Thursday, November 2, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks - A Stranger

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join in the fun by picking three movies that fit the week's theme, and writing a bit about them.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled Thursday programming.

October was a crazy month for me. I'm glad it's all over and that my life and schedule is back to normal. I look forward to talking more movies with everybody!

SO. To the matter at hand! Strangers can be mysterious or friendly, but generally speaking, in movies they're bad news. Whether as harbingers of things to come or an interloper who completely upends everything around them, you pretty much don't want to run into anyone unknown if you're in a movie.

Teorema (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1968) Terence Stamp is the living embodiment of desire as a character known only as "The Visitor", who comes to a bourgeois Italian household and disrupts their lives. Mostly by having sex with them, and then leaving. But even that description doesn't really do a good job of describing this movie, which is much stranger and more alienating than it sounds. It's a completely singular experience.

10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg, 2016) A young woman has broken up with her fiancée on the eve of a massive, near-extinction-level event. While driving away, she gets into a car accident, and when she wakes up, she finds herself chained up in an underground bunker. The man who has chained her up, Howard, insists that he's saved her from whatever happened outside, but she's not so sure. Who's the real bad guy here? Why can't we all just get along? Billed as a "spiritual sequel" to the "found footage" monster flick Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane starts out as a great littler thriller/character study, but the last act throws that all out the window in favor of positioning itself as the second film in a franchise. It ALMOST completely ruins the movie, but thanks to the terrific performances of Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman, this is still plenty of fun. BUT SERIOUSLY, if you didn't see that ending coming from the second you saw the trailer for this, I don't even know what to do with you.

Cléo de 5 à 7 (Agnes Varda, 1962) Pop singer Cléo has had a cancer scare, and is waiting for the results of a test to tell her whether or not she has it. That's it. That's the whole movie. But, oh, what a movie Agnes Varda spins from such a simple premise! It's a beautiful, lyrical piece on how to appreciate every little thing around you. But why do I include it here, you may ask? Well, that would be because Cléo isn't truly able to process her feelings about her pending diagnosis until she meets a stranger, a soldier on leave from the Algerian War. It is only in meeting this man that she is able to appreciate life for what it truly is. Sometimes, a stranger comes along right when we need them - an impartial observer who can force us to see ourselves from a different, life-changing perspective.


  1. Cleo from 5 to 7! I just watched that recently and it was so lovely. I'd like to see it again just to experience it again. I love 10 Cloverfield Lane as well. I have not seen your first pick.

    1. SO GLAD for the love of Cleo! It's actually very rewatchable, so I encourage you to do that.

  2. I don't know Theorem but considering it has a young Terence Stamp with his disquieting placidity that Wyler used so well in The Collector it sound that at least the lead is ideally cast for the story its telling.

    I've heard of both Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane but have seen neither.

    I liked Cleo 5 to 7 but wasn't quite as enamored of it as I expected to be based on the word of mouth. It was lovely but just sort of a brief reverie. Good catch for the theme.

    With horror firmly behind us this week's picks were much easier to come up with I happy to say.

    The Night Digger (The Road Builder) (1971)-Maura Prince is a lonely woman with some physical disabilities (Patricia Neal-returning to work after suffering a series of strokes which had caused great paralysis which she was still struggling to overcome) lives as a virtual servant to her feeble but domineering mother (Pamela Brown) taking care of her and their large home in the English countryside. Into their lives and strained relationship rolls moody, handsome mysterious biker Billy Jarvis (Nicholas Clay) to cast their lives into upheaval. Maura is at first guarded against Billy’s off kilter charm and her mother contemptuous but as time moves along Maura beings to soften and find herself attracted to him. There’s just one problem Billy’s in the habit of wandering away and disappearing at night which seems to correlate to a series of murders in the surrounding area.

    Knife in the Water (1962)-A wealthy couple are headed to go sailing for a few days when they encounter a hitchhiker along the way. Despite some antagonism between the two men the couple invite the young man to accompany them on their trip. There the tension escalates as an attraction builds between the hitcher and the wife as well as resentment between the two men. When an altercation leads to a mystery things take a dark turn. Roman Polanski’s breakthrough picture, nominated for Best Foreign Film, is a tense three person drama.

    The Stranger (1946)-Professor Charles Rankin (Orson Welles) has a dark secret, he is in actuality escaped war criminal Franz Kindler one of Hitler’s architects of the final solution. One day his former assistant Meinike appears in town and beseeches him to confess his sins, fearing exposure Rankin kills him and buries him in the woods on the edge of town. Shortly afterwards a stranger arrives, Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) an agent for the War Crimes Commission who had been tracking Meinike in hopes he would lead him to Kindler. Suspecting Rankin almost immediately because he shares Kindler’s fascination with clocks Wilson tries to enlist and warn Rankin’s wife Mary (Loretta Young) to the truth. Initially doubtful she grow wary when Wilson mentions Meinike since she knows he had visited her husband. Under increasing pressure Rankin decides to eliminate all obstacles to his freedom leading to a taut showdown. Welles directed as well as stars in this noir set in small town America.

    1. 10 Cloverfield Lane is good, but hobbled by its "big twist", which it desperately wants to be a huge, game-changing shock... except that the title gives it away LOL.

      "A brief reverie" is a good descriptor of Cleo from 5 to 7, and I love it for that. And for other things, too.

      I've not seen any of your picks, but Knife in the Water and The Stranger have been on my list for some time.

  3. I love 10 Cloverfield Lane. I haven't seen the others.

  4. I might see 10 Cloverfield Lane but still unsure due to the fear factor. The other 2nsound great to see and so 60s foreign film..I love it and hope to view these one day

  5. The one I really want to see is 10 Cloverfield Lane. I haven't really seen the trailer in full...only like TV Spots. I know it's a sequel...I hope that's not the big spoiler.