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Monday, 15 January 2018

The trouble about these Hollywood dames ~ Dix Steele (Humphrey Bogart) (work in progress)

A response (work in progress) to In a Lonely Place (1950) ~ Bogart and Grahame

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


15 January


On first viewing Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in In a Lonely Place (1950) (work in progress), as screened at Saffron Screen, on Monday 15 January 2018 at 8.00 p.m. (in the restored form from 1977)



Multiply, despite a police Captain who [says that he] has a microphone that is set up to record interviews, the film treats contamination of evidence (or even whether the matter is relevant) as if it is no part of its remit, or within its purview. Whereas it is sufficiently clear that even an innocent person, suspected of a crime (let alone one with a sizeable dossier at police HQ), will not, for the moment, want to act in a way that openly calls into question the independence of someone who claims to be a witness. (No more so than the police themselves will want there to be such an opportunity for embellishment of the evidence and / or for another witness 'to be found' ?)

If Peter Bradshaw (@PeterBradshaw1) is right that it falls to consider In a Lonely Place in the category of noir, then maybe such a flavour of the inauthentic that pervades everything is apt – or, contrariwise, maybe it is a reaction to a film that seems to aim at being plausible, but where so much remarkably does not succeed in giving that impression, that, as its saving grace, we invoke the concept of film noir ?




Attribute to Grahame’s character Laurel that she has seen it all before (with Mr Baker)*, or that Humphrey Bogart is a case, before the diagnosis existed (or before Taxi Driver (1976)), of post-traumatic stress disorder, but :

* Roger O. Thornhill (Cary again, with Hitchcock in North by NorthWest (1959)) is far more alarmed, though wildly drunk, by having been set behind the wheel of a car than Grahame as passenger – we see the vehicle objectively career, and also from the driver / passenger point of view - on one heck of a ride (we should either not have been shown that at all, or, if we are not intended to withdraw our belief, Grahame has not to react as if this is quite usual driving)

* As Adam Feinstein made a very case for, at Cambridge Film Festival 2016, Michael Curtiz did some unjustly neglected work with The Breaking Point (1950), and not just in Casablanca (1942) (with this film’s male lead and Bergman) :



* This film just shows why Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur (2011) was really so conventional (it felt as if, without acknowledging it, it was importing Peter Mullan from Ken Loach / Paul Laverty’s My Name is Joe (1998) ?)


All of which is calling out for some other film-references (assembling here, in alphabetical order) :

* The Artist (2011)

* Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017)

* Mulholland Drive [Dr.] (2001)

* […]


End-notes :

* But Laurel doesn’t seem to have the signs of having seen it all before even of Audrey Hepburn, as Holly Golightly, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) (even though, obviously, the oral sex in the gents is mightily toned down from what Truman Capote wrote – fancifully, although collected with three other stories in a slim volume, IMDb calls it ‘a novel’…)




Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

We ? Who the hell are we to think that we're suddenly special ? (work in progress)!

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


This accreting load of twaddle is Our mistaken notions, in twenty-first-century Western so-called society, that we are all individuals – rather than just another batch of conformists














Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Some comments on Molly’s Game (2017)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


14 January


Some comments on Molly’s Game (2017) (watched at The Light Cinema, Cambridge, on Wednesday 10 January 2018)






When not supposedly being both therapist and self-critical father, Larry Bloom is otherwise shown as a beastly father, ignoring his wife’s pleas for Molly, and invoking the word weak as an alleged synonym for tired : perfectly psychologically reasonable, then, that both Player X (Michael Cera) and, before him, Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), prove dangerously attractive as the types of character who like to crush others (even if it can also be personally costly to know them).


[...]





Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Two laundromats near Staines, formerly Middlesex (in production)

Some premonitions, prognostications and precautions about the promise of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


11 January


Some premonitions, prognostications and precautions about the promise of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)



It is almost cunning that we are reminded that it is the writer and director of In Bruges (2008), and not - for some reason - of Seven Psychopaths (2012)








Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Three Tweets about Bound (1996) [by The Wachowskis]

Three Tweets about Bound (1996) [by The Wachowskis]

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


9 January

Three Tweets about Bound (1996) [by The Wachowskis]








Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Three Tweets about Alexander Korda's The Four Feathers (1939) (and some images)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


2 January


Three Tweets about Alexander Korda's The Four Feathers (1939) (and some images)
















Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Film hype decoded : A Dictionary of Tweets

Film hype decoded : A Dictionary of Tweets (#FilmHypeDecoded)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


2 January

Film hype decoded : A Dictionary of Tweets (#FilmHypeDecoded)


Inspired by the extraordinary true story





Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Monday, 1 January 2018

Some thoughts on being reacquainted with Suspicion (1941)

Some thoughts on being reacquainted with Suspicion (1941)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


1 January

Some thoughts on being reacquainted with Suspicion (1941)







Ingrid Bergman (Dr. Constance Petersen) and Gregory Peck (John Ballantyne), then joined by Michael Chekhov (Dr. Michael Brülov) for more dream-work, in Spellbound (1945)¹




Leo G. Carroll (Dr. Murchison) - joined by Ingrid Bergman (Dr. Constance Petersen) here in a link to the near-dénouement



The surges in Franz Waxman's score² for Suspicion (1941) go from emotional peaks, as when Lina overhears herself effectively described (by her mother, within) as dull and so impulsively kisses Johnnie, to ones - reverting to form ? - of terror, at what he might have done, or be³.


