I’ve watched a couple of Fritz Lang movie masterpieces over the last days and several modern films. Its been a long, lazy Easter break.
Metropolis is a silent Lang classic from 1926, perhaps the first science fiction epic, with a wild plot involving downtrodden workers, mad engineers and feminoid robots. This astounding film is highly moralistic with a message about the balance between heart and mind in an industrial society that has, I think, contemporary relevance. I couldn’t get the original version of this flick but was left with one having a new (1998) music soundtrack by Peter Osborne. What a surreal and stylistically exaggerated movie this is. With the silent movies the emphasis fell on acting skill and this is one of the greatest of its genre from the viewpoint of displaying precisely that skill – the acting is dramatic, exaggerated and gripping. Rank 10/10 'fantastic' is the accurate adjective.
The Lang movie M (1931) features Peter Lorre in one of his first starring roles as a serial child killer who whistles Grieg. Lorre is put on trial by a criminal gang who are annoyed that the crime crackdown following the murders isa cutting into their ability to act – Lorre pleads that while they choose to commit crime, he is compelled to commit it. This is early film noir. This is a spooky, thriller (in German with subtitles) with good mob scenes and cop-versus-robber adventures. The German city is fearful of the murderer and these fears provide an interesting picture of pre-War Germany with criminal gangs and authoritarian coppers. I originally had problems getting a copy – I normally search for these older movies on EBay – but I bought a splendid DVD of this in a remainder bin outside a Tandy’s store for exactly $2. Grade 7/10.
I watched Marie Antoinette which I enjoyed. It stars the blood-warming Kirsten Dunst - you will fall in love with her after viewing this delightful tale. It is almost a historical movie but poetic licence intrudes more than a little. It is presented in a modern idiom but with historical costumes and exquisite presentations of the extravagant, luxurious lifestyles of Versailles that lead to the collapse of Louis V1. Sad moments of sexual- and life-starved frustration for Marie though she sticks with dense Louis through thick-and-thin. Both are on a gravy train that they do not entirely welcome and from which they cannot get off. The images that stick in my mind are of the sumptuous strawberry deserts, Marie’s shoes and clothes and the general sumpyuous glory of Versailles! Rank 8/10.
I watched The Painted Veil which gets 7/10. Based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, this is a love story set in the 1920s telling the tale of a young English couple, Walter (Edward Norton), a bacteriologist, and Kitty (Naomi Watts), an upper-class woman. They get married for the wrong reasons and relocate to Shanghai, where Kitty falls in love with a sleazy cad. Walter uncovers the infidelity and, in an act of spite, accepts a job in a remote village in China ravaged by cholera and KMT anger, and takes Kitty with him. Watching her husband working with KMT nationalists and cholera sufferers gives Kitty a new respect for him and they re-engage. It is a 'solidity versus fickleness' story with impressive photography of Chinese countryside.
Finally, I watched and enjoyed The Illusionist – the story of a man from the ‘lower classes’ (Edward Norton again) who secures the love of a woman of far higher social rank and retains this love using his skills as a magician, illusionist and strategist. This is a delightful fairytale that I strongly recommend - a 9/10. The magic is awesome and the intriguing punch line (which I won’t preannounce) is compelling. It’s a pleasant, well-acted fantasy. Norton is excellent as is Jessica Biel, the target of his affections.