I Like to Watch (Instantly): The Red Shoes, Fat City
Notable titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world
The Red Shoes (1948)
Directed by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Cast: Marius Goring, Jean Short, Gordon Littmann, Julia Lang, Bill Shine, Anton Walbrook, Esmond Knight, Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann
This Powell-Pressburger film, like all their other collaborations, is intelligent, well-wrought cinema with the focus clearly on the characters. But The Red Shoes is also one of those genuine classics that continues to be as brilliant and compelling as when it was first released—not only due to its double-wrapped, cruelly ironic narrative and eye-popping Technicolor sequences, but also for its incredible villain, the heartless-yet-charming ballet impresario Boris Lermontov, more inhabited than played by the great Anton Walbrook. Walbrook owns this film in much the same way fellow Austrian Christoph Walz owned last year’s Inglourious Basterds: You can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on the screen. The surreal depiction of the title ballet is the high point of this film’s cinematic ambition, a 17-minute exercise in color, motion, trick photography and chilling gravitas that forever changed the way dance was depicted in film. The Netflix rip is more than fine but sadly not HD.
Fat City (1972)
Directed by John Huston
Cast: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark, Nicholas Colasanto, Art Aragon, Curtis Cokes, Sixto Rodriguez
Unjustly little-seen slice-of-life story about losers and soon-to-be-losers in Stockton, California from film icon John Huston and novelist Leonard Gardner (who adapted his own novel). Ostensibly a “boxing film,” Fat City is really about life on the bottom rungs of the ladder; about drinking, day-laboring, flop houses and hopelessness. In the elegiac opening sequence of Stacy Keach lurching to life and looking for a match to light his last cigarette so he can face the day, the style of the film is established: languid, unflinching, coolly sympathetic. Keach has probably never been better as a beaten-down former boxer and the great ensemble cast includes Jeff Bridges (as a boxer who might be on the way up) and Susan Tyrrell (in an Oscar-nominated performance as a barfly definitely on the way down). Stockton itself is the real star, though. Huston wisely chooses to shoot on location and let the natural light of sun-baked California emphasize the reality of this sad little tale. Good news: Netflix rip is widescreen and HD.