I had a rather eclectic week with film and tv, and I do like it that way.
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946): Believe it or not, this was my first screening of the noir classic, featuring Lana Turner as the girl so pretty she had to marry a plain, rather oblivious guy and John Garfield as the young drifter who brings lust back into her life…and then wants more. I enjoyed the film, but was surprised to find Turner’s Cora less femme fatale than frustrated housewife. She’s gotten herself doubly trapped between two men who care far less about her goals than their own. Husband Nick, enacted with odd delight by Cecil Kellaway, is all about being a petty businessman; Garfield as Frank, just wants to possess Cora. Somewhere between Double Indemnity and Gilda, I enjoyed the film but not nearly as much as I thought I would. RECOMMENDED for classic noir fans.
Pushover (1954): Much is derivative in this noir, featuring Fred MacMurray as a police detective, a role somewhat similar to his Walter Neff in Double Indemnity, but more murderous and far less nuanced. The femme fatale in this case is Lona, played by Kim Novak in her film debut. Like Double Indemnity, love is instant and inexplicable, and I feel little real chemistry between the leads. Unlike its predecessor, however, Lona is barely a character at all, more a pretty placeholder for a type than Stanwyck’s compellingly ruthless Phyllis Dietrichson. The standout in this flick for me is Phil Carey as Rick, MacMurray’s partner. He’s the knight in shining armor in his plain-spoken, blue collar way, and just gorgeous to watch. NOT RECOMMENDED unless you adore MacMurray or Novak enough to watch a very B effort.
What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy (2015): In another vein entirely, I had the opportunity to preview a new release from independent publisher of environmental and social justice films. In this feature-length documentary, human rights lawyer and grandson of a Holocaust survivor Philippe Sands engages in interviews and visits to important historical sites with two men, Niklas Frank and Horst von Wächter, the sons of high-ranking Nazi officers who feel very differently about their fathers’ legacies. While Frank loathes the ambitious and unfeeling man who doubted he was even the boy’s father, von Wächter idolizes the man who raised him, denying even in the face of clear evidence that his father was part of the implementation of Hitler’s “Final Solution.” HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
River, episode 1 (2015): This BBC/Netflix release is a police procedural with a troubling twist. Well respected detective John River (Stellan Skarsgård) suffers hallucinations after his partner Jackie “Stevie” Stevenson (Nicola Walker) is murdered. River’s genius has always been tied to his strange mind (some form of neurosis that has him talking to himself, walking off when others are talking, etc.), but now he’s facing a more impairing PTSD even as he is driven to solve the murder of his partner and other related cases. I watched the first episode because I love Stellan Skarsgård, particularly his performance in the BBC TV film God on Trial (2008), though others will remember him best as Erik Selvig in Marvel’s Avengers and Thor films. The episode was intense, with a dark humor that moved me. RECOMMENDED if you like this sort of thing.