Dennis Schwartz'
Short Reviews 
'P'  22

 


PALOMBELLA ROSSA (director/writer/producer: Nanni Moretti; cinematographer: Giuseppe Lanci; editor: Mirco Garrone; music: Nicola Piovani; cast: Nanni Moretti (Michele Apicella), Mariella Valentini (Reporter), Silvio Orlando (Coach of 'Rari Nantes Monteverde'), Asis Argento (Valentina), Antonio Petrocelli (Fascist); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Nella Banfi/Angelo Barbagallo; International Film Circuit; 1989-Italy, in Italian with English subtitles)

I think you have to be aware of the Italian political situation to tune into this political satire. It is a film that I was bored with and found to be ego-centric. A communist politician named Michele has amnesia and his life's events unfold during an allegorical polo match. Some critics have compared this work to Fellini. So what! GRADE: C-


PANAMA LADY (director/writer: Jack Hively; screenwriters: story by Garrett Elsden Fort/Michael Kanin; cinematographer: Roy Hunt; editor: Theron Warth; music: Harry Tierney/Roy Webb; cast: Lucille Ball (Lucy), Donald Briggs (Roy Harmon), Evelyn Brent (Leonore), Allen Lane (Dennis McTeague), William Pawley (Bartender); Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Cliff Reid; RKO Radio Pictures; 1939)

Lucy is destitude in Panama and forced to take work as a housekeeper for the oil man man (Lane) she tried to rob. Meanwhile she becomes romantically involved with him. Mildly entertaining minor film with nothing in particular to recommend it, except seeing Lucy on film instead of on TV. GRADE: C



PARTY GIRL (director: Nicholas Ray; screenwriters: story by Leo Katcher/George Wells; cinematographer: John McSweeney, Jr.; editor: Robert J. Bronner; music: Jeff Alexander; cast: Robert Taylor (Thomas Farrell), Cyd Charisse (Vicki Gaye), Lee J. Cobb (Rico Angelo), John Ireland (Louis Canetto), Kent Smith (Jeffrey Stewart); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joe Pasternak; MGM; 1958)

Taylor is the Chicago Prohibition lawyer for the mob with a limp. Cyd is a night-club dancer and party girl. She and Taylor reach out for each other as fellow prostitutes so to speak in this emotionally revealing, stylized film that Ray has taken beyond its limited script. A honey of a film. GRADE: B


PARTY GIRL (director/writer: Daisy Von Scherler Mayer; screenwriters: Harry Birckmayer/Sheila Gaffney; cinematographer: Michael Slovis; editor: Cara Silverman; music: Anton Sanko; cast: Parker Posey (Mary), Omar Townsend (Mustafa), Sasha Von Scherler (Mrs. Lindendorf), Guillermo Diaz (Leo), Nicole Bobbitt (Venus); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Harry Birckmayer/Georgia Kacandes/Stephanie Koules; Columbia TriStar; 1995)

Parker couldn't be better in this role as a confused 24-year-old, trendy, party-loving New Yorker looking for a career and realizing she isn't fit to do anything worthwhile. She winds up working for the N.Y. Public Library and hilariously immerses herself in the Dewey Decimal System. She meets a lover, a falafel vender from Lebanon, who wants to be a teacher. The director's mother, Sasha, marvelously plays Parker's godmother and boss in the library. A fine supporting cast adds more zaniness to the mix. GRADE: B



PECKER (director/writer: John Waters; cinematographer: Robert Stevens; editor: Janice Hampton; music: Stewart Copeland; cast: Edward Furlong (Pecker), Christina Ricci (Shelley), Lili Taylor (Rorey), Mary Kay Place (Joyce), Martha Plimpton (Tina), Brendan Sexton, Jr. (Matt), Lauren Hulsey (Chrissy), Jean Schertler (Memama), Mark Joy (Pecker's Dad), Patricia Hearst (Lynn Wentworth); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: R; producers: John Fiedler/Mark Tarlov; Fine Line Features; 1998)

