before it was roaracle
drunken master ii (chia-liang lu, 1994)

double bill: john woo meets jacques demy

(These were suggested as a double-bill at The Criterion Channel.)

Last Hurrah for Chivalry (John Woo, 1979). I don't entirely buy the pairing of these two movies. But Woo loves musicals, and while there are no songs in Last Hurrah for Chivalry, there is a balletic feel to some of the sword battles. In the end, I just watched it as a Woo fan who hadn't seen this one before. It came seven years before A Better Tomorrow changed everything, and while there is some novelty seeing sword play in place of shootouts, the film is more interesting as an early look at the friendships among men that is one of the themes Woo is most famous for. The film moves along briskly, the characters are detailed enough for us to care about them, and the exploration of male camaraderie, if low-key compared to Woo's heroic bloodshed classics, at least hints at Woo's future. The women in the film are largely irrelevant, despite the attempt in the trailer to make it seem like there is some important heterosexual love. Not up to Woo's classics, but enjoyable just the same. And the Sleeping Wizard is the best.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964). Very much of a piece with The Young Girls of Rochefort, which Demy made three years later. The primary common thread is that both movies feature dialogue that is 100% sung. It sounds annoying, but you quickly get used to it. It matters that Cherbourg is such an honest portrait of romantic love ... it would be worth watching without the music (I might say it would be better, but the music is part of the charm, and there's a recognizable-to-this-day song in Michel Legrand's score). David Thomson, writing about this movie, noted, "So often, the realist's complaint about the musical is that awkward moment where the actors take a deep breath, the story goes on hold, and 'it' breaks into song. What better cure for that hesitation, or the nausea that attends it, than having every line of dialogue sung?" Makes sense to me, although I've found it easy to resist more recent attempts at this kind of "complete" musical. Meanwhile, in commenting on the music, we should not lose site of the look of the film, which is full of gorgeous, irresistible colors. It's hard to believe we're looking at a real city, which I mean in this case to be a compliment. #173 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.



The trailer of Umbrellas of Cherbourg was amazing and very moving.

Thank you for showing the clip --- must now see the film !

Steven Rubio

It's a beautiful film to look at!


Thanks for introducing me to it. I just watched the intro. It's interesting, and a cleaver start with all the reflexive stuff. Can't wait to watch the rest.

Steven Rubio

It's funny ... my taste suggests I'd prefer the John Woo to the all-sung musical. And I did like them both. But Cherbourg just won me over.


Just finished watching it. What a movie that was! So surprising and adult, like in a grown up mature way. Loved it. Thanks again for writing about it.

Steven Rubio

Glad you liked it! I take it as the greatest possible praise when someone takes one of my suggestions and goes with it. As I noted, if you liked Cherbourg, you'll like The Young Girls of Rochefort, even if you find that one a bit below the earlier movie. It has the Demy/Legrand combo along with Deneuve, and adds some actors you'll recognize: Gene Kelly, George Chakiris, Danielle Darrieux, and Deneuve's real-life sister Françoise Dorléac, about whom I once wrote, "Dorléac reminds us that while her sister Catherine Deneuve may have been The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, Dorléac was arguably the most beautiful woman in the family."

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