February Watching

As a lover of art in many forms, I have curiously always had little patience for films. Much of the time I would find myself drifting off, usually on my phone, or just walking away. In moving to the UK, however, I found out just what a mistake I had made. I’m not sure if it’s the people I was surrounding myself with or a national fascination, but most of the people I encountered had a vast knowledge of films – in one way or another. Then, upon meeting and dating Lewis, I often found myself at a loss of what to say. Although we had a shared love of reading – which happens to be my number one passion – I didn’t know much about his – film. Lewis studied English Literature at university, but went on to do his masters degree in film journalism and the cinema has always had an incredible impact on him.

As a result, I have made it my mission this year to completely devour as many films as I can. I tend to stick to a certain type of film – that of anything now considered a “classic” or, just “old” – but I am also hoping this will open up my eyes to whole new genres of films I have yet to discover or until now have just brushed off (however, much to Lewis’ dismay, I am still not convinced to watch or consider Wayne’s World).

 

Annie Hall (1977)

I know how much of a cliché it is to choose Annie Hall as your first Woody Allen film, but nonetheless it was on Netflix and I couldn’t keep myself away. I will admit that my interest in the film peaked because of the numerous references to the film in Gilmore Girls, and I am always looking for new opportunities to better understand what Lorelai is saying. However, I found myself completely charmed by Diane Keaton, her incredible wardrobe, and Allen’s spontaneous breaking down of the cinematic “fourth wall” as his character often directly talks to his audience. I have come to find out that this is fairly typical of Woody Allen’s films – but as my first it was something that really jumped out at me, and made my viewing experience that much more interesting.

Capote (2005)

I should preface this by saying the previous to watching this film, I did read In Cold Blood and had numerous discussions with my partner over the pro’s and the con’s of the novel – ending with us at opposite opinions. Maybe this is why we were so attracted to see it?

Capote is a film about the experience Truman Capote had while writing In Cold Blood, simultaneously merging the way Capote acted as an everyday person. I found this film particularly intriguing because it is well known that Capote was not very empathic towards the people of the community that suffered through the Clutter family murders and often exposed them for his own advantage – even going to such lengths as to create a relationship with one of the murderers, to which he blatantly cut off after the success of his book. Whether all the facts portrayed in the film are correct (which, I’m sure, depends on a lot of opinion), Phillip Seymour Hoffman was completely captivating and the convoluted relationships that Capote (the character) possessed were plot enough to keep me until the end  of the film.

His Girl Friday (1940)

His Girl Friday is another film that had to be knocked off my Gilmore Girls references list (yes, there is a list and yes, it is available online). The film centres around a divorced couple who are reunited when Rosalind Russell’s character comes to tell her ex-husband/boss that she is quitting the newspaper business to marry another man. Walter Burns (Cary Grant) refuses to let go of both his best reporter and the ex he still loves, and thus reels her in with one dramatic journalistic opportunity after another.

I can see why Gilmore Girls created a relationship with the film, as Rory sets out to be a journalist herself. However, it is in the distinct personality differences that I notice the change in female perspective. Hildy Johnson (Russell) is a strong, intelligent, and charming woman who finds herself between to men, but proves that the only real love she can’t walk away from is her job.

I won’t hold back and say that this is all that matters in the film, because, let’s face it – old Hollywood would be nothing if there wasn’t a good old love story stuck in there. However, regardless of whether he gets the girl or not, what stands out to me in His Girl Friday is this concept of “the New Woman”. This term is often coined to the naturalism movement (think: Jude the Obscure) moving right on to Fin de Siecle (think: The Yellow Wall-Paper). The idea is a woman who almost resembles a man – in the way she acts, speaks, behaves, and even dresses. In Hildy, we see a delayed example the this “New Woman” – a woman who dominates her job and see’s passion in what she does. It is this, the practice of journalism, the proves to be the one love that Hildy cannot walk away from.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

I am almost embarrassed to admit that it has taken me this long to watch Rebel Without a Cause. I pride myself on loving the classic film genre, and it really does not get more classic than this.

I have to say that this film completely surprised me. What I assumed would be a fairly lightly coated film on American youth and a love story centred in between proved to be a film that was way ahead of it’s time. Rebel Without a Cause does, in fact, look at American youth, but does so in a way that the audience can understand the fundamental difficulties between growing generations and, furthermore, the effects of parenting. James Dean plays what many have a considered a “delinquent”, but through this stereotypical role portrays the intricacies of teenage life. Deans character is a prime example of the attention not given by parents to the lives that are actually lived by youth.  It is in this undisputed moral that “Rebel” earned its praise.

Manhattan (1979)

As my second Woody Allen film of the month – and ever – Manhattan was an interesting choice. At it’s basics, this film is about a forty-something year old man who starts off in a relationship with an eighteen year old, but ends up falling for/being with his best friends mistress. The relationship between Woody Allen’s character and Diane Keaton’s proves to be somewhat childish and unnecessarily complicated – ultimately breaking down. It is at the end of the film that Allen figures out that his relationship with the eighteen year old – who is about to set off for London – was, surprisingly, far more mature and loving. She cared for and loved him so deeply, and he finds himself back on her doorstep asking for one more shot.

I can’t say that I liked this film as much as Annie Hall. While I found the concept of the plot to be intriguing, for some reason I wasn’t all that captivated by it’s actual execution. I did really enjoy the scene where Allen and Keaton meet for the first time and completely obliterate each other’s taste in art, but I found the evolution of their relationship so childish that it got…annoying? That being said, there are scenes that blew my mind away, but I find it hard to decipher if that was because of the film itself or the techniques used in the actual filming of it.

Le Mépris (1963)

Ah, Bardot and Godard…does it get any better (or more French)? I have been impatiently waiting to watch a Bardot film for months, and was thrilled when I finally found the time this past weekend.

Le Mépris (directly translating to “contempt”) can be described in two ways: completely reflective of it’s title and very French. The first part of the film pans over Brigitte Bardot and her exposed body as she laments about love with her husband, repeatedly asking him if he loves the different parts of her. I have to say that this immediate scene grabbed my attention, not just because of Bardot’s beautiful body, but because I have been in that position so many times with my own love. As a woman, I personally find myself looking for the attention and admiration from my partner that Bardot’s character, Camille, searches for as the film begins. It’s the mix between searching for admiration and also digging for the one spot to which he refuses to love that encapsulates my experience as a woman in my particular encounters with love.

As the film progresses, Godard shapes a commentary about becoming contempt within a relationship and losing a line of communication. This can be seen regularly when Camille refuses to tell her husband Paul why she is upset with him, or in the way that Paul often shoves Camille off with his colleague without consulting her first.

I could go on forever about this film; but to make sure I don’t make this post longer than it already is I can honestly say that Le Mépris proved to be one of my favourite films of this month (along with Annie Hall) and I have already made plans with some friends to watch it again (and again, and again…).

 

If you made it to the end, thank you! This was a long one, but I had so much fun ruminating over all the films I’ve been able to experience this month! I’m thinking of making this a regular thing, so if you would like me to continue writing about what I’m watching, please do let me know!

xx, T