Movies I’ve recently seen: Quiet on the Western Front ֍ The Decameron ֍ Lady Chatterley’s Lover ֍ His People ֍ Saving Mr. Banks ֍ The Prisoner of Zenda

Here are six films I hadn’t seen before my last Recently Seen article. For the most part, they’re about war, sex, family, movies, intrigue, and more sex.

A- All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

It’s about time the German film industry turned Erich Maria Remarque’s powerful anti-war novel into a film. Hollywood did it in 1930. If you’re looking for something that closely follows the book or the earlier movie, you’ll be disappointed. But if you want to be reminded of the horrors or mass conflict, this one does the job. Thanks to better cinema technology and lack of censorship, this version brings all the dirty, bloody, crazy, horrible experience of war.  Like Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory, this version also brings you into the comfort of the generals, who eat very good food while the soldiers get slaughtered. The film’s main problem: Compared to the other versions, the ending is overdone.

A- The Decameron (1971)

I’ve never really thought of Pier Paolo Pasolini as a maker of comedies, but in this movie he shows a very funny and ribald sense of humor. In an Italy ruled by the medieval Catholic church, everyone is having sex – except, of course, the pickpockets. The several seamless stories contain horny nuns, men hiding from their lovers’ husbands, and a one-night stand that seems to turn into what will likely turn into a loving marriage.

I saw the film at the BAMPFA, where a crowded audience rarely stopped laughing. I’m pretty sure that the imported 35mm print was in dye-transfer Technicolor.

B+ Lady Chatterley’s Lover (2022)

Yes, it’s a very sexy movie, based on what I believe is a very sexy novel. It also attacks the British class system. At the end of World War I, Lady Chatterley realizes that she doesn’t like her husband. It’s not just that a war wound left him unable to have sex. He’s also a thoroughly horrid person. She soon falls for a handsome, athletic, and very lovable gamekeeper. Cheers for Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell for playing the lovers. Running around naked in the cold, British rain, take after take, couldn’t be as fun as it looks.

My wife and I saw Lady Chatterley’s Lover Sunday night at the Albany Twin. There were probably only eight people in the theater. So sad. The movie will stream on Netflix starting Friday.

B His People (1925)

Here’s a rare story about American Jews living in New York’s ghetto. The very religious father tries to find peace between his two sons. There’s bad blood between the boys; one had to fight in the streets (and then in the boxing ring), to raise money to put his brother through law school. The film provides a believable view of New York Jews 100 years ago.

I saw this silent film theatrically, at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. The print was very washed-out. I don’t know if there’s a better one. Bruce Loeb did a fine performance on the piano.

The YouTube stream has no audio. I suggest you watch while playing music – probably klezmer or jazz.

B- Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

I don’t know, and I don’t care, if this movie is close to the real story of P.L. Travers – the woman who wrote the original Mary Poppins novels. Think of it as a work of fiction. Travers and Walt Disney (Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks) fight to get their own version of what the Mary Poppins movie would be like. But that’s only half of the story. The film goes back and forth between the Travers/Disney fights and Travers’ childhood in Australia, where Colin Farrell plays her lovable but alcoholic father. The final scene, at the world premiere of Poppins, goes on way too long.

C The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)

There must be something of worth in this swashbuckling story – there are at least eight films with its title (it’s also a subplot in The Great Race). A king is too drunk for his coronation, and an Englishman who looks just like the king takes his place. But there are evil people trying to save the unworthy king. This version of the story has too much talking for this sort of movie.