.:Film criticism by aesthetes for connoisseurs:.
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:: 3.29.2005 ::

Cinema Still Life
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From Jean-Luc Godard's Bande à Part

:: Posted by Grant "C.K." Dexter Haven @ 4:44 PM [+] ::
:: 3.27.2005 ::
Cinema Sound Byte
Hannah: "I thought we had a date tonight, not a rehearsal! I should have known better than to expect you to act like a human being. You're nothing but a pair of dancing shoes! I'm getting tired of being a prop around here—when I'm with you I don't even feel like a girl! You're not even a human being—you're nothing but a pair of dancing shoes!"
Don: "You said that."
Hannah: "I don't care. Besides, I bought a new dress."
Don: "It's very pretty."
Hannah: "How do you know? You haven't even looked at me."
Don: "Oh, that's not true, I..."
Hannah: "Oh, isn't it? All right then, tell me. [closing her eyes] What color are my eyes? You won't be able to answer that because you have never paid enough attention to it—"
[He silences her with a kiss, causing her to open her eyes in surprise]
Don: "They're brown."
From Easter Parade, starring Judy Garland & Fred Astaire

:: Posted by Laurie @ 11:09 AM [+] ::
:: 3.11.2005 ::
Peeping Tom

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Director Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960) is a crude film. Although made in the same year as Alfred Hitchcock's grisly, low-budget, black and white slasher masterpiece Psycho and sometimes compared to that peerless film, this fetishistic and gaudy-colored reflection upon one man's psychological deformities more closely resembles the morbidly degenerate Frenzy (1972), a product of Hitchcock's late decadent phase.

Peeping Tom is essentially the diary of mad pornographer Mark Lewis, played by Karlheinz Boehm (who comes off as a taller, blonder, stiffer Peter Lorre). Mark is a London cameraman who taps his professional skills in the practice of an unsavory hobby: he makes snuff films. Our film follows Mark around as he casts his pieces of outsider cinema, rhythmically fondles his equipment (photographic, that is, if you can see past the obviousness of the innuendo to the actual image that evokes it), and dreams of overcoming his perversion to live innocently with the young lady from the flat downstairs. Oh yes, and we get to see him impale women on the erect leg of his tripod.

The film's flagrant Freudianism might work as camp if it weren't for Powell's contemptuous choice of using first person camera work to criminalize the viewer. By forcing the spectator to look through Mark's camera, Powell coerces audience members into becoming accomplices in Mark's crimes. Rather than achieving the effects of horror or suspense, as the technique of showing the first person perspective of the killer did in John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), for instance, the forced identification in this film leaves the viewer feeling simultaneously guilty and victimized. (Such a technique was used again to the same nauseating effect in the James Cameron-penned Strange Days (1995).)

While the film does provide a level of philosophical interest for those with an interest in film theory, aesthetically, Peeping Tom is garish, queasy, and morbid. In short, it is degrading and hostile film that tastelessly drags the viewer on a foray into the mind of a sexually malformed predator without offering any redeeming value or purpose.

:: Posted by Grant "C.K." Dexter Haven @ 1:10 PM [+] ::

:: 2.25.2005 ::
Old Hollywood Glamour
I believe that in the future all who look back on 20th century American art will turn their eyes at some point to Hollywood. If you want to know why I believe that, Virginia Postrel's slide-show essay on photographer George Hurrell isn't a bad place to start:
In the stills he took from 1929 until he was drafted in 1942, languid ladies' downcast eyes are framed with impossibly long eyelashes (painted on the negative by the photographer). Light bounces from satin, lacquer, and bright tresses sprawled across the floor. Shadow and reflection create mystery, inviting viewers to fill in the unseen details according to their own desires.
Beautifully done.

:: Posted by Laurie @ 10:37 AM [+] ::
:: 2.24.2005 ::
The Legend of Jon Heder
As evidence of its growing cult status, check out this recently spawned urban legend about the charming indie comedy Napoleon Dynamite.

:: Posted by Grant "C.K." Dexter Haven @ 12:04 PM [+] ::
:: 2.21.2005 ::
The Strangest Gunslinger in the West
I give up. I've decided I like westerns. Love them, even.

Shane (1953) is another movie I am drawn to because of its strangeness. Upon reflection, I think a lot of what makes it great is accidental rather than intentional. (That's not to say George Stevens was not a good director; after all, the history of film—and all art—is littered with many happy accidents, and that doesn't take away from anyone's talent.) Shane was meant to be a fairly conventional western, and yet it ended up becoming much more.

Stevens put a lot of thought into what he wanted this movie to look like, and it shows. But according to the IMDb, he spent only a few minutes choosing the actors to play the principal characters, and that's how we end up with such an unconventional hero. Alan Ladd was cast as Shane, the wandering gunslinger, reluctant to fight but deadly when pushed. At only 5'6", Ladd was too slim and elegant to be physically imposing; as a result, Shane's toughness and invincibility come across as mysterious, almost supernatural.

That's one of the main reasons why Shane is unlike any other movie. Another is the decision to cast Jack Palance, in one of his earliest roles, as Wilson, the villain of the piece—a grinning, merciless gunslinger dressed all in black. According to the DVD commentary, Palance wasn't yet comfortable with horses and practiced tirelessly, but even so, Stevens had a hard time getting some of the scenes he wanted. For instance, in the scene in which Wilson and Shane size each other up when they first meet, Wilson gets off his horse and walks over to get a drink of water, then gets back on his horse, never taking his eyes off Shane the entire time.

The problem arose when Stevens wanted Palance to get on the horse "like a cat," a feat that was apparently beyond his abilities at that point. So they used the shot of Palance getting off the horse and simply reversed it to show him getting back on the horse. It's a neat trick; on the surface, the scene looks natural, if odd—but on some level, I believe, the brain registers the unnaturalness of the movement, giving everything an elusive air of barely perceptible eeriness.

The whole movie is like that. The striking visuals and peculiar mood overtake the conventional plot, turning Shane into something special indeed.

:: Posted by Laurie @ 11:33 PM [+] ::
:: 2.15.2005 ::
Cinema Still Life

From Fellini's The Nights of Cabiria

:: Posted by Laurie @ 8:53 PM [+] ::
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