What We're Watching

What We’re Watching – March 2023

We have a bit of variety this month, ranging from classic cinema to the slasher film. Strong performances and thoughtfulness act as the throughline here, and we hope you’ll enjoy reading our thoughts on What We’re Watching this month.

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

evUB9YKE5IPPtQOchcEF6hS90BOMarlene Dietrich roped Billy Wilder into directing this adaptation of the famous Agatha Christie play, and Wilder could not have been a more inspired choice. Wilder infused the rather dour play with much of his signature wit, which all the actors, but especially Charles Laughton as the barrister for the defense, deliver with aplomb. It was no wonder that nearly the entire main cast was nominated for Academy Awards though none would win. Wilder also managed to break from the stationary nature of the play with many moments of physical comedy and inspired gags, such as the newly installed staircase lift for Laughton’s ill character that he rides for both dramatic and comic effect. In fact, the film might go a little too far into the comic and slapstick (a scene where a house almost collapses on Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power nearly sends it over the edge) but Wilder executes those gags with precision, and the drama of the courtroom trial more than makes up for any seemingly unnecessary hijinks. There is also an undercurrent of xenophobia and how it works against Dietrich’s character, who is a German refugee of tentative marital and citizenship status, which is perhaps why Dietrich felt Wilder could do justice to the story, being a refugee from antisemitism himself. If Laughton provides much of the comic relief, Dietrich provides the pathos that is informed by her foreignness but also her immense acting ability. – Eugene Kang

Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)

lARboPKBjhWzWV8p1Dhw9JzR2j5Looking for Mr. Goodbar is a dizzying, sprawling film about Theresa (Diane Keaton), a gifted teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing. It feels like the film portrays no less than the entirety of her life after she finally decides to move out of her parents’ home and live on her own. The men that she meets are all deeply flawed, whether it is the drug-peddling criminal played by Richard Gere or the socially conscious yet controlling and overly jealous boyfriend played by William Atherton. Despite its relative obscurity now, Looking for Mr. Goodbar was fairly popular when it came out. It seemed to capture the ethos of a young, hipper generation that was more open to liberal social and sexual experiences. The pulsating and very of-its-time soundtrack tells its own story of both the excitement and danger of living in New York City during this time period. The film barely holds onto its story, balancing many narrative plates, but Diane Keaton plays the sympathetic yet complicated Theresa to perfection. She may have been the “It” girl of the American cinema of the 70s, between this film and Annie Hall. Mr. Goodbar missteps when it seems to assign more of the blame for the danger Theresa goes through to her own sexual liberation rather than the patriarchy that it was fighting against, but it’s still a valuable document of New York during the 70s. – Eugene Kang

True Love (1989)

cw2JzOuosmvGdpxT8Z5QcnXLQ9cThe Italian-American community has often been ill-served by many Hollywood films, most notably The Godfather, which has been criticized for perpetuating the stereotype that all Italian-Americans have some connection to organized crime. True Love counters that narrative with a rich portrayal of the New York City Italian-American community. The story is ostensibly about Donna (Annabella Sciorra) and Michael (Ron Eldard), a young couple preparing for their wedding, but just as much time is dedicated to the many colorful friends, family and neighbors that populate this neighborhood. It seems no one can go a foot down the sidewalk without running into someone they know. Nancy Savoca mined her own Sicilian heritage with husband and co-screenwriter Richard Guay to create these precise and seemingly faithful portrayals of this community. Scenes like Michael’s job at the delicatessen where he chats up the older ladies to get them to buy more or Donna’s shopping for bridesmaid dresses are not exactly plot points but rather loving details of a vibrant depiction of life. This tight community can be enriching and uplifting, but it’s also suffocating to the leads, who must deal with very personal issues (Michael is too immature, which causes Donna to get cold feet), in what feels like a too accurate sensation for people who come from similarly close communities full of busybodies. True Love has fallen into obscurity and isn’t readily available anywhere, but it should be restored and made widely available. – Eugene Kang

Scream (1996)

7ZigA0vEuUMDXeZdo8ltjov8oRBScream doesn’t waste much time getting into the thick of it. Not even ten minutes have passed before the first gruesome killing. At just under two hours, Scream makes the most of its time. Its characters are introduced and provided with enough backstory and detail to incline us to care about their fates, just to horrify us as they become victims of the Ghostface killer. Scream is credited with revitalizing the slasher genre of horror filmmaking and, even today, the film holds up remarkably well. Its commentary on the media and juicy news stories is expressed through Courteney Cox‘s ludicrous yet charismatic Gale Weathers while the film is tongue-in-cheek and playful. It commentates on horror film genre conventions through the use of horror film-obsessed characters and has a deviousness that Funny Games would later perfect the following year. Yet, Scream knows its limits. It isn’t afraid to mock itself, and tonally it doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. Scream is fun, stylish horror, able to appeal to the film buff and casual horror audiences alike. – Alex Sitaras

L’amant Double (2016)

gVae2YdGORVsP2O5cUgcEIitc6FAfter being ignorant of Francois Ozon‘s work up until 2016’s L’amant Double, I had the chance to catch it at a local festival, and this film truly was a mind-blowing experience, especially since I had no expectations whatsoever. Needless to say, I spent quite a while afterwards catching up on Ozon’s films to make up for my mistake. The premise of the film is very simple: Chloé (Marine Vacth) starts a relationship with her psychoanalyst (Jérémie Renier), unaware of the fact that he has a big secret about his identity. I must also say that the premise does not do justice to the complexity of the story and how convoluted the plot overall is – I found myself randomly figuring out new details about the film a week after watching it. If one is to only watch one film from Ozon (out of more than 20 films), it should definitely be L’amant Double. – Alper Kavak

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