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Darren H

Make Way for Tomorrow

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Persona   

Beautiful film. Thanks, Darren. You'll now have another voter ranking it as high as I possibly can.

If I recall correctly, the opening family scene is at a Christmas gathering, an apt setting for one of the film's themes of appearances versus reality of honor, unity, and compassion within families.

The opening scene is at Christmas, and as soon as we get a first glimpse of the house in the snow and the "children" wandering in, the orchestra briefly breaks into, "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells," and that's all we get. From there, it's straight back to a regular score.

You're killing me, Russ. My relationship with my parents isn't as close or as tender as any of us would like it to be. Now that I've become a dad, I look at Rory and am almost overwhelmed by how deeply and powerfully I desire to have a close, lifelong relationship with her. And yet, it's not like a switch has been thrown in this other essential bond in my life. I have a new understanding of my parents' desire to know me, and I have a different kind of empathy for their marriage, but it doesn't make the hard parts of building intimacy with them any easier. That's the everyday tragedy at the heart of the film, I guess.

Yes. And I'm right there, too, trying to figure out how to regard my parents with the measure of tenderness and attention that I'd long to have my daughters give me when they are adults. But saying the obvious-- that we have to work at it-- is part of what's most painful. You don't have to work at loving your daughter, or I, mine. It's so fluid and automatic.

You've expressed this quite well, Russ. I think you've nailed one of the things I responded to and have actually thought quite a bit about lately. That when I look at my kids and how much I love them and want to form a bond to be with them forever, I then think of what a rat I've been so many times through the years to my parents. This has been on my mind so much lately that I called them less than two weeks ago and apologized for -- well, for a lot. So it was good timing for me to see this as well. I love it when life's timing and a film's theme collide and simply work on you, that is one of the true joys of cinema.

Edited by Persona

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I watched it this week too. Tokyo Story will never seem quite the same to me.

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Saw it today. Thanks Darren and others for pushing hard on this; I'm so glad to have seen it before voting. As much as the entire film is great, that last act is just about the most perfect sequence of classical narrative film I've seen in a long, long time. I've never given much thought to pursuing McCarey's films, but this has changed that.

That and I guess I need to stop putting off seeing Tokyo Story.

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Crow   

I also appreciate the opportunity to discover this film. Such a contrast between the children, who are so preoccupied with keeping up appearances and social status, and the older couple, who when we see them together, are simply being. Their affection toward each other is rich, and they understand what is really important in life.

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I really appreciated the perspective given by Bogdanovich in the Criterion extras. As I didn't know much about McCarey before seeing that, it was quite astonishing to learn that he's the same guy who directed Duck Soup and An Affair to Remember. Further, I was surprised by how much makeup the leads were wearing to appear older; they were quite persuasive in the film.

The dancing scene near the end was very moving. Even though he never says a word, the conductor makes a powerful impression.

His subtle nod from the platform to Bart is a beautiful thing.

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Darren H   

Barkley (singing): "Let me call you 'Sweetheart,' I'm in love with you. Let me hear you whisper that you love me too."

Lucy (whispering): "I love you too."

Darren (gasping for breath amidst all the sobbing)

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Persona   

My dad ruined that scene for me. Whenever I hear that song, all I can hear is him singing:

"Let me call you sweetheart...

I forgot... your... name..." :)

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Russ   

You've expressed this quite well, Russ. I think you've nailed one of the things I responded to and have actually thought quite a bit about lately. That when I look at my kids and how much I love them and want to form a bond to be with them forever, I then think of what a rat I've been so many times through the years to my parents. This has been on my mind so much lately that I called them less than two weeks ago and apologized for -- well, for a lot. So it was good timing for me to see this as well. I love it when life's timing and a film's theme collide and simply work on you, that is one of the true joys of cinema.

