Tag: Classic Movies

This Appalling Life: a Review of Luis Buñuel’s Tristana

“It is a poetic principle that the freedom of the individual must fight against the restrictions of reality… I am still, thank God, an atheist.”
– Luis Buñuel
Luis Buñuel was hugely interested in depicting the complexities of human relationships and his 1970 film Tristana is the most explicit example of that.

The movie is the story of Don Lope (Fernando Rey) a middle-aged atheist/Marxist who becomes the orphan Tristana’s (Catherine Deneuve) guardian after the death of her mother. While determined to only treat her as his daughter he becomes tempted and forces her into a sexual relationship. He rationalizes this and argues that she’d do worse than that being left on the street.

The girl is disgusted by his sexual advances and is holding a grudge against the old man over it. She secretly goes out of Don Lope’s house and meets a handsome young painter (Franco Nero) with whom he runs away. However, she falls ill and develops a tumor in her leg, under this impression that she doesn’t have much time to live she goes back to Done Lope’s household. Don Lope calls a doctor who suggests that her life can be saved by the amputation of her leg. Thus she survives and stays with the man whom she wants to avenge for taking her virginity as a young girl. Don Lope’s much older and weaker now, reduced to playing cards with priests just to have some company even though he is an atheist.

This movie never becomes a melodrama about a poor young girl taken advantage of by a father figure and disabled by the hands of fate, though it could easily be. The whole situation is appalling and that is exactly what Buñuel wanted it to be – exploring the complexities of human nature and the sadomasochism of human beings.
There are some recurring dream scenes in the movie. One is Tristina’s dream about the severed head of Don Lope’s on a church ball. According to some, that was one of Buñuel’s own recurring dreams: Buñuel was a lifelong atheist just like Don Lope.

To make the situation more disgusting than it already is Buñuel gets the deaf-mute boy of Don Lope’s servant involved in the story as well. He desires Tristana, but the girl who is bitter and cold after the amputation of her leg rejects him but mercilessly tortures him at the same time (revealing her naked body to him from the balcony).

Not many directors can take us to their own private world of nightmares and dreams and show us the ugly side of human nature and still be able to make an excellent movie. That is why Luis Buñuel is still considered to be one of the best directors of all time.



Fetishes we can’t Resist: a Look at Luis Buñuel’s Most Erotic Film “Belle De Jour”

Long before Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut, there was Luis Buñuel’s “Belle De Jour”: the story of a refined young wife of a reputable surgeon whom out of boredom secretly works at a brothel once or twice a week.
Some critics, including the late great Roger Ebert, believe this film to be the best erotic movie of all times. Buñuel never saw eroticism as something that only exists in nudity and the act of sexual intercourse but rather delved into human imaginations and strange fetishes and shamelessly depicted them in his movies. The audience follows the story of “Belle de Jour” through the eyes of Severine (played by Catherine Deneuve). For Severine sex is a dull act unless she is subjected to a vast amount of attention over it – even violence.

She finds her marriage with a seemingly perfect young surgeon Pierre (played by Jean Sorel) whose response to her refusal of sex is a single good night, to be terribly tedious. Pierre, on the other hand, sees her frequent avoidance of intercourse as a sign of virtue and adores her for that. They have a family friend Henri (played by Michel Piccoli) who is also in love with her seemingly moral character and proper mannerism – annoyed by it Severine always dismisses his compliments and resents him.
In Severine’s fantasies, Pierre demands sex or orders others to rape her, and she loves him for it. Her main fetish is to be dominated and humiliated by her lovers. She dreams about being tied to a tree while Pierre and Henri throw mud at her. She also has other small turn-ons and fetishes to which Buñuel hints throughout the movie – the sound of carriage bells and cats’ meows.

Severine’s fantasies find a way of realization when Henri accidentally tells her about a high-class brothel in which housewives work part time to earn an extra income.
Memorized the address of the brothel mentioned by Henri in their conversation Severine walks in there a few days later and is admitted in by Madame Anais (Genevieve Page)- the owner of the brothel. She gets scared at first and runs away, but the curiosity and temptation bring her back. As she tries to avoid sleeping with a fat middle aged man, Madame Anais pushes her and orders her to do so, surprisingly she promptly obeys her, something that compels her to conclude:” I see you need a firm hand.”
It can be very shocking for today’s audience to find out that there are no explicit sex scenes in one of the most erotic movies ever made. Buñuel’s interest was to show us the weirdest human fetishes and sexual “ fantasies” thus the camera always shies away when it comes to the real act of sexual intercourse. Buñuel masterfully toys with our minds and leaves us intrigued in the scene where an Asian client of the brothel who cannot speak French properly keeps showing the girls an object that looks like a music box. We never find out about the content of the box the only thing we get to see is a bloody bed sheet and Severine’s playful smile – insinuating the client’s fetish with the mysterious box.
One day, two gangsters come to Madame Anais’s brothel. One of them is Marcel (played by Pierre Clementi). He is very young, wears a leather cape, carries a sword -stick and has several unsightly steel teeth. Severine is especially impressed by his bad manners, his taunts, and his gangster persona. Marcel falls in love with her, not knowing that he’s a puppet in her hands, a toy with which she satisfies her sexual fantasies and fetishes – the best one.

