WORLD CINEMA: Summer with Monika (1953)

For my second installment of the WORLD CINEMA series, how about we have a stroll through Sweden’s working class towns with Ingmar Bergman’s Summer with Monika (1953)?

A refreshingly honest look at teenage love beyond its summer timeframe, Summer with Monika follows a young teenage couple, Harry (Lars Ekborg) and Monika (Harriet Andersson) as they spend an idyllic summer together sailing on Harry’s father’s boat, away from their hometown, family and boring jobs. When the summer comes to an end, however, and Monika discovers she’s pregant, they are left with the growing responsibilities that neither of them could have predicted.

Summer with Monika has one of Bergman’s simplest plots while holding so much meaning at the same time and exploring its contrasting elements effectively: Monika’s carefree rebellion vs Harry’s responsible easy-going attitude, the town’s old-fashioned ways vs the couple’s desire to be free, and, of course, the longing for a summer love affair vs what happens when it’s over and life returns… Framed by some of the most gorgeous cinematography ever put on film, Summer with Monika puts Harriet Andersson right in the middle of it, with its candid depiction of sensuality and nudity, which was very controversial at the time. Not only that but it also deserves credit for making its main character unlikeable, unashamed and human. In one of the movie’s most devastating scenes, Monika dares you to judge her with an intense, piercing look at the camera that takes the whole ‘breaking the fourth wall’ motif to a whole new level! In a word, stunning.

Binge-worthy YouTube movie channels

I spend a ridiculous amount of time doing nothing. And part of that consists of watching videos on YouTube about movies and television and because the theme here at the Garden this year is unity and coming together, I want to share a few of my favorite movie YouTubers with you. Film nerds unite! Let’s go.

Eyebrow Cinema – In-depth script analysis, storytelling, characters, themes and motifs, you’ll find everything here! Eyebrow Cinema dissects films of all kinds intelligently and with a refreshingly straight-forward attitude. Eyebrow Cinema – YouTube

One Hundred Years of Cinema – Tracking the evolution of cinema through the years starting in 1915, OHYOC focuses on one movie per year, why it’s great and how it achieved its place in film history. 1941 goes to Citizen Kane and ’42 to Casablanca, unsurprisingly, but there are some unusual choices along the way! One Hundred Years of Cinema – YouTube

Jack’s Movie Reviews – Not unlike Eyebrow Cinema, the narrator explores storytelling and screenplays, as well as broad themes and, sometimes, entire genres. Their essay about the screenplay of Chinatown is particularly good. Jack’s Movie Reviews – YouTube

Be Kind Rewind – each video is about a different Best Actress Oscar win, comprehensively going through the history of the nominees, circumstances, individual films and Hollywood politics that made each win possible. The narration is fantastic, exuding knowledge and a touch of humor that frankly makes this channel addictive. Be Kind Rewind – YouTube

CineFix – They navigate through cinema’s history with ease and confidence, compiling massive lists including Influential Directors, Wardrobe and Rule-Breaking Films, with enourmous knowledge and genuine admiration. In an ideal world, movie talk would be like this, open-minded and non-discriminatory. Classic, modern, Hollywood, international, iconic, obscure, anything goes on this channel! Simply put, CineFix is what every movie buff should aspire to be. CineFix – YouTube

Happy binging, everyone!

One Hundred Years of Cinema – Tracking the evolution of cinema through the years starting in 1915, OHYOC focuses on one movie per year, why it’s great and how it achieved its place in film history. 1941 goes to Citizen Kane and ’42 to Casablanca, unsurprisingly, but there are some unusual choices along the way!

WORLD CINEMA: La Strada (1954)

It’s January 2021 and the world is stranger by the minute. COVID took center stage in 2020 with politics right behind it, but one of the best things that happened last year was that, after 92 years, an international film, Parasite (2019, dir. Bong Joon-Ho) finally won the Best Picture Oscar! It was a glorious and utterly emotional moment and, while it might seem small compared to everything else, it was a beautiful moment which highlights cinema’s power to bring people together. Which is what we need. So this year here at the Garden, I will be highlighting an international movie every month. And to start things off, I shall be publishing this as part of the Home Sweet Home Blogathon hosted by my friends Rebecca and Gill. Check out the other entries!

