Author: Andrea O

May 6, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Paula Delaney

In the Heat of the Nightdir Norman Jewison – 1967

In the Heat of the Night is not a film about an unsolved crime. It’s a film about race relations in the South in the 1960’s, and a film that reminds the viewers who have witnessed the civil rights movement of the ambivalence and intolerance surrounding the acceptance of black Americans. The two main characters, Virgil Tibbs and Chief Gillespie, embody the emotions of America during this controversial time. The chief, who is initially cast as a racist more out of ignorance than out of hatred, eventually accepts Virgil for the man that he is, giving hope to not just himself but to the rest of the country. A touching scene at the end shows Tibbs boarding a train, while the Chief, blustery and arrogant, pauses from his constant tough-guy gum chewing and breaks into an uncharacteristic smile as he bids Tibbs good-bye. This is the message of In the Heat of the Night.

May 5, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Erica Ayotte
Judgment at Nuremberg – dir. Stanley Kramer – 1961

“But this trial has shown that under the stress of a national crisis, men—even able and extraordinary men—can delude themselves into the commission of crimes and atro cities so vast and heinous as to stagger the imagination.” –Judge Haywood

The late Abby Mann’s Academy Award-winning screenplay depicts a fictionalized account of a real-life Nazi war crime trial that took place in Nuremberg, Germany after World War II. Based on the “Judges’ Trial” of 1947, Judgment at Nuremberg is the story of four German judges who were tried by a U.S. tribunal for carrying out Nazi law. These judges mainly were responsible for furthering the Nazis’ “racial purity” program. Although Judgment was shot in black and white, the answers to the moral questions this film posits are not as straightforward. The horrific crimes of the Holocaust are portrayed as purely evil; yet the judges who are in part culpable for maintaining the Nazi state are not portrayed as one-dimensional, evil beings. Central to this perception are the questions: are Nazi judges legally and morally responsible for war crimes by enforcing the laws of their own country? Does an individual have the obligation to oppose the state when the state is unjust? Who defines justice?

May 5, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Kris Tronerud

The Good, The Bad, and the Uglydir Sergio Leone – 1966

In 1965, as Sergio Leone’s For A Few Dollars More was enjoying a runaway success in Italy (it was the most profitable Italian Film to date), its screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni brought his good friend Ilya Lopert of United Artists to the Supercinema Theater in Rome to see see FAFDM. Greatly impressed by the vocal enthusiasm of the packed-to-the-rafters audience, Lopert offered three times what producer Alberto Grimaldi was expecting for the rights to FAFDM, and, in true Hollywood fashion, sought to secure the rights to Leone’s ‘next film’ in advance. There was no ‘next film’, but with an assenting nod from Leone (who spoke little or no English) Vincenzoni began to riff… The story, he said, concerned three rogues in search of a treasure at the time of the Civil War. To which few words Lopert replied: “Okay, we’ll buy it.” And so, after one of the shortest pitch meetings in film history, was born one of the great westerns of all time, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

April 21, 2008 / / Film Notes


by Kris Tronerud

Mothra (Mosura) • Inoshiro (Ishiro) Honda • 1961 • Original Theatrical Trailer

The Mightiest Monster in All Creation, Ravishing the Universe for Love!
(From the Poster for Mothra)

There are Kaiju (Giant Monster) fans and there are Monster movie fans, but whether you know the name of every opponent Godzilla has faced in the last 58 (!) years or only have fond memories from Creature Double feature Saturday afternoons, everyone reacts the same way when anyone mentions Mothra, by shouting: The Twins!! (I tried this on a number of unsuspecting test subjects leading up to this article). The second most iconic and beloved (after the Big Green One himself) of all the Japanese stable of Rubber Monsters, Mothra holds a special place in boomer hearts due to the unique fairy-tale approach of this entry; symbolized by … The Twins!

April 17, 2008 / / Film Notes

by Kris Tronerud

Black Rose Mansion • Directed by Kinji Fukasaku • Shochiku Studios • 1969

Exactly 30 years ago, I found myself crouched down in a neighborhood theater to watch what was being openly marketed as a Star Wars ripoff with my ten year old son, frankly not expecting a whole lot beyond an amusing Saturday afternoon hangout with the kid. What I got was an intensely colorful, surprisingly heartfelt sci-fi saga that straddled the line between Space Opera and Fairy Tale a lot more fully than did Star Wars, and whose fanciful, if not exactly realistic special effects achieved a palpable sense of childhood wonder on about a zillionth of George Lucas’ budget. Starring Vic Morrow(!) and Sonny Chiba, Message from Space had believable, well drawn characters, and was alternately thrilling, funny, touching, scary and goofy, in about equal proportions. Welcome to the world of Kinji Fukasaku.

April 11, 2008 / / Film Notes

by Kris Tronerud

“The cinema is an invention without a future.”
— Louis Lumière, inventor of motion pictures; written on the wall of the screening room in Contempt

Jean Luc Godard is the original, and still reigning, tortured intellectual of the cinema. Deeply in love with the Classic Hollywood films of the 30s, 40s and 50s, yet disdainful and deeply … contemptuous… of the philistine restrictions and lack of freedom of commercial film-making as only a French intellectual could be, Godard rarely became comfortable with his material in the manner of his Hollywood idols, and many of his best films are more easily enjoyed not as ‘movie movies’ but rather as joyful, sensual and hyperkinetic exercises in the sheer joy of film-making itself. In the way painters who love painting relish the texture of pigment and brushstroke, we can almost see Godard fondling the film as he edits it himself (as he often has), using his Arriflex to make love to his actors, the scenery, the physical texture of the world, and the process itself as an end. Beneath the cool renegade posture, and all the self conscious artistry for its own sake, however, lay the heart of an unabashed romantic, and, though it may seem ‘uncool’ to say so, the films in which Godard gave free (or freer) reign to his love of emotional storytelling, and a more (relatively) conventional structure, became his finest films; including Breathless, Bande Apart (The Outsiders), Passion and, arguably his best, the ravishing, and newly restored Contempt.

March 18, 2008 / / Film Notes

Kris Tronerud

Universal, 1958 Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

The great French director René Clair once remarked that moviegoers, as they sit in the darkness watching a film, enter into a “dreamlike state”; and over the years, many great directors, from Melies to Bunuel to Fellini to Lynch have aided in that process by gleefully plunging their viewers into the human dreamscape. But no film has ever so straightforwardly, simply, and seductively taken on the actual form and structure of dreaming than Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. From its first throbbing arpeggios, Bernard Herrman’s brilliant score carries us, with the impatience of a dream, from ominous threat, to lush, romantic calm, to tense confrontation, to resolution… and back to fear again, as the late great Saul Bass’ credits likewise dissolve from the glorious Black and White of Kim Novak’s absurdly lush lips and tear-welling eyes, to the rich VistaVision color of Bass’ iconic spiraling motifs, culminating in an extreme, Psycho-presaging close-up of one terrified eye. With its disorienting changes in mood, color and visuals, this brief and brilliant credit sequence leaves no doubt: We are entering the ever-shifting, primal world of the dream.