The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of January 30

30 January, 2015 (09:53) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links, Seattle Screens | By: Bruce Reid

Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle

“For more than 30 years, people bought movie tickets to watch Hackman take charge. He was a molder of men: Hackman taught Redford how to ski, DiCaprio how to shoot, and Keanu how to play quarterback. As the culture’s perspective on Great White Males changed, so did cinema’s view of Hackman. If you want to chart how attitudes about power shifted in the late 20th century, Gene Hackman movies are a good place to start. His filmography unfolds as a treatise on how authority is established, then corrupted, then dissolved.” Steven Hyden does a fine job singing the praises of Gene Hackman, and that incomparable mix of gruff professionalism, emotional directness, and curmudgeonly twinkle that’s kept him most people’s default choice for our best actor more than a decade into his retirement. Via Rachel Handler.

“Given the comparable quality and quantity of Mann’s Westerns, and despite these outlying generic visits that bookend his career, to know Anthony Mann the filmmaker is to know the Anthony Mann Western. For without having found the genre within which he could most evidently express his stylistic and thematic concerns, Mann may not have developed into the unique filmic artist he became, and the Western as an ever evolving form would not have entered one of its key transitional phases as it did.” Jeremy Carr examines how Anthony Mann’s sophisticated embrace of Western tropes—landscapes, rifles, revenge, Stewart (by the time he was done with him at any rate)—led to exemplars of their genre that are also works of unmistakable individual authorship.

If one genre has defeated Martin Scorsese time and time again it’s documentary, his efforts in which tend to portraits marked by bland, unruffled admiration, if not outright hagiography. So what kind of control freaks must the Clinton camp be to scuttle his documentary project on Bill?

‘Valerie and Her Week of Wonders’

Adrian Martin writes well on two ’70s masterpieces (considered separately, alas; yoking them might have led to interesting places), Valerie and Her Week of Wonders and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.

With 16×9 screens becoming the television standard and decades of audiences adjusting to letterboxing, the bad old habits of pan-and-scan are… about as prominent as ever, when it comes to ’scope formatting, as David Bordwell documents.

Chuck Stephens walks us through the actors comprising The Palm Beach Story’s Ale and Quail Club, along with some ancillary employees of the railroad line. 18 of Sturges’s regulars—including former Keystone Kops, an ex-cellist (you’d never guess), and a guy who’d boxed Teddy Roosevelt and Jack Johnson (this one you probably could)—who amassed a career of over 450 film and television roles. No, sorry, that’s Victor Potel’s tally just on his own.

After some months, Ben Radatz’s survey of B-movie credit sequences by the decade returns with well-chosen selections from the ’70s—when increasingly dour design showed the low-budget studio industry “[rejecting] fantasy roots and fully [committing] itself to exposing the raw nerves of America’s institutions”—and the functional, efficient titles of the ’80s. With a ringer or two thrown into the mix.

“What [costume designer Rustam Chamdamov] told me back then is a kind of aphorism for me, even though other people don’t see anything special in it. He said: “When you put a necklace on an actress, let the string between the pearls be seen. Let there be gaps between the pearls, so that the construction of things becomes visible. So that it becomes visible that the pearls are lined up on a string.” For me this was a revelation: In everything there is another hidden layer. We see the round pearls and then we see the string and we understand that this string goes through all the pearls. We understand the construction. And you start to think. Everything is constructed, not only the costumes, but everything. Everything has many layers. Behind truth, there’s another truth, and then there is one more and one more. Layer by layer.” Isa Willinger has placed on her website excerpts from her new book on Kira Muratova, including the introduction and a look at Muratova’s uses of avant-garde film techniques and circus imagery. But the highlight is a long, fascinating interview where the director offers thoughts on the miracle of film editing, accepting onset coincidences, and the contrast between art and the chaos of life. Via David Hudson.

“We shot in Poland and then in Paris, and I was like, ‘This is amazing! Where’s the crew?’ And he was like, ‘don’t be an idiot, there is no crew!’…. It’s just he and I in a hotel room shooting it all. Like, that’s it! That’s just the most fun you can ever have, with one of your best friends. I’ll never get to do that again, and I don’t know that any filmmaker will. For three years, the two of us got to take a Sony camcorder and run around Paris and Poland and LA and made a movie. It’s crazy. It’s beautiful.” Laura Dern talks with Owen Myers about the differences between working with David Lynch and Paul Thomas Anderson, how Jurassic Park was the most independent film she made, and why her parents letting the 12-year-old actress shoot a film on the road with the Sex Pistols was the “best decision ever.” Via It’s Nice That.

