Kehr Capsule of the Week: Ordet (1955)

Carl Dreyer‘s great 1955 film is concerned with the moral and metaphysical shadings of love: Is it a thing of sex or of the spirit? A force of repression and control or a promise of infinite expansion? A farmwife dies; her brother-in-law, a failed preacher, promises to raise her from the dead. The conflict is crystallized in a famous exchange of dialogue (from Kaj Munk‘s play), when the father, trying to comfort his widowed son, says, “She is no longer here . . . she is in heaven.” The son replies, “Yes, but I loved her body too.” Dreyer’s direction has been described as too theatrical, perhaps because the action is largely confined to the farmhouse set, yet the spatial explorations of his camera and cutting are profoundly cinematic and expressive. The film is extremely sensual in its spareness, a paradox always at the center of Dreyer’s work.

Kehr’s Weekly Recap: The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936)

Political filmmakers everywhere could learn a lot from Jean Renoir‘s 1936 classic, made as his contribution to France’s Popular Front. Monsieur Lange (Rene Lefevre), a meek employee of a Paris publishing house, passes his spare time writing the adventures of “Arizona Jim,” a rugged American cowboy hero. His boss, Batala (a masterpiece of ham acting by Jules Berry), steals the rights to Lange’s stories and prints them. Providence steps in when Lange learns that Batala has been killed in a train wreck, allowing Lange and his coworkers to form a cooperative and publish the stories themselves. But Batala returns, dressed as a priest and demanding his cut. Jacques Prevert‘s screenplay has wit and economy, but it is the multiplicity of points of view implied in Renoir’s fluid direction that lifts the film from propaganda to art. In French with subtitles. 85 min.

Lloyd Kaufman ALS Bucket Challenge

In case you missed this bit of pure genius

Kehr’s Weekly Recap: On Borrowed Time (1939)

Harold Bucquet, who handled the Dr. Kildare series at MGM, directed this maudlin 1939 fantasy in which a curmudgeonly grandfather (Lionel Barrymore, of course) stalls Death (in the guise of dapper Englishman Cedric Hardwicke) to prevent the forced adoption of his orphaned grandson (Bobs Watson). The film’s studio back-lot version of small-town America and its glorious, sunlit heaven are painfully hokey, and while Bucquet nicely captures the camaraderie between Barrymore and Watson, the two of them provide enough ham for an Easter dinner. Adapted from a play by Lawrence Edward Watkin; with Beulah Bondi and Una Merkel.

Taylor Negron 1957-2015

The Fountain of Youth (1956)

Kehr’s Weekly Recap: Murder by Death (1976)

Even Neil Simon fans (and they do exist, believe it or not) will probably be bummed out by this stunningly unfunny 1976 parody of detective films, with Truman Capote, Nancy Walker, Alec Guinness, Maggie Smith, Elsa Lanchester, Estelle Winwood, Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, Eileen Brennan, James Coco, and David Niven, none of whom has much to do. Simon is the Sisyphus of gag writers, endlessly repeating gags and situations that were barely funny the first time. Peter Falk nearly saves the picture with a funny Bogart impression, no mean feat in the midst of the Humphreymania that reigned at the time of the film’s release.

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