. For now, I’ll just have to plow through as best I can.
First up, I wrote about Eric Rohmer’s Comedies and Proverbs series over at the Metro Classics website. You can read about those there, and here are their various Movies of the Year rankings:
HM Pulham, Esq – Mid-life crisis, 1940s style. Robert Young plays a wealthy Boston businessman who leads a regimented, extremely dull life. One night, while organizing his 25th anniversary college reunion, he reminisces about his youth as a young go-getter who got to hang out with Hedy Lamarr drinking, smoking and working in advertising in the days before World War I. A lengthy flashback ensues, as we see Young and Lamarr’s romance grow and then fizzle when she refuses to relinquish her independence to his family’s patriarchal traditions. So instead he marries boring Ruth Hussey and leads a life of luxury. Returning to the present, Young looks up Lamarr and the two consider having another go at it, but this being 1940s Hollywood, he can’t abandon his marriage. Instead, Hussey agrees to try to loosen up a bit. A very solid film from director King Vidor, lying somewhere in between his political extremes of the socialist Our Daily Bread and the Ayn Rand adaptation The Fountainhead (which I’m still not convinced is not a self-parody). It never quite rises to the level of William Wyler’s Dodsworth, another film about a rich guy’s mid-life crisis that is both more pointed in its indictment of the upper class and more romantic in the relationship between said rich guy (Walter Hutson) and the independent woman he meets (Mary Astor). However, that film is completely lacking in Hedy Lamarr, both her magnetic on-screen presence and her proto-feminist character. The #16 film of 1941.
Street Angel – Another transcendent love story from director Frank Borzage, following up the previous year’s Seventh Heaven and reuniting that film’s stars, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. Gaynor plays a young woman who attempts to prostitute herself to pay for her dying mother’s medication. She fails (of course) and is arrested. Escaping from the police, she joins a circus where she meets Farrell, an aspiring painter. The two fall in love and move back to the city, with Gaynor ever-fearful that her past will catch up to her. When it inevitably does, she convinces the cop who’s found her to give them one last night together, sparking one of the all-time heart-breaking film sequences as the two share a big meal and a bunch of wine in what only Gaynor knows will be the last time they will ever be happy. Of course she’s wrong, the movie must have its happy ending, but there’s a whole lot of darkness before that can happen, as Farrell turns into a dissolute drunk before he’s saved by their inevitable reunion. Like with Seventh Heaven (and Murnau’s Sunrise) Borzage creates a believable world of petty crime and poverty on a soundstage and then infuses it with expressionist romanticism, an always intoxicating mixture. The #5 film of 1928.