Evelyn Prentice (1934)

The union of marriage is one that is cherished and celebrated by virtually all societies. It represents love, companionship, and most of all trust between two individuals with presumable a deeply shared connection. A great deal of responsibility, compromising, and openness must be mutual between both parties in cultivating an increasingly grounded and resonant amalgamation, especially with children present. It is when mistrust and dishonesty begin budding that this growing, anchored foundation may become windswept. It is history and sincerity that then drives the path towards dissolution or resolution. “Evelyn Prentice” is a 1934 drama directed by William K. Howard starring the dynamic duo of William Powell and Myrna Loy exploring this very issue with a very unique, unusual, and devastating secret at its core.

John Prentice (William Powell) is a confident and flirtatious defence lawyer who has the reputation of winning all of his cases. Nancy Harrison (Rosalind Russell) is his latest client who he acquitted who is obviously very grateful for his services, but wants to continue a very different kind of service with him behind closed doors. John’s marriage to Evelyn (Myrna Loy) is deemed to be quite peachy to others, but his physical and mental absence related to work poses great discomfort with Evelyn. She catches the eye of master money manipulator Lawrence Kennard (Harvey Stephens), and they begin written correspondence. Various events lead to Evelyn asking Lawrence to end their communication, but he threatens her with blackmail. A gunshot is then heard with Evelyn running out of the apartment, and speculations subsequently run wild.

This particular project is obviously quite different from Loy and Powell’s other well-known pairings for two obvious reasons that come to mind. It is definitely NOT a comedy, and the gumshoeing as per the Thin Man movies is not collaborative at all. In fact, there is a high amount of secrecy and concealment on Evelyn’s part. Despite the differences and intermittent datedness of some core messages in the film, it still displays the timeless ample tension, doubt, and fear that accompany a team in distress. Loy and Powell demonstrate their chemistry and charisma in this dramatic and problematic atmosphere that would only grow with further pairings, helping to create the iconic partnership forever embedded in cinema.

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I do not own the above photo. Also, this post is part of the Bill and Myrna’s New Year’s Blogathon hosted by The Flapper Dame and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies! Please check out the other posts!

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Stella Dallas (1937)

Heroism is often equated with courageous and selfless acts benefitting the health and well-being of other individuals. We often see those deemed as heroes to be role models, subsequently emulating their acts so that we can feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in our own lives. Society often thinks of historical figures who risked their own safety for the welfare of others on a massive scale. However, we model our behaviour very often from those we presume to be highly influential and important in our personal lives whether it be parents, friends, or an authority figure. It is often they who demonstrate the greatest heroism of all. “Stella Dallas” is a heart-wrenching 1937 drama directed by King Vidor exploring this very idea.

The always versatile and wonderful Barbara Stanwyck plays Stella Martin, a woman from humble, working class roots who falls for Stephen Dallas Jr. (John Boles), the advertising manager at the town mill from a background of high society. They fall in love quickly, marry, and have a daughter named Laurel. Initially, it appears as if Stella has also selfishly fallen in love with luxury. As well, her brash personality and past upbringing often excludes her from opulent circles. Despite superficial appearances and a crumbling marriage, the motivation behind Stella’s actions is always with good intentions. Laurel is highly appreciative of her mother’s efforts and fiercely loyal towards her. Mutual devotion, embarrassment, anger, and sadness are experienced in one pivotal scene  manifesting into Stella making the most selfless and heartbreaking decision of parenthood.

Parenthood itself is probably one of the most altruistic roles in society. So much energy, resources, and love are directed towards moulding and ensuring that a child will be productive and prepared for the challenges of adulthood. It often does “take a village to raise a child”, but it can be increasingly difficult in the case of single parenting and co-parenting. Co-ordination and compromise are essential to ensure that the child does not feel blame and continues to feel loved. This was especially the case in Laurel’s upbringing in spite of Mr. and Mrs. Dallas’ sometimes icy disdain for one another. Overall, I feel that the bravery and altruism of parents continuously expressed embodies the definition of a hero.

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I do not own the above image.

This post is part of the Inspirational Heroes Blogathon hosted by The Midnite Drive-In and Hamlette’s Soliloquy! Please click on the link to check out other great posts about inspirational film heroes!

