What About Bob?

What About Bob? (1991) movie poster

(1991) dir. Frank Oz
viewed: 01/31/10

I’d never seen this early 1990’s Bill Murray comedy about a man (Bob) with a multitude of social disorders (back when psychiatric shenanigans were funny), who is transferred to and the plagues his new psychiatrist, played by Richard Dreyfuss.  It’s really of the era just prior to the explosion of medications for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and stuff like that.  What’s funniest, perhaps, about the film is that Dreyfuss nor anyone is as afraid of the man who wouldn’t go away as probably one might be today.  I suppose that you could re-make this movie today as a horror film.

Directed by Frank Oz (he of Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy fame, as number of varyingly bad Hollywood films.  Some of his crimes against humanity include Bowfinger (1999) and The Stepford Wives (2004) — and okay, so I’ve never seen The Stepford Wives, so what?), it has a pep and overall cleanliness of comedies of that era.  And nowadays, with Bill Murray sort of a living saint among cinephiles, it’s interesting to look back at him with his shaggy brown hair and more overt personality.

The story has a darkness in that Bob, while ingratiating himself with Dreyfuss’ family, manages to drive Dreyfuss into a psychosis of his own, in which he ultimately tries to kill Bob.  And then he ends up catatonic himself.

I’d always heard of this film but never saw it.  And the character Murray plays is an occasionally referenced archetype that has piqued my curiosity to see.  Believe it or not, this is one of those films that I’ve been sort of meaning to see for almost 20 years.   And it’s not a great film, though it has its moments, which I kind of anticipated.

So, what about What About Bob? I don’t know.  He’s the man who wouldn’t go away.  A stalker, a genial, needy, lonely stalker, who just needs a family to love him.  Not Prozac.  Not Lithium.  Not Zoloft.  And maybe that is a better message, I don’t know.

24 City

24 City (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Zhang Ke Jia
viewed: 01/29/10

It’s not like I don’t have aspirations to be more read, more appreciated, attract more readers, but the bottom line is the way that I do this film diary thing is that I write about the films that I see, the films that interest me, not the films that just come out every Friday and draw the dollars into the theater or even the “big” DVD rentals of the week.  Case in point is 24 City, a film by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Ke Jia who probably fewer than 1% of film viewers will have ever heard nor will ever see the films produced by this fascinating director.

The difference for me is that while on a jag of his films, having watched Unknown Pleasures (2002), The World (2004), and Still Life (2006), I read about his film 24 City, a film about a Chinese munitions/airplane factory that was like a pseudo-pre-fab city and its transition into modern deluxe housing, I was totally excited.  I was feeling like “This is a film I want to see!” and it took some months to come here, and then ultimately to DVD/Video rather than theatrical release despite its playing at the Cannes Film Festival.

Who is going to be reading my damn film writing with the same interests as me?  Fucking nobody.

Hey, I get it.  But it’s something I committed to almost 8 years ago and still use for a crazy outlet of my own thoughts, my own discovery of cinema, world cinema, contemporary cinema, historical cinema, trash cinema, DVD’s, genre films, all whatever fucking interests me.  How many people who will even stumble on this (my writing) who have even heard of Zhang Ke Jia?  Surely in deeper cinematic circles, people respect and are struck by the vision that he offers.

The fact is that Zhang Ke Jia is perhaps one of the most interesting Chinese filmmakers in more than a decade, perhaps in some ways, potentially ever.  His films deal with China, the enormous, deeply historical country, that is coming to shape the future of the world.  It’s his country, it’s not an outside perspective.  But also it is a perspective that tries to understand the drastic change that is happening, the monumental against the tiny individual.   The human individual’s story against the backdrop of the massive change, the most massive country, the most massive changes, culturally and functionally, but also physically.  The dramas that play out in his films seem like poetic documents from a time of fantastic transition and significantly historical change.

24 City is a weird film in many ways, some strange mixture of straight documentary mixed with interpretive narrative fiction meant to portray the same tonality and stories.  Actually, it might be a sort of fascinating document fighting the concept of documentary against Neo-Realism.  And it’s interesting that he should choose such a dramatic change to experiment with his filmmaking.

