Grand Illusion (1937)

Where Jean Gabin portrayed a doomed working class hero in Le jour se lève, in Grand Illusion (La grande illusion), he played perhaps the most hopeful symbol of the victorious proletariat that French Poetic Realism would ever come to offer.  Grand Illusion uses his character as but one of several others showing the disintegration of the old world, and the rebuilding of a new one after the earth-shattering imbalance of World War I.  It tells the story of humanity, divided vertically by borders and divided horizontally by social class.  It tells the story of the war that shattered these distinctions: gone were the days of gentleman’s battles, glorious deaths, and the rules of the game.  A new world order, one more unified in both suffering and success was being born.  Out of this carnage and pain could come a new type of freedom, one both symbolic and practical, one that would elevate the lower class and destroy the arbitrary divisions that threatened humankind. Continue reading

Advertisements

Le jour se lève (1939)

“A killer! Now there’s something to gossip about! Sure, I’m a killer, but killers are a dime a dozen! They’re everywhere! Everyone kills! They just do it quietly, so you don’t see. It’s like sand. It gets deep inside you.”

So exclaims Jean Gabin’s famous proletarian hero from his apartment balcony to the curious masses below in Marcel Carné’s 1939 masterpiece, Le jour se lève.

Many critics, when asked which movie acts as the quintessential example of film noir, would say The Maltese Falcon. When asked which film most exemplifies the precepts of the screwball comedy, many experts would likely tag It Happened One Night.  When it comes to the American Western, they likely cite Stagecoach.  Well, in my opinion, if you were to ask which film most embodies the general characteristics, images, and ideas of French Poetic Realism, the answer would be  Le jour se lève. Continue reading

The Road Home (1999)

The Road Home is Yimou Zhang’s sweetest film.  It introduced another person with the Zhang surname (as far as I’m aware, they are not related), the beautiful and talented Ziyi Zhang.  Ziyi Zhang might be the most recognized Chinese actress in the world, with such roles as those in The Grandmaster, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers, and Memoirs of a Geisha under her belt.  But, her role in this movie will always be my favorite of hers.  It is Ziyi Zhang at her youngest, playing a child caught up in childish things. Continue reading

Seven Samurai (1954)

I plan on writing four different reviews on famous chanbara (or “samurai”) films.  Initially, I wanted to save the best for last, but, after writing my review on Hiroshi Inagaki’s The Samurai TrilogyI learned that I just couldn’t wait anymore.  Were I to keep waiting, I would have to keep mentioning Seven Samurai every other line in the other reviews, and you would not have the foundational benefit of having read a review on Seven Samurai.  So, I’m going to go ahead and save the best for second. Continue reading

“Ignorance, Sheer Ignorance”: The Audacity and Innovation of the Citizen Kane Experiment

gregg and orson

Note: before reading this post, I want to make an apology.  This post is designed to prove the optic innovation and aesthetic quality of Citizen KaneTo help you—the reader—see first-hand some of the innovations at hand, I have included clips from the movie.  Unfortunately, these clips are hosted through YouTube and other online sources that are subject to the fickleness of Internet connections and the variance of upload quality.  Because of this, the complete visual experience of Citizen Kane is not available in these clips alone, because they may be more blurry or slow than they would be watching a well-restored Blu-Ray or DVD release. 

In my last post, I attempted to make one point quite clear: the greatness of Citizen Kane lies in its duality.  It is part-drama, part-comedy.  It is based on truth, but shrouded in lies.  It’s a mystery with no resolution.  It is light.  It is dark.  It is black.  It is white. Continue reading

Psycho (1960)

images

You’ll hopefully notice the patterns.  We’re on our third Hitchcock-Coppola-Silent Film cycle.  We also just did a ten-thousand word analysis (complete with pictures) on montage theory.  Now, we will do a review on the “mother” of all Hitchcock films, one that includes the “mother” of all film montages.   Why is Psycho the “mother” of all Hitchcock films?  For those who have seen the film, the use of that word as qualifier is perfect.  This is most famous Hitchcock, containing some of the most iconic images and characters and featuring the most recognizable music.  Is it the best?  No.  Vertigo is.  But this film is certainly among his best.  While most movie critics decry its popularity because, while it is definitely a five-star film, Hitchcock has other five-star films that deserve more credit—like Notorious, Rebecca, or Rear Window.  However, I think it deserves its place.  My mood often changes, and it is most appropriate to say these films are all tied for first; but if you made me pick, Psycho would have to follow Vertigo if only for its cultural clout and haunting storyline.  It sticks with you, perhaps more than any other Hitchcock film (except Vertigo, but that holds far too many trump cards, and if I keep bringing it up, it will succeed in boxing out Psycho from its own review).  The whole nature of the film is haphazard, like a good haunted house, full of eery sounds, precipitous pictures, and a whole bunch of mentally-troubled characters.  Its very origin cries out its rawness. Continue reading