05 March 2010

Boom! (Joseph Losey, 1968) --- I Am a Camera (Henry Cornelius, 1955)

Tuesday evening I went to my neighborhood video store because I wanted to rent Hunger since my boyfriend was working and therefore unable to veto it. Sadly it was checked out. Not finding anything else to my liking on the new release racks I decided to raid the VHS section for movies I'd always meant to see and hadn't. I came up with Boom! and I Am a Camera.

Boom! is a 1968 Joseph Losey film that shows up on most lists of camp classics. It stars Elizabeth Taylor as Sissy Goforth, a deranged, rich American lady living in a mansion perched atop her very own Italian island. Richard Burton shows up and turns out to be some sort of Angel of Death character. Noel Coward makes a few appearances as Sissy's bitchy confidant the Witch of Capri. The film reportedly cost three times more than it was supposed to and you can definitely see the money on the screen. It's dull in some moments, fabulous in others, generally enchanting. I think Noel Coward's performance is generally overrated but Elizabeth Taylor's hats are everything you've been led to believe they are. Watching the movie felt sort of like reading a Tennessee Williams short story, a little rougher around the edges than his great plays. I'd really have to watch it again before deciding whether there was any real insight to be found here. It certainly made me want to read the play. The island and the mansion are gorgeous and while watching it, I kept finding myself transported to daydreams of being on that island. It's supposedly Sardinia so now I know where I want to go if I ever make it back to Italy. People always say Elizabeth Taylor was too young for the part but I feel like the movie implied she had some kind of a disease and it sort of worked for me. I didn't really think that Richard Burton clicked in this role though. It's a good movie for people who like weird, campy, quasi-metaphysical films. B

I Am a Camera is mostly known for being based on the same play that inspired Cabaret. I've neither seen the play nor read it but based on the film, it seems like both the book that inspired it and the musicals it spawned are superior. I like Laurence Harvey because he's cute and charming. Julie Harris seems slightly miscast as Sally Bowles although she's definitely more in line with the Sally of Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin than that of the musical. I have no idea why they have Shelley Winters playing the German Jewish love interest of a similarly miscast secret Jewish gigolo. Oh well. It was engaging enough but not terribly compelling. I don't know how well the story works without the sexual deviance and so forth. Maybe the movie's just too English for me. One of the reviews I've read suggests the blandness is a result of it being filmed in London instead of Berlin. C/C-

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