Love in the Afternoon (Eric Rohmer, 1972). I knew this as Chloe in the Afternoon, but “Love” is how to translate the original title (“L'amour l'après-midi”). It follows Claire’s Knee as the sixth and final film in Rohmer’s “Six Moral Tales”. I wrote about Claire’s Knee, “Most of the suspense in the second part of the movie comes from waiting to see if the man will ever get to interact with that knee.” There is nothing quite so specific in Love in the Afternoon as that knee, but the feel of anticipation is similar. Will the married Frédéric (Bernard Verley) have sex with not-his-wife Chloé (Zouzou)? Zouzou has something special (this was what put her on the map as a movie actress ... before that, she was known for her part in the pop culture of the time, including a spell as Brian Jones’s girlfriend). But the film is repetitive. Will he or won’t he isn’t compelling enough to keep my attention for 97 minutes. Remade by Chris Rock in 2007 as I Think I Love My Wife.
Out of Africa (Sydney Pollack, 1985). The great Karina Longworth wrote an interesting essay on the relationship between Pauline Kael and Meryl Streep. She quotes an interview where Streep said, “[Y]ou know what I think? That Pauline was a poor Jewish girl who was at Berkeley with all these rich Pasadena WASPs with long blond hair, and the heartlessness of them got her.” (In the original interview, Streep adds, “And then, years later, she sees me.”) Longworth continues, “In researching my book, Meryl Streep: Anatomy of An Actor, I read dozens of interviews with Streep spanning about 35 years, and catalogued hundreds of quotes. This was one of the few moments of absolute candor, one of just a handful of times when Streep let a personal feeling trump her very savvy understanding of the politics of publicity. Her comments were clearly spontaneous, emotional, and unprofessional — all adjectives that Streep likely thought could fairly be applied to Kael’s written judgements of her.” There is a difference between an actor’s public persona and what they bring to the table as actors, but what I take from this anecdote is that Streep was almost always in control in the interview process. It’s that control that shows in her acting, as well. She is almost always masterful. I rarely dislike her. But I’m always aware of the effort she puts into getting it right. Which is better than getting it wrong, and Streep has given us many outstanding performances over the years. But that effort she makes often distances me from her characters. Since Out of Africa relies greatly on Streep (co-star Robert Redford isn’t his usual charismatic self), the distancing means I’m not really appreciating what I’m seeing. Winner of 7 Oscars, including Best Picture. #869 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time.
Into the Woods (Rob Marshall, 2014). For what it’s worth, I liked Meryl Streep in this. But I couldn’t get through the movie, giving up with an hour to go. Later, I checked ... the only Sondheim movie I ever saw was West Side Story. I am willing to believe that he is a genius. And I feel especially bad since this was a request. But the longer I watched, the more I disliked it. Which is on me ... taste preferences and all.
News from Home (Chantal Akerman, 1977).