Make Way For Tomorrow (McCarey, 1937) and Enemy (Villeneuve, 2013)

We wrapped production on DCP’s second feature film, Crooked & Narrow on Friday! I’ll write another blog specifically for it, but for now check out our Facebook page to see set photos and get all the updates. Or check out our IMDb for info on the awesome cast!

Make Way For Tomorrow

Something about this Leo McCarey film from 1937 reminds me of Murnau’s The Last Laugh. Perhaps it’s the elderly protagonists and the melancholy tone. Maybe it’s that both McCarey’s film, and Murnau’s 13 years prior, feature theatrical (but in their own ways, beautiful) performances of trudging slowly through black and white city streets. While McCarey’s is no expressionist film it’s a look at aging and the perils of loneliness and loss long before Amour.

Some of McCarey’s staging is a little wooden, like this sequence where Lucy (Beulah Bondi), now living with her son and daughter-in-law after her home has been repossessed, talks in the foreground and background of various shots, interrupting a bridge lesson and gaining a frustrated and eventually sympathetic, captive audience. It’s a strong set-piece in its conception, but McCarey’s staging relies too heavily on the bridge players stopping. A stronger director may have played it less as a stoppage of action and with more subtle background-to-foreground interaction:

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 7.39.21 AM Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 7.39.39 AM

There’s a shot-reverse later in the film between Lucy and her son George (Thomas Mitchell) that I really, really loved:

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 7.40.38 AM Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 7.41.02 AM

It’s George’s posture, the angle that McCarey chooses, and his brow covering his eyes that does it. He looks like a pained Frankenstein’s monster, the ceiling low above him, the world warping behind him, as his mother tells him a painful truth. It’s a gorgeous moment in the film – my favorite, perhaps – and the choices in casting, angle, and set design really sell it.

In the end, Make Way For Tomorrow is strong not because of McCarey’s camera (in my opinion that’s never been his strongest point), but because of his way with actors and because of a script that comes close to over-sentiment but instead lands on poignant. The final interaction between husband and wife – after a night on the town that feels like a Murnau fantasy sequence – is heartbreaking:

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 7.41.34 AM

 

Enemy

Enemy is the best film I’ve seen this year. I’m becoming more and more of a fan of Denis Villeneuve, and Jake Gyllenhaal jumps the rungs of brooding actors. I don’t want to say much about it – it’s worth seeing, puzzling over, and seeing again. It’s steeped in ugly yellows and browns, is full of symbolism that could be heavy-handed but instead never detracts from an engaging story, and fits right in alongside puzzlers like 3 Women or Mulholland Drive. It’s existential at its core, and filled with dread from all corners of the frame. The ending is shocking, funny, absurd, and scary all at once. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I saw it.

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About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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2 Responses to Make Way For Tomorrow (McCarey, 1937) and Enemy (Villeneuve, 2013)

  1. Pingback: Best Films of 2014 | dcpfilm

  2. Pingback: Goodnight Mommy (Fiala, Franz, 2014) and Sicario (Villeneuve, 2015) | dcpfilm

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