New Additions: “Duck Soup,” “Harold and Maude,” “The Battle of San Pietro”
Hello, readers. Hope that everyone had a happy holiday. I, myself, finally got a hold my first Blu ray player (yes, I said my first). And I’ll tell you what: if I had known that I’d be able to stream my Netflix instant queue onto my TV in full HD through said player for no additional charge, you can bet I would have gotten one a long time ago.
So, now that the The Mitchell List has gone public, I feel that it’s worth noting to my readers when new films that I’ve never seen before get added to the ranks. Therefore, I’m starting a new series of posts which I will call New Additions. In these, I will offer a brief, paragraph-long review and the usual rankings so that you know my basic thoughts on the film. And you can bet, now that I have an infinite wealth of movies into my living room, there will hopefully be a wealth of these.
“Duck Soup,” (Leo McCarey) – 1933
I must say that I am not as fluent with the works of the Marx Brothers as I am with those of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton. Yet after viewing “Duck Soup,” it’s certainly no joke that they are raucously talented and hilarious. The gags come as fast, witty and very well-planted. The mirror gag and hat-stealing scenes in particular are just a joy to watch, mostly due to their incredible choreography. The film also contains a hint of social commentary, even if it seems weak compared to today’s standards. However, the film runs into trouble when the comedy bits start to get in the way of things like structure, character and all of the other things that make up a film. The movie, then, encompasses more of the traits of a fantastic stand-up routine then a feature.
GRADES: B * * * 1/2 / * * * * * 7.4 / 10.0
“Harold and Maude” (Hal Ashby) – 1971
My understanding is that this film is known for having an insane cult following, in essence, almost inventing the term. I will say that the film takes on some unorthodox and original concepts. The suicide concept is particularly dicy (although I’m still kind of confused as to how he pulled some of them off, and galled that they didn’t explain them). It also contains great performances from Ruth Gordon and Vivian Pickles. However, the film raises too many unanswered questions. One that constantly got on my nerves was, why aren’t any of these people in jail? They really are a lot more horrible and less sympathetic than the plot lets on. And the ending leaves the viewer a lot less satisfied then one would wish from an “inspirational” film.
GRADES: B- * * * / * * * * * 6.4 / 10.0
“The Battle of San Pietro” (John Huston) – 1945
Some of the stories about this movie are just as interesting, if not more so, than the film itself. In a response to to claims from the military that his documentary was anti-war, John Huston said that if he ever made a pro-war film, he should be shot. Another tale tells of a woman standing up in the theater and shrieking that she sees her son during a montage of American corpses. One thing is for sure: this film paved the way for the modern-day documentary. When most of the war time news was only showing the cheerful and inspiring moments of the war, Huston displays the gritty realities of combat. It is a direct influence on films like “Restrepo,” and really, well, every other war film made since. It is also an ode to filmmakers who must overcome huge obstacles to get their films viewed, for what’s a bigger obstacle than the U.S. Military.
GRADES: A- * * * * 1/2 / * * * * * 8.6 / 10.0