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by Michael Barrett

15 Dec 2016


Ron Ely in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)

Warner Archive has issued two new Blu-rays of ‘70s fantasies that occasion very different memories in your nostalgic reviewer.

By now, Dear Reader, you must have learned one of the rules: Avoid most movies you loved as a kid. What struck my squeaky post-toddler self as cinematic masterworks, like Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), look dull and pale today.

by Michael Barrett

14 Dec 2016


Clara Bow and Esther Ralston in Children of Divorce (1927)

In the opening scenes of Children of Divorce, two little girls make friends at boarding school. Tiny dark-haired Kitty (Joyce Coad) and tall blonde Jean (Yvonne Pelletier) bond because they’re both children of divorce. In the world of this film, that’s got nothing to do with shared custody or single parents. It means they’ve been abandoned by careless, cocktail-swilling, party-hopping, big-chapeau-wearing, Eurotrash-hobnobbing moms who belong to a parasitic social class that could afford divorce (like the people who made Hollywood movies in the ‘20s).

It’s virtually a Marxist statement despite itself, although an incoherent one. To pick one obvious nit, the other kids in the school have also been dumped by parents of the same class who simply didn’t bother getting divorced first. Later, the “young set” they run with will be depicted as equally useless, idle, and prone to avoiding productivity, even though few of them can utter the badge of declaration spouted by the adult Jean (Esther Ralston): “We’re children of divorce!” Maybe so, but she doesn’t look that miserable.

by Michael Barrett

6 Dec 2016


Peter Sellers (and part of Constance Cummings) in The Battle of the Sexes (1960)

James Thurber’s 1942 story “The Catbird Seat” is one of the crueler classics in the American canon. It’s a revenge story in which a mild-mannered accountant, one of the army of faceless and unimaginative cogs organized into the corporate wheels, decides to kill an efficiency expert whose decisions are causing lay-offs and streamlined procedures that threaten his dull world. Since the expert is a woman, there’s an inevitable sense of the sexist fear of women in the previously male domain of the workplace. From the accountant’s point of view, she’s presented as an interloper of annoying mannerisms and phrases, like her use of “catbird seat”.

This story is filmed more or less faithfully while being transferred to Edinburgh: “A man’s world, a world in which the shortest skirts are worn by man” declares the narrator (Sam Wanamaker). In the clothing firm called MacPherson Tweeds, the cloth is hand-woven by families in the Hebrides and nothing has changed since the company was founded by the current owner’s grandfather. The latest MacPherson (Robert Morley) falls under the spell of outgoing American consultant Angela Barrows (Constance Cummings), who begins modernizing and updating the systems of filing, accounting and manufacture.

by Michael Barrett

28 Nov 2016


Jonathan Genet in Cosmos (2015)

Where to begin? Evidently at the ending, since this is the final film of the late Andrzej Zulawski, one of the most original, passionate, kinetic and crazy filmmakers in cinema.

To describe the story in rational terms, which is inappropriate, it’s about a romantically deranged young student named Witold (Jonathan Genet) who takes lodging with a demented family: a hyperactive red-haired landlady (Sabine Azéma) given to bouts of paralysis, her nonsense-spouting second husband (Jean-Francois Balmer), her sexy daughter (Victória Guerra) and son-in-law (Andy Gillet), the hairlipped maid (Clémentine Pons) who’s an unnoticed double of an unrelated character, and a polymorphously sexual fellow lodger (Johan Libéreau).

by Michael Barrett

18 Nov 2016


Kate Manx in Private Property (1960)

Shabby and unkempt, Duke (Corey Allen) and Boots (Warren Oates) drift over to a gas station and intimidate the owner into giving them free orange pop. Then they squat on their haunches and talk about sex. Boots says he’s “never made it” because he’s saving himself for marriage, and he bristles when Duke says he’s looking for a “sugar daddy”. To pacify him, Duke says he’ll fix it up for Boots with some “twitch”. When they spot a fine blonde woman, a nervous salesman (Jerome Cowan) tells them she’s out of their class, but they persuade him to give them a lift and follow her car, at one point threatening him with knives to continue.

So these boys are established from the start as all bully and tough talk, giving an air of menace that carries them through a slow-burning psychological study in which we wait to see if anything violent will really happen, or anything sexual, or both. From the empty house next door, they spy on the pretty woman, Ann (Kate Manx), who spends most of the day by her swimming pool. Her heated pool is as much a symbol for herself as the switchblades are for the uptight, sexually bantering drifters, and it’s hard to miss the symbolism.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Tibet House's 30th Anniversary Benefit Concert Celebrated Philip Glass' 80th

// Notes from the Road

"Philip Glass, the artistic director of the Tibet House benefits, celebrated his 80th birthday at this year's annual benefit with performances from Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Brittany Howard, Sufjan Stevens and more.

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