Tasteless drivel. An unfunny satire of Manhattan's art scene, as Furlong is a Baltimore hamburger flipper and a compulsive photographer. He is discovered by Taylor's NYC gallery owner when visiting his fast-food place workplace and he becomes an unwilling celebrity. There is no edge to this rags-to-riches farce. It is kitsch at its worst. An embarrassment to watch it try to be so cute and appealing. It was that bad. Pecker is so named because he pecks at his food...though, the implication of  pecker...is the little joke of the director's. GRADE: D



PEDDLER, THE (director/writer/editor: Mohsen Makhmalbaf; screenwriter: based on the story by Alberto Moravia; cinematographers: Homayun Payvar/Ali Reza Zarrindast/Mehrdad Fakhimi; music: Madjid Entezami; cast: Behzad Behzadpour, Zohreh Sarmadi, Esmail Soltanian, Morteza Zarrabi,  Moharram Zaynalzadeh; Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; Facets Video; 1987-Iran-in Farsi with English subtitles)

An episodic film by the politically motivated Iranian Mohsen Makhmalbaf that tells three bleak stories about social issues in the modern day slums of Tehran, with each story more depressing than the other and without the benefit of any humor. It's a film of tremendous raw power that might satisfy those who can take looking at such agonizing subject matters without feeling queasy. There's a pickled fetus slowly turning in a jar, sheep slaughtered, and the showing of the elderly left to rot. The point made is that mankind only awaits death. The first story is about an impoverished and uneducated naive couple who are cousins. They attempt to find someone to adopt their newborn daughter. They have three children who were born as cripples and with the birth of their new daughter they are afraid she will also be crippled. There is one frightening scene where the mother is trapped in a children's mental ward and they are all laughing maniacally at her. The second part is an even more unpleasant tale about a mentally retarded young man who takes care of his elderly invalid, mute, senile mother. The third part is about an Afghan peddler, who expects to be killed by the criminals who supply him after he witnessed a gangland murder. It plays as a noirish-like fantasy, as the peddler is driven mad by his disturbing visions. Reportedly Makhmalbaf explained that the film dealt with the three stages of existence--birth, "the journey through life," and death. They are all shot in different styles and with different cinematographers. GRADE: B-



PEOPLE WILL TALK (director/writer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz; screenwriter: from the play Dr. Praetorius by Curt Goetz; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editor: Barbara McLean; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Cary Grant (Dr. Noah Praetorius), Jeanne Crain (Debbie Higgins), Walter Slezak (Prof. Barker), Hume Cronyn (Prof. Elwell), Sidney Blackmer (Arthur Higgins), Finlay Currie (Shunderson); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Darryl F. Zanuck; 20th Century Fox; 1951)

Mankiewicz's urbane romantic-comedy, with satirical references to the Senator McCarthy era of witch hunting. Crain is the unmarried, pregnant woman Grant falls for. One of Cary's best roles. GRADE: B



PERCEVAL LE GALLOIS (director/writer: Eric Rohmer; screenwriter: from the book Perceval ou le Conte del Graal by Chrétien de Troyes; cinematographer: Nestor Almendros; editor: Cecile Decugis; music: Guy Robert; cast: Fabrice Luchini (Perceval), André Dussollier (Gawain), Marie-Christine Barrault (Guinevere), Marc Eyraud (Arthur), Pascal Ogier (chant, pucelle, dame); Runtime: 140; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Margaret Menegoz; New Yorker Films; 1979-France-in French with English titles)

