Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Don't Go Chasing Waterfall

Niagara (1953) - Hathaway Screen Shot 2022-01-11 at 3.32.03 PM Screen Shot 2022-01-11 at 3.38.15 PM Screen Shot 2022-01-11 at 3.54.21 PM Screen Shot 2022-01-11 at 4.16.23 PM Screen Shot 2022-01-11 at 4.19.36 PM Screen Shot 2022-01-11 at 4.20.11 PM Screen Shot 2022-01-11 at 4.30.21 PM Marilyn Monroe plays scheming, unhappy wife to Joseph Cotten's Korean War PTSD'd husband in Henry Hathaway's sunny, Technicolor shot noir. The Cutlers, (Jean Peters of Pickup on South Street and Max Showalter as Polly and Ray) a young-ish couple spending their delayed honeymoon arrive at their destination, The Rainbow-inn, a motor lodge with the overlooking spectacular view of The Niagara Falls, only to find out their reserved room is still occupied by the Loomis (Monroe as Rose and Cotten as George). Very convincing Rose feigns her husband's bad health to keep the room and The Cutlers, being a wholesome, upstanding American dream couple they are, agree to take another room. It is quite clear that Rose is a head-turner everywhere she goes. And her makeup and painted red lips never comes off even in bed. It is quite clear the Loomis are in the fritz, when George storms out of the room and shatters a vinyl record that Rose just put on and been singing along in her svelty sexy voice at a small gathering at the lodge. It is revealed that the song, Kiss, is some sort of a trigger warning for George who breaks out in jealous rage for whatever her past transgressions.

Soon Polly witnesses Rose in a passionate embrace with her lover in one of the Falls' raincoat and galoshes wearing tour. This Rose girl is up to no good but a goody two-shoes Polly will stay out of these gossips. Rose then arranges to off George with her lover, at the same tour and make it look like it's a suicide. And somehow Polly gets entangled in this grisly affair.

I can totally see Monroe's sex appeal in her first major starring role and Hathaway, the hard hitting noir veteran, makes the most of her in various sexy wardrobe and in shadow play. Technicolor is stunning, so as the set design. Rose's prolonged, almost silent murder scene is as good as it gets and puts most stylish giallos to shame.

And of course, the setting is Niagara Falls, one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world! The boat is not gonna just float around on top, it has to go over the edge of the foaming, roaring water and fall to its demise and it's pretty spectacular. This movie is pretty awesome!

Little Human Connections

Hytti nro 6 (2021) - Kuosmanen compartment 2 Compartment 1 compartment 6 compartment 3 compartment 4 Compartment 5 A Finnish student (Seidi Haarla) is traveling alone from Moscow to see the 10,000 year old petroglyphs in the Arctic north in Russia, after her Russian professor/lover, Irina backs out of the trip. Last night in Moscow gives and impression that Irina, the worldly older woman tightly wrapped our shy and awkward heroine around her fingers. She is taking a crowded Russian railroad all the way to Murmansk, a small town near the Finnish border. Her bunkmate happens to be Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov), a brusk, blue color worker heading to the same destination for work in the mines. It's a big change for our unnamed Heroine, after hanging out in Irina's intellectual circle of friends in her fabulous flat full of antiques, books, music, meaningful conversations and laughter. She has to quell the sexual advances and lewd jokes from Ljoha. She contemplates quitting the trip and go back to Bourgie bossoms of Irina, but the thought of appearing weak in front of her mentor/lover is too much to bear.

Even though they are very different, this little Russian man’s presence slowly warms up to our heroine. A sort of traveling companion camaraderie develops in an impossibly small train compartment. The train stops overnight in a small town on the way to Murmansk, Ljoha invites her to his babushka (grandma? Aunt?)'s house. She experiences unexpected companionship and human warmth, sharing strong drinks and listening to the old woman's stories. They almost miss the train as they oversleep the next morning.

When our heroine helps out a fellow Finnish traveler who doesn't speak the language, by inviting him to their shared compartment 6, Ljoha is obviously unhappy and jealous. The hipster traveler with a guitar is everything Ljoha is not. She asks (in Finnish) the traveler if he ever feels lonely, and he says that everyone's alone.

Compartment No.6 has everything I love about cinema - Wanderlust, human connection, loneliness, trains, cold weather. Juho Kuosmanen, working from a novel by Rosa Liksom, finds a delicate balance in chiseling out beautiful moments of human connections without unnecessary backstories or dramatics. It's a little romance without all the fuss and stylings, but only warmth and silent understanding.

As the saying goes, it's the journey, not the destination. Our heroine gets stuck in the small town in a foreign land without any guide. It's winter and there is no one to take her to see the petroglyphs. She might have overestimated her relationship with Irina since she is not that helpful with her conundrum. It's only Ljoha who is crazy enough to arrange the snowy, supposedly dangerous trip without any hesitation. They climb on the wrecked ship in the blizzard after seeing not very impressive 10,000 year old scrawls on the rocks. They talk about Titanic. "Why? Are we about to die?" "No, Rose survives." "Well, she dies later." Yes everyone is alone and everyone dies. But what matters is the little moments of human connections and feeling the warmth of other human beings along the way and Compartment No. 6 captures them beautifully. Haarla and Borisov's guileless performances are also aces. Loved it.