Unexpected Detours and the Kindness of Strangers: A 1,001 Movies Update

A funny thing happened since my last movie project update — I accidentally watched a few movies that aren’t on the official list.

After you stop laughing, you might ask yourself just how on earth I managed that. In the case of The Phantom Lover, it’s simple: I don’t speak or read Chinese.  The movie I should have been looking for was a 1937 film called Song at Midnight, but since I used the Mandarin title, Yè bàn gē shēng, in my WorldCat keyword search, and then didn’t realize there was more than one movie using that title, I accidentally requested the wrong one. What makes this doubly hilarious is that Song at Midnight is, itself, an adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera, and The Phantom Lover is one of two remakes of Song at Midnight.  Layers upon layers of textual goodness to unpack!  However, with its lavish sets and costumes, lovely singing, and Romeo and Juliet allusions, The Phantom Lover is so wonderful that I’m hard-pressed to see how Song at Midnight can compare. 

Another blunder that led to an interesting cinematic experience was mistaking George Cukor’s Camille for Gregory Mackenzie’s Camille.  Instead of a swanky retelling of a Dumas novel, I accidentally subjected myself to 90 minutes of Sienna Miller playing an undead newlywed.  It wasn’t a horrible film, but it was definitely bizarre, and a little unsettling.  After all, if your husband doesn’t fall in love with you until after you’re a slowly rotting corpse, your relationship has issues that probably can’t be satisfactorily resolved in a 90-minute movie.  If only I had read the descriptive essay from the book before I checked out the wrong film!  On the bright side, David Carradine’s supporting role as a sad, philosophical cowboy made the movie a little more pleasant to watch, if still a bit puzzling. (Multi-colored horses?  Really?)

On the even brighter side, getting my hands on the right movies most of the time has been a snap thanks to the wonderful staff in the Film and Audio Department and a number of libraries elsewhere in the country who graciously sent me their films via interlibrary loan.  Not every library can buy every item its patrons want, for a variety of reasons, so it’s great that so many libraries are willing to share their collections, often for no charge.   Talk about the kindness of strangers!  And the ability to request interlibrary loans through the Carnegie Library is available to everybody with an Allegheny County library card, so don’t be shy about putting in those requests.

One incredible film that came via ILL was Karel Kachyňa’s Ucho [The Ear], a psychological nerve-bender about Ludvik, a minor Communist party official, and Anna, his grumpy wife.  The couple spends most of their tenth anniversary arguing with each other about whether or not the Communist party has bugged their house, as well as whether or not the authorities are on their way over to arrest Ludvik.  Beautifully demonstrating the principle that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, Ludvik and Anna scramble around their house setting documents on fire, hunting for hidden microphones, and hiding precious objects in their son’s school bag, all the while taking verbal potshots at each other a la Edward Albee. Just when the tension is about to become unbearable, the conflict is resolved in a “happy” ending. And if you want to know what I mean by that, you’ll definitely have to request the film yourself, or–if you don’t mind being stapled to your computer or small-screen gadget–watch it on YouTube.

Here’s a list of the (correct!) films I watched in this round of the “1,001 Movies” project:

  1. Ucho [The Ear], graciously loaned by the Wellesley College library system
  2. The Cow, graciously loaned by the Old Dominion University library system
  3. The Hangover
  4. Kes
  5. The House is Black
  6. Cinema Paradiso
  7. I am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
  8. M*A*S*H
  9. Rear Window
  10. Metropolis
  11. Network
  12. Slumdog Millionaire
  13. Badlands
  14. To Kill A Mockingbird

This brings my total movie-watching count up to a neat 220, and I’m still having a wonderful time, especially with this round’s wealth of classic films. I’m a little in love with Gregory Peck and not ashamed to admit it, either. I do wonder, however, when real life concerns and the cumulative lack of sleep are going to catch up with me.  I suppose I’ll just have to burn that bridge when I get to it.

Until next time, movie fans!

Leigh Anne

who also somehow managed to finish reading A Storm of Swords and is chomping at the bit for her turn with A Dance With Dragons


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13 responses to “Unexpected Detours and the Kindness of Strangers: A 1,001 Movies Update

  1. Sarah Louise

    have enjoyed your updates. keep us posted!!

  2. Here’s more on IMDB: Yau Boon Goh Sing (Or is it Ye Ban Ge Sheng?)

    Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an English version (not even subtitles).

    But then, you may have received the blessing of serendipity.

    And – you may be heading for an entry in the Guiness Book of Records. (Though why anyone would want such a thing is beyond me.)

    • Thanks for your comment! That 1995 film is actually the one I watched – I was able to get a copy with subtitles – see the WorldCat entry here. As for “Song At Midnight,” I have to decide whether or not I want to pay the $15 the owning library is charging to send it. Given how rare it is, it might be worth it…

      I don’t think I’d like to set a record, at least not on purpose. It’s more about having fun and learning things, from where I’m sitting…

      Leigh Anne

  3. LAV, I also eagerly await Dance with Dragons.

  4. Sheila Jackson

    My high school principal, Sister Joanna, said to my class after watching a “Friday afternoon” film – Arabesque with Peck and Sophia Loren, that Peck was the only man she would leave the convent for. Several years after graduation I learned she had married a priest and I had to wonder if he resembled Gregory Peck.

    • Sheila, WOW, that’s a great story!! Thanks for sharing. Arabesque isn’t on my list, but for the sake of “Saint Gregory,” I think I’m going to watch it anyway. ;)

      Leigh Anne

      • Leigh, and Sheila: Here’s a book you should try to find:

        Movies: universal language;: Film study in high school

        by Sister Bede Sullivan, high school teacher at a parochial school. (I don’t have it with me now).

        She describes a year of film study at a high school (MidWest, I think), sometime during the 60s. I was amazed by what they showed. She started with a Marcel Marceau movie, then gradually worked through full-length movies, including “Birth of a Nation”, “Seventh Seal”, “On the Waterfront” and 60 or 70 others (which I can’t remember). She taught them the language of film: cuts, dissolves, about haw camera moves and zooms came about, &c.The most useful part of the class was the discussions that followed. They were often quite lively; the kids were seeing these for the first time.

        She also screened a lot of short subjects, many made by students. Toward the end, one of her students said, “We could do that!”. She called his bluff, and they went out, got cameras (no video back then). One night, she got a phone call – it was from one of the filmmaking groups – he said they might be in a little bit of trouble – the police were there. Turned out they were shooting a gunfight scene in the downtown area. Eventually everything got explained and the shooting (film, that is) continued.

  5. Linda

    I look forward to your blogs, especially to get ideas on movies I might want to see. Kes looks like one I might enjoy. Three of my favorites actually made this current list: Cinema Paradiso, Metropolis and Rear Window.

    • Linda, thank you so much for your kind words! “Kes” was really good, but I have to warn you – it’s depressing. I loved all three of your favorites, and wish I had time / energy / space to write about them all!

      Leigh Anne

  6. Pingback: Ethical Dilemmas and the Saturday Morning Breakfast Serial: A 1,001 Movies Update | Eleventh Stack

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