Month: November 2012

The Dead (Stan Brakhage, 1960)

Seeing this adjacent in a program with The Wonder Ring is instructive: many (but not all) of the pans in that 1955 film cover an urban space, the pans brought about by the train on which the filmmaker is riding. Here there are but a few “conveyance-made” shots, and they seem to have been taken from moving watercraft (leading to pan-along-riverbank shots), but almost every camera movement in The Dead (handheld, tripod, or otherwise) is inextricable from the superimpositions and color negative inserts – and some striking tinted shots. The cutting and superimpositions merge the spaces of the graveyard, the riverbank, and the (Parisian) urban space, with an early focus on a little cafe occupied by Kenneth Anger. Vertical divisions of the frame (trees, columns, doorways, mausoleums) cross the horizontal axis of the screen at an urgent but not frenzied clip. The Wonder Ring‘s visual scheme seemed to be dominated by municipal brown-red and polished silver, the natural light of the sun governing the color temperature of each space. The Dead is, concomitant with the title, grey, grey, and grey, with the iron blue sunlight you get from cold, overcast skies. Each interaction between and within frames is, taken in isolation, smooth and with-the-grain, but in sum creates a disorienting effect, similar what you get when you spin around in one direction for a length of time, and then stop suddenly.

Men in War (Anthony Mann, 1957)

“The threat seems to come not so much from the unseen enemy as from the landscape itself, made mystically hostile to human occupation; it picks up the psychological tensions of the men on patrol […] and returns them as landslides, explosions, and impassable mountain ranges.”
Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

Top Tier, 1957

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A Girl in Every Port (Howard Hawks, 1928)

I don’t know if Hawks wrote this line, but I like it.

A Girl in Every Port is the earliest Hawks film I’ve yet seen – I’m trying to track down the others, but they’re not readily available given my current means. For the moment, you can watch A Girl in Every Port on YouTube, where it’s been split into eight segments. The quality is fair-poor, but I was still blown away by it. What a great film – or, rather, a film that seems slight when it begins, but grows and deepens as it it progresses to its final scenes. In a way, it’s the comic prototype for Red River. Also, Louise Brooks is as lovely as you’re going to see her in any movie.

Here’s part 1. The remaining parts should come up automatically, but if they don’t, it’s no trick to find them with the search box.

Judex (Georges Franju, 1963)

If you are able to watch Region 2 DVDs, consider picking up the excellent Eureka/Masters of Cinema disc. If not, the full movie is available on YouTube. The later streams at 360p – a considerable step down from the DVD, but not unwatchable.

Le silence de la mer (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1949)

Le silence de la mer (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1949)

Hulu Plus subscribers can watch it here.

The Return of Jerry Lewis Directs

The other day I took a look at an obscure work by a director who is, in my tenacious opinion, one of the greatest artists in all the cinema: Jerry Lewis. Those of you who don’t know me and/or have little reason to wander into the orbit of a curmudgeonly, druidic sect of cinephiles called “auteurists,” that sentence might seem to have been deliberately structured to end in an absurd, confusing punchline. Let me be clear: I am not joking. Neither hidden behind nor superimposed over Lewis’s legacy as a great entertainer, a great humanitarian, or (as, unfortunately, some still regard him) a crude jester specializing in sub-mental comedic hijinks, there is a largely self-taught movie director who, almost immediately with his feature debut (The Bellboy, 1960) excelled as a visual and “cinematographic” artist. His first five features (also The Ladies’ ManThe Errand BoyThe Nutty ProfessorThe Patsy) rank among the best American films of the ’60s; the very-hard-to-find Three On a Couch is also very, very great.

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New to Netflix: Bernie


One of Richard Linklater’s best-reviewed films in years – at least, since Me and Orson Welles – is now available to watch instantly on Netflix. Some good write-ups on the film can be found here and here.

Netflix Necessaries, 7-Train-Running-Again-In-A-Limited-Capacity Edition


Hi, person who is reading this. Yesterday I threw together a post of new additions to Netflix Instant (courtesy this guy’s invaluable resource, which has handily defeated Instant Watcher, not to mention the site itself, as my go-to resource for what goodies have arrived on Netflix). I listed only the films I figured were good, or were directed by directors who are at least kind of interesting.

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Netflix Necessaries, Super-Storm Edition

Here are some recent additions to Netflix Instant that you should put in your queue. As usual, I haven’t checked print quality on the catalog titles. Buyer beware, etc.

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