Monday, April 22, 2013

The Manxman (1929)

Beefing on Hitchcock
The Manxman

Pete, a fisherman, and Philip, a politician, are friends from childhood, but when Pete goes away to find fortune and gain the approval of his love Kate's father, Philip and Kate carry on a secret romance in his absence. Upon hearing the news of Pete's death, Kate is less sorrowful for his demise, as she is happy that her love affair with Philip can finally become public. Unfortunately, Philip believes this might hurt his chances of becoming Deemster (a judge on The Isle of Man), and chooses to keep it secret. The conflict of Philip putting his career before his romance with Kate grows even stronger when a very much alive Pete comes home, rich and ready to marry Kate.

Her father, unaware of the secret romance, happily accepts Pete as his son-in-law, while Kate regretfully agrees to marry Pete at the insistence of Philip. After Kate bears a child, she finally admits to Pete that the child is not his and that she loves another. Kate, rejected by Philip, attempts suicide and is taken to court where Philip is Deemster. Pete speaks on her defense, and when Kate's father finally realizes who her lover is, all is finally exposed. Philip steps down from his new position in shame, and he leaves with Kate and the baby to the jeers of onlookers.

The Manxman was Hitchcock's final all-silent film, before his transition to sound. It's a fairly solid movie, despite being somewhat simple and straight-forward. One thing I particularly noticed was that in the love triangle, all three parties were very sympathetic.

Normally, especially in modern cinema, the "odd man out" is portrayed as a very unsympathetic character, causing the audience to better accept the couple and the rejection of the third. In The Manxman, however, you feel for all three and the situations they each are in... This wasn't a circumstance of ill intent, and you find yourself generally liking both men involved and the woman. Despite this, the ending works well even though things don't work out perfectly for Pete. The final shot helps a lot with this, being Pete happily sailing on his fishing boat. It makes one think that perhaps he would have understood in the long run, if only they had been honest with him upon his return.

While it will never fall into my list of "favourite" Hitchcock films, The Manxman still was quite enjoyable and entertaining. It shows a lot of growth already in his direction and style, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone interested in silent film.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Champagne (1928)

"The film had no story to tell." -- Alfred Hitchcock

Beefing on Hitchcock

Betty's wealthy father disapproves of his daughter's boyfriend, claiming he is only after her inheritance. She rebels by asking the boyfriend to marry her, resulting in an argument between the couple. When he attempts to reconcile later at her party, her father arrives unexpected to announce that he has lost his fortune in the stock market. Betty sends her guests away and insists her boyfriend depart as well. He sulks away, leaving the father to assume he was right all along. Betty struggles to make ends meet and care for her father, and she takes up an unseemly job entertaining guests at a restaurant. There, a stranger who had run into her several times throughout the film offers his support, should she ever need help. Her boyfriend comes to the restaurant to try to reconcile yet again, but his disapproval of her new job brings her to provoke him even further. He leaves, returning later with her father, who informs her that he lied about the loss of their money. He had intended to teach her a lesson and prove his suspicions about her boyfriend. Betty leaves in a huff and contacts the stranger, who agrees to take her back to America. He locks her in his room, and the boyfriend comes to her rescue. When the man returns, he is with Betty's father who has had the stranger following his daughter the entire time. The father is no longer opposed to Betty's boyfriend, and the two are to be married at long last.

While The Farmer's Wife was undoubtedly a "romantic comedy" I would go only so far as to call this a "comedic romance." The core is a romance, with elements of comedy keeping it light.

That being said, the story itself is quite weak and could have very easily benefited from some form of actual intrigue or mystery. Not that there needed to be any murder or criminal element of suspense to drive the plot deeper. A romance can be a story unto it self quite often, but the audience knew all along that the father was wrong about the boyfriend. Maybe if that had been a bit more ambiguous, the story would have felt a bit less shallow.

