I have only seen this once, and it was fifteen years ago. But it struck me at the time and has stayed with me ever since as perhaps the most atmospheric noir film I've ever seen. I don't mean to frustrate with this choice, as I know most people haven't seen it. I hope though that people will seek it out and that eventually as the years pass it will no longer be one of these undiscovered Renoir gems.
The movie's an adaptation of a book by famed Belgian crime novelist, Georges Simenon. I remember the story not making too much sense, but I don't think it's Simenon's fault. There are stories about one reel from the movie being definitively lost.
The movie is visually very dark (maybe the darkest I've ever seen), opaque, foggy, and almost dream-like. If you like your noirs less plot-driven than sensory-driven, I can't think of a more effective film.
3/13/10 I re-watched Ernst Lubitsch's Trouble in Paradise. Although it wouldn't contend for my top spot, I certainly had a much better experience with it this time around. There's an effervescence in the air that Lubitsch is able to maintain with the writing, acting, and spirited camera movements. I find myself moved much more by his later The Shop Around the Corner, but this is certainly one of my favorite films I've seen by him.
4/17/10 I watched Ernst Lubitsch's One Hour with You. Although I liked it more than Monte Carlo and The Love Parade, it wouldn't contend for my top spot. It's the earliest film, however, that I've seen where actors directly address the audience. May have been a major influence on some of Belmondo's actions in Godard's Pierrot Le Fou. A very playful, fun movie.
4/22/10 I watched Josef von Sternberg's Blonde Venus. It felt somewhat patchy and wouldn't contend for my top spot, but it did have some great moments. I particularly liked the moment right after Dietrich lets Johnny leave on the train with Herbert Marshall. Dietrich's face at this point is devastating. Overall, the film is complex, runs through a deep gamut of emotions, and features some beautiful tracking shots that remind me of Morocco.
4/30/10 I watched Tod Browning's Freaks. It's an incredible film, no doubt, and unlike anything I've ever seen. "Gooble gobble. One of us. We accept her" is simply one of the more incredible and powerful moments I've seen in a very long time. Has to be one of David Lynch's favorites.
5/12/10 I watched Norman McLeod's Horse Feathers. This was only my second ever experience with a Marx Brothers film, and I did struggle a little with it. However, occasionally I will admit to finding a few of the lines pretty witty.
5/14/10 I watched Frank Borzage's A Farewell to Arms. Some nice moments, but I never fully felt Catherine and Frederic's relationship. But full of Borzage's wonderful expressionism and a painful tale of forbidden love.
5/16/10 I watched Irving Pichel and Ernest Schoedsack's The Most Dangerous Game. I liked how tight the film was, and the execution is quite clean and effective. A very original movie and pretty entertaining for its time.
5/19/10 I watched James Whale's The Old Dark House. There's a certain lunacy to it all, and I particularly liked the scenes when Saul emerges from his room. A little slow at times for me, but it feels like an important (creates and solidifies certain archetypes), early genre film.
5/20/10 I watched Yasujiro Ozu's I Was Born, But... Wow, what deep emotions Ozu is able to explore. Particularly the idea of young kids having to come to terms with their father's rank in society. Ozu goes deep, takes it slow, but explores characters and themes that are incredibly universal and real.
5/23/10 I watched Rouben Mamoulian's Love Me Tonight. It's definitely an interesting film, much different at times formally than the Lubitsch collaborations with Chevalier and MacDonald. Some real heart and full of the playfulness that I would later associate with Godard's early work.
5/29/10 I watched Mervyn LeRoy's I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. A little preachy and heavy-handed, perhaps, at times. But admirable in how uncompromising it is. The scenes on the chain gang are powerful, and Muni turns in an extremely strong performance.
6/2/10 I watched Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr. Granted vampire movies are not really my thing, but I'm a HUGE fan of Dreyer's work. But this one, whether it's because much of the original negative was lost or some other explanation altogether, left me cold and pretty uninterested. All that said, some impressive visuals at times and Dreyer certainly in a very inventive space.
7/5/10 I watched Alfred Hitchcock's Rich and Strange. A very unconventional film from Hitch and perhaps the one I like the least. The shipwreck is a nice moment, but otherwise I found it pretty uninspired and unengaging.
11/18/12 I watched Howard Hawks' The Crowd Roars. An early Hawks film I have been wanting to see for the longest time, I was able to catch up with it finally on TCM. Already in 1932, Hawks proves himself unusually adept at filming action, and there is a scene or two I would rank with the very greatest of any ever filmed by Hawks. The long sequence that begins with Cagney arriving at Indianapolis and ends with him at the diner illustrates the unique greatness Hawks possessed as storyteller. With just simple, direct, and fluid brush strokes, Hawks was able to arrive at a truth - profound, very human, and with all that was immaterial left behind.
11/18/12 I watched Victor Fleming's Red Dust. Some people prefer this version over Ford's Mogambo. The pre-code timing does allow it to show a little more of its sexy subject matter. But Gardner and Kelly in the latter version bring a beauty that for me dwarfs Astor and Harlow. Of course Ford at the helm also works in its favor.
9/8/13 I watched Edward Sedgwick's The Passionate Plumber. There must be a story behind this one, something I am missing because what's left on screen for now is among my least favorite outings from a great director-actor team. It all seems a mess with maybe one or two moderately enjoyable gags.
12/14/13 I watched George Cukor's What Price Hollywood? Interesting as an early Cukor pic and opportunity to see a first run at the A Star Is Born story. Bennett has some impressive scenes, and she has a look of real style and beauty. I much prefer though the Wellman and Cukor later versions.
1/4/14 I watched Alfred Hitchcock's Number Seventeen. An early working out of The 39 Steps, perhaps, and as a primer has some historical interest but as a film it is rough and hard to follow. I admire the scope of the final major set piece but the rest left me distant and unmoved.