Thursday, October 31, 2013

Favorite (four), part twenty

Just like my other nineteen posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films I have been glad to finally see, but only very few have stayed with me. This series is my filter for those (and hopefully one or two will be good to someone else, too).

Leo McCarey's Ruggles of Red Gap

The Hollywood happy ending has become an almost absolute, an artificial emotional high that a filmmaker must provide the audience before turning the lights back on.  It is troubling and says as much about the American psyche as McDonald's or Hummers.  But what if there was a time when it is was not obligatory but instead the optimal way to bring a story to a close.  I have seen my fair share of movies, and most of my favorites tend to eschew the happy ending for something else altogether.  But rarely, if ever, have I seen a movie like Ruggles that without its happy ending would simply lose everything, its reason for being, its internal logic, and its deeply lasting effect.  Of everything I have ever seen, I consider this the quintessential happy ending.  Now if Hollywood were only taking its lessons from Ruggles, we may still be at the center of the most important and profound artistic medium of the last 150 years.   

Blake Edwards' Breakfast at Tiffany's
Hepburn is pitch perfect as the irresistibly dynamic yet damaged Holly Golightly.  Edwards brings it all a real touch of class - exquisite wardrobe, painterly colors, patient cutting, and a smooth camera that glides around almost never calling attention to itself.  There's more depth and truth here than I recalled from my first viewing nearly twenty years ago.  And a sadness emanating from Hepburn/Golightly that is all too similar to several of the women I have met in my life.    

Malik Bendjelloul's Searching for Sugar Man
An incredible story is at the heart of the doc, and at times, it almost seems so incredulous I was waiting for the movie's great rabbit to come out.  Rodriguez's outlook on his life is probably the most affecting ingredient of all.  I just wish the filmmakers spent more time talking to other American musicians and delving into the mystery of how someone this talented got completely lost and buried in the shuffle.  

Raoul Walsh's The Horn Blows at Midnight
Walsh proves, like Hawks, that he was very capable in a variety of different genres.  His visual gags perhaps lack timing, seeming on occasion to overstay their welcome, but he keeps everything tonally even, snappy, and makes an unusually fun farcical comedy.  And Benny is just absolutely wonderful.


  1. Great point about the "quintessential happy ending" of RUGGLES OF RED GAP Jeffrey! And excellent points about how the happy ending is too often artificial. Yes, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN should serve as an inspiration for filmmakers to consider other worthy musical subjects. As it is SUGAR MAN was quite an inspiring work. Fascinating point about the Hepburn character resembling some women you have met. Certainly a classic film with a titanic lead performance. I have not watched that particular Walsh film, but very much appreciate the focused capsule. Another terrific round-up Jeffrey!

  2. Thanks so much, Sam. It is always such a treat to have you here!