Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow, 2004). As I did with Shaolin Soccer, I found this Stephen Chow movie a delight to watch, even as I knew there were inside jokes I was missing. If Jackie Chan was his generation’s Buster Keaton, I suppose Chow is our Chuck Jones. I’ve only seen two of his movies, but they resemble a Road Runner cartoon more than a silent comedy. In Kung Fu Hustle, Chow is very generous with his fellow filmmakers … he doesn’t really have a standout fight sequence until the end of the film, while a parade of middle-aged stars from the glory days of martial arts movies get plenty of time to act and to kick ass. Something very different is promised in the opening scene, which includes a dance sequence, but then the film settles in to a mostly-nonstop run of action scenes. Which is fine … this is an entertaining movie above all else … but it’s not exactly deep. #238 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 250 movies of the 21st century.
Ivan the Terrible, Part One (Sergei Eisenstein, 1944). It’s probably unfair to rate this one before seeing Part Two, but the two films were made a couple of years apart, and I’ve only watched Part One so far. It’s a unique film, even impressive, but not in a way I enjoy. I’m sure someone will tell me it isn’t meant to be enjoyed … there certainly isn’t any joy in the film. Magnificent photography combined with hammy acting results in characters about whom it is difficult to care (this was likely different for Russian audiences when it came out). Lyudmila Tselikovskaya is breathtakingly beautiful as the Czarina, but even she, who supposedly helps humanize Ivan, is given little to do (and her beauty is closer to that of a Hollywood movie star than to a 16th-century monarch … she looks about four centuries different from every other character in the film). #164 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the greatest films of all time.
Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953). Audrey Hepburn’s coming-out party. What I noticed this time around was the way William Wyler offers up a Hollywood version of neo-realism, which is really no version at all, beyond filming on location. But the on-site filming does add something to the film, and if it seems a bit decadent to use the tools of neo-realism to tell the story of a princess, well, there’s nothing wrong with a little decadence. #648 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the greatest films of all time.