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key largo (john huston, 1948)

Last film from Spain ... watched it on the return flight. This post is a bit delayed as TypePad had some down time.

Key Largo was the fourth and final Bogart/Bacall film (in the early 50s they did a radio drama together, Bold Venture). Solid cast, including Claire Trevor who won a Supporting Actress Oscar. It's based on a stage play, and you can tell ... screenwriters Richard Brooks and John Huston made a lot of changes from the play, but for the most part it remains confined to a single set. Huston, who also directed, keeps things moving, and there's a nostalgia factor to seeing Bogart and Bacall. Edward G. Robinson shines, although at times he seems like a caricature of Edward G. Robinson, which isn't really his fault. Lionel Barrymore is Lionel Barrymore, and for me, a little of him goes a long way. There's more than a little of him in Key LargoKey Largo is entertaining, but don't think it's a lost classic.

lady in a cage (walter grauman, 1964)

Starting with the Blake Lively movie I watched on the plane to Spain, I've watched ten movies on this vacation, and since it's Spooktober, almost all of them have fit into the expansive category of horror/sci-fi/creature feature. Lady in a Cage doesn't quite match up, although I can imagine it turning up on some late-night Saturday creature-feature TV show in the 60s, promoted as something better than the usual fare because it had Olivia de Havilland. There are no creatures, though, and it's certainly not science fiction. I suppose it resembles a horror movie a bit, with its plot about a disabled woman trapped inside her in-house elevator while hooligans rampage menacingly through her stuff. I've seen it related to the Psycho-biddy genre (think Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?), but outside of the appearance of de Havilland, there's no connection.

What matters is that Lady in a Cage is a dreary affair. The setup is OK, if a bit silly, with de Havilland's rich woman stuck in her elevator. And there are attempts to include social commentary, of the rich-versus-poor variety. But nothing sticks, and everyone overacts. James Caan gets a film credit for the first time, as the head hooligan, and he's clearly in the thrall of Brando's Stanley Kowalski. Other Hey It's That Guys turn up, like Rafael Campos, Jeff Corey, and Scatman Crothers. Ann Sothern has a decent-sized part, and comes closest to eliciting some sympathy from the audience (close, but not close enough).

Director Walter Grauman did a lot of work for television, but only directed six theatrical features. Lady in a Cage in the first I've seen, and may be the last.

film fatales #153: titane (julia ducournau, 2021)

This is the sixth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2022-23", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 8th annual challenge, and my fourth time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", the second year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", and last year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22"). Week 6 is called "Top 250 Horror Week":

Recommended by kubrikonthefist.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film from Letterboxd’s Top 250 Horror Films list.

The headline writer for the San Francisco Chronicle had the proper amount of hyperbole in that paper's review of this movie: "‘Titane’ is really, really, really crazy — but it strikes a chord".

The less you know in advance, the better, although the basic plot is loony enough that it may not matter what you know. (An early pre-release blurb said only that "Following a series of unexplained crimes, a father is reunited with the son who has been missing for 10 years.") Titane is an example of body horror (Wikipedia: "a subgenre of horror that intentionally showcases grotesque or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body"). David Cronenberg is the name that usually comes to mind when the subject of body horror films comes up, but especially relevant to Titane, the movie I think of is Tetsuo: The Iron Man, which I really, really, really hated. That film deserves a second viewing, I'm sure ... I'd never seen anything like it at the time, and I think that threw me off. Tetsuo tells of a man whose flesh gradually turns into metal. Something similar happens to the lead character in Titane, but something about it seemed more delightfully outrageous than in Tetsuo.

Writer/director Julia Ducournau seems to have put her vision of the film onto the screen, which doesn't always happen, and which suggests producers who trusted her. This may account for the "really really really" aspects of the film ... Titane is only 108 minutes long, but it feels like if Ducournau thought something belonged, she filmed it, leaving us with a movie that is packed with more than I admittedly could take in. That obscure tagline turns out to be quite accurate, pointing us in the direction of the relationship between father and son, while hinting at those unexplained crimes (they are explained in the movie, but I'm not spoiling it here). Ducournau dares the audience to look past the horror to the basic theme of unconditional love. She piles on the horrors, she makes it very difficult to look past those horrors, but without those horrors, unconditional love would hardly have been tested. The acting of Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon makes that acceptance more believable.