The story is based on the tale of the wandering Welsh knight, Perceval, as recounted by the 12th-century French novelist Chrétien de Troyes. While living with his widowed mother the young Perceval (Fabrice Luchini) is much impressed by the grandeur of the knights he sees, and he undertakes to become one. He does not know that his mother keeps him innocent of such tales about knights out of fear that he will become one. His father was a knight, as were his two brothers who died in battle. The father died in grief over their death. The highly stylized film retains the verse form, as its beautiful medieval odes are sung. Perceval's wanderings take him to King Arthur, castles, jousts, beautiful damsels and the Holy Grail. He has strange relationships with several of the damsels, one of whom he forces himself upon. Apparently mom gave him this advice so that he wouldn't be deemed chivalrous and therefore would be rejected as a knight. GRADE: A-



PHARAOH (FARAON) (director/writer: Jerzy Kawalerowicz; screenwriters: Tadeusz Konwicki/from the book by Boleslaw Prus; cinematographer: Jerzy Wojcik; editor: Wieslawa Otocka; music: Adam Walacinski; cast: Jerzy Zelnik (Ramsès XIII ), Wieslawa Mazurkiewicz (Nikotris), Barbara Brylska (Kama), Krystyna Mikolajewska (Sarah), Ewa Krzyzanowska (Hehor), Alfred Lodzinski (Hiram); Runtime: 150; MPAA Rating: NR; Horizon Films/Facets; 1966-Poland-dubbed in English)

In the tradition of the Hollywood spectacle, but featuring stilted English dialogue and an uninspiring tale. Heir to the pharaoh, Ramsès XIII (Zelnik), matches wits against the priests. He detests them because they have robbed him of his wealth. He takes a Jewess as a mistress, who bears him a son. Political intrigue comes by way of the Phoenicians and the mistress Kama. She is sent to him to replace the Jewess as they plot to get him to go to war with Assyria, which his priests are against. It all comes to a bitter end when he attacks the priest's temple. GRADE: D



PHENIX CITY STORY, THE (director: Phil Karlson; screenwriters: Daniel Mainwaring/Crane Wilbur; cinematographer: Harry Neumann; editor: George White; music: Harry Sukman; cast: Richard Kiley (John Patterson), John McIntire (Albert Patterson), Kathryn Grant (Ellie Rhodes), Lenka Peterson (Mary Jo Patterson), Edward Andrews (Rhett Tanner), Biff McGuire (Fred Gage), John Larch (Clem Wilson), Allen Nourse (Jeb Bassett), Zeke Ward (James Edwards); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Samuel Bischoff/David Diamond; Allied Artists; 1955)

A powerful real-life 1950s expose of sin city in a small Alabama town, right across the river from Columbus, Georgia, and the U.S. Army base located there. Organized crime got its foothold in the town, taking charge of gambling, prostitution, and even of the local government. It used muscle to keep the town the way it wanted by rigging elections and having the entire police force on its payroll. Kiley takes over for his murdered father, who had just won the election for state attorney general with the promise of cleaning up the town. The military is called in using its powers of martial law to establish law and order (the first and only time that was ever done in an American city). Phenix City was established in the 1800s by runaway slaves and renegade whites. This frenetically paced film is well-worth seeing. GRADE: B+



PHILADELPHIA STORY, THE (director/writer: George Cukor; screenwriters: from the play by Philip Barry/Donald Ogden Stewart/Waldo Salt-   uncredited; cinematographer: Joseph Ruttenberg; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Cary Grant (C. K. Dexter Haven), Katharine Hepburn (Tracy Samantha Lord), James Stewart (Macaulay (Mike) Connor), Ruth Hussey (Elizabeth (Liz) Imbrie), John Howard (George Kittredge), Roland Young (Uncle Willie), John Halliday (Seth Lord), Virginia Weidler (Dinah Lord), Mary Nash (Margaret Lord), Henry Daniell (Sidney Kidd); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz; MGM; 1940)

A socialite's wedding is threatened by scandal in this truly funny romantic comedy. The acting is superb and the directing is top-notch. Modern comedies could not go wrong if they used this film as an example of how to do comedy. GRADE: B+



