Stage Door, King of Hearts and More: My Films of the Week #19

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week. (Also, Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!)

 

Liborio
dir. Nino Martinez Sosa
2021, Dominican Republic/Puerto Rico/Qatar

A movie based on the life of the Dominican leader Papa Liborio. Interestingly split into seven chapters, each of which is viewed from a different character. Rather than opting for an epic approach, the film feels rather earthly. And rather than being heavy-handed in its exploration of the story’s mysticism, Martinez Sosa’s style is earthly, naturalistic, simple and yet effective.

 

Wild Indian
dir. Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.
2021, USA

The past comes back to haunt a Native American man in this drama, which definitely has tension but lacks urgency and possibly overlooks more compelling aspects of its narrative, particularly those of identity. This makes Wild Indian entertaining but shallow and even a missed opportunity.

 

Hi Diddle Diddle
dir. Andrew L. Stone
1943, USA

Unwashed and slightly dazed comedy about a screwball father, played by Adolphe Menjou, and his scheme to swindle the swindlers of his newlywed son. Alternates moments of genius, even flirting with absurdism, with underwhelming and half-hearted ones. Pola Negri’s turn, viewed by many as funny, simply strikes me as sad. It’s no wonder this would be her second-last role; perhaps she realized Hollywood would have no better to offer her.

 

Stage Door
dir. Gregory La Cava
1937, USA

An impressive cast ensemble of leading Hollywood ladies, headed by Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers, plays a commune of struggling and downright broke actresses in this hip comedy-drama that feels fresh but ultimately disappoints by returning to familiar tropes, including those of the “sacrificial woman.” Feminist vibes must be noted, though a needless racist double-take prevents it from completely being on the right side of history.

 

Cretinetti Troppo Bello
dir. André Deed
1909, Italy

Brief comedy by André Deed, known as Cretinetti in his years in Italy, based around a stunt and in-camera editing. Here, he is chased by a group who find him irresistible, somewhat predating Buster Keaton’s Seven Chances. They eventually catch up to him and rip him apart.

 

I Comete: A Corsican Summer
dir. Pascal Tagnati
2021, France

An impressionistic movie about life in a Corsican village, particularly focusing on a number of its inhabitants. Interestingly filmed in single-shot episodes, weaving together a cohesive snapshot of different personalities and capturing the timeless struggle between tradition and modernity.

 

Foolish Wives
dir. Erich von Stroheim
1922, USA

A spectacular erotic silent directed by Erich von Stroheim, who also stars as a con artist posing as a count to swindle money by seducing the wives of wealthy men. Against the vibrant and picturesque background of a Monte Carlo recreated in a Hollywood backlot, this is a sensational movie full of that sexual “violence” that von Stroheim’s movies are known for, full of sin, lust and immorality. Only a shorter version of the original exists to this day, which makes it slightly choppy and its narrative uneven. Even then, it remains a feast for the eyes.

 

King of Hearts
dir. Philippe de Broca
1966, France/Italy

An ornithologist becomes the king of a small French village, temporarily inhabited by people from a mental institution. Though the message at its core is rather simple, it’s hard not to fall for the surrealist poetry, charm and creativity on Philippe de Broca’s rebellious and satirical film, perhaps less familiar to cinephiles than it should be.

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