Monday 29 July 2019

500 Movies Anniversary

500 Movies Anniversary
On a 1001 list, 500 marks the halfway point. My list has grown considerably longer over the years and that is not counting off-List movies, but reaching the 500 movie mark still feels like a sharp corner.

So, a pat on my shoulder for keeping it going this far.

The stretch from 400 to 500 movies took me from 1962 to 1968, which is only six years and it has taken me two years exactly. The List is getting crowded in the sixties and I suppose I have slowed down a bit. Well, that just means that I will have plenty more years of fun.

I made it a tradition to present some sort of award every time I reach another hundred movies and that this reward somehow reflects the period covered by the past hundred movies. I gave this some thought and decided that the category should be:

Most annoying movie.

As in the good ol’ Academy days I will nominate a whole bunch of movies. If you wonder why each of them have been nominated you are welcome to look up their review.

1.       Limite

2.       Ivan the Terrible

3.       Umberto D

4.       Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

5.       Dog Star Man

6.       Flaming Creatures

7.       Blonde Cobra

8.       Vinyl

9.       Pierrot Goes Wild

10.   Daisies

11.   Masculine-Feminine

12.   Two or Three Things I Know About Her

13.   Week End


It is a difficult pick, indeed it is. As much as I grind my teeth over dancing cowboys or free-flying dicks, there is one director that makes me despair by name alone. Who else than Godard? And the worst so far must be Week End.

I know, this is a bit of a negative award, but it is also very typical for the sixties. There are a lot of great movies but there are also surprisingly many annoying movies. By that I do not mean experimental or arty movie. Some of those are interesting and contribute in some way to cinema. But there are those that just… annoy me and the List is suddenly loaded with those. This is very much a contributing factor to the off-List movies I have introduced. Movies that often could or should have replaced the garbage we are stuck with.

And, yeah, this is of course a very subjective assessment, I am certain there are plenty of people who love these movies, but this is my blog and I can pretty much do what I want.


Saturday 27 July 2019

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Rosemarys baby
It is vacation time and I have been enjoying some off-time poolside in Portugal without any List movies. I am back now, and Europe is struck by a massive heat wave so without air-condition we try to stay out as much as possible to get some breeze. Consequently, I am so far behind on movies. Still, I have managed to creep through “Rosemary’s Baby” and I feel rather guilty, because this is a movie that deserves a lot more attention and focus than what I have been giving it.

Today Roman Polanski is a household name with blockbusters on his resumé, but back in the mid-sixties he was merely a young Polish director trying his luck in America. “Repulsion” was awesome, but it was “Rosemary’s Baby” that gave him the breakthrough. Some claim this was the founding of the horror genre, others that this is the best horror movie ever made. I personally doubt both claims, but certainly this is a landmark movie on both accounts.

The movie follows the book by Ira Levin very closely (you can find it as an audiobook, read by Mia Farrow herself!) where a young hopeful couple in New York is looking for a new place to live and start a family. These are Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her still-waiting-for-his-break-actor husband Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes). They find their dream apartment in the Bramford building and despite early warnings they happily move in.

Soon however things start to stack up against poor Rosemary. An early friend drops to her death from a window. The neighbors, Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) are more than a bit intrusive and weird and when her friend Hutch tries to warn her, he falls into a coma and dies. Rosemary gets convinced she is surrounded by witches who want to take her baby and for a while it is difficult to say if she is imaging it or if it is real. The scene where Satan is raping her is very dreamlike and many scenes are ambiguous. And well, <SPOILER ALERT!> it turns out it is even worse than she imagines it. In a great conclusion it is revealed that she has been beset from all sides, even by her husband and her doctor (Ralph Bellamy), to get Satan’s child.

There are many great things about “Rosemary’s Baby”. The best kind of horror movies are those where the horrific is only hinted at. Something lurking, something unseen that may or may not be real. In “Rosemary’s Baby” we never actually see anything, but hints and weird behavior. The closest thing is the rape by the devil, but even that is very fuzzy. The true terror is what is read on Rosemary’s face as she gets more and more disturbed by what is going on and, climaxing on her realization of the full scope of the terror. That is just brilliant on all accounts, script, direction and acting. To me, by rooting the story in the mundane and trivial, a very normal couple living ordinary lives, starting a family, the horror becomes far more relevant and effectual than by jumping right into the improbable. Do not let yourself get discouraged by the almost boring first half hour. As in “Repulsion” this build-up is essential to make the following horror work.

Everything in this movie rests on Mia Farrow being convincing and she does a stellar job. How on Earth she was not even nominated for an Oscar is beyond me (she did win the Golden Globe though). She has to be a bit silly, a bit naïve and then scared, really scared and she pulls it off completely. John Cassavetes, whom I like better as an actor than a director, is convincing, but I would almost consider his role more supporting than lead.

“Rosemary’s Baby” is a case of an excellent story, a good adaption, first rate direction and excellent performance coming together and to me it has aged very well indeed. Even as jaded as I am this is still terrifying. I still hardly dare to look. I still get the creeps. How many old horror movies can do that?

Roman Polanski truly mastered this genre, but somehow I am not surprised. He did live through the worst horror imaginable. When visiting the Schindler factory in Krakow last year I did see letters written by a very young Roman Polanski in the ghetto.

I recommend “Rosemary’s Baby” with the highest praise, though not if you want a good, sound sleep.

Also, this is my movie number 500 on the List. Anniversary time!



