Modesty Blaise and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and watching movies alone

August 23, 2015

I just re-watched Modesty Blaise (somehow it had been years since the last time I saw it, YEARS!!) and I was reminded of how visually awesome it is. I've seen this countless times and honestly I still don't have much of a clue what's going on with the plot (seriously, no clue whatsoever) but Monica Vitti and Dirk Bogarde play, respectively, *the* most epic heroine and villain that it's fascinating to just sit back and watch regardless of what's actually going on with the story. The whole movie is very gif-able but on this particular viewing I was super smitten with this little scene and had to make a gif from it:

I always have a chronic yearning to watch this movie percolating under the surface of my daily thoughts ("which potato product should I make for breakfast/lunch/dinner? ... *whispering voice in the back of my mind* mooddeessttyyy bbllaaiiissee ...") but today that yearning morphed into an urge and I had to see it. It's definitely related to my infatuation with The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the 60's spy movie that came out last week. Like almost everything else in my life that I end up loving, I was originally coerced into watching it by Millie (who, by the way, wrote a super fantastic post about MFU that you should really be reading instead of this.)

I saw it last Friday and then I spent the last seven days aching to see it again. I planned on going with my mom and Grandmom ("Grandmom would love this! We should take her to go see it!" she exclaimed, trying to mask her quiet desperation.) Ultimately they both backed out on me, so I went alone. Which is actually really okay, because to be honest I like seeing movies by myself more than with friends or family. Is that weird? I feel like in our culture, movie consumption (at least in a theater) is generally considered to be a group event. We read books alone, listen to music alone, watch television alone, but movies are supposed to be a communal activity. We should have someone who can discuss the movie afterwards and help us not look like a loser beforehand. But there's something so awfully freeing about sitting in the darkness alone and not caring what your fellow movie-goers think of your reactions. I don't generally cry during movies, but I have an awful habit of smiling - like a giant, ear to ear grin - when I'm enjoying a film, and I get very self conscious about it when I'm part of a group. So tonight when I watched The Man From U.N.C.L.E. alone (although technically surrounded by about 50 senior citizens) I could grin til my face ached and it was heaven.

Why was I grinning so much, you ask? Because this movie is so darn awesome. It's based on the tv show of the same name, in which an American spy and a Russian spy are forced to work together during the cold war. Henry Cavill plays the American, Napoleon Solo, and Armie Hammer plays the Russian, Illya Kuryakin. It has a fantastic soundtrack, very 60's-esque split screens and giant yellow lettering. It's fun, suspenseful (even on the second go-around), action-packed, SUPER stylish and incredibly sleek. Oh yeah, and I'm definitely in love with Armie Hammer's character in this movie. His Illya Kuryakin shot straight up to the top of my "fictional men that I'd love to marry" list (other notable husbands include Paul Verrall from Born Yesterday, Longfellow Deeds from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and Robert Gold from Darling, in case you were curious)

Long story short (actually, I think this post is too long for me to say that at this point) you should really go see The Man From U.N.C.L.E. If you like classic films from the 60's, spy movies, 60's fashion (OMG the fashion in this movie, I die!), handsome guys and spunky girls, you'll like this movie. I promise. Pinky swear! Just go see it!

Now let's circle back to Modesty Blaise real quick, because this post clearly isn't long enough yet.

I got back home after MFU, simultaneously energized from getting to see it again and despondent that I didn't have it on DVD yet. I have a very obsessive personality when it comes to media, I love listening to the same song on repeat for weeks or watching reruns of the same tv show (not the same episode though, in my defense) every night for years (hi there, 30 Rock!) and I'm the same way with movies. Rather than seeking the help I probably really need, I decided I had to do something to fill that gaping "I need to watch this as many times as humanly possible" hole in my heart.

Modesty Blaise is a fun 60's spy comedy with a very vague plot, spectacular outfits, insane dialogue (Dirk Bogarde really gets the best lines in this, and his over the top delivery is side-splitting hilarious. "Tor-cha!") and wacky randomness like sudden hair color changes or fishes swimming in giant champagne glasses. I think it tends to get a bad wrap because of the confusing plot, but many a great film makes absolutely no sense. Between you and me, I'd rather watch and not understand Modesty Blaise than watch and not understand 2001: A Space Odyssey. What is the floating space baby??

