Every month, A Place for Film brings you a selection of films from our group of regular bloggers. Even though these films aren’t currently being screened at the IU Cinema, this series reflects the varied programming that can be found at the Cinema and demonstrates the eclectic tastes of the bloggers. Each contributor has picked one film that they saw this month that they couldn’t wait to share with others. Keep reading to find out what discoveries these cinephiles have made, as well as some of the old friends they’ve revisited.
Jack Miller, contributor | His Motorbike, Her Island (1986)
The Japanese surrealist filmmaker Nobuhiko Obayashi has become something of a cause célèbre in cinephile circles during this century thanks to a number of theatrical screenings (and subsequent 2010 Criterion release) of his volcanic, psychedelic horror extravaganza Hausu (House, 1977). His other films have been receiving a marginal surge in attention as well in some quarters. One of his ‘80s movies that I watched and enjoyed recently is His Motorbike, Her Island, a refreshingly sincere piece of ‘80s pop cinema. The film is, like Rohmer’s contemporaneous The Green Ray (1986), one of the great summertime movies: it’s an ode to the wild, fleeting beauty of youthful romance.
The strange plot is concerned with a city boy named Ko who rides a Kawasaki motorbike, and his mutual attraction with Miyo, a carefree girl who hails from a remote island. Obayashi grounds their romance in these images: Miyo becomes obsessed with riding Ko’s motorbike (which becomes a source of anxiety within the movie), and he loves to feel the wind rush past him on her island. The film has some of the best shots of people riding motorcycles I’ve ever seen, and that alone makes it worth seeing. The film boldly switches back and forth between color and black-and-white images, and as Nathan Rogers-Hancock said, “Obayashi never seems to be switching between the two for any schematic end. It reminds me more of a great pianist who just knows when to use the pedals.”
No trailer, but the entire film can be watched for free on YouTube in a good print.
Jesse Pasternack, contributor | DekaDonen 4: Dekalog: Four (1988) and Bedazzled (1967)
(Once a month, Jesse will watch a double feature he calls the DekaDonen, which consists of an episode of Krzystztof Kieslowski’s miniseries Dekalog and a film by Stanley Donen. He’ll be watching and writing about these double features until October.)
The theme of this fourth installment of the DekaDonen is wishes. That thematic similarity unites Dekalog: Four and Bedazzled despite their stylistic disparities. In particular, both works of art are about learning to deal with what happens when wishes do not come true.
Dekalog: Four is about a young woman who has a very close relationship with her father, Michal. After discovering a letter from her late mother (whom she never met), she comes to believe that he is not her father. She tries to convince Michal that he is not her father to achieve her secret wish: to have a sexual relationship with him. This episode of Dekalog features a great performance from Adrianna Biedrzyńska as Anka, the protagonist. She brings a playful edge to her performance — an early scene sees her mischievously waking her sleeping father by pouring water on him — and excels at making her empathetic despite her odd desire. She makes the moment where she comes to accept Michal as her father — and in doing so letting go of her old wish — moving through her reading of a single line of dialogue, even if Kieslowski undercuts it with a signature twist that is practically a trademark of Dekalog.
Bedazzled has a similarly magnetic performance in the form of the one given by Peter Cook, who also wrote the screenplay. He plays George Spiggott, who is actually The Devil. He signs a contract with shy short-order cook Stanley Moon to acquire his soul in exchange for giving Moon seven wishes. Moon hopes to use the wishes to get a waitress he has a crush on to love him. But Spiggott has other ideas.
Cook is hilarious as Spiggott. He brings a good sense of comic anarchy to this film and gets many of the best lines. At times this film is more of a collection of sketches than a coherent story, but Cook brings a surprisingly sincere edge to Spiggott’s ultimate wish to return to heaven. But in the end, Spiggott’s wish is as empty as the ones he grants to Moon.
Dekalog: Four and Bedazzled are far from Kieslowski and Donen’s best works. Even though they have their typical flourishes of technical brilliance, such as well-composed shots from Kieslowski and a playful approach to film form from Donen, they do not pop as a whole in the way that their greatest films do. But that air of disappointment is oddly perfect for these stories about people who do not get what they want.
Warning: the trailer below does contain a depiction of attempted suicide. You can view a trailer for Dekalog here.
Michaela Owens, Editor | My Dream Is Yours (1949)
April was a weird month for me, movie-wise. After devouring as much of Harold Lloyd’s filmography as I could for my piece about him, my brain suddenly decided it couldn’t handle anything else besides reruns of The Great British Baking Show, which has honestly been great. However, there was one film that I revisited this month that proved to be just as much of a balm for me as the pastoral loveliness of GBBS: 1949’s My Dream Is Yours.
I had seen this film a few times before and always liked it, but when I watched it in honor of Doris Day’s birthday this month, it was like a switch had been flipped — I fell head over heels in love with this movie, so much so that I watched it twice in one week. First of all, it’s directed by Michael Curtiz, a true filmmaking giant who oddly doesn’t get the attention he deserves despite being the man who did Casablanca. One of the best things about Curtiz is that he didn’t confine himself to dramas or Important Films — he helmed all sorts of movies, including a string of delightful musicals with Doris Day, whom he helped discover in 1948 when she was recommended for the lead in Romance on the High Seas (another movie I highly recommend).
Day, of course, is an absolute ray of sunshine in everything she ever did, but she is especially magical in My Dream Is Yours as the unknown singer who struggles to make it big to support her young son. Not only does she excel with the story’s moments of poignancy and silliness (there may or may not be a dream sequence where she and Jack Carson sing and dance in bunny costumes… with Bugs Bunny himself), her voice seriously knocks me out every time I hear her do “Cuttin’ Capers” or the title tune. And then there is the supporting cast! Lee Bowman is great as the slimy radio singer Day falls for, and Jack Carson is beyond wonderful as her sweet, tireless agent. But the film’s real MVP may be Eve Arden, the funniest, most gorgeous wisecracker classic Hollywood ever had. Arden is who I want to be when I grow up and My Dream Is Yours is a splendid example why.