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Nathaniel

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Everything posted by Nathaniel

  1. Amen. I also love his poetic use of cross dissolves.
  2. I remember seeing The Scarlet Empress at TCM Classic Film Festival a few years ago. If I could choose one film from the Criterion Collection for a Blu-ray upgrade, this would probably be it.
  3. Love von Sternberg. His seven films with Dietrich form one of the most fascinating enclaves of classical cinema. The only one I didn't fall for is Dishonored, which Godard deemed one of the ten greatest American films of the sound era. (Godard has his reasons, which reason knows nothing of.)
  4. The Latino Committee sponsored a post-screening Q&A at the DGA on May 15th, moderated by Scott Derrickson. The full talk can be watched here.
  5. Nathaniel

    Rear Window

    Thanks so much for digging out those Bazin quotes. They're amazing.
  6. I went on Sunday night. One of these days, John, we need to see a movie together intentionally!
  7. Last weekend I got to see a release print of Friedkin's Sorcerer with a rare, 4-track mag soundtrack. The picture was a B- but the sound was incredible! The eerie score by Tangerine Dream is one for the ages. This weekend Rialto is releasing a new restoration of The Fallen Idol, so I'm making arrangements to see that.
  8. Nathaniel

    Rear Window

    I popped Rear Window into the DVD player this evening for class prep (I show it every semester) with these comments fresh in my mind, and man, the Kuleshovian mechanics that Leary describes are still as impressive as ever. I wonder what Bazin thought of this movie; scene after scene seems to refute his theory that continuity is best maintained in long takes instead of montage. Just look at any of the scenes between Jeff and Lisa. Moreover, I was fascinated to learn that the moment cited above also works to reverse our sympathies toward the principle characters. The "cigarette scene" always thrilled and terrified me as a kid, probably because it preys upon some basic human fears: fear of the dark, fear of the unseen, etc. Maybe because I've watched the movie so many times that I thought I'd try, as a kind of thought experiment, to view Thorwald as the tragic protagonist. After all, this seemingly banal salesman-turned-murderer is essentially, as Raymond Durgnat suggests, a more unfortunate version of Jeff, trapped in the same social prison. (As visualized by Hitchcock, the apartments are close and cramped, like kennels for humans.) This time, the scene did not suggest the ogre in his lair (the lit cigarette tip is his glowing "eye") but a lonely, pitiful, Eisenhower-era man engulfed in existential darkness. And because he is played by the great Raymond Burr, his first words to Jeff ("What do you want from me?") have a poignant ring to them. This "monster" is nothing more than a pathetic Willy Loman type provoked to murder by a henpecking wife. I'm not arguing that we should totally sympathize with Thorwald (the murder is morally unambiguous and truly horrific), but it's instructive to try to imagine how different Rear Window would be if an omniscient narrator allowed us to access Thorwald's apartment. Naturally, you would have a different angle on that character. Ever since Shadow of a Doubt, Hitchcock seemed to delight in poking holes in the American Dream, revealing it to be a breeding ground for spiritual dissatisfaction. Thorwald is perhaps his most mournful emblem of that punctured myth. And that's why the cigarette scene will always mean something different for me.
  9. Nathaniel

    Rear Window

    So true, Ryan. You could say that some of Hitchcock's finest moments are the ones where the limitations of his technology are most apparent. Think of Martin Balsam falling backward down the stairs in Psycho. Such an incredible burst of pure cinema, and yet it looks "cheesy" to eyes weaned on CGI.
  10. Nathaniel

    Rear Window

    These are really good! Thanks, M'Leary.
  11. Nathaniel

    Vertigo

    One of the reasons I now prefer Raymond Durgnat's book on Hitchcock to all others is his chapter on Vertigo. In particular, he helped me see beyond the compassionate yet narrow Catholicism of Rohmer-Chabrol and the secularized Puritanism of Wood toward the realization that Hitchcock--and perhaps all of cinema--is no more Christian than its spectators. I still don't know what Vertigo is about, but its weaknesses as a detective story are completely overthrown by its masterfully engineered, all-encompassing mood and thematic richness, proving once again cinema's daemonic power to topple logic with imagination.
  12. Nathaniel

