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Movie Review Journal: F
FAHRENHEIT 451 (1966)
Director: Francois Truffaut. Cast: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie.
English-language version of the Ray Bradbury novel from great French director Truffaut. The movie, about a future in which books are banned and burned, is almost clinical in its sterility, which may be the point. Staid, with Werner as the "fireman" (a book-burner) named Montag who comes to appreciate the value of books. Christie plays his vacuous wife Linda and the book-collecting rebel Clarisse. Some interesting ideas, though nothing terribly radical. Tepid stuff, but good Bernard Herrmann score. 12/30/00
FAHRENHEIT 911 (2004)
Director: Michael Moore. Cast: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney.
Scathing, well-crafted attack onBush, Cheney and the policies of fear and hatred that led the country into war. Bush comes across as a clueless dunce (probably not completely accurate) and is shown at his worst in footage taken on September 11, 2001, when he first heard of the attacks on the World Trade Center and sat, clueless and vacant, in a Texas classroom, listening to the children reading from My Pet Goat. The most devastating sequences, however, are the ones involving a conservative mother who turns against the war and Bush after her son is killed in Iraq. If anything does Bush and his evil crew in, it will be those images of the weeping mom, asking, "Why?" Powerful. 6/26/04
FALLEN ANGEL (1947)
Director: Otto Preminger. Cast: Alice Faye, Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell.
Preminger's follow-up to Laura features two holdovers -- Andrews and composer David Raksin -- and some of the samr bite as smooth-talking con man Andrews gets caught up with bad news Darnell instead of good girl Faye. Solid pacing, strong dialogye and atmosphere, and rewarding payoff with heel redeemed by love of a good woman. Good opening theme. 5/14/06
FAR FROM HEAVEN (2002)
Director: Todd Haynes. Cast: Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid.
A tribute to the films of director Douglas Sirk, those lush tear jerkers, usually involving Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson as lovers who are kept apart by circumstance and society. In this version, the characters – 1950s Connecticut suburban types – confront issues that Sirk never dealt with overtly but which were always under the surface: homosexuality and racial prejudice. The first is treated as a sickness by the main male character, a successful TV set executive (Quaid). The movie more or less sees things from the point of view of the pretty, naive wife of the ex (Moore), who is the only one to break out of her mold and grow, thanks to the affection and attentions she feels for a black gardener, an outsider in "paradise." Touching, affecting, with a great Elmer Bernstein score. 11/21/02
FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1991)
Director: Charles Shyer. Cast: Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Martin Short.
Dated, period piece – a remake (with much of the same script and sensibility) of the Spencer Tracy-Elizabeth Taylor flick. It survives, barely, because of Martin's performance, but the whole affair is tired, withoout a point of view: are the filmmakers poking fun at the million-dollar wedding plans? At times, they seem to agree with Martin that it's silly. Other times, they seem to think it's the thing to do. They want to have it both ways – and they're cruel, too. After Martin pays for it all, they forbid him the moments he craves: dancing with his daughter, watching her throw the bouquet, a goodbye kiss. And, finally, who can really get worked up about a million-dollar wedding? I just thought the girl was a spoiled brat to insist on it. She is generally unsympathetic, and, as written, immature and simple-minded, hardly the clever architect the script makes her out as. I agreed with Martin: she did seem too young to marry; especially when she insisted on hiring idiotic Martin Short to plan it. Seen at the Olympia, December 25, 1991.
FEAR STRIKES OUT (1957)
Director: Robert Mulligan. Cast: Anthony Perkins, Karl Malden.
The true story of Boston Red Fox outfielder Jimmy Piersall, a ballplayer who went mad because of his father's pressures for him to win. Piersall, perhaps the first of Perkins' memorable madman, is an amiable guy, slightly nervous, and like Norman Bates and his mom, completely dominated by his overbearing father (Malden). Seems dad was a fair ballplayer down at the plant but the old man has bigger dreams for the kid: pro-ball, fast, furious, and his way. Director Mulligan (who later handled To Kill a Mockingbird) keeps the pace up and Perkins' mental breakdown is well-handled, hinted at very nicely before the final, shocking breakdown in the middle of a game. There are suggestions that Piersall's mother suffered from a similar ailment, but not much is made of that; most of the blame is laid – in Freud-like fashion– at the door of the overbearing, unforgiving father who wants the son to win at any cost. Good Elmer Bernstein score. 1/19/98.
