Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mini-Reviews: Festen (1998), Monsieur Verdoux (1947) & Night Must Fall (1937)

Ruth at FlixChatter asked if I could review these films, so here's a quick take on the three best films I saw for the first time last month.


Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Produced by Birgitte Hald
Written by Thomas Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov
Starring Ulrich Thomsen, Henning Moritzen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Paprika Steen, Birthe Neumann and Trine Dyrholm


A family reunion takes a strange turn when one of the children reveals something sinister about the father.

This film has a quiet intensity that builds as the narrative progresses. Filmed according to the strict Dogme 95 standards, this drama utilizes natural light and handheld cinematography to tackle this tough subject matter, which I won't spoil for anyone who hasn't seen it. In this case, it's best to be unprepared for the gravity of the situation. The performances are strong by the entire cast, especially Thomsen as the tormented son and Bo Larsen as his violent, ill-tempered brother. It's a wonderful family drama, which would be a great double feature with Susanne Bier's After the Wedding.

Oscar Tally: None

Monsieur Verdoux

Directed by Charles Chaplin
Produced by Charles Chaplin
Written by Charles Chaplin (screenplay); Orson Welles (idea)
Starring Charles Chaplin, Mady Correll, Martha Raye, Allison Roddan, Robert Lewis and Audrey Betz


A sophisticated gentleman makes his living by conning women, killing them and taking their money.

Chaplin's film has his usual lighthearted charm, and the filmmaker triumphs yet again in many areas both in front of and behind the camera. Seriously, this man was a genius: writing, directing, producing, scoring AND starring in his own films?! (No offense, Clint, but Charles was on another level.) The supporting cast of female performers are good, but Chaplin's elegant con artist is the star of the show. Though he had a hiccup or two, this is one of Chaplin's best works. It's a light piece of entertainment with the Chaplin brand. And that's a brand I love.

Oscar Tally: Nominated for Best Original Screenplay

Night Must Fall

Directed by Richard Thorpe
Produced by Hunt Stromberg
Written by John Van Druten (screenplay); Emlyn Williams (play)
Starring Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell and May Whitty


A live-in companion becomes suspicious of her aunt's new handyman.

I've mentioned in another review about loving to be surprised by a film, and I'd add this to that list. Touted as a performance vehicle for Robert Montgomery, this is a first-rate thriller with great performances. Sure, Montgomery is electrifying as the suspected stranger, which makes the film all the more suspenseful, but Russell and Whitty give effective performances too. I love films with a wealth of dialogue, so this adapted version of Emlyn Williams' play was bound to make some impression on me. If you're a fan of George Cukor's Gaslight, this is a film you'd probably enjoy. I know I did.

Oscar Tally: Nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress (Whitty)


  1. Festen to me is one of the great films of the 1990s as well as a fine example of what can be done with Dogme 95 at a time when cinema needed to be shaken up.

    1. Yeah, it's a wonderful film. It's my #2 film of 1998 behind The Thin Red Line.