Nothing to Hide, or Le Jeu (2018) starring Berenice Bejo

It featured truly interesting characters, and dealt with a subject that most of us wonder about, but generally never act in…

Funny, realistic, well acted, emotional, and passionate in equal measure.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

To enjoy Nothing to Hide, you have to suspend your belief to enjoy the scenario. There is no way on God’s earth that a group of couples would agree to this game. -Daniel Hart (Ready Steady Cut)

Nothing to Hide certainly grows more and more compelling as the aforementioned game adopts progressively salacious qualities – which ensures that the picture’s midsection boasts a sporadically spellbinding quality that proves impossible to resist. –Reel Film Reviews

Le Jeu (“the game”) is a French film (on Netflix); it’s a remake of an Italian film. One of the ensemble cast is Berenice Bejo, the talented and gorgeous co-lead of The Artist (2015). FYI: The director of that Oscar-winning film is Bejo’s husband, Michel Hazanavicius. There is also a Mexican version of this movie- Perfectos Desconocitos (Perfect Strangers)- currently playing in limited release at U.S. theaters. To play the game, 7 close friends (3 couples) put their cell phones in the middle of the table during dinner party, and when an email, text, or call pops up, they MUST reveal who and what it was. Yikes!

The couple hosting the dinner party are a well-to-do/sophisticated professional couple in their 40s- a plastic surgeon named Vincent (Stephane De Groodt) and his psychologist wife Marie (Bejo). They have a 17 y.o. daughter- Margot (Fleur Fitoussi)- who is going to a party w/ her friends. Their marriage seems to have grown cold/distant. Somewhat neurotic businessman Marco (Roschdy Zem) and his (heavy drinking) wife Charlotte (Suzanne Clement) have been married 15 yrs; Marco’s mother lives w/ them and helps w/ their two young kids. Charlotte resents her MIL who is critical of her choices. A handsome taxi driver, Thomas (Vincent Elbaz), and his bubbly hairdresser wife, Lea (Doria Tillier), are newly married and seem VERY much in love. They can’t keep their hands off each other- it’s somewhat awkward for the others. The one single friend, Ben (Gregory Gadebois), is a gym teacher who recently lost his job and is dating for the first time (after his divorce). Though everyone was looking forward to meeting his new lady, Ben didn’t bring her (saying she had stomach flu).

We learn that the men have been friends since childhood (35 yrs); their wives seem to be close also. They drink wine, tell jokes (incl. insulting each other), and eat foie gras (which is a luxury food made from liver of fattened duck or goose) and different types of cheese. Marie proposes they play the game, which brings out secrets (big and small), lies, and drama! Ben, for a while, tries to be the peacemaker among the group. He hopes to get some photos of the gang (w/ the eclipse moon occurring that night).

This movie poses MANY questions! Are cell phones ruining interpersonal relationships? Should we accept out bodies as they are, or work to improve them (incl. w/ plastic surgery)? How well do you know your spouse/partner? If something is left unsaid, is it just as bad as a lie? How well do we relate to our children? In one (particularly touching scene), after Margot calls Vincent, he gives his daughter some GREAT advice re: her personal life.


Lured (1947) starring Lucille Ball & George Sanders

In this film noir (directed by Douglas Sirk), a serial killer in London is murdering young women he meets through personals columns of newspapers. He announces each murder to the police by sending them a poem. Research carried out by Inspector Harley Temple (Charles Coburn) reveal that the killer’s verses are strongly influenced by Baudelaire who saw a link between beauty and death. After a taxi dancer disappears, her concerned American friend/co-worker, Sandra Carpenter (Lucille Ball), comes to Scotland Yard (the police), looking for answers. Sandra came from NYC to dance in the chorus of a London show (which closed early). After speaking w/ Sandra (a fiesty, sarcastic, and pretty young woman), Inspector Temple is impressed. He quickly enlists her to answer personal ads, in hopes of luring the killer. Sandra is given a police ID and a small handgun!