Sam Elliot

“I think the main source of my inspiration is human beings: my neighbor, my neighbor’s neighbor, the person I buy milk from—all of those people. These people who we call “anonymous,” people who we never really see doing anything. If I’m out and I see a statue of someone, and I look up at the statue, I never bother to look on the bottom to see who he was. I could be on the metro one day and cross paths with a woman who gave birth to 10 children, and nobody knows her. That’s an achievement too.” Abderrahmane Sissako, interviewed by Violet Lucca, discusses the people often overlooked by other cinemas that his aims to celebrate—starting with Africans.

The Legacy, for what it was, was all right. Therein lies the legacy. The legacy was my life with Katharine [Ross]. I can’t pooh-pooh the movie. I have in the past, but you get smarter when you get older. I look back fondly on falling in love with Katharine that winter in England. It wasn’t a bad place to be.” You get the sense wherever Sam Elliott is isn’t all that bad a place to be, as he talks Justified, Big Lebowski, and moustaches with Bruce Fretts.

If you’re wondering how long it takes for Lost Themes, John Carpenter’s new album currently streaming at NPR, to give you what you need: 33 seconds into the first track a synth line kicks off its hypnotic, pulsing cycle and at :44 guitar chords slash in accompaniment. Which means I’d placed my order at about 45 seconds and change.

Adrian Curry admits he doesn’t have much information on his latest interest, Vincent Topazio; just seven movie posters, a fair number of which are iconic, all done in an arresting style that marries airbrush slickness to a marvelous ability to capture an actor’s likeness.

Rod McKuen

Obituary

Poet, songwriter, singer, and seventies pop-culture punchline Rod McKuen was once described as “the unofficial poet laureate of America.” He was twice nominated for an Academy Award: for best original song in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) and best original song score in A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969). Margalit Fox at The New York Times.

Composer and musician Edgar Froese founded the electronic group Tangerine Dream, helping pioneer a sound and a sensibility that influenced pop music, electronica, and film scores. The group released over a hundred albums and scored dozens of movies, including Sorcerer (1977), which introduced their sound to American audiences, Thief (1981), Risky Business (1983), Legend (1985), Near Dark (1987), and Miracle Mile (1988). The group’s most recent projects include the soundtrack to the videogame “Grand Theft Auto V.” Froese passed away at the age of 70. Daniel Kreps at Rolling Stone.

Seattle Screens

Ruben Östlund

“In Case of No Emergency: The Films of Ruben Östlund,” the first U.S. retrospective of the films of Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund, opens in Seattle on Thursday, February 5 at Northwest Film Forum. The collection presents four features and two shorts, from his debut feature The Guitar Mongoloid (2004) through his acclaimed 2014 breakthrough Force Majeure, running through Sunday, February 8. Details and show times at NWFF. Series passes are also available.

NWFF presents a free 35mm screening of Blade Runner: Final Cut on Monday, February 2, as part of the “Scene on Screen: Film Production in the Northwest” series. The film screens at 5pm and is followed by a panel discussion.

Billy Dee Williams will make an appearance at Scarecrow Video on Saturday, January 31. This is a convention-style event with the actor (in town for an event at Science Fiction Museum) autographing photos for fee. The signing runs from 12 noon to 2 pm at Scarecrow. More details here.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.

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Film Review: Black or White

30 January, 2015 (08:30) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Editor

Jillian Estell and Kevin Costner

Have you noticed that Kevin Costner gives good speeches? He deftly handled his classic “I believe in …” speech in Bull Durham and his courtroom summations in JFK. He recently got a lifetime achievement award at the Critics Choice Awards, where he spoke pointedly about remembering to be grateful. His Oscar acceptance speeches for Dances with Wolves were pretty good, too.

Costner must like having writer-director Mike Binder create roles for him, because Binder likes to write speeches. Ten years ago in The Upside of Anger, Binder gave Costner a juicy part, and there’s more talk on tap in Black or White, their new collaboration. This time out, the speeches just about wreck it. Or they would, if the movie weren’t already on a wobbly track.

