Monthly Archives: March 2017

Viewing Diary March 2017

Entries run chronologically from bottom to top.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), directed by Amy Heckerling

In high school, everything is dead serious, and everything’s a joke. Your mind groans under the weight of classes and crushes. You exchange notes. You wonder who to sit beside in first period. As this bountiful comedy whirls around its loose ensemble, it absorbs every one of those ridiculous details. It soaks in graffiti, band logos, and pin-up posters. Some of its tacky minutiae blossom into visual gags: Judge Reinhold serving seafood while wearing a huge pirate hat; Sean Penn as a blithe stoner stumbling out of a hotboxed VW bus; or a student cheating on a test with notes scrawled on her upper thigh. These images are slightly cartoonish, yet still emotionally credible. They’re preposterous enough to feel true.

When the film works blue, with bits about blow jobs and masturbation, it does so with clear affection for its naïve characters. After a boy’s lightning-fast orgasm makes Jennifer Jason Leigh droop in disappointment, the camera stays right on her face. She sits halfway up, still nude, mouth agape, and watches him put on his pants. (You can see Leigh’s venomous career taking shape.) The scene throbs with sympathy. It’s a mercy when the next cut reveals Leigh slicing sausage in a pizzeria as she gossips with her best friend. Their banter’s written with a sexual frankness that prefigures and outdoes Kevin Smith’s whole filmography. Their solidarity takes the sting out of adolescence’s self-inflicted humiliations.

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Viewing Diary February 2017

Entries run chronologically from bottom to top.

The Man I Love (1947), directed by Raoul Walsh

Ida Lupino’s eyes have heavy, steady lids. Her lips curl into a pout—is that insolence, or is it sorrow? Her face anchors the frame. She leads the cast of this noir melodrama as a torch singer lovesick over a jazz pianist. They wander the waterfront together. She calls up the club where he’s been working: “Is he there?” The bartender goes to check, and as she waits in the phone booth, the strains of her sweetheart’s furious playing pour through the receiver. “No,” lies the bartender. “He ain’t here.” She’ll end the movie by walking toward the camera, her eyes full of tears. She deserves happiness, especially after patching up her sisters’ love lives and extricating them from the grip of a sleazy impresario. But this is a downbeat Warner Brothers potboiler, so she’ll have to keep chasing her happiness after the credits have rolled.

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