Category Archives: VINTAGE MOVIES

Vintage Movies: “Au Revoir Les Enfants”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

AuRevoirLesEnfants

Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987, 104 minutes)

This gripping tale of Nazi officials outing Jews from the French educational system was a worldwide favorite from Louis Malle (Elevator To The Gallows, Murmur Of The Heart). It was fueled by incidents that took place during Malle’s childhood in occupied France during the early days of World War II.

French Literature student Julien Quentin (Gaspard Manesse) is reading a free verse selection by poet Charles Peguy at a pretty good clip when he is stopped in mid-sentence by the instructor, a Roman Catholic priest. “M. Quentin, you are ready for the Comedie Francais,” he says to general uproar from Quentin’s teenage classmates. “Can you tell us who Charles Peguy was?” asks the professor. “He was killed in the First World War,” replies Julien. “You’re starting at the end of the story,” assesses the teacher as Quentin spins a Geometry compass on the palm of his hand until the point digs a hole large enough for a little blood to be seen.

During recess, the boys joust with one another on wooden stilts, hurling epithets as though they were the foot soldiers of Richard The Lionhearted battling the Moors. Over a hearty lunch of meat and bread, one student reads a biblical verse: “St. Simeon was 13 when he was tending his father’s sheep and heard this verse: ‘Woe unto ye who laughs. The time shall come when you shall weep.’ St. Simeon left home to become a hermit and lived 30 years atop a column.” Lost on the students, this bit of knowledge emits only further riotous laughter.

In afternoon’s Algebra class the instructor, a wiry old man in a blue beret, asks for volunteers to put an equation on the blackboard. The new boy, Jean Bonnet, renders the work perfectly in chalk to the instructor’s approval. An air raid siren sounds nearby, and the teacher reminds his pupils that class is still in session and to bring their texts down into the bomb shelter. By the flickering glow of a few naked light bulbs, they continue the lesson underground as the sound of bombs approaches. Quentin and Bonnet (Raphael Fejto) shine a flashlight around their surroundings as the others begin to recite, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee … ” Quentin joins in the refrain, although Bonnet seems unaware of the verse.

The next day, Quentin struggles to get through the simplest of piano exercises. “It’s an A-sharp. Can’t you hear when you hit a wrong note?” asks the instructor, a girl not much older than the boy himself, as she distractedly files her nails. When Quentin’s time expires, she opens her book of sheet music to a more difficult piece to assess the talent of her next pupil, the new boy, Bonnet. He plays it easily with such passion that Quentin stays to listen through the studio’s window.

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Vintage Movies: “The Asphalt Jungle”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Asphalt

The Asphalt Jungle (1950, 112 minutes)

A 1950 Ford police cruiser tails a suspect in an armed robbery of a seedy, warehouse-district hotel. Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden) ducks behind a cement pillar as the cop car drives by. He enters a weather-beaten cafe advertising “American Food” and, saying nothing, hands a revolver to the proprietor who quickly shoves it inside the cash register’s till. The cops arrive a minute later and threaten to search the joint. “You’ll need a warrant,” says the owner (James Whitmore). Thwarted without a weapon, the police take Handley in for vagrancy to see if they can make a positive identification.

At a police lineup of only three suspects, Lt. Ditrick (Barry Kelley) points at Handley and barks at the timid man seated next to him. “C’mon, is that him!?” “I’m not sure. He wore a hat,” says the hotel clerk nervously. Even with their hats on, no ID is made by the fidgety clerk. And to add to the lieutenant’s bad day, he’s summoned to the office of the police commissioner.

Silver-haired Commissioner Hardy (John McIntire) demands to know why Ditrick hasn’t made more of a dent in his precinct’s crime rate. “I close ‘em down, but they only open up again,” pleads Ditrick. “You don’t close ‘em down hard enough!” bellows the commissioner. “Rip out the phones! Smash up the furniture!” Ditrick replies weakly, “People like to bet on the horses, and just because the law says … ” I don’t want your opinion of the law!” interrupts Hardy.

“Is that all, sir?” asks Ditrick after an awkward silence. “No, that’s not all. Where is Erwin Riedenschneider? You don’t know, do ya?” asks the commissioner, smiling like a man with indigestion. “No sir, but we ought to get word from our stoolies pretty soon,” says the lieutenant. The commissioner rambles on, “He left state prison yesterday at 12-noon and arrived in this city at 3:17. All you had to do was stay with him for 24 hours, and if he didn’t register, lock him up. Now, one of the most dangerous criminals alive is at large in this city!”