Wow, this is the most disjointed post ever. Ahh! When I started writing this I really did have a good plan for weaving all of these threads together, but .. not so much anymore. I'll just sum things up now before this gets any longer:

1. Go see The Man From U.N.C.L.E. You won't be disappointed.
2. Feel free to crush on Napoleon Solo. Illya is taken. MINE.
3. Also watch Modesty Blaise. Expect lots of cool, very little sense.
4. Seeing movies alone is fun!
5. Writing posts at 2am might not be a great idea for me anymore.
6. Floating space baby is creepy.

"Her womb was a torture chamber of mother love"

August 09, 2015

Last week Millie and Casey were here for a visit! We took plenty of goofy photos *and* we went into New York for a double feature at The Film Forum. As part of their True Crime series they were showing the Bradford Dillman movie Compulsion (one of the main reasons Millie picked this particular week to visit) and The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing.

Compulsion was an amazing film. The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing was... interesting. It's a 1955 movie starring Joan Collins, Ray Milland and Farley Granger that (not super accurately) depicts the true story of Stanford White's murder. Stanford White was a famous New York architect who had an affair with Evelyn Nesbit before she married her insanely jealous psychopathic husband. Here is the reaction shot we took after we got out of the movie:

If you're interested in learning why we look so horrified, we also filmed this little video for you explaining why the movie scarred us for life and where exactly the line "her womb was a torture chamber of mother love" factored into the story. I'm not making this up.

Bonus! If you start this video en route to Princeton Junction from the Spring Street parking garage, this video will help you with directions *and* you'll have a fun discussion about a terrifying movie to listen to while you're on your way!

Classic film book challenge: L'Avventura

July 17, 2015

I'm participating in Raquel's Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge and for my second book I read the BFI Film Classics book on L'Avventura, written by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith.

When I signed up for the summer reading challenge I started browsing on Amazon, and I stumbled upon the BFI Film Classics series. They have dozens and dozens of books each dedicated to a single movie. In this book the author tackles the public reception to the film, the production background, the meaning, the casting, and the legacy. If all of the BFI books are this comprehensive and riveting then I'm definitely going to be purchasing more of them in the future!

If you've seen L'Avventura, then you'll probably agree that reading an in-depth analysis will help with your understanding of the film. That's not to say that it's too complicated or too confusing to wrap your brain around without any assistance. It's an enjoyable movie on its own, but additional insight can only strengthen your grasp on the deep meaning lurking under the simple surface. The author does a wonderful job of explaining how this movie came to be and what exactly Antonioni was trying to tell us in the story. I particularly loved his observation about Antonioni's work in general, that he isn't a realist or a moralist. "His films are reflections on, rather than of, the world. It is this which makes him.. an essentially modern artist." In L'Avventura there is a rawness that isn't present in a lot of films that predate it, but at the same time it has an otherworldly quality that plucks it from reality. It doesn't straddle the line between gritty realism and cinematic confections, it hovers above them in some nether world of its own.

One thing that I felt was lacking in the book was any real effort to tackle the symbolism, something that I personally tend to overlook unless I already know what I'm looking for. And even then, I might know it's there, but I don't always know what it means. I also would have loved some discussion about the dialogue, which is one of my favorite things about the movie. Words are few and far between but when they're spoken they are always poignant and riddled with multiple meanings. "I have never understood the islands. With all that water around them, poor things ..."  Don't you wish people spoke like that in real life? I do.

One word of warning if you're planning on reading the book - make sure you've seen La Notte and L'Eclisse beforehand. The author makes a ton of comparisons and they'll fly right over your head if you've never seen the other films. He also makes mention of Red Desert, Blow-Up, and Zabriskie Point, but only in passing.

Overall I really enjoyed the book and I feel like it helped strengthen my understanding of the movie and the climate in which it was created. I'm looking forward to reading more BFI Classics. They're almost like 100 page classic film blog posts in book form!

Finally, this isn't really related to the book so much as the movie, but I had to share it. The scene in which Monica Vitti is waiting outside and men start slowly swarming around her reminds me so much of The Birds. I was hoping that the author might address L'Avventura's effect on other filmmakers (did Hitchcock see this movie? I feel like this HAD to be an inspiration for The Birds) but he didn't, which left me googling "L'Avventura The Birds" as soon as I had finished, hoping someone else might have pieced something together. And lo and behold, I found this video. It's chilling, isn't it?