There are moments of humor in this movie (which is a remake of a French film). Boris Karloff adds humor to this (rather dark) tale, giving a brief performance as an insane dress designer. Officer H.R. Barrett (George Zucco) is the veteran cop assigned as back-up for Sandra; he and Ball make a fun team w/ good chemistry. While waiting for her mystery date at the opera, Sandra meets sauve and wealthy Robert Fleming (George Sanders). I think Sanders is fun to watch in ALL his roles, MOST notably in All About Eve. In no time, Robert and Sandra develop feelings for each other; she becomes less guarded and he drops his playboy ways. The streets are NOT safe; Sandra is put in danger more than once. Who is the killer? Could it be Robert?

[1] This is a very enjoyable film. What you get here is a lot of talk and character studies. Lured is a good, old-fashioned mystery yarn. The killer is painfully obvious about halfway through, but the actors go through the motions with obvious relish. 

[2] For a serial killer film, this one must rank as the most reserved and dignified ever made. No blood nor gore, just urbane and sophisticated dialogue throughout, and especially from the killer…

[3] The emphasis in making this film was clearly on producing an upbeat thriller which has many of the characteristics of a routine whodunit (e.g. numerous red herrings) and judged purely on this basis, it is very successful and entertaining.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

The Awful Truth (1937) starring Cary Grant & Irene Dunne/His Girl Friday (1940) starring Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell

The Awful Truth

Before their divorce becomes final, Jerry (Cary Grant) and Lucy Warriner (Irene Dunne) BOTH do their best to ruin each other’s plans for remarriage. They divorced (hastily) b/c they suspected that cheating was going on; Lucy learns that he lied re: going away to Florida and Jerry is VERY disturbed upon learning that she was stuck (overnight) w/ her (suave/French) music teacher. It’s up to the audience to decide IF they actually cheated! Lucy meets an earnest Okie oilman- Daniel Leeson (Ralph Bellamy)- while living w/ her outgoing auntie at a fancy hotel. Jerry visits their pet dog (a fox terrier), Mr. Smith, as was decreed by the judge; the dog (obviously) doesn’t like the couple being apart. One night, while Lucy and Daniel are out at a fancy club, they run into Jerry and his date- a wanna-be actress named “Dixie Belle Lee.” She is young, blonde, and Southern; she reveals that she changed her name (b/c her family disapproves of show business). They all watch (w/ bemusement) as Dixie Belle happily screeches out a song; at certain points, her skirt blows up (a la Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch). One day, BOTH the music teacher and Jerry show up at Lucy’s hotel and confusion ensues! Jerry seriously begins seeing a socialite- Barbara Vance- who is covered in the society pages. Jerry tells Lucy that he’s going to meet the parents; she barges in on them, calling herself Jerry’s “sister.” The Vances, a humorless bunch, look on w/ horror as Lucy does her own impression of Dixie Belle, complete w/ a burlesque-style dance.

Much of the film (adapted from a Broadway play) was improvised by its director, Leo McCarey, and the cast each day. This caused Grant much anxiety, BUT it became a big hit. After a time, Grant realized that McCarey was deliberately creating nervous tension in him to enhance the performance. By keeping the cast slightly off balance, the director was building scenes from spontaneous moments between the actors. There is clever/fast dialogue, physical humor (incl. w/ the energetic dog), and great chemistry between the leads. The supporting actors do a good job, too; they add to this screwball comedy.

His Girl Friday

It all happened in the “Dark Ages” of the Newspaper game- When to a reporter “Getting That Story” justified anything short of murder. Incidentally you will see in this picture no resemblance to the men and women of the press of Today. Ready? Well, once upon a time… –Opening title card for the film

Having been away 4 mos, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), walks into the offices of The Morning Post, where she is a star reporter; her purpose is to tell her boss/editor, Walter Burns (Grant), that she is quitting. She got a divorce in Reno (from Walter- who admits he “wasn’t much of a husband”) and had a vacation in Bermuda. Hildy wants to “have a home” and “live like a real human being,” instead of chasing after stories. She plans to take the 4PM train to Albany, where she will be getting married the next day to an earnest/doting insurance agent, Bruce Baldwin (Bellamy- yet again the guy who doesn’t get the girl). Walter doesn’t want to lose Hildy, as a reporter or a wife, so he does whatever he can to delay her trip and convince her that she belongs w/ the paper- and him!

