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Showing results for tags 'Shirley MacLaine'.
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The 1988 British film, "Madame Sousatzka," is one of "those" movies that's a personal favorite, but also one which you tend not to recommend to others, since it's so esoteric and focused - you just don't think that most people will enjoy it. I'd seen John Schlesinger's film revolving around an eccentric piano teacher (Shirley MacLaine in a uniquely quirky performance as Irina Soustazka), and her current young piano prodigy, Manek Sen (played excellently, and (just as importantly) with pretty convincing piano, by 16-year-old Navin Chowdhry). Anyway, I'd seen Madame Sousatzka at least twice in the past - once when it was released, at least one additional time on video, and then over-and-over again with some of my favorite clips on YouTube. However, a couple weeks ago on Amazon Prime, I rented it again, and began noticing scenes that I simply did not remember. At first, I thought the passage of time had dimmed my memory, but this continued to occur, and then it became obvious that in the past, enormous portions of the film had been edited out - perhaps almost as much as thirty minutes. I had always felt like this was a charming film, full of brilliant moments, but also with wasted potential throughout; now, I know why I thought this: It's because, for whatever reason, editors had gutted enough scenes to leave the versions that I saw nearly incoherent at times. Now, for the first time ever, I feel like I've actually experienced Madame Sousatzka as Schlesinger intended for me to see it - the difference between this experience, and past experiences, was remarkable enough so that I can't think of another film that had been so thoroughly stripped of its vitality and essence. I now realize that what I'd previously thought as simply foibles in the story, was actually tragedy in the editing room - this film had been denuded of what makes it great, and *now* I can finally say, after nearly thirty years, that Madame Sousatzka is a great film. The more you know about classical music, especially the standard concert piano repertoire, the better. Chowdhry isn't actually playing the pieces, but his fingers are hitting the notes, even in the most difficult pieces, so he was clearly a high-level amateur pianist that had studied the instrument for years. He was also utterly charismatic, charming, and the oldest of old souls, considering he played a sixteen-year-old. If you've ever watched Madame Sousatzka, and feel as I felt (that it was a "fun, cute movie with lots of holes"), please do yourself a favor and watch it on Amazon Prime. I remember during this Charlie Rose interview, David Lynch's outrageously terrible flop, "Dune" (which I contend is one of the worst movies I've ever seen), is revealed by Wallace to have been completely butchered by editors, to the point of rendering it incoherent. Although not as bad as "Dune," what the editors did to "Madame Sousatzka" is surely in the same vein - they very nearly killed the movie. (Full disclosure: I think Frank Herbert's "Dune," beloved by many science-fiction fans, is one of the most interminable, arduous books I've ever read - it took me over six months to read, and I hated myself for finishing it.) I won't spoil the plot for you, but this is not action-packed, and is very much of a cerebral film (with a couple of very hair-raising moments). Please give Madame Sousatzka another chance - it's a wonderful film, and I never even knew it. It's remarkable that I can't find *anything* on the internet about it ever having been butchered (or restored). One last thing: There are numerous supporting roles (close to a half-dozen) that are all superb - this is a very, very strong cast. Yes, even Twiggy.
I'd never seen a Rat Pack movie before, and only knew of "Ocean's 11" by name (this 1960 film was remade as "Ocean's Eleven" with an ensemble cast of mega-stars in 2001. This is a "heist" film taking place in Las Vegas, where Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) reassembles his WWII 82nd Airborne Division buddies for "one more mission." The number of recognizable faces (Henry Silva, for example) in Ocean's 11 is remarkable (the same can be said for the 2001 remake, although I've never seen it - when Andy Garcia is the 5th-most famous actor/actress in a movie, you know you've spent some money on salaries). Rapid-fire dialog was extremely popular in the 40s and 50s (think: "His Girl Friday"), and there are a few wonderful examples here as well: Vince Massler (Buddy Lester) approaches Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) and Jimmy Foster (Peter Lawford), worried about the caper, and this amusing exchange takes place in less than two seconds: "I can't do it boys. I got my wife to think of." "Think of her rich." "Think of me dead." The dialog in this movie is not only "rapid-fire," but it's classic "rat-pack" - cornball gangster talk like something out of a Mickey Spillane novel: Picture Mike Hammer on speed. The drinks are fast, the women are furious, and this is classic 1950s pulp that simply cannot be replicated: Even though I haven't seen the 2001 version, there's no way George Clooney could pull this off - he just doesn't have the gangster in him. It's not even a positive trait; it just is what it is, and it's a product of its time - I'm only 45 minutes into the movie, and I'm surprised nobody has used the term "doll-face." --- Okay, I finished the movie (I even rewatched the first half, because I took a couple of days off), and my assessment is that it's really a pretty awful film, and should only be watched by Rat Pack devotees and completists. This is a 2:10 movie, and the entire first half - maybe a little longer - is devoid of anything, with the possible exception of some character development. You're basically "getting to know" Danny Ocean and his ten friends who were deployed together in WWII, and it is *slow going*, and I mean *boring*. The payoff in Ocean's 11 comes in the last ten minutes, when a genuinely great twist ending will leave your jaw hanging open, but you have to "suffer and endure" up until that point. If I had to pick a "least favorite" and "most favorite" character, respectively, it would be Akim Tamiroff (in a needless, comic-relief role as Spiros Acebos, "the big boss"), and Cesar Romero (as Duke Santos, the man who *nobody* wants to mess with - this film does a good job at making him look enormous in physical stature (he was 6'3" but seemed even taller)). I'm very curious to hear from some Rat Pack fans about why I'm wrong. I have never seen a movie with more stars in it that flopped so badly - actually, it wasn't a "flop" so much as that it was just dull, dull, dull. We were literally halfway through the movie, and didn't know anything at all about what was going to happen - people were just sitting around, chatting, drinking, and shooting pool. Recommended for historical purposes only; not recommended for anyone wanting to watch a good film. The closing shot is absolutely fantastic, with The Pack walking by the viewers. The following video shows the ending, but doesn't spoil anything about the main plot of the movie - still, since it's such a cool scene, I'll mark it as a spoiler. If you watch it, do note the *very* tongue-in-cheek, hilarious billboard in the final moments, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the film: *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** To see why I'm so anal about tagging threads, click on Richard Boone above - we're building something beautiful here.