Movies I’ve recently seen: L’Atalante ֍ Eating Raoul ֍ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ֍ Death on the Nile ֍ The Bitcoin Field Guide

Another random selection of old and new movies, from nearly brilliant to worthless junk.

Click a movie’s title to find out where you can stream it.

A- L’Atalante (1934)

It’s a common story, but done very well, thanks to director Jean Vigo’s poetic realism. A bride tries to adjust to her new family, and they must adjust to her. But it’s no normal family. The “home” is a riverboat. The groom is the skipper, and the rest of the family are two adorable sailors. One is young, small, not too smart, and rarely talks. The other is a big lug who loves cats beyond reason. He’s also trying to fix their phonograph. Not the best honeymoon, when the groom’s co-workers are on the trip. This was Vigo’s only full-length feature; he died of tuberculosis only months after L’Atalante opened.

I saw L’Atalante at BAMPFA, at the first screening of the new PFA series, Film Preservation: Celebrating The Film Foundation. I saw it a few years ago, but it was much better this time on the big screen. The new restoration is mostly excellent. The image was occasionally fuzzy, but I’m not sure if it’s a problem with the restoration, the filmmaking, or what Vigo wanted.

B+ Eating Raoul (1982)

This over-the-top, low-budget black comedy is as silly as it is immoral. A married but still virginal couple (writer/director Paul Bartell and his wife Mary Woronov) find a way to raise some much-needed cash. Although they consider any kind of sex evil, they bring swingers into their home, where they kill the “perverts” and take what’s in their wallets. This is very cheap movie, badly shot and designed, although it has some major names in small parts, including Ed Begley Jr. and Buck Henry (it’s useful to have famous friends).

B Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Yes, it’s a very sexist title, but consider when the movie was made. Marilyn Monroe wants a man with millions. Jane Russell wants one with muscles. These two best friends take an ocean cruise. The story isn’t much. The comedy isn’t as good as you’d expect from director Howard Hawks. But the songs and dances, especially Anyone Here for Love and especially Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friends, are classics. Most people consider this as a Monroe movie, while Russell’s performance makes Monroe look like a mannequin.

B Death on the Nile (2022)

Kenneth Branagh’s version of Murder on the Orient Express ended with a promise of a sequel – and here it is…although a bit disappointing. Branagh seemed to be more interested in visuals than the characters and story. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. The movie is filled with beautiful costumes, glorious sets, and obvious CGI eye candy – all set to great jazz via 1937. The question of whodunnit isn’t the main point, but it’s fun.

F The Bitcoin Field Guide: Understanding Crypto Currency (2022)

This isn’t really a documentary; it’s more like an two-hour commercial for Bitcoin and Blockchain. People look into the camera and tell us that decentralized digital currency will replace banks. There are a few instructions for getting into this new (and very unstable) kind of money, but you’d get that information better by reading a book. We never hear anything about the dangers of money without government regulations. Neither does the picture mention how data mining is harming the planet. Occasional attempts to be funny fall flat.

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