More hidden treasures


Readers and staff take you on a tour through some out-of-the-way movies - with memories, musings, and excerpts from the lists.

Dreamchild (Gavin Millar, 1985).
Dennis Potter, best known in America for Pennies from Heaven and The Singing Detective, wrote this little fantasia about the woman who, as a child, was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice. Her journey across the Atlantic to receive an honorary degree on the centenary of Carroll's birth is counterpointed by flashbacks of her as a young girl receiving possibly questionable attentions from Carroll. In her flashbacks, we see that she still has powerful visions of the inhabitants of Wonderland, brought to life here by Jim Henson's Creature shop. The film is fun in a number of ways, especially in those scenes with Peter Gallagher as a feisty reporter who badgers the 80-year-old Alice for her story. Alas, this is one of many Potter works that might be called hidden treasures. Most of his prodigious output is unavailable in the U.S.
-- Devin Rambo

The Big Snit
(Richard Condie, 1985).
A delightful animated short. Without giving too much away: a couple plays Scrabble and gets into an argument, oblivious to the goings-on outside. By no means a technical masterpiece, it never fails to make me laugh a lot, despite my tape being almost worn out.
-- Greg Sorenson

To Each His Own (Mitchell Leisen, 1946).
Despite a Best Actress Oscar for Olivia de Havilland and a place on the "woman's melodrama" shelf of those with long enough movie memory, Liesen's barely post-war film about some battles fought at home gets lost among the weepies and dismissed at its surface. But don't let the tears or the tearjerking fool you, To Each His Own is a most up to date and incisive study of a woman who makes choices outside of society's strictures, not because or in spite of society, but for herself as herself. During WWI, Jo (Josephine) Norris spends the night with a pilot, becomes pregnant with his child, contemplates abortion, opts against it for practical, not ethical considerations, and then, with a miscalculation, maneuvers herself out of the right to call the child her own.  The plot reads as pure sudser, but is executed head held high, with self-assurance standing in place of self-pity, and fate sidestepped for the fortunes we make in its place. It's a story written and conceived by men of a different era (Charles Brackett wrote the screenplay and produced the film), but it's got a modern woman's soul - or perhaps, more accurately, a human soul not falsely gendered.  Our heroine acts from within her situation, within the reality of women at that time, but she is never judged, scorned, or punished for her missteps.  To the extent she defines herself as victim, the film - her own self-assessment - has no pity for her. But to the extent she owns her choices, gracious and self-possessed, her dreams have no limits.  With patience and fortitude, the film promises, society will grow up and change around her. Forthrightly feminist avant la lettre, the film is conscious of constraints, but committed to its movement forward: less resentful than resourceful, and more stalwart than strident, yet angry and determined nonetheless. It is, for this, a thousand ways more confident in its contemporary cutting edge than many current attempts at similar goals.
-- Shari L. Rosenblum
The Talk of the Town (George Stevens, 1942).
One of my all-time favorite 40s films that nobody's heard of. It's a fun story with a serious twist, a tale of two men at opposite ends of the social scale, both vying for the charms of Jean Arthur, who, dammit, I love and always will. One man is an accused arsonist, the other a lawyer about to be named to the Supreme Court. As the two men slowly change each other's perspectives on life and justice, poor Jean has to make a choice. Who will she pick? The question is made nearly impossible because the accused arsonist is Cary Grant, and the lawyer is Ronald Colman. Agggggh! Whose bright idea was it to outlaw bigamy, anyway?
-- Bonnie Lee Howard
Another Woman (Woody Allen, 1988).
While Woody has all too often hidden behind the style of greater directors like Bergman or Fellini, this film is definitely his best "serious" film, that is, one that is not brightened with some comic relief. It is so very insightful and startling in its examination of rivalries between friends, siblings and spouses that it's hard, actually, to believe that Woody Allen wrote it. It remains his greatest undiscovered work. Gena Rowlands plays a professor who wakes up to the fact that her world is devoid of true feeling. Gene Hackman is particularly effective as the passionate lover she left behind (a regret she endures throughout her life). Allen seemed ready to express what it feels like to suddenly realize that one's life has been built on illusion and vanity - that moment when you turn around after running for so long, look back at where your footsteps have been, and at who you've sacrificed along the way. There is hope, of course, as with most of Allen's films, that this woman can turn around and try to repair some of the damage. Rowlands gave the best performance of her career - but nobody paid any attention. See it.
-- Sasha Stone
Dave Vermillion
The Mudlark
(Jean Negulesco, 1950)
None But the Lonely Heart
(Clifford Odets, 1944)
I Was a Male War Bride
(Howard Hawks, 1949)
The Little Match Girl
(Jean Renoir &
Jean Tédesco, 1928)
The Gunfighter
(Henry King, 1950)
Shari L. Rosenblum
One From the Heart
(Francis Ford Coppola, 1982)
Days of Being Wild
(Wong Kar-Wai, 1991)
(Vicente Aranda, 1996)
The Deer Hunter
(Michael Cimino, 1978)
Peeping Tom
(Michael Powell, 1960)
Fred Erickson
(Jonathan Nossiter, 1997)
End of the Road
(Aram Avakian, 1970)
(Franco Rubartelli, 1971)
Next Stop, Greenwich Village
(Paul Mazursky, 1976)
Your Three Minutes Are Up (Douglas Schwartz, 1973)