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, or How I saw Gary Cooper's face on the big screen and my heart nearly exploded

July 08, 2015

The Garden Theater in Princeton has been playing classic movies as part of their Hollywood Summer Nights series, and this week they showed Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. I was looking forward to this screening for a very long time (I think I've had it marked on my calendar for at least two months) and it was everything I hoped for and more.

First of all, let's just get this out of the way first -- Gary Cooper. HIS FACE. OH MY GOD HIS FACE. It's just so perfect. I seriously wanted to yell "PAUSE!" and just sit there in the darkness staring at his face a little while longer (okay, that sounded way creepier than I meant it to be?) but he is just so pretttttyyyy. (I've clearly forsaken any intentions I ever had about this being a serious film blog.) And his expressions are so darn cute. Like in the scene when he first takes Jean Arthur out to dinner and watches as the violinist serenades her -- I died. They had to move my body out of the aisle after the movie was over so that rest of my row could get out. Because I actually died from the cuteness. And then when (SPOILER) he finds out that Jean Arthur was the one writing the mean articles about him, and his broken heart is etched all over his beautiful face, but he smiles just a little bit to try to retain some dignity... man oh man. (END SPOILER)

Ok, done talking about Gary Cooper's face. Moving on...

Wearing my Gary Cooper fan club button, of course

Obviously, Gary Cooper is one of my favorite things about this movie. But I also love every single other thing about it. Jean Arthur is perfection and all of the supporting characters were perfectly cast. And then there's Frank Capra and Robert Riskin, possibly my favorite director/writer duo of all time. Like any good Capra film, there are quite a few messages sprinkled (or doused) throughout, but my favorite is that we should all treat each other with kindness. Longfellow Deeds is a well-meaning, sweet, good man who gets bullied and picked on and taunted from every direction. And he just can't wrap his brain around why. Like Longfellow, I cannot understand why human beings can't just be nice to each other. I don't get it when it comes to war, I don't get it when it comes to schoolyard bullying. I just don't understand intentional meanness. Two of my favorite quotes from Longfellow Deeds --

"What puzzles me is why people seem to get so much pleasure out of... hurting each other? Why don't they try liking each other once in a while?"

"It's easy to make fun of somebody if you don't care how much you hurt 'em. I think your poems are swell, Mr. Brookfield... but I'm disappointed in you. I must look funny to you... but maybe if you went to Mandrake Falls you'd look just as funny to us... only nobody would laugh at you and make you feel ridiculous... because that wouldn't be good manners."

Another message that the film drives home is that we should help out our fellow man. The movie begins with Longfellow Deeds inheriting 20 million dollars and being shuffled off to New York City where he's expected to spend a good deal of that money on things like the opera and an arsenal of lawyers. After suffering countless humiliations and dealing with some pretty intense pangs of homesickness, Longfellow decides to donate the bulk of his fortune to buy land for farmers who could use a helping hand. The fact that he wants to help people less fortunate, rather than shower himself in luxuries and supply his wealthy lawyers with a steady stream of funding, means he simply MUST be insane.

After taking the stand at his insanity trial, the judge remarks that not only is Longfellow Deeds sane, but he's the sanest man who ever set foot in that courtroom. I'd venture to say, he's one of the sanest characters in film history. His notions about what's right and wrong are common sense, but the world seems to view common sense as heresy. That's the thing about a Capra film -- at the end goodness and love will always win. John Doe doesn't jump off the building, Longfellow Deeds isn't sent to a mental institution, and Anthony P. Kirby realizes that you really can't take it with you. I wish that was the world we lived in, I wish it so badly.

I'll end with one last quote from Longfellow, explaining at his trial why he wanted to give his money away to people who needed it more than he did --

"It's like I'm out in a big boat, and I see one fellow in a rowboat who's tired of rowing and wants a free ride, and another fellow who's drowning. Who would you expect me to rescue? Mr. Cedar - who's just tired of rowing and wants a free ride? Or those men out there who are drowning? Any ten year old child will give you the answer to that."

God I love that quote. (And Gary Cooper's face...)

Classic film book challenge: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

I'm participating in Raquel's Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge and for my first book I decided to read The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by R.A. Dick, the novel that inspired one of my favorite movies.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. There were a few sizable plot discrepancies between the book and the movie, which I'll get to in a minute, but for the most part it felt like I was reading a beloved film. I could hear Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison's voices and picture the atmospheric Gull cottage as I turned each page. The movie always leaves me with a palpable sense of mystery, romance and serenity and the book inspired the same feelings. I would highly recommend it, whether you're a fan of the 1947 movie or not.

