Every Friday, we look back at films released 10-100 years ago this week.
Visit Remembering the Movies to further peruse the past
This week, we finally take a break from 1931 (which has dominated the past few weeks) and skip forward for a screwball from Sturges. There are several classics in the lineup this week, as well as an interesting back-and-forth between Siskel and Ebert (as well as a Tom & Jerry cartoon from the fifties - hard to say which duo is more contentious).
This might also be the place to the mention for those who missed it that Blog 10, the year-end round-up, finally made its debut last week. Check it out for some great links, images, and excerpts...
10 years ago (March 1, 2001)
"The Mexican does try to breathe a little originality into the romantic comedy genre, and fails. Most directly, the film tries to flip the script in its representation of the Mafioso hit man Leroy. His secret is... he's gay! I imagine screenwriter J.H. Wyman's epiphany as something like this: 'Oooh, here's a way to include a gay character who doesn't fall into predictable stereotypes and phobic cliches.' Leroy recognizes this: when he comes out to Sam, and she remarks that his profession doesn't seem conducive to his lifestyle (whatever that means), he quips back, 'What, you think I should be an interior decorator or something?' Admittedly, this could be an interesting twist (and if this is the sort of thing you want, check out Douglas Langways' Raising Heroes in which gay vigilante daddies take on the mob to protect their adopted child). The problem is, though, that it is merely James Gandolfini reprising his role from The Sopranos, and Leroy's gayness is an obvious attempt to add a little something new to that role." - Todd Ramlow, Pop Matters
The Mexican (2001)
20 years ago (March 1, 1991, wide release)
Gene: "It was a pleasure to revisit the times; I felt like I was given a ticket back to the sixties and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed being there, watching the music, seeing it be created, seeing the spirit of the sixties recreated, the positive spirit of people taking chances. I thought it was a very terrific film."
Roger: "You've just given a wonderful review of the first twenty minutes of the film. What about what Jim Morrison goes through in this movie? His obsession with death? His completely sadistic and uncaring treatment of everyone around him? The way that they start reacting to him with passive-aggressive hatefulness so that the people in the band, in the background, playing while he's singing look as if they want to kill him? What about the audiences he kept waiting for hours? What about the painful spectacle of him embarrassing himself himself in public, while drunk, and exposing himself? Is that the spirit of the sixties?"
Gene: "I don't think, well, you know what? People did awful things, they were drug-influenced and drunk, and..."
Roger: "Well, what about this guy - he was more than drug-influenced, he was on a complete death trip!"
- Siskel & Ebert
The Doors (1991)
30 years ago (February 27, 1981)
"The Liar has to be the greatest French new-wave movie to come out of 80′s Finland! Hell, hadn’t Philippe Garrel made Les Amants Reguliers (Regular Lovers) in 2005, this would be the finest French new-wave release there never was. It recaptures the spirit of France ’69 all over again, hell, even Helsinki looks like Paris here. Mika Kaurismaki’s young brother, Aki, does a great job as Ville, the pathological liar. His scheming is a perverse pleasure to watch, seeing how he manipulates people to get what he wants; it’s also equally pleasurable seeing him get his comeuppance!" - Phillip Escott, Wildside Cinema
"I loathed this film. For a start, Ville is the most unsympathetic central character – utterly amoral, selfish and with no apparent redeeming features, so it is hard to imagine that all these people fall for his fabrications all the time. Next, I found the pseudo intellectualism in the movie tiresome and affected. I could not wait to see the back of Ville and his pretentious friends." - Caro Ness, Eye for Film
The Liar (1981)
40 years ago (March 1, 1971)