Léolo (Jean-Claude Lauzon, 1992).
A dark, shocking, strangely humorous film about a young boy's escape from reality. 12-year-old Leo (Maxime Collin) lives in a run-down Montreal tenement with his abusive family in the 1950s. In his imagination he is an expatriate Sicilian named Leolo. Stunning bursts of poetry are juxtaposed with scenes that are brutal, vulgar, or obscene, A black comedy about the tragedy of a sensitive soul in conflict with society - it's one of the most unusual films ever made -- vulgar, audacious, yet deeply compassionate.
-- Howard Schumann

Mothlight (Stan Brakhage, 1963).
Brakhage is one of the great figures of the American avant-garde, and this 5-minute work is a rare thing indeed - a film made without a camera. This is as basic as it gets: two mylar strips and a hell of a lot of moths. Mesmerizing and singular, it is quite something to watch it projected and then get a chance to examine the actual film on the reel - truly this is something that's impossible to do with video.
-- Mark Netter

The Castle (Rob Sitch, 1997).
Eccentric Australian family fights back when fatcats try to force them to move in order to make room for an airport. Sweet and hilarious and weird and darling. This is the only dysfunctional family without a clue about fashion that I wish would have me as a member.
-- Lovell Mahan-Moutaw

Soft Top Hard Shoulder
(Stefan Schwartz, 1992).
A rare British road movie. Peter Capaldi plays Gavin Bellini, a Scottish illustrator of rather gruesome children's stories who is trying to find work in London. Just as he is down to his last penny, he encounters uncle Sal, the head of the family - a family that made a fortune producing and selling ice cream. Sal tells Gavin that he's sold the business and Gavin is due a share. The catch is that Gavin has to return to Scotland for his father's birthday in order to receive the money. The bulk of the story concerns Gavin's trip in a rather dilapidated Triumph called "Crazy Horse," along with Yvonne, a hitch-hiker with a past. The humour is sweet, good natured, often hilarious, and occasionally dark. The characters are complex, even down to secondary and incidental roles - they all seem to have a story behind them, even if we never find out what it is. Yvonne, played by Elaine Collins, is the very un-Hollywood love interest. She is not tall or blond or attractive in any conventional way, and yet she is easy to fall in love with. Gavin is bitter and mean and generally not very nice, yet Capaldi (who also wrote the script) makes us care about him. A great little comedy, the like of which we don't see very often.
-- Mark Ashley

