The second act of West Side Story (1961) starts on a romantic note, but the film’s gang war soon sours romance into rumble. Even as Tony and Maria make plans to run away from the West Side, the tension between the Jets and the Sharks threatens to destroy their relationship before the lovers get their chance. Act II realizes this contrast between love and violence in its third musical number, “Tonight – Quintet,” in which the plot strands developed in the solo and ensemble numbers of Act I compete against one another and seek to drown each other out.
Author: Larry Cherkasov
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is an uplifting film only insofar as it ends on an upswing for its hero, summing up a treatise against self-destruction. Even though Frank Capra’s Christmas classic is moral allegory, class conflict suffuses it, resulting in a less-than-cheerful socioeconomic conclusion underlying its wonderful, Christmassy closing: that money can force American citizens to their knees at the expense of faith and self-confidence. Frank Capra lionizes the entrepreneurial main character, George Bailey (James Stewart), into the protector of the American Dream and gladiator of the “battle of Bedford Falls” so that he may knock him down several notches and watch him writhe. This narrative progression is not so much sadism on the part of the director as portraiture. Frank Capra uses George Bailey’s story as a case study for class relations in America, portraying the difficulty of attaining the American Dream when the Mr. Potters of the country are actively out to get the average American. The Dream haunts as a Christmas Ghost in this rightly canonized Capricorn picture.
Slow, plodding xylophone mallets pace the viewer’s heartbeat as Suzy Bannion makes her way into the frame, shrouded in black, face bouncing off yellow light, mascara projecting her eyeball out of the celluloid. With bated breath, she spies on a witch’s coven performing the rites of its leader, the yet-unseen Helena Markos, queen witch of the hellish Tanz Dance Academy. Because her peers have already met unlucky fates, she remains an attractive victim—horror movie precedent does not excuse a protagonist from impending death. Dario Argento stretches the suspense, loosely protecting Bannion with curtain as she watches her potential murder unfold, replete with unheimlich doppelgangers, blood-streaked Nosferatus, and reptilian skin piercings. Suspiria boasts impressive pacing because there are no jump scares, just dread until it happens.
(Due to copyright issues, please view the clips on YouTube)
Stalker (1979) slips in and out of science fiction film typology, and in this scene, it becomes slasher. Not one of the Stalker-Writer-Professor trio is sliced into gore and bits or screams, but the buildup to the point at which the cameraman grows tired and rests in the abandoned vehicle suggests an ineffable sinister force—the Zone—stalking its prey.