The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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therewillbeblus
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#426 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Sep 08, 2019 1:25 am

I suppose I’ll give it another go. At the rate this decade’s revisits are going, I’ll probably love it.

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domino harvey
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#427 Post by domino harvey » Sun Sep 08, 2019 3:12 am

I revisited the Killers earlier this summer in conjunction with reading Foster Hirsch's great book on noir, in part because I couldn't remember a thing about it beyond the opening! Rewatching, I thought it was slight and just okay but bordering on not being that great, and found myself struggling with the hyperbolic praise lavished on it in the Arrow extras (shades of me sitting through the Eddie Muller fawning on Asphalt Jungle, though that's one I really don't like even after several tries over the years). I will say, of every rando Best Director without Best Picture nomination in Oscar history, this one always surprises me (I think I may have done a literal double-take after this last revisit, even though I obviously knew this at one time since I made a whole thread about it!)... but looking at the record, the Oscars really loved their noir more than fabled "these were the b-pictures that outlasted the a-pictures" myth! Besides the healthy number of Noirs that got noms for Best Picture, during the peak period of output the directors also nominated for films that didn't get BP noms: Siodmak for the Killers, Preminger for Laura, Cukor for A Double Life, Reed for the Third Man, Huston for Asphalt Jungle, Wyler for Detective Story, Mankiewicz for 5 Fingers, Hitchcock for Rear Window, Sturges for Bad Day at Black Rock, Wise for I Want to Live!, and Hitchcock again for Psycho. Kind of unreal, but then again, we still today talk about how much better that branch usually is at nominations!

ntnon
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#428 Post by ntnon » Sun Sep 08, 2019 8:29 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 8:47 pm
It'll be in or near my top 10. I'm kind of glad I never watched it when it was on TV during the holidays so it doesn't have those associations that might have gotten old with time. I waited into very late adulthood to watch this film, and I also admire it every time out.
Likewise. I suspect 'not being American' helped me avoid it being traditional or required watching - I don't recall ever even hearing of it for years. We watched The Sound of Music and The Great Escape... and at least the former of those has elevated beyond the chore (it's so long) into the sublime (it's excellent).
Rayon Vert wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 8:47 pm
The sentiment in it doesn't stop it from being extremely smart, excellently crafted and, yes, at times even realistic.
When I finally heard of it - and had a synopsis from.. someone, and the four-line write-up in the Radio Times - I avoided it vaguelly because it sounded Scrooge-lite and cloying. Then I saw most of the last ten minutes, and the sight of an uncontextualised James Stewart shouting "YEAHHH!" in the snow put me off for a long time...

So I was absolutely shocked to discover the smart behind the sentiment, the bleak lining underneath the received-wisdom that it was a sugary life-affirming jaunt.

The premise of the film is someone who has been kicked and kept down his whole life. Whose dreams have been dashed at every turn, and the one ray of light is that somehow he found love. But, despite that, hevs kicked in the teeth again and decides to kill himself on Christmas Eve... nothing about that is twee and sugary and dull. And when combined with satire, comedy and fantasy, it's indispensible.
Rayon Vert wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 8:47 pm
Though it's an “ideas” film like most of Capra’s work, that dimension never overshadows the story and characters. It’s also Jimmy Stewart's most representative role, but is arguably is his best - he's simply terrific here and gripping. The fantasy/Christmas elements don't come into play until the last third, and it's a very effective epic-sweep capture of a human life.
Exactly. Surely only the very lucky few cannot sympathise with dreams compromised, and only the ultra-ultra-grim/cynical can deny that just occasionally things can take a turn for the better. Life, ups and downs and all.
Last edited by ntnon on Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ntnon
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#429 Post by ntnon » Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:12 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 8:33 pm
I love how deep Capra digs into the clouds people get caught up in out of fear, resentment, selfishness, dissatisfaction, chasing ideas that will provide ‘enough’ when it’s all right there in front of you. To me, the scene where George yells at Mary as he grapples with his own will vs. love will always be one of the most authentic and powerful moments on film for me, and incredibly strange in how atypical yet realistic it is for a ‘romantic’ moment in the 40s.
There are two scenes that really stand out as sort-of 'not belonging' - the shouting scene you cite (making his daughter cry), and the highly-charged 'interestin' situation' where Mary winds up naked.