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The Phantom Carriage (1921)

New Year’s Eve is deemed as the one poignant day upon which humankind bestows great introspection and reflection on the past year in perspective of their life thus far. “What have I accomplished?” “How have I changed?” “Am I truly ‘one year older and wiser’?” “What does my future hold?” These are a small sample of the questions we may ponder on this day. Many celebrate the fresh hope and opportunity that arise from self-analysis, while others may unfortunately be left feeling despondent. “The Phantom Carriage” is a 1921 Swedish silent film directed by Victor Sjostrom displaying the extreme ends of this pendulum of thought taking place near the midnight hour of this very fateful day of contemplation.

Sister Edit (Astrid Holm) is a highly benevolent yet naive worker of the Salvation Army who is sadly near death due to tuberculosis. During the greatest depths of her illness on New Year’s Eve, she asks her mother (Concordia Selander) and dear friend Sister Maria (Lisa Lundholm) for a man named David Holm (Victor Sjostrom) to visit her. Before meeting this character, a sentiment of disdain and anger has already cultivated towards him. Upon meeting him, the contempt harboured towards him seems quite justified. He is also completely ignorant to the cautionary tale his friend Georges (Tore Svennberg) had told him about “The Phantom Carriage”. The very last person who dies on New Year’s Eve must drive the carriage, and they must also be at all costs obedient to Death itself. Little did Mr. Holm know that he would meet that fate and be greeted by a dear friend who, as in similar fashion to Jacob Marley, prompts ample pause for the “maturity of the soul” through past events, behaviours, and untimely consequences.

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I would be amiss if I did not discuss the technical brilliance of this film. I cannot imagine that double exposure techniques were frequently developed in film at the time. This is absolutely central in increasing the effectiveness of telling this particular story. Furthermore, I found the tones of the images were interesting with brown being representative of indoor settings and blue of outdoors. Neither colour is particularly warm, potentially symbolizing the false sense of shelter in which Holm has enveloped himself. Furthermore, several images in this film have been highly influential in shaping the structure of “The Seventh Seal” and “The Shining”, two of the most iconic films in cinematic history in my opinion.

“The Phantom Carriage” itself is a burden to the lost spirits who have to carry its weight for a full year. However, it is also a symbol for the spiritual and emotional strain that many drag with them on a daily basis. Many of our actions and thoughts are resultant of fear, contempt, and anger. In other words, they are reactionary to the lack of core vitality and humanity necessary to achieving wholeness and true presence. Decency, kindness, and compassion embody the true human condition. Overall, this film does an exemplary job in reminding viewers of the importance of responsibility, love, and respect as integral aspects of our functioning. Grief for former possibilities can be devastating upon the realization of their potential.

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I do not own any of the above images.

This post is part of the Happy New Year Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog! Please click on the link to check out other posts discussing films which take place on New Year’s Eve!

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Scenes from a Marriage (1973)

Human connection is a vital aspect of our daily functioning. It lends us security, comfort, solace, and even a breadth of opportunities. It also allows us to express our inner hopes and desires to others, with the prospect of attaining harmony and fulfilment. Conversely, crafting and sustaining these relationships can unfortunately be met with an underlying assumption that truth must be concealed for fear of judgment and reprehension. Our human core fears rejection, and these undeclared “differences” must be hidden from plain view to conserve our social pedestal. This den of secrecy can include friendships, parent-child and sibling relationships, and marriage whereby we must “please the other” while sacrificing our own integrity at times. The 1973 TV miniseries from Sweden entitled “Scenes from a Marriage” directed by the always introspective Ingmar Bergman examines the damage that this suppression of honesty can inflict upon a relationship.

Johan (Erland Josephson) and Marianne (Liv Ullmann) are celebrating ten years of idyllic bliss with a magazine spread declaring their tips and tricks for a conflict-free marriage. Johan is a psychology professor at a prestigious institution, Marianne is ironically a divorce lawyer, and they have two beautiful children – the poster of familial perfection. Piece by piece, this picturesque facade crumbles. Over the six-part miniseries, their marriage is intimately dissected through pivotal interactions or “scenes” that occur over a ten-year period. Their relationship dissolves and reignites several times throughout this journey, and viewers learn that their actualities had always been concealed to appease those closest to them in their lives. The blossoming of their authenticity is therefore fundamental in ensuring the growth and sustainment of their connection.