Continue reading at The Herald

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Film Review: Two Days, One Night

29 January, 2015 (05:32) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Marion Cotillard

There is only one situation in Two Days, One Night—no subplots, no vast canvas. But filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (The Kid With the Bike) need only this one situation to somehow speak of the entire world and what it means to be human in the early 21st century. The situation is this: Sandra (Marion Cotillard) has been on medical leave from her workplace, owing to depression. She has a low-level job in a manufacturing plant in Belgium. She’s ready to go back to work, but management has decided to cut her position. According to labor laws, her 16 fellow employees can vote to keep her on the job—but the boss has offered them each a 1,000-euro bonus if they agree to lay off Sandra. She has a weekend to plead her case to each co-worker.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: When Evening Falls on Bucharest, or Metabolism

29 January, 2015 (05:27) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Bogdan Dumitrache and Diana Avramut

Movies about moviemaking don’t come much drier than this new one from Romania. It has the usual elements of backstage stories—the director is sleeping with a cast member, professional rivalry rears its head, the movie’s gone over budget—but When Evening Falls approaches these things in an extremely off-center way. We never do see the film set (although the closing sequence takes place inside a makeup trailer that is presumably near the shooting), and the only actual footage we glimpse is from the director’s endoscopy. He’s been suffering from gastritis and . . . oh, it’s hard to explain.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Review: Race with the Devil

28 January, 2015 (08:05) | by Rick Hermann, Film Reviews, Horror | By: Rick Hermann

[Originally published in Movietone News 43, September 1975]

After witnessing a satanic episode of black rites and human sacrifice in some out-of-the-way Texas campsite and then trying in vain to get some action on the matter from the local police force, Peter Fonda remarks to Warren Oates, “Frank, they’re trying to screw with our brains.” Fonda’s face is dead earnest as he delivers the line, which seems like some wildly misplaced throwaway from a grade-Z science fiction flick, invested with about as much foreboding as an order for ham and eggs. It may be significant that he doesn’t say anything like, “They’re trying to fuck with our heads,” which might be edging a little too far in the direction of counter-kultcha lingo; after all, we don’t want to alienate anybody out there who might actually be getting off on Race with the Devil—an apt title indicating Starrett’s dual concentration on spooks and chases. Like a liberal politician, “screw with our brains” is restrained even in its most daring affectations of looseness, and its timidity is only accentuated by the ex-hip aura of Fonda, who’s getting a little older and a little safer than the free-spirited threat to conservative lifestyles Captain America represented in Easy Rider.

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Videophiled: The mad passion of ‘Why Don’t You Play in Hell?’

27 January, 2015 (15:31) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Why Play HellWhy Don’t You Play in Hell? (Drafthouse, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital), Sion Sono’s filmmaking freakout about making a movie in the midst of a Yakuza war, is actually far more insane than that description suggests. For one thing, it takes almost 90 minutes to get to that filmmaking part and the sheer absurdity of the plotting twists and motivations that get us there are beyond rational explanation, which is part of the fun. The scenes leading up to it are a mad collision of gang war, teen runaway tale, revenge movie, star-crossed romance, wrong man nightmare, and movie club dream come true for a spirited, tunnel-visioned filmmaking collective. By the time the warring sides are ready for their close-ups, it has become a quest where the gang fight is less about territory than choreography and the sword-wielding soldiers on both sides (because katanas are much cooler than guns) are more conscious of their image than their tactics. It’s all about looking good for the camera.

Sono channels the yakuza madness of Seijun Suzuki and the driving energy and chaotic creativity of Miike Takashi at the height of his powers. The characters are driven by obsession and emotion, not logic, and Sono stirs it with a hearty dark humor and a juvenile, morality-free passion for moviemaking. Even the flashbacks and narrative detours are the equivalent of production numbers and set pieces, small scale bloodbaths as imagined by Busby Berkeley for the Yakuza Follies. Blood spurts in geysers (some of them fountains of liquid, others spattered across the image with CGI, and one scene of candy colored streams of cartoon rainbows) and limbs fly, and in the middle of it scurries a Bruce Lee knock-off in a “Game of Death” yellow tracksuit swinging a sword or windmilling his nunchucks like it’s a playground game.

This is pure midnight movie, all energy and whimsy and cartoonish displays of violence with yakuza soldiers dressed as samurai swordsmen. It’s hard to tell if this is an attempt at commentary on the slippery ethics of representing violence on film and blurring the lines between reality and representation, or simply Sono giving in to the same unchecked enthusiasm of his absurd filmmaking crew. Their amateur zeal is played for laughs, yes, but Sono’s appreciation for such passion is clear. Why Don’t You Play in Hell? has its own cracked logic but is largely free from any discipline that would focus its wild energy. That could be a warning to some viewers and an invitation to others. Follow your instincts accordingly.

In Japanese with English subtitles, with a 22-minute press conference with Sion Sono conducted at a Tower Records in Japan plus a 24-page booklet and 11×17 foldout poster. The Blu-ray also features a bomus Digital HD copy for download.