Before I continue, this is not going to be a spoiler-free post, so if you aren't familiar with the plot (either from the book or the movie) here's your warning to stop reading this post and go watch the movie or read the book first.

There were a couple pretty big differences between the book and the movie, but (with one exception) I don't feel like they changed the overall feeling or direction of the story. First of all, in the book Anna has two children - Cyril and Anna. Cyril is an old-fashioned stick-in-the-mud who takes after his father's side of the family. If you've seen the movie, you know that Lucy Muir's in-laws are the last people you'd ever want your children to take after! His character was very unlikeable and it's understandable that they decided to cut him entirely out of the story when they made the movie. At one point in the book, Captain Gregg needles Lucy into admitting that she doesn't even like her own son. Not really fodder for a 40's romance film, right?

Another major difference is in the mystic qualities of Captain Gregg. In the book, he cannot materialize but instead speaks to Lucy through her mind. He can also speak to other living persons who are open enough to hear him. He can travel with Lucy wherever she goes (as he does in the movie) but he is also all-knowing. He's aware of her children's thoughts, and can seemingly predict the future. He sometimes speaks about the afterlife, which is probably the only part of the book that I didn't really enjoy. It was very convoluted and while I get that it was supposed to be shrouded in mystery it ended up coming across instead like a half-formed idea. I'm glad that for the film they decided that calling him a "ghost" was a good enough explanation for why a dead guy could talk to and fall in love with Gene Tierney.

The last big difference came about when Lucy met Miles, George Sanders' character in the movie. While the basic circumstances remain the same -- he romances her and then she finds out that he was already married -- the details are wildly different. They meet outside, not at the publisher's, when Miles rescues Lucy's dog. They bond rather quickly and before you know it, Miles is asking Lucy to abandon her children and come away with him. He comes across as mildly smarmy in the movie but in the book he's downright gross. It also kind of bothered me that Lucy would even give his offer a moments thought -- throughout the entire book she is a strong-willed, level-headed woman but here she legitimately contemplates leaving her children with her horrible in-laws and running away with this first class cad. The fact that she would take his demands into consideration (instead of seeing them as a flashing warning sign that he was a big giant heap of trouble) was so much more heartbreaking than the eventual discovery that he was married.

There are other little differences here and there -- Blood and Swash comes into the story much later than it does in the film, and the adorable cook Martha doesn't move in until Lucy is already an empty-nester. Overall though it seemed like the screenwriters mostly shifted around the chapters, deleted a child here and a dog there, and that was about it. It's very similar, even a lot of my favorite lines from the movie came straight from the book! I particularly love when Lucy's sister-in-law says, "You want me to go - don't deny it - you want to be rid of your own husband's sister - don't deny it, I say." and Lucy replies calmly, "I am not denying it." Priceless!!

If you're a fan of the movie, you should definitely consider reading the book. It instantly transports you into the world of the film and for that reason alone it's worth many re-reads. If you haven't seen the movie yet, it's also a wonderful book on its own. Lucy is a very strong female protagonist (albeit not the best judge of character when it comes to smooth-talking dog rescuers) and the book actually has a lot of interesting observations about morality, religion and living a fulfilled life of solitude. I'm very glad I read it, and now I want to go watch the movie for the bazillionth time!

Can YOU name every single Hayley Mills movie? Didn't think so! With Kate and Millie

July 05, 2015

In February I got to go visit the one, the only, the Millie in her beloved glorious Washington. While I was there we decided to film a little extremely long video. In it, we tried to name every Alfred Hitchcock movie, every Frank Sinatra movie and every Hayley Mills movie. We did much better with Hitch than Hayley, and kind of mostly okay with Frank. It's a shame we weren't filming when we had breakfast in the morning because we started off with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant and did SO GOOD.You'll have to just take my word for it.

I actually finished editing this the week I got home but, being the queen of procrastination that I am, obviously didn't get around to actually sharing it until now, four months later. Oops! I should warn you that it's incredibly lengthy and me and Millie both agree that Casey is probably going to be the only person who watches the whole thing all the way through (thank you Casey!) but we had a ton of fun shooting it and hopefully we can shoot another one when Millie comes to visit me in my not-quite-as-beloved state of New Jersey later this year!

