Monthly Archives: November 2020

Story of a Love Affair (1950)

In the absence of action or dynamic camerawork a film often depends on dialog to engage its audience. Unfortunately, a combination of tinnitus-inducing sound quality and often near-invisible subtitles render Michaelangelo Antonioni’s adaption of James M. Cain’s seminal hard-boiled novel The Postman Always Rings Twice extremely hard to watch without becoming a bit impatient. If you’re interested in Italian versions of that story it might be best to go with Visconti’s Ossessione.

Four Ways Out (1951)

This exceedingly Italian noir begins with a soccer stadium robbery before following four thieves who’ve scattered to escape the police. Both deterministic and humanistic, Federico Fellini’s (et al) script not only addresses some of the social forces leading to crime– above all, poverty– but guarantees that none of the titular four ways out actually leads to a successful exit. Gina Lollabrigida receives top billing but it’s Cosetta Greco who does most of the heavy lifting as Lina, a resourceful young mother whose husband Luigi is clearly out of his depth.

Drunken Angel (1948)

An alcoholic doctor (Takashi Shimura) treats a young yakuza for tuberculosis only to see him stumble back into his old life. A very rakish Toshiro Mifune plays the doomed Matsungana, whose weakening health makes him vulnerable to his former criminal associates. Abandoned by his glamorous girlfriend, set up by his boss, his death ultimately serves little purpose. Takashi’s Dr. Sanada, the drunken angel of the title, is a curious figure, irascible, unsentimental but not callous, and pretty much disgusted with the yakuza hoods who run the show, calling them a relic of the feudal mentality. There’s a bit of art house in this movie, as with Matsugana’s fever dreams or his epic fight with the reptilian Okada. This is a fantastic early-ish film by Kurosawa.

Rolling Thunder (1977)

Operation Rolling Thunder was an almost four year bombing campaign by the United States that killed hundreds of thousands of people, rendered parts of Vietnam uninhabitable, and scattered unexploded ordinance across the country. It was probably a war crime.

John Flynn’s 1977 neo-noir– scripted by Paul Schrader– presumably takes its title from that long series of events. Its protagonist, Maj. Charles Rane (William Devane) is an Air Force pilot who was a POW for 7 years and has returned home to San Antonio, Texas. He was tortured during his captivity, his wife wants to divorce him so she can remarry one of their old friends, and his son has no idea who he is. The relative equanimity with which he responds to these developments initially seems admirable, but it soon becomes apparent that part of him is missing. As he works to adjust to his new situation he is maimed and his family is killed during a home invasion. It’s pretty clear where things are headed.

There’s so much to recommend this movie, but of particular note is an impressive performance of Linda Haynes who brings a carefully calibrated sense of authenticity to her role as Linda Forchet.

The Naked Kiss (1964)

Constance Towers slaps her way through this strange melange of pulp and sentiment as Kelly, a prostitute on the run who moves to a small town and goes straight. Director Sam Fuller’s tabloid visual style complements an often bizarre story, one that includes a “stable” of “bon bon girls,” a maudlin singalong with “crippled” children, and a dressmaker’s dummy named Charlie. Worth watching if only for the first three minutes. Here’s the whole film:

Another Man’s Poison (1952)

This thriller-melodrama isn’t a film noir and despite its clockwork plot it’s not a mystery either. Based on a stageplay, Another Man’s Poison follows mystery novelist Janet Preston’s (Bette Davis) increasingly desperate attempts to conceal the murder of her husband. The arrival of a shady associate complicates matters immensely. A great performance by Bette Davis.