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(01-06-2017, 07:21 PM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]96 years ago...

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Way Down East (1920)

Another entry from D.W. Griffith, which at times is the equal to and even surpasses 'Broken Blossoms'. However, it's padded to hell with annoyingly irrelevant comedy skits, inflating the runtime way beyond what it needed to be and testing the patience. 

There are just so many hours and so many films that one has time for.  Otoh, if someone with more tolerance for these century-old films were to make a fanedit that took out all the frivolous skits, I'd be keen to watch it....
(05-03-2020, 06:15 PM)mnkykungfu Wrote: [ -> ]
(01-06-2017, 07:21 PM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]96 years ago...

[Image: 31340541403_49118e35fc_o.jpg]

Way Down East (1920)

Another entry from D.W. Griffith, which at times is the equal to and even surpasses 'Broken Blossoms'. However, it's padded to hell with annoyingly irrelevant comedy skits, inflating the runtime way beyond what it needed to be and testing the patience. 

There are just so many hours and so many films that one has time for.  Otoh, if someone with more tolerance for these century-old films were to make a fanedit that took out all the frivolous skits, I'd be keen to watch it....

More silent fanedits I say!

I think audiences were way more tolerant of a lack of discipline in those early days, still just happy to see the magic of a moving image. When the length of a film could be anything from 8-minutes, to 8-hours. I love a good long film but I've begun to appreciate the skill it takes to tell a complete rounded story in under 90-minutes more and more.

61 years ago...

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Touch of Evil (1958)
Director: Orson Welles
Country: United States
Length: 111 minutes
Type: Noir

After just seeing Orson Welles collecting a paycheck in 1969's 'Tepepa', it's nice to follow it up with a re-watch of his masterpiece 'Touch of Evil', from a decade earlier, to remind me of when he was on top of his game. Although the heavy age-makeup and fat-suit he is wearing 'Touch of Evil', do approximate the way he looks in the latter film. It's testament to his skills as an actor, writer and director that he makes such a thoroughly rotten character as Hank Quinlan so tragic and sympathetic. Watching this in the context of other 50s movies was interesting because I hadn't realised before that Charlton Heston was totally at the peak of his career when he choose to star in this disreputable, dirty, cynical Noir in the year between two of his biggest, brightest, most heroic biblical epics ('The Ten Commandments' & 'Ben-Hur'). It was Heston's star-power that allowed him to insist on getting Welles behind the camera.

A lot of talk is about the stunning opening sequence but wow, the scenes in the hotel where Quinlan is planting the evidence are astonishing. They're so smooth, technically impressive and accomplished that it's easy to miss the genius at work. Two constantly moving 5-minute one-shot sequences but no matter where the camera shifts it's always on to a perfect composition of the characters. Plus of course all the actors (about 10 I think) had to perform a dense dialogue discussion in one take while remembering all their blocking. It's important to the narrative of the scene and it feels so fluid and natural that it doesn't look like a Director showing off but Welles definitely was! It's such a shame that this was his last US studio film, what a talent Hollywood was ignoring.





The first Egyptian film in the book next.
(01-10-2017, 06:34 PM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]The Phantom Carriage (1921)

A style of film I love is of the flashbacks-within-flashbacks type. It's something only film can do, slipping easily between time and space in an instant.

Have you ever read 1,001 Arabian Nights?  There are many different versions, but one of the ones I've read features this storytelling feature that is actually 5 or 6 layers deep!  It may be the oldest recorded story in the world to use this style.  I suspect you'd like it.
(03-27-2017, 04:50 PM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]Greed (1924)
The movie is pretty damn dark, chronicling the slow slide of a happy married couple into greed, drunkenness, resentment, bitterness, hatred, violence and eventually murder when the wife wins the lottery. The acting is mostly very naturalistic (with some exceptions) to match the gritty realism of the story, script and tone. It all builds towards a beautiful blackly-comic finale. It would be great to see an HD release of this shorter cut one day, to more fully appreciate the cinematography.

For a moment, I was thinking this got remade in the '90s with Kirk Douglas...    Tongue
(05-05-2020, 04:43 PM)mnkykungfu Wrote: [ -> ]
(01-10-2017, 06:34 PM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]The Phantom Carriage (1921)

A style of film I love is of the flashbacks-within-flashbacks type. It's something only film can do, slipping easily between time and space in an instant.

Have you ever read 1,001 Arabian Nights?  There are many different versions, but one of the ones I've read features this storytelling feature that is actually 5 or 6 layers deep!  It may be the oldest recorded story in the world to use this style.  I suspect you'd like it.

I've not read it no. I should really read more of the classics.

It's the way film can move around in time and place without any explanation that interests me, rather than the actual shift. Presumably a book like that actually has to have at least a note or a sentence to tell you what it's doing and to describe the effect of the change in some detail. Where as for example, cross-fading from a person sitting in a chair, to a child sitting in a chair without dialogue, text, voiceover, sound, or music, is all you need for an audience to understand. Further, cross-fading from a sad person, to a happy child tells you even more, without actually needing to tell you anything more.



61 years ago...

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Cairo Station (1958)
Director: Youssef Chahine
Country: Egypt
Length: 77 minutes
Type: Drama, Thriller

1958's 'Cairo Station' (aka 'Bab al-Hadid' / 'The Iron Gate') is the earliest Egyptian film I've seen and probably the earliest Middle-Eastern film too. On the evidence of Youssef Chahine's film, they could easily match the rest of the world. It's set entirely within the hectic confines of the station and follows Qinawi, a lame and mentally troubled young man who becomes obsessed with an alluring cold-drink seller. The cool glass bottles of Pepsi and Coke that she sells in the hot station symbolising Qinawi's desires. I'd liken 'Cairo Station' to the psychological thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock but a couple of years ahead of his 'Psycho', or Michael Powell's 'Peeping Tom'. The comparative levels of sexuality and violence are surprising for a film from 1958, never mind Egypt in the 1950s.



Yet another Vincente Minnelli film from the list next.
(05-10-2020, 10:29 AM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]It's the way film can move around in time and place without any explanation that interests me, rather than the actual shift. Presumably a book like that actually has to have at least a note or a sentence to tell you what it's doing and to describe the effect of the change in some detail. Where as for example, cross-fading from a person sitting in a chair, to a child sitting in a chair without dialogue, text, voiceover, sound, or music, is all you need for an audience to understand. Further, cross-fading from a sad person, to a happy child tells you even more, without actually needing to tell you anything more.

Fair.  Yes, you're right, it's different.  The version I read that makes most use of this is fairly explicit, essentially ending a chapter by saying "And then the king/soldier/princess/etc. began her story..." where the next chapter takes up the story within the story.  The repetition and rhythm is more of a throwback to oral traditions.  I found it almost entrancing, like listening to a tale told over a fire.  But yes, a different taste than the magic of film juxtaposition.
(05-10-2020, 04:17 PM)mnkykungfu Wrote: [ -> ]
(05-10-2020, 10:29 AM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]It's the way film can move around in time and place without any explanation that interests me, rather than the actual shift. Presumably a book like that actually has to have at least a note or a sentence to tell you what it's doing and to describe the effect of the change in some detail. Where as for example, cross-fading from a person sitting in a chair, to a child sitting in a chair without dialogue, text, voiceover, sound, or music, is all you need for an audience to understand. Further, cross-fading from a sad person, to a happy child tells you even more, without actually needing to tell you anything more.

Fair.  Yes, you're right, it's different.  The version I read that makes most use of this is fairly explicit, essentially ending a chapter by saying "And then the king/soldier/princess/etc. began her story..." where the next chapter takes up the story within the story.  The repetition and rhythm is more of a throwback to oral traditions.  I found it almost entrancing, like listening to a tale told over a fire.  But yes, a different taste than the magic of film juxtaposition.

Tarkovsky's Mirror that I just watched is another one for shifting around in time.



62 years ago (in 3-days time Wink )...

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Gigi (1958)
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Country: United States
Length: 115 minutes
Type: Musical, Romance

'Gigi' is a lovely light musical with characters slipping gently in and out of dialogue and half sung pieces, with no sudden outlandish dance spectacles that feel like interruptions to the narrative. The story isn't just there as a frame work for the songs either, it's all seamlessly flows. It's like a through-back to earlier musical films like 1932's 'Love Me Tonight' and 1929's 'The Love Parade', both of which starred Maurice Chevalier who plays the narrator here. My goodness is he still a charming screen presence! The duet of 'I Remember It Well' that Chevalier shares with Hermione Gingold against the intense colour of a slowly setting artificial sun is pure magic. The whole film exists in an extravagant Art Nouveau, Belle Epoque fantasy land. An equally charming Louis Jourdan plays a bored young Parisian socialite, whose only escape from his carousel of high-class parties is to enjoy a simple home cooked Cassoulet and game of cards with his surrogate grandmother 'Mamita' and her granddaughter 'Gigi'. The least interesting thing in the film is Gigi herself but the other lively characters make up for it (she's almost a MacGuffin really). I'm sure this was a huge influence on Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast', the French candlestick is so Chevalier, there's a character called Gaston and I could detect the odd musical note that sounded lifted.



The first Sidney Poitier film in the book next.
61 years ago...

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The Defiant Ones (1958)
Director: Stanley Kramer
Country: United States
Length: 96 minutes
Type: Drama

Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier play two convicts chained together on the run, divided by race and their own racism. The script is beautifully written and structured, never making the relationship between the two men feel easy, or overplayed. I never saw the twist near the end coming. The then pretty new widescreen aspect-ratio (1.85:1) format is well suited to framing the faces of two people chained together. After the first half-century of Hollywood, it's a pleasant surprise to see an African-American get equal billing in a story, playing an important and serious character. Theodore Bikel (who went on to play a couple of memorable characters in one of my favourite shows 'Babylon 5') is brilliant as the compassionate and world-weary Sheriff on the trail of the two men.



The next film has been voted the greatest ever made.
62 years ago...

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Vertigo (1958)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Country: United States
Length: 128 minutes
Type: Mystery, Thriller

I don't think the BFI's 2012 'Sight & Sound' magazine poll did 'Vertigo' any favours by declaring it the official "greatest film ever made" because it's just not, it's not even Alfred Hitchcock's best film. This is the 4th or 5th time I've watched it but I'm still not getting why it's considered the greatest. It's not James Stewart's best performance (it's not his best for Hitch either) and Kim Novak has been better but one could argue it's composer Bernard Herrmann's finest score and designer Saul Bass' most iconic poster. This tends to make me hyper critical of what is a great movie, the first in a trio of radically different masterpieces that Hitch shot in under 2.5-years (followed by 'North by Northwest' and 'Psycho'). Stewart plays a retired cop who suffers from intense spells of vertigo caused by a powerful fear of heights he has developed after witnessing a colleague falling to their death. An old friend hires him to investigate the strange behaviour of his apparently disturbed wife. It works less well on repeat viewings because you then know Stewart is just an inert spectator to a lie for a whole 90-minutes, he only has purpose in the last quarter. On reflection the mystery itself doesn't make much sense, or is outlandish at best.

The studio sets look fake and dated, even by the standards of other late 50s films. It's not like Hitch didn't do location filming, you can see it's Stewart and Novak in the long and medium shots on gorgeous sunlit San Francisco streets. Stewart was twice Novak's age and looks every year of it under the scrutiny of a terrific 4K restoration. The use of intense colours, especially blood reds and emerald greens is mesmerizing. The startling nightmare sequence is one of the greatest things ever imagined and executed in a film. Who other than Hitch would think of having Stewart's disembodied head flying towards the screen, against Herrmann's operatic music. Barbara Bel Geddes is a real highlight as Stewart's side-kick Midge. Giving him a platonic female bra-designer friend as a sounding board, is so much more interesting and sparky than the more usual male "old buddy from college" that the character could've been. 'Vertigo' was the first film to use the disorientating "dolly zoom" (devised by cameraman Irmin Roberts) which was made even more famous by Steven Spielberg in 'Jaws'.





The first Polish film in the book next.
(05-17-2020, 11:34 AM)TM2YC Wrote: [ -> ]I don't think the BFI's 2012 'Sight & Sound' magazine poll did 'Vertigo' any favours by declaring it the official "greatest film ever made" because it's just not, it's not even Alfred Hitchcock's best film. This is the 4th or 5th time I've watched it but I'm still not getting why it's considered the greatest. 

Totally with you on everything you said.  I've been digging in to the S&S lists recently, and various film critics' takes on them.  Roger Ebert wrote a piece the year when Vertigo displaced Kane where he commented on it.  He too said Vertigo wasn't even Hitch's greatest: he favored Notorious.  However, he said his mind was changed that year when he selected Vertigo for his famous Ebert Interruptus festival.  After going over the film frame by frame with an audience, he was convinced it was the better film.

I haven't watched it that way and honestly don't have the desire to.  Film is ultimately subjective and I find I disagree with the conventional critical take 90% of the time, so what's the point?  Maybe the best takeaway from critical standings is to view them as Ebert said he used to make them: to purposely put in films that he didn't think were objectively the best, but that he wanted to get stirring up conversation around.  Saying Vertigo is better than Kane or even Rear Window certainly does that.