Can’t Stop the Music (1980)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: In this pseudo-biographical tale of the formation of 1970s disco giants the Village People, struggling DJ/songwriter Jack Morell (Steve Guttenberg) needs just one big break to get his career off the ground. With the help of his newly-retired supermodel best friend Samantha (Valerie Perrine), Jack gets a record exec to listen to his demo, but Jack’s vocals just don’t cut the mustard. So Jack and Samantha decide to recruit singers from the Greenwich Village area of New York to form a group to perform Jack’s songs. With Samantha’s new beau Ron (Bruce Jenner) offering his Wall Street offices as an audition space, they build a group of six macho men – the Policeman, the Indian, the Construction Worker, the Cowboy, the Leatherman, and the G.I. – and dub them the Village People. But do Jack and his singers have what it takes to reach the top?

Here on Garbo Laughs, I’m dedicating the entire month of June to the topic of Queer Cinema (LGBTQs, and depictions thereof, in classic film). This includes reviewing one relevant film from each decade from the 1910s to the 1990s. This is all leading up to my Queer Film Blogathon on June 27th. Won’t you join me in celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month by contributing a post or two (or three)?

How to put into words my love for this beautiful trainwreck of a film? The first and only directorial effort of television actress Nancy Walker (Rhoda’s mom!), Can’t Stop the Music was meant to be the apotheosis of the disco era, “the movie musical event of the ’80s.” Unfortunately, it was released just after disco had already peaked and was rapidly falling to the era of New Wave. At the time of its release, Newsweek called it “the first all-singing, all-dancing horror film; the Dawn of the Dead of the disco era.” It was a double feature of Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu which inspired John J.B. Wilson to create the notorious annual Golden Raspberry Awards honoring the worst in film. Can’t Stop was nominated in all but one category at that first ceremony and walked away with the Razzies for both Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay. With a film this bad, you know it’s gotta be good. (more…)

Salomé (1923)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: Young Salomé (Alla Nazimova) lives the pampered life of a princess under the rule of her uncle and stepfather Herod (Mitchell Lewis), who has killed his own brother to usurp his thrown and marry his wife Herodias (Rose Dione). However, Herod makes no effort to hide his lust for the lithe and youthful Salomé, who repeatedly rejects the king’s invitations to dance. Instead she longs for the love and affection of the mysterious prisoner Jokaanan (Nigel De Brulier), an ascetic prophet of God who spurns the princess’ advances and denounces her wicked family, screaming epithets from his underground cell. Salomé, not used to not getting what she wants, finally agrees to dance for Herod – but only if, in exchange, he agrees to carry out her revenge against Jokaanan.

Here on Garbo Laughs, I’m dedicating the entire month of June to the topic of Queer Cinema (LGBTQs, and depictions thereof, in classic film). This includes reviewing one relevant film from each decade from the 1910s to the 1990s. This is all leading up to my Queer Film Blogathon on June 27th. Won’t you join me in celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month by contributing a post or two (or three)?

No discussion of the history of LGBTQs in Hollywood would be complete without some acknowledgment of Alla Nazimova. Born in Russia in 1879, Nazimova was already a hugely successful Broadway star by the time she made her film debut in 1916’s War Brides. By 1917 she was earning an incredible $13,000 a week through her contract with Metro Pictures. In 1918 she made the big move to Hollywood, where the star was truly allowed to blossom. Her sprawling 3.5-acre estate, the Garden of Alla, included a swimming pool shaped like the Black Sea surrounded by twenty-five chic bungalows, where Hollywood’s finest, of all sexual persuasions and proclivities, came to enjoy and indulge themselves away from the prying eyes of the public and studio executives. Nazimova herself was a huge proponent of free (and frequent) love; her paramours included actress Eva Le Gallienne, director Dorothy Arzner, anarchist Emma Goldman, and writer and Garbo girlfriend Mercedes de Acosta. Not only did Nazimova coin the phrase “sewing circles” to describe the underground social and romantic network of lesbian and bisexual actresses in early Hollywood – she practically invented the practice. (more…)

Different from the Others (1919)

Image Source: Kino International

Synopsis: Brilliant concert violinist Paul Körner (Conrad Veidt) is only too happy to take on young music student Kurt Sivers (Fritz Schulz) as his pupil. The two men find they have more than a love of music in common, and are soon spending all their time together. However, behind Körner’s polished façade lies a terrible secret: according to the law of the land, he is nothing more than a lowly criminal, guilty of the crime of feeling love for his own sex. Will Körner allow himself to be continuously blackmailed by the sleazy Franz Bollek (Reinhold Schünzel) in order to keep his predilection hidden? Or will he openly accuse Bollek of extortion and take him to court – knowing that his own crime may be revealed in the process?

Here on Garbo Laughs, I’m dedicating the entire month of June to the topic of Queer Cinema (LGBTQs, and depictions thereof, in classic film). This includes reviewing one relevant film from each decade from the 1910s to the 1990s. This is all leading up to my Queer Film Blogathon on June 27th. Won’t you join me in celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month by contributing a post or two (or three)?