FELLINI: I'M A BORN LIAR (2003)
Director: Damian Pettigrew. Cast: Federico Fellini, Donald Sutherland, Terence Stamp.
Tedious documentary, for Fellini-philes only. The master director is seen working on some of his movies and talks incessantly (and obliquely) about his films, much as if he were a character in one of his movies. It's a rambling, impressionistic mess, with unidentifed clips (mostly from Fellini's later movies) lasting anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 minute or two. The anecdotes told by cast and crew paint the director as everything from a genius to a monster. You get a sense of the man from this piece, but very little facts. It's Fellini as Fellini might have manufactured him. 4/20/03
15 MINUTES (2001)
Director: . Cast: Robert DeNiro, Kelsey Grammer.
Intense, action-oriented crime caper about two foreigners – a Russian and a Czech – who go on a crime spree, videotaping it as they go with the hopes of becoming both famous and rich (rich by selling their story after pleading insanity). Brutal, engrossing, simple-minded, full of gratuitous violence, with tired argument about the lure of fame. Good performances, predictable. 8/20/01
THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997)
Director: Luc Besson. Cast: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Milla Jovovich, Ian Holm.
Comic-strip sci-fi adventure, set 300 years in the future. Willis plays a former military man who drives a cab and is swept into an fantastic attempt to save the earth from the ultimate evil. The plot makes sense in a pulpy way, and mixes comedy, mysticism, and violence in a satisfying blend (but once again, Eric Serra's music often doesn't match the action, and Besson allows the script to go off on one too many tangents). The effects are good and the style is off-kilter enough to make the old story seem almost fresh. Holm plays an absent-minded priest and Oldman plays the villain, a not-very-menancing-seeming industrialist who kills people. 5/13/00
FINDING FORRESTER (2000)
Director: Gus Van Sant. Cast: Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Rob Brown.
Touching story of reclusive writer (Connery), a one-hit novel writer, who befriends and mentors a young ghetto kid in the Bronx (Brown), a basketball star and literary genius. Although the story is improbable, the actors carry the predictable plot permutations off with aplomb. Connery and Brown are excellent. 1/10/00
THE FIREMEN'S BALL (1967)
Director: Milos Foreman.
Foreman's first color film chronicles the misadventures of some well-intentioned, small-town volunteer firemen at their annual ball. Not a lot happens and the story is a whimsical parable about life in a totalitarian regime. Soporific at times because the firemen come across as types not people. 4/15, 4/19/02.
FIRST KNIGHT (1995)
Director: Jerry Zucker. Cast: Sean Connery, Richard Gere, Julia Ormond.
The Arthur legend, Camelot, Lancelot, the whole ball of wax, given a regal, at times exciting, and certainly romantic treatment by director Zucker (Ghost). This follows Braveheart and Rob Roy as period sword films, and it has the same sort of sword-clanging, bloody action. The story is familiar: how Arthur (Connery) loves not wisely but too well and is betrayed by his lady love (Ormond) who loves Lancelot (Gere). The discovery of the betrayal shatters the values of Arthur and all but wrecks Camelot, which is founded on truth and trust. Zucker and his screenwriters have deepened the role of Lancelot, making him a wandering commoner, great with a sword but purposeless and without values. He finds them, finally, in Camelot, only to be the instrument that brings it down (he realizes that and tries to leave, and thus sets in motion the engine of Arthur's destruction). Ormond is wonderful as the tortured Guenevere, and Connery is perfectly cast as the kindly, forceful, truthful king. Gere overcomes his miscasting as Lancelot by sheer charisma (and great stuntwork with his sword); only thing: he could have tried an English accent, or was that the point? The different accent meant he was an outsider? Also fine: Ben Cross as the villain. Beautiful Welsh countryside, and an exciting, satisfying climax, topped by a moving finish. Nice work. Seen at the Olympia, July 10, 1995.
