Sunday, March 30, 2008

Recent Films

Play it Again Sam (1972)

Linda: Allan, the world is full of eligible women.

Allan: Yeah, but not like Nancy. She was a lovely thing. I used to lay in bed at night and watch her sleep. Once in a while she would wake up and catch me. She would let out a scream.

(Diane Keaton as Linda and Woody Allen as Allan.)

A friend of mine saw this on Broadway when it premiered as a Woody Allen play. When Herbert Ross directed the film, he used the original theatrical cast. Woody himself is a neurotic (shocker!) film critic, who – abandoned by his wife – is trying to get back into the dating scene, with the help of his married friends (Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts) and the ghost of Humphrey Bogart (Jerry Lacey.)

What can I say? This is at one moment fall-off-your-chair funny, and the next moment heart-breaking. The script is brilliant and the delivery is perfect: the actors play it all straight and that’s what makes it funny. I heard a good anecdote recently from a Canadian director about the famous theatrical couple, Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne. They were appearing in a production of Arms and the Man and there was one moment that Lunt found most frustrating, as he expected a laugh when he asked for a cup of tea, and never got it. Fontanne pointed out: “But you’re asking for a laugh. Just try asking for a cup of tea.” He did and he got his laugh.

The Pink Panther (1963)
"... When I went on my first zsrafari... frazari... wild animal hunt." (Claudia Cardinale as Princess Dala)

This was the first Pink Panther movie. Apparently Peter Ustinov was originally cast in the supporting role of Inspector Clouseau (David Niven’s part of Sir Charles Lytton was the official lead) but he dropped out. When Peter Sellers took over, and as filming continued, the part of Clouseau grew and grew. It was a surprise to me today (thanks TCM!) when I saw it that David Niven got top billing. This remains as funny as when I first saw it. Again, played straight and so funny. The delightful, glamorous settings, outfits and the gorgeous Capucine and Claudia Cardinale all make it a most perfect 1960s fluff-fest. I read tonight on that all of Cardinale’s scenes were over-dubbed as her English wasn’t up to par. I had no idea! It was so convincingly done.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)
The story is simple and charming. The dowdy and middle-aged Guinevere Pettigrew has been fired repeatedly from jobs as governesses. She finagles her way into a job as “social secretary” to a man-juggling, adorably manipulative starlet, the wonderfully named Delysia Lafosse. The entire story takes place over a day. And what a day it is!

The script is based on a 1938 novel by Winifred Watson, which was originally optioned at the time by Universal, hoping to cast Billie (Glinda in The Wizard of Oz) Burke as Miss Pettigrew. Instead it sat fallow these many years and has just been released with the wonderful Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew, Amy Adams as the dizzy Delysia Lafosse, Mark (Mr. Knightley in Emma, 1996) Strong as Nick Colderelli, and Ciarán (Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, 1995) Hinds as Joe Blumfield. I don’t know the original novel but the authoress described it as “full of merriment.” The film has great production values, much merriment and some moments of great poignancy. Ultimately it is very light and already feels like a dim memory.

Indiscreet (1958)
"I like a man with a glass in his hand. It's very becoming." (Ingrid Bergman as Anna Kalman)

Another wonderful film directed by Stanley Donan. From Ingrid Bergman’s delicious apartment to Cary Grant’s…. everything, this film is a sophisticated delight. For those of you who haven’t seen it: Ingrid plays a famous stage actress living in London who begins an affair with an American diplomat, Cary Grant, who she at first resists after he tells her he’s married.

What can I say: every woman should know the joy of being looked at over lunch the way Cary Grant looked at Ingrid when she served up whatever it was she cooked in those two tiny saucepans. (Fish? Omelettes?)


willow said...

I think "Play it Again Sam" is one of the few Woody Allen films we don't have. Gotta see it again...I'll have to look at the library. "Miss Pettigrew" is no where to be seen around these parts and I have SO been wanting to see it. (dagnabit) And we were just talking about how gorgeous Ingrid Bergman's wardrobe was in Indiscreet...Christian Dior...stunning. About those tiny saucepans...people obviously ate less back then! :)

Blog Princess G said...

Yes! I especially loved the first dress... and that ruby and diamond necklace wasn't too shabby. I'm sure people ate less back then. The plates were smaller too. We do have everything to such excess now.

The Caked Crusader said...

Indiscreet - simply one of THE best films ever. Even without Cary highland dancing it would've been a classic.
And, possibly the only film to feature Dairylea cheese triangles -although I'm willing to be corrected on that!

Thanks for stopping by my site and leaving such a nice comment

R.A.D. Stainforth said...

Play It Again, Sam is verbally as well as visually witty. I always found Allan Felix’s desperate untidying of his apartment before a date and his nonchalant shrug which sends an LP flying across the room hilarious.

Or his line:

No, my parents never got divorced, although I begged them to.

Lavinia said...

Actually it wasn't lunch she served him, it was breakfast. Possibly an egg dish. They also had a cozy supper in a private club in another scene. In yet another, Ingrid gazed adoringly from her seat at an official banquet as Cary rambled on about 'hard currency'. It was so charming how Ingrid kept her apartment key in an urn on a pedestal right outside her apartment door. What a true star--the only thing in her handbag must have been a red lipstick and a powder compact! And true to the ease of the times, going through Customs at the border was a breeze!