Category: Film Notes

Editor’s note: On June 27, 2018 Keridwen Luis, lecturer on studies of women, gender, and sexuality at Harvard University, introduced The Rocky Horror Picture Show, part of the Brattle’s Elements of Cinema program. These are her introductory remarks. –Jessie Schanzle, Film Notes editor

Thank you so much for the lovely introduction, and thank you for everyone at the Brattle for inviting me to this. This is lovely and exciting, and it’s been delightful trying to think, what can I say about The Rocky Horror Picture Show? I mean, what is left to say about this film? Actually, there’s a lot I could say about this film, but I’m not going to say it all because I’m sure we’d all rather be watching the film.

This is the most classic of what we call the “cult films.” It is a timely commentary and a cultural touchstone. It is supremely dated, and yet, it exists in this weird eternal present for us. It’s a classic, but why is it a classic?

July 31, 2018 / / Film Notes

There are few films that I’ve seen that epitomize classic Hollywood as well as 1944’s musical hit Cover Girl. Starring an effervescent Rita Hayworth as Rusty Parker, a vaudeville-style dancer, and a typically earnest Gene Kelly as Danny McGuire, her manager/boyfriend, Cover Girl thrives on the pair’s dynamic charisma. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine this film being enjoyable without either of its principal actors.

July 23, 2018 / / Film Notes

Nineteen thirty-nine was a golden year for movies. A record number of films were made, more than 20 of them considered now to be classics of cinema, including Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and many others.

Howard Hawks’s Only Angels Have Wings (1939) did not fit the mold of movies being made at that time. Angels did not possess the maddeningly indefinable allure of Garbo in Ninotchka, the unwavering idealism of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the melodramatics of Dark Victory, or the unbearable tragedies of Wuthering Heights. Nor did it have the over-the-top fantasy world-whirl of the beloved Wizard of Oz, or the searing romanticism of Gone with the Wind, both made by Victor Fleming that same year.

July 20, 2018 / / Film Notes

The Green Fog (2017) is a mind-bending walk through the iconic narrative arc of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Commissioned for the closing night of the 2017 San Francisco Film Festival, director Guy Maddin (with co-directors Galen Johnson and Evan Johnson) pays a wonderfully subversive tribute to Hitchcock’s San Francisco-centric film by stitching together footage from movies and tv shows filmed in the Bay Area. Through the scrim of cut up and reworked scenes, the emotional peaks and valleys of Vertigo’s plot materialize. However, this approach never turns into a trivia game for cinephiles. Indeed, a particularly precocious cineast could spend the entirety of The Green Fog recalling the classic films that appear on screen (over 100 in total), pulling each title from the recesses of her mind. However, in traditional Maddin fashion, a more conceptual and active level of movie watching is required.

February 12, 2009 / / Film Notes

Casablanca -1942 – dir. Michael Curtiz

Enough of whether Valentine’s Day was invented by greeting card companies, created in St. Valentine’s dark laboratory of evil science, or if “Valentine’s Day should be every day” in a healthy relationship.  You love the candy, so what does it matter?

Valentine’s Day should be an excuse (for those of us who need an excuse) to be just a little bit nicer to those for whom we care.  It should be a day of reaching out, of reforging connections, and of gratitude to those with whom we share compassion.  What a nice day!

So why celebrate it by watching Casablanca – a film, by most definitions, about love lost?

February 9, 2009 / / Film Notes

By Chris Bamberger

TOP HAT (1935) dir. Mark Sandrich

In 2007 National Public Radio played an excerpt of Fred Astaire singing “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and asked listeners to describe in a single phrase the quality of his voice. One participant’s entry was, “The boyfriend you longed for before you found out about sex.”

Oh, really?

Donald Spoto, in his biography of Audrey Hepburn, describes her one-time co-star as having “nothing erotic or even sensual about him… Fred Astaire was a gentleman up there on the screen—so much a gentleman, in fact, that there was never an atom of erotic appeal about him.”

It gets worse.

February 6, 2009 / / Film Notes

By Christina Moreno

CRY-BABY
(1990) John Waters

Though not the typical tacky filth-fest movie many of us know, Cry-Baby is definitely a John Waters film.  Full of over-the-top parody of teen culture of the 1950’s and a great performance by Johnny Depp’s cheekbones, Cry-Baby has reached the cult status like most Waters’ films.  Some other notable faces in the movie include Ricki Lake, Iggy Pop, and Traci Lords. It’s cheese and camp, which is a trademark of any good Waters movie and should be embraced by anyone who sees them.  For those unfamiliar with John Waters’ work, it may come across as a bad movie, but that’s what John Waters is known for: making bad movies (that are so bad they’re good).  Cry-Baby’s appeal is that it takes the squeaky-clean image of the 1950’s and rolls it around in the mud, but still keeps a nostalgic charm about it.  The ironic thing is, Cry-Baby isn’t that different from more “serious” teen genre flicks of the era, such as Rebel Without A Cause.  Just compare the two together.

January 29, 2009 / / Film Notes

By Rachel Thibault

Momma’s Man – 2008 – dir. Azazel Jacobs

Momma’s Man (Jacobs, 2008) is such an informal, simple title for a film that is anything but. It’s both modest and unassuming in both scope and visual style, but moves beyond the stereotype its title suggests. The film is a moving, complex ode to how we negotiate, define, and attempt to return to that place we call home.

January 15, 2009 / / Film Notes

By Peggy Nelson

Dr. Zhivago – 1965 – dir. David Lean

There are many characters in David Lean’s Dr. Zhivago (1965), the sprawling, epic portrayal of people caught up in the Russian Revolution, the least of which is, surprisingly, Dr. Zhivago himself.   In addition to Zhivago, Lara, Komorovsky, Pasha, and a host of others, there is the land, the weather, the first World War, the mountains, the interminable train ride, the tide of political events, the Five-Year Plans, even the giant posters of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, all playing their parts and threatening to upstage the action.  Beside all these a small story about love and betrayal should pale; as Strelnikov claims in the film, “the personal life is dead in Russia.”  But it is Lean’s achievement that it is not: it more than holds its own, and forms the core around which the rest crash and swirl.

January 15, 2009 / / Film Notes

By Peggy Nelson

Lawrence of Arabia – 1962 – dir. David Lean

Size DOES matter.

Some films need to be seen on the big screen.  I first saw Lawrence of Arabia (dir. by David Lean, 1962) on one of the biggest, the UC Theatre in Berkeley, California.  A giant screen is not only the appropriate frame for the stunning cinematography in this film, it is the only canvas large enough for its title subject.  T. E. Lawrence was one of those rare people whose life comprised a perfect storm of circumstance and talent, creating a man worthy of a 70mm, almost 4-hour film; a figure truly larger than life.