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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My Introduction to a Series of Essays on The Rules of the Game

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“The awful thing about life is this: Everybody has their reasons.”—OctaveThe Rules of the Game

Perhaps no other line in La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game) acts as a fairer summation of the movie’s plots and themes as this one, spoken by Octave, the intervening old man in a complex game of youth, love, and social impetus.  It is only fitting, in a meta-filmic sort of way, that Octave is played by the film’s writer, producer, and director, the man that most would consider the greatest of all French auteurs: Jean Renoir.  It’s like the author’s own film commentary, nestled into the screenplay itself, cozily and conveniently. Continue reading

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Maltese Falcon (1941): John Huston's Noir masterpiece featuring a ...

“The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”—Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon

It is a recipe for disaster in the world of film noir to be incapable of formulating a good, old-fashioned threat.  Continue reading

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with! Is that right?”

There is the learning of Dorothy Gale, one of cinema’s most enduring heroines, as she, with her friends, receives her gift from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Continue reading

Wuthering Heights (1939)

One of the great things about studying 1939 is seeing how such a vast enterprise as Hollywood can, at times, seem so small.  I feel like I did a pretty good job showing how interconnected the industry was that year in my initial essay on 1939, and how that interconnectedness made Hollywood more a machine than a business.  It pumped out films at a tremendous rate—good ones, too.  Well, the smallness of Hollywood was at play in the creation of some of 1939’s finest films. Continue reading

Rashomon (1950)

Seven Samurai and The Samurai Trilogy catapulted the rest of the world into the newest craze in international cinema in 1954.  But, before they were winning Academy Awards in the United States and filling up art house theaters in New York and London, a movie called Rashomon had lifted the veil off the eyes of the world and onto Japanese cinema.  At no point in history had a film from Japan sent such waves worldwide, asking pertinent questions that bridged cultures and borders while simultaneously embracing elements of cinema that touched all who watched.  If there ever was movie, other than Citizen Kane, that demanded study, it was Rashomon. 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

The Samurai Trilogy (1954-1956)

In an unprecedented move, I am going to review three films at once.  So, while I will technically only write four reviews on samurai film to accompany my recent essay on that genre, I will actually be reviewing six movies.  The three movies that I will be reviewing today make up the masterful trilogy from director Hiroshi Inagaki and actor Toshiro Mifune called, simply, The Samurai Trilogy.  This trilogy is made up of three films, Musashi Miyamoto (1954), The Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955), and The Duel at Ganryu Island (1956).  The release of these films marks an important moment in the development of the samurai film and its role as not only the predominant genre of Japan, but as Japan’s most exported film-type in world cinema. Continue reading

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

1948 was an important year for the Western.  Movies like 3 Godfathers and Fort Apache were contributing to the overwhelming continuation to the genre by the team of John Ford and John Wayne.  Movies like Silver River with Erroll Flynn and Yellow Sky with Gregory Peck were headlining other great team-ups with superstar actors and directors (Raoul Walsh directed the former; William Wellman, the latter).  The second World War was drifting into the past, but its ripples were still freshly informing the new artistic psyche, and these team-ups were beginning to integrate a far more human arrangement into the Western to supplant what was originally a mythological archetype.  Method acting and human dilemma were rising to an important position in the way that Westerns were written.  While these aforementioned films, and others, were making their dramatic (or, at times, comedic) impact on what was, before the war, a simple formula, two films really made waves in 1948.  These two Westerns were The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Red River.   Continue reading

Stagecoach (1939)

One of the most oft-mentioned films on my blog has been Stagecoach.  As long as I’m talking Westerns of the 1930s and ’40s, and as long as I’m talking about John Ford, I figure that it is time for Stagecoach to get a review of its own. Continue reading