PICCADILLY JIM (director: Robert Z. Leonard; screenwriter: from the book Piccadilly Jim by P. G. Wodehouse/Charles Brackett; cinematographer: Joseph Ruttenberg; editor: William S. Gray; music: William Axt; cast: Robert Montgomery (James 'Jim' Crocker, Jr., aka Jim Bayliss), Eric Blore (Bayliss, Jim's Butler), Frank Morgan (James Crocker, Sr., aka Count Olav Osric), Billie Burke (Eugenia Willis, Nesta's Sister), Madge Evans (Ann Chester), Cora Witherspoon (Nesta Pett, Ann's Aunt), Robert Benchely (Bill Macon), Ralph Forbes (Lord Frederick 'Freddie' Priory); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Robert Z. Leonard/Harry Rapf; MGM; 1936-UK)

Snappy dialogue abounds in this P.G. Wodehouse comedy and light-hearted romance, as Frank (the father) wants to marry into this very rich family. They reject him because he is just a ham actor. His cartoonist son (Montgomery), not realizing it at the time, is in love with this same family's niece (Madge). He puts them all off when they find out that he is the "Piccadilly Jim" who unmercifully caricatures them in the newspaper after both he and his father are rejected by them, thus making them the laughing stock of London. This film is certainly charming and witty enough to pull off this agreeable but inane farce. GRADE: C+



PIERROT LE FOU (director/writer: Jean-Luc Godard; screenwriter: from the book Obsession by Lionel White; cinematographer: Raoul Coutard; editor: Francoise Collin; music: Antoine Duhamel; cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo (Ferdinand Griffon, "Pierrot"), Anna Karina (Marianne), Dirk Sanders (Fred, Marianne's Brother), Raymond Devos (Man on the Pier), Graziella Galvani (Ferdinand's Wife), Laszlo Szabo (Political Exile from Santo Domingo), Samuel Fuller (Himself), Jean-Pierre Léaud (Young Man in Movie Theatre); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Georges de Beauregard; Pathé Contemporary Films; 1965-France-in French with English subtitles)

Godard's transitional film (an homage to Nicholas Ray's "They Live by Night"), whereby his New Wave productions change again, as he makes a film that looks like both a gangster film and a romantic comedy about a bored rich married man (Belmondo) who runs away with his babysitter (Karina). But the film is full of contrasts, and should leave the viewer unclear about its story. It is filled with political messages about the American involvement in the Vietnam War. Its story is not as important as the impression its images make (this theme is explored by reading how Velasquez painted). An over-rated but diverting film. In the end, it leaves you to ponder what eternity is, as the voice-over chides the viewer for thinking the sea and sky can be eternity. GRADE: C



PINK PANTHER, THE (director/writer: Blake Edwards; screenwriter: Maurice Richlin; cinematographer: Philip H. Lathrop; editor: Ralph Winters; music: Henry Mancini; cast: Peter Sellers (Inspector Jacques Clouseau), David Niven (Sir Charles Lytton), Capucine (Simone Clouseau), Robert Wagner (George Lytton), Claudia Cardinale (Princess Dala); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Martin Jurow; United Artists; 1963-UK/USA)

The Pink Panther is literally a precious jewel. Peter Ustinov and Ava Gardner turned down the Sellers and Capucine roles. This is the first of many Panthers. A bumbling inspector Clouseau (Sellers) tries to catch the dapper "Phantom" (Niven), who is trying to steal the jewel from the princess (Cardinale). It's a slapstick comedy, with no hard-edge or satire but lots of fluff like the masses supposedly want in their films. Many sequels are to follow. GRADE: C+



