Mike Kueber's Blog

August 4, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #40 – Shalako, And God Created Woman, Return to Me, The Dreamers, A History of Violence, and The Naked City

While watching My Week with Marilyn, I was reminded that had seen very few movies with the reigning sex symbols of my youth – Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot – and I decided to remedy that, starting with Bardot in Shalako and And God Created Woman.

My first selection was Shalako because it is one of Bardot’s few English-language movies and it co-starred one of my favorite actors, Sean Connery.  This 1968 spaghetti Western, which involves a hunting party of foreigners encountering Indians in the American West, was not a good selection.  Bardot doesn’t look hot, and she and Connery have no chemistry.  Rotten Tomato critics scored it 25% and the audience awarded it a 34%.  That’s about right – I give it one star out of four.

By contrast, And God Created Woman is outstanding.  This 1956 French-language drama is Bardot’s breakout movie, and she looks incredible; every bit as attractive as Marilyn Monroe in her prime.  Indeed, their personalities (assuming that neither actress did much acting) are strikingly similar – unbright, fun-loving, naïve.  In this movie, Bardot earned the sobriquet “set kitten.”  The film revolves around an 18-year-old orphaned Bardot in St. Tropez, who is being threatened with a return to the orphanage because of her somewhat trampy conduct.  Only a marriage will save her.  Two impressive men, one young and one old, are attracted to her, but because of her reputation, they are unwilling to marry her.  (Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?)  Bardot is spared the orphanage, however, when the young man’s even younger brother decides to marry her.  That starts the trouble as the non-husbands realize that the err of their ways because Bardot is simply irresistible.  Rotten Tomato critics score it 73%, but its audience liked it less at 51%.  I like it a lot and give it three and a half stars.  When choosing between Shalako and And God Created Woman, think of the Vegas Elvis and the young Elvis. 

Return to Me was suggested to me by a Facebook friend who read my favorable review of some romance movies, and I am so glad she did.  This 2000 romance will have your tears flowing from the first act.  Other than noting that the movie is based in Chicago and stars David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, and Carol O’Connor in one his last performances, I can’t describe even the first act because it would be giving away too much information.  The Rotten Tomato critics scored it at 61%, but the audience liked it more – at 75%.  I’m with the audience and give it three and a half stars.   

The Dreamers (NC-17) is a 2003 drama based in Paris during the late 60s and involves an American studying abroad who hooks up with sexually adventurous twins (one guy and one girl).  The American is played by Michael Pitt, who seems to be cut from the same cloth as Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, but I couldn’t get past my antipathy for him based on his role as Jimmy in HBO’s series, Boardwalk Empire.  The twins are quintessential rudderless, value-challenged, narcissistic kids of European intellectuals and watching them waste their lives is painful.  But not because I care about them.  These kids are so worthless and empty that it is difficult to feel strong enough about them to dislike them.  The Rotten Tomato critics give this Bertolucci film a score of 60% while the audience gives it 77%.  I give it a bottom-of-the-barrel one-half star.

A History of Violence (R) is a 2005 suspense thriller starring Viggo Mortensen as a Philadelphia gangster who builds a new life in Indiana before his past catches up with him.  Although the story is implausible, the characters are interesting, including Ed Harris, who has aged a lot in the past few years, and William Hurt, who appears briefly at the end of the movie, but has a powerful impact.  The action scenes are quite violent, if you like that kind of thing.  I don’t, so I give the movie only one star out of four.  The Rotten Tomato critics love it at 87%; the audience, not so much at 68%.    

The Naked City is a 1948 black & white movie that depicts a police investigation in NYC following the murder of a young female model.  It has been described as a film noir – i.e., a stylish crime drama that emphasizes cynical attitudes and sexual motivations, but seems more accurately called a police-procedural drama.  The movie, which inspired a TV show in the late 50s and early 60s, closes with the famous line: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”  I never saw The Naked City TV show, but I did see the Dragnet TV show that came along a few years later (it started on radio in 1949), and think they are remarkably similar (including the use of a narrator), with the former in LA and the latter in NYC.  What strikes me about both is that the people are so white, conservative, and responsible.  Rotten Tomato critics scored it 86% and its audience 79%.  I give it three stars out of four, much of that due to its post-war NYC setting.

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2 Comments »

  1. So glad that you enjoyed “Return to Me”

    Comment by Patricia — August 4, 2012 @ 4:58 am | Reply

    • Patricia, I wanted to thank you for the recommendation, but couldn’t find you because I looked on Facebook instead of my blog comments. Everything about the movie was excellent, including the music and the three core characters – husband and two wives. One exception – James Beluchi’s role seemed gratuitous to the movie.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — August 4, 2012 @ 5:35 pm | Reply


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