Enchanting Childhood: Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service & My Neighbor Totoro

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By Alexa Masi

“Most of our world is rubbish. It’s difficult.” Sitting at a table, listlessly smoking a cigarette, the beloved master artist, animator, and director Hayao Miyazaki contemplates what he finds to be the utter hopelessness and crudeness of life. Despite making some of the most charming, comforting, and not to mention visually stunning animated films of all time, Miyazaki conveys this sentiment quite often. One can find his many rather cynical musings captured in director Mami Sunada’s documentary film THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS (2013), which delves into Miyazaki’s life as well as the world of production within Studio Ghibili, his animation film studio. Continue reading

Gilda

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By Jack Sinclair

A protagonist’s introduction on screen often plays an essential role in not only the character’s journey, but in cementing a film’s legacy. Iconic cinematic introductions range from Indiana Jones retrieving the golden idol (and being chased by the rolling boulder) to Vito Corleone taking meetings on the day of his daughter’s wedding. Audience members forever remember these characters, often through the way they are introduced to us on screen. Gilda exemplifies this statement in 1946’s eponymous film noir. Hayworth’s famous introduction is not only iconic to the film’s legacy, but also to the classic character trope of the femme fatale. Continue reading

Hail, Caesar!

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By Eric Shoag

HAIL, CAESAR! (2016), the latest film by writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen, is a remarkably unique piece of work, even for the brothers who have been making their own brand of remarkably unique pieces of work for over thirty years. It has been a fascinating and rewarding career to follow. Their first efforts in the 1980s gained a strong underground following; a devoted audience of hyper-literate cineasts and moviegoers with an appreciation for the intelligent and the offbeat. Impossible to pin down or predict, the pair concocted cinematic landscapes as varied as one can imagine right out of the gate, from their suspenseful Neo-Noir debut BLOOD SIMPLE (1984) to its follow-up RAISING ARIZONA (1987), something like a trailer-park screwball comedy on acid. And things didn’t get any less bizarre from there. After the meticulous mobster masterpiece MILLER’S CROSSING (1990), the following year saw the release of BARTON FINK, an especially audacious and utterly unclassifiable hypnotic puzzle of obsession, madness, and the “life of the mind” dressed up as a story about a blocked writer trying to stay true to his principles. Incredibly, this perplexing picture swept the top three awards at the 1991 Cannes film festival (Best Director, Best Actor, and the Palme d’Or). The Coens were now officially a phenomenon, with legendary director Robert Altman taking notice and parodying them in his vicious skewering of the new Hollywood, THE PLAYER (1992). A mainstream breakthrough seemed inevitable. Continue reading

Neptune’s Daughter

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By Leo Racicot

Say what you will about the great movie moguls of Hollywood’s Golden Age (and sure, they were horrible men—cruel, ruthless taskmasters), they were also visionaries with a deep and a real passion for moviemaking. There was a lot of money to be made, true, but they didn’t need it; long after they had made their fortunes, they continued to crank out, with amazing speed and dexterity, picture after picture, a few of them clinkers but most of them wondrous entertainments, and a lot of them pure gems, classic tales of lovers and dreamers, gangsters and pirates, heroes and louts and schemers. Their creations continue to shine, now 60, 70, even 80 years later. In the 1940s, MGM Studios, helmed by the powerful Louis B. Mayer, delivered, time and time again, to the American culture glorious Technicolor dream fantasies to combat the drab, pedestrian, provincial struggles and tediums of a country weary of war, nearly brought to its knees by conflict and loss and by a megalomaniacal dictator hell-bent on eating the world alive. Continue reading

Husbands: An Elaborate Study on Manhood

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By Selin Sevinç

One of the most accomplished auteurs of American cinema, John Cassavetes makes a subtle, honest and deeply sincere film about being a man in western society. In HUSBANDS, his three suburban New Yorker husbands represent the traditional male status quo, that of the married man with children, a dull job, a house, a car, a garage, a debt, a receding hairline, and a few buddies who faithfully remind them they are still who they always were, namely, hopeful young boys. Continue reading

Police Story 2

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By Rob Larsen

There’s a scene in Sammo Hung’s MILLIONAIRES EXPRESS, a rollicking heist/western/kung fu movie from 1986 that is a go-to when I discuss the stunt-work being done in Hong Kong in the 1980s.

In it, Yuen Biao, one of the stars of the film, does a front flip off of a burning three-story building, landing on the ground below. It’s shot well back, so the whole building is in the frame throughout the shot. There’s nowhere to hide. There are no edits. No air mattresses or piles of cardboard boxes. It’s just Yuen jumping off of a burning building. It’s not the most dramatic or even the most dangerous stunt from the 1980s but it’s so honest it’s one of my favorites to talk about. It provides a clear illustration of the unique combination of skill, authenticity and institutional fearlessness that made 1980s Hong Kong stunt work unique in the history of cinema. Continue reading

The Last Starfighter

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By Deirdre Crimmins

According to postmodernism, and cynics, nothing is new anymore. Every story has already been told. Cinephiles know that certainly feels true, with all of the remakes and sequels getting big-budget releases nowadays. But this has nearly always been the case. Looking back at some of the greatest and most dearly cherished films and stories through history it is easy to recognize classic mythological narratives and patterns. It is the interpretations and application of these formulas that distinguish them from one another and make a film succeed or fail. Continue reading

Double Indemnity

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By Christian Gay

The world of insurance sales will never be as sexy and suspenseful as it is in Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944). The renewal of auto insurance, a transaction that nowadays can be completed in minutes from the relative safety of a smart phone, sets off a series of events punctuated by murder and dripping with deceit, seduction, and betrayal in this Hollywood classic. Co-written by Wilder and mystery novelist Raymond Chandler, DOUBLE INDEMNITY is viewed by many as the first and best American film noir. Studio stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson each took the dual professional risks of playing against type in the film adaptation of a story long viewed as “too taboo” for the screen. Their performances bring life to a razor-sharp script that set the gold standard for film noir, artfully introducing now-clichéd narrative devices like subjective voiceover narration, uncannily accurate detective speculation, and (perhaps most memorably) flirtatious, rapid-fire double entendre. Wilder and Chandler’s script, and particularly Stanwyck’s smoldering performance, keep the audience riveted in suspense for 100-plus minutes, despite the presence of a framing device “spoiling” MacMurray’s fate in the opening scene of the film. Continue reading

Supplemental Readings: Black Girl

 

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By Lauren Backus

There’s no better way to beat the late summer heat than here at the Brattle. And beginning August 12th, we’ll be screening our brand new restoration of Ousmane Sembene’s BLACK GIRL, the 1966 African classic, in honor of its 50th anniversary. Often said to be the first real African film by an African director, BLACK GIRL is rich in its characters and imagery, and we’ve compiled a list of supplemental readings to get you ready for the film—whether it be a rewatch or if you’re seeing the radical film for the very first time.  Continue reading