The Battle of Algiers (1966)

The Battle of Algiers
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Written by Franco Solinas based on the story by Franco Solinas and Gillo Pontecorvo
(number 126)

This film starts bleak and hard and I have to say it doesn’t really get better from there. Knowing very little about this movie, I watched it with Steve who I think, got a better grasp on the politics of the film than I did from the start. Later on I have everything straight right.

Jesus, the sequence with the kids attacking the wino, that was unpleasant to watch. The old upsetting bullying mob thing gets me every time. Oh god and then the old Arab guy in the street and all the white French people calling out where he is and where he’s going to the police can pick him up. I really hate

This film is apparently based on the real events of the Algerian war of independence from not so long before the film was made. The quality of the film and the documentary style way it was shot meant at the time it was released many cinemas advertised that it had no news reel footage in it, because otherwise people would think it was a documentary.

The escalating tactics of the French military police all felt very real and also, tapped right into my fears for the future of America and maybe England. I don’t think New Zealand is so far down that path, but sealing off the Muslim quarter and instituting checkpoints where people have to produce papers sounds very much like something that could happen in Trump’s America. Horrifying.

Does it make me love the people? I feel like this movie was deliberately made to give me no love for people. It shows so much of people at their worst, being underhanded. Steve has pointed out that at least they have established that each faction is doing what they think is best. By the end I did actually love Captain Mathieu and Ben M’Hidi, the two heads of the opposing sides. Especially after the firecracker sequence of the press conference. That was just dynamite to watch, ace stuff.

Bechdel test: There are a lot of women, and they are in scenes together. But it’s hard to get their names, and I don’t think they talk to each other, just to the men. I did love the sequence of the women coming home, taking off their veils and then making themselves look like French women instead by cutting their hair, applying make up, etc. Sort of reminded me of Persepolis. It does get close with the three women who leave the bombs, except I can’t seem to find their names.

Best line:

Ben M’Hidi: Acts of violence don’t win wars. Neither wars nor revolutions. Terrorism is useful as a start. But then, the people themselves must act. That’s the rationale behind this strike: to mobilize all Algerians, to assess our strength.

State of Mind: Gripping, but unpleasant. The massive crowd scenes with the protesters against the police are intense, Steve and I both felt like we were watching news footage and for goodness did they film it all? No wonder they had to put out disclaimers. It really was a fantastic film but not a pleasant watch particularly. I’m impressed. I may even consider watching it again, and I’m pleased that I saw it.

Watched movie count

Love and Death (1975)

Love and Death
Written, directed by and starring Woody Allen.
(number 310)

This is the kind of Woody Allen I thought I was getting into when I watched Radio Days. It’s just so not my style of comedy. It’s a comedy about Russian literature, but the jokes are all about anachronisms and Jewish comedy, which is all well and good but not my thing at all. It very much reminded me of the Naked Gun movies, or Men in Tights or similar.

I watched this with a happy little bun of a cat beside me. She curled up and slept in a patch of sunlight and I have to say she had a better time of it than I did.

That said I appreciated a couple of the particularly silly bits such as:

Napoleon: This is an honor for me.
Boris: No, it’s a greater honor for me.
Napoleon: No, a greater honor for me.
Boris: No, it’s a greater honor for me.
Napoleon: No, a greater honor for ME.
Boris: Well, perhaps you’re right. Perhaps it IS a greater honor for you.
Napoleon: And you must be Don Francisco’s sister.
Sonja: No, you must be Don Francisco’s sister.
Napoleon: No, you must be Don Francisco’s sister.
Sonja: No, you must be Don Francisco’s sister.
Boris: No, it’s a greater honor for me.
Napoleon: I see our Spanish guests have a sense of humor.
Boris: She’s a great kidder.
Sonja: No, you’re a great kidder.
Boris: No, you’re Don Francisco’s sister.

Does it make me love the people? I dunno. I feel like I’m annoyed with the characters more than caring about them. Diane Keaton does brilliantly in her role, and she’s very winsome but her character is kind of bland. She’s a moutpiece for Allen, a woman who’ll sleep with anyone and magically falls in love with him like a fantasy girl should.

Oh hey, he talks about bisexual people! No bi erasure here, which is pretty nice.

Bechdel test: Anna and Sonja have a long conversation which is pretty amusing, but it is about Ivan and the things he left behind. So, it’s a no, because it’s about the guy, but it is a pretty fun bit.

Anna: You’re praying for Ivan?
Sonja: Yes. Your husband, I loved him, as you know.
Anna: I wanted you to have some of his possessions.
Sonja: How kind.
Anna: I kept his sword and gold watch… but here, I’m giving you his mustache.
Sonja: I’ll cherish it.
Anna: Also some string. Ivan saved string.
Sonja: I know. It was one of the reasons why I loved him.
Anna: I understand that. I loved him for his string, too.
Sonja: Anything else for me?
Anna: I thought we should divide his letters. Do you want the vowels or the consonants?
Sonja: His vowels, you keep the consonants.

Oh wait, later in the film Sonja and Natasha talk about love and suffering so yes, it does pass in the end. Oh and yes, and then wheat.

Best line:

Sonja: I want to have children with you, three of them
Boris: One of each
(Which, I know is a facile joke about how dumb Boris is, but I like the idea that he is acknowledging the existence of non-binary people)

State of Mind: Okay so I do enjoy the reference to The Seventh Seal with Woody Allen dancing with Death at the end. but overall I was pretty glad when this was over. I’m not sure this type of humour has aged so well.. I imagine this will be what it feels like to watch Shrek in 20 years, which I think I said about Airplane as well. It had its moments, but it’s not a patch on Radio Days. I’m not sure why this is on the list to be honest.