Before I go, can I just say how insanely crazily wonderful it is that I met Millie through classic film blogging over six years ago (How has it been that long?!?!?!) and back then I never would have imagined that we'd get to do this. My love-hate relationship with the internet will always be leaning slightly more towards love if only because of the amazing friendships it has given me. Thanks, internet!

Liebster Award

June 24, 2015

Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood nominated me for a Liebster Award (thank you Michaela!!) It's been so long since I did one of these, probably not since I started blogging in 2009, so I'm really excited about it! To participate you have to answer 11 questions, share 11 facts about yourself, nominate up to 11 other bloggers and come up with your own 11 questions for them to answer. Here are my answers to Michaela's questions --

1. Who is your second favorite actor/actress, and why?

Gah! It's so easy to answer first favorite but SECOND favorite is tough! Right now I'm really hooked on Monica Vitti. I think she's mostly known for her dramatic roles (like in L'Eclisse and L'Avventura) but I think she's hilarious in comedies. She has a real gift for reaction faces and her inflection (even when she's speaking in a language I can't understand) is always so wry and playful. My second favorite actor is probably Gary Cooper. I love him so much that it's almost become a running joke in my family now that whenever we're watching a movie from the 30's or 40's my parents will say "This movie would be so much better if Gary Cooper were the star." because I've said that SO OFTEN. But seriously, think of a movie and then replace the male lead in your mind with Gary Cooper. The movie is better now, isn't it? ;)

2. Favorite on-screen duo?

I'm going to be super cliche and go with Fred and Ginger. A runner-up would be Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews.

3. Which actor/actress/director/etc. do you wish wrote an autobiography?

Maurice Ronet. There's technically a biography on him, but a) it's not an autobiography and b) as far as I know it's only available in French. I'm super obsessed mildly interested in him at the moment and he lead such a fascinating life. If you have a minute take a peek at his wikipedia page!

4. If you had the money, what film-related item would you buy in an instant? Memorabilia, a theater, old costumes...?

The first thing that comes to mind is Audrey Hepburn's black lace ensemble from How to Steal a Million. I'd also love to own the painting of Gene Tierney from Laura, or the painting of Rex Harrison from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Oooh, or the painting of Barbara Stanwyck from The Two Mrs. Carrolls. YES, that one. It's one of the most startling scenes in the movie so I don't want to post a picture here and spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the film yet, but this is the painting I'm talking about. I might actually need to paint my own version of that for myself because I love it so much!

5. What is your personal favorite flick from 1939?

Dark Victory, with Bachelor Mother being a close second.

6. Splashy 1950's musicals or gritty 1940's films noir?

Gritty 40's film noir, all the way!

7. Is there a director you wish got more attention, during their time and/or today?

You know, I don't think there is a director living or dead more under-appreciated than Alfred Hitchcock. lol j/k. I think William Wellman should be more known today. He was so incredibly versatile. I usually associate him with socially conscious pre-codes like Heroes for Sale, but he's also the guy behind The Ox-Bow Incident and Lady of Burlesque and Nothing Sacred. The man could do comedy, drama, western, basically anything, and do it well.

8. Who do you think was Fred Astaire's best partner?

Ginger Rogers!

9. If you were allowed only one movie-related book, what would it be?

This is a tough one! I think I'd have to go with The Cats in Our Lives by James Mason and his wife Pamela Kellino. It's such a unique book, with illustrations by James Mason. I received a copy for my birthday a few years ago and it's one of my prized possessions.

10. Favorite Disney film? (I'll include Pixar.)

101 Dalmatians, with Pixar's Up being a very, very close second. I also really love Big Hero 6 and I could see that squeezing into my top tier of Disney favorites as the years go by.

11. Is there a movie you're ashamed to admit you hate/love?

A movie that I'm ashamed to admit I love... hmm... I've already unabashedly flaunted my love for She's All That on this blog before so it's not easy to come up with something even more embarrassing than that! lol :)

I'm going to pass on the 11 facts about me because tbh I've shared way too much about myself on the internet already. For my nominees I'm going with my classic movie blogging besties who don't blog nearly enough nowadays. Maybe this will force them into doing a new post (muahahahahaha!!)