    Rear Window

    A great scene, although it never fails to provoke nervous laughter from my young students. Something to do with Thorwald's lumbering progression toward Jeff, his improbable inability to foil his tormentor (why doesn't he just take off his glasses and rush him?), the neighbors clamoring in fast-forward to investigate the commotion, and, of course, the vertiginous rear-projected plunge off the balcony to the ground below. And every time, the highlight of each screening comes just a few scenes before, with Thorwald's chilling stare into the telephoto lens (and into the audience), the approaching footsteps on the stairwell and perfectly timed "click" of the hall light switch, and Thorwald's apparition-like appearance at the door in which he seems to be stepping off the movie screen and into your personal space... This is an intriguing observation! Can I press you to explain a little more, and perhaps name an example?
  13. Thanks for that tidbit, Joel.
  14. Peter T Chattaway wrote: : Does it, though? We're given no indication that those sightseers have any interest in Jesus or Christianity. They're just there in the desert. True, but you must also admit that there's no indication that the sightseers aren't interested in Jesus or Christianity, either. Which is what makes it a good, thoughtful ending. I made my inference based on Satan's line, Christ's universal relevancy, and the popularity of Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land. : Me, I'm kind of wondering what was up with the hummingbird. Someone in the lobby suggested it was a sign of grace. I wondered if it was Satan in another guise, taunting Jesus with the fact that he, the hummingbird, had absolute freedom of movement while Jesus, nailed to the cross, did not. Now I'm wondering if we saw the same cut. In the version I watched at AFI Fest last year, before Jesus leaves the desert, Satan tells him that if he ever changes his mind about his mission, he'll offer him a way out, or something like that. The hummingbird is Christ's "last temptation" moment. M. Leary wrote: : In some cases, this auteur contextualization works (Gospel of Mary), and other times it doesn't (Ultrachrist). Are you referring to Ferrara's Mary? I agree. One of the main problems with this auteurist approach is that it depends on biographical knowledge coupled with facile, pop-psychological conjecture. : If we are to critique a Jesus film, this is one of the three primary criteria for evaluation, right? (Successful/meaningful contextualization, accurate awareness/interaction with historical issues, formal excellence.) Those work pretty well, yeah. Of course I'd rate "formal excellence" highest since it channels, informs, and reveals the other two. Even so, the biblical-scholarly approach predominates. Personally, a light turned on for me when I watched King of Kings and The Gospel According to St. Matthew closely together. I was touched by Ray's frequent use of 'Scope to unite action and reaction within the same shot, whereas Pasolini likes to juxtapose isolating closeups of Jesus with reaction shots of slack-jawed, uncomprehending disciples. I had always wondered why I preferred one to the other, and now I think I know.
  15. Thanks for another meticulous analysis, Peter. I was waiting for this one. The final series of images can be interpreted several different ways, but I believe it corresponds directly to a line in the movie, spoken by the Devil: "These things he expects of you? Do you think anyone will care? Men of a thousand years from now?" The final shot answers that question in the affirmative. Another question you raise, about whether the film encourages us to look inward or outward, is slightly more difficult to answer. I have a theory I've been playing with lately that supposes the most vital films about Christ are more illuminative of the auteur behind the camera than of the subject they are undertaking. Hence, Pasolini gives us a portrait of a lonely intellectual surrounded by idiots, Ray an attractive celebrity working within and against a system, Scorsese a troubled sinner working out his salvation with fear and trembling, etc. If I applied the same theory to this one, I would say that it tells us less about the subjective experience of the Son of God (a distinction Garcia takes all too literally) and more about what it feels like to be the son of a famous author.
  16. At last, the long wished for releases of Chimes at Midnight and The Immortal Story. Plus peak Altman and prime kitchen sink realism. A triumphant August for Criterion, and for us all.
  17. "Maybe I don't want to meet someone who shares my interests. I hate my interests." I adore this movie. Watching Thom Anderson's documentary The Thoughts that Once We Had made me wonder if this is the first movie in which a character sits down and listens to a record (Skip James's "The Devil Got My Woman"), and the camera just watches her listening to it.