Neither necessarily 'fit' with the broader swathe of the film (too troubling and too saucy), but both are parts of the jigsaw puzzle of George's life, and thus fit perfectly.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#430 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:43 pm

I was referring to the scene where he kisses her for the first time, and yells that he doesn’t want all the things that would bind him to this small town and prevent him from seeing the world, but your point still stands - and the drunken walk where Mary winds up naked and he tells her he’ll lasso the moon is a prime example of a moment in life not unlike one or two many of us get and may or may not appreciate at the time, but become more special than any isolated site-seeing ever could.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#431 Post by nitin » Mon Sep 09, 2019 8:21 am

The Killers is the best Siodmak film by far for me, although I like quite lot of his other output too. Although I also think Out of the Past is a great film, for me The Killers does everything slightly better.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#432 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 09, 2019 12:15 pm

I can’t believe we have two different posters with such identical-looking names posting in this thread!

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#433 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 09, 2019 12:22 pm

"ntnon" is short for "not nitin"

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#434 Post by ntnon » Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:32 pm

Beauty and the Beast and Thief of Bagdad are going to make me read up on my fairy tales and Nights... given that most memories of reading such tales are necessarily filtered through Disney and retellings, I'm curious how much of a hodge podge these classic films are. Does Belle have sisters like Cinderella? Is Abu-or-Alladin hero or facilitator? Either way, these films are good. The special effects aren't up to much by most standards - Dr. Jekyll and the Wolf Man's transformations are transformative; the Beast and Abu just fade out. The plots are familiar - but, persuant to further reading, not that familiar - and the acting is good enough. I was struck by the similarity in asking an audience (directly, in the credits of Bête; indirectly via Abu in Bagdad) to view them 'as a child would'. Certainly that amplifies enjoyment despit a noticable lack of characterisation/motivation in minor parts - Belle's brother, Conrad Veidt - or occasional plot points.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#435 Post by ntnon » Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:34 pm

swo17 wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 12:22 pm
"ntnon" is short for "not nitin"
Certainly an opening "Not," but predating 'nitin'...

ntnon
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#436 Post by ntnon » Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:38 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:43 pm
I was referring to the scene where he kisses her for the first time, and yells that he doesn’t want all the things that would bind him to this small town and prevent him from seeing the world, but your point still stands - and the drunken walk where Mary winds up naked and he tells her he’ll lasso the moon is a prime example of a moment in life not unlike one or two many of us get and may or may not appreciate at the time, but become more special than any isolated site-seeing ever could.
Exactly. And the best part of that scene is that it's followed up with that precise distance of time - Mary remembers and treasures it, drawing a picture and keeping a record; George purports not to care overmuch, and gets shirty as it dawns on him that a) his mother is right, b) he's madly in love and thus c) he's never going to leave...

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#437 Post by Feego » Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:59 pm

ntnon wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:32 pm
Does Belle have sisters like Cinderella?
There is a striking similarity between the openings of both Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau's and Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve's original version) and the Grimm brothers' version of Cinderella. In both, the father goes away for business and asks his three daughters/stepdaughters what they would like him to bring them. The cruel sisters ask for jewels and fine clothing, while Cinderella and Belle ask for more simple items from nature. Cinderella asks for a twig from the first tree that brushes his hat, and Belle asks for a rose. These simple items become the gateways for their magical adventures, as Cinderella's twig grows into a tree that grants her wishes, and Belle's rose leads her father to the Beast's enchanted castle.

I adore the simple nature of Cocteau's visual effects, which are often so obvious that it takes you back to the trick films of primitive cinema. When a character drops a snake to the ground only for it to become a string of pearls, the snake is clearly thrown off camera while the necklace is thrown to the ground by someone out of frame. Basic techniques like reversed footage and slow motion show an appreciation for the magical quality of filmmaking itself, an awe for the camera and its capabilities. Because these effects were not state-of-the-art in the 1940s, they carry a timelessness that works in tandem with the fairy tale.

ntnon
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#438 Post by ntnon » Mon Sep 09, 2019 10:35 pm

Feego wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:59 pm
I adore the simple nature of Cocteau's visual effects, which are often so obvious that it takes you back to the trick films of primitive cinema. When a character drops a snake to the ground only for it to become a string of pearls, the snake is clearly thrown off camera while the necklace is thrown to the ground by someone out of frame. Basic techniques like reversed footage and slow motion show an appreciation for the magical quality of filmmaking itself, an awe for the camera and its capabilities. Because these effects were not state-of-the-art in the 1940s, they carry a timelessness that works in tandem with the fairy tale.
Fair point. The 'childish' viewpoint again... like the horse switch and bluescreen in Bagdad.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#439 Post by ntnon » Tue Sep 10, 2019 2:23 pm

Not a fan of Odd Man Out. Moderate tension, historical realism and people being people... but very little more. And some dodgy Irish accents to boot. (The closing scene also makes it look like somone transposed Big Ben to Ireland, which is certainly Odd.)

