Blind Spot Series: Black Orpheus (1959)

Black Orpheus

It’s the day before Carnaval, and a young woman named Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) has just arrived in Rio de Janeiro — but she’s not there to have a good time. Instead, she’s run away from her rural home to seek refuge with her cousin Serafina (Léa Garcia). A man has been pursuing her, she says, and when Serafina suggests that he’s simply interested in her for her looks, Eurydice disagrees: “I’m sure he wants to kill me.”

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Blind Spot Series: Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

Make Way for Tomorrow

Elderly couple Barkley and Lucy Cooper (Victor Moore, Beulah Bondi) have some bad news for their adult children: They’ve lost possession of their house, having fallen behind in their payments on it since Barkley stopped working four years earlier. The bank gave them six months to move out, but that time is almost up, and they’ve made no plans for the future. “Your father and I were hoping that something would turn up and we wouldn’t have to tell you at all,” Lucy explains. After some argument amongst themselves, the children come up with a solution. Daughter Nellie (Minna Gombell) “can practically promise” that she’ll be able to provide a home for both of her parents in three months; in the meantime, Lucy will stay with the couple’s son George (Thomas Mitchell) and Barkley with another daughter, Cora (Elisabeth Risdon). Although this arrangement makes sense in theory, it soon proves challenging — even painful — for everyone involved. It’s not easy for the different generations to live together, and that makes it all the harder for Barkley and Lucy to live apart.

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Blind Spot Series: The King and I (1956)

The King and I Title

In 1862, British widow Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr) and her son, Louis (Rex Thompson), arrive in Bangkok, where Anna is to teach the children of King Mongkut (Yul Brynner). The king has hired Anna because he wants his many offspring, as well as his many wives, to acquire the best of Western culture and knowledge. In exchange, he’s promised her £20 a month and a house of her own outside the palace walls — but when she arrives, she discovers that she and her son are expected to live inside the palace after all. The strong-willed, independent Anna confronts the king, despite being warned against it, and though he admires her for her lack of fear, he refuses to give her the house. She decides to return to England, only to change her mind after meeting the children. Still, she won’t give up on getting what she wants, and this won’t be her only conflict with the equally strong-willed king.

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Blind Spot Series: Il Grido (1957)

Il Grido Title

When an Italian woman named Irma (Alida Valli) learns that her husband has died abroad, Aldo (Steve Cochran) — her lover of seven years and the father of her young daughter, Rosina (Mirna Girardi) — assumes that the two of them will finally marry; Irma has other ideas. Now that she’s free (and, simultaneously, forced) to make a decision, she’s realized that she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life with Aldo. In fact, she admits that for the past few months there’s been “someone else,” a younger man, and she intends to leave Aldo for him.

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Blind Spot Series: Little Caesar (1931)

Little Caesar Title

Caesar Enrico Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) — Rico for short — is tired of knocking over gas stations in his small town. He longs to be like the big-time crime bosses he reads about in the newspaper, and not just because of their impressive wealth. “Money’s all right, but it ain’t everything,” he says. “Ah, be somebody. Look hard at a bunch of guys and know that they’ll do anything you tell ’em. Have your own way or nothin’. Be somebody!”

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Blind Spot Series: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

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During a training exercise for the Home Guard in World War II England, a group of young soldiers decides to “attack” the opposing side before the mock-war is officially set to begin. Among the men they “capture” at a Turkish bath is Major-General Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey). He’s furious that they would disobey the rules, but Spud Wilson (James McKechnie) argues that their sneak attack is more in keeping with the real conditions of warfare, where rules mean nothing to the enemy and victory must be won by any means necessary. Wilson has little respect for the bald, paunchy old major-general, who tells him that he’ll be an old gentleman too in forty years’ time. “In 1983, at least I shall be able to say that forty years ago I was a fellow of enterprise,” the younger man replies — which promptly gets him knocked into a pool.

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Blind Spot Series: Laura (1944)

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When advertising executive Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) is murdered shortly before her wedding day, police detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) must figure out who’s responsible. Among the suspects are her fiance, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), a man with a shady past and possibly a shady present as well; her aunt, Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson), whose house Carpenter frequents; and columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), who acted as a sort of Pygmalion to Laura and was fiercely possessive. He had no shortage of potential rivals. “Wherever we went, she stood out,” he tells McPherson. “Men admired her. Women envied her.” As McPherson delves into her life, interviewing the people who knew her and sifting through the items in her apartment, even he, despite his cynicism, finds himself falling for her.

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Blind Spot Series: Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

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At a luxurious, baroque hotel, a man (Giorgio Albertazzi) confronts a woman (Delphine Seyrig) and claims that they were acquainted last year at Frederiksbad. When she says that she’s never been to Frederiksbad, he acknowledges that it might have been Karlstadt or Marienbad or Baden-Salsa, or even the very room where they’re now talking, and it’s also possible that it happened more than a year ago. Still, he insists that it’s true and tells her everything he remembers about their time together, about the way she looked and their surroundings and the conversations they had and the plans they made. She, meanwhile, keeps denying that she recalls any part of it.

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Twelve Classics for 2017

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As I did this year, I’ll be participating in the Blind Spot Series in 2017. Every month, I’ll watch a new-to-me classic film and write up my thoughts afterwards. Here’s my list:

If you’re interested in taking part, more information can be found at The Matinee.

Blind Spot Series: Metropolis (1927)

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The futuristic city of Metropolis is two worlds in one. Above ground, the privileged portion of the populace, including wealthy businessmen and their sons, leads a life of pleasure and ease; meanwhile, deep under the earth’s surface, workers toil away for hours and hours at backbreaking jobs in order to make that lifestyle possible, never getting to partake in the fruits of their labor. A young man named Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) — whose powerful father, Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), made Metropolis what it is — is blissfully ignorant of the workers’ misery until one day when he pays a visit to the city’s Eternal Gardens. His frolics with the women there are interrupted by the appearance of an unknown, simply dressed woman (Brigitte Helm) and a group of ragged children. “Look! These are your brothers!” she tells her young followers, the offspring of the workers. They’re all quickly shown the door, but Freder is both smitten and intrigued, and he decides to chase after her.

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