Category Archive 'Cinema'
06 Aug 2023

One Has to Agree

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Bastiat’s Window:

Every ten years, Sight and Sound, published by the British Film Institute (BFI), conducts a poll of hundreds of film critics, scholars, and others to produce a list of the Greatest Films of All Time. In the first such poll, in 1952, the top film was Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 Ladri di Biciclette (Bicycle Thieves, a.k.a The Bicycle Thief). In 1962, 1972, 1982, 1992, and 2002, the winner was Orson Welles’s 1941 Citizen Kane. In the 2012 poll, Kane dropped to the #2 slot, behind Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 Vertigo. Finally, participants in the 2022 poll startled the world by designating Marv Newland’s 1969 animated short, Bambi Meets Godzilla as the Greatest Film of All Time.

Actually, Bambi Meets Godzilla was not the winner of the 2022 poll, though it should have been. The actual 2022 winner was Chantal Akerman’s 1975 Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles—a 3 hour, 21 minute-long cinematic lobotomy. The Sight and Sound panel should have chosen Bambi Meets Godzilla because it has precisely the same plot and lasts only a minute-and-a-half. The plot that these two films share is hysterical when confined to 90 seconds, but becomes soul-crushing when stretched to 134 times that length.

HT: Karen L. Myers.

10 Nov 2022

Hong Kong Cinema: Car Crashes

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HT: Vanderleun.

26 Sep 2022

Gucci Ad Tribute to Stanley Kubrick

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27 Oct 2021

Film Noir

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“In a Lonely Place” (1950).

Titus Techera and Terry Teachout Substacking on Film Noir.

The films noir that remain watchable, by contrast, are the ones that concentrate on the dark crosscurrents of middle-class American life & revolve, as do the great Westerns of the ’40s & ’50s, around the problem of individual responsibility. To be sure, the tacit assumption is that the anonymous cities in which films noir are set are so corrupt that upright individual conduct is all but impossible. Nevertheless, every classic film noir hinges on a crucial moral choice made by the protagonist, as Walter Neff, Fred MacMurray’s character, admits to the audience in his voice-over narration for Double Indemnity: “I’m not trying to whitewash myself,” he says about the crime he commits out of love, lust, & greed. “I fought it…only maybe I didn’t fight it hard enough.”

22 Jul 2021

Humphrey Bogart


David Lehman, in the American Scholar, delivers an admiring tribute to Bogart’s cinematic image and style.

Not until he was 41 did Bogart become a leading man. In Walsh’s High Sierra, (1941), Bogart plays Roy Earle, nicknamed “Mad Dog,” an ex-con on the lam after a heist goes wrong. Roy dies on a mountaintop, but not before winning the love of Marie (Ida Lupino). Even Bosley Crowther, the film critic for The New York Times, with his astonishingly low batting average, had good words for Lupino and Bogart: she was “impressive as the adoring moll,” and he displays “a perfection of hard-boiled vitality.” Then to confirm that, these concessions aside, Crowther was his usual self, he added, “As gangster pictures go—if they do—it’s a perfect epilogue.” The right word would have been prologue, as what followed was a whole new genre of crime and noir movies.

The role of Sam Spade, the hard-boiled private eye in The Maltese Falcon (1941)—Dashiell Hammett’s novel adapted by John Huston in his directorial debut—made Bogart’s reputation and accounts for the image many of us have of him today. The tough guy who won’t let Mary Astor play him for a sap and outwits the wonderful Warner Brothers trio of Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Elisha Cook, Jr., is, as he points out, not “as crooked as I’m supposed to be,” even as he joins in the hunt for the legendary priceless black bird, which turns out to be a fake.

A wide-brimmed fedora and belted trench coat are as vital to Bogart as top hat, white tie, and tails are to Fred Astaire. A lighted cigarette dangles from Bogey’s lips. He is quick with a quip, and when this is pointed out to him as if it were a fault, he replies, “What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?” His voice conveys an aggressive world-weariness. It is difficult to impress him. He incorporates skepticism in the sound of his words. As he says in The Maltese Falcon, “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”

Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942) proved decisive for Bogart. Beneath the veneer of cynicism lurked the romantic, capable of heroic self-sacrifice. Casablanca has its song (“As Time Goes By,” sung by Dooley Wilson), its famous dialogue (“We’ll always have Paris”), its war of the anthems (with “La Marseillaise” victorious), its virtuous resistance leader (Paul Henreid), its opportunistic Vichy inspector (Claude Rains), and its broken-hearted gin-joint owner in a white dinner jacket (Bogart). Enduring personal defeat for a worthy cause, Bogart is noble after all. He knows how to lose. Imagine having to give up Ingrid Bergman twice.

With his matchless ability to leer, wince, flash a fiendish grin, and blow his top, Bogart excelled as a paranoid or psychopath, whether cast as a homicidal painter married to Barbara Stanwyck (The Two Mrs. Carrolls, 1947) or a prospector in Mexico (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948). In Nicholas Ray’s noir classic In a Lonely Place (1950), Bogey plays an embittered Hollywood screenwriter, who may love Gloria Grahame but will, in a certain situation, tighten his wrists around her neck in a choke hold. In The Caine Mutiny (1954), Bogart is Captain Queeg of the U.S. Navy during World War II, who obsesses over strawberries and plays with marbles while metaphorically losing his own.

