Daily Archives: September 1, 1990

I Married A Witch

Produced by Preston Sturges and directed by Rene Clair, this 1942 adaptation of The Passionate Witch, the last novel of Thorne Smith (who also wrote the novel that Topper was based on), is a light bit of whimsy about a Salem witch (Veronica Lake) and her sorcerer father (Cecil Kellaway) haunting the descendant (Fredric March) of the Puritan who had them burned. (As spirits, they’ve been hiding mainly inside a couple of wine bottles.) Smith, who’s been adapted here by Robert Pirosh and Marc Connelly, once was considered fairly ribald, and while some of the erotic material from the original has been dry-cleaned, fans of Veronica Lake won’t be disappointed; the special effects are nicely done too. With Robert Benchley, Susan Hayward, Elizabeth Patterson, and Robert Warwick. 82 min. (JR)… Read more »

Going Places

Bertrand Blier’s rampantly and repulsively misogynist first feature (1973), known as Les valseuses in French (which translates roughly as the testicles), stars Gerard Depardieu and the late Patrick Dewaere as a couple of violent lowlifes merrily abusing womenincluding Isabelle Huppert, Miou-Miou, and Jeanne Moreausome of whom come back for more. The popularity of this obnoxious buddy film made Blier’s reputation, though U.S. viewers were deprived by censors of about five minutes of nastinesswhich have now been thoughtfully restored. (JR)… Read more »

Funny About Love

A Feiffer-like New York cartoonist (Gene Wilder) meets and marries a chef (Christine Lahti), and their marriage gradually comes apart at the seams after they discover that they can’t have a baby; he gets involved with a forthright TV sports producer (Mary Stuart Masterson). All three leads do their likable best with underdeveloped characters, a meandering script by Norman Steinberg and David Frankel, and flat-footed direction by Leonard Nimoy, but at best they and Fred Murphy’s able cinematography only keep the film watchable, not interesting. The credits, by the way, claim that the script was based upon an article by Bob Greene, although all Greene did was write a column about a Delta Gamma convention that figures as a brief episode here. (JR)… Read more »

Devil Bat’s Daughter And Strangler Of The Swamp

Two low-budget horror pictures directed in 1946 for the PRC studio by Frank Wysbar, a German director who emigrated to Hollywood in the 40s. The most notable thing about Devil Bat’s Daughtera quiet psychological thriller in the Val Lewton mode about a young woman (Rosemary LePlanche) who may or may not be murdering people and animals in her sleepis the low-key avoidance of cliches in the performances. Strangler of the Swamp, which I only sampled, is a remake of Wysbar’s German film Fahrman Maria, starring LePlanche and none other than Blake Edwards in his predirectorial days; this film seems to do a bit more with mood and atmosphere. (JR)… Read more »

The Big Bang

James Toback’s ruminations about the Meaning of It All (1989), as expressed through conversations with a wide variety of people of different ages and ethnic backgrounds — artists, athletes, businesspeople, students, the film’s producer, and so on. Needless to say, sex and death are two of the main topics on the table. Toback has found various ways of keeping both the talking heads and the ways they’re shown fairly diversified, and the results hold one as well as a good TV talk show — though as in his fiction features (Fingers, Exposed) Toback’s inflated sense of what he’s about occasionally gets in the way. (JR)

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Ariel

The second part of a loose trilogy by Finnish cult director Aki Kaurismaki, this 1988 feature was preceded by Shadows in Paradise (1986) and followed by The Match Factory Girl (1989). Kaurismaki seems bent at times on remaking a proletarian Warners melodrama of the 30s (as in The Match Factory Girl, his postmodernist models seem to be Bresson and Fassbinder), albeit with rock tunes on the sound track. A taciturn hero (Turo Pajala) leaves Lapland for Helsinki after the mine employing him and his father shuts down; en route he’s mugged and robbed of his savings. He winds up moving in with a divorced meter maid and eventually finds himself edged into a life of crime. Wittily laconic in style and attractively sharp in its images, it’s the kind of low-budget genre movie they don’t make so well anymore, at least not in the U.S. In Finnish with subtitles. 73 min. (JR)… Read more »