A factory, which was created in the 1950’s to build arms for war, which drew people from a village to a new place, drew them from their families in a battle for greater good, in which individual lives gave way to the greater machinations of the country.  But now, this factory is changing again.  Only existing a generation or so, it could so easily be a historical oddity, but people’s lives happened within its rules, within its walls.  And this change is a change that reflects the change of this massive nation.

Zhang Ke Jia’s film may not be as powerful and moving as I’d hoped it would be, but I have to say, given his other work and his general approach to his work, it will likely be a strange, complicated document of change, of this humanism contrasted against the most massive world event changes a nation has to attempt to maneouver.  It’s crazy, hard to fully fathom, to understand, much less in a world in which these things have far from finished from playing themselves out.

A document from the depths of a history that is still working its changes and events upon the world, the smaller voices, the lives of people who work, live, and support this, but from a place in which these changes cannot yet be understood.  For those of us so far outside of this world, it’s a fascinating chance to understand elements of a country that is our neighbor and brother, who may come to appear and change our histories.  We can glimpse, try to understand what there is to be understood.

And beyond that, this strange and challenging work about documentation and the oppositional fictions created that are meant to enlighten those issues.  I don’t know what to do with that stuff.  Documentary vs. realistic fiction.  When no lines are drawn.  Strange and extremely thought-provoking.

Police, Adjective

Police, Adjective (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Corneliu Porumboiu
viewed: 01/29/10

The Romanian New Wave, anyone?

Well, outside of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005), I can’t claim any experience with it, despite the fact that director Corneliu Porumboiu’s 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006) and Christian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) have had the buzz that typically draws one to films that one doesn’t necessarily know that much about.  Well, anyways, the press must be continually lazy calling it the “Romanian New Wave” because while new, surely, and a wave perhaps, it’s not particularly poignant nomenclature.  Heck, I don’t begin to have a picture of it too much yet.

Actually, for me personally, this is kind of an unusual thing, because I watched this film on Pay-Per-View, which I am categorizing as “TV”, though it’s still on its theatrical run.  I guess it’s some deal struck by the IFC film channel, which I don’t even get, and distributors, but both this film and the English film Fish Tank (2009) are available while still in cinemas (Fish Tank just opened yesterday in San Francisco).  And what with liking going to the cinema, being pretty well satisfied by Netflix, this isn’t something that I’ve done too often (as in never), watching a film that perhaps I should be seeing in the cinema on cable.  I’ll spare you my Comcast drama around this, but let’s just say that I had some ironic setbacks in trying to forge a new relationship with Pay-Per-View (so I am not necessarily endorsing it here).

Police, Adjective sounded interesting to me, but it’s not the kind of film that is apt to sound interesting to “just anybody”.  It’s viciously slow and downbeat, low energy and perhaps ultra-understated.  The story follows a plain-clothes policeman in a Romanian town, set to follow some pot-smoking teens, set to bust one of them for sharing his stash with friends, therefore (distributing).  But the cop doesn’t feel that it’s a crime really, considering how other European neighbors treat such an offence, and is loath to send the kid up the river unnecessarily.

The film follows his dull routine, following these pot-smoking teens, who really don’t do anything unusual.  He spends hours just waiting for nothing to happen, and it starts reflecting badly on him professionally.  Ultimately, he’s faced with a conundrum, moral law (his personal feelings about right and wrong given the circumstances) and the literal interpretation of terminology, not just the law as it is set, but the definitions of “law”, “moral law”, “morality”, “police”, as spelled out by his superior from a Romanian dictionary.

And really, this is what the film is about.  Semantics.  Language.  Meaning.  Morality.  Rules.  Interpretations of rules.  But also a set of legal rules that have come down through a historical system (and without questioning their meaning or rightness), the requirement of one to follow said rules.  It’s really quite funny how a film, so slow moving, slow-evolving, a film where so little happens, becomes so thought-provoking while so low-key, so down-beat, and so seemingly unchallenging.

Perhaps this is part of the nature of “The Romanian New Wave”.  Something to do with the social structures, the power, the old Soviet structures (buildings and rules) that have been left behind to be interpreted in the here and now either by literalists or by those with a broader perspective.  It’s really quite amusing.  Like a joke whose punchline gets delivered in full only hours after the movie has finished.  Irony, yet implacability.

Interesting.  Seriously interesting for those willing to challenge themselves to such a thing.  And on Pay-Per-View too, if you can’t find it in your local cinema.