But it is Bogart as the detective hero, stripped of his illusions, equipped with a derisive wit, and handy with a gun, that defines his place in cinema history. He is especially attractive when paired with Lauren Bacall, whom he met on the set of To Have and Have Not (1944) and quickly married.


19 Jul 2021

“The Rohmer Guy”

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Jérôme is longing to touch “Claire’s Knee” (1970).

I’m a strong cinemaphile. I actually ran a film society at Yale specializing in art films. And, naturally enough, I have considerable regard for the films of Eric Rohmer.

Rohmer’s films are beautifully photographed miniature studies of romantic incident in upper middle class French lives of the late last century. The sensibility, manners, and environment of his protagonists is gratifyingly exotic from the American perspective, and their worldliness is impressively sophisticated by our own provincial standards.

Rohmer’s ladies are generally charming; his males, on the other hand, are very, very French: vain, narcissistic, simultaneously predatory and uxorious, and tormented by obsessions and insecurities.

The Rohmer male, Hélas!, only too frequently tends to dress and wear his hair in Gallic versions of the unfortunate styles popular in the 1970s. Most of us would look upon all that as inevitable though regrettable, but leave it to the millennials!

GQ today served up a recent article by Sophie Kemp which identifies a distinctive “Rohmer Guy” style (consisting of dressing like a haute bourgeois 1970s frog ) evidently expressive of a hankering to be summering near Lake Annecy and flirting with chic French chicks.

Rohmer guy fashion is everywhere now. At men’s fashion week in Paris, Milan, and Pitti Uomo, there were many guys wearing lots of mustard yellow, which is a classic Rohmer guy shade. There were also plenty of showgoers wearing bell bottoms, fisherman’s sandals, and neutral-toned canvas jackets—all of which are very much in the visual language of Rohmer’s films. Stop by any downtown New York bar with a terrace, and you’re likely to see someone in a pair of corduroy pants and a deadstock button down with an oversized starched collar.

Alexander Si, an artist who works at a Chinatown gallery, identifies as a Rohmer guy. He started watching the directors movies as a teenager, and as an adult, he covets the lives of Rohmer’s men. For Si, being a Rohmer guy is more than just a way of dress—it’s also a way of existing in the world. “There’s no judgement on cheating,” he jokes. Said less in jest: “Everything is slower.” In terms of dress, Si likes how the characters aren’t particularly flashy and tend to be a little more utilitarian.

But why now? Why do guys everywhere seem to be dressing like chill lotharios named Pierre or Gabriel vacationing at a friend’s parent’s chateau circa 1975? Like so much else these days, it seems closely tied to our strange covid-but-not moment. Looking like a French guy on vacation is an aspirational way to go about getting dressed in a summer where a lot of people are still working from home, but where deadly disease is less of a threat. In this long summer where we’re all outside and hanging out together again, it feels kind of nice to dress for the life you want to have: one where all you do is hang out, and look good. C’est sympa comme ça.


27 Jun 2021

Futuristic Movie Timeline

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(click on image for larger version as usual.)

26 Apr 2021

Anatomy of Films


07 Dec 2020

“Buffalo Bill” Cody, “..Pioneer Pony Express Rider, Indian Fighter, and Showman – the Most Famous Scout in American History, the Idol of Young America.” (1908)


He’s acting, of course, as he enters, Winchester in hand, and begins crossing the river, but he really is an impressive figure and he actually does successfully convey the impression that he’s looking out for hostile Indians.

Watching him is like watching a myth take shape and come to life.

HT: Althouse.

08 Oct 2020

1896 Snowball Fight

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Original footage by the Lumière brothers, this snowball fight from Lyon, France in 1896 has been upscaled and colorized using the open-source AI tool, DeOldify, a deep learning-based project for colorizing and restoring old images and video.

HT: Vanderleun.

10 Sep 2020

We’re All Mad as Hell, and We’re Not Going to Take This Anymore!

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As American cities burn again and a bitterly-divided country prepares to battle to the death over the upcoming presidential election, Titus Techera finds all of it reminding him only too well of Sidney Lumet’s black comedy “Network” (1976) and some other Seventies cinematic visions of Apocalyptic despair and heroic struggle.

Network is so far-sighted because it takes seriously the shift in post-war liberalism, from the halcyon days of Edward R. Murrow to the transformation of the news into theater. We see the collapse and abandonment of the high hopes of transforming America through technocratic reason. As the administrative state replaces ignorant politicians with ‘experts’ on issues of burning national importance, so the national media emphasizes its objectivity and tells everyone the same stories with the same authoritative confidence.

But the Great Society failed catastrophically as race riots, urban bombing campaigns unprecedented in American history, and Vietnam protests tore the country apart and set students against the Democrats who depended on their votes. Liberalism’s authoritative media speakers lost their authority and became as questionable as liberalism’s authoritative champions in politics. When the political elites fail to act for the common good, how can the journalistic elites do their job? By damning their own ideology or lying. Beautiful fantasies or ugly truths: this is how liberalism comes crashing down.


11 Aug 2020

Harry Potter: Better With Guns

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