It’s Friday, time for some movie recommendations. As always, my list is made up of films you can and should rent. I guarantee that these movies are ten times better than what’s playing in your local theatre. These films are also completely kosher and appropriate for even the most religious households.
My Favorite Wife, 1940, casts Irene Dunne as Ellen Arden, who returns from seven years on a deserted island on the very day that her husband, Nick, Cary Grant, marries a cold shrew, Gail Patrick. The film, ultimately is a comedy about bigamy, but on a deeper level it’s about falling in love with your wife. The film is incredibly bold in its portrayal of women’s desire. Irene Dunne leaves her family because she “was having a rough time with the children.” My Favorite Wife, like all the best screwball comedies, spins proper behavior around by playing with sex role reversals in blunt physical terms. When Dunne shows up at her house, for example, she is dressed as a merchant marine. The film is refreshing in its treatment of marriage and sexuality. The final scene shows Dunne lying comfortably in bed, happily torturing Grant by refusing to allow him to sleep with her. Grant wants to know when he will be allowed to enter her bedroom. Dunne smiles wickedly and says, “Oh, around Christmas.” Which is several months away. At his wit’s end, Grant exits. Terrible sounds are heard from the attic, suddenly Grant reappears in the bedroom door–dressed as Santa. The film’s final shot is of a leering Santa, leaving no doubt as to what happens next.
Gun Crazy, 1949. One of the greatest B movies ever made. This is the film I show to my screenwriting students as an example of an almost perfect screenplay. Peggy Cummins stars as a trigger-happy, love-starved woman, who lures an innocent young man, John Dall, into her tragic web. This is the original Bonnie & Clyde, a film about guns and mad love, loyalty, and betrayal. Look for the bank robbery sequence; perhaps the best use of a one-take sequence in the history of film. Tense beyond belief, you will be chewing your nails to raw meat. I know that most of you have never heard of this film, but believe me, it is great. Beautifully written by Dalton Trumbo, and exquisitely directed by Joseph H. Lewis, a German Jewish emigre to Hollywood.
Tokyo Story, 1953. What would a weekend list be without a Japanese film? This is not a Samurai movie. But this is the most honest portrayal of old age that I have ever seen. An old couple come to Tokyo to visit their married children. But their children are too busy to be burdened with their aging parents. The only one who has time for the old couple is their daughter-in-law, the widow of their son who died in WWII. There is a moment in this film that might be the most gut-wrenching I have ever seen. The young widow cradles the picture of her dead husband to her bosom and confesses to her in-laws about her awful loneliness. They tell her that all they want for her is happiness; they urge her to marry again. The daughter-in-law bursts into tears; at last she feels free to move on with her life. This film is not depressing, let me assure you. It is intensely human and never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu, one of the finest most rigorous directors in the history of film.
Okay, that’s it for films. If you get really bored and feel like saying hello, I will be reading and signing my book The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maiden this coming Sunday, April 3, 2005 at the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles, 6505 Wilshire Blvd. 3PM – 4PM. It’s free. For more information call:(323)761 – 8648.
Have a lovely and meaningful Shabbos.