I feel like I must have gotten the idea to watch Strangers on a Train from someone in Film Club, but it could have been from an article or something. I don’t remember. Anyway, I was surprised to find that this film didn’t suck me in from the start. The main character, Guy, is the problem. He’s bland, and Farley Granger plays him so woodenly that it’s hard to pay attention to him or care what happens to him. Robert Walker completely outshines Granger with his portrayal of bat-shit crazy Bruno, but Bruno isn’t enough to carry the film because a.) he’s bat-shit crazy, and b.) I hate him.
Things turned around for me at about the hour mark, when Guy breaks into Bruno’s house and has his standoff with the dog on the stairs. This scene disturbed my cat Benny so much that he fled the living room and went and hid under the covers on my bed, and I think we have to give props to the dog actor for that, as Guy had no lines. (All the best scenes in this film involve Guy not talking.) The way the scene was shot, with the angles and cutting back-and-forth, builds tension (I’m completely with Benny on this one. NO WAY would I have gone up those stairs.), but it also felt a little cliche, which I realize is because I’ve seen that scene copied in a million forgettable horror movies.
The thing that really won me over about this film, though, was that the denouement centered on a speeding carousel. I loved that scene so much that I started whooping a little, and, seriously, haven’t you always wanted to go on a super-fast merry go round? I have. And then there was that little kid who started punching bat-shit crazy Bruno. That kid was my favorite character in the movie.
Looking at Hitchcock’s filmography, I’m surprised to see that this arrived so late in his career, after films like Psycho and Rear Window that showed so much more command of the material. This one felt a little half-baked to me, like a less experienced director’s movie. I guess Al made some masterpieces, so he’s allowed to make some duds, too.
I also watched North by Northwest, which I enjoyed tremendously in spite of its utter lack of a speeding carousel.
I’ve been trying to catch up with Film Club conversations and am not caught up. Some quick thoughts, though. Ben, I haven’t written about My Sister’s Sister, but it may be my favorite film of the year, too, and I’ve meaning to write a post about Mark Duplass because I think I may becoming a fan. Also, I don’t even know who my current favorite member of Film Club is, because not only does Ben like this movie I liked, but he also mentions WTF in a post, but then John said such charming things about my blogging. Also his daughters sent me the best letters I’ve ever gotten in my life a few weeks ago. He’s maybe got an edge right now.
Brandon, you are so right about the ending of Django. (Although I want to note that I liked the music more than you did, but you are, I think, much more discriminating and sensitive to this than I am.) I felt like that moment when you felt the movie should have ended–when, YES, it should have ended–is the most moving scene in any of Tarantino’s films. Schultz’s change was complex and profound and meaningful, and Tarantino and Christoph Waltz communicate it with such simplicity and economy in that moment. Reflecting on it. I realize that I have been so much more intellectually engaged by Tarantino than emotionally engaged, and I like the possibilities of him growing as a filmmaker in this way. Even with its significant flaws, I think this has to be one of my favorites of the year, although I should maybe spend some more time thinking about my favorites of 2012 before I start throwing that label all casually on everything.