'The Women' appealed to me straight away hearing about it. That it had an all-female cast (not seen a lot in film at that point) of some truly great actresses, that it was directed by George Cukor who directed a number of solid and more films and that it had a great premise. Am so glad of viewing it, because 'The Women' was by far one of the best, cleverest and most enjoyable films of all my recent viewings (saying a lot because they have been very variable) and contained some of the best work of all involved. And this opinion is coming from a woman who found nothing offensive about it and accepted the extremities of how females are portrayed, so am not sure where the ignorant allegations of those liking the film hating women have come from.So great a film 'The Women' was, that it was for me easy to overlook any minor reservations about the start being slightly cloying (had no problem with the animal-representing-characters scene and found it interesting) and a few silent film mannerisms creeping in occasionally in Norma Shearer's performance.That minor reservation aside, Shearer is a likeable and beguiling presence, very difficult to dislike. There are also charming performances from Joan Fontaine and Paulette Goddard (quite possibly never better) and entertainingly broad one from Marjorie Main and Mary Boland. They are all outshone by the magnificent Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell, the former plays her role with delicious venom and the latter was rarely more hilarious than here. The cast do make this film.Cukor is also in his element and gets the best of his cast throughout while keeping the momentum flowing and afloat. Alongside the cast, another huge strength is the script, can't pick a favourite line because there are so many delicious gems in one of the most cleverly structured, deliciously witty, remarkably daring and funniest scripts one can find anywhere. The story is always compelling, with the third act being especially good with entertainment value galore, while also having some substance in the first. That cat fight has to be seen to be believed and the fashion show of sheer class. Very like the costumes themselves and 'The Women' is just a very well made film in general and beautifully shot.Overall, wonderful. 10/10 Bethany Cox
1939 was a TERRIBLE year to release a movie and have any hopes for an Oscar. After all, GONE WITH THE WIND, GOODBY MR. CHIPS, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and many, many other huge profile films came out of Hollywood that year and in any other year THE WOMEN might have garnered several Oscars--such as for Writing and Best Actress and Supporting Actress. But wonderful performances by Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell and the rest were pretty much overlooked due to a major glut in great films that year. Plus director George Cukor, who was called a "women's director" because of how he handled women and made the most of their performances lost out to Victor Fleming for GONE WITH THE WIND--even though many different directors (including Cukor) had actually worked on the film (producer David O. Selznick fired them faster than on possibly any film project in history).THE WOMEN is amazing because all the parts (even the dogs and pieces of art throughout the film) are played by females. Some ladies might love this since it is a form of giving "equal time", but others might be dismayed because many of the roles are pretty stereotypical and old-fashioned. I assume many of the more rabid feminists out there might strongly dislike the film because of this, but in its context it's a fine film. The only part I thought was pretty lame was the very beginning where it showed the actresses one-by-one and then had them turn into animals meant to symbolize their personalities. This seemed pretty heavy-handed and kind of silly. Also, there are probably some guys who simply will dismiss the film because it's a "chick movie"--but this is a mistake because anyone with an open mind can enjoy this movie.The film is presented in three segments. The first centers on Norma Shearer's marriage and her many friends and so-called friends. It seems that everyone but Shearer knows that her husband is cheating on her with bimbo, Joan Crawford. Through most of this segment, Shearer is happy and oblivious. When she discovers the truth (and this was handled very well in the film), she is torn--she loves her husband but keeps getting barraged by messages from everyone. Her mother, ably played by Lucille Watson (in a less domineering part than is typical for her) advises Shearer to pretend nothing is happening and it will all blow over--a view that seems to be what the film is trying to tell women! This really was annoying. It seemed to say that infidelity was inevitable and women should just mind their own business!! Despite this old fashioned idea, the rest of Shearer's friends and so-called friends also have a variety of opinions and some push her to get a divorce, some push her to ignore it and some push her to confront the "evil tramp" that is breaking up the