Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reviews of Cat Ballou (1965) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff (1966)

I have an Oscar blog I will be posting on here soon, and other stuff, but in the meantime, reviews of two films I've seen today:

Cat Ballou:

Cat Ballou veers towards parody with its drunken hero who seems to commit his greatest acts of heroism by accident and occasional moments of slapstick humor interspersed with the action but by no means is it a full-blown parody. It's a uniquely charming story in the Western landscape of an unlikely heroine who's resourceful to get by in a man's world and in that sense, the it's more of a feminist power trip whereas the Wild West is being used to illustrate a man's world, than it is a traditional Western.



Jane Fonda, who I have never previously had the pleasure of seeing at an age of less than 60, is radiant and charming (and just plain hot) as the heroine and very easy to root for. Like Rio Bravo or The Wild Bunch, there's also a very enjoyable sense of camaraderie between Fonda and her gang of outlaws which include Michael Callan, Dwayne Hickman, and Tom Nardini, and Lee Marvin in a role that won him an Oscar (although, I have absolutely no clue why). Also of note, Danny Kaye and Nat King Cole are featured as a Greek chorus of sorts singing musical numbers.



Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff:


Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff is a film that I can honestly say is like nothing you've ever seen before. It's like horror meets melodrama. The best I can do for a synopsis is it's about a couple who invites another couple over for an evening's entertainment but instead of playing pictionary, they subject the couple and each other to a series of twisted psychological games. Why the younger couple voluntarily staying through these twisted psychological games for the duration of the evening was clearly the screenwriter/playwright's biggest challenge and he partially succeeds in setting things up so that the couple is partially captive to the situation. I'm willing to excuse the screenwriter for this because it's such a fascinating piece.

The dialogue is stylized to the point that it has virtually no frame of reference in reality. I say virtually because if you came from a household that dysfunctional, you probably would have committed suicide by now, but if you haven't and you saw this film you would relate but for the rest of us, it's more of an abstraction. Aside from the quality of the dialogue the reason to watch this film, is the way these four actors take such nonsensical words and actions and make it come to life. Sandy Dennis and Elizabeth Taylor won Oscars for their roles and George Segal (Just Shoot Me) and Richard Burton were nominated and every one of them deserved the praise. Burton, in particular, was so convincingly mad, it's just emotionally draining to watch him spin emotional circles around logic on screen.






The film is Mike Nicholl's debut (and marks the eighth film I've seen of his making him the director I'm 4th most familiar with),

2 comments:

Dan said...

I read that John Lennon saw Cat Ballou on its release in London. He complained about it having a laugh track dubbed in. I thought he might be crazy 'til I read that because of TV a lot of films had canned laughter added. Weird, huh?

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