Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Revisit: The Facts of Life

An MGM release 1960

Directed by Melvin Frank

Written by:
Melvin Frank (screenplay)
Norman Panama (screenplay)

Bob Hope and Lucille Ball fall in love during a romantic getaway in Acapulco. There's only one problem - they're both already married!

Not to be confused with the classic TV show of the same name, this adult comedy contains some racy material, considering the year of its release. Bob Hope and Lucille Ball fall in love, but both are already married with children, and hilarity ensues as they try to cope with an extramarital affair. It's probably the only classical Hollywood film I can think of that tries to place a humorous spin on adultery. Its very much a reaction to the tedium brought upon by the construct of the American family in the 1950's; tension is derived from the difficulties of trying to keep the affair a secret, and the affair is not criticized as harshly as the home life. In fact, the film forces you to root for the adulterers, because they are 'in love' and their marriages are so poor. Of course this is a Hollywood film, and things do go sour in the end as they realize their actions are wrong. But it succeeds in making quite the case for adultery. It's also interesting that Ball acts as the films narrator; we're given much of the "woman's" perspective (written by males), but no real insight into the man's desires. Hope and Ball are at the top of their game in a film that is far more serious than most of their previous roles, and the picture was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one for Costume Design.

Revisit: Port of Shadows

A Janus Films release 1938

Directed by Marcel Carné

Written by:
Pierre Dumarchais (novel)
Jacques Prévert (screenplay)

A military deserter (Jean Gabin) finds love and trouble in a smoky French port city.

A truly beautiful film that follows the classic Hollywood template, Carné's Port of Shadows is the kind of movie where all of the elements culminate into a near-perfect package. The air-tight script is chock full of fantastic dialogue and well-rounded characters, aided by the incredible cast, which includes Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, and Michele Morgan. Even minor characters are surprisingly well developed. Likewise, there isn't a shot in the film that feels out of place or sloppy; everything is essential. The lighting, grain, and over-all look of the film is quite stunning and especially effective in telling the story. It's interesting to note that this film is pre-WWII, as much of the script feels like an allusion to the war. A must see.