The besties review
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An early example of sound in cinema, Fritz Lang’s M is an extremely crisp and delicate film that explores this new technology with ingenuity. While many directors may have utilized this innovation by simply adding some dialogue or music to their film, Lang did some innovating of his own, using voice over, off-screen sound, and even silence to enhance his storytelling. M is the simple story of a child serial killer that is brought to the next level.
Needless to say, Lang’s use of sound was extremely influential. One specific thing I noticed was how the police procedural/voice over montages are extremely reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa’s High & Low, so much so that I’d be shocked if Kurosawa wasn’t deeply inspired by M. For a film made in the early 1930s, I have to say this really held up!
Having never seen a Marx Brothers movie before, I expected a lot more from this. My original assumption was that the Marx Brothers style of comedy was going to be more like Chaplin, Keaton, or Harold Lloyd, but what I ended up experiencing was sixty eight minutes of bad puns? I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I just think this style of comedy is not for me. I did really enjoy some of the more physical bits, like the mirror scene, but overall I just didn’t really vibe with this one!
Jean Vigo’s only feature film is a soft, engaging, and extremely poetic. Though I personally didn’t love the film, I definitely see why Ebert and other critics hail it about one of the best films of all time. For a movie made in the 1930s, L’Atalante is undeniably beautiful. With gorgeous cinematography, detailed sets, and emotive acting, L’Atalante a true cinematic experience. It’s a shame Vigo didn’t live long enough to make more films, but I think this film is really good and a must-see for anyone interested in classic or foreign cinema.
This was my first time watching any Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers movie and I had such a good time! Though the narrative was rather predictable, I thought the acting, comedy, and (of course) the dance numbers were superb. Obviously there’s a bit of discomfort that comes with the blackface number, “Bojangles of Harlem” (that was apparently meant to honor Bojangles Robinson), but I really loved everything other than that song. I’m interested to check out other Astaire-Rogers films, like the Best Picture nominee, Top Hat, because if it’s anything like Swing Time, I’m sure I’ll love it!
Another first for me in this lineup, Stagecoach is the first John Wayne and John Ford movie that I’ve ever seen! I know it seems crazy that I’ve gotten this far without seeing any of Wayne or Ford’s classic westerns, but that will likely be the subject of an upcoming 5FFF. My favorite thing about Stagecoach was discovering all the ways it seems to have influenced modern movies. Most notably, I felt that the entire premise of this group of strangers riding in a wagon together was reminiscent of Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. This motley crew of wise-cracking westerners obviously influenced Tarantino, even though his take on that premise was tonally very different.
Anybody who watched Stagecoach in 2020 is likely to admit that it feels very dated (its depiction of Native Americans specifically comes to mind). But one thing I thought was interesting were the more progressive politics at play in the plot, such as Ringo’s warmth and acceptance of Dallas, the disgraced prostitute played by Claire Trevor. Instead of slut-shaming her (as most of the characters within the film do), Wayne’s character comforts her and eventually falls in love with, leading to a sweet, albeit rushed, romance. Though I don’t think we should be patting Ford on the back for this nuanced little plot line, it was one of the most engaging elements of the plot for me.