I was underwhelmed by Bicycle Thieves as well... anyone willing to make a case as to why it seems so critically praised? Is it just the weight of social history, or did I miss something..

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#440 Post by domino harvey » Tue Sep 10, 2019 3:04 pm

Italian Neorealism was the first international cinema product to gain hold in the states by the intelligentsia because it offered something materially different than Hollywood, and ever since it's been a little artificially inflated in reputation. Some of these films are indeed great, but there's definitely a bit of rosy glasses approach taken to the movement as a whole, as though gritty location shooting and non-professionals were inherently better than studio movies by virtue of alleged authenticity, even though they're often just as contrived (in every sense) as the contemporary Hollywood products.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#441 Post by knives » Tue Sep 10, 2019 5:01 pm

I won't defend Bicycle Thieves which I consider a very weak film aside from the kid's performance, but on average I'd argue Neorealism and that whole period of Italian cinema is just as great as any other made cinematic movement such as the French New Wave. My tastes favour the Italians, but part of the problem as with anything like this is how ill defined the term is. I mean, non-professional actors gets put forth as a requirement all the time, but aside from de Sica how many films can honestly be described in those terms? Certainly not the opener, Rome, Open City which stars several professionals. Besides de Sica Visconti's The Earth Trembles is probably the only one.

It's also hard,like we discussed in the New Wave thread, to figure out who to include and what years to include. I mean you could reasonably include Fellini though he didn't direct until 1950. On the more obscure end of the scale what about De Santis who was at least working with the language of neorealism or Luigi Zampa and Alberto Lattuado who both made films that could reasonably be included. It most reasonably could be said to never have really existed I suppose.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#442 Post by TMDaines » Tue Sep 10, 2019 5:23 pm

Having now seen virtually every film that conceivably be considered neorealist, I wouldn’t go further than to describe the movement to be anything more specific than the trend towards depicting the lives, issues and locales of the working class milieu, either during or immediately after the Second World War. Most of the other descriptors are based on myths and half-truths.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#443 Post by ntnon » Tue Sep 10, 2019 6:57 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 3:04 pm
Italian Neorealism was the first international cinema product to gain hold in the states... and ever since it's been a little artificially inflated in reputation. Some of these films are indeed great, but there's definitely a bit of rosy glasses approach... as though gritty location shooting and non-professionals were inherently better than studio movies by virtue of alleged authenticity, even though they're often just as contrived...
That's a well-articulated summary, thank you. It certainly has appeared to me that there's an aura of "received wisdom" surrounding many so-called opinions - several appear to be attempts to reinforce somebody else's (possibly-out-dated) views, rather than deeply held personal thoughts.

"Authenticity" and "realism" are necessarily hazy and often-arbitrary determinations - many documentaries often fall foul of re-staging (or flat-out creating) events for the purposes of capturing "reality," even as it is necessarily falsified.
knives wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 5:01 pm
... on average I'd argue Neorealism and that whole period of Italian cinema is just as great as any other made cinematic movement such as the French New Wave. My tastes favour the Italians, but part of the problem as with anything like this is how ill defined the term is. I mean, non-professional actors gets put forth as a requirement all the time, but aside from de Sica how many films can honestly be described in those terms?
The definitions of "non-professional" can be interesting too - everyone begins their career somewhere.. is a first outing of a future face necessarily as non/un 'professional' as casting a so-called 'non-actor'..?

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#444 Post by ntnon » Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:01 pm

TMDaines wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 5:23 pm
Having now seen virtually every film that conceivably be considered neorealist, I wouldn’t go further than to describe the movement to be anything more specific than the trend towards depicting the lives, issues and locales of the working class milieu, either during or immediately after the Second World War. Most of the other descriptors are based on myths and half-truths.
And that's definitely admirable and laudable, but that important element must surely be dissociated from adjudications of 'worth' or 'quality'. It highlights the difficulty of comparing cross-genre, cross-story, etc. but maybe must be separated from personal preferences.

I think on some level that's where various Awards and rankings fail - you can praise "a film" as a whole while acknowledging faults, or compliment a director despite the film they produce not being terribly good, etc. Equally, some films are "important" (for a variety of reasons) but not necessarily very good.....

