In Bed with the Flu: Movie Watching

the other week the flu came over me once again (man flu really, but it still hurt). So, an opportunity to lie in bed and watch old films, six of them.

The Third Man (1949)

2nd time I’ve watched this. The first time around I thought it was a little overrated: zither music, dull performances and characterisations? Probably unfair and I enjoyed it more this time. Perhaps it’s a film that benefits from repeated viewing. It has the feel of a holiday picture, but a decidedly grim and drab and awful break. 

Great Expectations (1946)

This film is masterfully made, an admirable object with hardly any imperfections worth worrying about. Not my favourite Dickens (preferring he vitality of the early works), in saying that I maybe prefer the abridged nature of the film script. I liked Sullivan, Simmons and Guiness (who burns like magnesium for 10 minutes or so). John Mills is admirably worthy but too old. But this is a triumph in filmmaking.

Chinatown (1974)

This one is also practically flawless. It’s stunning as a period piece, as a journey into the heart of darkness. It feels like a culmination in cinema. Jack Nicholson (majestic) step by step leads himself to the resolution, every time the end of the tunnel moves beyond into the dark.

Kevin and Perry Go Large (2000)

Why does this film exist? It’s endearing in an odd way, given that it isn’t very funny, the characters are ciphers and it’s a exploitation of a series of short sketches (rather than an half hour sitcom). Kathy Burke is as sublime as you’d expect and Kevin’s parents give the film a worldly, dignified counterpoint to the junior characters horrific lack of perspective.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

A “beautiful” picture: tragic, sorrowful, highly emotive: wide angle landscape with vivid strings and synths. Dominic Guard appears, which gives it a fraternal link with The Go-Between, similar films in many ways. How does one cope with loss, disaster, bad things, for which no explanation will ever help and with which we will have to carry with us? What can our society and culture do to help?

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

Glorious: a chain of scenes of melodramatic parody, which are laboured over by the cast (is there any kind of link between Meyer and Bunuel?), but which are punctuated and terminated by small explosions of cinematic style. Then, this freaked out soap opera is epilogued by a climatic operatic massacre that crescendoes and draws out like spectacular cinema.

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Wodehouse Short Stories (2)

The Amazing Hat Mystery

This one is very simple: two men are inadvertently given the others brand new top hat: the resulting fit causes their beaus to violently reject them, to their incredulous horror. They confer their shared misfortunes, then accidentally swap hats once more, this time with a more serendipitous result. 

I’d assumed, as this story went along, that the original pairings would mend their broken bridges, but Wodehouse neatly applies a twist, where the men each decide to act as an intermediary with the others girl and then find them to be much more suitable as a partner. Rather than straighten out the confusion (and risk anticlimax), he can now tie up the story whilst developing the theme of (our understanding of) love and how it can often be more to do with freakish fortune than our own judgement.

Two pairs of stock gents and debs are the pawns in this brief but interesting gambit, so the characterisations are very flat; the virtue of the mystery is the presentation of the turning upside down of this worlds rigid certainties (that a hat purchased from Bodmin’s could let one down!) and the psychology of the two gallants in their amour. Not spectacular Wodehouse but more like a basic demonstration of his talents: worthy and well done.