There isn't much to the movie, and the director admitted as much in his interview with Francois Truffaut. It's not entirely a bad film though, and I never felt my time was wasted... but the word "flawed" comes to mind and mostly due to the complete lack of intrigue in the characters. This could be considered Hitchcock trying his hand at other genres and story types, while trying to find his true place in cinema history.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Live-Beefing LOST: Season 2, Disc 5

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't watched LOST, you may be confused or apathetic about the following post. Please go watch the series through at least once before bothering with my writings. Thank you.

s02e17 - Lockdown

This episode should have been called "Locke-down" am I right?! Wooo!! Okay hi. Yeah, so here we go with another disc of LOST. I think we're ending today with the death of Ana Lucia, so I am happy. It really is a tragedy that Locke and Helen didn't work out. Actually, Locke's whole story is just one big tragedy. He's the only character whose birth AND death are both shown in the series. (Aside from Jacob or his brother, of course... They don't count!) And just as Sayid is ready to give up, Charlie find the balloon. "There is no loop, Hurley." Yes there is, Jack. Get Jin to pee on it! Locke hears some static. Aaaand he's locked in. More like, LOCKEd in, wooo!

Oh, the excitement of season 2. Poker on the beach! Jack vs. Sawyer. This is riveting television. Oh great. Locke's dad is back. This can only mean good things for John. He should have learned from Woody Allen... Take the money and RUN! And here's the first of many deals Ben makes with John. He's a conniving little devil, isn't he? And we're back to the poker game. Oh good, at least there's a reason for it. Jack's attempting to get back all the medicine, playing on Sawyer's pride. I'd say that's actually a smart move. Maybe if he had put the toolbox in the other way, it wouldn't have crushed? He put the weakest part of the box under the crushing weight. I bet this thug's real name is Vinnie. Oh this guy seems very honest and trustworthy. Way to go Locke. You should have just told Helen the truth. Oh geez, Sawyer... We don't WANT to know about Jack in Thailand. Seriously. Worst episode of the series.

"Jack and Sawyer are finally gonna beat each other up." That would be far more entertaining than a card game. Ben's really committed to his lies. An arrow through his shoulder, beaten by an Iraqi... and now he fell and was knocked unconscious. He really takes quite a beating for his own cause. John, John, John... Why did you have to go back to your dad? You are such a weak man. And it costs you Helen. Yes John, she'll totally marry you right after she finds out how much you've lied to her. Yay! The blast door invisible ink map! Now THAT was intriguing television. That was all over the internet for weeks/months after airing. "What, did you think I was gonna leave you here?"

Kate is apparently out of the loop. I don't think she knows about Ben. Aww, Jack wants to walk Kate back to the beach. How sweet... and by sweet I mean sickeningly sappy. Nice, the food and supply air-drop. Oh, and the balloon-hunting team is back. All at once, too! Jack is mad at Ben... because he's not Henry Gale! Oh snap! Henry Gale is BLACK! Didn't see THAT coming!!

s02e18 - Dave

Aww yay! Hurley and Libby going for an exercise walk! She's so sweet to him. She's also good for him. Her death is definitely one of the saddest, if only even for what it did to Hurley. Pssht, lousy Jin and Sun. They just interrupted Libby's attempt at kissing Hurley. I don't think the writers want Hurley to be happy. Stupid writers. Why does everyone always want to put Hurley in charge of the food?! It's like their first instinct. Put the fat guy in charge of the food. And now he's seeing things. Great. See what you did, Charlie?

This was a pretty interesting storyline... Not only did we find out that Hurley was kinda crazy, we find out that he was CRAZY crazy. As in imaginary friends that he can't separate from reality crazy. "Fantastic. Give it to the guy who's not even in the game!" I guess if you're going to have an imaginary friend, he might as well be like Dave. This guy seems like fun! Never a dull moment with Dave. I never quite understood why Locke never told the spinal surgeon about his previous condition. Actually, I would think Jack should have picked up on something by his intense reluctance to use the wheelchair. However good Ben is at lying, he's still being caught in his lies quite easily. Sayid is very quick to anger. He really annoys me quite often... So emo, that man.

