Milk Money (1994) and Truffaut

August 21, 2020

Back in 1994, the trailer for Milk Money seemed to be playing on a constant loop on my television. I was seven and the movie is rated PG-13, so it was a while before I ever got around to actually seeing it. But something about the previews always stuck with me and I grew up with a feeling of nostalgia for a movie I had never watched.

I've now seen it a couple times, and during my most recent viewing I was struck with a feeling of familiarity that wasn't nostalgia for the previews I saw as a kid, but something else entirely. It reminded me of Truffaut. Now I know this is going to sound sacrilegious to some, especially since the movie was widely panned and has a whopping 10% score on Rotten Tomatoes. But there is definitely a common thread. I don't know if it was intentional or accidental (I researched to see if Richard Benjamin ever spoke of Truffaut as an influence, but the only mention I could ever find was when Benjamin said he was filming The Last of Sheila at the same studio where Truffaut was filming Day for Night) but either way, if you watch this film as an homage to Truffaut, I think you'll see an entirely different picture and perhaps appreciate it a little more than you would have otherwise. I'm going to break this down into a few themes that are central to Truffaut's work --

1. A coming of age story

Milk Money centers mainly around a young adolescent boy, Frank, and his friends, as they navigate their confusing and exciting entry into adulthood. It's nearly impossible to watch scenes of them cycling together, about to get into mischief, and not see hints of Les Mistons. Their fascination with female anatomy in particular reminded me of the scene in Les Mistons when the kids smell Bernadette's bicycle seat. 

In order to learn more about women, the kids decide to pull their milk money at school and save up to hire a sex worker in the city. I think this might seem a little weird or jarring for a movie made in the '90s, but recall in The 400 Blows, Antoine Doinel recounts his attempt to learn the ways of the world by seeing a sex worker who specializes in young boys (unfortunately for Antoine, she wasn't home the day he called on her.) And in The Man Who Loved Women, a flashback shows Bertrand succeeding where Antoine had failed.

There is a specific combination of childhood sweetness and adult themes that should feel incongruous, but somehow always works in Truffaut's films. And I think it works here, too. So many reviewers marveled at how this seemed to be at once a children's film and an R rated picture, and why didn't the director just make up his mind. But I think that's one of the things that is endearing about Truffaut's movies and it's endearing here, as well. If you think back to how you felt when you were 12 or 13, not entirely sure which world you belonged in and trying desperately to find out everything you could about the secrets of adulthood, it's a lot easier to relate to a movie that has one foot in the cradle and one in a King size bed.

2. Women are magic

It's difficult to think of a movie where Truffaut did not express his belief that women are magic. He was mesmerized by women, idolized them, and thought of them as wonderful enigmas. While this might be an outdated concept now (and might be part of the reason that Milk Money gets a bad rap) it's definitely woven into the fabric of the 1994 movie, too. Frank's father, Tom - played by Ed Harris - is a widow, and all that Frank knows about his mother was that she looked like Grace Kelly. He has put her on a pedestal, idolizing her memory for him and his son. When Tom meets and falls for V, he also sees her as Grace Kelly. She is a princess. Magic.

And the scene in the school where V helps Frank to teach female anatomy to his classmates also harkens back to the fascination with women's legs displayed in The Man Who Loved Woman (and, more broadly, throughout all of Truffaut's oeuvre.) It's a unique and strange combination of reverence and objectification.

3. Random gangster subplot!

Yes, in addition to the coming of age tale and Tom's love story with V, we also have a gangster subplot complete with a classic car chase and a bumbling tough guy. Waltzer's comical proclamations that he doesn't like things ("I don't like closets!") reminded me of Ernest and Momo's small talk after they've kidnapped Charles Aznavour's Charlie in Shoot the Piano Player. 

Is it Richard Benjamin paying tribute to Truffaut paying tribute to the classic American gangster films of the 1930s? It certainly feels like it. Shoot the Piano Player was dragged at the time of its release for being similarly disjointed - is it a comedy? Is it a crime film? A romance? The combination of varying visual styles and genres was met with criticism, but I think the movie is so charming, and it's actually one of my favorite Truffaut films. 

There are some other similarities as well - like when V is enchanted by the calm and safety of suburbia it reminded me of how Antoine Doinel made himself a part of Colette's family in Antoine and Colette, desperate to feel a sense of stability that was lacking in his own life. And the fact that were it not for the '90s clothing and a few pop culture references you could easily believe that Milk Money takes place in 1958. It's imbued with that same sense of timelessness that is a hallmark of most Truffaut films. Even in Jules and Jim, when world events mark a specific place in time, or all of the Antoine Doinel films that have a decidedly '60s or '70s look to them, you can watch the movie and think "when exactly does this take place?"