Isn't it fantastic that before we see that opening Currier and Ives shot, an image shortly to be debunked, dismantled and discarded, McCarey grounds what we're about to see in the Fifth Commandment? And that when I'm done having my insides churned up by the film, I'm left with that title card pronouncement and the conclusion that what happens to these two ordinary, noble people is not just a consequence of a fallen world, but also the result of some singular or repeated breaking of God's Law. That's a terribly powerful cudgel, particularly for a group of cinephiles like this one. Take Tokyo Story as a westerner. You can easily crawl around inside its humanism and come away with an appreciation of the cultural and instrinsic value of one's ancestors. Postwar Japan, industrialization, yeah yeah. But those elements can have a minimizing effect on the film's significance. You stand up the Decalogue next to those things and it rises above those skyscrapers in the Big City establishing shot.

[Aside: how many exterior or establishing shots are there in the film? Less than five, right? Is each one, in its way, sort of a lie?]

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SDG   
Isn't it fantastic that before we see that opening Currier and Ives shot, an image shortly to be debunked, dismantled and discarded, McCarey grounds what we're about to see in the Fifth Commandment?

...you shall not kill?

[Catholic-Protestant conversion algorithm]

...oh, I see.

I'll be watching this film very, very soon.

Edited by SDG

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Russ   

Isn't it fantastic that before we see that opening Currier and Ives shot, an image shortly to be debunked, dismantled and discarded, McCarey grounds what we're about to see in the Fifth Commandment?

...you shall not kill?

[Catholic-Protestant conversion algorithm]

...oh, I see.

I'll be watching this film very, very soon.

Haha, well, as a Lutheran, we follow the Catholic enumeration. So that's just an old-fashioned error.

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Isn't it fantastic that before we see that opening Currier and Ives shot, an image shortly to be debunked, dismantled and discarded, McCarey grounds what we're about to see in the Fifth Commandment?

...you shall not kill?

[Catholic-Protestant conversion algorithm]

...oh, I see.

I'll be watching this film very, very soon.

You're going to love it, SDG.

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I watched this yesterday. Maybe not the best thing for my 60th birthday. I have perspectives of both the parents and the kids. I've put my mother into an assisted living facility - something that I lobbied my brothers about long before we finally got on the same page. It was something she didn't want to do. It meant leaving the house she lived in over 50 years - a place that she connected with far more than I connect to any house. It was more than a house for her. It was a symbol of love, of family, of success.

To be sure, the AL facility is far better than the home for old women that Lucy will be going to. But in no way will I see moving her out of her home as an abrogation of filial responsibility.

At the same time, I can relate to the parents. That time of needing my sons to play a more controlling role in my life is not near - but it is clearly on this side of the horizon. It's not a pleasant thought. Not because they will fail to do what they must, but because there really is an emotional twist in that shifting of relationship. (There's quite a bit of twist in taking on a parent's care as well.)

So for me, although there were great points of connection, I found it overall a bit shallow.

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Russ   

Shallow? Hmm. That seems an odd choice of adjective. I mean, there are lots of valid criticisms of the film, including looking askance at the way it plays us like a fiddle, but I'd need you to give me more to convince me of the film's shallowness.

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Ruggles of Red Gap: The Social Mythos of Leo McCarey

McCarey is frequently characterized as a defender of bourgeois/capitalist American democracy. And, to the extent that “democracy” serves as a powerful metaphor for social tolerance and flexibility, this is certainly true. But “America,” as a metaphoric social entity, is hardly immune in McCarey from those dangers of rigidity and complacency which beset and threaten St. Dominic’s (and hence civilization) in Going My Way. Witness, for example, Putting Pants on Philip, where Piedmont Mumblethunder’s overdeveloped sense of bourgeois self-importance is called into question by the European vitality of young Philip. Or consider the conflict between free enterprise and Christian charity in Good Sam: bourgeois capitalism (in the person of the owner of the department store where Sam works) hardly escapes unscathed. Indeed, as evidenced by Six of a Kind, The Milky Way, and Make Way for Tomorrow, the economic aspect of American democracy is generally presented by McCarey as being rigidly dedicated to the service of self-interest, and self-interest of any sort is anathema in McCarey when it conflicts with the rights and well-being of others. McCarey is thus for individuals; but individuals inevitably have social and familial responsibilities which disallow mere self-indulgence. Indeed, McCarey’s characters are often most truly themselves when they willingly put their selves at hazard (as in Once upon a Honeymoon).

