Movies I’ve Recently Seen: Stalker, Bad Education, Bardelys the Magnificent, & Carry on Cleo

Four more films that are new to me. As usual, I’m sorting them by quality.

Stalker (1979), Filmstruck

This slow, strange, allegorical fantasy from the great Andrei Tarkovsky gets under your skin. A guide, called a stalker, takes two other men on a journey into a strange place called The Zone. We never find out exactly what it is, and it looks pretty much like the world they already live in – except that The Zone is in color and their home is in black and white. But we learn that The Zone is dangerous, is constantly changing, and that those changes are caused by the emotions of the people who dare to enter it. I’ve only seen Stalker once, but I suspect that each screening will feel very different than the last.

A- Bad Education (2004), Pacific Film Archive

Pedro Almodóvar dips his finger (and other parts) into this very modern, very gay film noir. But since this is Almodóvar, it hits you with bright colors that look nothing like classic noir. A successful filmmaker (Fele Martínez) gets thrown for a loop when his childhood boyfriend (a gorgeous and often cross-dressing Gael García Bernal) turns up with a script to sell about their childhood and a sexually-abusive priest. Expect a lot of sex (all male on male), a lot of flashbacks – most about the horrors of a Catholic education – and some mind-jolting plot twists.

C+ Bardelys the Magnificent (1926), Filmstruck

After The Big Parade, director King Vidor teamed up again with movie star John Gilbert for something considerably less serious – a swashbuckling period piece of the sort Douglas Fairbanks was making at the time. They only moderately succeeded. The handsome Gilbert looked right for the part, but he lacked the athletic physicality needed to buckle his swash. The movie starts out witty, then gets slightly dull, and finally brings in some action near the end, but that action isn’t particularly well-staged. Even the score by the Monte Alto Motion Picture Orchestra couldn’t save this one.

D+ Carry on Cleo (1965), Filmstruck

This sort-of parody of the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton epic
was my first experience with the Carry On series of low-budget British comedies. Judging from the results, I don’t think I’ll watch any more. I’m a fan of British humor, and I generally like outrageous, silly, anything-for-a-laugh comedies…but only if they’re funny. In Carry on Cleo’s 92 minutes, I think I laughed five times, and none of them were big laughs. There’s a lot of risqué humor, which I generally like, but risqué humor from the 1960s tends to be very sexist – and in this case, unfunny.