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*** SPOILER ALERT *** After watching the indescribably wonderful documentary, "Hitchcock/Truffaut," last night, I leapt into the film "The Wrong Man," which is the one film by Alfred Hitchcock about which then-critic Jean-Luc Godard wrote his longest-ever piece of criticism - Both Godard and François Truffaut, pioneers of the "French New Wave" of Directors, were then working as critics for the legendary French publication, "Cahiers du Cinéma." so this film fits right in with the Hitchcock/Truffaut documentary, and was mentioned in it as well. This is the only Hitchcock film where Hitchcock himself came out and addressed the audience at the beginning, assuring them that it was a true story, and that the facts that went into the tale were just as fantastic as most of what he's written about as fiction in the past. "The Wrong Man" stars Henry Fonda as a respectable, but struggling musician in New York City, Manny Balestrero, and his wife, Rose, played by Vera Miles. Rose has an impacted set of wisdom teeth, which can only be fixed to the tune of $300, which is money the two don't have - the next day, Manny goes into the bank and asks to borrow on Rose's insurance policy, but three female tellers are certain that he is the same man who came in recently and robbed the bank - they pacified him, and told him to come back in with his wife, while putting the authorities on full alert. In a scene which came shortly afterwards, I was certain I recognized the lady who played Manny's mother, Esther Minciotti, and sure enough, Minciotti had played the wonderfully endearing role as Marty's (Ernest Bourgnine's) mother in the 1955 Academy Award-winner for Best Picture, "Marty." If you watch the Hitchcock/Truffaut documentary first, you'll remember very well the scene in which Manny first gets thrown into his jail cell. He looks around - not at the locked door - but at all different angles, and it gives the viewer a real sense of being locked up. This is his very first experience in jail, and his fear is palpable. Halfway through this movie, I am awestruck at how realistic it is - there's no fluffing anything up; it's as if we're watching a real story unfold (which we are). I'm a little surprised that Manny is so stoic about everything, but he seems completely shell-shocked to this point - almost like he's unable to get hold of his facilities. Hitchcock *really* takes his time setting this plot up - Manny doesn't even meet his attorney, Frank O'Connor (a real attorney, played by Anthony Quayle), until about two-thirds of the film is over. Fortunately, O'Connor - seemingly a decent man - accepts the case. Some interesting notes: Shortly after meeting with O'Connor, Manny and Rose run into two giggly girls living at an apartment: One of them is a twelve-year-old Tuesday Weld (of "Looking for Mr, Goodbar"), and the other is an eleven-year-old Bonnie Franklin (of "One Day at a Time"). It's noteworthy how many known actors and actresses are in this film - when Rose has a mental breakdown, she sees a psychiatrist, Dr. Bannay, and it's none other than Werner Klemperer - Colonel Klink on "Hogan's Heroes." During Manny's trial, one of the jurors is Barney Martin (Jerry Seinfeld's father on "Seinfeld"), and finally, Harry Dean Stanton (Brett in "Alien") plays a Department of Corrections employee, though I couldn't find him when I looked. I believe none of the people mentioned in this paragraph are credited, and for some, it's the debut film of their career. This is about the closest thing to being a "non-fiction" film I've seen without actually being one - it's "based on a true story," and is so faithful to it that it doesn't seem right labeling it a "crime movie" or a "suspense movie." It's clear that Hitchcock took great pains to stay as true to the base story as he possibly could have, so I'm going to go ahead and label this movie "non-fiction" even though that may not be technically correct. A magnificent film. Apr 17, 2013 - "History of Film Criticism: Godard on 'The Wrong Man'" on torontofilmreview.blogspot.com
I've never seen "All Quiet on the Western Front," and since I've also never seen the 1929 version of "Broadway Melody" (and don't know how to find it), this will be the oldest "talkie" I've ever seen to win the Best Picture Award. I'm also eager to see a movie about WWI, especially from a German perspective - could this be an early version of "Das Boot?" As I start this movie, I'm realizing it's pre-Hitler (sort of), and that alone gives me the creeps. I can tell from the first scene, in the classroom, that this is going to be a really good movie - in just two short years, they really learned how to use sound to their cinematographic advantage - already, even just ten minutes into the film, the young boys have garnered my sympathy - no difference here between German and American high-school kids; they're just kids - bright-eyed kids who succumb to authority figures and peer pressure. It was a fascinating moment to see Himmelstoß, the former lowly postal carrier, instantly becoming a sado-nut drill leader, turning on the boys he was formerly friends with - boy does this foreshadow Hitler for me ... put a uniform on certain average schmoes, and they become Supermen in their own minds. The new soldiers' revenge scene on Himmelstoß was most satisfying to watch. I'm just now realizing "Wings", the first film to win Best Picture, was also WWI-themed - that makes 2 of the first 3 (I'm assuming "Broadway Melody" isn't going to be quite so bellicose). Boy, the extended bunker scene (the one where they kill the rats) is amazing - the cinematography in this film is just terrific, and I cannot believe it was made in 1930 - the industry really learned a lot from the silent age, but the techniques were completely different, and for them to have learned how to use sound to their advantage in just a couple years - to *this* degree - is remarkable. At this point, the film is only one-third over! I'm also reminded that in our History Forum, there's a pretty good thread on World War I - it's worth a skim if you haven't seen it before. After the bunker scene, when the German soldiers head outside to the trench, the wide-angled scene of advancing allied infantrymen look so much like the little plastic soldiers I played with a a child - these poor boys really *were* just numbers - not individuals - on both sides. There's absolutely a correlation between this scene and the one shortly before it, when the German soldiers