THE FISHER KING (1991)
Director: Terry Gilliam. Cast: Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges.
At times pretentious but generally enaging story of unlikely friendship between swashbuckling homeless man (Williams) and angry, guilt-ridden ex-radio personality (Bridges). Hits all the predictable notes, but done with style. 1/29/05
FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH (1967)
Director: Roy Ward Baker. Cast: Andrew Kier, Barbara Shelley.
Sci-fi horror from Britain, far-fetched but effectivce, with Dr. Quartermass (Kier) as almost the lone voice of reason in a world about to go bad. The plot involves the discovery of a mysterious cylinder in a London tube station. It may or may not be a space vehicle from five million years ago – but it soon becomes very, very dangerous. Done with intelligence, this low-key horror film has a bang-up – if slightly implausible – finish. Also known as Quatermass and the Pit. 6/29/98
Director: Frank Capra. Cast: Jack Holt, Lila Lee, Ralph Graves.
Dumb Capra action/romance picture with Graves (who co-wrote the infantile script with Capra) as a dumb football player who becomes a dumb pilot and who finally succeds in life through pure dumb luck. The story follows the career of Lefty Phelps (Graves), who runs the wrong way in a football game and gives the winning point to his opponents. Shamed, he joins the marine air corps, where he promptly crashes his plane, disappointing his pal and teacher Panama Williams (Holt). He disappoints him further by falling in love with Elinor (Lee), the pretty nurse that Panama is sweet on. Etc. etc. The love triangle gets pretty tangled before the ridiculously good-natured happy ending. There are some good stunts for the time and the photography is fluid, but the character of Lefty is such a big dope, whining and self-pitying throughout, that it's hard to get very interested in him. And the political thinking – in which the marines use planes to slaughter the South American banditos – is excreable. Not one of Capra's greats. 2/16/98.
THE FLIRTING WIDOW (1930)
Director: William Seiter. Cast: Dorothy Mackaill, Basil Rathbone.
Tired comedy with Rathbone as a Captain John Smith who is mistaken for a young woman's (Mackaill) fiance, a fictious Captain John Smith. It's all terribly contrived, although Rathbone and Mackaill have a good chemistry. An antique, based on a stage play. 5/14/01
FLIRTING WITH DISASTER (1996)
Director: David O. Russell. Cast: Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Tea Leoni, Alan Alda, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal, Lily Tomlin.
David O. Russell's farce about Mel Caplin's (Stiller) quest to find his biological parents is a witty farce that could have been penned by Preston Sturges. Madcap, cerebral, and very clever, Flirting with Disaster shows a keen understanding of the absurdities of the human condition. Holds up well. 12/5/98
THE FLOORWALKER (1916)
Director: Charles Chaplin. Cast: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance.
Early Chaplin entry, set in a department story, with the Tramp substituting for a lookalike criminal employee of the store. It moves fast, but there's that extraordinary about any of it. 7/3/98
FLYING ELEPHANTS (1927)
Director: Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy.
Laurel and Hardy as cavemen fighting each other. Of historical value only. Silent. 12/95
FLYING FORTRESS (1942)
Director: Walter Forde. Cast: Richard Greene, Donald Stewart.
British B-film, with Greene and Stewart as a Gable-Tracy pair of WWII pilots, competitive and distrustful of each other at first, but respectful of each other by the end. It has the virtue of speed and brevity, and the movie contains one harrowing sequence, where Greene goes out on the wing of a flying plane to repair damage in flight. Otherwise, it's all fairly routine but enjoyable. 1/20/08
THE FOG OF WAR (2003)
Director: Errol Morris. Cast: Robert McNamara.