Fat City (John Huston, 1972).
This gritty little film follows the exploits of a couple of boxers (Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges) - shiftless ham n' eggers trying to make a living on the circuit. The fight sequences are every bit as realistic as those in Raging Bull. Huston, once an amateur champion himself, clearly knew a thing or two about the world he so vividly depicts in this forgotten gem.
-- Michelle Graye

Crime and Punishment (Pierre Chenal, 1935).
It is very difficult to film Dostoevsky. For one thing, his philosophical and religious concerns don't seem to translate well to the screen. This French version of Crime and Punishment short-changes those aspects, but what it captures like no other adaptation I've seen is the Dostoevskyan atmosphere. The production design (the great Eugene Lourie) features city streets and houses that look cramped, spooky, a bit off-kilter. The young actor playing Raskolnikov (Pierre Blanchar) looks hungry and haunted; the black-and white photography is great, the director (Pierre Chenal) sustains a feeling of desperate, rat-like confinement that is very much like the experience of reading that great novel. No, it doesn't plumb the depths, but it manages to evoke some of the story's existential fright, and I love the film's look and mood.
-- Chris Dashiell
Springtime in the Rockies (Irving Cummings, 1942).
Before MGM was in full swing with the technicolor musical, Fox was already pumping them out regularly, often with the same cast, down to supporting and bit players. This is one of my favorites. Two performers in love (Betty Grable and John Payne) have a spat and go out with other people (Cesar Romero and Carmen Miranda) to make each other jealous. Payne is smooth and dependable here as always, and Grable hums along pleasantly, but it's the supporting cast that really makes this one. Lanky Charlotte Greenwood does her patented, nutty swing leg dance step, Romero is suave and crafty, Edward Everett Horton steals every last bit of Payne's spotlight, but it is Miranda who outshines them all, in this, my favorite of her screen roles. Here she is Rosita Murphy, whom Payne has apparently hired as his secretary while in a drunken stupor. The results are hilarious, and every line she rolls out is a gem. I think because these Fox musicals were so assembly-line produced, people tend to discount just how enjoyable they are. That's a pity. I think this one captures the feel of the genre just right, and I wish more people would watch it.
-- terri mabry
Sasha Stone
Walking and Talking
(Nicole Holofcener, 1996)
The Good Mother
(Leonard Nimoy, 1988)
(Steven Soderbergh, 1996)
The King of Comedy
(Martin Scorsese, 1983)
The Big Lebowski
(Joel Coen, 1998)
Greg Sorenson
Battle Royale
(Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)
Kiki's Delivery Service
(Hayao Miyazaki, 1989)
Pennies from Heaven
(Herbert Ross, 1981)
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
(Frank Tashlin, 1957)
Wing Chun
(Yuen Woo-Ping, 1994)
Lovell Mahan-Moutaw
The Daytrippers
(Greg Mottola, 1996)
The Frighteners
(Peter Jackson, 1996)
Live Nude Girls
(Julianna Lavin, 1995)
Rocket Gibraltar
(Daniel Petrie, 1998)
Teddy at the Throttle
(Clarence C. Badger, 1917)

The Killers (Don Siegel, 1964).
Two hit men wonder why their prey (John Cassavetes) doesn't seem to care if he lives or dies, and their curiosity puts them on the trail of the woman he loved (Angie Dickinson) and her crime boss lover (Ronald Reagan). I know it's blasphemy, but I like this version better than the1946 one - not that it's very easy to recognize one as a remake of the other. Lee Marvin is at his weary and cynical best, abetted by his strange and fearsome partner, Clu Gulager. The story is actually of less interest than the performances. Yes, Ronald Reagan plays a bad guy, and with no irony intended I really wish he'd done more of this sort of thing. He's quite good at it.
-- Jim Beaver

