Sunday, February 26, 2017

AT THE MOVIES IN MY HOUSE

Gosford Park, directed by Robert Altman ("Nashville", "Mash") and written by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey), includes a delightful all-star ensemble cast that includes the wonderful Maggie Smith.  The subject of the film could be described as a typical English country house murder mystery, except that it's not typical at all.  The story and dialogue move quickly, as is Altman's style, and calls for the viewer's close attention, so as not to miss the sharp wit and humorous asides in the conversations.  I've seen the film 3 times, and I want to see it again. I gave it the highest rating of 5 stars on Netflix.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is an early collaboration by Ethan and Joel Coen, the brothers who wrote and directed the movie and have gone on to further fame and fortune.  The film is a satire loosely based on  Homer's Odyssey and set in Mississippi during the Great Depression.  Three white convicts escape from a chain gang and pick up an African-American guitar player along the way.  Mayhem, suspense, and hilarity ensue, as the four try to keep ahead of the chase by members of law enforcement and citizen enforcement, including the KKK.  In trying to save their necks, by accident, the group becomes a famous radio band called The Soggy Bottom Boys.

T Bone Burnett worked with the Coen brothers on the superb sound track as the movie was being written.  The music in the film consists mainly of American southern folk music, and the sound track won the Album of the Year Grammy award.  I rated this one 5 stars, too.

As for My Dinner With André, if you enjoy dinner with a companion who is a monologist, who tells tales that make one wonder if any of them really happened, then you may enjoy the movie more than I did.  I thought, "Good heavens!  When will André allow Wally to get in a word or two, except, "Really?"

The two actors, André Gregory and Wallace Shawn, who play themselves, have a certain charm, but a dinner companion would have to be a lot more engaging than André, for me to have patience with a monologue.  I gave this one 3 stars.

Last, but most certainly not least, is the delightful Gigi. The list of talented people who worked in the film is amazing.  Vincent Minelli directed the movie.  The screenplay was written by Alan Jay Lerner, who also wrote the song lyrics.   Frederick Loewe composed the music. which was arranged and conducted by André Previn.

The story is loosely based on a novella of the same name by the French writer, Colette, and is one of the few books I've read in the original French.  The movie is a charming romantic musical comedy set in turn-of-the century Paris.  The women in the family are brought up to be courtesans, and they don't marry.  As Aunt Alicia, who gives Gigi lessons for her future role, says, "Marriage is not forbidden to us, but instead of getting married at once, it sometimes happens we get married at last."

The cast is listed below.

Leslie Caron as Gilberte ("Gigi")
Maurice Chevalier as Honoré Lachaille
Louis Jourdan as Gaston Lachaille
Hermione Gingold as Madame Alvarez
Eva Gabor as Liane d'Exelmans
Isabel Jeans as Aunt Alicia

Costumes were designed by Cecil Beaton, and the cinematographer was Joseph Ruttenberg.  The scenes of Paris are gorgeously idealized, and they are a feast for the eye.  The movie won nine academy awards, including Best Picture.  5 stars for Gigi.

In the past, I thought Louis Jordan was dreamily good-looking, but my taste changed over the years. It's not that Jourdan is not good-looking, but he's no longer my dream man.

I remember with fondness Hermione Gingold's regular appearances on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. Though Paar was sometimes an ass, his guests were often brilliant, and he could hold his own in the banter.  When I visited my friend who was at Columbia University over 50 years ago, she had reserved tickets to the show.  One guest that evening was the playwright, George S Kaufman.  Somehow ostriches as unlikable birds came up in the conversation, and Paar asked Kaufman if he liked ostriches.  Kaufman said, "It's hard to say.  I know so few ostriches."

Credit to Wikipedia as the source for some of the details about the films.

6 comments:

  1. My husband claims Gigi as a totem because they both came out in 1958 and his initials are G.G. With his French background he also loves the scenes of Paris.

    Our favorite film with Paris scenes, however, is Funny Face, which is stolen by the great Kay Thompson -- usually in the background as vocal coach to the stars and godmother to Liza Minnelli (not to mention her alter ego, Eloise). Excellent to have one film showcasing Thompson in top form.

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    1. Thanks for the reminder of "Funny Face". It's been a long time, and I added the film to my Netflix queue.

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    2. I always remember Hermioni Gingold pronouncing "Balzac" like a dirty word. Was that in GiGi? She and Maurice Chevalier were a wonderful team in that film.

      We also have Gosford Park on DVD -- a rich, novel-like film.

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    3. "Balzac!" was in "The Music Man."

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  2. My daughters gave me Filmstruck for Christmas...a TCM library of riches available at a click. Cannot recommend it more for cinephiles.

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    1. Thanks, Dan. I'll check out Filmstruck.

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