Luis Buñuel who is undoubtedly one of the greatest directors of all time was a surrealist who collaborated with Salvador Dali as a young man in “ Un Chien Andalou.” He was very amused by the vast and diverse world of human fantasies and intended to depict that in his movies. He believed that most of us are hard-wired into sexual patterns from an early age and there is no escape from that – Severine also says that it is out of her hands and she’s lost.
Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” and Luis Buñuel’s “Belle De Jour” are both about women whose marriages do not satisfy their uncontrollable hard-wired sexual patterns, and their husbands, suffering from the same fate remain clueless. It is all human nature.



“Arsenic and Old Lace”: Comedy they don’t make Anymore

Arsenic and Old Lace” is another movie you can add to the list of Christmas  watch list. I know most people have not watched this movie, but I will guarantee its brilliance . This movie will create happy times for you and your family, without having zero special effects and technological tricks in it.

Cary Grant a Comedy Actor?

Yes, ladies and gents! Cary Grant was also awesome at being a comedian (besides being insanely handsome and all that). This is the story of  newly wed and former eligible bachelor Mortimer Brewster, who finds out on his wedding day and on his way to his honeymoon,  that his two innocent looking  aunties are serial murders, who kill lonely, old men to ” rid them of the pain of being alone”,

Since his brother, Teddy (he  believes he is Teddy Roosevelt and he is the best Teddy Roosevelt) is not mentally fit , and helps the old ladies in burying the bodies in the cellar (as President Roosevelt he thinks they are victims of yellow fever and buries them so no one would find out about them),he tries to admit him to a lunatic asylum to put an stop to this madness.

While Mortimer tries to get all the signatures and legal procedures in doing so his long lost half brother Jonathan (a serial murderer too) who is now looks exactly like Boris Karloff as Dracula , pays a visit to his aunties place with a dead body , and creates chaos and unbelievably comical situations.


A Hat off to Basically everyone in this Movie

It is not only an star such as Cary Grant that makes “Arsenic and Old Lace“, the delightful movie that is, but it is basically everyone in this movie (even the extras are brilliant), that makes it what it is. Two actors playing Mortimer’s aunts are so believable and lovely that you sympathize with them even when you find out that they have killed more than dozens of lonely gentlemen.

John Alexander gives a class A performance to Teddy (everyone he yells chaaarrrrge running upstairs, you are going to laugh your hat off , I promise), Raymond Massey is the stupid but dangerous Jonathan who will go crazy every time someone mentions that he looks like Boris Karloff (a crazy little fake plastic surgeons known as Doctor Einstein has made him look like Karloff to escape from the police , and he had watched Dracula before doing the surgery).

Frank Kapra : Do I Need to say More?

The name, Frank Kapra means a lot to lovers of classic cinema, from “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “Arsenic and Old Lace“, he was a pioneer in the movie industry and most of his movies, are delightful, memorable and are made with great taste. He had a talent in getting the best performance from his actors and actresses.

However, if you don’t know who Frank Kapra was and are not necessarily a fan of Cary Grant, I bet you still enjoy a good laugh on those long and sometimes not so cheerful Christmas days. I’d be more than glad to hear your thoughts on this movie .



The Apartment: a Classic Movie Worth Watching again this Christmas

As the holiday season is approaching us, we either have the choice to watch the latest Harry Potter movie, or something classic and timeless such as Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment“.

 Jack Lemmon, Shirley McClain, Billy Wilder : a Trio you can’t go wrong with

The Apartment” is entertainment in its classiest form. This movie could be described as a romantic comedy, but I don’t think they make romantic comedies like this anymore. The routine life of Bud Baxter, an average office drudge at an Insurance Company in New York, interrupted by the odd request of his married bosses and managers who want to use his lonely apartment as a place of rendezvous with their mistresses.

As he scarifies his own comfort and shelter (sleeping in the street even), the bosses promote “buddy boy” to higher ranks and better offices on a daily basis, till he finds out that a girl he likes at the office is among those mistresses who pay a visit to his apartment.

The above story-line could be deemed simple, but Wilder and his unbelievable cast of actors  make an unforgettable classic out of that.


Acting/Directing at its Best

I’ve always deemed Jack Lemmon a genius, from “the Apartment” to ” Prisoner of Second Avenue” to his later years ” Grumpy Old Men” he was funny without trying to be so.  Him catching a cold from sleeping in the streets so his bosses can have their rendezvous, and the next day going to the big boss’s office to give him the key, and get a promotion with that awful cold, is one of the funniest scenes I have ever seen.

The situation gets even more out of hand, when all the neighbors of Baxter think it is indeed him who brings different women to his place every night, and shake their heads with disgust every time they see the poor office clerk.

I wish we had more actors like him and Walter Matthau today, guess they don’t make them like them anymore in this day and age, and being talented got nothing to do with becoming successful at what you do.

Shirley McClain’s portrayal of Fran Kubelik a hopeless romantic deeply in love with her married boss is also worthy of mention and praise. Her famous dialogue from this movie :” You should never wear mascara if you’re in love with a married a man,” and her sad eyes while saying is unforgettable and lovely.

I don’t think anyone disagrees with me when I declare Billy Wilder one of the heavyweights of Hollywood industry, from “Sunset Blvd.” to Witness for the Prosecution and ” Apartment” he entertained cinema goers without ever presenting them a cheap scene, dialogue or cinematography technique.

So if you get sick of Christmas at some point (and you will get sick of Christmas), instead of thinking about killing yourself (yep, the rate of suicide goes sky high at Christmas), go sit beside your lover, ma’, dad or granny and watch this timeless classic, I’m positive that you’re gonna thank me for this suggestion.