A cabbie drops off a well-dressed man in the bad part of town. “I wouldn’t go parading around this neighborhood with a suitcase,” he warns. “Some of these punks might clip ya just to get a clean shirt.” The fare presses the door buzzer. “Yeah?” says a bulky man. “Just say Doc is here.” “You better be on the legit,” warns the guard. “All right, make it fast,” says a jittery man in a pencil mustache summoned from inside. “Maybe you’ve heard of me, the Professor or Herr Doktor?” suggests the new arrival (Sam Jaffe). Fear flutters in the other man’s eyes. “You mean you’re … Riedenschneider?” he asks. “Why didn’t you say so? Come on in, doc,” he bubbles, extending a hand.

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Vintage Movies: “Our Man In Havana”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

OurManInHavana

Our Man In Havana (1959, 111 minutes)

Alec Guinness stars as James Wormold in Graham Greene’s gentle send-up of the growing James Bond phenomenon. Directed by Carol Reed (The Third Man), it’s set in a bustling Havana in 1958 during the last days of the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista, as Fidel Castro’s revolution gathers steam in the Cuban outback. Wormold sells vacuum cleaners, just the kind of innocent cover needed for a potential British secret-service operative, or so thinks Hawthorne, about to recruit Wormold as “his man in Havana.”

Smelling a rat, Captain Segura of the local police questions Wormold’s German friend Dr. Hasselbacher about Hawthorne (Noel Coward). “Who is that man speaking with Mr. Wormold?” asks Segura (Ernie Kovacs) from the back seat of an American limousine. “I don’t know, just a customer,” replies Hasselbacher (Burl Ives). Once Hawthorne discovers that Wormold has a British passport, he says mysteriously, “I’ve enjoyed our little chat. We’ll meet again.” Wormold’s shop assistant, Lopez, remarks, “He never intended to buy.”

Segura is also keeping an eye on Milly (Jo Morrow), Wormold’s beautiful young teenage daughter, and frequently drives her home from school. She is knee-deep in the adolescent-girl stage where she’s in love with horses (an infatuation soon to be replaced by one for boys). Milly’s father worries about her future. As Hasselbacher returns to the shop, Wormold bemoans his financial status. “I could manage a small loan,” says the doctor. “It’s not that,” Wormold replies. “It’s just that I don’t want Milly to grow up in an atmosphere like this: civil war, men like Segura. I want a finishing school in Switzerland for her, a home in Kensington and an Anglo-Saxon husband with two-thousand a year—and no mistress.”

The solution to Wormold’s financial predicament becomes increasingly obvious once he bumps into Hawthorne again, this time in a storied Havana watering hole called Sloppy Joe’s. “What could be easier, meeting a fellow countryman in a bar?” remarks Hawthorne. “Where’s the Gents?” he asks the bartender. “You go in there and I’ll follow,” he says to Wormold. When Wormold protests he doesn’t need the Gents, Hawthorne replies, “Don’t let me down. You’re an Englishman, aren’t you?”

Hawthorne pokes open the doors to the toilet stalls with his umbrella to ascertain they are alone. “Better turn on the water. It looks more convincing,” he says to a bewildered Wormold. “And, of course, it confuses the mic, although there probably wouldn’t be one in a place like this. My name’s Hawthorne, but you will know me better as 59200. I’m in charge of the Caribbean network. Come tonight to room 506 Capri Hotel to sign the Official Secrets Act.” Wormold replies, “You don’t really think I’ll come, do you?” Hawthorne seals the deal by announcing: “A-hundred-and-50 a month plus expenses. Tax free.”

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Vintage Movies: “Being John Malkovich”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

BeingJohn

Being John Malkovich (1999, 112 minutes)

A trippy, modern-day tumble down Alice’s rabbit hole from director Spike Jonze. Instead of soldiers made from playing cards and a bellowing Queen of  hearts, the lucky participant experiences a 15-minute voyage in which he actually becomes renowned actor John Malkovich.

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is awakened by his wife’s annoying  alarm clock just seconds before his beloved Lotte (Catherine Keener) starts in on her daily grind, gently aimed at his pursuit of a real job. “Nobody’s looking for a puppeteer in today’s wintry economic climate,” replies Craig, well rehearsed in his part. “I thought maybe something else, just until this puppet thing turns around,” she replies good naturedly. “I’ve gotta get to the shop. Shipment of kitty litter coming in today. Oh, and could you look at Elijah for me? He’s not looking very good.” Wearily, he asks, “Which one’s Elijah?” “The chimp,” she says, shutting the front door.