So am I saying this is as good as a Truffaut film? Not at all. Honestly, not even close. But seen as an homage to the master of the coming of age story, I think it at least deserves a reevaluation. If you can see and appreciate the elements that make a Truffaut movie charming and endearing, perhaps you'll find this movie charming and endearing as well. 

Set photos from Sunday in New York (1963) and Made in Paris (1966)

May 22, 2020

A couple weeks ago I purchased two photos from the set of Sunday in New York on ebay. Thanks to the expertise of my friend & Rod Taylor historian Diane, who runs The Complete Rod Taylor Site, I'm able to share that the cast was celebrating Rod Taylor's marriage in the photo above! He's holding a giant card signed by the cast and crew with a caricature of Rod and wedding bells. Diane also shared with me that the man next to Rod is his friend and stand-in Marco Lopez! In the photo below, you can see Robert Culp and Jane Fonda on the couch, with Rod Taylor's back to the camera.

But our story doesn't end here! After I purchased these Sunday in New York photos, the ebay seller reached out to me to ask if I could help identify actors in some photos that he had in his collection. He e-mailed me four small photos, one of which was a contact sheet. Squinting at my screen I exclaimed, "It can't be!" The contact sheet appeared to contain 12 photos from the set of Made in Paris (1966) starring Chad Everett. What serendipity!! I consulted my fellow Chad Everett enthusiast on twitter, Jackie, to see if she agreed with my assessment and together we pieced together some clues. I have an 8x10 still of Chad Everett in the same outfit, leaning against a Pan Am airplane in a promotional photo for Made in Paris. Jackie realized that the photo number on my still was part of the same sequence used on the contact sheet. I was sold!

I finally opened up the package today and was able to see for the first time, up close, that we were indeed correct! Here are 12 photos from what appears to be a deleted scene from Made in Paris, with Richard Crenna!

As always, you can click on all of these photos to see them larger :)

Original transparencies from Sunday in New York (1963)

May 07, 2020

I recently acquired two original transparencies from Sunday in New York (1963) and I'm so excited to share them with you! I photographed them on my lightbox and then imported them into Photoshop to adjust the tones and clean up a few dust and scratch marks. I think my favorite thing about these photos is how you can see the tape on the floor for Robert Culp's mark in the first photo!

If you click on the pictures you can view and download larger versions of the images.

Chad Everett original snapshots

April 24, 2020

I had the good fortune to win an ebay auction recently for four original snapshots of Chad Everett! The seller didn't provide any information about where the photographs came from, but I'm wondering if they belonged to someone who knew him since the photo with Connie Stevens is inscribed on the back simply "Chad and Connie S."

There was some definite reddening of the tones, and some dust and spots that I retouched in photoshop. The first photo below is my absolute favorite. I'm crossing the line here that separates collector from fangirl, but... that hair curl!

You can click on the photos to see and download larger versions.

If anyone has any information about the photos please let me know! I'd love to know when the photo with Connie Stevens was taken. I know that they worked together on five episodes of Hawaiian Eye in the early 1960s, so I'm curious if the studio paired them up for an event to try to raise his star a bit. 

While researching I found this page from the 2011 Hollywood Media Professionals luncheon that honored Chad Everett. If you scroll down you can see a few photos of him reunited with Connie Stevens just a little over a year before he passed away in July of 2012.

My picks for the Special Home Edition of the TCM Film Festival

April 14, 2020

Since the TCM Film Festival was cancelled, the network has launched a Special Home Edition of the festival instead! They'll be showing events and films from festivals past, as well as a few new treats that had been intended for this year's fest. Normally I have a hard time choosing which movie to pick when 5 great films are all scheduled at the same time, but this year my only struggle is deciding which movies to record on my limited DVR space, lol!

I will definitely be utilizing my DVR for films that are playing while I'm sleeping or working, but I definitely recommend trying to watch the films live if you can. Not only has TCM promised exclusive content and special guests, but watching something live while you're logged into your favorite social media app can help make the festival feel even more real. The collective laughter and the feeling of a shared experience at the movies can still be accessed remotely through the wonder of the internet :)

Without further ado, here are my picks:

4/16 at 8PM EST - A Star is Born (1954) I actually just watched this for the very first time last week, and I really enjoyed it! I had only seen the 1937 version and I'd always been so sure that nobody could ever rival the performances of Janet Gaynor and Fredric March so it wasn't even worth giving the other adaptations the time of day. But Judy Garland and James Mason were outstanding. There was one scene where Judy Garland was talking through a kind of dry-heave cry that was so heartwrenching I found myself suddenly situated in the "why didn't she get an Oscar for this?!" camp. I still prefer the original, but I enjoyed this so much that I'm already looking forward to revisiting it again this Friday.