Today we go back to 1954 with Federico Fellini’s La Strada, which was the first movie to win Best Foreign Language Film after the category’s introduction at the Oscars. Perhaps Fellini’s most personal film, La Strada follows Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), a simple, homely young woman, who is sold by her mother to strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn) to go on the road with him and his travelling circus. As they go on their journey, Zampano makes no excuses for who he is: a violent, temperamental brute, who, at the hands of the great Anthony Quinn, never feels like a caricature, but rather someone we’ve all met at one point or another. His behavior is uncomfortable to watch as Gelsomina constantly tries to impress, excite and ultimately be loved by him. Throughout the film, we feel more and more sorry for her as she reveals herself to be one of cinema’s most tragic figures. A helpless, hopeless naive woman, who knows little more than her humble home, and who strives for what the world has to offer, without any idea of how to get it. So when tightrope artist Il Matto (Richard Basehart) tells her that she has value and a purpose in life, we can only hope she believes him…

Framed by Otello Martelli’s bleak cinematography against the backdrop of a bare, wide open Italian landscape, La Strada is a tale of abuse and loneliness, beautifully encapsulated by Masina’s soul-crushing acting, going from happiness to heartbreak in the span of seconds, with just one look. Truly one of the cinema’s greatest faces, made for one of Fellini’s most emotionally striking films.

I answer your questions!

That was fun! I had a blast answering your questions, thank you again for submitting them!

Dina asked: ‘Why is there still sexism in Hollywood to a certain degree?’

That is a very complex question and I’m probably not the best person to talk about it. There are so many factors that contribute to this, and that goes for representation, diversity, sexism, homophobia, racism, etc, but ultimately those things are reflected in Hollywood because they still exist in the real world. The system serves a limited group of people and it has been that way for years. When it comes to movies, we can see that in terms of blockbuster movies, ticket sales, female-led projects, and this is reflected in budget given to male vs female filmmakers, exposure, etc, and it takes a while for things to change. I think things are definitely improving though and cinema/TV is much more open-minded that it used to be. But we still have a long way to go.

Mike asked ‘Who is your favorite actor?’

My favorite actor is Cary Grant. Not only was he a phenomenal actor, but I also think he’s probably the best personafication of ‘movie star’.

‘What are your top 5 favorite films after The Apartment?’

Ooh, this is a tough one. It changes all the time, but for now I will say Casablanca, All About Eve, Some Like it Hot, Rear Window and Double Indemnity.

‘Who is your favorite modern actor and actress?’

Again, tough one! There are so many. If I had to pick my number 1 favorite actress, it would definitley be Cate Blanchett. My favorite actor is probably Al Pacino.

‘What is the most overlooked movie?’

I quite like The Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing. That one doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much as it should. Also The Big Combo.

Jon asked ‘Who are your five favorite screenwriters?’

Great question. Billy Wilder, Ernest Lehman, Ben Hecht, Quentin Tarantino, The Coen Brothers, among many others.

J-Dub asked ‘By reading my blog, would you conclude that I’m completely insane, brain-damaned, a heavy drinker or all of the above?’

Haha, none of the above. You’re a knowledgeable movie buff and critic.

Troy asked ‘How would you feel about a remake of All about Eve, The Apartment and The Aslphalt Jungle?’

Ooh! A resounding no to all of those. Haha.

Did you see the remake of DOA and the remake of Out of the Past, Against All Odds?’

I haven’t seen the DOA one, but I’ve seen Against All Odds and it just isn’t very good. Can’t stand Rachel Ward, and honestly Out of the Past doesn’t need a remake.

Stephen asked ‘What do you think of South Korean cinema?’

Great question. This is something I hope to explore in my new series, but in general, I like it. Definitely a powerhouse.

Sofia asked ‘What is the last film you watched with Katharine Hepburn?

I watched The Lion in Winter this Christmas. I love that movie, but this was the first time I actually watched during the holidays. An unconventional Christmas movie for sure. And a very fun one!

Paul asked ‘Are there any classics most people love, but you dislike?’

Haha, always a controversial topic. I will say My Fair Lady. Not a big fan at all. It just feels dated, patronising and frankly, irritating.

Virginie asked ‘What is your favorite national cinema?’

This is an interesting question, because my new series of posts will have a little something to do with this… Anyway, I love Italian cinema and French cinema.

What is your take on British noirs?’

I love them! The Third Man is clearly the most well-known of them all, but there is a lot of great stuff there! I will try talk about some of them this Noirvember.

What is your favorite cocktail?’

Aww, nostalgia! I think we went to Be At One when you were here, and they do an amazing Pornstar Martini! Also Candy Pants. But Pornstar Martini is probably my favorite.

Thank you so much for your questions! Hope to do this again soon! Carol x

Ask Me Anything!

