Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - Christina Newland ""

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Christina Newland

Christina is a Film writer (@BFI @VICEUK @LWLies @grolsch_global @MovieMezzanine) & co-curator of 'Gypsies, Roma and Travellers on Film' (@watergatecinema). She's @christinalefou on Twitter.
More about her film series here:
http://lwlies.com/articles/gypsies-roma-and-travellers-on-film/
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I’ve been tasked with choosing five new-to-me film discoveries from last year — a difficult endeavour! I’ve mixed films from all genres + eras here, from the lesser-known to the rather obvious classics that I’ve somehow missed up to this point. These are the handful I came up with.
Ride the Pink Horse (1947), dir. Robert Montgomery
Actor/director Robert Montgomery’s second feature is a Mexico-set film noir that extends the genre’s typical fatalism into outright absurdity. It’s an elegantly-filmed precursor to Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, sharing DP Russell Metty. Metty had a real knack for multi-layered, deep focus black & white photography — giving a seedy texture to this surreal, expressionistic work. Ride the Pink Horse is one of those much-touted clich├ęs — a genuine rare gem.
Now Voyager (1942), dir. Irving Rapper
This is probably the most egregious ‘how the hell haven’t you seen this already?’ on my list — the classic Bette Davis weepie that more than lives up to that descriptor. It’s a highly perceptive film, charting Davis’ struggle to feel loved and worthy in a world that will always value her on her appearance first. Paul Henreid is a bit of a revelation for me; I hadn’t realised he could be quite so dashing. It’s a fantastic pairing where the yearning is almost palpable— and that swooning, moonlit conclusion is as heartbreaking as ever.
A Star is Born (’76), dir. Frank Pierson
The distinction of the ‘best’ version of this story typically goes to the 1954 version. The seventies one, set in the rock world, is rarely seen as such. It’s an overstretched, melodramatic, fabulously self-indulgent star vehicle for Streisand, who’s at the height of her dramatic and musical powers. None of that is necessarily a bad thing as far as I’m concerned — the film’s excesses, right down to the use of Streisand’s own fabulously eccentric wardrobe, make for a great watch.
Streisand and Kristofferson are never quite in the same movie; one is a scenery-chewing, look-at-me performance and the other is a mumbling, casual one. But Kristofferson more than makes up for it with his easy charm — and his tanned chest constantly half-exposed. In other words, this is ’70s romance at its finest.
The Harder They Fall (1956), dir. Mark Robson
It’s fair to say that I’m obsessed with American boxing movies, so discovering a film on the subject that I haven’t seen before is always a pleasure. It’s even more of a pleasure with The Harder They Fall, Humphrey Bogart’s final screen appearance and a deeply cynical look at the greed of the sport. Bogie plays a morally ambiguous journalist who is dragged into the undertow by an exploitative boxing promoter. When he’s faced with the realities of a naive prizefighter’s future, he’s forced to take sides. The result is bitter and melancholy.
Straight Time (1978), dir. Ulu Grosbard
Straight Time features one of Dustin Hoffman’s great performances; it’s a minor-key late seventies film about a newly-released convict trying to make a legitimate life for himself. It’s a film that understands the inexorable siren call of crime; Hoffman’s mask slips incrementally, until we see the thrill-addicted career criminal beneath the earnest appearance. It’s a great role — subtle, nuanced, and likable — as Hoffman fights an internal war against his own dangerous impulses.

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