Movie Love #1

A Master Builder, dir. Jonathan Demme (2014)

The late director of Silence of the Lambs directs this adaptation of the Ibsen classic, with Wallace Shawn giving his best performance since 1994’s Vanya on 42nd Street as a monster who looks like a schlub only because he looks and dresses and talks like Wallace Shawn; it’s uncanny how powerful this actor’s reserves are. Some of Ibsen’s lines don’t work in a modern context — would the fearless, inexorable master builder really be afraid of heights? But Demme assembles a mighty cast of Shawn stalwarts: Larry Pine, Andre Gregory, and a luminous Julie Hagerty, who should play more brittle mavens.

Le Pont du Nord, dir. Jacques Rivette (1981)

Bulle Ogier and her daughter Pascale wander around Mitterand-Paris, looking cool and detached, trying to solve a convoluted game. It’s a reunion of Buñuel actors: Bulle played the sodden airhead in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, while Pierre Clémenti of Belle de Jour plays her lover, now given the I-love-you-baby lines that Don Luis denied him. Languidly paced and absurd, Le Pont du Nord works best as a sequel to Eric Rohmer’s Full Moon in Paris set three years later, in which Pascale plays a party girl also wandering through a newly constructed Paris suburb of dreadful geometric design

In This Our Life, dir. John Huston (1942)

Stanley Timberlake (Bette Davis) is so horny that she’ll have sex with her sister Olivia de Havilland’s beau while keeping attorney George Brent waiting. After watering herself in a bar with a jukebox, she runs over a mother and her child, killing the latter. The enlightened Southern folk take her word for it when she fingers the young black man Parry Clay (Ernest Anderson) as the killer. John Huston’s second directorial effort is often left breathless by the melodrama, but is much more comfortable dealing with one of the few scraps of progressive racial thinking in an FDR-era Hollywood picture: de Havilland, it’s clear, admires Parry and wants him to succeed in law school. In This Our Life would be first-rate hooey if it were faster.

After Tomorrow, dir. Frank Borzage (1932)

Early talkie by one of Hollywood’s best early directors — Frank Borzage understood rhythm and romance. This pre-Code film stars Charles Farrell and Marian Nixon as a couple whose marriage has to wait for Farrell’s mother’s approval while the Depression rages. Borzage’s close-ups have a feeling that the dialogue lacks.

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