Now Eko and Charlie are building a church. Because why not? When will people learn that building churches on desert islands don't make any difference? I should form an awareness charity. Oh man, goldfish crackers. I want some right now. If only I had seen this BEFORE my trip to the store a bit ago... I would have bought some. Dave just threw a rock at Hurley. That's some imaginary friend he's got there. "I saw a polar bear on roller blades with a mango..." Celery is too a snack. A very good one. Nurse Lazenby is hot! A nice misdirect foreshadow with the picture. Oh the Dharma cookies. There's a whole special feature about the making of those cookies. Hurley attacking Sawyer. Best scene in the entire series!! "Don't you got an adventure to get to?" Oh man, that peanut butter looks so good. I want some of that too. Not off the ground though.

Hurley now knows Dave is not real, but he's letting him convince him to escape. Oh good, he's standing up to his imaginary friend. That's always a smart move. Now Dave's trying to convince Hurley the whole island is in his head... Which of course was a fan favourite theory. I can't believe anyone would think this episode would be the big revelation though. Middle of season 2, and they explain the whole thing as being in Hurley's imagination. That would have been interesting. "See ya in another life, Hurley." Now Dave is Desmond! According to Ben, God can't see the island. He also claims he didn't push the button. Ahh placing doubt into Locke's head... He really loves messing with Locke. Awww, Libby kissed Hurley! "Maybe you should do it one more time, just to be sure." So cute! Libby's pretty cute as an insane mental patient too!

s02e19 - S.O.S.

Rose and Bernard. They are a great couple that was under-used. Jack wants to trade Ben for Walt. Like Jack's plans ever work. First mention of Neil Frogurt. I love Frogurt. "Ahh the old prisoner exchange!" I wonder why no one ever thought to make an S.O.S. sign earlier than this. Thank you, Bernard, for pointing out that not everything should need to be run by Jack. There really is no reason people need to inform Jack about everything. False hope is still hope, Rose. Jack's dad can tell you that.

Bernard is proposing to Rose. Her reluctance to reply is why things like this should NEVER be done that publicly. "I'm dying" is not the answer you want to hear in a proposal... but it's also an understandable. And it's not a "No" so that's alright. Poor Bernard. No one wants to help him build an S.O.S. I still don't get why everyone is opposed to this plan! Oh man does Ben love messing with Locke. That smile is so perfect.

Rose is pretty selfish about her imminent death. "If I didn't always have to do something, you wouldn't be here." I think that's her point, Bernie. Oh, and now Kate's mindless curiosity got them trapped in a net. Stupid Kate. Bernard has horrible management. Rose and Locke have a certain special understanding of the island... but they have hardly any scenes together. I wonder what that healer actually saw. He kind of had the same sort of look that Claire's psychic got when he read her. A bit of fear. This is a lot like that scene in I Know What You Did Last Summer. Only Jack doesn't have amazing cleavage in the rain like Jennifer Love Hewitt did. Rose... One of the only people who knows Locke's secret. Also, she apparently has a good memory. If someone handed me something in passing, I probably wouldn't recognize them if their paths crossed mine again.

Great. Michael's back.

s02e20 - Two For The Road

This is possibly one of my favourite episodes, for one reason only... The death of Ana Lucia. If you've followed along, you are well aware that I loathe Ana Lucia, so her death brings me much happy. And there she is. DIE!! Oh I guess first they need to bring Michael back. Okay, one downside of her dying is that all the flashbacks are devoted to her... Maybe this can't be counted as a favourite episode. It has a favourite scene though! DIE!!! She doesn't respect her mom, her badge, or her audience. She deserves to die. Yeah! DIE!!! Go Ben!!! Hmm, why did I never catch the "You killed two of us." line? Goodwin and?? My bet would actually be the one guy Goodwin killed in the pit. Unless he meant the "you" as a generalization, and meant Ethan, but I think he meant her personally. I'm probably a bit wrong. And here's how Jack's dad infiltrates everyone's lives... Of course, he picks the name of his son's wife... who I am still certain he actually did sleep with. What a great dad. "Because you're one of the good ones, John." I'm still not sure Ben understands good from bad, but whatever.

