Movies I’ve Recently Seen: City Girl, Rumble, & The Private Life of Don Juan

Three more films I’ve seen for the first time. I only really liked one of them.

B+ City Girl (1930), FilmStruck

Sunrise wasn’t F.W. Murnau’s last word on rural vs. city life. In this very late silent, a young man from a Minnesota farm goes to the big city on business and falls in love with a waitress. He marries her and brings her home, where he must face his harsh, cruel, unbending father. The city scenes are fine, but once the story returns to the farm, the film becomes exceptional. The conflicts between the newlyweds, and the cruel patriarch at the heart of their problems, create a strong sense of suspense. Ernest Palmer’s photography turns the wheat fields into a biblical landscape.

C+ Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (2017), Shattuck

This documentary about Native Americans in rock music started strong with the career of Link Wray (who I was not familiar with), but grew weaker. The movie looks at several rockers, folk singers, and jazz musicians of indigenous birth. But because it covers so many musicians, it doesn’t take the time to go into depth about any of them. Nor does it give you time to enjoy the music; not a single song is played from start to finish. The movie is best when it discusses racism and censorship in the music world, and in arguing how native music influenced rock.

D+ The Private Life of Don Juan (1934), FilmStruck

Douglas Fairbanks’ last movie attempts to poke fun at the famous lady’s man. The great lover is older now, but still dealing with lovers, imposters, and his own mythology. The movie isn’t all that funny, but I can’t help feeling that it’s trying to say something profound about Fairbanks himself. Don Juan, like Fairbanks himself, is a fading star. Everyone remembers his name, but they no longer recognize him. In one of the best scenes, a beautiful woman invites him into her bedroom, but it’s only because she needs someone to deliver a letter to her lover. The 1934 Fairbanks could still leap over a handrail from a standing start, but the grace is gone. And his thin, slightly high, American-accented voice kills the image of a Latin lover.