Je n'aime pas dans les vieux films américains quand les conducteurs ne regardent pas la route. Et de ratage en ratage, on s'habitue à ne jamais dépasser le stade du brouillon. La vie n'est que l'interminable répétition d'une représentation qui n'aura jamais lieu.

What I've Been Watching!


Back in Bed with Pillow Talk (2009) – Samantha Cook, Daniel M. Kimmel, Judith Roof

This short documentary was included on the Blu-Ray of Pillow Talk I picked up.  Pillow Talk itself rates a full essay, but this short doc is pretty standard fare.  Lots of talk about how controversial the film was in 1959 and lots of talk, mostly correct, about how the film holds up even in a more jaded era.  At one point one of the talking heads makes the dubious point that for a lot of us watching the film, Pillow Talk represents how our parents thought about sex.  Okay.  Thanks for that.

Chemistry 101: The Film-Duo of Rock Hudson & Doris Day (2009) – Samantha Cook, Daniel M. Kimmel, Judith Roof

Another, even shorter, documentary on the Pillow Talk Blu-Ray.  This one is specifically about the chemistry of Hudson and Day, as the title attests.  Once you’ve seen the movie, you don’t need anyone to tell you about the chemistry.  You’ve experienced it.  So this one is fairly pointless, even as these things go. 

Captured on Film: The True Story of Marion Davies (2001) – Hugh Monro Neely

A Turner Classic Movies production, this hour long documentary tries to reclaim Marion Davies, forgotten film actress of the silent and early sound eras.  Features a lot of clips of Davies’ work in both silent and sound films.  She’s vivacious and charming enough that you wonder why exactly a decades long affair with William Randolph Hearst was actually enough to make her disappear the way she did.  The documentary features a lot of clips of Susan Alexander, the analogous character in Citizen Kane to Davies and quotes Orson Welles, of all people, arguing that Davies was unjustly forgotten.  I got this DVD because it also features Quality Street, a two hour silent film starring Davies and that alone was worth the price of admission and enough to make me wish some of her other films, like Show People and The Patsy would get DVD releases.  But the curse is still working.  Even this DVD, from 2001, is hard to get ahold of.  If what’s here is any indication, she had more warmth, more energy and more naturalism than most of her peers in silent cinema.  A shame she’s been so forgotten.  I’d recommend this DVD and this documentary very highly if you come across it. 

Charlotte & her Boyfriend (1960) – Jean-Luc Godard

This short film was made prior to Breathless, Godard’s feature film debut.  It features Jean-Paul Belmondo as the boyfriend of the title, the actor who would star in Breathless.  So, Criterion stuck it on the Breathless Blu-Ray release, bless them.  It’s a breezy twelve minutes or so.  Belmondo’s boyfriend is visited by Charlotte, winsomely played by Anne Collette.  He berates her, tries to win her back, believes he has won her back, berates her some more, begs, pleads, curses and basically hangs himself with a  rope of words for nearly the entire running time as she sits there, wordlessly taking it all in.  The punch-line is pretty obvious from the beginning, but Belmondo is good at long, stream of consciousness monologuing and Collette has charm enough for someone who has only one or two lines in the entire piece.  This is more of a joke than one is used to from Godard; it’s pure comedy.  It was interesting, if not particularly essential, viewing. 

Chambre 12, Hotel de Suede (1993) – Claude Ventura, Xavier Villetard

This documentary, originally done for French television, was also included on the Criterion Blu-Ray release of Breathless.  If you’ve seen Breathless, you’ll recall the lengthy sequence of the two lead characters chatting in a hotel room; it takes up a third of the film’s running time and is the loose-limbed, gangly, awkward heart of the film.  So, Venturay and Villetard hear that the hotel where this scene, one of the most significant scenes in French film history, was shot is due to be torn down in nine days.  What to do, but check into the hotel, get the very room Godard used in Breathless and then spend the next nine days tracking down people connected with Breathless for off the cuff interviews.  The film is a touching meditation on the emotional power of cinema.  The interviews are better than one might expect and, shot in sloppy, hand-held, black and white, the film has a strange kind of charm.  One is essentially watching two film buffs make an homage and it’s interesting and entertaining.  The climax, in which the building is torn down, is a bittersweet moment of passage.  If you’ve seen Breathless, this is a great bit of companion viewing. 

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