A mea culpa from former Defense Secretary McNamara over his role in the prosecution of the Vietnam War from 1962-68. Morris uses old clips, Oval Office recordings, a haunting Philip Glass score, and -- at the film's core -- an extensive interview with th 85-year-old McNamara to paint an ambiguous portrait of a man at war over his response to the war. Did he try to stop it? Or was he just a yes man to JFK and LBJ? You find no answers here, jsut a slippery look at the nature of truth, Morris' favorite theme. 12/30/03
Director: Frank Capra. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Adolphe Menjou, Ralph Bellamy.
Frank Capra plotted this sudser, in which Stanwyck plays a woman who lies, cheats, even kills for the love of a weak man. Menjou plays the weak man, a rising political figure who gets involved with Stanwyck, despite the fact that he also has an invalid wife back home. They have an affair and a child, and although he constantly wants to do "the right thing" and leave his wife, Stanwyck won't let him. She even gives up her baby for his sake (letting him and his wife raise it). Not that Babs doesn't have suitors: there is the strong-willed, tough-talking newspaper editor (Bellamy) who pines away for her, refusing to marry anyone but her. The movie is a picture of obsessives who are all self-destructive. It's an endlessly fascinating mixture of drama, pathos, and melodrama, with the cast giving a collection of multi-layered per-formances. Ultimately, though, it's a lurid soap opera. 4/21/98
FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956)
Director: Fred McLeod Wilcox. Cast: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Jack Kelly.
I can never warm to this picture, no matter how hard I try. It's a boy's adventure, with impressive special effects and not much else to reccomend it (the electronic score is creepy but just a gimmick). Nielsen is solid as the starship commander, a Captain Kirk without the humor, and the WASP crew is a collection of faceless stereotypes, right out of a '50s Navy picture (the comic cook is embarrassing). It is interesting, conceptually, since the plot is lifted from The Tempest and the story is about the enemy within (the ID) – but the dialogue and pacing are so flat. 5/16/98.
FORCE OF EVIL (1948)
Director: Abraham Polonsky. John Garfield, Beatrice Pearson, Thomas Gomez.
Well-made crime thriller about a crooked lawyer (Garfield) trying to do right by his brother. Not quite full film noir (it ends more or less happily), it has a gritty feel, with the web closing tighter over the protagonist, who wanders through a world of dark shadows, shallow trust, and unhappy people. There are some great camera angles and a few stunning location shots, especially one at the foot of the George Washington Bridge. The ending is a letdown, however. 2/14/98
A FOREIGN AFFAIR (1948)
Director: Billy Wilder. Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Jean Arthur, John Lund.
Terrific comedy with Lund as serviceman in post-war Berlin who is romancing visiting congresswoman Arthur to keep her from discovering his affair with ex-Nazi Dietrich. Lund, a Gable stand=in, is fine, but the show is stolen by the two ladies and the crackling dialogue. Much of it was shot on location in Berlin. Re-seen: 2/4/06
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Joel McCrea, Larraine Day, George Sanders, Herbert Mashall, Edmund Gwenn.
Fast-paced, exciting Hitchcock thriller, very much in the style of The 39 Steps, involving action, intrigue, romance, and a number of wonderful setpieces. The most memorable are the umbrellas in the rain and the windmills turning against the wind, while the plane crash in the end is still exciting. McCrea is fine as the somewhat thick reporter (a cousin to his characters in Preston Sturges movies), and the rest of the cast is very good, including Marshall as a sympathetic traitor. Many of Hitch's favorite themes turn up, including the man on the run, the hate-love relationship between the hero and the heroine, and the MacGuffin that is used to drive the story but which means nothing, really. Holds up on repeated viewings. 9/22/98
FORT APACHE (1948)
Director: John Ford. Cast: Henry Fonda, John Wayne, John Agar, Ward Bond, Shirley Temple.
