Last (Baker’s) Dozen Films I Saw

  • The Glenn Miller Story : Anthony Mann (1952)
  • Strike : Sergei Eisenstein (1925)
  • Alexander Nevsky : Sergei Eisenstein (1938)
  • Breathless : Jean Luc Godard  (1959)
  • The Parallax View : Alan J. Pakula (1974)
  • The Big Sleep : Howard Hawks (1946)
  • Peggy Guggenheim, Art Addict : Lisa Vreeland (2015)
  • Joy : David O. Russell (2015)
  • Love and Death : Woody Allen (1975)
  • Tubby Hayes, Man in a Hurry : Mark Baxter & Lee Cogswell (2o15)
  • Insomnia : Christopher Nolan (2002)
  • Spotlight : Tom McCarthy (2015)
  • The Miners’ Hymns : Bill Morrison (2011)

Briefly, Strike, Eisenstein’s first full-length movie, is astonishing from beginning to end; a jaw-dropping movie. So far from the birth of the nouvelle vague, the Godard, made, as someone pointed out, when he was in love with the United States, instead of hating them (a development many of us go through) now seems not a little archaic but charming. The Big Sleep is wonderful for its dialogue, for the scenes between Bogart & Bacall, and, perhaps almost most of all, for that delightful and sexy little scene in the bookshop between Bogart and Dorothy Malone. Joy mostly works, for me anyway, the first third especially – and any film that can have me weeping when it’s heroine finally succeeds in selling her self-designed mop on the shopping channel obviously knows what it’s doing.

Spotlight is a perfectly decent film on a still important subject, but finally too one-paced, and, despite Mark Ruffalo’s puppyish enthusiasm, too lacking in energy: ultimately it is carried by the strength of its subject matter rather than whatever might have made it more interestingly cinematic.

Bill Morrison’s documentary about the mining communities of Durham is beautifully evocative of times now past, cultures and communities that are being concreted over and consigned to memory. Visually glorious, it benefits enormously from a music score by the Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson.


Author: John Harvey


2 thoughts on “Last (Baker’s) Dozen Films I Saw”

  1. Your inclusion of the venerable Bogart/Bacall/Howard Hawks The Big Sleep was timely for me; I’ll be showing and discussing Dick Richards’ 1975 Robert Mitchum/Charlotte Rampling go at Farewell, My Lovely in my film class in a couple of days.

    I must admit I’ve not been able to watch Altman’s The Long Goodbye all the way through (but may be one of the few persons who saw the now considered lost CBS Climax 1954 live television version of The Long Goodbye with Dick Powell as Marlowe), nor have I seen Garner’s Marlowe (although I have a DVD of the Garner film in my collection). I have begun to like the Mitchum noir Farewell, perhaps with repeated viewings, as much as the historic Dick Powell Murder, My Sweet I’ve taught in an earlier class on actors playing against type. That film certainly rescued the aging juvenile Powell’s career and enabled Edward Dmytryk to move up from RKO’s B films to the A list; however, a career that was brought to a halt by the McCarthy years, and only really revived with the later Caine Mutiny.

    I’ve begun to schedule genre films for the cool and rainy winter school terms, which I know would be foreign to you in England. I’ve done two each comedy film sets and two biopic terms, one with historical folks and one with both real and somewhat unreal musical entertainers from the Jolson Jazz Singer to Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown. While the Spring term will focus, so to speak, on production design, this Winter term is Detectives on Film, which has included the Rathbone/Bruce Hound of the Baskervilles; Charlie Chan at the Opera (one of the better Oland ones, aided by Boris Karloff) and Thank You,Mr. Moto [both great opportunities to about earlier racism in film]; Last week’s The Thin Man (to contrast a non-Spade/Continental Op with this week’s Farewell, and, to come, a Rutherford Miss Marple, the Sidney Kingsley Detective Story and, finally, Fargo.

    I’m sorry I’ve rambled on a bit more than I should, but your note about The Big Sleep was apparently my tipping point.

  2. Interested to see mention of “The Parallax View” a film I saw again just before Christmas after an absence of nearly 40 years. Back in the day I enjoyed it immensely as it fitted neatly alongside all those post Watergate/conspiracy/paranoia thrillers like the mighty “Night Moves” and “Three Days Of The Condor” but I wasn’t sure it held up that well now. The Warren Beatty character seemed to be incredibly dumb at times. The Parallax film within a film was still remarkable stuff however. What did you think ?

    I’d forgotten how sexy Dorothy Malone could be until I caught Douglas Sirk’s still astonishing “Written On The Wind” on More 4(which probably shows more classic films than any other terrestrial station) one morning last year !

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