Monday, 29 December 2008

Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window is one of those films that everyone likes. It’s really hard not to. It’s nearly perfect. It's funny and it's sexy - oh so sexy - I mean, just look at those kisses that James Stewart and Grace Kelly share, or the endless number of gags around with the neighbours (my personal favourite being the newly-weds). It’s Hitchcock at the peak of his powers, preparing himself to start what is arguably the best period of his career, directing in succession the likes of To Catch a Thief, The Trouble with Harry, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho. With the exception of "The Wrong Man" I love all of them.

The story is simple. Bored and stuck at home because of a broken leg, James Stewart's character passes his time looking from his rear window to his neighbours lives. And what starts as a possibly harmless pastime becomes far more complex when he becomes convinced that one of his neighbours murdered his wife. The film was the first collaboration of Hitch and screenwriter John Michael Hayes and the second of three with Grace Kelly. And from her he managed the impossible in my eyes, to make her act – all her performances prior to this are a pain to watch, and yet here she’s always fantastic.

I saw the film again recently with a friend on the big screen. Neither of us had ever seen it like that and we loved it. We already knew it by heart and loved it, so frankly we were half there even before we started. The only fault we could find was the colour of the print, which had turned quite dark, especially when compared with the DVD. We were also quite happy that for a screening on a Friday afternoon of a 1954 film, the Cinematheque in Lisbon was quite full, and for once there were loads of young people, some watching it for the very first time – I can honestly say I was a bit jealous of that. Sadly, these screenings still exclude a lot of people. Not everyone in Lisbon can follow a film without subtitles and the print had French ones only. It’s a copy of the Portuguese Cinematheque and they don’t seem to be able to create a file with Portuguese subtitles. In my opinion, it's a pity...

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas - Feliz Natal

Ok, so you have to be over 25 and Portuguese to appreciate the nostalgia, but no Christmas should be complete without this... Merry Christmas! Feliz Natal!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Sunset over the Tagus

After God knows how many years, one of the best places to enjoy the Tagus is back... for a fortnight! After been dismantled by Lisbon Underground 10 year ago or thereabouts, is finally in its place again. Sadly, on the 5th new construction starts. Meanwhile I was there and enjoyed something I haven't been allowed to for a decade. And as you can see, I was far from the only one.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Little things I hate II

To look for one of my books in London, not finding it, become convinced that it's in Lisbon, arriving in Lisbon and then also failing to find it. And I do not like missing books...

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Flying over Lisbon

Living in the UK for most of the past decade, I have lost count how many times I've taken the Heathrow-Lisbon flight. And yet each time it still makes me feel happy and nostalgic. To me, every return to this city I was born in and love so deeply is something very special, despite the fact that I now live in London and have next to no plan to return in the foreseeable future.

Lisbon's airport is located within the city - and if we ignore the danger of that, it can provide you with some beautiful sights. For that you need but one thing - that the plane lands from the south side of the river. I had that luck yesterday, at twilight, and contrary to my usual, I was sitting at the window. I still get so excited every time I recognise the streets from high above. It's a child's delight looking at a candy store. And today, out and about, enjoying the beautiful blue sky, the sunshine, and no gloves, scarf or woolly hat, I felt so alive and almost forgetting other worries.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Love Me Tonight (1932)

An alternative title to this post could be "How can the leads spoil a film". Seriously, how could Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald ever have been big stars? Neither could act, he is barely understandable and none has any sex-appeal. And her singing is completely out-of-place in movies.

The film is a silly operetta-style story, with a tailor under the guise of a baron falling for a princess. It's also an integrated musical, with songs being sang in character, a good 12 years prior to "Meet me in St. Louis". One or two of the Rodgers and Hart also have survived the test of time, in particular "Isn't it Romantic?" which Chevalier starts in Paris, then proceeds to be carried away through the country and finished by dear Jeanette, in one of the best sequences of the film.

Of course, this doesn't mean that there aren't good points, but they are all with the supporting cast, in particular an undervalued Myrna Loy who steals every scene she's in, and certainly the best lines, as the man-crazed Countess Valentine. Seriously, the film could have been so much better if the leads were the character actors...