Oh yeah, this is the episode where Ana Lucia gets it on with Sawyer. Maybe it's because I know she's doomed, but she really isn't annoying me quite as much in this episode as she does in every other episode she says a single line in. Ana Lucia drives Jack's dad to Claire's house... I think Christian was the cause of the entire crash. "Dude, nice hole." Oh geez, Sayid is gonna mope about Shannon some more. Oh thank god, they cut away. Well, sex probably is a good way to get anything from Sawyer. Ana Lucia thinks she's really tough, doesn't she? Well she isn't. She's just an idiot. A bitchy, stupid idiot.

Hurley and Libby are so cute! It's kind of a good thing that Libby died, really... or we'd all just be disgusted by how sickeningly cute they are. Michael and his stories about the Others. I wonder how much of this he actually thought was true. Whoa, Jack admitting that Locke was right... That's a big move for Jack. Our little boy is growing up! Great reveal. "There's Jin." Hurley's not that great at picnic planning. Uh oh, Ana Lucia has a gun, and she's alone with the prisoner. Not good. Oh great, she's gonna try to act tough again. I am going to not pay attention to the episode for a moment. Ben, trying to talk his way out of a sticky situation yet again. He's really good at instilling doubt into people.

Oh this scene again. I wonder how many times they actually shot this scene, or if they just filmed the additional bits that were cut away from Jack. "Sawyer? Sawyer has all the guns?" Yeah, that's right Ana Lucia, you aren't tough. You're a pathetic little creature who needs to die! DIE!!! Yes Michael, they took your son right out of your hands. We know. Good gravy. DIE!!!! HAHAHA!!! And that was the best thing Michael has ever done!! Okay, he UN-redeemed himself by shooting Libby... but I'll forgive him a bit, because he killed Ana Lucia. Libby was just collateral damage.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Farmer's Wife (1928)

Beefing on Hitchcock
The Farmer's Wife

Samuel Sweetland's wife dies, and soon after, his daughter gets married, prompting him to make good on a promise to his departed wife that he would re-marry. Sweetland enlists the help of his housekeeper, Minta, to compile a list of eligible women in the area. With a list comprised of four possible brides, he sets out to ask each to marry him. One by one, they turn him down for various reasons, causing him to become more irate and downtrodden with each rejection. Eventually, he comes to realize that the perfect wife was right in front of him the whole time, and he humbly asks Minta to be his bride.

The Farmer's Wife is an oddity in Hitchcock's catalogue, as far as I can tell. Not his first film to lack a mystery, and while a romance is typical of his work, he normally didn't make such bold comedies. Sure, humour is always present in his films, but so far, the only Hitchcock movie I have laughed this hard at yet was 1955's The Trouble With Harry, which was more a "black comedy" than a "romantic comedy" as The Farmer's Wife is. Filled with some great character growth and sweet sentimentality, there was an almost constant quirky lack of seriousness throughout the film in plot, dialogue and direction.

Where the story focused on a man's nearly futile search for a spouse, the center-piece of the film is a dinner party thrown by one of the candidates. Many of the most comedic scenes occur before and during the party, and there is a short reprieve from the story, as the movie seems to take a little break and follow the farmer's bumbling servant Ash for a couple minutes before returning to the wife hunt.

One scene in particular jumped out at me as "classic Hitchcock" and found me uttering the word "perfect" as it came to a close. As the farmer dictates names to Minta, he mentally pictures each candidate seated across from him in his late wife's chair by the fire. After Minta hands him the list, we see a wide shot of the pair. As he turns to ponder the list, Minta sits down unnoticed in the wife's chair and the screen fades to black. I will go far enough to state this as one of my top 5 all-time favourite shots in a Hitchcock film. It perfectly expressed a sense of completion to the audience, passing on knowledge of what's to come while keeping both on-screen characters ignorant.

The copy I have of this movie has no score whatsoever, so of course, I listened to some classical music while watching. I know some DVD releases have music, and I think I enjoy this one enough that I might just buy myself a copy when I get some spare change.