The first of John Ford's "cavalry trilogy," this one featuring Fonda as an arrogant, by-the-books military commander in the post-Cvil War era who has been relegated to the isolated Fort Apache. The story is a series of vignettes showing the military as a kind of family, with Fonda as the dysfunctional father who doesn't understand what makes the army click. His arrogance and ignorance leads to an unnecessary and fatal confrontation with the Indans the movie consciously echoes Custer's Last Stand, and foreshadows Bush and the war in Iraq. Beautifully photographed and acted by a terrific cast. 9/28/06
14 HOURS (1951)
Director: Henry Hathaway. Cast: Paul Douglas, Ricard Basehart, Barbara Bel Geddes, Grace Kelly, Howard da Silva, Jeffrey Hunter, Debra Paget, Agnes Moorehead.
Gripping – pun intended – thriller about man (Basehart) on the edge and on the ledge. Douglas is the traffic cop who unexpectedly forms a bond with the disturbed would-be jumper, and the movie criss-crosses their saga with minor mini-dramas of people on the scene: from a young couple (Hunter, Paget) who meet in the crowd to a woman who (Kelly, in her film debut) who realizes that life is too short to go through with a divorce. Moorehead plays Baseheart's birtter mother. But the focus – and suspense – sit with the Douglas-Basehart dynamic, and both are terrific, the former as a straight-talking, meat-and-potatoes cop and the latter as a nice, polite, but slightly cracked young man. Shot on location in New York, the film uses the locales quite well. 11/26/06
42 UP (1998)
Director: Michael Apted.
The latest in Michael Apted's every-seven-years documentary series in which he visits 11 children (adults now) and sees where they are in their lives. Some of it is quite poignant. All of it very real. The most affecting tale is that of Neil, who seemed on his way downhill seven years ago, but is now an elected member of a local council. Inspiring. 12/4/99
THE FOUNTAINHEAD (1948)
Director: King Vidor. Cast: Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey.
An essay on the right of the "creator" to go his own way. This ode to indiviualism would be more convincing if the characters spoke in believable dialogue; instead they are forced to mouth stilted dialogue that reflects their position: either conform to the mass public opinion (the mob) or go your own way and be destroyed (the individual)> Gary Cooper plays Howard Roarke, a stubborn individualist who refuses to compromise on any priinciple -- everyone else (except for Patricia Neal as his one true love) follows mass taste. Here., the mob is not to be trusted; they need a leader like Roarke, who can dynamite his building and get away with it because he is a man of principle (and can deliver a practical five-minute speech to the jury that easily sways theml they recognize the truth when they hear it)> O'Neal and Raymond Massey, as a newspaper tycoon, don't have the courage of their convictions that Roarke has – she is frightened of what will happen to Roarke if he doesn't compromise and Massey is destroyed by his lack of conviction. This cla ptrap is based on an Ayn Rand screed – a best-selling novel – and the author was much like Roarke: she apparently insisted that not a word of dialogue from hder novel be altered, which explains why the characters deliver speeches that sound like essay points not real conversation. King Vidor's direction is fine – nice shots of buildings – and the phallic imagery is over the top (especially Neal's first sight of Cooper who is using a huge drill at the time...5/9/06
FOUR-SIDED TRIANGLE (1952)
Director: Terence Fisher. Cast: Barbara Payton, James Hayter, Stephen Murray.
Variation on Frankenstein story, with scientist creating life where none existed before. Story involves two scientists who build a device called a Duplicator, which, naturally, can duplicate anything – even a rabbit. Story gets complicated when both men are in love with the same woman; when she picks one as her beloved, the rejected suitor seeks to have it both ways by duplicating her. Silly story is played straight and is interesting in a plodding sort of way. 12/3/01
Director: James Whale. Cast: Colin Clive, Boris Karloff.
First of the Frankenstein monster movies, the film is a somber, moody evovaction of a scientist's obsession to create life from death. As Henry Frankenstein, Clive brings the right manic intensity ("Crazy? You think I'm crazy?"), but the true star is Karloff who makes the monster both menancing and poignant, a child in a mighty body. The make-up is terrific and the movie has pace. Certainly it moves quickly by early '30s standards. 4/10/98
FRANKIE AND JOHNNY (1991)
Director: Gary Marshall. Al Pacino, Michelle Pfieffer.
