Movies

“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.

The Worthwhile Extra-Biblical “The Young Messiah”

In The Young Messiah (2016) Jesus, as a young boy, does not yet know that God the Father has predestined him to be . . . everything.  Alpha and Omega.  The Savior of the world.  Cyrus Nowrasteh crafted the film in such a way as to suggest that the earthly existence of the child is relevant to all humanity, as when he shows Jesus looking intently at various individuals.  And when he shows him intermittently doing what his parents generally oppose him doing: performing a healing.  How could he not be the Anointed One?

Based on an Anne Rice novel, Christ the Lord Out of Egypt, the movie explores not only the theme of destiny but also the themes of family love and loyalty, the Fatherhood of God, and the actually inescapable nature of the invisible world. . . There is weakness in The Young Messiah, and the film can get confusing.  But Adam Greaves-Neal is the right fit for Jesus, along with some fine acting emanating from Christian McKay as the boy’s uncle, Sean Bean as the Roman Severus, and Sara Lazzaro as Mary.  It is an interesting work with many sapid touches, e.g. several Herod-sent Roman soldiers clearly disinclined to seize the young Jesus before whom they stand.

“Late Spring,” Of You I Sing

Cover of "Late Spring - Criterion Collect...

Cover of Late Spring – Criterion Collection

Another great, or at least very good, Yasujiro Ozu film, Late Spring (1949) concerns a young Japanese woman, Noriko (Setsuko Hara), whose 56-year-old father (Chisu Ryu) wants her to marry despite the daughter’s insistence that she is happy simply to live with and take care of the  middle-aged gent.  Indeed, it is a matter not only of happiness but also of obligation—in Noriko’s eyes, not the eyes of others.  Sadly, Noriko feels despondent over the upcoming matrimony she has agreed to.

This Ozu (director-scenarist)-Kogo Noda (scenarist) adaptation of a novel is excellent on the theme of painful transitions, and as open-eyed about loneliness as other Ozu films.  There are longueurs here and rather too much music, but certainly the film is far more interesting than the boring Noh play several of the characters serenely watch.  Hara is superlative and Ozu’s style a gentle wonder ready to undergo a nice extension for such later movies as Tokyo Story.

(In Japanese with English subtitles)

Setsuko Hara in the Japanese motion picture La...

Setsuko Hara in the Japanese motion picture Late Spring (1949). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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