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It has been previously mentioned that the series indeed is comprised of specific “scenes from a marriage”. Each episode provides us a snapshot into the much-needed, honest conversations that have been festering for many years in the lives of this couple. The simplicity of the cinematography and conviction of the lead actors force us to focus on the evolving genuine dialogue between them. It is well known that Bergman and Ullmann’s relationship was a great source of inspiration and material for this whole premise. This carefully composed examination is indeed a case of art imitating life or its past, and the palpability of this very common and relatable story remains exceedingly current.

In general, discussions on any topic may be quite effervescent and fleeting in their beginnings. Over time, they hold the power to drive opinions and shape perceptions. Our pre-existing views enter into discourse, subsequently influencing our presentation of topics and others’ interpretations of unfolding events. Furthermore, our individual worlds are the consequence of thousands of personal experiences and stories that we bring subconsciously into every interaction. This film is one glorious example of how these ideas culminate into expression and empathy within a relationship that mirrors many of our own truths and realities.

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I do not own the above photos in this post.

Update #2!

Hi to all!!

First of all, I must apologize for my absence in the blogging world for the past few months. My job has been quite exhausting and I am in the midst of a career transition. I have been very tired and have been doing a lot of soul searching throughout this time.

I have continued to watch great films but in between studying, etc., I have not devoted the time and energy I usually have in my writing. I have realized that writing, about critiquing, and discussing great films are my passions, and that this makes me feel whole and fulfilled.

Second of all, I apologize to those who have had blogathons which I signed up for but was not able to participate in. I am very sorry as I really try to honour commitments I make. With forthcoming blogathons, I will ensure that I will have the time and energy to write about films that I love. I really enjoy connecting with other cinephiles about various themes in film, and I want and need to continue this tradition 🙂

Thanks again for understanding re my absence in the blogging world. I appreciate all that other writers contribute to enrich and enhance my experience and love of cinema, and I hope that I can continue to disperse a fraction of that knowledge and passion that has been dispensed to me through film blogging 🙂

Charlene

Limelight (1952)

Admiration is a sentiment fuelling our sense of belonging and our yearning inner ego. We have all, potentially with regret, completed some task to gain esteem with our peers. However, some actions are propelled by kindness, optimism, good will, and duty towards our fellow human beings. The 1952 drama “Limelight” directed by the legendary Charlie Chaplin masterfully blends these motivations to demonstrate the complexities of this decision-making. Chaplin always effortlessly combined pathos with humour in each of his films, but the former is heightened throughout this tale of which many succumb.

Calvero (Chaplin) is a washed-up clown living in a subpar apartment in pre-WWI London. Upon climbing the staircase in his apartment building one day like any other, he smells gasoline exiting the apartment of struggling ballet dancer Thereza Ambrose (Claire Bloom). She has attempted suicide secondary to her own daily struggles in her career and personal life. Calvero rescues her, secretly improving her health physically and intellectually while harbouring her from the implausible law that suicide was illegal. They develop deep mutual respect and affection for one another, encouraging one another to pursue their greatest yet seemingly unachievable ambitions. Their relationship takes a multitude of twists and turns, culminating in a final act featuring simultaneous joy, lament, tragedy, and guilt. It should be mentioned that Chaplin’s colleague and comedic competitor Buster Keaton has an important cameo, conveying offscreen and onscreen mutual respect for each others’ crafts.

The main characters of this film live and breathe in a co-existing world where an audience of strangers cement their identities. The stamina needed to perform daily for a living is quite exhilarating but also exhausting, demonstrated through Thereza’s gift as a ballerina and Calvero’s talent as a comedian. However, their vulnerabilities under duress in the enduring yet failing promises of the “limelight” emerge. Chaplin’s swan song mirrors his own journey, as the audience and studios who once highly loved and respect his achievements banished him. This film thus serves as a caution to those who seek approval from others to enhance their self worth. Self-actualization can only come from one’s inner desires, beliefs, and the strong, bona fide connections that they forge with others.