Is it a good or a bad thing, this?  I don’t know.  Neither literally, nor figuratively, nor morally, nor symbolically.

Pandorum

Pandorum (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Christian Alvart
viewed: 01/29/10

Bad science fiction.  I’ve talked about how I like that, right?  Well, badness is in the eye of the beholder, no doubt.  And conversely, when the most unusual of circumstances arises, when one of these pretty badly panned films turns out to be a little better than I’d been reading, I gotta say, is it bad, is it good?  Hey, I don’t totally know.

This film, starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster, is set on a deep space mission, a “sleeper ship” in which everyone has been put to sleep to survive the distance traveled and time spanned.  But they awaken to find the ship sabotaged, the timeline way off from their expectations, and worst of all, some crazy humanoid cannibal monsters hunting and killing and preying on all the frozen people.

While it’s far from great art or great filmmaking, the film manages to be a little more interesting than a lot of others by situating the story in the mystery.  The characters don’t know what’s going on, nor does the audience.  And while the film does start with a few words of prelude about the end of the Earth due to overpopulation and the seeking of perhaps something in outer space, well, the story unfolds, unwinds with the mystery intact.  And I liked that.  It dragged me in.

And while the movie winds up not being overly inventive or logical as the story does start to get explicated (and even the explication is kind of annoying when it does come), it holds together on the whole.  I won’t ruin it by detailing what they find out because that was the primary pleasure in the film for me.  And again, once the curtain has been raised, the story is exposed, it’s arguably pretty lame, I wound up liking the damn thing.

Foster is actually pretty good as the hero, sort of understated, as he works his way toward the center.  And I liked Quaid as well.

It’s not “good” science fiction.  I wouldn’t say that.  But it’s not terrible science fiction either.  It’s a more interesting than average little film that isn’t generally considered to be all that good.

Gamer

Gamer (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
viewed: 01/26/10

Having a penchant for bad science fiction, I’m apt to pick up lots of movies that would pass quickly by most people without even a blink of an eye, and with some of them, I just put them in my Netflix queue and wait for them to hit DVD.  And then I forget much about them until they show up in my mailbox.  And such was the case with Gamer.

I want to say that there is a semi-interesting idea inside of the film.  A guy creates a technology that allows people’s brains to be manipulated by others, meaning a la Being John Malkovich (1999), a “player” plays puppetmaster to a real person’s body.  Initially this plays out in a Sims / Second Life gaming world where people grab an avatar and play crazy.  And the avatars are people who basically sort of prostitute out their brains and bodies.  But the next level, the next game, is called “Assassins” or something where hardened death row inmates submit to play a series of deadly battles against one another (and if one of them survives 30 “missions”, they are freed), kind of like a modern version of Death Race 2000 (1975) .

But what I should have realized, if from nothing else the hyperactive editing and chaotic visual and narrative style, is that this film comes from Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor, who are the creators of Crank (2006) and Crank: High Voltage (2009).  Whereas those films are literally about the over-the-top vivification of adrenaline and action, Gamer actually has a little more story to it.  And their particular brand of film-making which could cause epileptic seizures in the mellowest of people, really is sound and fury and hyperbolic editing signifying perhaps a lack of anything else.

Starring Gerard Butler, who splashed into the world with his starring role in 300 (2006) and his 300 abdominal muscles, here is almost simply an avatar too, a character without persona, just a cog in the game, in the film.  And the villain, played by Michael C. Hall, who is supposed to be something quite special from the television show Dexter, is a hambone psychobilly of a character, fittingly cartoonish, but largely just really really really bad (in all applications of the term).

Not to say that there is nothing here, but it’s still more of a headache-inducing piece of crap more than anything.  Again, where the Crank films work essentially because they are just about the crazy, pulse-pounding, stupid spectacle of it all, you can kind of go with the flow, but here, where it’s all just a lot of crazy visuals and blink-blink editing, the film’s lack of humanity and heart really taxes the viewer without anything in return.

Hey, I know, I’m the one who said I liked bad sci-fi.

