January 2nd, 2012

Films I Watched On New Year's Day

The Bridge Over The River Kwai: I only watched the last five minutes, but it reinforced my feeling that Lean's later movies, for all their cinematic grandeur, are actually a bit crap. I hate the solemnity- and the way nuance and ambiguity are hunted down and killed like rats. "Madness, Madness!" intones Alec Guinness's side-kick over the artistically composed mayhem- and I'm wishing he'd just let the images do the talking. 

Dean Spanley: An Edwardian clergyman recalls a previous life as a beloved hound- but only under the influence of Tokay. It could have been insufferably whimsical, but it's done with care and feeling, and the attempt to imagine a dog's life from the inside is genuinely imaginative (I suspect the original writer- Lord Dunsany- should get credit for this). Sam Neil has fun as the doggy dean with the snuffly-wuffly nose and Peter O'Toole- as his erstwhile owner- is just wonderful. The things that man can do with his eyes!

True Grit: The John Wayne version. It's not the greatest western ever made, but it may be the most adorable. The script is snappy, the landscapes mountainous and summery and Wayne deserved his Oscar.  Kim Darby is cute and mostly convinces us she's 10 years younger than she actually was and Glenn Campbell comes close to delivering an adequate performance as the third member of the bickering trio (but what a truly great movie this might have been if they'd hired a proper actor!)  The presence in the supporting cast of Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper- future icons of the new Hollywood- reminds us that this was one of the last of the movies the like of which they don't make any more. Even as a young wannabe Robert Duvall was spectacularly bald- with long sidelocks flapping around his gleaming dome.