Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge

May 20, 2015

Raquel from Out of the Past is hosting her annual Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge. This will be my first time participating and I'm really excited about it! I made up a little list on goodreads of all the books I'd like to try to tackle this summer. I'm going to start off with Hellraisers (The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed) since it's the only one that I already own. I have a horrible habit of buying way more books than I could possibly read in my lifetime, so I'm going to make myself wait until I finish each book before I purchase the next one.

If you'd like to participate too you can sign up for the challenge on Raquel's blog, right here. I think it'll be so fun! She's even giving away a nifty prize pack to one lucky winner, which will include my Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz fan club buttons! (They're also available in my shop here.)

If you have any film book recommendations, I'd love to hear them! :)

On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who... was really desperate to see a movie

May 16, 2015

I'm sure this happens to everyone all the time -- you see a screenshot or still from a movie that catches your fancy so you check to see if said movie is available anywhere to rent or buy. When you like classic movies, a lot of the time you hit a dead end nearly as soon as you start looking. I have a nice collection of movies I've recorded from TCM or traded with friends and a ton of older movies are finally getting dvd releases thanks to companies like Warner Archive. But there are always some elusive films that you just cannot seem to track down, no matter how hard you try.

Which brings me to La Cintura di Castita, or On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who...  This 1967 Italian comedy is set in the middle ages, stars Monica Vitti and Tony Curtis and, to the best of my knowledge, it is not available with English subtitles.

My quest began where all DVD quests usually begin - Amazon. Then I checked youtube, ioffer, ebay, etc. with no luck whatsoever. Then somehow I ended up on Italian Ebay, where I found one person selling a copy with Italian subtitles. I immediately bought it. I do not speak Italian.

Before it even arrived in my mailbox I was already researching ways to generate English subtitles out of thin air. Did I have to have somebody transcribe it? Did I need to learn to speak Italian? It turns out, that wasn't necessary. If you're ever in a similar jam, here is what I did (you can just skip over this part if you want to read about the movie instead!)

First I bought the foreign DVD. Make sure that it has closed captioning in some language, it doesn't have to be your own language. Mine came with Italian subtitles. Then rip the DVD to your computer using MakeMKV. I already have 4Media DVD Ripper, which I love, but the output is .mov which won't work here. When you have your .mkv file, use the program Subtitle Extractor to generate an .srt subtitle file. Then, upload the video file to youtube (I actually also ripped the film using 4Media and uploaded my .mov file to youtube, before I realized I had to have an .mkv file for the subtitles) and set it to unlisted or private. Still with me? Then click on the little "cc" closed captioning icon in the video settings. Choose the native language spoken in the film (for my movie, I picked Italian), and then upload your .srt file to youtube. Now, go to watch your video and click on the "cc" icon in the player. This will start playing the foreign subtitles. Then click on the little gear icon, which opens up the video settings. In the settings, click on the menu "Subtitles/CC" and select the option "Translate captions" and then choose English. Youtube uses Google Translate to automatically translate the closed captioning into whatever language you chose. Now obviously anyone familiar with Google Translate will know that the captions aren't going to be 100% accurate, and sometimes it'll be downright goofy, but for the most part it worked and was definitely accurate enough for me to actually understand the movie.

Now you're probably wondering, WAS IT WORTH IT, KATE?? WAS IT?? I spent hours trying to track down this dvd, researching ways to add subtitles, tying up my computer with tons of trial and error, ripping and re-ripping, uploading and downloading, all for one film that, admittedly, looks kind of silly and has pretty lackluster reviews on imdb. And I don't even really like Tony Curtis?!

But I think it was worth it. It's not the best movie ever made, of course, but it was enjoyable and (see blog header) Monica Vitti is never not awesome. I'll give a brief synopsis but keep in mind, I was reading Google Translate generated captions so it's entirely possible that I misunderstood the entire film, lol ;)

The movie takes place in Italy during the crusades. They reluctantly knight Tony Curtis, a man from humble beginnings who wouldn't normally be knighted unless the country was as desperate for soldiers as I was for this DVD. They send him off on a horse and he is granted ownership of the land from the starting point of his ride to as far as he can go. He stops just short of Monica Vitti's little farm house, where he's so tired from riding that he plants his sword in the ground and then slumps down next to it. Tony Curtis being really tired is a strange recurring plot point in this movie. He literally fell asleep while he was being knighted in the beginning. Maybe the movie should have been called "On my way to the crusades I fell asleep"

Anyway, Monica is really smitten with sleeping beauty so she decides to move his sword to the edge of her property while he's napping, that way he'll own her land too and he'll be her master. But when he comes back a few days later and tries to seduce her, she's having none of it. When it was her decision to make, she wanted him. But now that he's forcing himself on her, she isn't so interested anymore. There's a good half hour or so where this movie actually seems pretty progressive for a sex comedy set in the most repressive time period ever. Monica asks her dad why women are forced to sleep with men and he replies that women are like dogs, and they need to do what their masters request. But when Monica tries to get her dog to kiss her, the dog refuses. "At least dogs can say no," she remarks.

And that's where the feminism ends. I mean, at one point Monica Vitti gets to dress up like a knight and jousts a man off of his horse but mostly from here on in it's kind of standard 60's morality (and by 60's I mean 1360's)

*Spoilers* I should mention here that Tony Curtis' character is SUCHHHH a jerk. Oh my gosh. The first time that his character is fully conscious, he decides to tax the wind (seriously) and he hangs a man who once saved his life when he was a child. Then (I'm *pretty sure* but could be wrong because, google translate) he has an orgy with the wives of the poor townsfolk? Then there's the whole trying-to-force-himself-on-Monica-Vitti thing. After she refuses his advances, he has his men hunt her down, then ties her naked to a wheel in his castle and spins her around while a bunch of gross lusty men watch. THEN he lets her loose and sends all of the aforementioned men to go chase after her. When, after all this, she still won't sleep with him, he puts her father's head on the chopping block and gives her the choice between marriage or a dead dad. I feel like you need to know all of this because, at least for me, it makes it impossible for me to believe what happens next.