Watched movie count

Ombre baby quilt

I made a baby quilt for one of Anna’s friends from chorus. I used inspiration from Pinterest, this post in particular. But I got a bit carried away with how many colours I wanted it to go through, so I added a scrambled colour border on the sides only.

Mochi has been very interested in this quilt from the start, see?

I’ve been pretty obsessed with applique ideas off pinterest, Anna requested whales and starfish and I really like the way they came out. (Detail photos below.)

Best photo of cat and quilt but there is also this one of her trying to catch my needle and thread as I hand sew on my lap.

The backing is blue panda bun fabric that Theresa gave me, and it looks super cute on the back. The colours all just mesh together nicely, and the dark blue binding pulls it together.

Whaley and starfishy.

The Palm Beach Story (1942)

The Palm Beach Story
Written and directed by Preston Sturges
(number 308)

Same writer and director who did The Lady Eve, similarly starring another incredibly smart and smart talking, stylish woman who has brilliant plans.

This is another similarly charming and beautifully styled, smartly scripted romantic comedy. It’s also a bit of a mystery about what exactly is at play and how easily a woman could leave her husband like that, and then there’s a big Shakespearean level twist to the story.

I sort of watched this twice. The first time with Ellen, only we started talking and didn’t pay enough attention to it, so I had to watch it again. The movie is paced very oddly to me. There’s a lot of set up of the story, then a long sequence on the train with a frankly disturbing ‘ale and quail society’ variously charming Gerry and then terrorizing everyone. Then the actual love story plot is squeezed into the last 30 minutes.

There’s an uncomfortable sequence with the ale and quail society, who burst in on Gerry while she was sleeping to sing to her, and then some of them start shooting at the black bartender. I know it’s not… this is a forties movie and race relations in America were terrible back then, but it’s still uncomfortable to watch now. At least the black people get to speak a little… but they’re only present as servants.

Does it make me love the people? I feel a lot for Gerry, mostly because she just basically wants to do what’s good for her partner but all this weird shit keeps happening around her. I like Tom when he’s with Gerry and being tender. He’s a bit too forties gentleman treating his wife like property the rest of the time. The love scenes between the two are sweet though.

John Hackensacker is pretty cool, he’s very decent to Gerry and even when things blow up he keeps his side of the deals and is generous and reasonable. Kind of… unbelievable as a character really. Then his sister Maud is a stereotypical frivolous woman who’s married and divorced a number of times.

Bechdel test: Yes, Maud and Gerry speak to each other. Often about John but also about how pretty Maud is and clothes and so on.

Best line:

John: It is one of the great tragedies of this life that the men most in need of a beating up are always enormous.

Gerry: Don’t you know that the greatest men in the world have told lies and let things be misunderstood if it was useful to them? Didn’t you ever hear of a campaign promise?

State of Mind: That plot twist and resolution is just… I don’t know. I don’t know at all. You couldn’t remake this film now, I’ll tell you that. It’s pretty amusing but it’s not my favourite of these old comedies, it didn’t grab me the same way as Unfaithfully Yours or some of the others. It was just a bit… weird all round. I’m not sure if I’ll want to watch it again.

Watched movie count

Le Cercle Rouge (1970)

Le Cercle Rouge
Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
(number 307)

Another film on the list I had never heard of and didn’t know what I was getting into. A few minutes in: oh, it’s a heist movie. Maybe this will be an opportunity for me to work out why I don’t like heist movies? Why heist stories bore me? Or maybe it’ll just be a thing that happens on the tv and I’ll get some handsewing done on this baby quilt I’m making.

It’s French, it’s from 1970, it’s filmed a little like a Hitchcock if he liked hand held cameras more. Oh yes! French films. The first woman we get to meet is naked! yayyyy. The only other film of this director’s I have seen is Army of Shadows (which is lower in the list) and I can see the similarity to this – the pacing, the stark, cold palette. The hard surfaces everywhere.

So: heist stories are very tropey, right? They’re a bunch of cool people, usually men, who wear suits and cool jackets and plan a heist and then they do the heist and it either works out and they get away or it doesn’t. The only movie I can think of that I’ve seen, which had a bit of a twist on this was Now You See Me. I find it hard to get invested when I know it’s going to be the same story just with the characters named different things. One thing I will say for Le Cercle Rouge though, is that we do get some time to get to know the characters involved. The film doesn’t rely on stereotypes to sell the characters and get straight to the action. It’s a relaxed pace movie, to be sure. But I appreciate that we do get time to know them as people first.

I can see how a lot of later movies may have been informed by this one. It feels very much like a pulp novel, and looks pretty and slick as Hell. But it just didn’t hold my attention. I was just waiting for them to get to the next step in the story. Okay, they’ve done the heist now so… we need to know if they’re being betrayed or not. Oh they are? fine, fine.

Does it make me love the people? Okay but men in movies who talk to their cats immediately get a pass. But, I found it hard to care about these characters. The nightmare sequence was probably as close as I got to feeling for one of them, and it was freaky. The cleverness was about all they had going for them, but then they were brought down so seemingly easily at the end. Eh.

Bechdel test: No, I don’t think there’s a single named woman. There’s lots and lots of dancing girls and a naked woman and a cigarette sales girl, but none of them get to speak and certainly not to each other.

Best line:

All men are guilty. They’re born innocent, but it doesn’t last.

State of Mind: Well made, if slow. The heist sequence was pretty neat, but… ehhh. I was bored. It didn’t keep my attention because I couldn’t care about the characters.

Watched movie count