Screenings #14

My private plane grounded for fueling problems, I couldn’t make the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Douglas Sirk retrospective last year. But I did watch The First Legion, the director’s last project before Universal gloss. Set in a Jesuit seminary reeling from the possibility of a miracle occurring within its own walls, The First Legion avoids most of the Going My Way pieties about Catholicism; the only comparable studio film from the same era is The Nun’s Story, released a few years later. The lighting and long takes establish an, pardon the word, ecumenical attention to motive and justification; in Movie Love in the Fifties, James Harvey praised the “continuous sense of space opening up before the camera, a kind of spatial flowering and strainging upward, like the paralyzed girl’s attempts to lift herself in her chair.” The acting is uneven. William Demarest, in a rare non-Sturges role, listens as an Irish accent wriggles away. As the atheist doctor who may endorse the miracle, Lyle Bettger seems to be imitating his publicity photo. But Charles Boyer as the lawyer-priest looking for the truth is impeccable.

The rest of the list comprises what I saw in the last month, and I’ll post more as the embargoes disappear. A few notes first:

— In Michael Fassbender Aaron Sorkin’s snapping turtle bitchery finds the best medium — for about twenty minutes, anyway, before Steve Jobs asks us to like the son of a bitch.

— The credits say “Ridley Scott” directed The Martian.

— The eloquence with which the interview clips assembled for Listen to Me Marlon adduced the actor’s smarts led me to The Chase, a 1966 misbegotten and bizarre amalgam of race drama, Southern comedy, and Marlon Brando performing in his own private movie.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Abrams 2015) 7/10
Carol (Haynes, 2015) 7/10
The Big Short (McKay, 2015) 3/10
Amour Fou (Hausner, 2015) 7/10
Creed (Coogler, 2015) 8/10
Heart of a Dog (Anderson, 2015) 8/10
Creed (Coogler, 2015) 7/10
The Martian (Scott, 2015) 5/10
Listen To Me Marlon (Riley, 2015) 8/10
Steve Jobs (Boyle, 2015) 6/10
The Danish Girl (Hooper, 2015) 2/10
Youth (Sorrentino, 2015) 4/10
* Return of the Jedi (Marquand, 1983) 6/10
* Thieves Like Us (Altman, 1974) 9/10
The Chase (Penn, 1966) 6/10
The Unfaithful Wife (Chabrol, 1968) 6/10
The First Legion (Sirk, 1951) 7/10

* indicates multiple viewing

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