Month: February 2013 (Page 2 of 2)

Robert Aldrich (An Introduction)

aldrich Along with Raoul Walsh, Andre de Toth, Samuel Fuller, Budd Boetticher, Robert Aldrich is an exemplary director of the “cinema of American toughness.” While even the most casual of movie buffs have at least seen Kiss Me Deadly or The Dirty Dozen, a further investigation into his filmography – an average of one feature per year from the early ’50s to the early ’80s – reveals (as it does with those other auteurs) a surprising sensitivity that complements (rather than subverts) the brutish, beer-swilling, frequently grotesque surface. A disparate group of films like The Big Knife (a Clifford Odets adaptation with amplified performances from the likes of Rod Steiger and Shelley Winters), Ulzana’s Raid (an early “revisionist” western that details the violent struggles between Native Americans and white settlers), even an early, poverty-row noir like World For Ransom, is held in ensemble form by Aldrich’s knack for generating pungent atmosphere through ornate, wrought-iron compositions, in which threats, suggestions, and acts of violence are often one and the same. He also had a mile-wide anti-authoritarian streak, personified by Burt Lancaster’s rogue General Dell in Twilight’s Last Gleaming, Lee Marvin’s myth-proportioned hobo A No. 1 in Emperor of the North, and Burt Reynolds’ incarcerated football pro in The Longest Yard. Even a problematic attempt at the slobs v. snobs genre like The Choirboys holds significant value.

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Chantal Akerman (An Introduction)

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While she has made documentaries, romantic comedies, and even a period picture, Chantal Akerman is usually associated with the challenge and the thrill of “arthouse cinema,” with her 201-minute masterpiece, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles standing tall over a distinguished career that continues to this day. Her trademark long-take style coaxes viewers onto the border between intense observation and daydreaming. This may also describe Andy Warhol’s cinema, except that a film like Jeanne Dielman is exquisitely planned and relies on the tension between sameness and incremental change. An early experimental film such as La chambre resembles similar works by Michael Snow, while later films, such as News from Home and D’Est, belong to a class of their own.

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