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I do not own this photo. As well, this blog post is part of the En Pointe: The Ballet Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and Love Letters to Old Hollywood! Please check out all of the other great entries dedicated to films with ballet 🙂

I also want to thank everyone who follows and reads my blog for their patience. I have had a big life transition this past month moving and starting a new job. It really broke my heart that I could not blog as much, but I want to get back on the bandwagon again! I hope I haven’t lost my touch 🙂

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Update!

Hi to all! It has been a little over two weeks since I wrote a blog post, which is very odd for me! I have not disappeared from the blogging world. I moved from St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador to Kingston, Ontario last week in starting a new job. I have just been settling in, trying to adjust to the new environment. There have been a couple of internet issues. Furthermore, I have been doing a lot of studying and will continue to do so.

I apologize for having to bow out of some blogathons, as I did not think and plan ahead as to how tedious and complex moving can be. That coupled with the fact that I moved from the very east to the centre of Canada! I may not be writing as frequently as I had been in January/February. However, I am looking forward to the upcoming blogathons now that I am settled in more than I was. I have also found a brilliant DVD rental store which has so many classic and Criterion selections which I look forward to watching and reviewing! I watched Cleo from 5 to 7 and The Marriage of Maria Braun yesterday. Both were absolutely brilliant, and I absolutely must review them in the near future.

Thanks for your patience and understanding, and I look forward to lots more film watching and discussions!

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This is not a picture of my own Criterion DVDs. I wish I had a wider selection like this!

 

 

Reel Infatuation Blogathon 2017 – Westley in “The Princess Bride”

When I discovered that this blogathon existed, I was extremely interested but also a little bewildered! I am a massive movie lover, and it was therefore very difficult to decide which character infatuation to write about. In the end, I finalized my choice based on bravery, intelligence, sportsmanship, wit, looks (yes, I am shallow), and romance. Farm Boy/Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts played by Cary Elwes in one of the most magical films of all-time, The Princess Bride, just has to be my favourite reel infatuation!

This medieval storybook tale begins with Westley as “Farm Boy”. He is the farm hand to the very bossy Buttercup (Robin Wright). Despite the seeming power imbalance, the two captivate one another. I find Westley’s naivety at this point quite endearing, but it is very evident that he has much growth and evolution in his future. He subsequently embarks on a journey from boyhood to manhood, and we witness the results in due course…

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Fast forward five years where Buttercup is now in the menacing arms of Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). The supposed “Dread Pirate Roberts” interrupts the highly orchestrated kidnapping of Buttercup, encountering some of the most memorable characters in movie history. However, the viewers come to quickly realize that “Dread Pirate Roberts” is not the dread pirate at all, but is … Westley! An inconceivable battle of wits, swashbuckling, a journey through the aptly-named Fire Swamp, and a “to the pain!” declaration allow us to witness the evolution of Westley. His devotion for Buttercup though is one of his most attractive qualities, enduring multiple hardships and being nearly dead in his quest for love and justice. As we wish, he is the ultimate embodiment of swoon-worthiness and idealism in a partner in crime or life.

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I do not own the photos in this post. Also, this post is a part of the Reel Infatuation Blogathon hosted by A Small Press Life and Silver Screenings! Please take a look at other awesome posts this weekend related to movie, TV, and literary characters that make us blush!

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Trouble in Paradise (1932)

The concealment of deceit has been a longstanding tradition in society. The maintenance of facades grants this continued perception while allowing one to experiment and examine various interests outside of these so-called constraints. This exploration may allow one to transition into another chapter in their life, such as a career. However, traversing this course in the realm of any kind of relationship can create confusion, hurt, and future mistrust branching into subsequent bond formation. These taxing situations have nonetheless been highly mimicked and lauded in film, generating suspense, concern, and sometimes comedy depending on the plot. The concept of relationship deceit is one such theme that produces a lot of “trouble in paradise”. The master of subtleness Ernst Lubitsch directed the delightful 1932 Pre-Code romantic comedy with the title of the aforementioned quoted phrase, crisply navigating the previously discussed theme with great wit and intelligence.

