My friend Ross has often used the term “dioscuri” — the Greek name for the heavenly twins, Castor and Polyneices — to refer to twinned fiction characters such as Kirk and Spock, Holmes and Watson, Starsky and Hutch, and Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. They fit together. They’re each other’s missing puzzle piece. And that applies to some of my recent viewing.
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s Road films had them cast as vagabond Dioscuri entertainers, always united until it came to figuring out who gets the girl. ROAD TO RIO (1947) was in a two-movie set with Road to Bali but it’s much better. After enraging a few too many fathers by hitting on their daughters, the guys head south of the border where they end up helping Dorothy Lamour, whose aunt Gale Sondegaard is hypnotizing her into a marriage for mysterious reasons. A lot of fun, though having a happy ending arranged via hypnosis doesn’t age well at all; parodies both McGuffins (“The world must never know.”) and last minute cavalry charges (“It didn’t amount to much but it was exciting.”). “Blood is thicker than water — and this is not the time to prove it.”
JULES AND JIM (1961) is Francois Truffaut’s story of two Dioscuri, one German (Oskar Werner) and one French (Henri Serre), who meet and bond deeply in the years before WW I and remain friends despite fighting on opposite sides (their biggest fear being injuring or killing each other). But when Jules falls in love with the mercurial, restless Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), who also fascinates Jim, it sends their friendship and their lives in an unexpected direction. I clearly remember being underwhelmed with this when I first saw it but for the life of me I can’t figure out why, as it’s excellent. Along with being well-made, the casual attitude to sex and love must have stood out from Hollywood’s films back when it debuted. “I’m slowly renouncing my claim to her — and all that I love in the world.”
In ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000) attorney Albert Finney doesn’t think of working-class mom Julia Roberts as much beyond an annoyance. Then she takes an interest in some old case files involving a small town, a whole lot of health problems and a utility covering up its polluting track record and they become the team they were destined to be. Steven Soderbegh directs an excellent based-on-truth film with supporting performances by Marg Helgenberger as a victim, Conchata Ferrell as a secretary, Aaron Eckhart as Brockovich’s biker boyfriend and Peter Coyote as a lawyer. “Before you go off on some sort of crusade, you might want to consider who you’re dealing with.”
And now the more — I picked GLASS ONION (2022) as my and TYG’s December date night film and it was an excellent choice, even though TYG, contrary to my memory, swears she hasn’t seen Knives Out. Daniel Crag once again plays Benoit Blanc (TYG gives his accent thumbs up) who somehow winds up invited to tech billionaire Edward Norton’s isolated Greek island along with politician Kathryn Hahn, airhead model Kate Hudson (“How was I to know ‘Jew-y’ was offensive to Jews?”), YouTuber Dave Bautista and others — and wouldn’t you know, death is in the air? A traditional set-up — an isolated mansion, a murderer among us — but enlivened by director/writer Rian Johnson’s skewering of the rich (pretty much the perfect moment for it too). While I think Knives Out worked slightly better as a mystery, this may be a better film overall. “I think it’s dangerous to think speaking without thinking is the same as speaking the truth.”
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