PLANET OF THE APES (director: Franklin J. Schaffner; screenwriters: from the book Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle/Rod Serling/Michael Wilson; cinematographer: Leon Shamroy; editor: Hugh S. Fowler; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: Charlton Heston (Taylor), Roddy McDowall (Cornelius), Kim Hunter (Zira), Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius), James Whitmore (President of the Assembly), James Daly (Honorius), Linda Harrison (Nova), Robert Gunner (Landon), Jeff Burton (Dodge); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: G; producers: Mort Abrahams/Arthur P. Jacobs; 20th Century Fox; 1968)

Astronauts are stranded on a planet where apes are the rulers. The apes study the surviving astronaut, Heston, by humiliating him with lab experiments. There is some calculated humor in the dialogue between Heston and the apes, and there is a raw beauty in the concept of the story. It tries to inveigh us for our ignorance in believing blindly in what the Bible says. GRADE: B


POCKET  MONEY (director: Stuart Rosenberg; screenwriters: from the book by J.P.S. Brown/John Gay/Terrence Malick; cinematographer: Laszlo Kovacs; editor: Bob Wyman; music: Alex North; cast: Paul Newman (Jim Kane), Lee Marvin (Leonard), Christina Belford (Adelita), Hector Elizondo (Juan), Fred Graham (Herb), Strother Martin (Garrett), Kelly Jean Peters (The Wife), Wayne Rogers (Stretch Russell), Gregory Sierra (Chavarin); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: John C. Foreman; Warner Home Video; 1972)

Modern day cowpokes, the naive Jim (Paul) and the slow-witted Leonard (Lee), get mixed up with a crooked rancher Garrett (Strother), who does not pay Jim what he promised him for shipping cattle from Texas to Mexico. This slow-moving, likable story, is scripted by Terrence Malick with a quiet sense of intelligence and a wry humor. This actionless Western is bound to disappoint many fans of the traditional Western genre...it's a gentle satire on the Western genre. It was also made at a time before our politically correct codes of conduct set in, so keep an ear peeled for some slurs about Mexicans. GRADE: B-



POPEYE (director/writer: Robert Altman; screenwriter: Jules Feiffer/based on the cartoon of Ed C. Seegar; cinematographer: Giuseppe Rotunno; editors: John W. Holmes/David Simmons; music: Van Dyke Parks; cast: Robin Williams (Popeye), Shelley Duvall (Olive Oyl), Ray Walston (Poopdeck Pappy), Paul Dooley (Wimpy), Paul L. Smith (Bluto), Richard Libertini (Geezil), Donald Moffat (Taxman), Linda Hunt (Mrs. Oxheart); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Robert Evans; Paramount; 1980)

Popeye (Williams) comes back to Sweethaven to find his father, in Altman's musical take on Ed Seegar's popular cartoon. Popeye mumbles his snide comments in a dialect that is not recognizable, at least, as any that I am familiar with. He takes snipes at the tax collector, bullies, and the social malaise of the town. He also takes Olive Oyl (Duvall) away from her soon to be spouse, the strong-arm for the tax man, Bluto (Smith). Duvall is just great in her role, capturing the cartoonish expressions and comic nature of her character. Sweetpea is the little pod that binds them together, as they adopt this little tyke who was abandoned at their feet. Altman has created a most innovative and interesting Popeye. I found it to be a very funny and energetic film. GRADE: B+


PRINCESS TAM TAM (director: Edmond Greville; screenwriter: Pepito Abatino; cinematographer: Georges Benoît; editor: Jean Feyte; music: Jacques Dallin/Walter Goehr/Eliseo Grenet/Alain Romans; cast: Josephine Baker (Alwina), Albert Prejean (Max de Mirecourt), Robert Arnoux (Coton), Germaine Aussey (Lucie de Mirecourt), Viviane Romance (Lucie's Friend), Georges Péclet (Dar), Jean Galland (Maharajah); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arys Nissotti; Kino International; 1935-France-in French with English subtitles)

Baker takes on the Pygmalion role by posing as an exotic princess for a writer, who is using her to write a novel and make his flirtatious wife jealous. Baker is whimsical and musical and alluringly coy, bringing magic to the screen. The film has a very natural feel and grace to it. GRADE: B