The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Michael Haneke
viewed: 01/26/10 at Embarcadero Center Cinema, SF, CA

Winner of the Palme D’or at Cannes last year, Michael Haneke’s film, The White Ribbon, filmed in black-and-white, is a parable-like tale of some of the dark sides of human nature.  Namely, Haneke considers it a story about Fascism, or the elements therein, which gave rise to opportunity for Fascism to come to the fore in early 20th century Europe, poised as the story is on the brink of WWI.

But it’s not a story of the big events, but the smaller, human events in a northern German farming village and situated around a series of bizarre crimes which trouble the community, yet never really find true resolution.  And the powers that be, the baron and his supervisor, the archly Puritanical local reverand, and the powers that are wielded by the strong (or empowered) over the weak (or dis-empowered).  Sounds like a fun time for all, huh?

Haneke isn’t known for making “fun” films.  He’s known for making challenging, critical, thought-provoking films, quite political in their ways, but clearly intellectual.  I was struck, for instance, when watching his 1997 film Funny Games (which he re-made a couple of years ago, shot-for-shot, for US audiences), at how masterful he is at audience manipulation, controlling the tools of narrative cinema, evoking the most striking elements.  A master.  But because he’s also so politicized, he’s not bent entirely on leading the filmgoer by the nose, other than to force one into situations of challenge and thought.

Ultimately, The White Ribbon is quite open-ended.  Nothing is truly resolved, huge questions are thrown open as the film ends, and the troubling situation of not having the mystery solved (though perhaps partially speculated upon), there is no closure for the audience.  It’s sort of a parable where you have to draw your own conclusions, write your own moral for the story.

Though Haneke has apparently made period films before for German television, this is the first of his films that I have seen that were not primarily set in contemporary times (however, The Time of the Wolf (2003) is set in the future).  He chose to film in black-and-white (or rather shoot color film and print in black-and-white) and spent a good deal of focus on period detail.  It’s interesting because his films and mentality are very modern or semi-post-modern perhaps.  And this film, which has a rich visual style and some poignant cinematography, “looks” more like a “classic” film.

Personally, I think Haneke is one of the most-interesting filmmakers in the world today.  My favorites of his films are Caché (2005) and The Piano Teacher (2001), though arguably those are his most mainstream or commercial films.  Maybe they are also his best films.  The White Ribbon, though I’ve given myself a few days to consider it, hasn’t fully sunken in.  Like many of the films that wind up really “sitting with you”, it takes them a while to settle into your system, to contemplate, to consider.  And since Haneke’s films are not wrapped in pure narrative or visual pleasure, one never so much “loves” them rather than is just impacted by them, affected by them, so much like its open-ended lack of solution to the mysteries, one rarely feels as if one has a full and complete sense oneself of his films.

Ballad of Narayama

Ballad of Narayama (1983) movie poster

(1983) dir. Shohei Imamura
viewed: 01/24/10

Though I’ve studied film and even taken a Japanese Film and Aesthetics class, til now, I’d only seen one of Shohei Imamura’s films, his 1979 film Vengeance Is Mine.  Unsurprisingly perhaps, his 1983 film Ballad of Narayama is quite a different thing from my memory of the only other of his films that I’d seen.  And it’s been such a long time, I would be hard pressed to draw any parallels or contrast points.

Ballad of Narayama took the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1983, the first of two of Imamura’s films to do so (the second being his 1997 film, The Eel.)   And, unsurprisingly, it’s quite a fascinating film.

Set in the 19th Century in rural Japan (though arguably it could have been any time perhaps in the past), it is a story about the struggle for life, survival, procreation, and the acceptance of death.  Imamura shows many animals (snakes, owls, rats) eating, copulating, dying, killing one another, a clear metaphor for the human survival, the story of the human creatures and their needs and desires and fight for life.

In the community of the village, barely enough food is produced to keep a family of size, baby boys are discarded and killed, dumped in a rice paddy without much as a blink of an eye.  Another mouth to feed is one more too many.  However, a daughter can be sold, so therefor is worth more.  Such is the basics of survival.  It’s harsh.  That’s life.

According as well, to the village’s traditions, and in cohesion with the survivalist mode of the populace, when a person live to be 70, they are to be carried by one of their children up to a mountain top to die.  Abandoned.  But this act is not one of mercilessness, but of keeping the overall health of the community strong.  The weak cannot contribute and would drain the potential survival of the clan.  And so, as harsh as this seems, there is great dignity in this process as well.