  18. What a poignant thread this has turned into! I'm what you might call Second Generation A&F, having joined in the fall of '06. Although I've never been a prolific commentator, I feel pretty well plugged in here, and check the site almost daily. I value the overall intelligence and civility of the conversation, the combination of which still seems like a small miracle in the annals of the 'net. Several members have become friends on Facebook, and there is nobody here I take a personal dislike to. Nevertheless, I seem to have lost the drive to participate, for reasons I'll try to explain. First and foremost, the plenitude of opinionmongering across multiple social platforms has bestowed on me the literary equivalent of chronic fatigue syndrome. Symptoms include exhaustion, unrefreshing sleep, and bouts of annoyance bordering on rage. Occasionally, I'll be scrolling through my FB feed peacefully, and all of a sudden, I'll feel my face muscles tighten and the words "Shut the hell up…" form in my head. I'm concerned that this will eventually lead to more serious spiritual health issues, hence my reluctance to participate in any political or theological discussions. Secondly, I don't get out and about as much as I'd like to. Last year, I saw fewer films than I have in probably two decades, and I'm on track to watch even less this year. There is no doubt that the draining realities of adjunct teaching, church volunteering, and child rearing (or "attachment parenting") are responsible for this steep decline. Likewise, I find it difficult to summon the creative energy to post something thoughtful when there are papers to grade, lessons to prep, and an adorable yet needy toddler tugging at my hoodie strings. Thirdly, I've always been more of a termite viewer (to bastardize a phrase coined by Manny Farber), contentedly burrowing into neglected corners of film history at the expense of the current cinema. I'm finally, slowly starting to turn this interest into actual scholarship, and that, too, takes time away from the boards. (Lately, I've joined with another film historian in a quasi-covert effort to preserve the legacy of filmmaker Curtis Harrington--an endeavor which has proven to be both fun and edifying.) My current strategy of "waiting for the cheap theater" on many new releases has had the unintended effect of sucking the motivation out of film reviewing. Why attempt to say something when everything has already been said, and better, by others? Lastly, there have been too many dropouts here over the years. Several of the voices I once valued have vanished into the ether, for reasons unknown. Those that have remained are very much appreciated, but it still feels like less of a party. I will watch any efforts to encourage more jeux d'esprit with great interest.
  19. Does this project bear any relation to William Carlos Williams's epic poem of the same name?
  20. Judge Priest (1934) Our Town (1940) Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) The Stranger (1946) Stars in My Crown (1950) The Sun Shines Bright (1953) Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) The Birds (1963) The Naked Kiss (1965) The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966) Cold Turkey (1971) Smile (1975)
  21. Oh, great. Now I'll have to choose between Chimes and the restored Flying Deuces. #filmbuffproblems
  22. The July releases represent an unusually strong lineup. Muriel in high-def is a godsend, since I couldn't seem to appreciate Resnais's color work in the inferior Koch Lorber release. But A Touch of Zen has been a white whale of sorts for a long time. I saw it as a grad student at Chapman on a shamefully crappy Region 1 disc and remember being blown away just the same. Afterward, David Desser remarked that Criterion needs to release a restored version for the sake of film studies. He was right, and here it is!
  23. Interesting that Tom Gunning was commissioned to write the essay, since I can recall nothing he's written on Malick in the past. I'm sure it will be good. And HOORAY for the release of the 150-minute cut, which is the one I saw first, and the one I've been longing to see again. This is very happy news!
  24. This sounds more like another innocuous academic exercise that purports to draw biographical correlations between famous authors and their iconic texts. (J.M. Barrie is Peter Pan! P.L. Travers is the Banks children!) Compare those with, say, Dennis Potter's rather cutting portrayal of Rev. Dodgson in Dreamchild (previously The Wednesday Play: "Alice"), which to me remains the gold standard for this kind of thing.
  25. Good for Alissa. I probably won't be seeing this one again, but I'm still thinking about the meditative final shot.
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