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.
Category: 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?
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.”
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.
By Christina Moreno
(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.
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.
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.
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.
Pillow Talk – 1959- dir. Michael Gordon
Audiences seem to have forgotten how for almost half-a-century, Doris Day dominated not only the movies but radio, the big-band circuit, stage and television. She WAS America in the way John Wayne WAS America. Her freckle-faced goodness and virgin-all-the-way persona mirrored American values and mores and was thus much-loved for decades. By the 1960s and ’70s, her star began to fade, a victim of the sexual revolution and the unlikely stardom of less conventionally attractive actresses like Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli. Today, in her eighties, she lives a reclusive life in Carmel, California, answers only to the name, ‘Clara’ and very seldom engages in conversation about her Hollywood glory days.
The Sweet Hereafter – 1997 – dir. Atom Egoyan
(Filmmaker and author quotes from DVD commentary)
Adapted from a Russell Banks book and directed by Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter is the sublime, aching story of a fatal school bus accident in rural Canada. Most of the town’s children are killed as a result, and city lawyer Mitchell Stevens (Ian Holm) travels to the town to fan the flames of confusion and anger into a potentially lucrative class action lawsuit. However, the town’s sorrow mirrors Mitchell’s own personal drama: the loss of his daughter to drugs and darker forces still. The themes of confinement are rife within this drama of parents, children, lovers, and courage.