"I think the thing that disappoints me most about Luchino Visconti's Death in Venice is its lack of ambiguity. Visconti has chosen to abandon the subtleties of the Thomas Mann novel and present us with a straightforward story of homosexual love, and although that's his privilege, I think he has missed the greatness of Mann's work somewhere along the way. In the novel, Count Aschenbach goes to Venice at a certain season in his life, driven by a compulsion he does not fully understand and confronted by strange presences who somehow seem to be mocking or tempting him. Once settled in his grand hotel on the Lido, he becomes aware of a beautiful boy who is also visiting there with his family from Poland. His feelings toward this boy are terribly complicated, and to interpret them as a simple homosexual attraction is vulgar and simplistic. The boy represents, above all, an ideal of perfect physical beauty apart from sexuality; the irony is that this beauty stirs emotions in a man who (in the novel) has insisted on occupying the world of the intellect. The boy's youth and naturalness become a reproach to the older man's vanity and creative sterility." - Roger Ebert
Death in Venice (1971)
50 years ago (March 3, 1961)
60 years ago (March 3, 1951)
Jerry and the Goldfish (1951)
70 years ago (February 25, 1941)
"Superlatives like that are dangerous, but superlatives like The Lady Eve are much too rare for the careful weighing of words. And much too precious a boon in these grim and mirthless times. For this bubbling and frothy comedy-romance, which Mr. Sturges has whipped up for Paramount, possesses all the pristine bounce and humor, all the freshness and ingenuity, that seem to have been lacking from movies since away back—we don't know when. Suddenly the art of comedy-making is rediscovered in the most matter-of-fact place." - Bosley Crowther, New York Times
"This is probably the high point of the brief but glorious directorial career of Preston Sturges - a deliciously sexy comedy set on a luxury liner with Barbara Stanwyck as a professional cardsharp and Henry Fonda her selected victim, a millionaire scientist who is more comfortable with snakes than with women. Mind you, the way she behaves there doesn't seem to be a lot of difference. Sturges' gift was the rare ability to combine high verbal comedy with wild visual slapstick and the mixture never worked better than it does here. Stanwyck, so often the sultry femme fatale, was allowed to reveal her full, and too often neglected, comic range as, too, was Fonda." - Barry Norman, The 100 Best Films of the Century
The Lady Eve (1941)
80 years ago (February 26, 1931)
"Consider an early scene where two characters are having a heated conversation in a darkened house. The audience can't see the two talkers; only the outer facade of the house and the blackened doorway. Hitchcock keeps the camera focused on that generic facade for an intolerable length of time before they emerge. It's not hard to blanch at something like that, but then Hitchcock gives you this little gem of a scene: a well-crafted auction sequence where, for a sustained period of time, the camera turns to function as the point-of-view of the auctioneer, roaming around the faces of a crowd and zipping and panning between a heated bidding battle. Granted, in terms of heart-pounding excitement, it is not exactly a crop duster diving for Cary Grant, but it is a flash of genius that stands out and illustrates why Hitchcock was one of the preeminent directors working in Britain in the 1930s." - T.S., Screen Savour
The Skin Game (1931)
90 years ago (February 27, 1921)
"Built around Pauline Frederick's emotional acting is the unusual story of a woman finding herself in love with the one man she most dreaded to meet--the man whose blunder cost the life of her husband in the world war. Lady Inglesby has a heart that is torn by loneliness as the months pass and there is no news from her husband, who is at the battlefront. Then comes the news of his death, not at the hands of the enemy but by that of a blunderer in his own command. In this situation Miss Frederick's acting is intensely gripping, and she has been provided with a role well suited to her strong emotional talents. At all times she appears to advantage." - Motion Picture World
The Mistress of Shenstone (1921)
100 years ago (February 23, 1911)
"This 1911 burlesque comedy staged scatter-brained Tweedledum. Anti-conformist and sometimes provocative, this funny character emulated inventiveness to harm the new technologies of the beginning of the century.
It was Marcel Fabre, from his real name Marcel Perez, a Spanish comedian, who put Robinet's costume on for the first time in 1910. This comedian with a number of stage names came from the school of the circus where he started his career in the persona of an acrobatic clown." - Europa Film Treasures
Tweedledum, Aviator (1911)