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The film begins with thief extraordinaire Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) putting forth multiple illusions of himself. One is as a doctor, robbing the wealthy Francois Filiba (1930s screwball staple Edward Everett Horton). The other is as a wealthy baron in the city of Venice. He meets with Lily Vautier (Miriam Hopkins), who is impossibly the most social socialite among royalty. Unbeknownst to them both, they are highly professional thieves. This discovery launches a seeming whirlwind of fraudulence and dishonesty. After Monescu robbed a peace conference and “took everything except the peace”, we are introduced to the wealthy Parisian cosmetics maven Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis). Through a myriad of circumstance, the two crooks begin working for Colet with Monescu turned Gaston Lavalle at the helm of her finances! Multiple love triangles, derailed plans, clever lines, glamour, possession, jealousy, and most of all sexual tension blend together to develop an utterly and daringly original film.

Lubitsch employed many innovative techniques in the film’s portrayal of sexuality. The Hays Code was definitely impending on Hollywood at the time that this film was created, as much nudity and seduction were increasingly prevalent in studio pictures. While many films were amplifying overt sexuality, Lubitsch slyly inserted multiple ploys to scandalously include sexual encounters between unmarried individuals. A wine bottle, shadows on a mattress, a clock, innuendo, and yet sometimes complete silence are some examples allowing the audience to make insinuations and draw conclusions. The light atmosphere and comedy help to mask this film as a nearly innocent, oxymoronic portrayal of layered deception. While the film was not reissued during the Code era, the act and craft of masquerading ultimately lends the film itself added charm, depth, timelessness, and a rewarding stamp in cinema.

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I do not own the photos in this post. As well, this is part of the SEX! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog! Please have a look at the other great entries over this weekend contributing to this blogathon discussing sexuality and film.

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Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

“Home is where the heart is”, as the age-old saying goes. Some associate “home” with dread, anguish, and fear while others relate familiarity, comfort, sentimentality, pride, and a sense of belonging to the term. Growth and change can allow one to bloom beyond their comfort zone, but the idea of uprooting from home may arise trepidation. The development of relationships, a career, and overall support is often cultivated in one location designated as home, and the thought of potentially starting anew is daunting. The vibrant 1944 Technicolor musical Meet Me in St. Louis directed by Vincente Minnelli delves into these apprehensions among an upper-middle class family in the face of starting a new life in the Big Apple.

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The film begins during the carefree summer of 1903 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Smith family children are enjoying the freedom and joviality of summer, counting down to the 1904 World’s Fair. Their father Lon Smith (Leon Ames) drudges through daily life as a lawyer in a downward career cycle. The proposition of success as a lawyer in New York prompts Lon to instruct the family in a highly patriarchal manner that they will be leaving their beloved St. Louis to begin a new life in New York. Meanwhile, wife Anna (the highly versatile Mary Astor) has created strong roots in this community in raising their children. Eldest daughters Rose (Lucille Bremer) and Esther (the always magnificent Judy Garland) have romantic involvements and educational prospects in St. Louis. Esther is particularly fond of the “boy next door” John Truett (Tom Drake). The younger bratty daughters Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) advocate in favour of staying to continue their obscene and inappropriate pranks. Eldest son Lon Jr. (Henry H. Daniels Jr.) is already in college at this point, having begun exploring life beyond St. Louis. As the seasons advance towards the once prospectively exhilarating Fair, an aura of despair looms through this observed upbeat, decadent, colour-saturated world.

This film is undoubtedly a quintessential musical. The musical numbers are highly memorable and vibrant, with “The Trolley Song”, “The Boy Next Door”, and the classic “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” being among the fabulous roster of songs. The propelling of popularity and timelessness of these songs are mainly due to Judy Garland’s exquisite and astute vocals, expressing every emotion necessary in a very genuine manner. Vincente Minnelli’s careful direction showcases Garland’s talent but also allows the viewer to feel great compassion for the Smith family. I must also mention the beautiful costumes, embodying the fashion of the early 1900s. Overall, romance, drama, teenage troubles, and childhood woes all captivate in this wonderful film, which is ultimately an ode to the glory and connection of home. This love, joy, and adoration for St. Louis are expressed within the film’s title and eponymous initial number.

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I do not own the pictures in this post. As well, this post is part of the Judy Garland Blogathon hosted by In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood. Please check out the other awesome posts honouring the amazingly talented and legendary Judy Garland!

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