Funny, in a sitcom kind of way. An expansion of Terrence McNally's Off-Broadway play, Frankie & Johnnie & The Clare De La Lune, the film adds characters, quips, and a lot of action, but in the end, the jokes and the secondary folks disappear and the movie becomes a two-character speechfest, collapsing on itself. There just wasn't enough there: the story is about loneliness and obsession, about dying alone and dying to be with someone – anyone, even if he/she abuses you (a number of characters suffer that). Frankly, though, I thought Frankie's reluctance to be involved with Johnny is completely believable – he is smothering; overwhelming; and he wants to marry her after only one date. Does he really see her for what she is? That issue is never addressed; nor is the failure of his first marriage. To me,that would be key. It's a storytbook/sitcom kind of tale. Funny, touching, sentimental – and completely unbelievable. Good acting, though. Seen at Loew's Astor Plaza, Saturday, October 26, 1991.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)
Director: William Friedkin. Cast: Gene Hackman, Roy Schneider, Fernando Rey.
"Best Picture" of 1971 is a grim, downbeat affair, a police procedural with new heroes, plenty of villains, and a lot of in-your-face grit. Hackman is "Popeye" Doyle, an obsessive cop out to break a drug ring. Effectively showing the nitty-gritty of police work, the movie also shows that cops are abusive, racist, and violent – not much better than the people they pursue morally, and considerably beneath them socially (Rey is a suave French drug dealer, as elegantly dressed as Hackman is sloppy). The movie is ironic, I suppose, showing how all the police's efforts go for naught, since most of the bad guys get off. Great car chase. 3/13-3/14/98. Re-seen: 12/24/01
THE FRENCH THEY ARE A FUNNY RACE (1957)
Director: Preston Sturges. Cast: Jack Buchanan, Martine Carole.
Sturges' last film – a lame affair, based on a bestseller in France called The Notebooks of Major Thompson. The episode story is really just a series of amusing observations of the foibles of the French. They are some amusing bits – a Frenchman trying to deal with the bureacracy, or the meaning of handshakes – but overall, there's of Sturges' genius on display. Seen at the Film Forum on October 10, 1990.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Cast: Jon Finch, Barry Foster, Alec McCowen.
Late Hitchcock, still with a few tricks, but basically revisiting ground he’s covered before: there’s the man who may or may not be a killer (Finch) who then becomes the innocent man on the run; there’s the charming villain (Foster) who’s actually a psychopath who strangles women; and the dogged John Williams-like inspector (McCowen) who in best Dial M for Murder style continues investigating even after he gets a conviction. There are some nice camera moves – there is a superb long tracking shot down the steps and out the door, showing how no one can hear the rape/murder – and some witty scenes – the detective tells his wife about the case in order to avoid having to eat her dreadful gourmet food – but mostly we’ve been there, done that before. The movie hearkens back to the best of Hitchcock but adds a coarse touch: the abuse of women is distasteful (the rape/murder is graphically unpleasant in a way the Psycho shower murder never was) and the nominal hero is a boorish, hot-headed, self-pitying loser. You almost feel he gets what he deserves. 10/1/98
FRIENDLY PERSUASION (1956)
Director: William Wyler. Cast: Gregory Peck, Dorothy Macguire, Anthony Perkins.
Wholesome film about 1862 Quaker family whose pacifist beliefs are challenged by the Civil War. The movie is episodic, but most of the incidents center around strong-willed mother figure (Macquire) and playful, iconoclastic father (Cooper). Their relationship is at the center of the story. Perkins plays their eldest son, who must decide whether to fight or not. Wyler did family stories well (The Best Years of Our Lives, Ben-Hur), but this one is a little too wholesome for my tastes. Well-done, and Cooper is excellent as the skepitical believer: a man who truly lives by his beliefs but bends them when necessary. (The scene where he spares the life of the man who tried to kill him is excellent.) 2/11/02
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)
Director: Fred Zinnemann. Cast: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine.