The harshest treatment befalls a small family who steals food from other families.  They are caught, accused, proven to be guilty, and then buried alive together in a pit.  Something beyond that which a snake or a falcon might condemn an entire family, men, women, children to.  But this too seems not much out of step with the world.  Not much is made of this, except the additional punishment of the pregnant daughter-in-law who carried another family’s child.

It’s a harsh film, but one with great humanity and beauty to it as well.  The people are all very much of their animal selves, needing food, sex, warmth.  And the film is not without humor.  Quite a bit of humor is played out along the line of the stinky youngest brother, who for I am guessing societal exclusion is unwashed and a virgin, yearning, mastrubating, even buggering the family dog, until his mother sets him up with an older widow to get his burning sexual needs met.

The dignity with which the mother takes her place upon the mountain, amid the bones of her friends, family and ancestors, speaks to the interpretation that Imamura finds this a time in which people are conencted to the world, to one another, to the planet, the mountain (its spirit), and the harshness of life is also part of its inherent beauty.

Dead-End Drive In

Dead-End Drive In (1985) movie poster

(1985) dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith
viewed: 01/22/10

After watching the documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008), I felt it behooved me to watch some example of “Oxploitation”.  This film, Dead-End Drive In, was one that I’d remembered from the video stores of the 1980’s, with no concept about what it was about, much less that it was Australian.  I think it wound up on the “Horror” section or perhaps on the “Science Fiction” section, probably its most apt shelf outside of “Australia”.

I think in selecting it for viewing, it was one of the few films cited in Not Quite Hollywood (2008) that was actually readily available from Netflix, that I had heard of, and the concept sounded sort of interesting.  Some punk/new wave concentration camp/prison of sorts that was a drive-in theater, featuring lots of exploitation films, junk food, and drugs.  At least, there seemed some sort of potential social commentary/reflexivity.

The film is definitely a bit of The Road Warrior (1981) with a lot of pretty solid punk/new wave folks in an almost pre-Burning Man world, a society outside of society, but really imprisoned.  It’s supposed to be five years in the future from the film’s production date, which made it roughly 1989, post-economic collapse, and while there are all kinds of wild youth roaming the streets and destroying cars and people, the government of Australia has decided to secretly imprison the youth of the day in these drive-ins, give them drugs, violence, movies, and junk food ad nauseum, and so they’ll be in a galvanized gilded cage of sorts.

However, a young man with his brother’s vintage hotrod and his cute bimbo girlfriend wind up paying entry without knowing what they’ve gotten themselves into.  But they fit the description, young and all, and become prisoners/residents.

The film is quite entertaining enough with its surly “punkers” (seems like the right description) and its “music video”-style neon and modus operandi.  It’s certainly a rock solid example of 1980’s-ness.

The biggest two problems are the film’s pure ill-logic and the film’s star, a rather unappealing Ned Manning as “Crabs”.  He doesn’t seem to represent anything really.  He’s not a drug-taker, nor a real miscreant, but a milk-drinking, hard working-out little dude, who has relative intelligence (relatively low) and a relative set of morality/sense of things.  He’s not very likeable or appealing, and his motivations seems weak and naive, so it’s hardly like you’re really pulling for him to escape and his ultimate egress seems somewhat insignificant.

It’s just a sort of weak premise behind the locking all the punks and youth of the day into an anarchistic slum of a drive-in and waiting for the action to commence.  And maybe it’s a little much to complain about such a thing in an exploitation film, but you know, it’s probably not that hard to make it make a little more sense.  And get a semi-more-appealing lead.

So, I don’t know how this ultimately measures up in the world of Ozploitation or 1980’s exploitation, but I do give it some true 1980’s street cred for style of the characters and the set design.  I’d call it semi-inspired junk cinema, by no means the worst of its kind and by no means deplorable (though the thrown-in racism of the crowd seems like an attempt at commentary that is sort of superfluous).  Eh.  I wasn’t missing a whole lot all those years.  But it wasn’t terrible either.

Coraline

Coraline (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Henry Selick
viewed: 01/22/10

This is the third time that I have watched Coraline (02/07/09 and 02/28/09 are my previous posts about it.)  Interestingly, in the now 8+ years of writing this Film Diary, I have only now seen two films in full 3x in that span (the other being the wonderful Buster Keaton film Sherlock Jr. (1924)).  And now, having purchased a copy of the Coraline DVD for my kids, I can imagine that becoming at some point soon eclipsed.

