The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Image result for night of the hunter

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.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

Image result for gene wilder

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

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

Image result for the rules of the game renoir

“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

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

Laura (1944)

Laura (1944) - Laura (1944) Photo (15751310) - Fanpop

With the close of both the Holiday Season and Awards Season, I move again to my series of reviews on American film noir in the 1940s.

Where Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon have survived into the 21st century with reputations intact as noir classics, Otto Preminger’s masterpiece Laura has been relatively forgotten outside of more expert circles.  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

Double Indemnity (1944)

DOUBLE INDEMNITY

Double Indemnity was not Billy Wilder’s first directorial effort.  But, as far as history is concerned, it is his first great directorial effort.  And, it was the first of many.  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)

wiz

“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

The 30 Greatest Movie Songwriters

BerlinPortrait1.jpg

As stated in my “Brief Exposition on Movie Music”, there is more to movie music than just a traditional score.  There is also the incorporation of classical place-setters and the addition of music-and-lyric type songs (whether they be original or recycled, diegetic or non-diegetic).  So, while my recent reviews on Gone With the Wind and Wuthering Heights have led me to spend some extra time on the great scores and composers of moviedom, it is still requisite that we journey through movie songs on our quest for film competence. And, considering our last two reviews of American movies from 1939 will be particularly important when it comes to this very topic, the divulgence into these lists seems all the more important.  These movies are, The Wizard of Oz and, to a lesser extent, The Roaring Twenties. So, like we did with the lists on traditional movie score, we will begin with a list on the writers of this great music.  Enjoy!

*Note: special thanks to Chow Kim Wan, a commenter, who made a couple corrections on my 1990s Disney songwriters.  There were some inaccuracies.  They have since been updated.

Continue reading