"Now Listen to Me..."
Just some thoughts on current happenings:
There are 10 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month:
It may seem impossible to some that in one of cinema's most accomplished masterworks practically nothing happens. Besides what little does occur, namely an idle rich woman's disappearance on a small deserted island, is only incidental to this story's deep-rooted subject: a penetrating study of loneliness, desperation, and identity of the disappeared's girlfriend and her lover as they search for their missing companion. L'Avventura really lives up to its title's promise when one realises that the "adventure" or journey is its destination, i.e. the feelings, thoughts and concerns expressed by our couple is what really matters, more than the conclusions and landing place they reach.
Michelangelo Antonioni's masterpiece may have empty and lost souls searching for a more meaningful existence at his story's centre, but the filmmaker's evident passion in observing their manners and weaknesses is highly revealing to those who can see beyond life's superficial pursuits. One of the Top Ten: World Cinema Treasures, this enigmatic, mature and deeply affecting "adventure" will begin on TCM Sunday, May 8 at 11pm PST.
A different kind of character metamorphosis will occur on TCM later in the evening: Victor Fleming's 1941 take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This was previously reviewed here and will transform again on Tuesday, May 10 at 1:30am PST.
From the same director who brought us Citizen Kane comes another kind of cinematic hero (of sorts). Michael O'Hara, like the deeply flawed Kane, is flawlessly played by his creator Orson Welles. Unlike Citizen Kane however, this film fell under its producer Harry Cohn's butchery with considerable footage lost and destroyed forever. Nevertheless what survives is vastly entertaining and not to be missed. The Lady from Shanghai was also previously recommended here and will reappear on TCM Monday, May 16 at 3:15pm PST.
My next TCM endorsement is also this month's Blu-ray recommendation and will be reviewed below. It is Dark Passage and will commence on TCM Wednesday, May 18 at 9am PST.
Scheduled for the same day is one of horror's finest: the chilling Eyes Without a Face previously reviewed here. One can see with their own eyes this genre masterwork Wednesday, May 18 at 3:15pm PST.
For a perhaps needed change of pace, there's the hilarious Bringing Up Baby previously recommended here. The antics will begin on TCM Thursday, May 19 at (early morning) 3am PST.
If by chance one hasn't seen the explosively confrontational The Wild Bunch, remedy that Friday, May 20 at 9pm PST. For those who have, please see my review Opening Up a Treasure: The Wild Bunch as to why it was and still is, one of America's finest contributions to the cinematic arts.
Another American cinematic treasure, Double Indemnity stands at the top of noir's hierarchy. Like the preceding TCM recommendation, it has been described as such in Opening Up a Treasure: Double Indemnity. One can cash in their noir policy Saturday, May 21 at 5pm PST.
TCM's current monthly schedule can be confirmed by clicking on any of the above images. For those who live in parts of the U.S. other than the western region, the time zone can be adjusted in the upper right-hand corner of TCM's programme.
A Happy Birthday shout-out to composer Danny Elfman who turns 63 on May 29th.
He is the musical artist behind some wildly creative film compositions. Some of his more notable credits include the scores to Edward Scissorhands, Sommersby, Dolores Claiborne, Mars Attacks!, Men in Black, Good Will Hunting, Proof of Life, Milk, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle.
The Soundtrack recommendation this month is Alex North's monumental score to Spartacus.
This single-CD consisting of the complete surviving stereo masters to one of the greatest film scores of all time was previously only available as part of a 6-CD, 1 DVD box set from Varese Sarabande. Now, for a far reduced price, one can hear all of Mr. North's rapturous music to this epic film, also brought to you by Varese Sarabande through their limited edition CD Club. More information including international ordering directly from the manufacturer is available by clicking on the image.
The Blu-ray recommendation this month is Delmer Daves' spellbinding noir Dark Passage.
This is the third and most heartfelt pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall… quite a feat considering this film is even more firmly rooted in noir than their others. Perhaps that’s one reason why the romance element is so inconspicuous at first and later so impactful. Because we’re not focusing on this aspect of their relationship, we don’t “see it coming." We witness the couple’s feelings subtly blossom over time from its inception, but these events are overshadowed by the desperate circumstances of our protagonist played by Bogart. The brewing feelings between the pair are creatively interwoven throughout the narrative by director-screenwriter Daves adapting David Goodis’ engrossing novel and reverently delivered by our famous couple who no doubt benefited from being romantically involved at the time.
The story begins with a prison escapee but one wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife. He’s hiding in a barrel leaving San Quentin on the back of a truck. Once he forcibly tilts the barrel out of the moving vehicle, we are Vincent Parry and see almost everything from his point of view.* After finding his way back to the highway, he is offered a lift by a guy who asks too many questions who in return, gets punched out by Vincent. Soon afterward he gets picked up by a gorgeous dame (Irene Jansen scrumptiously played by Bacall) who happened to be in the area painting. Now it’s Vincent’s turn to ask questions, but she seems sincere enough and willing to take some dangerous risks in keeping him from being caught.
Just when things appear to be suspiciously too good to be true at Irene’s stylish San Francisco apartment, we (as Vincent) look through a scrapbook and come to learn that she believed in his innocence partly because her father who died in prison, was also once wrongfully convicted. Besides, there’s her acquaintance with, and disbelief of, the chief witness for the prosecution Madge Rapf (played with a vicious iguana-like bite by Agnes Moorehead) who testified against him.
Almost all of the characters in Dark Passage have a fascinating but tenacious persistence about them, a trait that causes several to make consequential reappearances in the story when earlier we thought we’d seen the last of them.
As previously attested, Dark Passage is on solid noir ground, except for the main character who is characteristically on anything but: the wrongly accused Vincent Parry (played to melancholic but resilient perfection by Humphrey Bogart) who's hiding out in an unstable but atmospheric San Francisco. He’s surrounded by an array of distinctive friend and foe and always of the extreme variety, as are his unusual, ever-changing and admittedly rather implausible circumstances. These include a cabby, a plastic surgeon, and a close male friend Parry relies upon at one end of the spectrum. On the other, there’s a maniacally jealous paranoiac (the witness against Parry mentioned earlier), a nosy police investigator, and a scheming blackmailer.
When the conflicting self-interests, along with the suspense, heats up and finally reaches “code red”, Vincent will have more than his dead wife to answer for because the body count around him has also risen. This makes it imperative that he get far away from the city (make that really far away) that others, like Vincent hopes to, have left their heart in. First, he’ll have to wend his way through this treacherous dark (rite of) passage. Will he make it? And what will happen to his new found friend Irene? Will things end in typical noir fashion with our hero’s demise, or will it be like the song we keep hearing during his amazing journey, Too Marvelous for Words?
See it and find out. Dark Passage has been recently released on an immaculate region-free Blu-ray by Warner Archive. The image below has more information including ordering from Amazon U.S.
* Released the same year (1947) as another film noir, Lady in the Lake, utilising the same visual point of view from that of the main character. Unlike the latter film, however, Dark Passage shifts this perspective from time to time during the first 36 minutes and abandons it completely after the main character undergoes plastic surgery. Thus, the gimmick does not “overstay its welcome.”