If we’re going to start from the very beginning (a very good place to start), let’s go ahead and state the obvious: depictions of gays, lesbians, or otherwise non-heterosexual, non-gender-binary folks were considered highly taboo in mainstream film until pretty recently. A lot of the time, if you’re looking for queer themes in classic film, you’re going to have to sift through a lot of subtext and coded images to find what you’re looking for – and even then, you may be accused of seeing something that may not really be there at all. This is not the case with Richard Oswald‘s Different from the Others (German title Anders als die Andern), which the director co-wrote with the brilliant German sexologist and gay rights advocate Magnus Hirschfeld. (Seriously, look up some of his work; he was truly a pioneer.) Produced during the Weimar Republic during the brief period after World War I when censorship was temporarily lifted in all German media, Different from the Others is noteworthy as one of the earliest, if not the first, unequivocally sympathetic portrayals of homosexuality in the history of cinema. Sadly, it comes as no surprise that it exists today only in a fragmented state, as many prints of the film – along with Magnus Hirschfeld’s entire library – were destroyed as examples of leftist “decadence” when the Nazis came to power in 1933. Fortunately, a collaboration between Kino International and Filmmuseum München has led to a beautiful restoration of the surviving segments and a bold reconstruction of the rest. The film is also given extra context in the intertitles, and any missing portions are described using notes gleaned from contemporary advertisements for the film. (more…)

CMBA Movies of 1939 Blogathon: The Rules of the Game (1939)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: When aviator André (Roland Toutain) returns to France after a record-breaking flight across the Atlantic, he is heartbroken to discover that the woman he did it for, Christine (Nora Gregor), is not there to greet him. Instead he finds Christine’s childhood friend Octave (Jean Renoir), who tries to convince André that winning Christine’s affections is a lost cause. To help his case, Octave convinces Christine’s husband Robert (Marcel Dalio) to invite André to a weekend getaway at his country estate, so that Christine herself can prove to André that her affections toward him are merely platonic. Meanwhile, Robert is hoping his troublesome mistress Geneviève (Mila Parély) will fall for the heroic aviator and be out of Robert’s hair for good. What will happen when the various volatile parties – and their equally hot-headed servants – finally collide?

This is an official entry in the Classic Movie Blog Association’s Movies of 1939 Blogathon, co-hosted by Becky of ClassicBecky’s Brain Food and Page of My Love Of Old Hollywood. Please click the banner to see a list of contributions by CMBA members on the wild and wonderful fims of 1939 – a year many call the greatest in movie history.

When the CMBA announced the Movies of 1939 Blogathon, my first instinct was to write a review of Ninotchka, since my blog does shamelessly rip off its famous tagline in its title. But scanning the impressive list of films made in that legendary year, my eyes came to rest on Jean Renoir’s masterpiece of satire and cinematic technique The Rules of the Game, original French title La Règle du jeu, a film which inspired a passionate admiration in me the first time I saw it in film class three years ago. After a few sleepless nights, I came to the decision to let someone else have Ninotchka; I figured it was such a popular film that it would have no trouble finding a participating blogger to adopt it for this event. As it turns out, little Ninotchka was not among the chosen forty films that my fellow CMBA members decided to write about. I feel a bit guilty and personally responsible for that omission. Nevertheless, much has been said for Ninotchka, and when I imagined The Rules of the Game going completely unmentioned in this event focused on the greatest films of 1939 – well, that was just something I could not, would not abide. And so, once again on this blog titled Garbo Laughs, I show my determination to seemingly ignore Greta Garbo forever. What can I say? I like to be difficult unpredictable. (more…)

Japanese Cinema Blogathon: Whisper of the Heart (1995)

Image Source: Syoutokuumako

Synopsis: Junior high school student Shizuku Tsukishima finds her life becoming increasingly mysterious when she notices that the same person is checking out every book in the library she reads – beforeshe reads them. Putting aside this conundrum, she attempts to write a song for her school’s graduation ceremony; but when she forgets her notebook on a bench and returns to find a strange boy reading it, who then labels her lyrics “corny,” she feels discouraged. Riding the train one day, she notices a cat on board, seemingly traveling all by itself. Following the animal out of the station, Shizuku discovers a magical antique shop which awakens her creative spirit. She meets the owner, a kindly old man – and his grandson, who just so happens to be the same boy who insulted her song! Learning that the boy, Seiji, plans to skip high school to go to Italy and train as a violin-maker, Shizuku begins to question whether she truly has what it takes to realize her dream of becoming a writer. Can Shizuku find happiness within herself, before it’s too late to find it with someone else?

This is an official entry in the week-long Japanese Cinema Blogathon for disaster relief, co-hosted by CinemaFanatic and Japan Cinema. As we all know, Japan was struck with a 9.0 earthquake on March 11, resulting in devastating tsunamis and widespread destruction. Please CLICK HERE to make a donation to the represented charity of your choice to aid Japanese disaster victims, and be sure to click the banner at left to view the other contributions to the blogathon.

The fourth film in my Ghiblithon (see the rest here) comes from director Yoshifumi Kondō; employed as a chief animator on five previous Studio Ghibli films, Kondō was the first director outside of studio heads Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata to helm a Ghibli film. He was being groomed as a successor to Miyazaki and Takahata before his untimely death at age 47 from a brain aneurysm in 1998. Believing Kondō’s death to be partially attributable to overexertion in his work, Miyazaki initially announced his own retirement that same year, only to rescind his decision and instead plan to work at a less strenuous pace (Ghibli had been putting out a film a year from 1989 to 1995, with two major releases on the same day in 1988). While Miyazaki did do a little hand-holding by penning the screenplay, drawing the storyboards, and directing some of the fantasy sequences, Whisper of the Heart definitely feels like a different director’s work; while I think I’ll always like Ghibli’s Miyazaki-directed work best, it’s still nice to see other people try their hand at it, and Kondō does a marvelous job and shows a lot of potential. It’s just a shame he wouldn’t live long enough to be able to repeat his success. (more…)