The man in the white suit (1951)

– Why can’t you scientists leave things alone?

Jabbing satirically at both industrialists and unions, this is a nicely spun yarn (pun intended) with a benevolent though still slightly mad scientist and his Tati-esque-sounding laboratory equipment.

No laughs, lots of warm smiles. Entertaining, if not in my book of slow, deliberate, and elegant science fiction comedies.

– Capital and labour are hand in hand in this.

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Le quai des brumes (1938)

– Against my will, I paint what lies hidden behind things.

Initially discouraged and irritated by the stilted acting, unconvincing sceneries, and farfetched coincidences, I am slowly won over by the many-layered story and endearing »hard-boiled« dialogue, heavy with symbolism and innuendo.

– That’s not real laughter, it is sad.

People meet – sometimes inadvertently, sometimes not – in a bleak and foggy Le Havre. The world-weary deserteur, the hotheaded driver, the happy-go-lucky drunk, the suicidal artist, the nostalgic bartender, the sad and precocious girl, the scorned shopkeeper, missing Maurice – plus a trio of petty criminals led by the equally pitiful and scary Lucien.

– I should return as well. But as you say, to do so would be – awful.

Restored to its original glory, this is a fatalistic little saga of flickering hope and brief, doomed, impossible love. Considered both early noir and a prime example of french »poetic realism«.

– If one is allowed too much pocket money, they never last. Then one does ugly things.

Cynicism – and the love of a dog.

– For every scoundrel gone, society can breathe a little easier. Consider that.

In my book of disillusioned sentimental melodrama in somewhat shady settings.

– I have seen things. I am depraved.

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A farewell to arms (1932)

– I’ll always come back.

Immensely romantic melodrama of the highest order, brilliantly told and shimmeringly beautiful. Light, composition, movement – all carefully thought out and echoing silent movie aesthetics – right down to the Eisensteinian montage scenes.

Gary Cooper comes across as very convincing, while the peculiar expressions of Helen Hayes are a bit unbelievable to me. Still probably in my tragic, wonderful, emotional book of war and love.

– In life or in death, we will never be parted.

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Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

– I used to steal birds, now I’m a newspaperman.

Clever and annoying lead character, endearingly wacky supporting cast, peculiar story. It’s interesting to see Wes Anderson’s signature style applied to animation, but the acclaimed quasi-realistic stop-motion unfortunately doesn’t look as good as expected, instead feeling clumsy and stiff.

Too distanced for me, both visually and (un)dramatically. Not in my book of »wild animals«.


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Joker (2019)

Does society create monsters, or only let them loose? »He who gets slapped« slaps back in this emotional tour de force by Joaquin Phoenix. Politically ham-fisted, psychologically instrumental, marred by lazy script details – maybe my expectations were too high?

All in all a suggestive study of character and body language. Only maybe in my book of clowns, origins, and mental issues, though. And why 1981?

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Helvetica (2007)

Used in the logotypes of American Apparel, Lufthansa, Panasonic, Scotch, 3M, Jackass, The Office, Target, Crate & Barrel, Texaco, Knoll, Sears, Toyota, BMW, Kawasaki, Tupperware, Nestlé, Verizon, Muji, Energizer, Con Edison – to name only a famous few. Challenged through the decades by (for example) Univers, Arial, Verdana, Calibri, and Source Sans, but Helvetica still holds its ground reasonably even if it is not even nearly as common as in the seventies.

Witness the rise, decline, and (at least partial) resurrection of corporate typography’s mid-century modernist monster! Opinions about the swiss success story vary through this lovable nerdfest, but all interviewees agree on its ubiquitousness – »like air«, »like gravity«, »like offwhite«, »hard to evaluate«, »it’s just there«, »there’s no choice«, »it’s a club«, and so on. But does this stem from inherent qualities, or is it more a matter of technological progress, type trends, business opportunities, licensing issues, sheer availability, coincidences, or just pure luck? Would have appreciated more investigative journalism here, see links below.

Still a must for typophiles. In my book of feature-length font fetishism.

Related readings:

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He who gets slapped (1924)

– You’d be happy if you were only in love.
– It is when we are happiest that life strikes us.

Betrayed, ridiculed, devastated, reinvented – the ultimate tragic clown?

– This is a circus – love must wait – the performance must go on!

A grotesque performance act that isn’t funny at all.

– I say serious things – and people laugh at me.

The world turns, but broken hearts never really mend.

– Let us drink to – the one who laughs last!

Not exactly subtle, crammed with overt and often bizarre symbolism.

– Come, my friend – give me the last slap!

The sentimental and tragic finale is truly fitting.

– A fool is always smiling.

Not in my book, but laden with beautiful imagery and pregnant lines that will stay with me.

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The father (2020)

– Who exactly am I?

Dwellings, faces, events – all in flux and (almost) repetition. Theatre scriptwriter/director Florian Zeller creates a suspenseful, almost thrillerish everyday mood in his debut on the big screen.

A brilliant, tender, and concentrated study of a deteriorating mind – and what it does to those around. Both confusing and convincing. Almost strong enough for my book of dementia.

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Dunungen (1919)

From silly farce to high-strung sentimental melodrama, this evolves into something more complex than expected. It’s a strange little saga with peculiar characters – especially the female lead. The storytelling is far too slow and at times almost painfully tedious, but the wonderfully overdone body language somehow makes up for it – especially director/actor Ivan Hedqvist is a terrible beast to behold as temperamental uncle Teodor!

Flawed entertainment with a serious touch – interesting if not in my book. And bonus points for stylish intertitles.

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Orca (2020)

Family. Relatives. Friends. Colleagues. Eleven characters can only connect and interact digitally in times of forced social distance, showcasing different aspects of loneliness in front of their omnipresent screens. The storytelling works well despite (or because of?) the actors’ almost total confinement in their own physical spaces.

Quickly conceived and executed during the coronavirus pandemic. No masterpiece, but maybe a minor future classic given its high sign-of-the-times factor. Not in my book for today, though.

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