Later that day, Craig assumes his usual busking spot on a bustling city corner, using two puppets to portray a scene where the male and female, dressed in medieval garb, are grasping at one another in evocative positions, separated by thick jail walls. Catching his little daughter watching this disgusting display, her father screams, “Motherfucker!” at Craig before breaking his nose. “Oh no, not again!” cries Lotte as Craig stumbles into the pet shop. “Why do you do this to yourself?” “I’m a puppeteer,” he mutters.

Now desperate for any kind of work, Craig comes upon a curious listing in a “Help Wanted” section that might bear fruit. “Looking For A Man With Fast Hands. Short-statured file clerk with dexterous fingers. Apply at Lester Corp, 7 1/2 Floor, Merton-Flimmer Bldg.” “Seven and a half, right?” suggests the elevator operator to Craig who nods his assent. The lady operator grasps an industrial-sized crowbar as she punches the “stop” button halfway between the seventh and eighth floors, then pries the door open. A half-sized exit is revealed that leads to a perfectly normal looking office floor, except that everything is half-sized.

Craig must bend over like a jack-knife to avoid hitting the ceiling. He finds the Lester Corp office and tells the receptionist he has an appointment with Dr. Lester. “Please have a seat, Mr. Juarez.” “Schwartz,” corrects Craig to no avail. “My name is Schwartz.” “Sorry, I have no idea what you’re saying right now,” replies the receptionist. “Yes,” says Craig heading toward an empty chair. “Chet?” says the receptionist, confused. “I said ‘yes,’” says Craig. “You suggest what?” says the receptionist. “Sorry, I have no time for mumbling job applicants. Besides, Dr. Lester will see you now.” A quick interview with Dr. Lester, convinced by his secretary that he’s the one with the hearing problem, and Lester extends his hand. “You’ve got the job,” he beams.

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Vintage Movies: “Mean Streets”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

MeanStreets

Mean Streets (1973, 112 minutes)

To the casual viewer, the house-onfire success of David Chase’s TV series The Sopranos seemed to owe much to Francis Ford Coppola’s epic trio of mob movies beginning with The Godfather in 1972. In truth, it was one of Martin Scorsese’s first films, Mean Streets, that served as principal inspiration for Tony Soprano and his boys, almost three decades later. The Godfather movies dealt with crime as big and even bigger business, whereas Mean Streets and The Sopranos traveled the other way down the food chain to everyday life of the foot soldiers in the trenches. It was FDR’s New Deal carried beyond what might have been its logical extreme: Get America Moving, indeed.

Charlie (Harvey Keitel), a man with a leg up in his local family, collecting debts for his uncle Giovanni (Cesare Danova), awakens from a fitful sleep to the sound of God. Or it could be his own voice intoning: “You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the street. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it.”

The film’s haunting intro continues with what might be the best three minutes in pop music history: Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound orchestra in all its drywall-rattling glory backing the Ronettes crooning “Be My Baby” over the most easily identifiable three-note drum-pattern, ever. A series of grainy home movies splashes Charlie’s family across the screen, from backyard birthdays, to baby Christenings and Saturdays spent in simple, religious-themed amusement parks.

Cut to fellow mafioso Tony (David Proval) discovering a junkie shooting up in his strip club’s rest room. He grabs the bum by the collar, walks him through the club, knocking over furniture, and shoves him out the front door. “Keep outta my place! I know your face?” he shouts. “George, whaddaya do here? You’re supposed to be a bouncer?!”

Later at the same joint, Charlie and Michael discuss the new boy Charlie’s brought on board, by all accounts a loose cannon who may need special handling. “I’d like to know what’s goin’ on in that kid’s head,” says Charlie. “I think you should care a little more about his payments,” says Michael (Richard Romanus). “I think the kid’s tryin’ to duck me. What happens if he doesn’t pay me? I gotta collect from you? I don’t wanna do that.” “You’re right. You don’t,” says Charlie, smiling broadly. Before long, Johnny Boy staggers in, wearing a heavy overcoat. He’s played by an impossibly young Robert De Niro, a kid who owes money to every loan shark in town. And he’s brought along a couple of bohemian chicks he’s just picked up in the Village. The time has come, sighs Charlie with the patience of a parish priest in the confessional, to give serious counsel to this fledgling.