Twice Upon a Time
(John Korty & Charles Swenson, 1983).
The evil Synonamess Botch wants to give the whole world nightmares, so he kidnaps the deliverers of dreams, the Figmen of the Imagination (yes, they look like little figs) and sends out these huge vultures carrying bad-dream bombs. ("You are setting forth on a great mission. Some of you will not be coming back tonight ... I can deal with that.") Great animation (something like South Park meets Monty Python), some of it overlaid on live-action footage. A rare gem indeed.
-- Tobie Openshaw

Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman, 1963).
The middle entry in Bergman's "faith" trilogy is usually overlooked in favor of Through a Glass Darkly's spider-god, and The Silence's lesbianism, while ironically being the most obviously related to the subject of faith. The story concerns a disillusioned priest (Gunnar Björnstrand) and his inability to cope with the needs of either his parishioners or his personal intimates. The film plays out in near real-time, and the painfully honest character interaction is some of the most quietly brutal and intense of any Bergman film. ...and that's saying something.
-- Michael Buck

The Carriers are Waiting
(Benoît Mariage, 1999).
Belgian actor Benoît Poelvoorde acquired international fame with his role as a serial killer in Man Bites Dog. In this lesser known film he tops that performance as Roger, a photographer working for an unimportant local newspaper in the industrial wastelands of Wallonia. Cruel, stubborn, and insensitive, Roger becomes obsessed with a contest in which anyone who breaks a world record can win a car. He decides that his teenage son Michel can easily break the world record for opening doors if he just trains enough, but Michel is not interested. Poelvoorde's screen presence is almost unsurpassed - he can switch from psycho to loving father convincingly within the blink of an eye. Combine that with a strong combination of humour and drama and beautiful black & white cinematography, and you have a little known gem. -- Martijn ter Haar

The Hanging Garden (Thom Fitzgerald, 1997).
A young gay man returns home for his sister's wedding. He has changed since his family last saw him, or perhaps everything else has. The writing and characters in this Canadian indie feature are superb, but it's the tone of the film that most impressed me. The projection of fantastic thought into this very realistic character study is so effective, I don't understand why we don't see more of it. (I'm being a bit vague, so as not to spoil things; but think Fellini's 8 1/2 and you might get the idea.) Anyway, Léolo would form a great double-bill. Perfect, in fact. If you watch them together, please invite me over.
-- Dave Vermillion
Richard Doyle
The American Friend
(Wim Wenders, 1977)
(Monte Hellman, 1974)
(Brian De Palma, 1968)
How to Get Ahead in Advertising
(Bruce Robinson, 1989)
Santa Sangre
(Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1989)
Devin Rambo
A Pure Formality
(Giuseppe Tornatore, 1994)
Unstrung Heroes
(Diane Keaton, 1995)
Vanya on 42nd Street
(Louis Malle, 1994)
(Jerzy Skolimowski, 1982)
Men Don't Leave
(Paul Brickman, 1990)
Moné Peterson
Comanche Station
(Budd Boetticher, 1960)
(Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
Love Me Tonight
(Rouben Mamoulian, 1932)
The Private Affairs
of Bel Ami

(Albert Lewin, 1946)
Sven Klang's Combo
(Stellan Olsen, 1976)
Deathwatch (Bertrand Tavernier, 1980).
A movie twenty years ahead of its time, about the ultimate "reality" TV show. Romy Schneider is dying. She accepts a big check from TV producer Harry Dean Stanton to film her final days, then runs off. So Harry sends Harvey Keitel to film her surreptitiously. A great film that hasn't been available on video in ages, but is on the coming attractions slate at Anchor Bay.
-- Lisa Larkin
Four Daughters (Michael Curtiz, 1938).
This film is remembered today for John Garfield's debut, but what I admire about it is its sharp sense of place (Lenore Coffee and Julius Epstein have created the ultimate small American town) and its sensitive handling of the story of four sisters working through their emotional lives and places in the world. It's not a movie one would seek out for showy cinematic technique, but there is much here to delight women's studies scholars, as well as folks who need a day home in their jammies with a big bowl of popcorn.
-- Nancy Loe


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