marriage. Oddly, no one seemed to blame the man--as if ALL men are salivating pigs who can be led anywhere by a conniving tramp. UGGGH! I hated this message, but could look past it because this WAS the 1930s and because the film was brilliant in how it portrayed those who seemed to love Shearer's plight--despite the fact she was a nice and decent person. In particular, Rosalind Russell was wonderfully cast as a viper of a woman who did everything to spread gossip and make the problem explode.In the second segment, Shearer leaves for Reno to get a divorce. Here she is escorted by her sweet friend, Joan Fontaine, and she meets a lot of new friends while staying at a ranch/rooming house run by the always funny Marjorie Main. This section mostly is about women's solidarity and comradeship. All this is deflated, somewhat, when Ms. Russell shows up--as her husband just left her (a smart move based on what we've seen of her).The third section takes place over a couple years. Joan Crawford is now married to Norma's ex-husband and life is NOT as wonderful for this new family as you might have expected. This is due to the fact that Shearer and her ex really cared for each other AND because Crawfor turned out to be a selfish pig. And, not surprisingly, her new best-friend is Rosalind Russell--who has, thankfully, drifted away from Shearer. What follows is very, very enjoyable--with Shearer deciding maybe she wants her old husband back but not until she hatches a plan. How this all comes together in the end is GREAT and well worth seeing.Despite some complaints above, the humorous and ironic script and the exceptional acting of dozens and dozens of great MGM contract actresses make this a must-see film for old movie buffs. According to IMDb, all the contract women at MGM were in the film apart from Greta Garbo and Myrna Loy. If you look close during the dressing room scene, you can even see Blossum Rock--that's "Grandmama" from the ADDAMS FAMILY and the older sister of Jeanette MacDonald.
Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage has scores of imitators that rose in the wake of its success. There were scores of gorgeous women being murdered, jazzy soundtracks blaring and movies with animals in their titles. And then, every once in a while, there's a giallo that rises beyond the pack and asserts itself as a true work of art.Giornata Nera per L'Ariete, or Black Day for the Ram, may appear to be an animal title, but it really refers to astrology (which kind of gives away some of the film). It's better known as The Fifth Cord.Director Luigi Bazzoni doesn't have a huge list of films to his credit, but between this film, The Possessed and Footprints on the Moon, his take on the giallo form is unlike anyone else's. This is more than a murder mystery. It's a complex take on alienation and isolation at the end of the last century.Based on David McDonald Devine's novel - but based in Italy, not Scotland as in the book - The Fifth Cord starts with a man barely surviving a vicious attack on the way home from a New Year's Eve party. We even get to hear the words of the killer:"I am going to commit murder. I am going to kill another human being. How easy it is to say, already I feel like a criminal. I've been thinking it over for weeks, but now that I've giving voice to my evil intention I feel comfortably relaxed. Perhaps the deed itself will be an anti-climax, but I think not."Writer Andrea Bild (Franco Nero!) is assigned to report on the case and to put it bluntly, he's a mess. Ever since his separation, he's been drowning his life in whiskey and women.Soon, the attacker strikes again and this time, whomever it is succeeds and leaves behind a black glove with a finger missing (Evil FIngers is an alternate title). That one finger missing turns into two, then three and comes with evil phone calls. Andrea has to take on the giallo role of the investigator before he becomes either the fifth victim or is arrested by the police - it turns out that he was at that very same New Year's party, as was every single one of the victims.The story itself is rather basic, but the way that it's told is anything but. Vittorio Storaro's cinematography places The Fifth Cord in an industrialized Rome that's rarely seen in giallo, eschewing the historic architecture we're used to seeing. I'd compare it to a less flashy Tenebrae, but this was made a decade before that movie.If you come to these movies for the fashions, well, you may be slightly disappointed. But if you love the decor, look out. I've never seen more spiral staircases in one movie ever before. The house with the giant fireplace was also used for Argento's Four Flies on Grey Velvet, but looks so much more impressive here. And I loved how the modern architecture gives little room to run in the closing moments.This movie has never looked better than on its recent Arrow Video release. It's jaw-dropping how gorgeous the film appears and the Ennio Morricone soundtrack positively emerges from the speakers. I expect great things from this company, but they continually surprise and delight me at every turn. 781b155fdc