We scarcely see the exterior design of Lina and Johnnie's matrimonial property, when they return from honeymoon⁴, but we soon become acquainted with the fact that what we must assume is some sort of large cupola, at all sorts of times of day, has the shadow of its struts cast onto the living area and stairs.


Just as those surges, as part of Hitchcock's vision, help overwhelm with terror what is reasonable in us, too, likewise, more and more – without our doing much more than taking it for granted – does it turn from a benign compass to an imperious clock to an alarming web... ? :


Maybe, in this famous scene, we credit it - if we think of its plausible origins at all - as cast by the full moon, but, then, with all that it traditionally implies about sanity (Johnnie's ? Lina's ?)...



End-notes :

¹ Seemingly titled, in Italy, io ti salverò ('I will save you') :


² Waxman, under the category 'Music (Music score for a dramatic picture)', was nominated for an Academy Award (in 1942).

³ In 'Murder - With English on it' [originally published in The New York Times Magazine (3 March 1957 ; 17, 42)], Hitchcock chooses to say In Suspicion, the story of a wife who suspects her husband of being a homicidal maniac, I had to make [my emphasis] the suspicion ultimately [my emphasis] a figment of her imagination. The consensus was [my emphasis] that audiences would not want to be told in the last few frames of film that as popular a personality as Cary Grant was a murderer, doomed to exposure. (The article is collected as part of Faber & Faber's film series on directors, in Hitchcock on Hitchcock (London, 1995), pp. 133-137.)

However, although the article does not cite this reference, hitchcockmaster finds ample evidence that, after principal shooting, Hitchcock found that the film had been cut down to 55 minutes, out of the fear mentioned (which arose from preview screenings at RKO, and after changes of personnel made by the studio, that lost Hitchcock the support of the two men most closely involved with the film). The article also shows that few people liked the ending of the film, as duly completed in post-production and released.


⁴ Our best chance to see this hallway, and how especially it is lit from above, comes from at 28 : 43 (in the colour version), whereas, when Lina comes in from riding and meets ‘Beaky’ (Nigel Bruce) for the first time (at 38 : 30), the property appears to have a perfectly flat façade (which gives little away what is supposed to be behind it).

One reviewer (quoted by hitchcockmaster³) somewhat disapproved of the use of the image cast by the putative cupola, calling it, in The Times, an effective, if a little crude, use of shadow (4 December 1941).

Post-script : Since the above was written, this still has been found, which appears to show the exterior (from an angle) :





Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Friday, 29 December 2017

Two Tweets about Oklahoma ! (1955)

This started with two Tweets about Oklahoma ! (1955)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


29 December

This started with two Tweets about Oklahoma ! (1955)

























Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Don't forget you have a board meeting at the museum at three¹

A reaction to Nocturnal Animals (2016)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


St Stephen's Day


A reaction to Nocturnal Animals (2016)


From Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst downwards (including Aaron Curry (courtesy of LA’s David Kordansky gallery), Beatrice Caracciolo (courtesy of Paula Cooper gallery, NY), and Robert Polidori (courtesy of Edwynn Houk gallery in NYC)), the closing titles of course give credit for the original artwork that Tom Ford chooses to show us, but not for the provocative images with which the film starts² (which, maybe, should not provoke ?). However, they might embody a sentiment to which Ford seems to have attached his name :




Since they are clearly pastiche, but Ford clearly also wanted them in Nocturnal Animals, the thing that asking us to credit them as works of art does is to deny Susan Morrow (pictured above) plausibility from the start even in the capacity of gallerist¹, and to undermine whatever is meaningful in including views of actual artworks in the film : after the opening, it might as well all be invented, for all that it matters.


Likewise, this canvas was made for the film by Ford and his art department



Here, the film within a film would possibly be of no real interest³, were it not for being contained in this film - which makes it of marginally more interest for being, through her imaginings of a novel in proof form, some insight into [the character of] Susan Morrow (Amy Adams).


Except that she has no real character⁴, except as a repository for Proustian recollection that leads to much-delayed guilt (and regret ?) : she is a void whom we see Edward Sheffield, her former husband, filling up (with text that we do not, however, directly experience), and from whom reactions are elicited.

(Abel Korzeniowski's principal theme for the film is of quality, and has all the fineness of one of Bernard Herrmann's most lusciously orchestrated themes, but - as if to emphasize the conceptual sterility of Morrow's interior world ? - two important moments, at the conclusion of the film within a film, are accompanied, respectively, by the unsubtlety of an absurdly-held tremolo, and the mimicry of a pulse.)


