hendersonville film society
Genre: Historical Drama
Director: Charles Jarrott (Anne of a Thousand Days))
Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, Patrick McGoohan, Timothy DaltonIn Brief: Well, it does boast two of the greatest — possibly the greatest — actresses of 1960s and 70s British film in Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson, but let's be honest, this is a thoroughly respectable British prestige picture from the folks who brought you the even more respectable Anne of a Thousand Days (1969). While Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) is decidedly more lively — and better acted — it's still the kind of picture you think it is. And you know it ends badly.
Director: Julien Duvivier (Tales of Manhattan)
Starring: Vivien Leigh, Ralph Richardson, Kieron Moore, Hugh DempsterIn Brief: Julien Duvivier's 1948 version of Anna Karenina has always been overshadowed by Clarence Brown's 1935 Greta Garbo film. Now it's overshadowed by Joe Wright's 2012 version, but it remains a solid — maybe a little stolid — take on Tolstoy's novel. In comparison with the 1935 film, it benefits greatly from the presence of Ralph Richardson as Karenin. Vivien Leigh's Anna is another matter — one of personal taste, I think. Worth a look, but it won't get you as high as the cinematic panache of the other versions.
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, Leo G. Carroll, Patricia HitchcockIn Brief: One of Alfred Hitchcock's most convoluted and perverse thrillers, Strangers on a Train — with its dark humor, unusual plot and technical panache — has held up better than many of the director's bigger and more famous films. What it lacks in big stars, it more than makes up for by being every inch a director's film — one where you marvel at the creativity on display.
Director: Lech Majewski (Wojacek)
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Michael York, Charlotte RamplingIn Brief: Almost impossible to critique as a film, The Mill and the Cross is a true cinematic oddity. It's a strikingly visual, but dramatically lacking, recreation of Pieter Bruegel's 1564 painting The Procession to Calvary, illustrating the elements, some of the models and the political allegory behind the art. As drama, it rarely works well, but makes up for this with its stunning painterly visuals and atmosphere.
Director: Jack Clayton (Our Mother's House)
Starring: Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern, Sam Waterston, Karen BlackIn Brief: Jack Clayton's 1974 film of The Great Gatsby is a good-looking, seriously miscast, painfully earnest attempt at capturing the novel. It's respectful of Fitzgerald's book to the point of calcification, but if you're looking for a film that gives you the story without disturbing anyone, this is it. It's not bad. It's just pretty much lacking in excitement.
Genre: Compilation Documentary
Director: Jack Haley, Jr.
Starring: Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Debbie ReynoldsIn Brief: Riding in on the last of the late 1960s/early 1970s nostalgia wave, That's Entertainment positioned itself as a documentary about the Hollywood musical. In truth, it was a two-hour commercial for MGM that presented one seriously skewed version of film history. That's not to say the film doesn't include some pretty impressive (and more than a few clunker) musical numbers — all culled from the MGM library — but it presents a very small fragment of the movie musical genre as if it was the whole story.
Director: Herb Gardner (A Thousand Clowns)
Starring: Walter Matthau, Ossie Davis, Amy Irving, Martha Plimpton, Craig T. NelsonIn Brief: Playwright and sometimes filmmaker Herb Gardner brings his play I'm Not Rappaport to the screen with Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis in the leads. The first hour of its rather too expansive running time is very good indeed, if not especially great filmmaking. Matthau and Davis make an appealing pair of old men — not exactly friends, but who else is around? — whiling away their time in Central Park, each with his own problems. The dialogue — while sounding like dialogue — is good and penetrating. Then we get to what amounts to the second act and the film's desire to evolve into a more elaborate drama bogs things down pretty fast. It remains easily watchable, but it turns into less by trying to be more.
Genre: Drama with Music
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Starring: Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti, Hans AlbersIn Brief: The Blue Angel (1930) marked not only the first German sound film, but, more importantly, the meeting of filmmaker Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich. It remains the most well-known of the seven films they made together, but it's hardly the best of the lot — which doesn't keep it from being iconic. (Is there anyone who doesn't know the image of Dietrich straddling the chair singing "Falling in Love Again?" It's one of cinema's indelible moments.) Its story of a stuffy school teacher becoming obsessed with Lola Lola, a crudely sexy cabaret performer, is more of a downer than the subsequent Sternberg-Dietrich pairings, making it less viewer-friendly. However, it's an important film — and without it, we would have never had those subsequent movies.
Genre: Action Thriller
Director: John Hough (The Incubus)
Starring: Sophia Loren, John Cassavetes, George Kennedy, Robert Vaughn, Patrick McGoohan, Max Von SydowIn Brief: The cast and the premise of John Hough's Brass Target (1978) is considerably more interesting than the film itself. The idea that General Patton was deliberately killed in that 1945 "accident" to prevent him from uncovering what happened to a hijacked trainload of Nazi gold is intriguing enough. And the prospect of Robert Vaughn as a colonel with a penchant for younger men, with Edward Herrmann as the object of his obsession, sounds more promising than it actually is. (So is the idea of seeing 1960s TV spy icons Vaughn and Patrick McGoohan in the same movie.) It's just not much fun, but it does keep moving and is worth a look.
Director: Robert Mulligan (Summer of '42)
Starring: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, John Megna, Frank Overton, Ruth White, Brock PetersIn Brief: Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, has become a classic of modern American literature, and Robert Mulligan's film has become something of a classic itself — though perhaps one more of association than on its own merits, notable as they are in capturing the book. Gregory Peck has rarely been as good as he is here and the rest of the cast is of equally high caliber. It is, in fact, hard to fault on any level (and in my opinion, that may not entirely be a good thing).
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