TiVoPlex for Tuesday, August 12, 2008 through Monday, August 18, 2008
By John Seal
August 11, 2008
From the obscure to the obscurest to the merely overlooked or underappreciated; they all have a home in the TiVoPlex! All times Pacific.
11:00 AM Turner Classic Movies
The Notorious Landlady (1962 USA): It's Kim Novak day on TCM, and festivities commence with this obscure comedy about love and murder in London town. Novak plays titular lessor Carlyle Hardwicke, whose new tenant, American diplomat William Gridley (Jack Lemmon), has no idea she's suspected of having murdered her husband. Though warned away from her by diplomatic superior Franklyn Armbruster (Fred Astaire), Gridley finds her irresistible - until Mr. Hardwicke (Maxwell Reed) suddenly reappears and things get REALLY complicated. Directed by Richard Quine and written by Blake Edwards and Larry Gelbart, The Notorious Landlady doesn't hit on all cylinders - the decision to shoot in, of all places, Carmel, California, instead of on location in London does the film no favors - but Lemmon is excellent, and Henry Daniell, Lionel Jeffries, and Estelle Winwood offer premium grade support.
6:30 PM IFC
The Last Metro (1980 FRA): Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu headline this Francois Truffaut drama set during the German occupation of France, circa 1942. Deneuve plays Marion, the gentile wife of Jewish theatre owner Lucas (Heinz Bennent), who's gone into hiding and left his spouse in charge of operations. Marion is casting the company's next production, a play aptly titled Disappearance, and has selected Bernard Granger (Depardieu) as her leading man - without realizing that he is also a member of the resistance and will likely bring the theatre much unwanted attention. Will Lucas' basement hideaway be revealed thanks to Bernard's maquis moonlighting? A relatively mainstream effort by Truffaut, The Last Metro proved to be a critical and popular success in France and abroad, winning a whopping eleven Cesars as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film of 1981.
6:45 PM Turner Classic Movies
5 Against the House (1955 USA): More rare Kim Novak arrives in the form of 5 Against the House, a Phil Karlson-helmed caper flick about college pals plotting to rip off Reno's Harold's Club. Inspired by an overheard conversation about the casino's purported invulnerability, the group - including law student Al (Guy Madison), gal pal Kay (Novak), returned Korean war vet Brick (Brian Keith), and roster filler Ronnie and Roy (Kerwin Mathews and Alvy Moore) - determine to flex their intellectual muscles, device a foolproof plan, pull off the job, and (having proven their point) return the takings to the police. Shell-shocked Brick, however, decides he wants to keep his share and it's up to Al to coax him down from the metaphorical ledge. Whilst Keith is excellent and the film features some well-staged heist scenes, 5 Against the House doesn't quite achieve the heights of some of Karlson's other efforts (e.g., The Phenix City Story), and feels a little underdone.
9:00 PM Sundance
Pusher II (2004 DEN-GB): Part 2 of Nicolas Winding Refn's gangster trilogy makes its American television debut this evening. Mads Mikkelsen returns from the first film, here assuming a more central role as Tonny, the new BMOC (Beastly Man of Copenhagen), newly released from prison and eager to reassume his role as neighborhood hard case and all purpose thug. Alas, Tonny's time behind bars has left him a shell of his former self, and he slowly begins to realize that there might be more to life than porking prostitutes, pushing prellies, and pwning people. Possibly.
7:00 AM Sundance
Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company (2007 CAN): Produced for Canadian television, this clear-eyed documentary examines the lives of a group of elderly folk residing in a Toronto retirement home. They're also all suffering - in varying degree - from Alzheimer's, and the film doesn't waver when it comes to showing the ravages of the disease and its grim manifestations. Directed by Allan King, whose previous production Dying at Grace examined the imminent demise of five terminally ill subjects, Memory for Max, Claire, Ida, and Company is an old school style verite effort, with neither narration nor interviews to distract the viewer from the profound and disturbing details within. If you're a fan of Frederick Wiseman's Titicut Follies (and who isn't?), you should appreciate if not enjoy this film.
11:45 PM More Max
Seconds (1966 USA): An unsettling proto-psychedelic masterpiece from John Frankenheimer, Seconds stars - well, for a few minutes at least - John Randolph as bored banker Arthur Hamilton, whose deep pockets and entrenched ennui lead him to a company that promises to deliver him a sexy new identity via the magic of plastic surgery. Hamilton enters the operating room as himself, but exits as Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson), a handsome artist with a way with the ladies and a taste for the bohemian. All goes swimmingly at first for Tony, but once Frankenheimer breaks out the fish-eye lens, you know things are going to go downhill rapidly for him, and indeed the film ends on one of the most despairing notes ever seen in a major studio film. Bleak, thoughtful, and thoroughly creepy, Seconds is an American classic that still hasn't achieved the full acclaim it deserves.