More new releases on disc and digital formats at Cinephiled

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Review: Day of the Locust

26 January, 2015 (08:46) | by Rick Hermann, Film Reviews | By: Rick Hermann

[Originally published in Movietone News 43, September 1975]

Maybe one of the reasons I don’t much care for the John Schlesinger film of Day of the Locust is an attitude towards his characters—Nathanael West’s characters in this case—which he has avoided in other films. In Sunday Bloody Sunday there was no overt judgment, no condescension towards his people, and in fact the film’s openness was a way of questioning the successfulness and validity of relationships between people whose strengths were admirable and whose weaknesses were sympathetically portrayed. Even in Midnight Cowboy there was the redeeming love and friendship between Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo that gave some value to an ugly world. But in Day of the Locust Schlesinger handles his characters as though at the end of a long stick, turning irony into a cruel form of entrapment by making them seem so bereft of normally human characteristics that we wonder how they could ever possibly rise above their bathetic gropings and mutual fear and hatred of each other.

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Videophiled: ‘Adua and Her Friends’

25 January, 2015 (06:39) | Uncategorized | By: Editor

AduaAdua and Her Friends (Raro / Kino Lorber, Blu-ray) are prostitutes from a Rome brothel attempting to take charge of their own lives after their place is shut down in the aftermath of Italy’s Merlin Law, which ended legalized prostitution in 1958 (the film was released in 1960). Adua (played by Simone Signoret), a veteran of the life, has a plan to open a restaurant as a front for their own little brothel in the rooms upstairs and her friends—cynical and hot-headed Marilina (Emmanuelle Riva), naïve and trusting Lolita (Sandra Milo), and practical Milly (Gina Rovere)—pitch in for the purchase and start-up and fake their way through running a real business. Adua may be a dreamer but she has a lot invested in this project. She’s the oldest of the four and, as anyone familiar with the films of Mizoguchi will attest, life on the streets isn’t forgiving of age. But what really charges up the film is the feeling of accomplishment and ownership as they work their way through each problem and, almost without noticing, create a successful business out of the restaurant.

For all the stumbles along the way, director Antonio Pietrangeli and his screenwriting partners (which includes future director Ettore Scola and longtime Fellini collaborator Tullio Pinelli) don’t play the disasters for laughs but rather a mix of warm character piece and spiky social commentary. It’s not simply that their pasts follow them around but that the Merlin Law has actually made things worse for women, whether they remain in the life (without any legal protections) or attempt to transition into another career. Palms need to be greased and officials cut in on the business; they haven’t even started up and they’re already paying off a pimp. And no, it’s not Marcello Mastroianni’s Piero, a charming hustler who hawks cars and woos Adua, who enjoys engaging in a romance that she gets to define for a change. He’s a pleasant distraction and something of an ally, but he’s better at looking out for himself.

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Videophiled: Liliana Cavani’s ‘The Skin’

24 January, 2015 (06:35) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

SkinThe Skin (aka La Pelle, Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD), directed by Liliana Cavani in 1981 from the novel by Curzio Malaparte, is ostensibly a war drama, set during the American liberation of Sicily from the Fascists, but it’s really about the politics and economics of occupation. As the Allied forces (led by Burt Lancaster’s General Mark Clark) roll in, the Americans are as busy with public relations opportunities (Clark wants his Fifth Battalion to get the glory for the liberation) as with local issues, for which they defer to Curzio Malaparte (Marcello Mastroianni), an aristocrat and former Fascist who switched allegiances and fought the Fascists in Spain.

There’s not a lot of grace in Cavani’s direction—she seems occupied simply corralling such an enormous international production—but then it’s not a graceful subject. This isn’t about war, it’s about civilians caught between invading powers and soldiers in their downtime, and Cavani enjoys the chaos of this world in upheaval without letting us lose our way through. She takes us to the streets and apartment houses where the flesh trade cashes in on the new occupying army and to the heart of the Sicilian mafia, which negotiate a ransom for German POWs they’ve kidnapped (they want to get paid by the kilogram and have been stuffing them with pasta to fatten them up). True to form, the gangsters treat American military like just another syndicate.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of January 23

23 January, 2015 (10:49) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links | By: Bruce Reid

Ava DuVernay

“The problem is the six major studios that dominate the box office, the entertainment chatter and the popular imagination. Their refusal to hire more female directors is immoral, maybe illegal, and has helped create and sustain a representational ghetto for women.” Manohla Dargis lays down her sharpest attack yet on what’s become a preeminent concern, the grotesque lack of diversity on both sides of the camera. A supplement features relevant quotes from women filmmakers Dargis has talked with about the issue, from Tina Gordon Chism’s world-weary defense of intersectionality (“I think the best primer for being a woman director is being a black woman, because it’s the same feeling that you get when you go into a room that underestimates you.”) to Barbra Streisand’s matter-of-fact callout of double standards (“What’s wrong with bossy? It’s O.K. for a man.”).

