Daily Archives: December 1, 2000

Smoking And No Smoking

The consequences of a housewife smoking or not smoking a single cigarette branch out into a dozen separate destinies and parallel universes, each with its own conclusion, in these two French features by Alain Resnais. Adapted and translated from six of the eight comic plays comprising British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s Intimate Exchanges, they can be seen alone or together, and in either order. The project, a tour de force for two actors playing multiple roles (Pierre Arditi and Sabine Azema), succeeded at the box office when released in France in 1993, and as a unit the two films swept the Cesars (French Oscars) for best picture, director, actor, and set design. They’ve taken quite a while to surface here; some Americans are put off by the curiosity of typical Yorkshire residents speaking French and by the extreme stylization and deliberate artificiality of the sets. Not everyone will like this interactive experiment, but like every other Resnais film, Smoking (135 min.) and No Smoking (142 min.) are definitely worth checking out. (JR)… Read more »

Holiday Inn

Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire costar in this 1942 musicalwhich is closer to a revue, without much plot but with loads of Irving Berlin tunes. Mark Sandrich directed; with Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale. 101 min. (JR)… Read more »

Love Letters

By reputation at least, this 1945 romantic melodrama, produced by David O. Selznick, is one of director William Dieterle’s more potent features. Jennifer Jones plays a woman who suffers amnesia from war shock and falls in love with Joseph Cotten. The famous theme song is by Victor Young, the script by Ayn Rand (adapting Chris Massie’s novel Pity My Simplicity); Lee Garmes did the reportedly lush cinematography. 101 min. (JR)… Read more »

Marie’s Counter

Film editor Sophie Tatischeff, the second oldest child of Jacques Tati, was born during the shooting of Jour de fete and a few years back helped to restore the color version. This 1998 feature, Le comptoir, marks her debut as a director, and to her credit she’s pretty much her own person as a filmmaker. Apart from a penchant for long shots, the only thing Tati-esque about this is its lighthearted nostalgia for traditional French life and its curiosity about the changes brought to it by technology. Marie (Mireille Perrier) purchases a bar for her family’s tavern when she moves into a village in Brittany, and much of the film follows the history of this imposing object and the village, before and after the arrival of electricity, during wartime and the occupation, and after the arrival of tractors. Tatischeff seems more comfortable in portraying the present than in imagining the past, and her film suffers at times from its dispersed focus. But this is a likable, low-key effort with an especially good feel for locale and landscape. 93 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Lemon Drop Kid

Bob Hope stars as a racetrack con artist who has to pay off gangsters in a 1951 comedy adapted from a Damon Runyon story. The direction is credited to Sidney Lanfield, but in fact this is the feature debut of Frank Tashlin, the screenwriter, who did most of the work. With Marilyn Maxwell, Lloyd Nolan, Jane Darwell, Fred Clark, and William Frawley; the film is often remembered today for its Christmas song, Silver Bells. 91 min. (JR)… Read more »