I got lax on keeping up my film education over the last quarter of 2009, but I’m back and ready to keep going. How’d I do in January? Let’s see.
The 400 Blows
Continuing my unbroken streak of disappointment in the French New Wave, I sat through François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and had only intellectually nice things to say about it. It was well shot. It had realistic characters going through honest, believable situations. But just like with Breathless, I didn’t care. The genre strikes me as so aggressively distant and plotless that it almost wants you not to connect with it. I can see how this movement, at the time it came out, influenced filmmakers and lovers of film, especially in a Hollywood dominated by an oppressive studio system. Even so, I haven’t seen a single French New Wave film that makes me think something other than “I wish I was watching Fellini.”
Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Speaking of styles that leave me cold, how about a little Stanley Kubrick? There are certainly Kubrick films I like a lot, but on the whole he’s all brain and no heart through too much of his filmography. I put this in immediately after The 400 Blows, and I honestly don’t know if I thought I’d follow one potential disappointment with another, but either way what I got was a surprise: I really, really loved Dr. Strangelove. It was funny and biting and a really good time. This is the first time I’ve seen Peter Sellers and, based on this film alone, the praise of his comic talents does not seem overblown. Also, I’ll be making “precious bodily fluids” jokes for weeks.
Somehow, despite my love of Robert Altman, I’d managed to never get around to seeing M.A.S.H. Tsk, tsk. I never saw much of the television series, either, so I went into the movie cold. Verdict: I can totally see how this movie made the successful translation to a television series. The movie is broken into a series of episodes as it is, each one connected by little more than the characters themselves. What better compliment can I give a movie than this: I not only did not hate Donald Sutherland in this, I actually liked him.
We begin and end with a disappointment. I guess Dirty Harry is exactly what it tried to be. It’s a mean spirited, nasty little action film about a cop who can’t be bothered with things like Constitutional rights and due process and is proven correct by the end. What can you say about a movie in which the hero tortures a suspect after searching his home without a warrant, rages when said suspect is released because of the violation of his rights then seems to suggest that when the killer then continues to kill that it’s the system’s fault, not the rule breaking cop’s? At least Clint Eastwood is always a good time.