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

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Detour (1945)

This is the sort of movie that you would never think belongs on a blog like this.

The negatives are flipped, the fog machines corny.  The actors are transparent, their characters cliched.  The lighting seems artificial, the plot seems incomplete.  The whole thing is cheap in its production , even cheap in its quasi-Freudian metaphors.  It’s the sort of movie that a high-schooler may come up with in about a week. Continue reading

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

In my family, the holiday season begins with Thanksgiving (or, some years, the day before).  Growing up, it meant going to grandma and grandpa’s house in Idaho and cutting down a Christmas tree.  The perpetual wafting of sage, thyme, garlic, and rosemary would accompany the two Als (Roker and Michaels), as parades, football, and good family conversation would culminate in the feast of feasts.  Continue reading

Gone With the Wind (1939)

Let’s face it.  We live in an era where the mainstream is something to be feared, and to like the blockbuster is to admit to being the very same “non-person” we all fear becoming.  It’s important to look smart and cultured, and so we can’t admit to anything that makes us look too sheltered or nationalistic.  We embrace uniqueness or obscurity because it makes us feel like modern day Columbuses…no, strike that.  Columbus is too politically incorrect.  Continue reading

Red River (1948)

Like I’ve already said, 1948 was an important year for the Western.  This isn’t only because a lot of Westerns came out that year.  It’s because, primarily, two Westerns came out that year.  These two Westerns are The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Red River.  Together, they represent a bridge into a new era of this signature American genre: from the mythic hero-epics of the 1930s and 1940s to the character-focused mythic tragedies of the 1950s and 1960s. 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

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

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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

The FilmSage’s Great Movies Video List

I’ve recently been engrossed in Roger Ebert’s published collection of essays entitled The Great Movies.  He was not a fan of lists, and this essay collection—along with his entries into the Sight and Sound poll—pretty much acted as his only dabblings in list-making.  The “great movies” of Ebert’s selection consisted of about 360 or so films ranging from Giovanni Pastrone’s 1914 silent epic Cabiria and ending with 2008’s beautifully quaint Japanese masterpiece from Yōjirō Takita, Departures.  These essays, therefore, were not meant to act as a cool countdown list; they were not even supposed to be comprehensive—there were a lot of great movies that Ebert didn’t write about (though he likely would have if he hadn’t passed away).  This collection, was instead to act as a tour, as it were, through the staples of a truly competent movie-connoisseur.

I have also compiled a list.  Continue reading

Robin Williams (1951-2014)

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Many significant film personalities have passed away since I started this website.  I have only written about two of them: Roger Ebert and Peter O’Toole.  I forewent a post about Philip Seymour Hoffman (perhaps the best actor of the last decade), as well as Joan Fontaine (whose roles in Letter from an Unknown Woman and Rebecca have lasted with me as few roles ever have).  I also didn’t write about the great Shirley Temple Black, which was perhaps my biggest mistake, because her service not only to cinema but to the United States of America and its citizens was invaluable.  I also didn’t write about the master-critic Andrew Sarris, the father of auteur theory. Continue reading

The Great Dictator (1940)

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Charlie Chaplin is so much fun to watch that he’s actually fun to write about.  I recently had a social networking request to hear a review of The Great Dictator, and since I have enjoyed writing the last three film reviews so much (all three about Chaplin movies) I must readily accept this request.  The decision is not made lightly.  After all, this movie is by far his most controversial, not just in regards to his content but also in regards to the large spectrum of approval that this movie has been subject to over the years. Continue reading