My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.


Round Midnight (1986)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I really had no business seeing this film two decades ago. I didn’t appreciate jazz and certainly couldn’t comprehend the Tavernier’s complex depiction of male friendship. Now, I see the movie in another light.

It’s a beautiful, meditative film. It hinges on Dexter Gordon’s performance. Or perhaps I should call it a non-performance since the real-life jazz musician feels like he’s just being and the rest of the film is just being around him. Though I have no doubt Gordon and Tavernier sculpted his delivery, this must be one of the best examples of a non-trained actor leading a picture. Somehow it works to pair him with pro thespian Cluzet, looking more than ever like a French Dustin Hoffman. The two explore music and male companionship, guided by Tavernier’s careful, passionate direction.

Is it the definitive jazz film? I think that one has yet to be made so for now, this one sits on the throne. I will say that if Tavernier is the French Scorsese, this is his Raging Bull.

Watched on Criterion Channel.


Murphy’s Romance (1985)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This is not a laugh-out-loud comedy but a different kind I’m quite fond of, the kind that makes you smile the entire time. This is a charming, low key story of a single mom (played by Sally Field when she was at the top of her game), her son, and her relationship with two men who both want to be in man in her life.

Veteran director Martin Ritt handles the material with the kind of mature arrusance that only comes from decades in the business. It’s no frills. It’s not dramatic. It’s just the story of people, their strengths and weaknesses. James Garner is terrific, that’s no surprise, but so is Brian Kerwin as the deadbeat ex-husband. His character is the tougher one to play but Kerwin makes him an often-likable screw up, a flawed but funny man. He balances Garner’s steady hand to perfection.

And Florence, Arizona, where most if not all of the film was shot, looks terrific. From seeing the main street to the businesses to some back roads I’ve driven down, it was a delight to see this cool Arizona town highlighted in this 80s classic.

Watched on Criterion Channel


Falling in Love (1984)

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

I’ve wanted to see this film for a long time, hoping it was some under-appreciated gem from the 80s. Sadly, I see why it is a mostly forgotten entry in the careers of Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. I’ve heard that these two chose the project for the sole reason of having an opportunity to work together but what’s the point if the script isn’t great?

Even under the direction of skilled filmmaker Ulu Grosbard, the movie struggles to be memorable. The first third is its best as we’re presented with a rather realistic meeting of two married people and the unexpected romance that occurs between them. I found myself thinking, “If this film was in French, critics would have called it a masterpiece.” However, as the movie progresses, it slips into convention and melodrama. Music swells and realism sinks below the surface. By the end, both De Niro and Streep’s performances lack any sense of depth and complexity. Good supporting characters are given the short end of the stick. Both Dianne Wiest and David Clennon seem to have important scenes missing, most likely removed from the edit for runtime. It’s a mistake because this is the kind of film that needed as much time as possible to cultivate its ideas and relationships.

It’s still worth watching, if mainly to see an on-screen pairing of De Niro and Harvey Keitel that never gets mentioned.

Watched on Criterion Channel.


The True Adventures of Raoul Walsh (2014)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Here’s another overview documentary that doesn’t dazzle but shares some interesting tidbits about Walsh, who hasn’t received nearly as much attention as some of his peers. It’s a shame we don’t get to hear Walsh’s voice, though his words (presumably taken from his autobiography) are read by actor Johnny Crear. There are some fun stories and a few insights, but like most director documentaries, it never digs deep enough to give us anything more than the summary of the man. The more I watch these, the more I appreciate the one about Milius.

Watched on Criterion Channel (available till the end of the month)