It’s 2021 (!), my sixth blogging year (!!) and it’s about time I did an AskMeAnything! Woop Woop! You can post your questions in the comment section under this post and I will answer them in a separate post next week. All topics are accepted (except politics), not just film-related stuff, but keep it clean. Ask away! Muah x

FAVORITE ANGRY MAN #1: Juror 8 (Henry Fonda)

He is number 28 on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest heroes in film history, but he finishes off our year-long 12 Angry Men countdown at number one! Juror 8 (Henry Fonda) is the voice of reason. The voice of fairness. He stands alone in the beginning with his ‘not guilty’ vote, purely based on what he considers to be insufficient evidence on which to send a boy to his death. He stands his ground but is always willing to listen and, through conversation, he slowly but surely manages to change the minds of his fellow jurors. He understands without judging and he reasons without arguing. His moral compass and sense of justice guide him on and he stands up for what he believes in. May we all be Juror 8.

Thank you for the love, I hope you’ve enjoyed this countdown and Merry Christmas!

SCREENPLAY BY: Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich (final)

The second screenwriting powerhouse couple featured on SCREENPLAY BY, Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich were not only responsible for one of Hollywood’s greatest comedy franchises, but they also wrote the most iconic Christmas movie of all time and, you know, it’s December, so… fitting. Also, I thought it would be a nice note on which to end SCREENPLAY BY (boooo!).

Frances Goodrich was born in Belleville, New Jersey in 1890, ten years before Albert, born into a showbiz family in New York City. He started appearing in plays and films, while Frances graduated from Vassar College in 1912, after which she too began her brief Broadway career. The two of them met sometime in the late 1920s, got married in 1931 and moved to Hollywood. After adapting their own play Up Pops the Devil, they signed with MGM and enjoyed a prolific run in the 1930s, including frequent collaborations with director W. S. Van Dyke, on films such as Penthouse (1933), Rose Marie (1936) and, of course, The Thin Man (1934), for which they received their first Academy Award nomination as well as wide acclaim for their fresh and realistic portrayal of marriage. Its sequel, After the Thin Man (1936), earned them another Oscar nomination. In 1946, they adapted Phillip Van Doren Stern’s novel The Greatest Gift into the world’s most beloved Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life (dir. Frank Capra), a claim that, at the time, would have seemed ludicrous to anyone who heard it. They went on to receive two more Oscar nods for Father of the Bride (1950, dir. Vincente Minnelli) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954, dir. Stanley Donen), for which they also won the Writers Guild of America award. They won three more WGA awards for Easter Parade (1948, dir. Charles Walters), Father’s Little Dividend (1951, dir. Vincente Minnelli) and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959, dir. George Stevens). The latter was based on their own 1956 play, for which they won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The two remained married until Goodrich’s death in 1984, aged 93. Hackett died eleven years later, at the age of 95.

FAVORITE ANGRY MAN #2: Juror 3 (Lee J. Cobb)

Facts, not feelings, right? Wrong. The film’s biggest antagonist, Juror 3 (Lee J. Cobb) is a loud-mouthed, bad-tempered bully who is not used to having his authority questioned. One by one, he tries to intimidate the other jurors and ends up clashing with Juror 8 in one of the film’s most iconic scenes. Eventually, we learn that his feelings about the defendant (‘rotten kids!’) are really a reflection of his feelings towards his estranged son, whom he hasn’t spoken to for some years. After a fiery monologue fuelled by his denial, he crumbles and finally changes his vote from ‘guilty’ to ‘not guilty’, the last juror to do so. One of the film’s flashier roles, Juror 3 serves as a cautionary tale about what happens when people aren’t challenged when in a position of (some) power. He is also a testament to the need for conversation and open-minded discussions about feelings that so many people refuse to acknowledge.

SCREENPLAY BY: A. I. Bezzerides

The coolest named screenwriter of them all is our SCREENPLAY BY star for Noirvember! Born in Samsun, Turkey in 1908, Albert Isaac Bezzerides emigrated with his family to the United States, settling in Fresno, California when he was two years old. During his time at the University of California, Berkeley, he published a short story, Passage into Eternity, in the Story Magazine, before writing the novel The Long Haul, which he adapted himself into They Drive By Night (1940, dir. Raoul Walsh). What followed was a streak of films noir, including Desert Fury (1947, dir. Lewis Allen), Thieves’ Highway (1949, dir. Jules Dassin), based on Bezzerides’ own novel Thieves’ Market, and On Dangerous Ground (1952, dir. Nicholas Ray). In 1955, came what is perhaps his greatest achievement. Based on Mickey Spillane’s novel of the same name, the screenplay of Kiss Me Deadly (dir. Robert Aldrich) was a turning point in the film noir universe, with its apocalyptic, allegorical and nihilistic style, as well as one of the first examples of ‘the great whatsit’ motif in the form of the glowing briefcase, which is still a beloved trope to this day (lookin’ at you, Quentin!). Ten years after this, he created the Western series The Big Valley with Louis F. Edelman. A prolific and underrated writer, A. I. Bezzerides died in 2007 at the age of 98.