BP Double Feature: Midnight in Paris (2011)/ Manhattan (1978)

Take the Monet and run?

A lot of critics are praising Midnight in Paris as a return to form for Woody Allen, but it’s hard for me to get behind that assessment. The new release, which I saw last week in New York, is a flight of fancy about an American who journeys back to the Paris of the 1920s. The film was enjoyable enough, but only reinforced in my mind how far Allen’s stature has fallen.

As with many, my entry point with Allen was first Annie Hall, a film I used to show to prospective girlfriends as sort of a test (this may partially explain why I am single), and then Manhattan.  By those lights, Midnight in Paris is a minor work, a toss-off. From what I have read, Allen would likely disagree, but mainly because his view of his process, and of his films themselves, comes off as rather workmanlike.

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BP Double Feature: His Kind of Woman (1951)/ Macao (1952)

Both of these films rely on the chemistry between Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell.  Physically, they were larger, more exaggerated, more, er, robust, than any pair of actors on the screen at the time. Both conveyed a sense of insolence, even ambivalence to the proceedings at hand.

Macao is easily the more conventional of the two films–with a story that was designed to be out of your head a few minutes after you left the theater.  Don’t take it from me. Take it from the New York Times’ famous grouch, Bosley Crowther, who wrote:  Macao a flimflam and no more—a flimflam designed for but one purpose and that is to mesh the two stars. The story itself is pedestrian—a routine and standardized account of a guy getting caught in the middle of a cops-and-robbers thing.” Sounds like just about every Ryan Reynolds/Sandra Bullock movie at the multiplex, right?

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BP Saturday Night at the Movies: The Third Man (1949)

Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. — Harry Lime

The most famous quote from a film packed with good lines. Orson Welles’ entrance into the story is so well-known, so famous for perhaps being the most dramatic reveal in cinema, that it surprised me when I realized that his name is third-billed in the opening credits. These days, that would qualify as a spoiler alert, with every armchair analyst simply waiting for Welles to show up.  But audiences 60 years ago weren’t as jaded, weren’t so adept at reverse-engineering movies.

Seeing it again (and appreciating it more than ever), I was struck by how ineffectual Joseph Cotton’s Holly Martins is. He doesn’t solve the mystery. He can’t win the girl. He’s a complete failure at the lecture he delivers. Moreover, Martins knows exactly who he is. He knows he’s a two-bit writer of “cheap novellas,” just as he knows, deep down, he can’t compete with Lime for the heart of Anna Schmidt.

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