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Vintage Movies: “Bottle Rocket”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

BottleRocket

Bottle Rocket (1996, 91 minutes)

Closer in spirit to 2012′s Moonrise Kingdom than the Euro-shenanigans of The Grand Budapest Hotel (his current comedy), Bottle Rocket was Wes Anderson’s 1996 directorial debut, and he came out swinging for the fences at the tender age of 27. Two years later, he hit the critical jackpot with his sophomore effort, Rushmore. If anyone still wonders what J.D. Salinger might have produced if Catcher In The Rye hadn’t turned out to be a brilliant personal cul de sac, Anderson’s work might bear further scrutiny.

In the grounds surrounding a mental rehab hospital for teenagers, a crow sounds his distinctive cry. To tell the truth, the “caw-caw, caw-caw” sounds more like a bad imitation of a crow by a pubescent boy than the real thing. Anthony (Luke Wilson) opens the window of his second-floor room, notices a friendly face below and quickly ties four bedsheets together. He anchors one end to his bed and tosses the other out the window.

“Anthony, what’s this? What’s going on?” asks the boy’s young doctor who’s walked in at just the wrong moment. “Uh, see, my friend Dignan didn’t realize this is a voluntary hospital,” Anthony stammers. “He had this whole escape thing worked out. He got so excited I didn’t have the heart to tell him. I gotta do it this way, Dr. Nichols. It’s only one floor.” Nichols (Ned Dowd) closes his eyes and, counter to every medical impulse running through his veins, says, “OK, but can you do it fast? This doesn’t look good.” Anthony replies sincerely, “Thanks, you’ve been a great doctor.” Nichols bids Anthony farewell at the window as the boy shinnies effortlessly to he ground. “Hey, Anthony, don’t try to save everybody, OK?” advises the doctor as he tosses the boy his overnight bag.

“Any problems?” asks Dignan (Owen Wilson) breathlessly as Anthony joins him behind a large clump of silver-tipped swordbrush. “Wait, wait! Who’d you get to do that?” he asks as someone begins to reel in the bedsheet escape ladder from above. “Did you bribe the janitor!?” he asks, waving to the figure above, even before Anthony can answer the question. Dr. Nichols slowly waves back.

The two boys are barely seated in the tidy little shuttle bus headed into town before Dignan plops a red-covered, spiral-bound notebook into his friend’s lap. “Look this over,” he says of the rambling plan he’s painstakingly developed to make them both financially independent, all done in Crayola colored-ink felt-pens. Subtitles include “Practice Jobs” and “First Real Heist.” Anthony’s eyes open wide when he sees subsequent pages devoted to “The Next 25 Years” and “The Final 50 Years.” “So, did you enjoy your visit to the nut house?” he asks Dignan. “Hey, put it behind you! You’re out, you’re better!” Dignan says testily. “And so it begins.”

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Vintage Movies: “The Night Of The Hunter”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

NightOfTheHunter

The Night Of The Hunter (1955, 93 minutes)

Stacked up against Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis’ womanizing preacher from an expose written 30 years earlier, novelist Davis Grubb makes Rev. Harry Powell seem like the devil incarnate in The Night Of The Hunter. It’s the big-screen role of a lifetime for Robert Mitchum, usually known for playing down-on-their-luck petty criminals. He’s brilliant as a self-anointed, scripture-spouting fundamentalist. Only the word “HATE” tattooed on his knuckles hints at his double-life as a serial-killer.

With screaming sirens hot on his tail, Ben Harper (Peter Graves) takes a sharp turn into the dusty driveway of his country home and leaps from a battered Model-T, still carrying the pistol he’s just used in a bank robbery where two people have been gunned down. “You’re bleeding, Daddy!” shouts his young son Johnny (Billy Chapin), playing with his little sister Pearl in the front yard.

“We’ve gotta hide this money before they get to me!” gasps Ben, all but oblivious of his kids. “Close to 10 thousand dollars. But where? In the smokehouse? No, that’s the first place they’d look! In the grape arbor, under the bricks? No, no!” Like a man grasping at floating planks in a swollen river, he notices Pearl, still playing with her lumpy rag doll in the sunshine. He makes his son swear an oath that he will never tell the police where the money was hidden and that the cash will one day be his. “Don’t even tell your mother. You’ve got sense, she hasn’t.”