You’ve got an old fashioned idea divorce is something that lasts forever, ’til death do us part.’ Why divorce doesn’t mean anything nowadays, Hildy, just a few words mumbled over you by a judge. -Walter explains to Hildy

What were you when you came here five years ago – a little college girl from a school of journalism. I took a doll-faced hick... -Walter says

Well, you wouldn’t take me if I hadn’t been doll-faced. -Hildy retorts

Well, why should I? I thought it would be a novelty to have a face around here a man could look at without shuddering. -Walter replies

He forgets the office when he’s with me. He doesn’t treat me like an errand boy, either, Walter. He treats me like a woman. -Hildy comments re: her fiance, Bruce

This (fast-talking) screwball comedy influenced MANY films that came after it, from rom coms to workplace comedies. There are jokes aimed at the behavior, looks, and speech of journos (who were almost ALL men that time). I’ve seen this film several times over the years; I recently learned that Hildy was first written as a man (in the play- The Front Page). For the film, the studio (producers) decided to change it to a woman, so there could be a romance (instead of bromance) element. In the middle section of the film, Hildy is at the helm of the story, and we see things from her POV. The other reporters covering the case admire Hildy for her talent (writing); they even bet on how long she’ll last as a housewife! The female Hildy was a rarity for Hollywood; she had a career, was confident, smart, and independent-minded. She wears cool hats, coats, and (menswear-inspired) skirt suits. Grant (then in his 30s) looks great (as usual); he projects charm, humor, and mischievousness in his scenes. Walter (who rarely shows vulnerability, BUT is still easy to relate to) is one of Grant’s MOST known/loved characters.

You Can’t Take it with You (1938) starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, & Lionel Barrymore

This Frank Capra feel-good film (a screwball comedy) won the Best Picture Oscar; it was adapted from a V popular Pulitzer Prize-winning play. A stenographer at a bank- Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur- looking V youthful at age 38) and her VP boss- Tony Kirby (Jimmy Stewart, just 31 and NOT yet a star)- are deeply in love after 5 mos. of seeing each other. His cranky/ millionaire father, Kirby Sr. (Edward Arnold) needs to buy one last house in a 12 block area for a big weapons manufacturing deal. This house is owned by Alice’s kind/free-spirited grandfather- Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore). Barrymore as Grandpa (as everyone calls him) had arthritis and a hip injury; the script was altered, so that his character had a sprained ankle, and he could walk w/ crutches. The Vanderhof family is considered eccentric; they don’t care for money, status, so work at ONLY what they enjoy. When Tony proposes to Alice, she says he should come meet her (unconventional) family w/ his (snobbish) parents. Tony decides to visit the night before the planned event… and craziness ensues!

I watched this film for the 3rd time last week; I esp. liked the scenes of Stewart wooing (or courting) Arthur; they were V cute as a couple and had great charisma. They later starred in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. At this time in Hollywood, she was more famous that him! The scene in night court foreshadows a scene in the later (more famous film)- It’s a Wonderful Life-  all of the Vanderhof family’s friends chip in to pay off his fine. Even Grandpa’s dinnertime prayers remind the viewer of a simpler and kinder type of world.

[1] Vanderhof’s life is full because of his family and the friends he welcomes to share whatever he has, asking nothing in return. He is a rich man, indeed. 

[2] Capra emphasises his favourite theme of the little guy up against the world and succeeds…

[3] You have to be in a mood to watch this, willing to suspend all belief in reality and succumb to the notion that doing nothing for a living is better than having an honest job or worrying about the rent.

[4] This movie leaves a huge smile on my face and I think, unless you’re an extreme cynical type, it will do the same for you. It’s a warm, uplifting comedy with romance, drama, and lots of little bits for people who like “windows into the past.” Just a real treat for anyone who loves getting lost in classic films.

=Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Bringing Up Baby (1938) starring Katharine Hepburn & Cary Grant

Whenever this movie comes on TCM, I recall what my dad said- “it’s too crazy.” Well, this isn’t inaccurate, BUT it’s crazy in a fast-paced/fun way. There is SO much (OK, maybe TOO much) going on in this screwball comedy; you need to pay attention. I saw it for maybe the 3rd time last week; I found myself laughing at several scenes. FYI: Katharine Hepburn had never done comedy before, and was coached by director Howard Hawks (and several veteran actors) he employed. Cary Grant was already well versed in comedy; he also used his acrobatic skills in this film. The two leads have great chemistry; they became friends and even double-dated w/ their significant others (during filming).

