29 November 2005

Kind of an obscure film meme

The idea for this meme came in an e-mail from tony g of milkriverblog. I can probably come up with many obscure, yet good films, but for the time being, I am going to suggest the following 3.

The mad adventures of Rabbi Jacob. 1973. When I was growing up in the 1960s in Turkey, a series of action-mostly comedy Fantomas films starring the late French comic Louis de Funès were among my favorites. This is one of his later films and I consider it one of the funniest and most sophisticated slapstick comedies ever made. Louis de Funès plays a bigoted, racist, anti-Jewish Frenchman, who, for whatever reason (it's been a while since I last saw the movie), has, not only some terrorists, but also the police after him. He manages to elude them only by impersonating a famous rabbi who has just arrived from New York. Now, of course, he must visit the Jewish neighborhoods of Paris and do the things a rabbi would do. One hilarious scene follows another until the end when our reluctant "rabbi" learns his lesson. I've seen this film twice; the 1st time was in Turkey in the mid-70s and the 2nd time was in a dinky little movie theater in Soho, Manhattan in the mid-80s. Now I just might get a DVD of it. French with English subtitles. I wish I could understand French just for this film.

The late Alec Guinness was one of my favorite actors. The next 2 are his films.

The man in the white suit. 1951. This film isn't so much obscure as it is mostly forgotten. Alec Guinness plays a chemist who synthesizes an indestructible fiber ("a copolymer of amino acids and carbohydrates") that also repels dirt. Convinced that he has solved the world's laundry problems, he tailors himself a suit from his fiber and goes out into the world hoping for fame and fortune. But the rest of the world thinks otherwise. Not just chemistry fans, but all science fans should like it. It has weird laBORatory equipment, boiling mixtures and plenty of explosions. It is truly a classic. Beware of future remakes, watch the original!

Chemist at work, synthesizing trouble

Edwin. This was apparently a TV movie released in 1984. I don't know if it was ever broadcast in the U.S. I taped it in the late 80s in Ann Arbor from a Canadian station broadcasting from Windsor. It's about a retired judge (Alec Guinness) who suspects his neighbor and close friend (Paul Rogers) of having "rogered" his wife (Renée Asherson). After their son, Edwin, whom we see only for a moment, visits them for lunch, the question turns into who Edwin's real father is. The 2 men bicker endlessly until finally the wife reveals her secret and relieves both men in a surprising twist. There are only 3 "old" characters in the film, which takes place during 1 day and in the same place. Although that may sound boring and depressing, this is a rather pleasant little film with many subtle jokes. Normally, I don't watch and when I watch, I don't care for movies like this. But this one has ended up being one of my favorites. Perhaps because acting is very good and because it doesn't have a "moral of the story" at the end, at least not a traditional "Judeo-Christian" one.

Alec Guinness 30 years later, seeking justice in his household


deniz said...

Okay, the first one is silly - a long time ago, one summer, my sister and I watched an action/adventure movie that we would swear was called The Barbarian Brothers. We still refer to it and remember watching it, but I can't find anything about it on the internet or otherwise! All that I keep getting are Conan references :-(
My second one is The Corn is Green, another one of those old English/Welsh films along the lines of the more popular How Green Was My Valley. As far as I remember, I watched these both in the same morning in a darkened room during the summer and, for some reason, no one disturbed me, not even to call me to lunch. When I came out into the July sunshine I was shocked to find it was mid-afternoon and already almost tea time!
My third movie is less obscure since it's relatively new (from the 90s I think), but I don't think it was ever in theatres, unless in Europe. Anyway, it was just about the saddest, most heart-wrenching thing I've ever seen - Solomon and Gaenor, featuring that lovely Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd

T. Beth said...

I adore Alec Guinness, he was a marvelous actor, deft, subtle, and surprisingly likable even in unsympathetic roles.

tony g said...

try this The Barbarian Brothers:

pascal said...

Man in the White Suit sounds interesting - will have to check that out.