Listless Parisian romance: Man of the World (Richard Wallace, 1931)

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Man of the World features William Powell and Carole Lombard, and given what later transpired between them personally and professionally, you’d be forgiven for having some high expectations of them. You may assume that two actors who gave many excellent performances, who co-starred in My Man Godfrey, and who married shortly after making this film, would have some visible chemistry here. Sadly, in all this, you would be mistaken.

Powell is Michael Trevor, an American journalist who fled to Paris after taking the blame for someone else’s indiscretions. Having grown cynical and world-weary, he uses his gossipy newspaper to blackmail some of the many people in Paris who are themselves indiscreet. The city’s full of Americans looking to have a good time, including wealthy Harry Taylor (Guy Kibbee). Trevor poses as a go-between and blackmails Taylor, whose neice, Mary (Lombard), is also visiting Paris. Trevor’s associates, Irene (Wynne Gibson) and Fred (George Chandler) convince him to put Mary in a compromising situation. Of course, the fake romance soon turns into a real one.

After the film’s first third or so, all the energy drops out of it. The romance has no spark, with Powell playing his downtrodden character at the same low note all the way through, and Lombard being so dull that it’s shocking. It’s not entirely their fault, though; most scenes meander about and the script doesn’t give Mary any real reason to fall for Trevor, beyond proximity.

Kibbee shows some verve, and although Gibson delivers her dialogue stiffly, her physical mannerisms are thought through. Her piercing glare and the decorous, impractical way she dons a fur-trimmed wrap give some life to the scenes she’s in, even if the character is unpleasant. It’s no wonder that these two actors had plenty of pictures ahead of them, but Powell and Lombard are, on the basis of this film alone, quite forgettable.

Man of the World makes a decent effort, for its time, at depicting a facsimile of Paris, though the polished production values can’t compensate for the dull plot. The downbeat ending gives the story some edge, but the rest of the film is hard to get through.

Rampaging through Tokyo: You’re Under Arrest! The Movie (Junji Nishimura, 1999)

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This film comes between the first and second seasons of the police-centred anime, and I struggle to think that even a committed fan would enjoy it. Even if they’re familiar with the characters, the film has, by its end, devolved into something so dull and so silly that it’s near impossible to like.

Officers Tsujimoto and Kobayakawa, traffic cops in Tokyo’s Bokuto precinct, are our protagonists. A routine inspection of an abandoned car leads to far larger consequences for them and for the city. The film starts reasonably well, looking like a standard police procedural that happens to be animated. I’m a sucker for anime depictions of mundane Japanese locations, and so was perfectly happy to enjoy the film for its aesthetics.

A TV series that gets turned into a film, however, needs to have high stakes. It may be for this reason that You’re Under Arrest! steadily gets more and more ridiculous. The Bokuto Station’s chief is arrested for having a connection to the man who seemingly devised plans for a terrorist attack on Tokyo. Some terrorists attack the station to get the plans, and before you know it, their violent threats have brought Tokyo to a standstill.

Tsujimoto and Kobayakawa are weirdly attached to their patrol car and even take it along on a boat when they pursue the bad guys through Tokyo’s waterways. Things get more confusing here as they try to trap the terrorists between themselves and a larger ship, which involves raising a bridge that has been stationary for decades. There’s no tension in these sequences, partly because the film doesn’t make the progression of events clear enough, partly because the budget limitations on the animation become starkly obvious, and partly because Tsujimoto and Kobayakawa seem able to handle things on their own anyway. One of them even rips a tyre free from its securing ropes and hurls it at the baddies to slow them down.

Tsujimoto and Kobayakawa are competent, non-sexualised characters. The film’s treatment of the other policewomen is questionable, however. Are they portrayed as weak, or are they simply in over their heads and trying their best? Points must certainly be taken away for the scene in which all of the women in Bokuto Station prepare for a gunfight by ripping their skirts for better ease of movement, with their boss goggling at how far up the rips go.

The film is less than 90 minutes long, but the quality drops so much during the second half that it feels interminable. There’s too many broken laws of physics, too many unearned feel-good character moments, and too many static shots of Tokyo streets. (Yes, even I got sick of them after a while.) This is certainly the last time I go near the franchise.