Two cars carrying five uniformed policemen screech to a halt at Harper’s place with weapons drawn. After making Ben drop his pistol, they throw him to the ground and handcuff him. Just as his wife, Willa (Shelley Winters, certainly Hollywood’s best female victim, ever) arrives home from grocery shopping, the police vehicle with her husband inside, manacled like a rabid animal, is already departing the premises.

Just released from a 40-day prison sentence for being in possession of a stolen automobile, Rev. Powell is rolling through the shade tree-lined West Virginia outback in an open vehicle, speaking earnestly to his creator in a Southern drawl about the worthiness of his humble endeavors. “Well now, what’s it to be, Lord, another widow? How many has it been? Six? Twelve? I disremember. You say the word, and I’m on my way,” he prays, tipping his hat heavenward. “A widow with a little wad of bills laid away in her sugar bowl.” As he spots the house described to him by his recently executed cellmate, Powell offers up a final supplication to continue his master’s work. “Lord, I am tired, not that I’m tired of the killings. Your good book is full of killings,” he prays as he rattles into the same front yard where his bunkmate was captured earlier that same year.

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Vintage Movies: “They Drive By Night”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

TheyDriveByNight

They Drive By Night (1940, 95 minutes)

A road-weary, independent long-haul trucker pulls his rig loaded with apples into a filling station and lifts a pack of cigarettes from the shirt pocket of the man sleeping next to him. He hops out of the cab and throws the empty cigarette pack on the ground. “Fill ‘er up,” he says to the grizzled gas station attendant.

“How’s it goin,’ Joe? How’s your brother?” asks the attendant. “Asleep,” says Joe (George Raft). “Seems like every time you come in here, Paul’s asleep, and you’re doin’ the drivin,’” remarks the gas jockey. “He drives as much as I do! You run your station, and we’ll take care of our rig!” snaps Joe. He bends over and pours water from the radiator fill-up hose over the top of his head like he’s hosing down an overheated horse. “That’s the nearest thing to a bath I’ve had in two weeks,” he says. “I’ve noticed,” smirks the gas pumper.

Paul (Humphrey Bogart) doesn’t wake up until Joe has the truck back on the highway. “Where are we?” he says. “Near Lansdale,” answers Joe. “We’ll grab a cup of coffee at Barney’s. Then you can drive it into Los Angeles.” Paul stretches and says, “I’d like to stay in bed for a week.” “So would I, but that ain’t the way we get ahead.”

Suddenly, some idiot in a sedan, tries to pass a truck coming toward the boys, forcing them into the ditch alongside the highway and directly into a large tree. The Fabrini brothers escape with minor injuries, but apple boxes are scattered everywhere and their left front wheel is shattered. “You dirty son of a roadhog!” shouts Paul at the retreating car. “You should have smacked into him!” “Well, what is that gonna get us?” says Joe, inspecting the damage. “You stay here and watch the load. I’ll hop up to Barney’s and telephone William, see if he’ll send us some of the dough he owes us.”

Jumping off the running board of a fellow trucker, Joe limps toward Barney’s front door. “Hello, Joe. Where’s your rig?” says Harry (John Litel), another trucker. “Down the road, busted wheel.” “Oh, tough goin.’ Can I help?” “I’m gonna phone William to send me some of the dough he owes me.” Harry lights a hand-rolled cigarette and says, “I hope ya get it. I quit haulin’ for that crook. He ran me ragged, and I hardly ever got paid.” “He’ll pay me, all right, or he won’t get his apples in L.A. on time.” “Well, If you’ve got him over a barrel, maybe you’ll get it.” Joe walks up to the hard-boiled dame behind Barney’s lunch counter and asks, “Gimme a Frisco phone book.” She tosses him a dog-eared volume and says, “Be sure you bring back all the pages.”

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Vintage Movies: “Lost Highway”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

LostHighway

Lost Highway (1997, 135 minutes)

Between Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the critically panned film version of David Lynch’s cult-hit TV series Twin Peaks, and his Oscar-nominated Mulholland Drive, there was Lost Highway, a movie that’s slipped through the cracks. It too visits that fuzzy world between dream and nightmare that indelibly stamps Lynch’s best work, something that seems so difficult for some people to swallow. You have to wonder: Do these nay-sayers have their own agenda, those who enjoy imposing their will on the artist? The only way to get the full impact of the genius of David Lynch is to lie back and let him drive the bus wherever he likes.

