WINCHESTER ’73

By Christine Bamberger

Winchester ’73 – 1953 – dir. Anthony Mann

It has been said that this film has every western cliché in the repertoire: dance hall floozy who’s a good girl at heart, trusty sidekick, shooting contest with incredible demonstrations of marksmanship, heroic stand by the Calvary, noble but inevitably defeated Indians, climactic shootout for two… even Wyatt Earp. Yet, Casablanca-like, the film gets away with a bevy of stock situations and even stock characters because every performance is so strong. The subtleties of the most subsidiary characters come across in a believable and refreshing way.

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STRAY DOG: Terminal Males

By Melvin Cartagena                    

Stray Dog – 1949 – Akira Kurosawa

The parallels between Kurosawa and Scorsese, and more specifically between their leading men, Toshiro Mifune and Robert DeNiro, are so close that the worn accusation of Kurosawa being ‘too Western’ by conservative Japanese film scholars becomes a somewhat fair one. Regardless, Kurosawa crafted majestic dramas with universal themes, experienced at a human scale, but seen against a larger backdrop that both played against and complimented the subjects of his signature films, his leading men. In the same way that Scorsese showed us how the fading Little Italy of his youth produced men like Charlie and Johnny Boy in Mean Streets (1973), in Stray Dog (1949) Kurosawa presents a  multi-leveled action drama that plays itself out in the ruins of post-war Japan, the backdrop that spawned men like Murakami (Mifune) and Yusa (Isao Kimura), his nemesis and mirror image.

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THE LONG GOODBYE

By Leo Racicot

The Long Goodbye – 1973 – Dir. Robert Altman

The late, great Robert Altman once again lends his distinctive, experimental style to what has come to be regarded as this definitive interpretation of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. It’s a winner!  Thirty-six this year, the film still plays as fresh and as contemporary as it did the year it was made.  The tale of a double murder and the unfortunate detective who gets dragged, kicking and screaming, into the thick of it is filled with a permeating cynicism, underhanded absurdities and shattering acts of violence.  Crime author Raymond Chandler, like his contemporaries Dashiell Hammett and Ross McDonald, created glamorous worlds of danger and intrigue where a usually hapless, albeit decent guy, finds himself way over his head in the soup. Here, Chandler’s anti-hero, Phillip Marlowe, is helmed by the underrated Elliott Gould. A huge star in the 60s and 70s (Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, M.A.S.H.), Gould brings a bizarrely effortless spin to a  role played in more traditional ways by everyone from Bogart to James Garner.  His dopey, befuddled schmuck look assists him ably in Altman’s clever conceit of placing a 1950s-style detective into a 1970s-style world.  It is as if this “Rip van Marlowe”, waking from a long slumber, has been transported via some private eye time tunnel twenty years into the future — a future he does not understand and is more than a little bit lost in.

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