Bambi (1942) / Pinocchio (1940)

“Man is in the forest…”

Over the festive period, M and I watched Bambi and Pinocchio. Have you ever seen those films? Jesus, they’re brutal.

Forgive me if this is common knowledge to all sentient beings other than me, but I was not expecting such darkness on a cosy winter’s morning.

I’d picked up Bambi as it went hand-in-hand with another gift for M of cute Bambi-brand pyjamas. There’s Bambi, all cute with a butterfly on his nose. But God, nothing had prepared me for the onslaught of terror and crushingly dark imagery that Bambi contains. I think I’d remembered that Bambi had a weirdly dark twist, but I didn’t actually know the nature of it until the other day.

And Pinocchio! That cute fairy tale about a wooden boy coming to life? Who remembered the bit where he’s carted off to a grotesque funfair full of naughty boys smoking cigars and shooting pool before being turned into donkeys? I had no idea Spirited Away had taken such inspiration from this film. Admittedly, I found the images of little boys smoking hilarious, but also completely at odds with what I’d expected from these classic, early Disney films.

We were both so shaken from these viewings – the gunshots from Bambi still ring in my ears – that we watched Silver Linings Playbook to cheer ourselves up afterwards.


Hard Eight (1996)

Hard Eight (IMDb / Mubi) was a bit of a surprise. It shouldn’t have been – I came into it knowing I’ve enjoyed every Paul Thomas Anderson film I’ve seen.

It all started with the majestic There Will Be Blood – one of my favourites, and one which I’m so glad I saw on the big screen with its widescreen panoramas and all-encompassing sound production.

And then every year or so I’d happen to put another P.T. Anderson flick on – maybe it was a weird Netflix suggestion, or Matthew Culnane wouldn’t shut up about Boogie Nights, or I was mourning the death of the singular Philip Seymour Hoffman.

What I’m trying to say is that Hard Eight shouldn’t have been a surprise, but boy was it. I loved it.

I suppose knowing it was a wunderkind director’s début picture could have given me reason to doubt it would be any good, but it needn’t have. There are very few elements of this film that even suggest that this is an early production, let alone a début. There are just too many great locations, solid performances, and glorious tracking shots that Anderson has since become famous for. On top of that, the music choices feel vital, and considered – not thrown together at the last minute due to budget constraints.

There’s some uninspired dialogue here and there, but not enough to take away from the likes of Philip Baker Hall absolutely smashing it out of the park with his performance. On which note, John C. Reilly is perhaps the film’s biggest surprise – he’s brilliant. But then, that’s another thing P.T. Anderson has a weird knack for: extracting great performances from surprising casting choices.

My voyage into Paul Thomas Anderson’s filmography continues, and the standard remains high.

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Gilda (1946)

Gilda (1946)

The next film I watched on Mubi after The Golem was Gilda, a noir-ish casino-based thriller from 1946.

It’s typically melodramatic and peppered with shots like that shown above which just ooze class and mystique. There’s nice attention to detail, although some lines/roles feel a bit wooden. It’s the first Rita Hayworth film I’ve watched and by crikey is she something else. The central relationship is an abusive one, which is a little hard to swallow nearly seventy years on, and the ending is a little abrupt and less credible than the rest of it, but it doesn’t get in the way of what is a very enjoyable film.

Gilda was also packed full of people who make smoking look incredibly cool. Casinos, too. This theme was to continue in the next film I watched…

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The Golem: How He Came Into The World (1920)

I recently started watching films a bit more regularly than I have done for a while.

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I’ve signed up to Mubi, whose USP is providing films for streaming (and downloading to devices) one per day, for thirty days. This means there are always 30 films to choose from.

The idea is that a small, well-curated selection of films might actually be of better value to the viewer than a vast, sloppy, loose selection.

I’ve watched about ten films in the past fortnight, and that’s probably more than I had seen all year so far, so it must be working. I’ve not loved them all, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed about five or six.

Guess what this blog post is about.

The first film I watched after starting my subscription was The Golem: How He Came Into The World, a murky fairytale horror from Germany in 1920. The story is of a rabbi who creates a monster that protects the Jews of Prague from persecution. Apparently it’s an old Jewish folk tale.

The story is obviously interesting for its more modern connotations, but I was happy to lie back and just enjoy the fairytale for what it was. The sets were delicious – not a straight line in sight, and I got a bit trigger happy taking screenshots of architectural features of the walled town like windows, doors, rooflines, and hinges. Seriously, look at those wonderfully gnarled hinges!

Of course it was silent, with a fun soundtrack with recurring motifs, and the stark, melodramatic, monochromatic shots were occasionally augmented by the use of colour tinting, as can be seen above.

As a horror film (albeit a very early one), it even managed to provide two distinct sequences I can recall that absolutely gave me a sense of the willies. I was just as fascinated by the making of the film as its look and feel, and those sequences in particular were great from both perspectives.

I couldn’t have asked for a better film to kick off my subscription to a service like Mubi. And, as I’ve said, the quality hasn’t really let up since.

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