Unreviewed Films, Mostly Oldies

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

This is a very bizarre movie about a woman accused of insanity after her cousin dies on their vacation. You can tell it was based on a play (by Tennessee Williams) due to its being composed mainly of very long monologues (the highlight being a trippy speech given by Kathrine Hepburn playing a crazed Miss Havisham-like character). The ending is extremely macabre, but it stuck with me and carried with it the closure of a sinister poetic justice. There is a lot of Freudian stuff in this one which makes it feel dated, but honestly, I didn’t hate it.

A Patch of Blue (1965)

Sidney Poitier plays a compassionate office worker who befriends a young blind woman at the park on his lunch breaks. Little does he know that Selina (Elizabeth Hartman) suffers more from her abusive family than her lack of sight, and when her trauma meets his kindness, she has a hard time letting go. I couldn’t give this film less than 5 stars. While parts of it were a bit 60s-dated, nevertheless it was a painfully beautiful film from start to finish, albeit extremely depressing. It ought to be seen once, but maybe not again.

The Letter (1940)

I was excited to watch this movie because it is based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham, who wrote the wonderful The Painted Veil and The Razor’s Edge. Alas his brilliance doesn’t quite shine in this film, which is a scandal-mystery that takes place in Singapore, with all of the cringey portrayals of Asians and Eurasians you might expect from this time period. On a happier note, Bette Davis was excellent in the leading role as a woman who claims to have shot a man in self-defense. Still, I didn’t particularly enjoy this and spent the latter part of it hoping (guiltily…) that a certain character would also meet their demise so it could all be over with.

My Neighbor, Totoro (1988)

Totoro was my latest Studio Ghibli viewing. It is a simple story of a family moving to an old house and the children exploring and making friends with ghosts. Not much in the way of plot compared to some of the others. I would rank it somewhere in the middle of what I’ve seen so far… it’s not bad, it’s just not amazing. Very much geared towards younger kids, although it does have some Shinto themes in it (praying to forest spirits). I did think the cat bus was awfully cute!

Slow-Paced Life … Joyce and Studio Ghibli

Finished Dubliners yesterday. Goodreads says I had been reading it since January 23… amusing.

I seem to be a very slow reader this year. Having decided to exert no effort in reading, beyond reading as it feels right, I am creeping along at a snail’s pace and not an atom of reverse psychology has come into play. The books I have read, though, have been satisfying in their own way. Crime and Punishment was a milestone, and Dubliners (of which I will have more to say in the future) was an accessible introduction to the intimidating Joyce.

On a movie-watching note, I’ve seen a few more Studio Ghibli films in recent days, namely:

  • When Marnie Was There
  • From Up on Poppy Hill
  • Ocean Waves
  • The Wind Rises

Of these, I would say The Wind Rises—about a real-life airplane designer in Imperial Japan—was the best story objectively. It’s a beautiful portrait of WW2 history and wholesome romance, greatly moving and morally nuanced in terms of the politics. I love this kind of depth in a children’s film.

From Up on Poppy Hill is also a romance, about school friends and a misunderstanding. I found the story a bit too tedious if I’m being honest, but it is still very sweet. Ocean Waves is another school story, though with an annoying female protagonist (and not enough ocean or waves).

I found myself most struck by When Marnie Was There, a Secret-Garden kind of tale about the friendship of two lonely girls suffering from trauma (!). It’s the kind of movie that has to be watched all the way through to make sense…the first 2/3 is rather strange and unsettling, keeping you on the edge of your seat and guessing at what it all means. But it’s one I will rewatch in the future, as well as read the book by Joan Robinson.

These Studio Ghibli films tend to be gently paced and challenge the modern viewer to take their time in the story. I have to smile at the realization that child-me would have had no problem with this; I used to have a very good attention span. For those looking to regain some of that ability to slow down, I would highly recommend this kind of anime. Only Yesterday is still my favorite, I think.