Nicole from Vintage Film Nerd
Millie from Classic Forever
Casey from Noir Girl
Sarah from The Wicker Bar

And my 11 questions for them are as follows:

1. If you were stuck on a desert island with one actor, who would you pick?

2. If you were stuck on a desert island with one actress, who would you pick? (Note - this is not necessarily your favorite actor/actress, but someone you'd want to spend months, years, possibly the rest of your life eating coconuts and building sandcastles with)

3. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only watch one movie on repeat for the rest of your life, which would you pick?

4. If you were stuck on a desert island with any movie character, who would you pick?

5. If you could watch a movie with any two actors/actresses stuck on a desert island together, who would you pick? If you've got some free time, elaborate a bit on the plot!

6. Who is the last actor you would ever want to be stuck on a desert island with (cough, Tyrone Power, cough)?

7. You're stuck on a desert island with Edmund O'Brien. What actor shows up in a giant pirate ship to whisk you away to safety and/or a life of adventure on the high seas?

8. If you were stuck on a desert island with a movie cook, who would you choose -- Felix from Christmas in Connecticut or Mildred from Mildred Pierce? Who would make the most out of all the coconuts and tree bark?

9. If you were stuck on a desert island with me, what movie would you force me to watch? I can't get away! I can't escape! I HAVE TO WATCH IT!

10. You're on a life raft with Herbert Marshall, Joel McCrea and Laraine Day but your weight is sinking the raft. Do you: a) sacrifice yourself to save these three amazing actors or b) push one of them into the water. If you chose b, who did you push and why?!

11.If you could choose any movie animal to be stuck on an island with, who would you pick? Some ideas -- Asta, Lassie, Pongo, Perdita, The Pie, Cat (from Breakfast at Tiffany's)

Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge

May 20, 2015

Raquel from Out of the Past is hosting her annual Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge. This will be my first time participating and I'm really excited about it! I made up a little list on goodreads of all the books I'd like to try to tackle this summer. I'm going to start off with Hellraisers (The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed) since it's the only one that I already own. I have a horrible habit of buying way more books than I could possibly read in my lifetime, so I'm going to make myself wait until I finish each book before I purchase the next one.

If you'd like to participate too you can sign up for the challenge on Raquel's blog, right here. I think it'll be so fun! She's even giving away a nifty prize pack to one lucky winner, which will include my Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz fan club buttons! (They're also available in my shop here.)

If you have any film book recommendations, I'd love to hear them! :)

On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who... was really desperate to see a movie

May 16, 2015

I'm sure this happens to everyone all the time -- you see a screenshot or still from a movie that catches your fancy so you check to see if said movie is available anywhere to rent or buy. When you like classic movies, a lot of the time you hit a dead end nearly as soon as you start looking. I have a nice collection of movies I've recorded from TCM or traded with friends and a ton of older movies are finally getting dvd releases thanks to companies like Warner Archive. But there are always some elusive films that you just cannot seem to track down, no matter how hard you try.

Which brings me to La Cintura di Castita, or On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who...  This 1967 Italian comedy is set in the middle ages, stars Monica Vitti and Tony Curtis and, to the best of my knowledge, it is not available with English subtitles.

My quest began where all DVD quests usually begin - Amazon. Then I checked youtube, ioffer, ebay, etc. with no luck whatsoever. Then somehow I ended up on Italian Ebay, where I found one person selling a copy with Italian subtitles. I immediately bought it. I do not speak Italian.

Before it even arrived in my mailbox I was already researching ways to generate English subtitles out of thin air. Did I have to have somebody transcribe it? Did I need to learn to speak Italian? It turns out, that wasn't necessary. If you're ever in a similar jam, here is what I did (you can just skip over this part if you want to read about the movie instead!)

First I bought the foreign DVD. Make sure that it has closed captioning in some language, it doesn't have to be your own language. Mine came with Italian subtitles. Then rip the DVD to your computer using MakeMKV. I already have 4Media DVD Ripper, which I love, but the output is .mov which won't work here. When you have your .mkv file, use the program Subtitle Extractor to generate an .srt subtitle file. Then, upload the video file to youtube (I actually also ripped the film using 4Media and uploaded my .mov file to youtube, before I realized I had to have an .mkv file for the subtitles) and set it to unlisted or private. Still with me? Then click on the little "cc" closed captioning icon in the video settings. Choose the native language spoken in the film (for my movie, I picked Italian), and then upload your .srt file to youtube. Now, go to watch your video and click on the "cc" icon in the player. This will start playing the foreign subtitles. Then click on the little gear icon, which opens up the video settings. In the settings, click on the menu "Subtitles/CC" and select the option "Translate captions" and then choose English. Youtube uses Google Translate to automatically translate the closed captioning into whatever language you chose. Now obviously anyone familiar with Google Translate will know that the captions aren't going to be 100% accurate, and sometimes it'll be downright goofy, but for the most part it worked and was definitely accurate enough for me to actually understand the movie.

