Movies I’ve Recently Seen: Official Competition ֍ Forbidden Paradise ֍ Victor/Victoria ֍ Desert Fury

What movies have I seen recently (outside of the Jewish Film Fest)? There’s a very funny Spanish movie, early Lubitsch, Julie Andrews disguised as a man disguised as a woman, and a mediocre melodramatic weepie.

I saw two of these films in theaters, and I’ll tell you which they are. Click the film’s title to stream the picture.

A- Official Competition (2021); sorry, the movie is now out of Bay Area theaters, and not yet streaming

This Spanish comedy skewers high-art cinema and keeps the laughs coming. A great director (Penélope Cruz) sets out to make a brilliant film. The only thing you really know about the film being made is that everyone knows it will be a masterpiece. But before the camera rolls, she must deal with her two extremely narcissistic leading men. Antonio Banderas plays a movie heartthrob, despite his awful haircut. Oscar Martínez plays a “serious thespian” who despises Banderas. Cruz has her hands full with these two. Very funny.

I saw this one at the Albany Twin – the first time I was there since COVID hit.

B Forbidden Paradise (1924)

Ernst Lubitsch’s’ fourth American movie isn’t as funny as some of his others, but it’s still entertaining. Pola Negri plays a queen dealing with a sexist revolution. But she’s not all that interested in saving her monarchy. What she really desires is the handsome but betrothed officer she would like in her bed (Rod La Rocque). Adolphe Menjou plays the chancellor who deals with the queen’s adolescent desires.

I saw this at the BAMPFA, with Judith Rosenberg providing musical accompaniment for this silent film.

C+ Victor/Victoria (1982)

Julie Andrews plays a woman playing a man, who is playing a woman, and all of it in nightclubs circa ’30s Paris. James Garner plays an American gangster who discovers issues with his sexuality. Robert Preston plays a man who knows exactly what kind of man he is – and it’s not conventional. The film’s treatment of homosexuality was very liberal for a Hollywood film made in 1982. But the movie stretches far too long for the story. Most of the jokes don’t land well, but there is one perfect bit of slapstick that could have been done by Buster Keaton. Written and directed by Blake Edwards.

C Desert Fury (1947)

The Criterion Channel calls this a noir, but it’s more like a thin melodramatic weepie–and only a mediocre one at that. Crime comes up occasionally until the last act. A rich mother (Mary Astor) wants to control her 19-year-old daughter (Lizabeth Scott). Two men with a past return to the town. They seem to hate each other, probably because they both seem to be interested in the daughter. Burt Lancaster gets third billing as the local cop – who also is interested in the daughter. The film climaxes with a pretty good car chase. Shot in three-strip Technicolor.

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