Movies I’ve Recently Seen: Call Me By Your Name, The Last Jedi, & A Matter of Life and Death

It’s been almost four weeks since my last Movies I’ve Recently Seen article. What with the holidays, house guests, and revisiting films I’ve already written about, it took a long time for me to get around to watching three new-to-me films. Finally, here they are:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), Grand Lake Theatre

This just may be the best Star Wars movie since the original trilogy. The characters are fully fleshed out (by Star Wars standards, at least), the humor works, and the action scenes are exciting and suspenseful. There’s even a resort planet for the filthy rich that feels like a comment on Trumpland. Our heroes in The Resistance fight for their lives against the evil First Order, while young Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to get Jedi lessons from an aged, bitter, reclusive Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, of course). Excellent entertainment.

My wife and I saw it in 3D. That didn’t add much.

A- Call Me By Your Name (2017), Albany Twin

This gay romantic drama has a lot going for it, including a real sense of teenage angst and a setting in rural and small-town Italy. Any movie looks beautiful, sexual, and meaningful if it’s shot in rural and small-town Italy. Seventeen-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) slowly falls in love with the thirtyish Oliver (Armie Hammer), who is staying at Elio’s intellectual parents’ summer home. And lucky for the adolescent boy reaching toward adulthood, the feelings are mutual. The film is deeply romantic, but in a very realistic way as the characters grow closer together. The screenplay was written by the great James Ivory.

B+ A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven, 1946), Castro

This funny and charming movie from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger follows the story of a British bomber pilot who should have died after bombing Germany (David Niven). His survival creates a serious problem for heaven’s bureaucrats – there’s one extra person on Earth and one missing soul in the afterlife. Newly in love, the pilot refuses to join the dead, and must plead for his life in a celestial court. The hero’s love interest (Kim Hunter) is American, and the trial becomes a contest between British and American cultures.

The great cinematographer Jack Cardiff mixed color and black and white in ways that seem impossible with 1940s technologies. I don’t know the details, but I think someone found a way to create a black-and-white image on a Technicolor dye-transfer print. The Castro screened a 4K DCP of the film’s new digital restoration.