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#445 Post by ntnon » Tue Sep 10, 2019 8:08 pm

Fallen Idol has noticably risen in my estimation. When last I saw it, I didn't pay close enough attention to the ending, and dismissed the whole as dull, slight and trite. This time, however, I thoroughly appreciated the 'performance' of Phile as a proper child - bored, forward, blinded by admiration and confused about the Right Thing To Do. This time, it was oddly reassuring to see 'the truth' win out after the compounded lies, good intentions and misperceptions.

I'm still unconvinced by the overall plot of The Third Man, but the scenery and the framing and the zither... absolutely superb.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#446 Post by ntnon » Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:00 pm

Good News is worth a lot for two scenes: the French song and the play-acting - Cora fundamentally failing to read/emote and Connie saying Pat has nice hands. Cut to Pat looking at her hands and agreeing..

I definitely appreciate Criss Cross, too. I may even have to re-watch Out of the Past, since the turns and betrayals and trust here seemed familiar... but worked admirably for me today. Crime did not pay; the wrong woman stayed wrong; trust went awry and everyone ended up exactly where they should have.
Last edited by ntnon on Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#447 Post by nitin » Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:54 pm

Wow, there are people that don’t think The Bicylcle Thieves is a good film?

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#448 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:05 pm

I love how Good News has quietly risen to being one of, if not the most mentioned titles in this thread, if measured by its initiation by different posters to weigh in on their thoughts (and all of them positive!)

The Red House: I liked this fine the first time but enjoyed it a lot better this rewatch, with several details outside of the central mystery standing out. From the opening scene, nearly every moment between a set of two teens is soaked in sexual innuendo, outside of the central ‘innocent’ dyad. Robinson and Judith Anderson are perfectly cast here and you couldn’t find a better pair of actors to play the mysterious adults of the story. They exude an extra level of alien presence already natural in both actors’ general demeanors, but accentuated here through the juxtaposition with the naive youth populating the rest of the space, creating a stranger vibe than they could, and would, in a different movie.

Speaking of youthfulness, this is a film that gets a lot right about high school age kids; raging egos, impulsive behaviors and rationale for it all. They’re just young enough to still be kids but bordering on adulthood, lost in between two worlds and feeling they belong to neither. The way Nath provokes Robinson is absolutely out of line, yet the character never feels too contrived. He represents the fight in the young to prioritize the defense of self-defined principles above socially-imposed norms, and one would be hard pressed to label him obnoxious without seeing a part of their former selves in him - and he is obnoxious! This movie also feels like a kind of odd precursor to the teenager-as-victims slasher genre, mostly in the first half setup and role exploration, but the brief testings in the psychological horror realm helps make this noticeable. The movie uses technique and performance to leave the audience feeling unbalanced throughout, even when the plot hits expected notes. The score especially kicks in inconsistently to ramp up the anxiety in full force, with the sporadic timing only adding to these eerie moods. As for the ending, well the entire last 20 minutes are incredibly dark and relentless, but as domino points out the final death scene is pretty impressive both in its conception and execution, with far more devotion going into its realisation than most noirs.

I also rewatched Criss Cross, but unlike many other films this decade, my thoughts haven’t changed a bit. I don’t have much to say about it, other than to declare that this still did next to nothing for me (outside of the well-paced scene with Lancaster in the hospital bed sizing up the man in the waiting room, completely helpless; and the brutal fatalistic ending that’s always chilling even if it doesn’t feel earned), though it did serve as a welcome reminder of how much I like Soderbergh’s remake, partly because it’s a solid film but also for choosing the perfect noir to refurbish: One with potential that didn’t quite hit the marks, and his eye for what could be improved upon has always been one of the many unique strengths for the eclectic auteur.
Last edited by therewillbeblus on Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ntnon
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#449 Post by ntnon » Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:10 pm

nitin wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:54 pm
Wow, there are people that don’t think The Bicylcle Thieves is a good film?
Not 'not good,' just 'not as good as it's reputation suggests.' To me - in my limited knowledge, with my oft-peculiar taste and in whatever frame of mind I was a few days ago - it seemed good, but relatively unremarkable. Not noticably elevated above its peers or particularly "special"... though I'm certainly open to good arguments.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#450 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:39 pm

I revisited it for this project not that long ago but the biggest standouts that stay with me are the truisms in the performances of the ‘non-professional’ lead and his wife (in her limited scenes). There’s a lot of warmth and honestly in their interactions and also their small gestures, even minute facial tics. However, I’m also in the camp that this is overrated, though considering how highly this places on various lists, anything short of the top spot could signify this impression. I think it’s a good film but won’t make the cut on my final list.

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