Titane won the Palme d'Or at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

sweet hours (carlos saura, 1982)

It seemed appropriate that I watch a Spanish film while I'm in Spain, so I chose this one. It's hard to believe I'd never seen a Carlos Saura movie before, but apparently it's true. It seems that Sweet Hours is a lesser-known work ... the IMDB only lists two critics reviews, although Kael wrote about it ("Another graceful, measured Freudian-fantasy game").

I found the film hard to follow until about halfway through, when the structure became more apparent. There are essentially three different situations. A writer is making an autobiographical play, which is in rehearsals; flashbacks show us how he experienced his childhood; and the writer falls in love with one of the actors in his play. Part of my initial confusion comes from the fact that the same actress (Assumpta Serna) plays both the mother in flashback and the actress playing the mother in the play. The similaries are intentional ... it's suggested that she is cast in the play because she reminds the writer of his mother. And they fall in love, which relates to what Kael called the "Freudian-fantasy game", for the writer's relationship when he was a young boy to his mother is always just short of sexual.

The incest angle could be creepy, but Saura doesn't play it that way, and no matter how obvious it seems to the viewer, the sexual nature of the mother/son relationship is always suggested, never explicit. The cinematography by Teo Escamilla is always elegant; the film looks lovely. Sweet Hours is insightful in a gentle kind of way, with implications that return to you after you've seen the movie. Not a classic, but a worthy movie that encourages me to finally check out more Saura.

mr. harrigan's phone (john lee hancock, 2022)

Not much here. It's Yet Another Stephen King adaptation. I'd say it was a slow burn, but it never really gets particularly hot. A young lad takes a job reading classic novels aloud to a rich old man. They become friends, and the lad buys Mr. Harrigan a mobile phone. Now, you know it's a horror movie, and you expect something lively from the Stephen King source material, but guess where the horror comes from? Spoiler alert: it's not from the titular old man, exactly, nor is it from the young lad, exactly. No, it's the titular phone that seems to carry evil.

It's all pretty stupid. The acting is OK, including 87-year-old Donald Sutherland as Mr. Harrigan. But the film isn't very scary, the plot isn't very engaging, and in the end, it isn't a great way to waste 105 minutes.

thirst (park chan-wook, 2009)

This is the fifth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2022-23", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 8th annual challenge, and my fourth time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", the second year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", and last year at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22"). Week 5 is called "K-Horror Week":

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film from the K-Horror film.

Thirst comes with a solid pedigree. Director Park Chan-wook is a master of Korean horror (his Oldboy is as good as it gets). The male lead, Song Kang-ho, is recognizable to many viewers here in the U.S. for his roles in films like Parasite, Snowpiercer, and The Host. And the female lead, Kim Ok-bin, a young actress near the beginning of her career, gives and award-winning performance that matches Song, scene for scene.

If we are to believe Park, the plot was influenced by Émile Zola's 1867 novel Thérèse Raquin, and it makes sense. Except Zola wasn't writing about vampires. Song plays a devout Catholic priest who takes part in an experiment to try and find a vaccine for a deadly virus. The experiment fails, but the priest gets a blood transfusion that leads him to sinful thoughts, including but not limited to drinking blood. He has lustful feelings for the wife (Kim) of his childhood friend, she shares those feelings, and then ... well, I've already told too much of the plot. Part of the fun of Thirst is seeing just how far and off-the-wall Park will go. Suffice to say that once Kim starts having feelings, she nearly steals the movie.

I won't lie ... the plot gets loony at times. You could make an argument that Thirst is style over substance, although the priest's religious conflicts are taken seriously in what is nonetheless often pretty funny. It's not quite as good as my favorite vampire movie, Near Dark, but it's the equal of a much different vampire film, Let the Right One In.

inside the mind of a cat (andy mitchell, 2022)

Honestly, not much to this film. The title says it all. I've had cats most of my life, including two right now, so I'm the target audience for this one. Andy Mitchell does a good job of dispelling common notions about cats (many of which I share ... I assume they are either inscrutable, dumb, or both, which works to their advantage in that they don't do anything on command the way dogs do, and which means humans will never understand cats). Now I know I was wrong. There are plenty of people studying cats who do understand them, which means they are less inscrutable than I thought, and they are not dumb. Inside the Mind of a Cat is short and sweet (67 minutes), which is a good thing. I have more fun wasting an hour watching cat videos on YouTube and TikTok.