Siren of the Danube

One of the most important Czech films to emerge during the Czech New Wave of the 1960s was The Shop on Main Street (Czech title: Obchod na Korze, 1965), which was awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of 1966 and snagged a Best Actress nomination for Ida Kaminska the following year. The important thing to note is that The Shop on Main Street was not really a part of the Czech New Wave. The film’s directors, Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos, were more than a generation older than the young upstarts of that movement that included Milos Forman (Loves of a Blonde), Ivan Passer (Intimate Lighting) and Jan Nemec (Diamonds of the Night), among others. And even though The Shop on Main Street made Kadar and Klos internationally famous, their other films are not as well known to most American filmgoers. That is a shame because their final collaboration, Adrift (1971), is one of their most fascinating features but the troubled production behind it is possibly one of the reasons it is almost unknown today.

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Two Cats and a Mouse

When a movie is released under various titles it usually means there are problems. It could be confusion over how to market it or a simple case of a movie that doesn’t fit clearly into any designated genre or maybe it’s a star-driven, major studio release that’s too quirky for the average moviegoer but yields enough curiosity value to inspire various promotional approaches to finding the right audience. All of these could apply to Joy House (1964), an international production based on a pulp fiction paperback by American author Day Keene and filmed on the Riviera near Nice. It stars English-speaking (Lola Albright, Jane Fonda, Sorrell Booke, George Gaynes of Tootsie fame) and French-speaking actors (Alain Delon, Andre Oumansky, Annette Poivre, Marc Mazza) and is also known as The Love Cage and Les Felins (the original French title). Joy House was not a popular success at the time (most critics were unkind in their coverage) but it is a favorite film of mine, flaws and all.   Continue reading

Working Without a Safety Net

Alexandra Stewart & Warren Beatty defy gravity in Arthur Penn’s existential noir, Mickey One (1965).

Every actor or director probably has at least one movie in their filmography unlike anything else they’ve ever done before or since and for Warren Beatty and Arthur Penn that film would be Mickey One (1965). Allegedly inspired by the French New Wave films of the early sixties, Penn’s film is an enigmatic and existential tale of a nightclub stand-up comic who goes on the lam from the mob because of a huge financial debt he can’t repay.  Continue reading