Monday 22 July 2019

Now a LAMB member

The TSorensen 1001 Movie Blog is now a member of LAMB
Yes, finally, after seven years of blogging I have signed up and been accepted. I will follow up with some logos and stuff eventually, but until then you can visit LAMB here.

Friday 12 July 2019

Faces (1968)

“Faces” by John Cassavetes is one of those movies where characters are intended to resemble regular people going through a lot of emotions, mainly driven by their own personal misery, and in the process lashing out at everybody else because being me-me-me people it must be everybody else’s fault that their lives stink.

I know this type of movie and I know a lot of those will appear on the List through the next decades. The typical Danish movie drama will be using this approach, which explains why critics love them and the audience not so much.

As you may have deduced from my introduction I am not infatuated with this style. Frankly, it tends to annoy me. The emotional roller coaster feels too exaggerated and “Faces” is certainly no exception. Of course, there are people who wears their emotions on their sleeves, but the whole reality element is lost on me when people lose their cool like this and the characters lose their appeal. I do not want to involve myself with these people. The argument is then that you need these emotions to create drama, without them it would be dull. Well, perhaps, but then maybe these movies are just not for me.

Anyway, in “Faces” we meet two middle aged men, Richard Forst (John Marley) and Freddie (Fred Draper) and a somewhat (but not that much) younger woman, Jeannie (Gena Rowlands). They are drunk together and are having an after-party in Jeannie’s apartment. They are having some rowdy fun which is about to get more intimate when Freddie asks how much she is charging, insinuating she is a prostitute (which she may be). This breaks up the party. Richard heads home and meets his wife Maria Forst (Lynn Carlin). They laugh, argue, joke and Richard demands a divorce.


Richard leaves and returns to Jeannie to hang out. She has new company in the form of another middle-aged businessman and his younger associate. This becomes… weird. Meanwhile Maria spends the evening in town with her friends and they end up back in her apartment together with a young man they have picked up. Their party disintegrates and Maria and Chet (Seymour Cassel), the young man, end up together. Maria tries to kill herself with pills and Chet just manages to revive her before Richard returns home.

What a mess.

What most of the characters have in common is that they are solely focused on their own needs. Desperately focused. It is as if everybody else only has value to the extend they are able to meet those needs. Not just the Forsts, but all of them. Except Jeannie and Chet, who seem the only people actually caring for somebody else than themselves. Consequently, they are the only ones I actually liked here. Their social status is inferior and so I could suspect that this makes them dependent on the others and so their motives are not altogether altruistic, but merely necessity.

I suppose the intention is to give us a glimpse into real life drama, but I think they over-do it and to me it gets artificial and annoying. These people need to take it easy. Consequently, I am not as excited about “Faces” as it appears many critics have been. I prefer a lot less screaming and shouting, a lot less dramatic gestures and a host of characters who think a bit beyond their noses.

Still it was great to see Gena Rowland in an early role.

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Bullitt (1968)

Off-List: Bullitt

The first off-list movie of 1968 is “Bullitt”, one of the most successful movies that year that did not find a place on the List.

You cannot accuse “Bullitt” for having a superior plot or an elegant script. In fact, the plot is both thin and confusing with loose ends that you just should not think too much about. The dialogue is minimal, at least when it comes to lead Steve McQueen, who apparently preferred everybody else to do the lines.

What “Bullitt” has is style, ambience, coolness and the greatest car chase in movie history up to this point.

Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (McQueen) is handpicked by Senator Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) to babysit on his star witness against the Chicago mob, a defector called Ross, whom Chalmers has installed in a shabby room in San Francisco. Bullitt is quiet but effective, but two assassins still manages to gain access to the room and mortally wound Ross and the policeman on duty. Now Bullitt is hunting the assassins with a pissed off Chalmers breathing down his neck.

Never mind that we never learn who leaked his whereabouts or why Chalmers was protecting the wrong guy while the real Ross was trying to make his escape to Europe. This movie is about following Bullitt around in San Francisco to über-cool jazz music, hanging out with his girlfriend, being the shabby, but cool policeman and driving his Ford Mustang with a lot more horsepower than a policeman normally needs. This however comes in handy when he manages to lure the assassins out and chase them in a phenomenal car chase through the iconic San Francisco streets and then the back country. When you watch a car chase down those streets with the cars jumping off the cross-street plateaus, this is the movie it all comes from. There is not a lot of shooting or trashing cars, just high-speed technical driving with overpowered engines. I am not much for car chases, but this was exhilarating.  

I am not certain the lone police officer fighting off superiors to one side and criminals to the other trope comes from this movie. Probably not. But this movie was definitely paving the way for hundreds of movies and tv-series with that theme, from Dirty Harry to Beverly Hills Cop and in that sense the influence of “Bullitt” cannot be exaggerated. A series like “Streets of San Francisco” comes to mind as a direct spin-off.

Steve McQueen is a revered actor and no doubt this movie was a lovechild of his. He does have a gritty coolness to him, but somehow, I have never truly warmed up to him. Sure, he is okay here and he does the job in a movie where not all the actors stood out that well. In my book though it is Robert Vaughn who stands out as a menacing character. He does that so well that I half expected him to be the villain behind all the action and, well, he might actually be, the movie is rather unclear on that point.

I do recommend this movie. It is fun to watch and the soundtrack is pure bliss. Watch it for the style and the car chase and with those expectations you will not be let down.