" Sir, you try my patience
I don’t mind if I do. You must come over and try mine sometime "
— [?] and Groucho Marx, Duck Soup

MRQE Top Critic

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Pic of the Week

Each week we pick a recommended "Pic" from our archives. Below are our most recent picks.

Surveillance

***2009, Jennifer Chambers Lynch

The cast is the glue that holds together this eerie, demented ride

Surveillance is a grisly, wild ride through the dark side.

The Legend of 1900

***1/21998, Giuseppe Tornatore

The Legend of 1900 is an unconventional, imaginative fable about a man whose entire universe is a ship.

Spider-Man 3

***2007, Sam Raimi

A glorious mess that is at turns the darkest and funniest of the trilogy

The third installment in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series is a glorious mess that is at turns the darkest and funniest of the trilogy.

Midnight in Paris

***2011, Woody Allen

Allen and Wilson dip their toes into the golden age

In Woody Allen’s latest movie, he offers some advice probably intended for himself: don’t live in the past, man up, and don’t be so wishy-washy. Of course, it sounds better coming from Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.

The Revenant

***1/22016, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu

A grueling experience (and that’s a compliment).

The Revenant is quite a grueling experience (and that’s a compliment).

The Wings of the Dove

***1997, Iain Softley

Sometimes I find 19th century British costume dramas a little hard to relate to. It’s not the time or the distance, it’s the rules and conventions of a social class that deserves resentment rather than sympathy. Yet somehow, the movies are all well made and I always get caught up in the story.

The Wings of the Dove fits the pattern.

Kate (Helena Bonham Carter) and Merton (Linus Roache) are in love. Merton, a newspaper writer, would like to marry Kate. But Kate’s “job”, if you will, is to be a member of the British upper class. Her father lost all of her family’s money, but a wealthy aunt agreed to take care of her until she married a nice rich man. Naturally, a newspaper writer’s wages don’t count as “rich.”

Kate leads him on, but she always ends up giving him the cold shoulder, ultimately because he’s not marriageable.

Kate’s American friend Millie (Alison Elliot) stops in for a visit on her way to Venice. At a party, Millie catches a glimpse of Merton and likes what she sees. Kate realizes that if Merton were introduced to Millie, he might forget about her. It appears that she is trying to spare him from the heartbreak of their inevitable breakup. Merton sees what Kate is doing and resents her for it. He is still in love with Kate, and will accept no substitute.

The three of them, along with a fourth friend (Elizabeth McGovern) end up on holiday in Venice together, where their interactions are quite complicated. Let’s sum up: Millie has fallen for Merton. Merton has no feelings for Millie because he is still in love with Kate. Kate loves him but can’t marry him, so on the one hand she’s trying to match him up with someone who will make him happy, but on the other hand she’s jealous of them as a couple.

A clear solution presents itself to Kate when she realizes that Millie is very sick — dying, in fact. At this point she decides that Merton should marry Millie until she dies. Millie will leave her money to Merton, who will then be rich enough to marry Kate. She lets Merton know of her schemes and, since it will help him win Kate, he reluctantly agrees.

Kate leaves Venice so that the two M’s can be alone together. Merton finds that pretending to love Millie is a lot like actually loving her. He’s not sure he can separate the two. Kate finds that she’s not so sure she really wants her Merton falling in love with and marrying anyone else. The brilliant scheme proves to be painful to all involved. Without revealing the details, suffice it to say that the situation ends badly. The title refers to the object of Merton’s vain hope that something might lift him from his predicament.

One is left with feelings of regret and despair. What started as such a promising relationship was damaged by greed, anger, and jealousy. An interesting thought struck me after the movie was over, and that is that The Wings of the Dove almost fits the story line of a film noir. A couple conspires to cheat someone out of their money so they can live happily ever after. Their involvement in the deception makes each less attractive to the other, and after a few things go wrong, the whole idea seems like an awful life-ruining mistake. I wouldn’t call The Wings of the Dove a film noir, but the comparison is interesting.

As I have acknowledged before, I am not a wonderful judge of acting, but I liked the performances from Roache and Elliot. Roache successfully conveyed his character’s ambivalence toward Millie: near the end, he hugs her, at first staring into space, as if he’s thinking about his plan with Kate, then giving that up to fully embrace Millie. Millie’s part didn’t require as much range, but Elliot gave her the necessary bubbly personality that made her irresistible.

I will probably file away The Wings of the Dove in the same low-traffic corner of my mind as Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. Their settings are far removed from my personal experience — geographically, historically, and socially. Still, the movies are well made and the stories inevitably win me over.

Extreme Private Eros Love Song 1974

***1974, Kazuo Hara

A case of one loose cannon following another

Before director Kazou Hara made The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, he made Extreme Private Eros Love Song 1974. It would be 13 years before he made another film. Extreme Private Eros is an exhausting film to watch, and it must have been murder to make. It is a wonder that Hara ever made another one.

Captain America: Civil War

***1/22016, Anthony Russo, and Joe Russo

The second half of this popcorn flick is nearly perfect summer movie magic.

The second half of this popcorn flick is nearly perfect summer movie magic.

Baadasssss

***2004, Mario Van Peebles

Through it all we root for Mario-as-Melvin, who makes a good, likeable hero.

The 1971 film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song by Melvin Van Peebles launched the “blaxploitation” movement in American cinema. I was too young to know about it in 1971, but when Criterion released it on home video I watched it. I was unimpressed by the movie, and the DVD didn’t explain why it deserved such a prestigious spot in the Criterion catalogue. What was missing was a historical context in which to frame the movie.

Grin without a Cat

****1977, Chris Marker

Unless you are up on your history, it will be a jumble of marching in the streets

Although it is a documentary about the 1960s, don’t expect to see hippies and Woodstock in Grin without a Cat. Those tired American stereotypes play no part in Chris Marker’s four-hour, three-ring-circus of a film. The main attraction in Grin without a Cat is Paris in May of 1968... which was a sort of a French Woodstock in that it’s a watershed event by which all others are judged. Student demonstrators took to the streets and battled with police and a general strike almost toppled the government.

Quantum Hoops

***2007, Rick Greenwald

America loves its athletes, but the scholars are just as driven, determined, and successful

Whether I’m cool enough to be considered a nerd or not, I still have a soft spot in my heart for them. I admire brainiacs. In school, it’s pretty easy to tease and disdain the brains, but I always found them more interesting and inspiring than the more normal, more popular, and more accepted kids.

Fantasia 2000

***1/21999, Hunt, Butoy, Goldberg, Algar, Glebas, Brizzi, and

Fantasia was designed for sequels

Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 dazzle in high-definition video. The version of Fantasia available on a new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is as close to the original theatrical version as you’re likely to see. Fantasia 2000 pays tribute to its predecessor and gives Disney’s animators a chance do something different. This set includes the long-awaited video release of Destino, a Salvador Dalí-inspired short film that was begun in 1946 and completed in 2003. The bonus features for both movies provide glimpses into the artists’ creative processes.