Awakened from a trance by the buzz of his front-door intercom, Fred Morrison (Bill Pullman) swims to the surface of the murky lagoon he’s been wallowing in for some time. He staggers to the speaker and pushes the button. “Dick Laurent is dead,” says the hollow voice on the other end. Nothing else. Morrison looks out the window of his place, then opens the front door. There is no one there.

About to shove off that night for his gig at an L.A. nightclub, Morrison carefully places his tenor sax in its carrying case. “You don’t mind me not coming by the club tonight,” says his wife Renee (Patricia Arquette). “What are ya gonna do?” asks Morrison. “Stay home, read,” says Renee. “Read … read. Read what?” replies Morrison incredulously, looking directly into her face. “It’s nice to know I can still make you laugh,” he says to her barely audible chuckle. “I like to laugh,” she says. “That’s why I married you,” he says. “You can wake me up when you get home if you want to,” says Renee.

Morrison bends back and forth on the stage of the Luna Lounge, conjuring up the sanctified Albert Ayler/Pharoah Sanders-like free-jazz skronk from his tenor as he is strafed by laser-strobe light. It’s a sound that somehow approximates the squeal of a pack of rats being torched in a barn fire. After his last set, Morrison jogs to the pay phone to give Renee a call. He lets it ring for more than a minute before giving up, a disappointed, suspicions-confirmed look creeping into his face.

Next morning, Renee walks onto the front porch to retrieve the newspaper and finds a bulky manila envelope under it. “What’s that?” asks Morrison as she opens the package. “It’s a videotape. I found it outside on the steps,” she says. “Who’s it from?” “I don’t know. There’s isn’t anything on the envelope.” “Let’s see what’s on it,” he says placing the tape into the player. The grainy, black and white image shows about 10 seconds of the camera approaching their front steps. “Must be from a real estate agent,” Renee says. Morrison replies, “Maybe.”

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Vintage Movies: “Il Postino: The Postman”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’90s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

IlPostino

Il Postino: The Postman (1994. 108 minutes)

Il Postino: The Postman features Massimo Troisi as Mario Ruoppolo, a working-class man from a small island off the Italian coast, in the early ’50s. Dedicated to finishing the film even though heart surgery was pending, Troisi, who’d suffered from rheumatic fever as a child, died from a heart attack at the age of 41, in Rome at the apartment of his sister, the day after shooting was completed.

Unless he finds another occupation, Mario is doomed to a life on his father’s fishing boat. Over a simple meal at home, he tries to explain to his old man how he feels. “I got the sniffles again today,” he says, in a lazy, mumbling manner that owes something to Brando and James Dean. “I only have to set foot on that boat and I become allergic, even if the boat isn’t moving.” As he eats he reads a postcard from two of his friends, Gaetano and Alfredo, now living in the U.S. “They say they’re about to buy an American car. And meanwhile, we’re still here.”

While riding his bike home from the harbor, Mario spots a sign advertising a job opening at the Ufficio Postale, the local post office, that reads, “WANTED: Temporary Employee With Bicycle.” He’s ushered to the desk of the tiny postal facility’s only worker. “Are you illiterate?” the postal official asks the fisherman. “No, I can read and write, but not very fast,” answers Mario. “I need someone to deliver mail to Calla di Sotto,” the postal manager says. “That’s great. That’s where I live,” says Mario. “There’s just one addressee who receives mail. Everyone else there is illiterate,” explains the manager.

The only mail delivered on the island is for its newest inhabitant, Pablo Neruda. Mario gets excited, having just sat through a news story at the local cinema about Neruda, a world famous poet recently exiled to this very island by the Chilean government. “He’s the poet loved by women,” says Mario. The postal manager corrects him: “He’s the poet loved by the people. He’s a communist, and he currently has a mountain of mail. Pedaling uphill with all that will be like carrying an elephant on your back.” The manager introduces himself to his new employee. “My name is Giorgio. I’m your superior, and you should call me, ‘Sir.’ But I won’t hold you to it, because I, too, am a communist.”

After a few trips up the mountain to Neruda’s home to deliver his mail, Mario begins to practice in the mirror, asking for the poet’s signature on a slim volume of his verse. Further interest in the work of the legendary Neruda, he reckons, may come in handy as he tries to win the heart of the local girl of his dreams, the lovely Beatrice Nusso.

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