were killing rats by the dozens - both the rats and the allied soldiers were just being hopelessly massacred in numbers too great to count. I hope you all don't mind that I'm writing in such a choppy, almost random, format - I'm typing as ideas hit me, and writing a well-organized, long-form review just isn't in my blood. This is what I do best - brainstorming in short form - in hopes that something will grab someone, and we can start a conversation about a point or two. So I continue ... (I love this movie so far, in case you can't tell) ... Like "The Thin Man," this is another Pre-Code film, and there are some amazingly shocking scenes you just don't see after the code began being rigorously enforced on Jul 1, 1934 - for example, a young German soldier went to the bathroom in his pants upon hearing the first shell explode (it wasn't graphic, but it was obvious), and when the allied troops were storming the German trench, there was one scene when a grenade was thrown at them, and after the explosion, all you saw was a pair of severed hands, clutching onto the barbed wire fence - it was intensely graphic considering this was 1930. When the allies - what was left of them - made it into the trench, and hand-to-hand combat commenced, all I could think of was that these men, killing each other, could just as easily have been having a beer together in a tavern, as friends. This is all so stupid (not the film, but the whole damned concept of war) - I know, I know, I sound like a bleeding-heart softy, which means the film is working exactly as it set out to do. I'm very much into this movie, and seeing these people being mowed down in such massive numbers is just incredible to behold, even in a movie - I'm not sure I've ever seen so many people killed in such a short amount of time in a film (I'm not talking about doomsday scenarios like "Knowing," but rather people being slaughtered as individuals). Eight minutes might not seem like a long time, but during this one scene, it was an eternity - the producers certainly didn't skimp on the action. I'm now halfway through this 133-minute film (the non-restored version is 152 minutes, which is interesting), and the boots taken from Franz Kemmerich after he passes have played a disproportionately large role so far - something is going to happen involving them. When Himmelstoß (the drill sergeant) bursts into the bunker, demanding immediate attention and respect, and gets nothing but howls and sarcastic comments, it is poetic justice, and reminds me somewhat of Platoon, although I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps it's the first time the young soldiers displayed a "to hell with this" attitude now that they've seen and tasted death up close. I haven't watched the scene yet, but I'm pretty sure Himmelstoß won't be getting his way this time around. (And sure enough, later in the film, poetic justice is executed.) Goof: When the Germans advanced through heavy fire, then noticed a moment of silence, and decided to counter-attack, they ran through a churchyard (and what I believe to have been a cemetery) which had just been devastated by mortar fire, but the scene that shows them running through it features a pre-devastated churchyard. Oops! That's more than a goof; that's somewhat moronic - what possible reason could there have been for this? "All Quiet on the Western Front" cost a *whopping* $1.25 million to make, and the funds were committed just after the depression began. That, my friends, is cojones. (It grossed $1.5 million, and perhaps just as importantly, won the Academy Award for Best Picture, so the sizable gamble paid off handsomely - I wonder if this was the most expensive movie ever made as of 1930.) The scene in the trench with the dying Frenchman was one of the greatest scenes in the film - the Frenchman (Raymond Griffith) played his role *perfectly*, with the one tiny exception of a half-blink at one moment, which nobody would notice unless they were looking for it. It's so fitting that he died with a look of serenity on his face. Amazon X-Ray said he was noticeably breathing, but I didn't really see it. The Dying Room creeped me out. Lew Ayres (the star who played Paul Baí¼mer, who came back from The Dying Room), was married to Ginger Rogers from 1934-1940 - his 2nd marriage of 3; her 2nd of 5. I loved the scene when Paul was out on furlough, and he was in a tavern drinking with some older men who sounded like typical G-men, telling Paul how to win the war, and that 'he doesn't know what he's doing,' and that 'they can see the big picture.' Some things in life are a constant, I guess. Lew Ayres became a conscientious objector in real life - partially because of his role in this film - and was blacklisted by Hollywood in the 1940s because of it. Interestingly, he's buried next to Frank Zappa at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. The schoolroom scene, which echoed the beginning of the movie, was not only structurally important to the film, but just a joy to watch as well, although I can't help thinking they could have made that scene even more powerful than they did. Paul clearly still shows a modicum of respect for his old professor, not really wanting to humiliate him in front of his students. Here's a little factoid that I didn't know, and you might not either: from 1928-1931, International Sound Versions of "talkies" were made, replacing dialogue with music and subtitles in various foreign languages, so the movie could be seen around the world. Although this might seem similar to how things are done now, the alternative to this was to actually re-shoot the entire film as a Foreign Language Version (for example, "Dracula" was re-shot with new actors speaking Spanish). Needless to say, Foreign Language Versions were reserved for the high-budget blockbusters of the day. The ending of "All Quiet on the Western Front" was fantastic. If anyone knows of any WWI-specific films (this fits more into the general "War is Hell" category) - films that go into detail about historical events - I would be interested in knowing what you think. That said, I'll probably end up watching a documentary for this. Having glanced at the SparkNotes for the book, I can see that the movie deviates some, but not so much that you won't get something out of reading the study guide. Anyway, this is surely one of the greatest movies in history, especially when you consider the topic, the scope, the time period (twelve years after the war ended), and everything about the film.