For those accustomed to Ingmar Bergman’s more serious fare, such as the austere Winter Light or his foreboding The Seventh Seal, Smiles of a Summer Night is a light-hearted, utterly amusing antidote. It is the Bergman film for people who don’t like Bergman. Of course, the film has some of the usual touches of the Swedish director: familiar actors such as Gunnar Bjornstrand and Harriet Andersson, a theater scene within the film, characters revealing their most intimate thoughts to others, etc. However, while Bergman typically dedicates an entire film to the intense inner turmoil of one or two characters, in Smiles there are many characters struggling with anxieties that are often exploited to a farcical end.
Author: Tessa Mediano
There are few films that I’ve seen that epitomize classic Hollywood as well as 1944’s musical hit Cover Girl. Starring an effervescent Rita Hayworth as Rusty Parker, a vaudeville-style dancer, and a typically earnest Gene Kelly as Danny McGuire, her manager/boyfriend, Cover Girl thrives on the pair’s dynamic charisma. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine this film being enjoyable without either of its principal actors.
I was first introduced to John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in my junior year of high school, when it was required viewing for my American Studies class. Despite my initial aversion to watching it, an old-timey hokey western to my 16-year-old mind, I grew to appreciate this film’s stature as an analogy and representation of American history, for this film grapples with two American archetypes that have immensely influenced how Americans are culturally perceived: the rugged cowboy and the idealistic reformer. These two figures, portrayed by John Wayne and James Stewart, respectively, clash repeatedly in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and the film convincingly challenges the viewer through the complexity of their dynamic. While the film clearly endorses the reformer’s stress on education and law as positive agents of change in the West, ultimately it is through an act of violence and deceit that progress comes to the western town of Shinbone, suggesting that the path forward is not always straight and narrow.
In the annals of film history, few pictures command as extensive a body of interpretation as Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece, THE SHINING. There is essentially nothing new one can say about it. Critics, Kubrick aficionados and conspiracy theorists alike have pored over the film in vain attempts to decode the enigmatic scenes, and while many compelling analyses exist, THE SHINING, much like the Overlook Hotel eternally absorbs the souls of its numerous guests, defies expectation by entertaining the diverse pluralism of ideas surrounding the film’s overarching significance.
What does one of the greatest directors of the twentieth century, who witnessed a devastating earthquake, several world and regional wars and the use of the world’s first atomic bomb, dream about? Perhaps unsurprisingly, devastation–in its most absolute and anxiety-ridden forms. AKIRA KUROSAWA’S DREAMS imagines the existential questions humans must face as a consequence of their capacity for annihilation, and the answers are remorselessly pessimistic. Though the oneiric segments of DREAMS may contain glimmers of beauty, particularly in the earlier episodes, ultimately, they leave the viewer as unsettled as the mind of Kurosawa.
By Tessa Mediano
If we take our x-axis to represent time and our y-axis to represent accessibility, it can be said that David Lynch’s cinematic career is a bell curve. The origins and the final works of his oeuvre are uncanny in their shared moods, themes and influences. Naturally, the director’s artistic development throughout the years casts a rather primitive shadow on his first forays into the world of film, but regardless, shorts such as SIX MEN GETTING SICK, THE ALPHABET, and THE GRANDMOTHER offer valuable insight into the ideological motivations behind Lynch’s filmic productions.
David Lynch, for all that he is said to be (and he is said to be a lot of things), is first and foremost an American director. His films are often cited as surrealistic and dark, to be sure, but Lynch’s bizarre prism is arguably the best lens through which one can perceive the schizophrenic psyche of American mythology. This concept is at its most accessible in Twin Peaks, the short-lived yet much-hyped television series he co-created with Mark Frost.
There is something to be said about timing when considering the merit of a documentary. To claim that the Maysles brothers were in the right place at the right moment in history when shooting the Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour would undoubtedly be true, but it would also belie the potency of their camera to dissect both the band and the cultural movement they were filming. There are very few gratuitous shots in GIMME SHELTER, and contrary to what one may find in other rock documentaries, concert footage is never used as filler or a mere treat for the viewer. Rather, the live performances included here are essential to the Maysles brothers’ deconstruction of rock and roll in the sixties. They are masterfully interwoven throughout the film to expose the movement’s charisma, contradictions and violent undercurrents, which inevitably converge into disaster.
In many ways, Robert Wise’s 1971 thriller THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN is cut from the same cloth as the dozens of other sci-fi films dealing with the potential end of the human race due to some alien virus. Its plot, adapted from Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name, is not terribly original, but the film still makes for an intelligent and visually engaging watch. For better or worse, the influence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY essentially hits the viewer over the head throughout the movie, both in its stylistic and thematic elements. Wise’s film similarly strives to depict man’s progression towards abstraction and away from humanism, so that the result is an emotionally unaffecting work.
It is very rare, and nothing short of tragic, really, that a filmmaker’s earliest work is his greatest. When auteurs are invariably asked the question of which film they would like to be remembered by, very few select their initial pictures, and with good reason: the beginning of one’s artistic career is an experimental phase, in which ideas are often expressed with little regard (or capability) for nuance or complexity. Age and experience naturally play a factor in this, but I would argue that a truly brilliant filmmaker has a coherent vision that can be identified even in his formative movies.