She has an amazing body – like a boxer. It’s hard for her to make a wrong turn. She’s always in perfect balance. She has that beautiful coordination that allows you to stop and make a turn and never fall off balance. This gives her an amazing sense of timing. I’ve never seen a girl that had that odd rhythm and control. -Hawks on Hepburn

A young/nervous zoologist, Dr. David Huxley (Grant- wearing thick glases), is VERY excited by the news that an intercostal clavicle bone has been found to complete his brontosaurus skeleton, a project 4 yrs in the construction. He is anxious re: securing $1M for the museum where he works from a wealthy/widowed donor- Mrs. Random. David is engaged to be married to his uptight assistant, Alice. He still refers to her as Miss Swallow; he is disappointed when she says their marriage will be ALL business b/c his work comes first. Who says that classic films don’t have dirty jokes/meanings!?

A lawyer, Mr. Peabody, will make the decision on behalf of the donor, so David needs to make a good impression. Troubles arise when the straight-laced David meets a flighty young heiress, Susan Vance (Hepburn), who keeps doing things which make him look bad in Peabody’s eyes. (BTW, Christopher Reeve based his performance as Clark Kent in Superman and its 3 sequels on the character of David.) The more David wants her to go away, the more Susan keeps showing up, then purposefully drawing him in (b/c she finds him attractive). Susan has a “wardrobe malfunction” at a fancy gathering; such a state of undress was rarely seen in films approved by the Hays Code. David eventually learns that Mr. Peabody is Susan’s good friend (who she calls “Boopy”), and her “Aunt Elizabeth” is Mrs. Random!

The “baby” of this title is a young leopard that was sent from Brazil by Susan’s brother. She thinks that she can keep him in her NYC apt (LOL… and also scary)! Hepburn had a very close call with the leopard. She was wearing a skirt lined with little metal pieces to make it swing in a pretty way. When Hepburn turned around quickly, the leopard made a lunge for her back; the trainer had to intervene w/ his whip to save the actress. This film employed a great number of split screen and optical tricks, such as rear screen projection, so that having the leopard in close proximity to the actors could be kept to a minimum.

[1] One scene after another at breakneck pace, but never a dull moment. As soon as one laugh stops, another one begins. In case you haven’t gotten the point, I highly suggest you see this movie. 

[2] In “Bringing Up Baby” her Susan Vance is a very interesting diversion from her more usual type of character… beguiling in a completely different fashion, playing a slightly scatterbrained, sprightly, charmingly delinquent woman, who seems to have no control over anything; least of all her feelings for Grant.

It’s remarkable to see this absurd little man, bespectacled, unworldly and cutting an orthodox figure played so perfectly by the suave Grant. This is gleefully played on with the sublime scene where Hepburn and Grant are trying to catch the leopard – Kate butterfly net in hand! She accidentally happens to break his glasses and is even more taken with him without them…

[3] Grant’s clearly the superego character, straitlaced and repressed and anti-life (it’s no accident he works with bones). Hepburn was never lovelier than she was here — she’s the id character, all action and movement. We laugh partly because Grant needs to be loosened up, but partly because some of Hepburn’s actions are shocking. Ideally, we should be in the same position as Grant in the movie: half-attracted, half-afraid.

[4] While many films regarded as classics in the ’30s seem somewhat dated now, Bringing up Baby seems as fresh as it ever did, thanks largely to the energetic central performances. Grant is terrific as the professor who gradually loses his inhibitions, but Hepburn steals the show as a self-absorbed young woman who wins the audience over through her lack of inhibitions.

[5] Notwithstanding the obvious physical humor and improbable situations, it’s almost impossible to miss the obvious anatomical references played to the hilt with every mention of the word “bone.” Not only was Grant’s character misrepresented by the unfortunate name, but he seemed to be having a lot of fun while on the chase for the elusive brontosaurus piece – “My bone. It’s rare. It’s precious. What did you do with it?” How many takes do you think it took to get through those scenes? 

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews