Friday, November 28, 2003

Le Film Noir et Lefont

I had to wipe up my drool when I found out that George Lefont's annual French film fest is featuring film noir this time. The rundown courtesy of Accessatlanta:

Premiere party, with "Elevator to the Gallows," Louis Malle's 1958 thriller with Jeanne Moreau. (By reservation: 404-495-1684; $15; reception at 7:15 p.m.; screening 8 p.m. Thursday).

All films -- $5.50 before 6 p.m.; $5.50-$8 after; $27 series pass -- does not include premiere party. At Lefont Garden Hills Cinema, 2835 Peachtree Road N.E. 404-266-2022, 404-495-1684.

DEC. 5

• "Rififi" (1955; 2:40 and 7:20 p.m.) -- A jewel heist is at the heart of this crime drama with a memorable -- and silent -- robbery that lasts 30 minutes.

• "Bob le Flambeur" (1955; 5:10 and 9:50 p.m.) -- Director Jean-Pierre Melville's drama about an aging gangster and gambler with plans to knock off a casino. The film was remade recently as "The Good Thief" with Nick Nolte.

DEC. 6

• Bob Le Flambeur" (3 and 7:30 p.m.).

• "Tchao Pantin" (1983; 5:10 and 9:40 p.m. -- An alcoholic gas station attendant seeks revenge when his friend, a drug dealer, is killed.

DEC. 7

• "Tchao Pantin" (2:45 and 7:30 p.m.).

• "Any Number Can Win" (1963; 5 and 9:40 p.m.) -- A casino caper movie from director Henri Verneuil.

DEC. 8

• "Any Number Can Win" (2:20 and 7:20 p.m.) --

• "Purple Noon" (1960; 4:50 and 9:50 p.m.) -- Director Rene Clement's stunning version of "The Talented Mr. Ripley" is far superior to Anthony Minghella's more recent film. (Here's a review of a new biography of Patricia Highsmith, author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train.)

DEC. 9

• "Purple Noon" (2:55 and 7:20 p.m.).

• "Shoot the Piano Player" (5:25 and 9:45 p.m.) -- François Truffaut's 1960 romantic thriller about a one-time virtuoso now playing piano in a bar.

DEC. 10

• "Shoot the Piano Player" (3:25 and 7:30 p.m.).

• "Elevator to the Gallows" (5:25 and 9:30 p.m.).

DEC. 11

• "Elevator to the Gallows" (2:55 and 7:30 p.m.).

• "Riffi" (5 and 9:35 p.m.).

The festival will be followed by a weeklong run of a new 35mm print of Jacques Becker's 1953 thriller "Hands off the Loot."

For those who are new to the genre, I'd strongly recommend Rififi, Bob le Flambeur and Shoot the Piano Player. And yes, these films really need to be seen on a big screen.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The Big Red One, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Andrei Rublev

Hiroshima mon amour was not screened at Emory last night so I caught the last 45 minutes of The Big Red One dir. Samuel Fuller. It's yet another serious war film, albeit one that focuses on WWII rather than Vietnam. It's unfair to review the film since I didn't see it from the start but I did enjoy how it touches the rich variety of experience instead of riding the "war is hell" bandwagon. I also enjoyed this bit:

A: [on bombing an asylum] Killing insane people is bad for public relations.
B: But killing sane people is OK.

I went to the Emory library afterwards to listen to Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli's recording of the Ravel G minor concerto. I rarely love Ravel, but I did fall unabashedly in love with the way Michelangeli interpreted the slow movement. I felt as though I were listening not to a piano, but to the Platonic idea of music. I also strongly recommend his recording of Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785) sonata no. 5, a piece that surely deserves more attention by living performers. (For what it's worth it was much better than anything I've heard by Hummel, who has of late been resurrected.)

And now for Andrei Rublev. I tried to watch this three-and-a-half-hour monster and gave up after one hour. Last night I was chatting with the music librarian about it and found out that:
a. There are two brothers in the film who are played by the same actor
b. there is no clear demarkation between flashbacks and current plot events.
If this is not pretentiousness, then I am Donald Duck.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Added a few more Davidson blogs to the roll: American Robin, Blog on the Run, Sacrifice Zone and Tightly Wound Woman.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003
To all local readers of my blog -- yes, all one of you -- if you're interested in events that I plan to attend or at the very least recommend, I present to you my page.

Life in Darkness and Light: A Talk on Alfred Hitchcock and the Art of Writing Film History and Biography by Patrick McGilligan, journalist and biographer.

McGilligan's new biography of Hitchcock, Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, is the first to appear in over 20 years, so McGilligan spent about 15 minutes reading from it. He chose a passage describing the clash between Raymond Chandler, the second writer on Strangers on a Train, and Hitchcock. Chandler did not appreciate Hitchcock's visual narration so he wanted to spell out everything in dialogue, which lead to his firing.

If you've read the Hitchcock is a perv book, aka The Dark Side of Genius by Donald Spoto, you'll find McGilligan's book like a splash of cold water. At least one of Spoto's perv stories is false, and Hitch's personal life was actually quite normal.

Regarding the split with Saul Bass, Hitch's art director, McGilligan said that the shower scene, as we see it, in Psycho was a collaboration between Hitch, his wife, and Bass. Bass may have designed the storyboards, but it was unfair for him to claim complete credit for that scene.

Per McGilligan, the split with Bernard Herrmann was a result of the production company's wishes. Hitch was also displeased with Herrmann's excessive reuse of musical material in successive films. (Since Herrmann was notorious for repeating measures within a score, too, we have a case of ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny.) McGilligan's book devotes a chapter to Hitchcock and music.

McGilligan's best anecdote was about researching Hitch's impotence. McGilligan went to Hitch's doctor to ask him about it, and the doctor replied, "It never came up."

Monday, November 17, 2003

Blogroll Update

In addition to Marstonalia, I now have five other blogs by Davidson students and alums. Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas, (which is the Davidson motto and translates as "let learning be cherished where liberty has arisen") is by a mysterious alum but he is obviously friends with Roshan Paul aka Organized Nomad. I knew Roshan at Davidson; he is a compatriot and fellow computer science survivor. Surprisingly, he has Nidhi's blog on his blogroll. Thanks to Hanley, I know that dating at Davidson still sucks. Erica Robin informs us that Joyce Carol Oates may be a great public speaker, but is not up to snuff as a poet or public speaker. (Plus she's sadly as anorexic in real life as she appears in her dust jacket photos.) Sims Hill is a sophomore, which means she was born in 1984, which means I am really old. And finally, Dan Troy, whom I am loathe to add, is a Republican wingnut, courtesy of whom we get:

Reasons why the US is better than Europe:

3) You dont have to pay for ketchup in McDonalds

2) There isn´t a McDonalds AND a BK (literally) every city block.

1) Street signs...´nuff said. (And they´re on EVERY street, not just selective ¨special¨ streets)

Enough said, indeed. Perhaps he should read Marstonalia.

This week in Atlanta (Nov 17 - 20)

Nov. 17.
Life in Darkness and Light: A Talk on Alfred Hitchcock and the Art of Writing Film History and Biography by Patrick McGilligan, journalist and biographer. His new biography of Hitchcock, Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, is the first to appear in over 20 years.

Nov. 18
Kunal Basu discusses and signs his novel "The Opium Clerk." 7 p.m. (with a reception at 6 p.m.) $8 Margaret Mitchell House, 990 Peachtree St. For Basu's full Atlanta/Athens schedule, click here.

Nov. 18
Colson Whitehead reading and book signing at Emory's Woodruff Library

Nov. 19
Hiroshima Mon Amour dir. Alain Resnais (86 min)
Screening at White Hall 110 in Emory Univ

Nov. 20
Urban Nutcracker
At the Ferst Center in Georgia Tech

Friday, November 14, 2003

Senator Allen, R-VA: ". . .billions of new defici. . .dividends. . ." (around 11:15 p.m.) on Wednesday, November 12, 2003. Thanks to Brett

Young Frankenstein (1974) dir. Mel Brooks
This film is supposedly a classic and it's definitely groundbreaking in the parody genre. But Mel Brooks made this after Blazing Saddles, so it feels disappointing. A lot of jokes are hilarious but also so silly that they fall into the guilty pleasure bin, rather than the classic comedy one. Still, it's a very, very good movie. Gene Wilder seems amateurish, but all the women in the movie (Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr) are well cast. Marty Feldman is unforgettably insane as Igor.

Metropolis (1927) dir. Fritz Lang
In a futuristic world, where all but the wealthiest are turned into corporate drones, a savior figure seduces the king's son. Together they save the world. That's the plot. The visual narration of this silent film takes into a dreamscape that is so convincing that obvious inconsistencies don't mar the experience at all. The film has a largely mythic tone, which arises from references to Christian, Judaic, and classical myths. The pacing of the film is excellent, too, and the original score (on the DVD) works well.

Alien: the Director's Cut (1979) dir. Ridley Scott
If, as Satyajit Ray once said, Beethoven's quartets show the perfect way to shape time, then Alien is the 17th Beethoven quartet. Scott brilliantly uses chapters of time to ratchet up the suspense. I'm no newbie to horror films, but I ended up clutching the side of my seat in fright. Although the actors' haircuts may date the movie, its message isn't dated at all. In the emptiness of the universe, humans not only have to confront their existential angst and the hell of other people, but also the physical terror of the universe.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922), dir. Max Schreck
The first of the Dracula adaptations, this film still manages to be creepy but some the balletic acting also makes it farcical at points. If you rent the DVD, you get the choice of an organ score or an orchestral score as accompaniment, both of which have merits, but the orchestral score was anachronistic enough to make me avoid it. Max Schreck is stunning as the vampire. Murnau shapes the pace of the film exceedingly well.

Mifune (Mifunes sidste sang) (2000), dir. Søren Kragh-Jacobsen
Sometimes one shoddy plot device can drastically mar a film. In the middle of Mifune, a wife who has driven hundreds of mile to visit her husband finds him in a questionable situation. Rather than listen to his explanation, she immediately drives home. The utter implausibility of this scene made me question the director's (or at least the writer's) integrity. Otherwise this film from the Danish Dogma 95 school is entertaining in its retelling of the heart-of-gold prostitute story in contemporary Denmark. It's much better than the famous Dogma film "Breaking the Waves," which is truly despicable.

"We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" and "Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick
Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall and Steven Spielberg's Minority Report are loosely based on these two stories respectively. Both movies mangle the endings of the stories sufficiently to make the original story a real treat in comparison. "We can remember it . . ." has a very funny Kafkaesque ending that I won't ruin for you. "Minority Report," on the other hand, ends cleverly with three degrees of self-reference. I can't help feeling like the movie adaptations are dumbed-down versions of these stories, even though the movie plots are intelligent in their own way. The only work by Dick I have read before is "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (which inspired Blade Runner) and I didn't find it nearly as interesting as these stories. It's probably fortunate for Dick that all of his film adaptations were done after his death.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Rear Window (1954) dir. Alfred Hitchcock
I first saw this film in college, and my second viewing of it didn't change much. For newbies, it's a film about a wheelchair-bound photographer who spies on his neighbors (when he's not ruminating about marriage) and thinks he witnesses a murder. It's certainly the kind of film you want to take home to mother because it's perfect in so many ways. Yet it's perfection gives it a certain iciness that makes it distant, too. First, Lisa (Grace Kelly) is so perfect that it's implausible that Jeff (James Stewart) wouldn't want to marry her. Couldn't Hitchcock have cast someone a little less beautiful? Then the whole plot takes place in such a limited space that I felt as though I were watching a play. Of course, Rear Window is not based on a play, so I felt queasy and claustrophobic through the film. Not to say that this movie isn't in the 90th percentile vis-a-vis film quality, but it just didn't have the right chemistry to make it a perfect 10 for me. The DVD restoration is amazing, by the way; watch out for Grace Kelly's kiss.