Author: Andrea O

July 9, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Melvin Cartagena

Gun Crazy – 1949 – dir. Joseph H. Lewis

The street could be Main Street from anywhere U.S.A., but in this case it’s Hampton, California. We see only a slice of the street, at an angle, from a connecting street. The effect is expressionistic lighting broken by a heavy rainfall. Then, a shadow slides across the storefronts for a moment before young Bart Tare (Russ Tamblyn) peeks around a building’s edge, right at us. He advances, and the camera pulls back to show us the window front of a hardware store. Bart presses his face against the glass and looks at the display of six-shooters with a fascination that borders on worship.  He picks up a rock, hurls it at the window, then turns to look back, momentarily striking a Jesus Christ pose with his arms stretched out at his sides. He reaches in and pulls out one Colt revolver and a box of bullets, runs away, and trips, causing the gun to slide across the rain-slick street, right at the feet of Sheriff Boston. The lawman advances on Bart and, his POV is a tracking shot that crowds young Bart’s wet face on the frame before we fade to black.

July 8, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Kris Tronerud

The Fearless Vampire Killers (aka Dance of The Vampires) • 1967 • dir. Roman Polanski – Original Theatrical Trailer

Someone’s heart is beating around in their bosom… pitter pat… pitter pat… like a rat in a cage…
— Iain Quarrier to Roman Polanski in The Fearless Vampire Killers

From the beginning of the long and winding road that has been the film career of Roman Polanski, the Polish-born director’s films have been judged not only by their often considerable merit, but as a kind of post facto barometer of his tragedy-haunted, scandal ridden life. The corrosive alienation and jaundiced world view of his early successes Knife in the Water (1962), Repulsion (1965) and Cul-de-Sac (1966) taken as a reflection of his being left alone to escape the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto and survive the war in the Polish countryside at the tender age of nine; the pessimistic, paranoid (and brilliant) Rosemary’s Baby of the fears of a successful young director dependant on strangers in a foreign environment; the brutal, feral violence of Macbeth redolent of the horrific murder of his wife, unborn baby and 4 friends at the hands of the Manson family; with his whole post-exile career seen as a long string of reflections on personal morality, corruption, and the terrible difficulty of human relationships in general, and a string of artistic missteps and/or commercial failures viewed as some sort of karmic/filmic comeuppance. All this ephemera has been, happily, put to rest with the commercial and critical success of the Oscar/Cannes Prize-winning The Pianist and the presumably healing effect of the 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired; a good time, perhaps, to revisit the one Polanski film that can truly be enjoyed completely on its own, the light-hearted and baggage-free The Fearless Vampire Killers, an affectionate, charming homage to the Golden Age of Gothic Cinema in general, and 60’s Hammer vampire films in particular.

July 2, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Kris Tronerud

Blade Runner – 1982- dir. Ridley Scott – Official Trailer

All these moments will be lost… in time… like tears in the rain…
— Rutger Hauer to Harrison Ford in Blade Runner

When Blade Runner was finally released in 1982, after a long, arduous and grueling production history, marked by equal measures of technical difficulty and personal turmoil, it met with a decisively lukewarm reception from a confused and disappointed public. In the wake of Harrison’s Ford’s sudden rise to stardom in Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, adoring new fans expected to see ‘Indiana’ in another riproaring, uplifting sci-fi epic. What they got was a dark and dystopian dreamscape of a movie, a violent futurist nightmare with the heart of a classic private eye noir, and a lot more on its mind than explosions and derring-do. Additionally saddled with a lugubrious studio endorsed faux Raymond Chandler narration (which Ford purposely read in as expressionless a manner as possible, hoping the studio would drop it) and a mawkish ‘happy’ ending based on unused footage from, of all things, The Shining, Blade Runner was doomed in its initial run; but over the years, a number of different cuts of the film appeared on tape, laser disc, and in festival showings (a total of seven discrete versions, according to Paul Sammon’s terrific essay “The Seven Faces of Blade Runner“) provoking continued fan interest and debate, and with the release in 1992 of the Official Director’s Cut, this emotionally charged, visually resplendent film was, finally, properly acknowledged as Ridley Scott’s masterwork, and quite arguably, the best science fiction film of all time.

June 16, 2008 / / Film Notes

By: Melvin Cartagena

Pickup on South Street – dir. Samuel Fuller – 1953

The title crowning this piece of writing comes from the mouth of Mr. Fuller himself. In Jean-Luc Goddard’s 1965 film Pierrot Le Fou, he explains his philosophy of film to Jean Paul Belmondo as: “The film is like a battleground. Love, hate, action, violence, death. In one word…” In House of Bamboo, gang boss Sandy Dawson barges into Griff’s house while he’s soaking in the little wooden tub, shoots him dead, and then talks to the corpse, tender and bitter-like, patting the dead man’s head like it’s his betraying lover.
In Pickup On South Street, when Candy goes to Skip’s shack to talk to him, Skip knocks her out in the dark, wakes her up by pouring beer in her face, and while he touches the bruise on her lips they caress each other with the tenderness of old lovers.

“The heat of the story is what I’m interested in.” – Samuel Fuller

This is about Pickup On South Street.

