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Monday, Oct 6, 2014
This tale of two love stories intertwining in an English row house is excellent in all aspects.

Enchantment was a rare achievement in 1948, and today this type of delicate, intelligent, yet utterly pie-eyed romance is as dead as Betamax. So are you if this picture doesn’t prime your heartbeat. An excellent print is now available on demand from Warner Archive with no extras except the trailer.

Two love stories, which might in a mystical sense be the same love story, are intertwined within the same English row house as the film slips backwards and forwards in time. One is the Victorian story of a callow yet likeable military officer, Sir Roland Dane (David Niven), and the orphan girl called Lark (Teresa Wright) raised as a semi-adopted sister. We know from the beginning, as we see the retired General Dane living with his sad memories during WWII, that their romance broke apart, and it had something to do with the Roland’s proper, insinuating, hostile sister Selina (Jayne Meadows), who, among other motives, is jealous of her brother.

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Thursday, Oct 2, 2014
Due to the time when Blockbuster refused to stock unrated or NC-17 films, many viewers in the States missed out on essential films from directors like Alfonso Cuarón and Pedro Almodóvar.

Above Image: Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (Pedro Almodóvar, 1989)

Sometimes even a critically acclaimed movie can be lost in plain sight. Three new Criterion releases are significant not simply for any attraction in the movies themselves, but because it’s been so hard for many viewers to find them.

Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También created a splash at the beginning of this century for its free-wheeling Mexican road trip of best buddies (Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna) and a sexy older stranger (Maribel Verdú) whose motives are finally clarified beyond boyish wish-fulfillment. Although it’s been all over DVD before, this marks the first time many Americans will be able to see the complete “unrated” version, with its surprising yet inevitable climactic pay-off.

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Wednesday, Oct 1, 2014
This anthology of Italian films explores the taboos of love: prostitution, suicide, and girl-watching.

The Italian anthology Love in the City was conceived by Cesare Zavattini as a “journal” to investigate taboo aspects of its title: prostitution, suicide, marriage agencies, poor single mothers, and girl-watching that amounts to harassment. As a neo-realist, Zavattini preferred the idea of non-actors playing themselves in more or less documentary enactments of their lives, and the resulting film exists in a nether region between reality and fiction. Although the film wasn’t successful enough to warrant further installments, it’s an intriguing capsule that demonstrates the styles and interests of its young directors.

For example, Michelangelo Antonioni’s segment is so Antonioni, it slaps you upside the head. He interviews people who attempted suicide, gathering them in an artificial manner against a white backdrop and sometimes playing “themselves” in various environments. On display is Antonioni’s visual instinct for staging people, primarily women, against arid and decaying urban settings in a manner where one reinforces the other. The people seem expressions of and products of their landscape, while the landscape projects their alienation writ large.

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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
The movie's real point is its message about strong women, which makes it a surprisingly undated bit of relaxation that stresses female points of view.

Although the plot includes a bank robbery and brief appearances by Apache Indians and Billly the Kid, Strange Lady in Town is a largely unsensational, untraditional, anecdotal, friendly, visually pleasing, and socially progressive western rooted in the time and place of 1880 Santa Fe, New Mexico. The film opens with a horse-drawn wagon popping a wheel in the wide-open space of the Cinemascope screen while Frankie Laine croons the title tune. A black-clad woman with a parasol traipses over to some cowpokes for help and introduces herself, to their surprise, as a lady doctor from Boston. She makes herself at home and charms them immediately, as she will swoop in by personality and expertise to charm most of the citizens of her new home.

The “strange lady” is Dr. Julia Winslow Garth (Greer Garson, all class and English accent and orange hair, and reportedly beset with appendicitis during filming). Those charmed include the Catholic monk next door (Walter Hampden) who runs a hospital for the Mexicans and Indians, and a striking tomboy-ish cowgirl called Spurs (Lois Smith), who’s in love with Julia’s brother David, a charming Cavalry soldier who’s nothing but trouble. He’s played by Cameron Mitchell, who, in typical Hollywood casting, is convincing as all of that except Garson’s brother.

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Monday, Sep 29, 2014
These two box sets offer up key historical examples of the pratfall as high art.

From flickering decay to digital restoration, two monumental Blu-ray sets offer more than historical interest to fans of comedy history, especially those with the wit to recognize that the pratfall is a high art.

The Mack Sennett Collection: Volume One contains 50 comedies ranging from 1909, when Sennett began as a writer and actor for D.W. Griffith, through the famous W.C. Fields shorts The Dentist and The Fatal Glass of Beer, the titles most likely to be familiar to slapstick fans. Digitally restored from the best sources available, some prints still look jumpy and faded (sometimes with footage still missing), but the quality improves as steadily as the technical sophistication.

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