100 Word Review – The Addams Family (1991)

Margaret: Where’s your costume?

Wednesday: This is my costume. I’m a homicidal maniac. They look just like everybody else.

Adapted from The New Yorker satirical comic strip of the 1940s and the TV series of the 1960s and 1970s, this time the inversion of the ideal American family are hitting the silver screen.

After going missing in the Bermuda Triangle for 25 years, Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) is reunited with Gomez (Raul Julia), Morticia (Angelica Huston), Wednesday (Christina Ricci), Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) and Lurch (Carel Struycken). But is everything as it appears.

Family-friendly fun, albeit with a morbid sense of humour.

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100 Word Review – Brief Encounter (1945)

“You know what’s happened, don’t you?… I’ve fallen in love with you.”

Based on the play by Noel Coward, and directed by David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge Over The River Kwai), this is a quintessentially British romantic drama, set during the Second World War.

Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) meets Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) in a railway station, and continues to meet him there week after week. Theirs would be a perfect romance, were they not married to other people.

This film is wonderful. Told in part through Laura’s inner dialogue, the end result is charming, repressed and beautiful.

La Belle et la Bête (1946)

Opening Title: Children believe what we tell them. They have complete faith in us. They believe that a rose plucked from a garden can plunge a family into conflict. They believe that the hands of a human beast will smoke when he slays a victim, and that this will cause the beast shame when a young maiden takes up residence in his home. They believe a thousand other simple things. I ask of you a little of this childlike simplicity, and, to bring us luck, let me speak four truly magic words, childhood’s open sesame: “Once upon a time…”

Before the Disney version was ever dreamt of, Jean Cocteau wrote and directed his own version of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s classic tale of magic, romance and identity.

Between 1899 and 1913 it had been adapted five times, but Cocteau was the first to make a feature out of it.

Josette Day (Les Parents Terribles) and Jean Marais (Orpheus) star as Belle who sacrifices her freedom for that of her father and the Beast who keeps her locked up in his neglected but magical castle.

This film is sublime in ways that I cannot even begin to do justice to in words. It captures the heart of the fairytale; the humour, the romance, the sinister undercurrent and above all the beauty which is so tantalising and keeps us wanting more. Perhaps unsurprisingly based on his work here, cinematographer Henri Alekan went on to be nominated for an Oscar for his work on Roman Holiday (1953).

Don_Quixote_5

Initially, writer and director Cocteau and Alekan clashed over the visual aspects of the film. Cocteau favoured a hard-edged style while Alekan preferred soft-focus. As director, Cocteau had the final say and after a rough first couple of days Alekan came around to his way of thinking. The look and feel of the film is heavily influenced by the work of Gustave Doré and his illustrations of the nineteenth century French edition of Don Quixote (see right).

To play the part of the Beast, Marais spent five hours getting into his outfit every morning which included being covered in animal hair and wearing fangs that could not be removed until the end of the days shoot. This meant that he could not eat anything more than mulch during the day to avoid damaging the fangs. Marais had quite strong opinions on what the Beast should look like. Supporting Beaumont’s original story, he felt that the Beast should have a head that resembled a stag, with antlers, to draw upon the image of Cernunnos, the Celtic stag-headed god of the woods. However, as with Alekan, Cocteau’s vision won out and the image of the Beast as he is now recognised in Disney’s version was born.

Beauty and the Beast and Belle et la Bete
Beauty and the Beast and Belle et la Bete

I know I have already used the words beautiful and magical to describe this film, but it really is. If you haven’t seen it, you absolutely must! I saw it for the first time at Bath Film Festival and was completely moved.

In case you still had doubts, here is the trailer:

100 Word Review – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

This is not a light film, you have been warned.

Set in 1940s Spain, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) escapes from the horrors closing in on her into creepy, captivating fantasy world based on the fairy tales she loves so much. Led by a faun (Doug Jones), Ofelia completes quests to prove herself.

Another fairytale that is Grimm in every sense, it deconstructs the psyche of a child trapped in an impossible situation.

Written and directed by the hugely talented Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Cronos), unsurprisingly it won three Oscars including make-up and cinematography and is currently the 126th on IMDb’s Top 250.

100 Word Review – The Philadelphia Story (1940)

As it’s her birthday, today we are going for another classic Katherine Hepburn masterpiece.

Tracy Lord (Hepburn)’s ex-husband (Cary Grant) and a tabloid reported (James Stewart) turn up a few days before her second wedding, making her question what type of woman she is and what type of man she should marry.

Fantastic cast and director George Cukor (My Fair Lady, A Star is Born) aside, the script is a masterpiece which won Donald Ogden Stewart an Oscar for best script. Stewart won Leading Actor.

It was remade in to musical High Society (1956), but it doesn’t compare to the original.

It’s Not Just For Christmas; It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Famously known as one of the most tear inducing Christmas films ever made, I would like to fight for this to be an all-year-round feature.

Starring James Stewart (reason 1 to watch it all year round) as kind-hearted George Bailey, who finds himself out of money and luck, unable to support his family through the festive season. Thinking they would be better off without him, George tries to take his life (reason 2 – not exactly festive). Stopped by an angel called Clarence (Henry Travers), George is shown exactly what the world would be like if he had not been born. As a result, 80% of the film is not set at Christmas (reason3).

Without wanting to give too much away, Frank Capra’s award winning film (reason 4 – it was nominated for 5 Oscars, reason 5 – it’s number 26 in the top 250 films on IMDb) walks us through one man’s life and the ways in which his small acts of kindness rippled across everyone he met.

Released after the Second World War, it unsurprisingly features a lot of patriotism and army references (reason 6). George feels helpless for not being able to fight for his country, but is reassured that his work at home in small town America has held everything together. He is as important as the people who died fighting.

This is not a film about Christmas. This is about the aftermath of the Second World War, the people who were lost during it whose lives were not spent in vain and those who were left behind trying to find meaning after so much devastation.

100 Word Review – A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Peter’s (Daid Niven) bomber is going down over the Channel. He makes radio contact with June (Kim Hunter), and American service woman and passes on his dying words.

But when his designated angelic guide gets lost in the fog, he wakes up near June’s house. So he finds himself caught up in a celestial legal battle for his life, literally.

Niven and Hunter are utterly compelling and completely heartbreaking in this classic Powell and Pressburger feature. Full of theological debate and logic, every detail has been clearly thought-through to create a film that is … heavenly.

More than your average romance.