4/16 at 1:45AM EST - Luise Rainer: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2011) I adore Luise Rainer and I'm so sad that her appearance at the festival came 3 years before I was able to attend in person. My only concern in watching this is that I'm afraid she'll mention her distaste for my personal favorite of her films, Dramatic School. It's the loveliest film about a girl who gets lost in her daydreams and even though I've read that she wasn't fond of the movie it's been a favorite ever since I first saw it in high school. I have a habit of really loving movies that the stars didn't like (another one that comes to mind is The Notorious Landlady, a film that I love but Jack Lemmon did not.)

4/17 at 8:30AM - She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) I'm trying to be more open minded about westerns now, ever since I watched a few with Chad Everett last year and realized they're actually very enjoyable! And since those were sort of B-tier westerns (one was never even released into theaters) I'd imagine that I'll really like a Grade A film like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Besides, I just need to fix the fact that Donovan's Reef is my current favorite teaming of John Ford and John Wayne. That's not acceptable, right? lol

4/17 at 12:30PM - A Hard Day's Night (1964) This was one of my all time favorite experiences at the TCM Film Festival. Me and Nicole had tried to get into a pre-code on standby and didn't make it, so we decided to get in line for this on a whim instead. Two hours later we were full fledged Beatles fangirls! I cannot wait to revisit this and relive all of those fun memories!

4/17 at 3:15PM - North by Northwest (1959) This is one of those movies that I end up watching pretty much every time it airs on TCM, so whether it was part of the festival or just showing on a random Saturday, I'd probably have it on. It's my brother's favorite Hitchcock movie so my family has enjoyed this one countless times over the years and watching it always takes me to that warm cozy fuzzy family memory place. We could all use that right about now, right?

4/17 at 8PM - Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015) I watched this on the recommendation of my friend Raquel from Out of the Past and it's one of those movies that not only lived up to, but exceeded my expectations. It is one of the sweetest documentaries I've ever seen in my life, and as an illustrator I couldn't help but feel in awe of, and inspired by, Harold's storyboard art. Raquel will be live-tweeting this while it airs so be sure to pop over to twitter and follow along with her!

4/17 at 3:15AM - Night Flight (1933) I have six words for you: Robert. Montgomery. movie. I've. never. seen. That's all I need to say, right?

4/18 at 6AM - The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) I can't pass up Frank Sinatra's greatest performance! Ever since I was 13 it's been one of my life's missions to preach the gospel of Frank Sinatra's acting talent and there is no better display than this film (except maybe From Here to Eternity. And The Joker is Wild. And Kings Go Forth. And. and. and.) His portrayal of a man trying to battle addiction while tied down to an overbearing and deceitful wife is staggering! It's also a lot to take in at 6am so I'll probably be DVRing this one and watching it later in the day with some chocolate to help get me through.

4/19 at 9AM - Peter O'Toole, Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival (2012) This event occurred two years before I was able to attend in person, although meeting Peter O'Toole's wax figure at the wax museum on Hollywood Boulevard was definitely one of the highlights of my 2014 trip!

Peter O'Toole was such a fascinating man - one of those actors whose offscreen life was just as interesting and lively as their onscreen life, someone who had a quick wit and a sharp tongue. I cannot wait to hear all the stories he had to tell Robert Osborne in 2012!

4/19 at 8PM - Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (2016) Floyd Norman was one of the announced guests for the 2020 Festival, and I was really looking forward to hearing him speak and seeing one of the films he worked on, The Sword in the Stone. I love that TCM still found a way to honor him during the Home Edition of the festival! Animation is often a tedious, thankless art form and I love that TCM has been honoring the artists behind the animated films we all love so much!

4/19 at 1:45AM - Baby Face (1933) Is there any better way to round out the festival than with pre-code Barbara Stanwyck sleeping her way up the corporate ladder? I think not! I have seen Baby Face more times than I can count, but I am super excited about watching it again and experiencing it as part of this stay at home festival.

Two films that I would normally LOVE but have decided to skip out on this year are The Seventh Seal and Jezebel. I love me some Ingmar Bergman and Bette Davis but I'm not in a plaguey mood at the moment. I know, that's normally right up my alley, but I just can't. If you're tolerating the outbreak situation better than I am, though, I highly recommend both films. The Seventh Seal is phenomenal and I really wish I was in the mood to watch it. I may tune in before it starts to see if they include the interview with Max Von Sydow, though. It'll be showing at 6:45AM on 4/17 if you'd like to watch!

And that about wraps up my picks and recommendations! One thing that's actually cool about the festival this year is that all the people who never got to go in person get to participate this time around. I always have very intense FOMO on the years that I stay home, so it's nice that we all get to experience it together this year :)

Luv (1967) - Did it live up to the poster?

March 10, 2020

I find myself seeking out movies based on poster art fairly frequently. A fun color scheme or some Bob Peak illustrations will catch my eye and the next thing I know I've got my hands on the DVD of a movie that I know absolutely nothing about, except that whoever designed the poster did a pretty great job.

