Monday, June 20, 2005

Weekend viewing

Well, actually pre-CineVegas viewing, but I'm only now getting around to writing about it.

California Split (Robert Altman, 1974)
Since the last Altman movie I watched was 3 Women, I was kind of relieved that this is more of the kind of Altman movie I expect. Not that it's formulaic, but it's got the character-driven focus, overlapping, loose dialogue and naturalistic acting I've come to expect from an Altman movie. It's also really, really good, and a shame that it's not considered among Altman's masterpieces. Elliott Gould and George Segal are excellent as a pair of degenerate gamblers who, well, gamble degenerately. There's not much in the way of plot, but the characters are drawn so perfectly, and Gould and Segal (who've become sitcom caricatures in their late careers) are so excellent at capturing the characters that the movie is touching and fascinating even when (especially when, really) nothing happens.

Le Petit Soldat (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
Godard's second movie, and you can see a lot of what would later lead to themes in movies like Breathless and My Life to Live. The political subject matter kept it out of French theaters for three years, but what was more interesting to me was the volatile relationship between the main characters, a mercurial criminal and a sensitive, needy woman (sound familiar?). Also contains the famous quote "Cinema is truth 24 times a second." It's always strange to hear something in context that you've read so many times before out of context.


Katie said...

Not to be annoying, but I think Breathless preceded Le Petit Soldat.

3 Women is actually my favorite Altman movie... but then again, I don't like Altman...

Just saw Cinderella Man. Josh, your review was spot-on (especially on the Seabiscuit bit.)

Josh said...

Dammit, I think you are right about Breathless. It's hard to tell since IMDb has the year of release (not production) listed for Le Petit Soldat. Either way, the similar themes in early Godard are there.

I warmed up to 3 Women after first being sort of put off by it, but I definitely prefer the more "traditionally" Altman-esque movies. The first Altman movie I loved was Nashville, so I probably judge all other Altman movies I see by that standard.

I have gotten only positive feedback on that Cinderella Man review, which, along with its disappointing box office, makes me think that it has inspired almost complete indifference in audiences. Usually when I pan a well-reviewed movie, I get a bunch of hate mail. Not so in this case.

Katie said...

I should probably give Nashville another chance. I don't know, something about Altman's directorial style always seems to irritate me, but I WANT to like him! Really I do!

As for Cinderella Man's less than awesome box office, I'd love to think it's bad karma. The movie attempts a complete, unfounded, and reprehensible character assassination of Max Baer (I wouldn't have liked it anyway, but that REALLY pushed it over the top.)

Also, something I haven't seen critics talk about much is that the movie has a seriously (if possibly unintentional) conservative agenda, from the anti-welfare slant to the "women should support their menfolk!" speech to the dead Commie. But I might be thinking too hard about this...

Oh, by the way: I know you took a lot of flak for your Star Wars review, but remember, those people are morons. I actually liked the movie, and I still think all your criticisms were perfectly valid. (And why does your paper even bother printing unsigned hate mail? I don't know of any other paper that does.)


Josh said...

Well, the unsigned hate mail was sent directly to me, so I approved of its publication. We don't exactly get a flood of letters, so we print what we have.

I saw one review somewhere that mentioned the conservative bias of Cinderella Man, but I can't remember where now. I think the worse thing it does, along with something like Seabiscuit, is make the Depression seem like the most uplifting, exciting time to be alive.