Young and Innocent (1937), Mixed Nuts (1994), and This is 40 (2012)


I’ll take any opportunity to use this lovely photo of good ol’ Nova Pilbeam again. I was in love with a British girl once, and I couldn’t understand a thing she said–and she wasn’t trashy either, she was quite proper and dainty, perhaps the daintiest person I’ve ever met. But I couldn’t understand anything she said. Brits talk differently amongst themselves than how they talk around Americans–that’s true. It’s hard to catch them at it, but they have this whole unintelligible language that sounds very nice, but it’s all vowels. Watching dear Nova Pilbeam reminds me of resting beside little she, as she spoke sweet words of love and I alternately said “what?!” or just kept my mouth shut and figured I’d just assume all those breathy vowels were probably the loveliest of poetry. Anyway, she was as full of shit as they come, so better to just fawn over Nova Pilbeam and her tearless weepings, frumpy outfits, and dated finger waves.

We each chose a film. My choice was Young and Innocent, a Hitchcock number from 1937 that I’ve seen before. Two things make the film spectacular–one being my deep eternal affection for Nova Pilbeam, two–a long take that stands out remarkably for the period. I get it mixed up with another, that I believe may be in his second version of The Man Who Knew Too Muchbut that’s part of what I love about Hitchcock: his willingness to repeat things to perfection.

In Young and Innocent, the whole film, in my opinion, hinges on this shot–the audience has been searching the room for the murderer, and the camera finds him through this achingly long take that moves from beyond the room right through the crowd, to the farthest wall, right up to his eyes–a technical feat, to be sure, but one that forces every last person in the audience to hold his or her breath until we see the telltale sign of guilt–the murderer’s nervous twitch.

From here, the camera takes leave of all the characters we’ve come to know so well, introducing us to the villain, giving him about as much personality as one can earn in thirty seconds, being the first time that anyone who has gone mostly unaffected by the main characters is given that much space in the narrative.

Hitchcock is always masterful and in this film he’s no less at his finest than any other–he’s my favorite director because he always delights me for a hundred reasons. Marna thought it was silly.

Mixed Nuts– I know, right? It’s getting to the point where any film I’ve seen reminds me of someone I’ve had something with. Not as impressive as I always expected–it holds a place in my memory of a video (that is, VHS) rental place in Killington, Vermont, above a grocery store, and when you’d first walk in the door, the grownup comedy section was to the right in a small corner, and there it was, eye level, facing the door. Well, so, it’s got that screwball darkness that seems in fashion during the late-80s and early-90s, Beetlejuice, Death Becomes Her, Drop Dead Fred, So I Married An Axe Murderer, Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead, Groundhog Day, Funny Farm…hm, I never thought of that age as dark until now…but all those films leave a yucky feeling in me, the Addams Family without costumes.

But what that gives way to, ultimately, is Judd Apatow’s newest one, This Is 40. Not keen on it. Every time I see a film in which I’m the only person not laughing, it turns out to be one of his. Maybe I don’t laugh enough. I don’t give a fuck about the bad language, I sometimes find the naughty bits tasteless insofar as they’re completely unnecessary–I don’t mean that in a conservative way, but I mean, like, honestly, the movie was too fucking long to begin with, and we had to have the colonoscopy/poop-scenes/prostate-exam/mammogram/testicular-check/hemorrhoids montage also? Also there’s no plot beyond people driving Lexuses complaining about money problems. Maybe I’m missing the point.

This is one of those films that leave you feeling edgy though. There’s no moral. It comes from a dark and hopeless place that leaves with little more than a notion that indeed, if you have enough power you can pretty much make a movie about anything.

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