Monday, November 12, 2007

Movie Night 10

1. Spellbound (1945) -
Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Alfred Hitchcock, and Salvador Dali? Good lineup!
This isn't one of Hitchcock's best films, at least in my opinion, but the Dali stuff is definitely worth seeing. I just wish there was more of it. And according to Wikipedia there was more (about 20 minutes!), but producer David O. Selznik nixed most of it. The bastard.
Anyway, what really drags this movie down is the abundance of outdated psychoanalytical jargon. The story is basically all about using psychoanalysis to help patients, but the ideas (mostly Freudian) are all ancient history. This leads to some unintentionally laughable situations. When the main character claims he doesn't believe in all the Freudian nonsense, one of the other characters (a doctor strongly resembling Freud) basically tells him, "You're crazy - what would you know?"
The movie is not irredeemable, but time hasn't been kind to it.

2. Dark City (1998) -
There was going to be another Hitchcock film here, but some of our group left early and the mood shifted. So I put this in, as it's one of my favorite genre films, and the remaining group hadn't seen it yet.
It came out only a year before The Matrix. It's unlikely it had much influence, but there are definitely some stylistic similarities between the two movies. But these are more genre conventions than specific plot points.
A man wakes up in a strange world he doesn't understand, pursued by mysterious adversaries in black who wield strange powers, discovers powers within himself, saves the world from false reality. Both movies owe much to film noir and comic books. Otherwise they are completely different.
Whereas The Matrix wraps its story in semi-plausible science fiction tropes, like virtual reality and artificial intelligence run amok, Dark City is pure pulp fantasy with evil aliens and matter-bending psychic powers. So they work on different levels. The main characters of both movies are Christ figures. The Matrix pounds that theme into the ground (especially in the sequels), while Dark City is having too much fun to care.
The cast is great, with William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland doing his best Peter Lorre impression, and Richard O'Brien (Rocky Horror Picture Show, anyone?). And I think this film was the beginning of Jennifer Connelly's rise to become Hollywood's most dark and depressing leading lady.
I love it.

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