Century 1970: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Billy Wilder. 1970.

What a strange and awkward film. Is Wilder going for a 40s comedy but updating it embarrassingly with a gay panic storyline?

But it’s mostly just a cod-standard Sherlock Holmes story. Although slightly more irreverent than usual and not based on a Conan Doyle story.

It’s pretty entertaining. But it’s so… incongruous. It’s not the sort of thing you’d expect to find as a theatrical release in 1970. A TV episode; sure. A film; no.

Ah! It was conceived as a three hour extravaganza with an intermission; an entire evening at the cinema. The studio didn’t like the idea, so it was cut down to a more sensible two hours and several plot lines were edited out.

It failed at the box office, which I think is no great surprise. The bits that were edited out were discarded and there’s apparently no hope of recreating the original extravaganza.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1966: Andrei Rublev

Andrei Rublev. Andrei Tarkovsky. 1966.

This is officially the 13th best film ever.

It’s got the most classic casting problem: The casting director is really hot on a certain type, so we get about twenty actors that look pretty much identical. So I’m spending most scenes waiting for somebody to mention the other characters by name so that I can tell who’s in the scene.

The cinematography is purdy to the max. I wish I had this in 4K instead of 720.

I think this is meant as a very pro-Christian film, but whenever they do some bible readings, whatever they’re reading sounds so bat-shit crazy that I thought perhaps Tarkovsky was making fun of religion or something, but I binged it and those were real quotations. And the icons look pretty retarded.

So I don’t know!

Sure is a lot of animals getting hurt in this film.

I’ve seen most of Tarkovsky’s films, and I think this is by far the weakest, no matter what BFI says. Either the characters are silent or they’re shouting at each other. So much shouting. I wonder whether the attraction is that it was suppressed for a while (because Soviet Union), so it had a kind of mysterious cachet. Because I don’t get it.

Aren’t they supposed to tune the bell after casting it!?


The extra features on the DVD are hilarious.

“It’s not enough to recognize the harm that religion does. It’s necessary to be at the forefront of godless work!”

And then they show the horrors of evil atheists apparently burning reliquaries while the music playing in the background is apparently a Russian rock rip-off of Pink Floyd! Stalin would be rolling in his grave!

If he had one!

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1964: Paris When It Sizzles

Paris When It Sizzles. Richard Quine. 1964.

This cocktail was surprisingly delicious. The ingredients seem kinda meh, but all together they resulted in an amazing cocktail.

Hay! I had two films from 1963 lined up, but it turned out that my DVDs of Les Carabiniers and Le petit soldat had no subtitles whatsoever, so that’s a scratch.

But whyyyy! Just put English subtitles on the DVDs you release, people! It increases the potential audience by several magnitudes!

So here we are in 1964 instead with a film that’s a weird cross between a 40s mannered comedy and a 60s Nouvelle Vague film. It’s even made explicit in the film: Audrey Hepburn says that her last assignment was with a New Wave director who made a film “about people who go to this party and decide not to play Scrabble”. Weirdly enough, Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville was released the next year.

This is the most meta film ever! It’s about a guy who makes a film about a girl who knows a guy that’s doing a film. It exhilarating! But it’s so weird: It’s also a 40s romantic comedy.

I can totally understand why this film was apparently universally panned, but I think it’s rather fun. Films about making movies have never been wildly commercially successful, so you have to wonder why they keep making them, but I guess it’s tempting to making movies about what you know. Which is making movies.

I think this is a really fascinating and fun film.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1959: Some Like It Hot

Some Like It Hot. Billy Wilder. 1959.

Another Monroe film!

This one’s pretty much on fleek. Can’t really fault it much, other than that I seem to remember the repartee being snappier? And I would guess that if I were to google around a bit I might find thought pieces about this being a transsexuals-as-predators-by-proxy film or something…

So I didn’t.

But while there’s elements of that, I think it manages to be non-creepy by focusing so much on the sexual harassment the girls receive from, well, everybody around them. Even the bell-hop who tells Josephine that she doesn’t have to leave the door open for him, because he’s got a skeleton key.

I mean, it’s funny as fuck, but there’s plenty of films that are funnier. I think what makes the film is really Monroe’s performance as a slightly dim girl, but one who has a depth and melancholy about her. She’s the emotional centre of the thing.

The extras on the DVD are slightly frustrating. It’s a half-hour interview with Tony Curtis by Leonard Maltin. Curtis is spilling the beans like crazy, seeming like he really wants to tell us everything that he knows and feels about the making of this film, but Maltin rarely follows up on anything. He’s got a script of questions that he’s following, no matter what interesting things Curtis is saying. Such a wasted opportunity.

The DVD extra thing with the women from the band is fabulous, though.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1957: The Tarnished Angels

The Tarnished Angels. Douglas Sirk. 1957.

Yay! Another Douglas Sirk film!

I just watched the documentary on the DVD of There’s Always Tomorrow, and the was asked what his favourite film was (of his own), and he said that he doesn’t think like that. But he’d recently seen Tarnished Angels at a MoMa thing in New York, and he thought it still stood up.

I can see why Sirk got no respect in the US in the 50s. Sirk is interested in light, shadows, mirrors, faces. The over-the-top emotionality probably felt embarrassing: How do you respond when every scene has so much meaning, so much emotion?

I think that’s it brilliant, and Sirk is intelligent and subversive. He has a distinct point of view and an agenda (see Imitation of Life or All That Heaven Allows, for instance), and he’s a propagandist that wants the audience to feel the truth of these stories.

I don’t think this is Sirk’s best film by any stretch of the imagination. It’s still pretty great.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 1956: There’s Always Tomorrow

Hm… is that the right aspect ratio? Isn’t the Earth supposed to be, like, round?

Oh, that’s better! This is an anamorph DVD. You don’t see that very often – they usually just letterbox it, which means fewer pixels. Nice.

There’s Always Tomorrow. Douglas Sirk. 1956.

I’ve been looking forward to watching this movie: I’m such a great fan of Douglas Sirk’s weepies that I bought the DVD twice.

And it’s a flawless melodrama. It’s such a small, contained story; just about relationships and emotions and stuff. Nothing Earth-shattering, but kinda perfect.

I should watch all of Sirk’s films one of these days. Of course, Sirk was rediscovered a few years after this and hailed as an auteur by the French, which is totally understandable. He’s got a way of making you feel the tiniest bit of emotion in the material. It’s overboard, but it’s fantastic.

The DVD also has a French documentary from 1982 (filmed on VHS). It’s fascinating. Sirk seems, to no great surprising, to be smart and interesting.

This blog post is part of the Century series.