“Two Days, One Night” Should Be Seen

TwoDays-oneSheetHappily, Two Days, One Night, the 2015 Belgian film by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, made it to Tulsa, Oklahoma (where I live) pretty quickly.

The picture concerns the strivings of the individual in a prosperous but economically weakened country (Belgium), an intact but imperfect economy.  Sandra (Marion Cotillard) suffers from depression but, an employee at a solar panel factory, she is ready to work again after sick leave.  The factory owner has seen that 16 workers, not the usual 17, are sufficient for operating the business and so decides to have his underlings vote on whether to keep Sandra at the company or receive a helpful bonus.  I mentioned an economically weakened country, but one realizes what a morally weakened country it can be as well.

Sandra needs the job; most of her fellow workers need the bonus, or believe they need it.  Nevertheless, driven around by her husband and worriedly popping meds, our heroine visits these people to meekly ask them if they will vote to retain her.  It’s an honestly depicted occurrence.

English: Marion Cotillard during the Paris pre...
English: Marion Cotillard during the Paris premiere of Public Enemies at the cinema UGC Normandie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is very good acting in the film, with brilliance from Cotillard.  “Sandra’s mettle, almost imperceptibly, strengthens” (Peter Rainer).  Yes, it does, and Cotillard ably exhibits this.  Usually the character seems on the verge of living soundly and contentedly, though not without Xanax, which surely has a lot to do with having a splendid husband (Fabrizio Rongione) and two pleasant children.  Family life is not working against Sandra.

Despite a couple of flaws, Two Days, One Night is a sturdy and well-intentioned jewel.  Fortunate is the city that provides a showing.

(In French with English subtitles)

“Easy Living” Is Another Great Comedy Of The Thirties

Cover of "Easy Living (Universal Cinema C...
Cover of Easy Living (Universal Cinema Classics)

He had a literary source, but Preston Sturges wrote the screenplay for the 1937 film Easy Living (directed by Mitchell Leison), and one is pleased to note that as farce it is pure Sturges.  Sure, it’s devoid of the idiosyncrasy of The Palm Beach Story but is no less winsome than The Lady Eve as it tells of a woman, Mary Smith, mistaken for the mistress of a rich, married financier.  Business operatives are corrupt enough to lavish gifts on Mary in the hope that the financier will show them his good will.  He, however, is faithful to his wife, and in point of fact Mary meets and falls for the rich man’s independent-minded son.

The lines in the film offer no belly laughs but, in my view, the slapstick does.  The American Depression (never mentioned) contrasted with American wealth paves the way for such footage as the chaos-at-the-automat sequence.  With genteel ability, Jean Arthur (as Mary) supplies most of the pic’s charms.  Edward Arnold, I’m afraid, supplies the histrionics.  Leison deserves praise for his directing, but it is Sturges’s film.

Butch & Sundance: The 1969 Film

Film poster for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance...
Film poster for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Copyright 1969, New Films International (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

William Goldman provided a pretty satisfying script for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) except that it sinks sufficiently low to offer violence for laughs during the outlaws’ first train robbery.  But there’s no violence for laughs later, and what develops is another meritorious Western of the interesting Sixties.  Meritorious even though director George Roy Hill  had little feel for Westerns; his saving grace was having a feel for action pictures—and a sense of artistry.  For one thing, there are many nifty medium-long shots of Butch and Sundance fleeing their pursuers in the great outdoors beautiful and oppressive.

By the way, I’m glad the spitting nerd played by Strother Martin gets killed not long after we meet him.

The Usual Tears in a Bergman Film: “Winter Light”

In the Ingmar Bergman film Winter Light (1962), Gunnar Bjornstrand and Ingrid Thulin are thespians of the first order.  Bjornstrand is never false and always perfect in his timing as a suffering minister, Tomas Ericsson, who still grieves over the death of his cherished wife.  Thulin plays his former mistress who will never win Tomas’s love.  Put forward here is the concept of minister as nonbeliever, a man without faith.  “God’s silence” disturbs him, but at the end he carries on with the hope that what Bergman adverted to as an answer from God will blessedly arrive.  It may be that Tomas will stop surprising his ex-lover with the odd “indifference to Jesus Christ” which she says the reverend’s personality is marked by.

I believe most of Bergman’s films are failures, but Winter Light, albeit not flawless, succeeds.  Typically it is directorially outstanding.  Consider the naturalistic sequence outdoors, after a man has committed suicide, when wind-blown snow and the noisy rapids point to nature’s inexorable power and fascination.  Consider the captivating scene where Tomas’s car is at a railroad crossing.  The film is serious without being great, exquisite without being a masterpiece.

(In Swedish with English subtitles)

Emphatically Masculine: “The Hitch-Hiker” (1953)

The Hitch-Hiker
The Hitch-Hiker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is well known that the actress Ida Lupino was a director as well.  In the 1950s she avidly wanted to make an expert (if small) film noir and she did, not only directing but also co-writing the tale of a cruel, criminal hitchhiker (William Talman) who traverses the desert with the two sad-sack men he has kidnapped.

For a product of Old Hollywood, The Hitch-Hiker (1953) is impressively hard-nosed.  Virtually no women appear in the film, part of what makes it emphatically masculine.  And it isn’t dated.  Have fun, ladies and gentlemen.