100 Word Review – Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)

“A girl can’t read that sort of thing without her lipstick.” – Holly Golightly

Based on the novel by Truman Capote of a prostitute and her next door neighbour, this Hollywood version keeps all of the glamour of its source.

Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn), a New York Socialite, lives next door to ‘average Joe’ and hopeless romantic Paul Varjak (George Peppard) in this 1960s cult movie.

Screenplay by George Axelrod (The Seven Year Itch, Paris When It Sizzles), this film manages to live up to its stylish reputation while sneaking in some of the darkness and turmoil of the original story.

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100 Word Review – Trumbo (2015)

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Based on the life of the Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, Sparticus) and his time on the Black List as one of the infamous Hollywood Ten.

Brilliantly cast and put together, the film breathes a new life into antime of constructed fear and censorship that holds up a mirror to politics throughout the ages. Despite the heavy content, it retains a levity and humanity that is truly brilliant.

Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) is superb in the title role and his co-stars all shine just as bright. It’s unsurprising that he’s been nominated for an Oscar for his performance.

100 Word Review – All About Eve (1950)

A magnificent example of classic Hollywood.

Star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) believes that ingenue Eve (Anne Baxter) is trying to climb Hollywood’s career ladder by using her as a stepping stone.

It’s a truly twisted tale of deception, ambition and betrayal.

Witten and directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz (Cleopatra, Guys and Dolls), this film has won six Oscars including Best Directing and Best Screenplay and was nominated for a further eight. It even beat Sunset Boulevard for Best Picture and holds the record for the greatest number of female action Oscar nominations. It is currently number 100 on IMDb’s Top 250 films.

Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

Believe it or not, this film is a sophisticated satire. Although you would be forgiven for not realising it. 

Starring Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, with cameos from Noel Coward, Tony Curtis and Marlene Dietrich, it plays like a romantic farce.

Gabrielle Simpson (Hepburn) is a typist sent to the hotel room of acclaimed screenwriter Richard Benson (Holden) to type up the pages of his latest masterpiece. The problem is that he hasn’t started writing it yet and only has three days to get it written and delivered to the producer.

George Axelrod (Breakfast At Tiffany’s, The Seven Year Itch, The Manchurian Candidate) penned the screenplay and it was directed by Richard Quine (Sex And The Single Girl, How To Murder Your Wife).

The key to understanding the genius of this film, comes with understanding the changes Hollywood was going through at the time. So here is a brief history of the Classical Hollywood era.

When Hollywood started making films, the rating system that we are all familiar with did not exist. There was censorship or sense of filtering audiences by a film’s content. By the end of the 1920s, Hollywood was getting a reputation as a hotbed of sin and debauchery. Extra-marital affairs were rife and well recorded in the national and international press and there were even a couple of high profile rapes and murders.

In an attempt to restore the at least the appearance of a moral code, the studios hired Presbyterian Elder William Hays who, in 1930, brought out the Motion Picture Production Code (MPPC also known as the Hays Code). The MPPC laid out a series of rule that filmmakers had to abide by, including banning the “use of profanity”, “ridicule of the clergy” and “sex relationships between white and black races”, and cautioning “special care” around “sympathy for criminals”, “men and women in bed together” and “the institution of marriage”. These rules applied to all American filmmaking until 1968 when the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system was put in place, however from the 1950s onwards American filmmakers pushed back against these restrictions.

By the end of 1950s a new style of filmmaking was coming out of Europe, christened French New Wave. Directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and Agnes Varda took a free-form approach to filmmaking, seeing it as a form of artistic expression rather than commercial storytelling. This flew very much in the face of Hollywood’s ethos, which was (and still is) very much the movie “Business”.

This is the period of change that Axelrod was writing in, and that he tapped into when writing this clever little film. His characters write a screenplay that not only jumps from genre to genre but pushes and pulls at the MPPC as well as poking fun at French New Wave.

In a scene within the fictitious film that takes place in the bedroom, Benson comments on the risqué nature of the scene. Miss Simpson responds “You might take that view, but I believe they are playing Parcheesi”, gently prodding the MPPC’s allowances of insinuation. Also within the film within a film, Gaby gets caught up with a French New Wave actor (played by Tony Curtis) who’s involved in a fictitious film about Bastille Day called No Dancing In The Streets because “in this version it, like, rains”.

So watch this film, but when you do, look beyond the farcical romantic comedy and try to see the brilliantly executed satire that lies beneath.

100 Word Review – The Artist (2011)

If you haven’t seen this already where were you in 2011? It is a masterpiece of silent filmmaking in the modern age.

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and his dog are silent movie stars at the peak of their career in Hollywood’s golden years. He meets Peppy (Berenice Bejo) an aspiring dancer and helps her with her career. But as talking pictures takeover, their lives are sent spinning in very different directions.

Hilarious, romantic and dramatic, writer and director Michel Hazanavicius perfectly captured the essence of that tumultuous time in Hollywood’s history and translates it for a modern audience. It’s technically flawless!