PRODUCERS, THE (director/writer: Mel Brooks; cinematographer: Joseph Coffey; editor: Ralph Rosenblum; music: John Morris; cast: Zero Mostel (Max Bialystock), Gene Wilder (Leo Bloom), Dick Shawn (L.S.D), Kenneth Mars (Franz Liebkind), Lee Meredith (Ulla), Christopher Hewett (Roger De Bris); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Sidney Glazier; Avco Embassy Pictures; 1968)

Zero is the flamboyant producer of Broadway shows, who gets backing for his shows by wooing old widows. Gene is the timid, unbalanced, nerdy accountant who does Zero's books and inadvertently stumbles on a scheme for Zero to make more money by producing a flop rather than a hit. The idea being that they sell more shares of the play than the 100%. The scheme will only work if the show is so bad, that it will close after one day. They think they have it made by producing a monstrosity of a play called Springtime For Hitler. GRADE: B


PROMISE, THE (director/writer: Margarethe Von Trotta; screenwriter: Peter Schneider; cinematographer: Franz Rath; editor: Suzanne Baron; music: Jürgen Knieper; cast: Meret Becker (Young Sophie), Corinna Harfouch (Sophie Sellman), Anian Zollner (Young Konrad), August Zirner (Konrad Richter), Eva Mattes (Barbara); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Eberhard Junkersdorf; Artificial Eye/Fine Line Features; 1995-German-in German with English subtitles)

East German youths, star-crossed lovers, trace their love and lives with the history of Germany since 1961. What occurs is a realistic and tender love story, with different actors portraying the lovers in youth and middle-age. The Wall is used as a metaphor for a divided Germany. The film is evocative when it keeps focused on the political situation and on the lovers coping with their situation but it becomes too fuzzy when it tries to do too many other things, like tell the history of modern Germany. GRADE: C+



PROSPERITY(director: Sam Wood; screenwriters: Frank Butler/Eve Greene/Zelda Sears/Sylvia Thalberg; cinematographer: Leonard Smith; editor: William Le Vanway; cast: Marie Dressler (Maggie Warren), Norman Foster (John Warren), Polly Moran (Lizzie Praskins), Frank Darien (Ezra Higgins), Anita Page (Helen Praskins), John Miljan (Holland); Runtime: 87; MGM; 1932)... Reviewed 11/14/2000.

A workmanlike Depression screwball comedy. The film is outdated but in its time it must have been uplifting to those suffering from the bad times. Marie Dressler holds the film together as the widowed bank president who turns the profitable small-town bank she owns over to her son, who is about to get married. She warns him to hold onto the treasury bonds as security in case the bank runs into trouble, but the son turns out to be a dummy and secretly invests it with some shady operators to show his mother he can make more money for the bank. Most of the film is about the two mother-in laws, old acquaintances from childhood who just can't get along, making life unbearable for the young couple who would have a happy marriage if there was no interference. Polly Moran is good in the pesty role of the overbearing mother-in-law. The film's climax is about Dressler saving the bank and keeping her family name intact. GRADE: C



PSYCHO (director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriters: from the book by Robert Bloch/Joseph Stefano; cinematographer: John L. Russell; editor: George Tomasini; music: Bernard Herrmann; cast: Anthony Perkins (Norman Bates), Janet Leigh (Marion Crane), Vera Miles, (Lila Crane), John Gavin (Sam Loomis), Martin Balsam (Milton Arbogast, detective); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Alfred Hitchcock; Universal Studios Home Video; 1960)

Arguably Hitchcock's best film. Leigh is on the run with stolen money, checking into the now famous Bates Motel, where Perkins serves her and his dead mother. The shower scene is one of screendom's most famous moments. On its more serious side it explored schizophrenia and its debilitating effects as only Hitchcock could, without being too clinical. GRADE: A+



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