All of which is relevant to Ruggles of Red Gap because Ruggles is arguably McCarey’s most personal, most social, and most idealistic film. Put another way, in Ruggles of Red Gap McCarey explores the relationship between personality and society, and does so in an idealistic literary context which asserts the essential identity of personal and social imperatives.

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SDG   

Blu-ray from Criterion coming May 12.  

 

My new review, via Crux, where it carries the headline "A Catholic director’s forgotten masterpiece about marriage, aging, and the modern world." 

 

Any time I run across a list of movies people probably haven’t seen but should, one title I look for is the Catholic director Leo McCarey’s forgotten humanist masterpiece “Make Way for Tomorrow”…

There is a generous humanism in McCarey’s work that embraces flawed characters and allows few villains. Bark and Lucy’s children and their spouses aren’t terrible people; it’s just that they have their own lives to live. And it must be admitted that putting up even one of the parents really is a hardship — at times, the movie is honest enough to admit, even a nuisance…

 

In a pair of standout scenes, we watch Lucy on the phone with Bark in George and Anita’s living room where Anita is teaching a bridge class, then see Bark having a letter from Lucy read aloud to him by a friend, an affable Jewish shopkeeper Max (Maurice Moscovitch). These moments are painful because of the compromised intimacy of a man and a woman who should be going to sleep and waking up together as they have all their lives, whose private communion with one another is now cruelly mediated and exposed to uncomfortable witnesses…

 

Bark and Lucy will be going their separate ways for good, probably never to see each other again. And here “Make Way for Tomorrow” takes an unexpected turn — one that ensures that the ending, while it may be sad, is not merely depressing.

 

In the last act, for a few hours on their last day together, Bark and Lucy briefly rebel against their children’s plans and go their own way. It begins as a sort of lucky accident. Happiness knocks, and initially they start to turn away out of sheer force of old habits. Then a subversive thought occurs to them: Why not?

 

What follows is one of the most memorable and romantic dates in cinematic history. Turning their backs on the looming dismal future, the couple immerse themselves in their shared past.

 

I also used the occasion of this review to offer my own spin on a quote Roger Ebert liked about people getting married because they want "a witness to their lives": 

 

Our lives appear to us as a story: a story that we tell ourselves about our past, act out in the present, and script for ourselves into the future. To share one’s life with someone, then, is to embark on a daring creative venture in shared storytelling. To marry is to say: Let us make of our two lives one story, a story that I will tell to you and you will tell to me. Telling and retelling that story — reminiscing about shared experiences, especially the happy or funny ones — is one of the secrets of happy couples, studies tell us.

On their last date, Bark and Lucy reflect on how they met and where they went on their honeymoon…

P.S. I decided to take the occasion of this review to flex a new external links feature from the Decent Films redesign, so the review cross-references the A&F Top 25 Films on Marriage as well as the 2011 Top 100 Films. 

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P.S. I decided to take the occasion of this review to flex a new external links feature from the Decent Films redesign, so the review cross-references the A&F Top 25 Films on Marriage as well as the 2011 Top 100 Films. 

Slight digression, but our last Top 100 Films list was from 2011?

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Evan C   

 

P.S. I decided to take the occasion of this review to flex a new external links feature from the Decent Films redesign, so the review cross-references the A&F Top 25 Films on Marriage as well as the 2011 Top 100 Films. 

Slight digression, but our last Top 100 Films list was from 2011?

To digress a little further, IIRC, we were planning to publish a top 100 every five years, right? So that would mean we should probably start working on next year's list soon.

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SDG   

Blu-ray from Criterion coming May 12.  

 

My new review, via Crux, where it carries the headline "A Catholic director’s forgotten masterpiece about marriage, aging, and the modern world."

And now it's here!

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Mau   

Where could I see this one? I noticed its not available on Apple TV nor Netflix...

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It's not currently streaming anywhere. It might show up on Filmstruck soon, since it's a Criterion title.

 

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