Moving story of individuals and the army, particularly Private Robert E. Lee Pruett (Clift), a "hard-head" who doesn't do things the simple way, but his way, a man of determination and principle who loves the army, even though it doesn't seem to love him ("Just because you love something, doesn't mean it has to love you back," he explains"). Pruett is just one of the misfits depicted in this engrossing, multi-layered soap opera: there's Sgt. Warden (Lancaster), a tough career military man who believes in doing the "smart" thing – covering up for his CO's foibles – until Pruett's hard-headedness shows him the way. He romances his captain's woman (Kerr) in the most memorable encounter in the movie: love-making in the surf. The story is a collection of characters going their own way in defiance of the army's role of conformity: all of them end up unhappy or dead, foolishly, like Maggio (Sinatra), Pruett's buddy who's beaten to death, or like Pruett himself, shot because he won't listen to a sentry. The movie is about the pointlessless of it all – and yet there's a lot to admire in these defenders of lost causes, of principles. The writing, acting, and directing are all superb. 12/31/99-1/1/00
THE FROZEN NORTH (1922)
Director: Buster Keaton. Cast: Buster Keaton, Virgina Fox, Joe Roberts.
One of the more absurdist Buster flicks, a precursor to Sherlock Jr. This one parodies the wild adventure movies set in cold climes. There’s one wild touch after another: the movie opens with the last stop on the subway -- a subway kiosk in a frozen tundra; Buster holds up a bar by cutting out the figure of a dangerous criminal from a wanted poster and propping it in a window; arriving home he finds his wife in the arms of another man and shoots them both, then realizes he’s in the wrong building; he hails a “cab” of huskies in the snow; a fishing expedition right out of a cartoon with two men fishing out of two holes but obviously connecting to each other; and another wild chase through a house. Keaton likes being pursued. He is impish and a trouble-maker in this one, more like a cartoon character than in others -- there are few consequences for his actions. And why not? It’s all a dream. Seen: March 28, 1995.
THE FUGITIVE (1947)
Director: John Ford. Cast: Henry Fonda, Dolores Del Rio, Pedro Armendariz Jr.
Dull, sanitized version of Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, which is only redeemed by the beautiful compositions, shot on location in Mexico. Fonda plays Greene's persecuted "whiskey priest," who in the book is the father of an illegitmate child but who is here guilty of nothing more than the sin of pride. He becomes saint-like in Ford's version, scared but still defying the Mexican authorities – who have banned organized religion – by offering the sacrament in secret. Fonda seems to be lost in the role. 10/11/06
FULL MOON IN PARIS (1984)
Director: Eric Rohmer. Cast: Pascale Ogier, Tcheky Karvo, Fabrice Luchini.
The fourth in Eric Rohmer's "Comedies and Proverbs" series, this installment tells the story of Louise (Ogier), a young woman who yearns for both the stability of a relationship – which she has – and the freedom to be independent. In the end, she chooses the relationship, but too late. Affecting, well-played. Rohmer has a low-key approach and seems very concerned with the way men and women interact – or don't – and the idiosyncacies of men and women. 10/13/01
FULL TILT BOOGIE (1998)
Director: Sarah Kelly. Cast: Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, George Clooney, Fred Williamson.
A feature-length documentary about the making of the horror-action flick From Dusk Till Dawn. It's a professional job – but there's more than you ever wanted to know about the making of a quickie horror flick. There's a great deal of care and attention lavished on the cinema verite project, but after a while, it seems like overkill. After all, how much do you really want to know about these people? Quentin Tarantino, who wrote and produced the vampire flick, comes across as the most dweebish. George Clooney, who co-stars with him, appears as a good-natured hunk. It's interesting to see the special effects work; also there's a Michael Moore-like sequence as the documentary crew tries to track down a union president who has been threatening to close down the non-union Dusk Till Dawn shoot (they corner him in his hotel at a union convention). It's amusing, well-made, and detailed, but it could almost be a Monty Python parody, what with the serious talk everyone offers about the making of this film. For God's sake, it's only a cheapie horror flick. It's not even Psycho! 6/23/98