Days of the Week: From Saturday Night Fever to His Girl Friday

His Girl FridaySunday, Monday, Movie Days

Tuesday, Wednesday, Movie Days

Thursday, Friday, Movie Days

Saturday, what a day

Writing this blog for you….

I know a good thing when I see one. So when my blog on numbers in movie titles scored double digit comments (11, to be exact, about half of them from me), I knew the public was clamoring for more. And so I give you….

A WEEK’S WORTH OF MOVIES!

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1960)

Is it, as the BFI proclaimed, the 14th best British film of all time? Or do we put our trust in eminent British critic David Thomson, who said Reisz’s poster child for the British New Wave could now “pass for parody?” It seems to me that this adaptation of Alan Sillitoe might just be both. It was a sensation when it first appeared, and Albert Finney seemed to embody the heretofore silent angry young man of the post-war years. But two decades later, it did in fact feel dated. Watching it today, and realizing that the bicycle factory where Reisz and Freddie Francis filmed key parts of the movie is now Nottingham’s modern Jubilee campus, Saturday Night… seems to have regained life and significance. Much of that credit goes to Sillitoe’s withering dialogue, which transcends the limitations of hyper-realism. “Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not” is a sentiment that will never fade away. Just ask Arctic Monkeys.

Los Lunes al Sol (Mondays in the Sun) (Fernando Leon de Aranoa, 2002)

Javier Bardem towers over Aranoa’s breakout the same way his character Santa towers over the depressed town of Vigo, where the closure of the shipyard has left a lot of men without purpose. But Santa’s fierce, anarchic humor becomes a life force. Though this is less overtly comic than the similarly-inclined The Full Monty, it is so fully realized and poignant that it cannot help but stay with you. Santa’s silent tour of his friend Amador’s lonely apartment is among the most quietly devastating scenes I have ever watched. The Goya winner in 2003.

Black TuesdayBlack Tuesday (Hugo Fregonese, 1954)

Life had not been kind to Edward G. Robinson by 1954. The Red Scare had seriously hampered a stellar career, and HUAC was in the process of forcing a capitulation. And that doesn’t begin to consider his personal life. But through all the indignities, that man could act. And he was as good as ever in this largely-forgotten crime story in which he and a young Peter Graves bust out of prison, hostages in tow. It’s hard to find, but if you are a fan of noir and crime films, it’s worth tracking down.

A Wednesday (Neeraj Pandey, 2008)

For most of its surprisingly brief run-time (about 100 minutes), A Wednesday plays like something of a slimmed down version of other modern Bollywood crime thrillers like Khakee. Either that, or a Mumbai version of American thrillers like Falling Down. But by the time you reach the end, you can’t help but recognize that more is going on here. Pandey’s direction is slick and often pulse-pounding, but it also occasionally lapses into exaggeration. The music can be over-cranked at times, and some of Jimmy Shergill’s early fight scenes suffer from old-fashioned Bollywood camp. But when Naseeruddin Shah, as “The Common Man,” launches into his major oration at the climax, A Wednesday moves ever so briefly from merely being a good ride to becoming transcendent. It is a great performance and the movie itself presents a powerful issue for debate.

Il Giovedi (The Thursday) (Dino Lisi, 1964)

No offense, Thursday, but you suck. Sure, there have been an assortment of Thursday movies, but when The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday makes your short list, you know you are panning in some shallow waters. Fortunately, Dino Risi came along with this less-ballyhooed follow-up to his groundbreaking Il Sorpasso and thus made this blog possible. At times a warm father-son comedy, and at other times a painful look at familial failure, The Thursday very nicely encompasses Risi’s view of comedy in general. “Comedy is just a mode to translate tragedy into spectacle without boring the public.” There’s a great deal of wisdom in that.

His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)

Unlike Thursday, Friday offers a plethora of goodies. From The Long Good Friday to Friday Night Lights, and yes, even the original Friday the Thirteenth, there were options. But I never really thought too hard about this one. Hawks’ remake of the very respectable The Front Page, is about as good as classic Hollywood ever gets. With its zippy screenplay (Charles Lederer adapting Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur – with help from Hecht), its wealth of outstanding character actors, and Cary Grant at his absolute best, this is among the fastest and funniest movies from the exuberant age of screwball comedy.

Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977)

Sure it had iconic fashion (from Patrizia von Brandenstein) and iconic music (from the Bee Gees). It made Travolta a star, and it inspired at least one devastating tribute (Pablo Larrain’s 2008 movie Tony Manero). But it would remain a quaint museum piece if it only spoke about working class Italian life in the ‘70s. Its supporting characters had depth and in Tony’s efforts to escape his humdrum existence selling paint by bursting forth on the dance floor, Badham and screenwriter Norman Wexler created a timeless portrait of wish fulfillment; a concept that has always been central to the very nature of moviemaking. This is life-affirming at its most downbeat, and remains one of the most indelible creations of American cinema in the 1970s.

Which brings us back to Sunday. Now, I could have let the Karel Reisz picture that kicked off this list stand for both days of the weekend, but I don’t play that way. In fact, in the spirit of John and Paul and the whole “Eight Days a Week” thing, I leave you with one final title.

Weekend (Jean-luc Godard, 1967)

The End of Cinema. See it at your own risk. But if you care about movies, do see it.

Jonathan Eig has taught Screenwriting and Film History at Montgomery College (MD) for the past ten years. In that capacity, he has hosted the popular Montgomery College Film Series at the American Film Institute in Silver Spring, MD. He has been a regular contributor on Huffington Post and his writing about film can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jon-eig/.

One thought on “Days of the Week: From Saturday Night Fever to His Girl Friday

  1. That’s a superb idea for a post, Jon, and I am pleased that I have actually seen them all except one, the Indian film.
    I can’t really agree that Finney’s film has any element of parody. I was 9 years old when it was released, and didn’t see it until I was around 14. But I grew up in that Britain, and that’s what it was like. So too with ‘This Sporting Life’, ‘Woman In A Dressing Gown’, and many more. Rather than see them as parody, I prefer to see them as documentary in style.
    Life was drab here then. Before the ‘Swinging Sixties’ got into full flow, young people were expected to be like smaller versions of their parents, to play the game. Go to work, marry the girl, repeat the process.
    These films caught the mood of the time, those seeds of teenage rebellion that took so long to emerge in the UK.
    Great choices for the rest too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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