I thought it might be fun to turn these discoveries into a series here! I'm calling it "Did it live up to the poster?" I'll lay out what I expect from the movie based on the poster, and then I'll follow up with whether or not the film actually lived up to my expectations. First up is Luv (1967) starring Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk, and Elaine May.

I came across this while browsing for a new poster for my office and fell head over heels in love (in luv?) with the color scheme.  I'll be honest here- the poster was $2.99 and I went ahead and bought it without seeing the movie. I'm a sucker for pink and an even bigger sucker for pink-and-red. Couple that with a heart, some groovy lettering, and flowers and I'm sold. I was all in way before I even noticed that all-star roster of actors. Now let's just hope that I like Luv enough to warrant hanging it up on my wall!

Here's what I'm expecting, based entirely on the poster and the brief synopsis I read on letterboxd: An offbeat comedy, maybe similar to What's Up, Doc? (1972). I cannot figure out why this movie is coming to mind, but I'm picturing a Sweet November (1968) vibe, but obviously a much lighter subject. I feel like it's going to be a movie whose poster is way brighter and more colorful than the actual movie. I'll be pleasantly surprised if it's more technicolor than I'm anticipating, but I'm so often let down by colorful posters promoting very muted movies that I'm not getting my hopes up in that regard. I think, based on the fact that it was a Broadway play, it'll be dialogue-heavy and the humor will be found in clever turns-of-phrase rather than slapstick. I think it'll be geared towards over-thirties but it'll have some element in it that randomly features hippies. I think it'll have a happy ending.

Okay! I'll be back in 95 minutes to let you know how I liked it!

Alright. I'm back! First I'll address whether or not my assumptions were correct. I was right that the movie wasn't really as colorful as the poster (although few movies not directed by Jacques Demy ever are!) but it also wasn't really as desaturated as I thought it would be. Most of the color came from the women's outfits, bright rain gear, and a surprising pink-shirt-red-tie combo that Jack Lemmon donned. It has a very similar pace to What's Up, Doc? (although a bit slower in some parts, whereas WUD is pretty consistently paced from start to finish.) It was definitely dialogue heavy, but it also included a ton of unexpected slapstick. Jack Lemmon jumped up onto a ceiling rafter to avoid a dog, two characters dangled precariously from the side of a loading dock in a New York harbor, and one character accidentally gets caught on top of an elevator that keeps landing between floors. It was geared at an older audience, but it did not feature any random hippies. As for that happy ending... I think it depends on how you look at it.

Peter Falk plays a man who wants to hand off his wife to an old friend so that he can marry his mistress instead. He tells Jack Lemmon's character, "I'm more in love today than on the day I got married... but my wife she won't give me a divorce." This arrangement is a welcome one for Elaine May, who plays Falk's wife, since she's been keeping a weekly chart that shows her husband's declining interest in the bedroom. Sensing that she can finally find romance again with Jack Lemmon, she agrees to a divorce with Falk and hops right into another loveless marriage with Lemmon. The entire film was worth it just for the last 30 minutes or so, when Falk and May realize that they should get back together and try to pawn their current spouses off on each other!

I really enjoyed this movie, although I think I would have liked it a lot more if Jack Lemmon had toned down his character a bit. He affected a very strong accent (Brooklyn maybe? I'm not 100% sure what he was going for) that's kind of distracting, and every movement, every line uttered, is excessively over the top. I personally prefer Jack Lemmon dialed down a bit, especially when the other characters in the movie all seem to be playing at a lower volume than he is. Elaine May and Peter Falk were *chefs kiss* perfection here. There is one scene early on in the film when Falk is trying to pretty her up to meet Lemmon for the first time -- applying lipstick and teasing her hair -- and their chemistry is so natural that it made me wish they had been a regular screen team. They both have a distinct presence and unique mannerisms that seem authentic, not like they're doing a bit.

Elaine May is one of those performers who takes normal words and turns them into works of art -- her unique pronunciation of the word "tremors" filled me with glee. I also loved the way that Falk describes May to Lemmon, "She's an exceptional woman. She has a photographic memory. And she paints. And she makes charts. And she plays the guitar. And Harry, she reads. Books I've never heard of. With hard covers." And when Lemmon and May go on their honeymoon to Niagara Falls they take turns one-upping each other to see how much they love each other. Lemmon tears off part of May's dress and says "do you still love me?!" then May casually whips out a pair of scissors and slices his suspenders. "Do you still love me now??" Lemmon tosses her fur coat into the falls. "How about now??" It was an incredibly cute and well executed display of affection, and one of the most fun parts of the film.

So. Does this live up to the poster? Yes, I think it does. It was a very fun movie, light and silly and strange. Elaine May and Peter Falk were an absolute delight to watch and I think I would definitely revisit this one again. And thank god, because I really wanted to hang this poster up on my wall! :)