Now you're probably wondering, WAS IT WORTH IT, KATE?? WAS IT?? I spent hours trying to track down this dvd, researching ways to add subtitles, tying up my computer with tons of trial and error, ripping and re-ripping, uploading and downloading, all for one film that, admittedly, looks kind of silly and has pretty lackluster reviews on imdb. And I don't even really like Tony Curtis?!

But I think it was worth it. It's not the best movie ever made, of course, but it was enjoyable and (see blog header) Monica Vitti is never not awesome. I'll give a brief synopsis but keep in mind, I was reading Google Translate generated captions so it's entirely possible that I misunderstood the entire film, lol ;)

The movie takes place in Italy during the crusades. They reluctantly knight Tony Curtis, a man from humble beginnings who wouldn't normally be knighted unless the country was as desperate for soldiers as I was for this DVD. They send him off on a horse and he is granted ownership of the land from the starting point of his ride to as far as he can go. He stops just short of Monica Vitti's little farm house, where he's so tired from riding that he plants his sword in the ground and then slumps down next to it. Tony Curtis being really tired is a strange recurring plot point in this movie. He literally fell asleep while he was being knighted in the beginning. Maybe the movie should have been called "On my way to the crusades I fell asleep"

Anyway, Monica is really smitten with sleeping beauty so she decides to move his sword to the edge of her property while he's napping, that way he'll own her land too and he'll be her master. But when he comes back a few days later and tries to seduce her, she's having none of it. When it was her decision to make, she wanted him. But now that he's forcing himself on her, she isn't so interested anymore. There's a good half hour or so where this movie actually seems pretty progressive for a sex comedy set in the most repressive time period ever. Monica asks her dad why women are forced to sleep with men and he replies that women are like dogs, and they need to do what their masters request. But when Monica tries to get her dog to kiss her, the dog refuses. "At least dogs can say no," she remarks.

And that's where the feminism ends. I mean, at one point Monica Vitti gets to dress up like a knight and jousts a man off of his horse but mostly from here on in it's kind of standard 60's morality (and by 60's I mean 1360's)

*Spoilers* I should mention here that Tony Curtis' character is SUCHHHH a jerk. Oh my gosh. The first time that his character is fully conscious, he decides to tax the wind (seriously) and he hangs a man who once saved his life when he was a child. Then (I'm *pretty sure* but could be wrong because, google translate) he has an orgy with the wives of the poor townsfolk? Then there's the whole trying-to-force-himself-on-Monica-Vitti thing. After she refuses his advances, he has his men hunt her down, then ties her naked to a wheel in his castle and spins her around while a bunch of gross lusty men watch. THEN he lets her loose and sends all of the aforementioned men to go chase after her. When, after all this, she still won't sleep with him, he puts her father's head on the chopping block and gives her the choice between marriage or a dead dad. I feel like you need to know all of this because, at least for me, it makes it impossible for me to believe what happens next.

*Still more spoilers* After they get married (because obviously she didn't let her dad die) she opts to participate in Tobias Nights, which is a 3 day period of chastity and prayer after a wedding. Even though they're supposed to be praying, Tony keeps trying to kiss her or sleep next to her. The next day, she goes to a wise man and explains her predicament. The wise man is shocked! "The lord of the manor had a thousand ways to bend you to his will! He could make use of force, cruelty, could chain you to your bed, you know? Or whip you, possess you with violence." He goes on to tell her that, basically, because Tony Curtis did not rape her on their wedding night, he must love her! Monica's character has been pretty sassy up until this point, so I half expected her to roll her eyes and laugh in his face. But instead she's cooing "oooooh this means he loves me! he LOVES ME!" and then runs off to consummate the marriage immediately.