June 13, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Kris Tronerud

Night And The City – dir. Jules Dassin – 1950 – Original Theatrical Trailer

Jules Dassin died this March, in his adopted Greece, at the age of 95, and the world of film lost one of is most unique and unpredictable voices. Possessed of a committed social conscience and deeply in love with the melodrama and visual power of film, Dassin was one of the few victims of the McCarthy hearings to not only survive its persecution, but persevere, proceeding to the greatest triumphs of his career as a result of the dislocation and exile it forced upon him. In his long and varied career, Dassin directed virtually every genre, from adventure film to comedy to policier to classic Greek drama to radical political drama, but is best remembered by film buffs (along with the mainstream successes Never on Sunday and Topkapi) for his middle period noirs: the undisputed masterpiece Rififi (1955), and the low-budget made-on-the-run/under-the-gun Night And The City.

June 6, 2008 / / Film Notes

Touch of Evil – dir. Orson Welles – 1958 – Original Theatrical Trailer

By: Kris Tronerud

When Charlton Heston, one of the last of Hollywood’s old-school megastars, passed away in April of this year, it became evident that, aside from his iconic performances in the likes of The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur and El Cid, and the hugely popular sci fi potboilers of his later career (Planet of the Apes, Omega Man, Soylent Green), many remember him best today for an aggressive support of Gun Control which culminated in leadership of the NRA and that notorious, slightly over the top pry-it-from-my-cold-dead-hands’ moment. While many (including your writer) found these moments rather regressive and sad, Heston’s feelings in the matter were sincere, and based in a genuine love of his country and its Constitution. Today, it is seldom remembered that this love of country and its founding principles also led Heston, in the 60’s, to lend his time and public stature to help champion the Civil Rights movement in its most turbulent moments. And while Heston was adept at choosing roles which would almost certainly guarantee big paychecks and career advancement, his naturally contrarian nature and artistic curiosity also led him to periodically seek out smaller films and more challenging roles, as he did in 1968, in signing on to maverick director Sam Peckinpah’s Major Dundee (much, at least during filming, to his ultimate consternation), and it was this unfulfilled artistic streak, and his growing concerns about the racial divide that was rapidly coming to boil in America, that led him, close on the heels of the enormous success of The Ten Commandments, to sign on to a relatively low-profile, racially charged film noir called Touch of Evil.

May 27, 2008 / / Film Notes

Children of Paradise – dir. Marcel Carné – 1945 – Original Theatrical Trailer

By: Jennie DiBartolomeo

What contemporary American audiences don’t know is that before Godard and Truffaut were shaking things up in the early 60’s by breaking cinematic conventions with their jump cuts and non-linear plots, there was Marcel Carné and Jacques Prévert. The fact of the matter is that as early as the 30’s and 40’s they were creating new and subversive cinematic experiences that drove crowds mad. They were the pioneers of “poetic realism”, a movement that produced such films as Le Quai des Brumes, 1938 and Le Jour se Lève, 1939. These films forced the audience to examine the circumstances (both real and surreal) that surrounded them while creating awareness of current political, social and cultural issues-but in the most lovingly poetic way possible. Prévert creates a kind of romantic fatalism with his verse, setting the stage for Carné’s unique vision of these tragic love stories. But they were more than tragic love stories; they were stories of regular people that were taking place while their country was at war and they were rich in a subtext that could not be ignored. And moreover, this was the medium in which they fought back.

May 13, 2008 / / Film Notes

By: Andrew Palmacci

Annie Hall – dir. Woody Allen – 1977 – Original Theatrical Trailer

Annie Hall, the quintessential romantic comedy, begins and ends with a total of three jokes that Woody Allen’s character recounts to the audience—the first two at the beginning of the film with Allen speaking directly to the camera, the last as narration over scenes of his Alvie hanging out with love interest par excellence (in this movie as well as in movies themselves) Annie Hall. The first two jokes concern, respectively, a love-hate relationship with life and a paradoxical approach to relationships, with the concluding one coming back to an ambivalent perspective on romantic relations. In between these humorous bookends, Allen manages to pull out a remarkable number of (mostly humorous, always endearing) stops to build the archetypal modern romantic comedy.

May 12, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Kendra Stanton Lee

Martydir. Delbert Mann – (1955) – Original Theatrical Trailer

There are countless ways to reject a “dog” of a date. Today we can ditch, “dis,” or even text message it in – proper punctuation not required. In 1955, giving “the brush” was no less cruel, and may have even been enough to send Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine) into early retirement from the hunt. But once upon a Saturday night, his mother suggests that he go put on a suit and head to the Stardust Ballroom. Set in The Bronx, our pug-faced hero is a 34 year-old butcher, sandwiched between siblings who have all gotten married. Though he works with fine meats and successfully surrounds himself with a pack of meat-headed cronies, Marty is loathe to shop the proverbial meat market. But once upon a Saturday night…

May 12, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Amy Tetreault

Some Like It Hot – dir. Billy Wilder – 1959 – Original Theatrical Trailer
Some Like It Hot was uncouth and hilarious in 1959. These days it’s … somehow still hilarious, but also somewhat refreshing.

Sure, the comedy features overplayed modern Hollywood staples like men dressing in drag, popular starlets showing skin, abrasive sexual innuendos and explosive car chases, but it’s also significant to note that it’s one of the first comedies featuring men dressing in drag, one of the most popular starlets ever showing skin, clever and carefully delivered sexual innuendos, and perpetually classic Chicago mobster scenes.