Movies I’ve Recently Seen: Picnic | Black Orpheus | Princess Mononoke & Images

What can I say about these four movies as a group? I can tell you that they were all made in the second half of the last century. They have sound and they’re all in color. And finally, I watched (or re-watched) all of them recently and had never written about them before.

A- Picnic (1955)

A handsome piece of beefcake (William Holden) with barely a nickel in his pocket arrives at a small town on the day of a big, citywide picnic. He goes straight to the most beautiful girl in town (Kim Novak), which is a problem because the son of the richest man in town wants her, too. But the beautiful girl, along with some other women, have their own desires and agendas. Great, early CinemaScope cinematography by James Wong Howe. Composer George Duning occasionally overdoes the music.

B+ Black Orpheus (1959)

Marcel Camus takes an ancient, tragic Greek myth, and set it in one of the happiest events in the modern world: Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval. For much of the time, the film blooms with bright colors, upbeat music, and joyful people dancing in the very full frame. But when the star-crossed lovers are named Orpheus and Eurydice, you know that the fates are against them.

B+ Princess Mononoke (1997)

For much of its runtime, this Japanize, animated, action fantasy takes you on a wild and exciting ride. The hand-drawn characters, the strange animals, and the amazing moments of fear, struggle, and love are surprisingly powerful. But the climactic battle between animals and people drags on too long, seemingly just for the point of making things big. The environmental message is both obvious and shallow. Too extreme for young children.

D+ Images (1972)

Robert Altman made some excellent films in the 1970s, but this poor attempt of dramatizing mental illness isn’t one of them. Susannah York plays a woman living with her husband in a very large house in a rural area. There are two other men in the house, and both seem very insistent to get in her panties – including the dead one (most of the film is all in her head). There’s no empathy here – the film seems to say “be scared of crazy people.” By the way, York’s character is an author of children books, but nothing is made of that. The film’s only merits are York’s performance and Vilmos Zsigmond’s terrific cinematography.