Classic, crappy, creepy: assorted movies

After reading Hitchcock/Truffaut, I figured I’d rewatch Francois Truffaut’s films as I did Hitchcock’s. First up is Truffaut’s first feature, THE 400 BLOWS (1959, in which a restless starts out coping — barely — with domineering teachers and somewhat neglectful parents — and winds up sliding into the school-to-reform school pipeline through increasing misbehavior.

I remember liking the film a lot when I first saw it on TV but it didn’t impress me as much this time. The adult figures in his life don’t have much to commend them but I don’t find myself feeling much sympathy for the boy either. So maybe it’s just age that makes the difference.

It’s still a well-made, supposedly somewhat autobiographical film, and very different from how an America movie of that era would have done it — what I assume is the American poster makes The 400 Blows sound like a Hollwyood juvenile delinquency story and I don’t think it is. “I deface the classroom walls and defile the French language.”

THE LOST GIRLS (2022) stars writer/director Livia de Paolis as Wendy Darling’s (of Peter Pan) granddaughter, haunted by vague memories/hallucinations of her own trip to Neverland,  her mother’s mysteri0us disappearance (did Peter take her and keep her) and her daughter’s angry dismissal of her mother’s presumed delusions about some flying boy. This is a muddled mess in every way possible, from de Paolis’ distracting Italian accent to the bland look of Neverland and the murky narrative; de Paolis apparently wanted to give us a mix of Neverland fantasy and female trauma and flops both ways. Vanessa Redgrave as Wendy leaves the rest of the cast in the dust.“You disappoint me — I expected better of a Darling.”

That article on Catholic horror I read recently recommended THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY (2018) as an example of Catholic horror that deals with the Church perpetuating evil rather than just standing against it. It’s 1960s and two priests — one idealistic and young, the other old enough to be skeptical about miracles — arrive at a Magdalene Laundry to determine whether one of the statues there is genuinely weeping blood.In the 75 minutes that follow, the two priests grapple not only with supernatural manifestations but with the brutality of the institution, and the way the nuns treated unwed mothers and illegitimate children (“Would you like to know how many of the fathers were … fathers?”). Shackling and restraining a teenage mother possessed by Satan isn’t that different from what the church did to non-possessed unwed mothers. It’s the Catholic equivalent of ethnogothic horror. It’s also very good.  I normally dislike found footage films — it often feels like an easy way to keep the audience in the dark — this one works, though it does feel a little too Blair Witch Project at the finish. “You sweep it all under the rug, then leave us to hide the dirty laundry.”

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One response to “Classic, crappy, creepy: assorted movies

  1. Pingback: A feminist and a pianist: This week’s movies | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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