To be sure of the true mark of Symbolism, though, director Tom Ford gives us this curious detail on the night when the typescript is delivered : On seeing Morrow driving up, first, to the automatic gate that lets her car into her property - and as if it has never happened before - the head-lights reflect on the gate, blinding her, and she has to shield her eyes !


It is therefore not surprising that it appears, from ‘Communicating through Fiction : Tom Ford on Nocturnal Animals’⁵, that what appealed to the writer / director in Tony and Susan, Austin Wright’s original novel, was the idea of this device of communicating to someone through a work of fiction. Through a written work of fiction. And thereby communicating something that they had not been able to really communicate clearly.

That novel is, in case we miss it, Tony and Susan, i.e. the character in the book, Nocturnal Animals, and the person who compellingly reads that book (by the man from whom she divorced nineteen years ago).



Anne Brontë might have written in a way that endangered the structure of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, with around one hundred and fifty pages that we are to conceive of as read overnight. Even so, though Brontë risks breaking not so much the flow of the book as our attention by such a prolonged leap back in time, the fine impulse on her part here is to have us read – just at the same time when Gilbert Markham reads it – what informs his (and so our) understanding of where Helen Graham has come from, and so of who she is.

Whereas, with Susan Morrow and what her rememberings and her intense engagement with her ex-husband's fiction tell us, one is more reminded of James Joyce, dismissed by Virginia Woolf for Ulysses as a bell-boy at Claridge’s, scratching his pimples⁶. [Woolf also wrote, of Ulysses, Never did any book so bore me.] As with Belle toujours (2006), the entire conceit here is to have the film consume itself, as if a dragon ate its own tail : it begins, after an opening at a gallery, with the delivery of the typescript, and ends - with precious little in between - just after Morrow has finished a weekend of reading it.



Certainly, whatever proponents Nocturnal Animals has, one could not rightly claim of it (as Time Out did of something no less unworthy⁷) that the film offers a deceptive, philosophical and cautionary meditation, not only on age, appetite, pleasure, betrayal, mendacity, revenge and disillusionment but also in idle curiosity. (Largely, that seems more fitting to describe the films evoked by its empty establishing shots at a distance, Mulholland Drive (2001) and Sunset Blvd. (1950).)


Even if some reviewers / explicators have not imputed this motive [for example, Vulture and The Cinemaholic], is Nocturnal Animals essentially - as Belle toujours and Sleeping Beauty (2011) before it - no more than a wind-up, of the form that (purportedly) engages us with it, and then does something different ?


In the former (the alleged sequel to Belle de jour (1967), although it is hardly like Buñuel), Henri and Severine at the dinner-table is bad enough, but there are a thousand reasons why what is shown at the end of this film (even with a suggestion of a tear ?) could, in its own terms, just signify something other than what it seems to imply. (The writers quoted, who only consider the film in isolation, adopt the familiar tactic of making a virtue of an offence.)

For, as Vivian Mercier says⁸ about the conclusion of Samuel Beckettt's novel Malone Dies (Malone meurt), even the apparent ending is 'not conclusive' because, as happened before, Malone may have dropped his pencil.


And, perhaps, Beckettt seems ever so slightly more relevant to Morrow, because of that tear, and his succeeding novel The Unnamable (L'Innommable), as well as 'Rough for Radio I' (collected by Faber & Faber in Ends and Odds : Plays and Sketches) ?

Animator : Particularly with that tear so hard behind. It is not the first, agreed. But in such a context !




End-notes :

¹ Though the line neatly enough avoids establishing later where we are and why, devices such as it afford Susan the status of being a person of import, but who is just seen wandering around, looking at things, and barely in the film, in real time, except to put herself into the film within a film that she creates.


Maybe, in this professional life, Adams is precisely not meant to possess any conviction, but, whether as Jeanne, a gallerist married to Germain (Fabrice Luchini) in François Ozon’s In the House (Dans la maison) (2012), or the madly art-collecting Iona Aylesbury of Martha Fiennes’ Chromophobia (2005), KST has it in spades.



² We might have suspected that the video projection and sculptures on plinths were designed and created by the film’s art department and Tom Ford - as is confirmed to us Emerson Rosenthal in conversation with Shane Valentino, the film’s production designer, for VICE.

³ There seem to be undigested elements that are familiar from Funny Games (1997) or Wind River (2017).

⁴ Trivially, of course, she is no more real than the characters of Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon), whom we believe that we see her embodying.

⁵ Zacharias, Ramona (10 January 2017). CreativeScreenwriting.com.

⁶ Also quoted in the form The work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples.

⁷ Written of Belle toujours [20–26 November 2008].

Beckettt / Beckettt (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1979). Mercier writes that it is frequently assumed that death comes to Malone when his hand ceases to write on the last page (p. 175) - quoted in Anthony Davis' No Symbols Where None Intended (Belston Night Works, Bristol, 2nd edn, 1998).




Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)