XL Popcorn – Only Angels Have Wings / Gabbeh

Two weeks later and this is no longer a wrist problem, but my whole right arm and shoulder. The dictated reviews shall continue on.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Only Angels Have Wings
Director: Howard Hawks
Year: 1939
Country: USA

The has been a long run of films now and in this post I will have reached 40 since my right arm decided not to cooperate. There it is not much else I can do with one arm completely out of action and my left wrist tiring from the extra work.

The reason that I watched Only Angels Have Wings was because I fancied an old black and white gangster film. I realise now that the film I was thinking of was Angels With Dirty Faces. Oh well, I always enjoy a good Howard Hawks film and this was definitely no exception to that. And no that’s not just because Golden Age cinema hunkcicle Cary Grant is in it.

It is rare to see a film about pilots that is all about professionalism and not about machismo. It is because of this machismo that I have yet to see Top Gun. This is what I really appreciated about Only Angels Have Wings. Sure, there is a lot of masculine energy amongst the airline’s pilots but this never gets in the way of their work. There are no petty rivalries as they are essentially a brotherhood. It is refreshing to see a film about pilots that does not resort to this.

Instead the tension comes in the form of a new pilot whose actions caused the death of another pilot’s brother. Also he has arrived with his wife (a very early film appearance from Rita Hayworth) who happens to be an old flame of the airline’s owner (Cary Grant). Hawks never overplays any of this and instead allows it to feel like an organic parts of the everyday life. The only major reaction we get it from Kid (Thomas Mitchell) when he decks the pilot caused his brother’s death.

I guess that the two watchwords of this film would be fatalism and subtlety. Two things that love interest Bonnie (Jean Arthur) can find it hard to deal with. As the mistress of screwball comedy Jean Arthur is able to summon comic relief when she’s paired up with Cary Grant. There are times when this is needed as death is never too far from the minds of the audience and the characters.

It’s strange to think that this is the same man that directed Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Bringing Up Baby. That man sure had range.

Title: Gabbeh
Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Year: 1996
Country: Iran

It was never going to be long before I found my way back to the world of Iranian cinema. Gabbeh is very unlike the other three Iranian films as I’ve seen in the last few weeks… or ever for that matter. Where the other three were very much in the realm of real life but this was a bit of a left turn.

When hub asked me to describe this film the phrase that I used was: a confusingly beautiful Iranian folktale… where a girl magically appears from a rug. Now on one level it feels like that description is doing it a bit of a disservice. However, it is very hard to mentally unpack what I saw. It would have been easier without the very confusing high pitched old man (if you have seen the film you’ll know who I mean).

In a nutshell, this film appears to be an old couple telling the story depicted in their gabbeh (a type of Iranian rug with a thick weave). In order to help with the storytelling it “comes to life” in the form of a startlingly beautiful young woman in vibrant blue clothing. This would not explain the lessons about colour that we see in the first 20 minutes or how a hen’s egg was magically concocted, but I’m gonna let that slide.

The film in its entirety is dreamy. We go between fact and fiction, dreams and reality, past or future and many other opposing ideas. When the film ends you’re left with many questions about what you just saw. Not in the least about why this old man started beating his rug in a rage and goes on about how he got apples for it. It links to a point where the woman walks off when he says how he never had children… but I just wonder if the entire thing is in the head of this dotty old man who just happened to have a lot of beautiful rugs and some livestock. Or did he actually have a wife and she’s funny just up and left him? I haven’t got the foggiest and I think I might have to watch it again a few years just to see how my interpretation changes.

A very bizarre film. Especially considering that this director created some realistic films depicting poverty back in the eighties. Films that resulted in the bizarre court case depicted in the Abbas Kiarostami film Close-Up. Yes, this is the same man that the con artist pretended to be. Pretty cool, eh?

Progress: 510/1007

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