Friday, February 28, 2014

GRAND PRIX (1966)

Centering around a fictionalized version of the 1966 Formula One season GRAND PRIX tells the story of four drivers and all of their adventures both on and off the race track.  Of course you got the expected girl troubles and rivalries, but all of that stuff is only so-so.  The main attraction here is the racing scenes!  Filmed in 70mm with cameras actually strapped to race cars going fast as fuck it's almost enough to take your breath away.  I bet people who saw this in a proper theater back in 1966 couldn't believe their eyes.  I know I couldn't and I ended up watching all of the racing scenes multiple times.

James Garner is an American driver looking to make a comeback but when some gearbox trouble inadvertently leads to the injury of another driver he does the only honorable thing and starts sleeping with injured guys wife.  At the same time French driver Yves Montand is cheating on his wife with a reporter (Eva Marie Saint).  There's as a young Italian driver, but he's pretty boring, even though his girlfriend is hot as fook! 

Toshiro Mifune speaking in English (even though his lines are dubbed), Jessica Walter looking young and sexy, great title sequence by Saul Bass, Yves Montand speaking in English, James Garner doing all of his own driving, nice musical score, strong direction by John Frankenheimer.  I really enjoyed GRAND PRIX and even the melodrama between the races wasn't so bad thanks to believable acting and the beautiful photography.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE (1975)

Two years after he won the Academy Award for his heartbreaking performance in SAVE THE TIGER as a man on the verge of ruin, Jack Lemmon returns to the same emotional territory, but this time with a dark comedic edge to it.  Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft are a middle-aged couple living in New York City.  Both are stressed due to a heat wave, but when their apartment is robbed and Jack looses his job he has a nervous breakdown and Anne is forced to work to make ends meet.

As depressing as that sounds the screenplay by Neil Simon based on his own play is pretty funny and I really enjoyed seeing Lemmon flipping out and screaming at his wife, his neighbors and pretty much anybody within earshot.  Lemmon has always had a talent for expressing his character's inner emotions and that talent is on full display here.  That said I think Anne Bancroft's performance might have been even better!  The entire movie she's toe-to-toe with with Lemmon and holding her own. They were both fantastic.  It was almost like they were feeding off of each others awesomeness.

The movie might be a product of it's time (living in NYC in the 70's), but I think it still holds up well today.  I've never been to NYC, but I still identified with both Lemmon and Bancroft's stressed out existence.  Recommended.