*Still not done with the spoilers, sorry guys* Keep in mind, Tony Curtis' character here is literally slime. If I was in charge of google translate, his character's name in the credits would look like this:

Slime ................................... Tony Curtis

How on earth does not raping her mean he loves her? What even?? And how on earth would love even matter after all the other horrible stuff he did to her? I mean, he tried to kill her father. Geez louise. And just when you think Slime couldn't get any worse, he does. Consummation is about to happen at any second, when all of a sudden his commanding officer shows up. The Emperor needs him in the crusades immediately. Seriously, drop everything and suit up right. now. So Tony Curtis does what any kind, loving, supportive new husband would do. He kisses his bride and tells her that he trusts she'll remain faithful while he's away. LOL, J/K. He slaps a chastity belt on her and takes the key along with him. *End Spoilers*

Obviously I had some problems with the movie. Tony Curtis plays one of those characters with absolutely zero redeeming qualities, not in a cool evil villain way, but in a really smarmy, obnoxious way. It has its good moments, but then it also has plenty what-the-heck moments, where you cannot believe that someone wrote this and multiple people acted it out and someone edited it and the director was like "Yup, this is good to go!"

That being said, and maybe this is just the time and effort that went into watching this movie talking, I did actually enjoy it. It's such a weird film, which is always a plus. It takes place in a time period that I'm possibly kind of obsessed with. And, this bears repeating, Monica Vitti is so stupidly amazing. I mean, I couldn't even understand a word she was saying but I could tell that her inflection was spot-on. And the scenes with the dog that share the same haircut as her honestly make the whole movie worthwhile.

If you're as strangely obsessed with seeing this movie as I was, but don't want to put in quite as much effort, here is the link to where I uploaded it. Just make sure you translate the captions so you can (kind of) understand them ;)

Citizen Kane

May 15, 2015

The Garden Theater in Princeton is doing an Orson Welles retrospective in May and June, and last night they showed Citizen Kane. I'd only ever seen it on a little tv screen, but I just knew that it was one of those movies that would blow me away when I finally saw it as it was intended to be seen, on the big screen. And the experience did not disappoint.

There are a handful of movies that are generally considered to be the cream of the crop, the best movies EVER made. Citizen Kane usually tops that list and, although I often get in disagreements over which movies really deserve to be included in this elite group, I make no argument over Citizen Kane. It really lives up to its reputation, and seeing it at the movies was something I'll never forget.

As much as I love Citizen Kane there was one issue that kept circling around in my brain all day. It's probably way too silly and ridiculous of a pet peeve to even mention but I'm going to say it anyway -- what is it with people in movies knocking over furniture and throwing books off of shelves when they're angry? I had totally forgotten about that part of the movie until it was unfurling itself before my eyes last night and it just seemed way too cliche to be included in a film as great as Citizen Kane. Even Kane himself seemed too smart to resort to that kind of action when he was angry. He could have come up with something so much better. He could have marched down into the mausoleum living room and tossed every single jigsaw puzzle piece into the blazing fire. He could have set all of his many zoo animals loose on an unsuspecting Florida. Or, if he really had to go the destroy-things-in-a-room route, he could have flailed his arms around all through the house, knocking over each and every Greek statue until every last symbol of his quest to buy all of the beauty in the world was lying in pieces on his cold marble floor.

Other than that one tiny squabble, I feel like it really is a perfect movie. There are so many moments where you feel a wave of cinematic satisfaction wash over you, like everything is in harmony because this scene or this line of dialogue was just THAT GOOD. When Jedediah returns the check with the declaration of principles. When you've seen the movie before and Kane is telling Susan about going through his mother's old things, you just KNOW that Rosebud was sitting there among her possessions. When Thatcher tells Kane "You're too old to be calling me Mr. Thatcher," and Kane replies "You're too old to be called anything else." YES.

Finally, can I just gush a bit about the title card? It's so simple, but especially compared to the cookie cutter title cards from the same era (example / example / example) you can just feel that you're about to witness something unique. I also love how the credits are saved for the end of the movie -- you're met with this bold, bright white title buzzing over a black background and then it cuts straight to the movie.

I have a busy few months ahead of me, so I don't think I can attend every Orson Welles movie that's playing at the Garden, but I'm going to try to make it to see The Stranger on June 3rd. If you're in the area you should definitely consider going! They're also showing It Happened One Night and Shadow of a Doubt in June as well! I'm so thrilled to finally have a movie theater that shows classics in my area. It's a dream come true! :) If you're interested you can check out their upcoming films right here.