*Still more spoilers* After they get married (because obviously she didn't let her dad die) she opts to participate in Tobias Nights, which is a 3 day period of chastity and prayer after a wedding. Even though they're supposed to be praying, Tony keeps trying to kiss her or sleep next to her. The next day, she goes to a wise man and explains her predicament. The wise man is shocked! "The lord of the manor had a thousand ways to bend you to his will! He could make use of force, cruelty, could chain you to your bed, you know? Or whip you, possess you with violence." He goes on to tell her that, basically, because Tony Curtis did not rape her on their wedding night, he must love her! Monica's character has been pretty sassy up until this point, so I half expected her to roll her eyes and laugh in his face. But instead she's cooing "oooooh this means he loves me! he LOVES ME!" and then runs off to consummate the marriage immediately.

*Still not done with the spoilers, sorry guys* Keep in mind, Tony Curtis' character here is literally slime. If I was in charge of google translate, his character's name in the credits would look like this:

Slime ................................... Tony Curtis

How on earth does not raping her mean he loves her? What even?? And how on earth would love even matter after all the other horrible stuff he did to her? I mean, he tried to kill her father. Geez louise. And just when you think Slime couldn't get any worse, he does. Consummation is about to happen at any second, when all of a sudden his commanding officer shows up. The Emperor needs him in the crusades immediately. Seriously, drop everything and suit up right. now. So Tony Curtis does what any kind, loving, supportive new husband would do. He kisses his bride and tells her that he trusts she'll remain faithful while he's away. LOL, J/K. He slaps a chastity belt on her and takes the key along with him. *End Spoilers*

Obviously I had some problems with the movie. Tony Curtis plays one of those characters with absolutely zero redeeming qualities, not in a cool evil villain way, but in a really smarmy, obnoxious way. It has its good moments, but then it also has plenty what-the-heck moments, where you cannot believe that someone wrote this and multiple people acted it out and someone edited it and the director was like "Yup, this is good to go!"

That being said, and maybe this is just the time and effort that went into watching this movie talking, I did actually enjoy it. It's such a weird film, which is always a plus. It takes place in a time period that I'm possibly kind of obsessed with. And, this bears repeating, Monica Vitti is so stupidly amazing. I mean, I couldn't even understand a word she was saying but I could tell that her inflection was spot-on. And the scenes with the dog that share the same haircut as her honestly make the whole movie worthwhile.

Update 3/14/2018 - This movie is finally available in America through Warner Archive!!! You can get it right here. I'll do a follow-up blog post once I've re-watched it.

Citizen Kane

May 15, 2015

The Garden Theater in Princeton is doing an Orson Welles retrospective in May and June, and last night they showed Citizen Kane. I'd only ever seen it on a little tv screen, but I just knew that it was one of those movies that would blow me away when I finally saw it as it was intended to be seen, on the big screen. And the experience did not disappoint.

There are a handful of movies that are generally considered to be the cream of the crop, the best movies EVER made. Citizen Kane usually tops that list and, although I often get in disagreements over which movies really deserve to be included in this elite group, I make no argument over Citizen Kane. It really lives up to its reputation, and seeing it at the movies was something I'll never forget.

As much as I love Citizen Kane there was one issue that kept circling around in my brain all day. It's probably way too silly and ridiculous of a pet peeve to even mention but I'm going to say it anyway -- what is it with people in movies knocking over furniture and throwing books off of shelves when they're angry? I had totally forgotten about that part of the movie until it was unfurling itself before my eyes last night and it just seemed way too cliche to be included in a film as great as Citizen Kane. Even Kane himself seemed too smart to resort to that kind of action when he was angry. He could have come up with something so much better. He could have marched down into the mausoleum living room and tossed every single jigsaw puzzle piece into the blazing fire. He could have set all of his many zoo animals loose on an unsuspecting Florida. Or, if he really had to go the destroy-things-in-a-room route, he could have flailed his arms around all through the house, knocking over each and every Greek statue until every last symbol of his quest to buy all of the beauty in the world was lying in pieces on his cold marble floor.

Other than that one tiny squabble, I feel like it really is a perfect movie. There are so many moments where you feel a wave of cinematic satisfaction wash over you, like everything is in harmony because this scene or this line of dialogue was just THAT GOOD. When Jedediah returns the check with the declaration of principles. When you've seen the movie before and Kane is telling Susan about going through his mother's old things, you just KNOW that Rosebud was sitting there among her possessions. When Thatcher tells Kane "You're too old to be calling me Mr. Thatcher," and Kane replies "You're too old to be called anything else." YES.

Finally, can I just gush a bit about the title card? It's so simple, but especially compared to the cookie cutter title cards from the same era (example / example / example) you can just feel that you're about to witness something unique. I also love how the credits are saved for the end of the movie -- you're met with this bold, bright white title buzzing over a black background and then it cuts straight to the movie.

I have a busy few months ahead of me, so I don't think I can attend every Orson Welles movie that's playing at the Garden, but I'm going to try to make it to see The Stranger on June 3rd. If you're in the area you should definitely consider going! They're also showing It Happened One Night and Shadow of a Doubt in June as well! I'm so thrilled to finally have a movie theater that shows classics in my area. It's a dream come true! :) If you're interested you can check out their upcoming films right here.