Danse Macabre, part I: The Rules of the Game as a Comedy of Errors

 

Here,  you have one of the two most important scenes in The Rules of the Game, the famous Danse macabre as it is performed one night at the La Colinière estate owned by pensive yet prideful Robert, Marquis de la Chesnaye. Continue reading

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The Story of The Rules of the Game: Nouvelle Édition Française and the Munich Betrayal

One of the most interesting elements that is consistently featured in the historiography of The Rules of the Game is, indeed, the story of its coming to be.  This essay will focus on the historical context behind The Rules of the Game, its makers, its detractors, and the captivating story behind its resurrection after twenty years in cinematic limbo.

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Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016) and Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

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“Cute, cute, cute—the ruination of careers.”

So said the legendary Debbie Reynolds regarding the way she was described by many in Hollywood and around the world.  I understand where she was coming from—what she meant—but I think her statement, made at least partially in jest, wasn’t quite right, at least as far as her career was concerned. Continue reading

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

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A young boy stands like Peter Pan, hands on his hips against the pale background of his bedroom wall.  A light pours through the window before him, casting him brightly despite the darkness in the room.  The intersecting beams of the window pane cast a skewed cross across him, this distorted cross moving downward to the right against the wall.  Suddenly, a large shadow steps into the frame, a personage of darkness that steals most of the light in the room.  The boy is now cast in darkness.  Here we have a filmic sequence derived from an appeal to the literature of images, a distorted religiosity beckoning the arrival of a diabolical presence.  We have a moving picture demonstrating the shrouding of innocence by the waves of a harsh world, a world frustratingly characterized, as we will later learn, by abusers of power and manipulators of morality.  Such flattery and gamesmanship is brought more into the light, as it were, when the light recedes into nighttime.

Not to mention, it’s very scary.

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Nosferatu (1922)

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The greatest vampire film of all time is no romance.  It does not star beautiful people with pale skin and delicate seduction.  There is no high-collared regal wear.  There are rats, not bats; and there’s a rodent-like creature in monkish robes who casts monster-like shadows on brown walls.  The greatest vampire film of all time is a filthy Expressionist nightmare, filled with sickly frames, and jagged teeth matching a jagged mise-en-scène. Continue reading

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Welcome to October, ye aulde scavengers of doorstep candies and defacers of guileless pumpkins.  This is a month unto itself in the world of film, a sort of embodied actor dictating the atmosphere and mood of its cinematic output with all the gusto of a mad composer.  Where December takes us to the stereo systems, bidding us hear the crooners and choirs in their mystic wonderlands of white, October ushers us manipulatively to dark rooms with dull lights emanating from silver screens.  It is a haunting force, not unlike the specters that inhabit it, simultaneously possessing us and scaring us away.  October is no mere month, it is a phenomenon, beckoning us to consume fear like we would fun-size chocolates and candy corns.  Trick-or-treating, costumes, haunted houses, plumes of dry ice flowing from plastic punch-bowls… none of these exorcise that possessive ghost of October quite like a scary movie.  Indeed, the genre of horror film lies at the very heart of Halloween celebration. Continue reading

Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

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Marcel Proust, in the second part of his Remembrance of Things Past—Within a Budding Grove—wrote,“But genius, and even great talent, springs less from seeds of intellect and social refinement superior to those of other people than from the faculty of transforming and transposing them. . . . To mount the skies it is not necessary to have the most powerful of motors, one must have a motor which, instead of continuing to run along the earth’s surface, intersecting with a vertical line the horizontal line which it began by following, is capable of converting its speed into lifting power. Similarly, the men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or their culture the most extensive, but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror, in such a way that their life, however mediocre it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consisting in reflecting power and not in the intrinsic quality of the scene reflected.”

Certainly a wordy passage for one of the wordiest of novels.  Yet, like practically every sentence in Proust’s masterpiece, these sentences paint a colorful and insightful picture into the human mind and condition.  Genius is not brute force.  Genius is the grace-like ability to expand, enlighten, and, like Proust said, transform.  Genius lies in the application of talent, not so much the exposition of it.

If there is one way to describe the comedy of Gene Wilder, then, it is genius. Continue reading

Does Awards Season Matter?

*The following was written prior to the 2014 Academy Awards as a supplement to this blog.  It was originally published as a chapter in the blog and had a spot on the left-side panel with other like pages.  I have re-categorized it for organization’s sake, so it has been re-posted as a blog post.

The ending of the year (and the beginning of the following) represents an important time period in the movie industry, particularly in Hollywood.  We have come to call this period of time “Awards Season”, that four-month-or-so period of time between November and February (or March this year) which begins with the Gotham Awards and ends with the Academy Awards.  This period is not only limited to awards jubilees, however.  This season is also marked by film festivals, with their accompanying festival awards.  It is a time of balloting, nominating, campaigning, voting, winning, accepting, losing, and politely applauding.

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