Quite frankly, I think that Coraline is an utterly fantastic film.  Beautifully animated, vividly and lushly designed, and a truly powerful and effective children’s story that is truly a timeless and powerful work that transends its production means, its “intended” audience, and anything remotely denigrating to cast off toward any animated feature.

Earlier this year, in my recap of 2009’s films, I personally favored it as “the Best film of 2009”, which I know is mere opinion and even more silly to cite oneself or one’s own opinion other than simply to re-state how awesome and wonderful a film this truly is.  And after watching it on DVD for the first time, despite not being a “big screen experience”, I’ve come to realize that it very well may be one of my favorite films.

Supposedly everyone has a “favorite movie” or “favorite book” or “favorite whatever”.  Typically speaking, I find it hard to distinguish what one of anything completely towers over all others to the point of being “my favorite”.  And I’ve typically hedged the bet by listing several favorites.  But, given such a thing, a small pool of favorites, which by some methodology of caprice, I have separated from other films that I think are completely fantastic, amazing, tremendous, perhaps powerful or moving or even brutal, one does come to realize that there is “something” that one has used to differentiate “favorites” from films I just “like” or “love” or what-have-you.

Whatever it is, I believe that Coraline is now one of my favorite films.  The only film that I have likened to it is another animated feature, Hayao Miyazaki’s amazing Spirited Away (2001), another film that is so much more than an animated feature.

God knows that come awards time, Pixar will rake in the American attention for animated films with its 2009 film Up, but I don’t even think that it was even the third best animated feature that I saw last year.  But even alongside the terrific films Ponyo (2008) and Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), I think Coraline as being something much more perhaps, something truly masterful and timeless.  A modern classic of a fairy tale, a vision about wonders and nightmares, the fascination of spectacles, the fears of childhood, and the darkness and treachery of the universe.

To Have and Have Not

To Have and Have Not (1944) movie poster

(1944) dir. Howard Hawks
viewed: 01/20/10

You know those great movies that were made in the days before “they don’t make ’em like they used to?”  The best of Hollywood’s output during its heyday?  Movies with classic lines like “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”  Starring great movie stars like Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Walter Brennan?  Directed by the auteur of auteurs, Howard Hawks?  And even co-scripted by William Faulkner, a nobel prize-winning novelist adapting for the screen a book by another nobel-winner, Ernest Hemingway?  And throw in Hoagy Carmichael!

Okay, so it’s not really quite like this film has as many true peers as it could, but it is of an era of classic stuff.  This is one of those movies that you’d hope no idiot would ever try to re-make.  It’s just not necessary (despite the fact that it doesn’t stick too closely to the novel at all).  It was also 19-year old Lauren Bacall’s first film and where she met and started her life-long romance with Humphrey Bogart.  It’s got a hell of a lot going for it.

I’d just read To Have and Have Not last year for the first time, and believe it or not, I’d never seen the film myself before now.  It’s never too late to discover for yourself what many people have known for eons, movies like this, they are worth digging up and seeing.  Big time.

Moving the action from Cuba to Martinique and truncating a more complex narrative into a single setting of time and place certainly does rob the novel quite a bit of its character.  But it takes the general scenario, a rum-runner/captain of a small fishing boat/half-honest American Harry Morgan, who through circumstances winds up taking the smuggling of some human cargo for a political situation with which he is not involved, and makes as good on it as it perhaps might have been possible.

At times, there’s a tad bit of re-hash of Casablanca (1942) going on, but the film has so much of its own that that might be quibbling.  Bogart and Bacall are terrific together.  And although her singing leaves a bit to be desired, her sultry voice and gorgeous eyes and lips leave nothing to be desired.  It’s all there.

Hoagy Carmichael as “Cricket”, the pianist, is a wonderful thing to rediscover as well.  He’s got such a deft way with his songs, you almost wish the whole film was about him at times.  And Walter Brennan.  That guy is just plain great.  They truly do not make gentlemen like him these days.

Hell, it’s all about the “having” and not anything about the “not”.  This is top-notch Hollywood.  You cannot go wrong.