When quality destroys

She’s Funny That Way, 
directed by Peter Bodanovich

It would be too easy to utter smart ass remarks about a movie that doesn’t work.  I try to stay away from such comments. However at times in a lame flick fascinating things happen.

I admit, I watched this movie while distracted. Had to take a few calls and return a few text messages so I was out of the cinema hall a few times. Every time I was back in front of the screen the movie felt weird. I though I just wasn’t focused enough since it was the Maestro Bogdanovich directing.

As the film progressed the excuses for my subjective “not getting it” were getting weaker and weaker, but I was telling myself “come on, this is just a light, screwball New York comedy, relax and enjoy. After all you are a big fan of mistaken identities plots and that is sort of that”.

Then at the end of the film came a few black and white shots from an old movie. It was supposed to justify and reveal the origin of a running gag.

From the first second of seeing this quote I felt awakened, energized and intrigued. The framing, the lighting the lenses, the composition, the intensity of the actors were right on. (In the Bogdanovich film a few actors were also great.)

The black and white quote was like an explosion of quality on screen. It produced a wave that went backward making it painfully clear that everything prior was lame. At home I researched the quote: it came from a flick by Earnst Lubitsch!

The only question is how could such a learned film scholar and a brilliant director in the past allowed for this self defeating blow proofing his lack of form. The “Squirrels to the nuts” (the earlier title of the film) would have been just a passable “shall we switch the channel, ah, let’s wait maybe it will get better” movie. Instead by the contrast with the quote it turned out into a disappointment that rubs its faults into its wounds.

Sometimes putting a truly great element into the work (quote or no quote) can seriously undermine it as a whole. Almost like a twisted “kill your darlings” application.

On many levels, it is a humbling and cautionary case.



FDR in "Karski and the lords of humanity" 
by Slawomir Grunberg

This documentary is about a Polish WWII hero, Jan Karski, who after being sneaked into a ghetto and a concentration camp, personally informed Franklin Delano Roosevelt about Holocaust. On the screen, when talking to Karski, FDR is presented as a pompous, grandiose figure, who with the exception of a few empty words, didn’t do much to stop the catastrophe in Europe.

The idleness of FDR, and inertia of the allies, who did not want to bomb Germany specifically to stop or at least to lessen Holocaust haunted Karski to the end of his days. He was tormented by the self imposed guilt that somehow he failed to convince the Wester powers, the Lords of Humanity. Seeing Karski trying to deal with this burden is heartbreaking. It is so because he did more than his share in opposing evil, yet those informed by him didn’t act on this knowledge.

The film ends with Karski urging everybody not to be idle when witnessing or being told about bad things, no matter how small they are.