Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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Godard is most definitely a strongly male director - even when he makes movies about women it's typically more male-centric or male-gaze based. (Which, for the record, has its time and place. It's not an inherent negative for me, it just is.) Contempt is where he dips his toe into just really indulging himself, both as far as male-centric narratives and experimental meandering.
There's moments of beauty and intrigue in this, but it mostly runs out of steam in its unfair portrayal of Bardot. She's pouty and catty, starting vague arguments about how much she hates her husband but "I will never tell you why." Well, the audience knows why and quite frankly it's a legitimate reason, but even though Godard wrote the screenplay and directed this I'm not convinced that he gives a shit about her plight at all. As hot as Bardot is, she mostly romps around naked for no reason (well, obviously for the $$$ involved in men and movie making) when she's not pouting and boo-hooing over her husband's wishy-washy decision making. She's not very empathetic, and neither is he... though you get the sense that Godard thinks of him as an angsty-anti-hero and a stand-in for himself.
But the film isn't really about her as much as it's about Piccoli and his film, aka Godard and his muses. I'm sure historically there's something interesting to be said here, and I'll go do some reading about it after this, but as far as what the movie has to offer on its own I'm afraid time hasn't been too kind. A lesser Godard, too in it's head to be truly engaging.
Shout out to the amazing 60s bright red, deep blue and white color scheme throughout this.
I loved this way more than I expected to. An excellent little slice of life film about a small-town big fish in a swinging '60s man's world that's just starting to swing out of their grasp as the season, the times and their ages start to creep up on them. It's endlessly fascinating to me that this came out the same year as A Hard Day's Night because in a lot of ways they mirror each other. A Hard Day's Night portrays a rather bubblegum playground for its main men, who can have everything they want and yet the women hold a looming power to shape their worlds - they're only as free as their fans allow them to be. The System is the more kitchen-sink drama where women are hunted, second-class prey. Yet once these women play the game right back, the cracks in the fragile masculine system breaks apart in seconds - it doesn't hold up if nobody believes in it's strength.
Oliver Reed makes the entire film as Tinker, the charming rogue of the beach. He's masterful as the ringleader of a group of guys who all playfully-aggressively pursue women so that they can check off notches in their bedposts. Reed owns every inch of the screen through his expressions and movements - his insincere smiles, sarcastic quips, lecherous stares, masculine prowl, and his scuffles with his fists or with tennis rackets. But also through his heart-on-his-sleeve honesty and his double-blind vulnerability. There's so much going on in Reed's character it's astounding for a movie that's essentially about picking up girls.
He's a perfect portrait of the Stockholm Syndrome cage of masculinity. He's boxed himself in so tightly that he has no where to go but brag about how great it is to be so trapped. He's like the guy who can barely pay rent but boasts about how many strippers he's put through college. But he's strong and he's attractive, men and women can't seem to help but fall for the charade.
I also loved Jane Merrow as the unattainable rich girl Nicola who's better at Tinker's System than he is. She's mesmerizing to watch as she moves coolly though both her high brow and the low brow worlds, while still managing to come out on top and wholly herself - probably the best gift money could buy women in the '60s. There's also Barbara Ferris who has a heartbreaking drunk monologue wondering why men are only interested in sex when all she wants is to be loved. It makes you really empathize with why women latched on to the 'dream' of pregnancy at the time; somebody to love you without objectifying you.
Last but not least there's the engaging and beautiful cinematography by Nicholas Roeg. A mixture of the handheld man-on-the-street documentary style, with beautifully crafted fashion magazine-worthy shots. Everybody in this movie is beautiful, it's that summer beach dream. Between that, the fun music video style editing, and a perfect pop soundtrack from The Searchers, this is really a mid '60s gem.
This is one of the most ridiculous movies I've ever seen. Like, definition of 'camp' 100%. Usually that's my kinda film but this one put a bad taste in my mouth... I guess I ended up watching the director's cut, which is full of unnecessarily confusing editing. The focus on Lolita Davidovich was just horrendously boring - her expressions and long stares at clocks and ridiculous affair and insipid dialogue kind of got to me. Then for it to switch immediately to John Lithgow and realizing his wife was totally irrelevant to the more interesting plot of the film made me angry. Then Lithgow felt too much like a winking cartoon dork to hold my interest. The whole thing was too dumb to be fun.
The best part is the last half hour of the film, when it stops pretending it's any kind of mystery and just owns the ridiculousness. Frances Sternhagen was amazing, and the ridiculously over-the-top jaded cops. Perhaps a second viewing would be more enjoyable, now knowing what I'm in for.
Hitchcock and I rarely mix to be honest. Short of North By Northwest and The 39 Steps I'm really hard pressed to think of a movie of his I feel is a masterpiece. Suspicion is most definitely a lesser one of his. The ending for one is god awful, though appently Hitchcock claims the studio forced it.
The bigger problem is there's not much momentum because Cary Grant does an excellent job of making himself truly hateable - from the negging "monkey face" shit to the groping, lying and swindling. (Which is a feat because I mean it's Cary Grant, most lovable handsome '40s - '50s man around.) So when things are going down the drain it's like well, yeah. Duh. You just want to shake Joan Fontaine and tell her she's insanely beautiful and deserves to have more confidence. (Fontaine who, by the way, really nails it as the sheltered and timid wife swept off her feet.)
The whole movie just feels sad. It's a sad portrait of a woman in an abusive relationship who doesn't have the strength to leave it. So all of the hitchockian intrigue and 'humor' kind of falls flat around that.
Oh man, this movie was shockingly insightful, sweet and also cutting. Intelligent woman who gets told she's too self-confident for any boy to possibly date her, HMMM SOUNDS FAMILIAR... NOT THAT IM BITTER,
Amazing one liners and comebacks, Katherine Hepburn looking peak beautiful and acting like a goddamn hero, Jimmy Stewart thinking he could somehow in any universe pull her, Cary Grant's face, a NOT(!) annoying child character, and a great running commentary on how men are terrible even though it tries to walk it back at the end a bit to keep itself safe for 1940 but I see u movie, I see u.