More evidence that old prejudices die hard, as Anne Helen Petersen samples the current resurgence (which she traces to a 1994 profile of Chloë Sevigny) of the It Girl, a “limited, limiting” moniker that’s done no woman any favors since Clara Bow.

“The story of New York cinephilia is the story of Vogel’s successes and failures, of his accurate and futuristic view of the cinema to come as well as of the doctrinal assumptions that got in the way—ideas that have, amazingly, been belatedly resurgent among today’s critics and that, in their way, resist the very current of appreciation that he sought to inculcate.” Spinning off from a read of Be Sand, Not Oil: The Life and Work of Amos Vogel (edited by Paul Cronin), Richard Brody identifies Vogel and his experimental-film oriented Cinema 16 as the source of one stream of midcentury cinephilia, the other being the Parisian New Wavers, and does a dazzling job contextualizing both, showing how their contradictory goals merged to make our current cinema—and its critics.

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Film Review: ‘A Most Violent Year’

22 January, 2015 (05:55) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac

In the wintry air of A Most Violent Year, a would-be business magnate named Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) sports a handsome camel-hair topcoat. He’d like to achieve success the honest way, and that immaculate coat is like his shining armor. Problem is, this is 1981-era New York, the business is heating oil, and nothing stays clean for very long here. Writer/director J.C. Chandor is skillful with these details—this is a very intricate story—and quiet in his approach. Abel’s jacket is the flashiest thing about the movie.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: ‘Song One’

22 January, 2015 (05:50) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Anne Hathaway

People who don’t like musicals always fall back on the Realism Argument, contending that in real life we don’t start singing during conversations or solo walks in the Alps or whenever. This argument can be answered in a variety of ways: Don’t most of us have a soundtrack on shuffle in our heads? More important, who says musicals are supposed to be realistic?

The indie musical, embodied by the 2006 sleeper Once, has tried to sneak around the argument. In these movies people sing because they’re musicians; they sidle up to music, they shrug their way through a tune.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Monster in the Box: How a Childhood Love of Frankenstein Turned Me Into a Film Critic

21 January, 2015 (17:59) | by Robert Horton, Essays, Horror | By: Robert Horton

Robert Horton hosts the Cinema Dissection of Bride of Frankenstein, a six-hour interactive tour through the movie, at SIFF Film Center on Saturday, January 24, part of a weekend-long program “It’s Alive: Frankenstein on Film.” Tickets and details here. In anticipation of the event, here is an excerpt from his upcoming book on Frankenstein, to be published next month. © and all rights reserved, 2015, Wallflower/Columbia University Press.

If a cult is anything, it has rituals and ceremonies and a schedule of worship. And here is ours: Friday nights, gathered in somebody’s basement, sleeping bags staked out on the floor. There are chocolate-bar wrappers scattered around and a half-eaten bag of Fritos waiting to be finished off. This is 1970, or possibly 1971 or 1969, and as 12-year-olds our beverage of choice is something innocuous, Kool-Aid or Coke.

It’s almost 11:30, so the parents have already looked down a final time and said their goodnights, and the lights are appropriately low. If anybody managed to smuggle in an issue of Playboy it’s been put away, because we need to concentrate on television now. There’s a plaster Madonna looming in a corner, that home icon of the Catholic family, which is apt because we are gathered here for something like a religious ceremony ourselves.

The local 11 o’clock news program on KIRO-TV, Seattle’s Channel 7, is ending. As always, the broadcast signs off with an editorial comment from station manager Lloyd E. Cooney, a bespectacled square perpetually out of step with the turbulent era (Channel 7, owned by the Mormon Church, is a conservative business). Strange, then, that every Friday night Cooney’s bland homilies are immediately replaced by a dark dungeon, a fiend in a coffin, and three hours of evil.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

 

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Review: Night Moves

21 January, 2015 (08:01) | by Rick Hermann, Film Noir, Film Reviews | By: Rick Hermann

[Originally published in Movietone News 43, September 1975]

Films dealing with crises of identity, as opposed to celebrations of identity, in films by Peckinpah and perhaps Mazursky, are beginning to come out with a frequency that reflects a genuine urge to explore the phenomenon of contemporary selfconsciousness. Karel Reisz’ confused but curiously honest The Gambler, Coppola’s The Conversation, and, most recently, Antonioni’s The Passenger all deal with people who end up with no clearly delineated ideas about just who they might (or might not) be, even after looking at and for themselves in a variety of existential nooks and crannies throughout the films. Gene Hackman, who also starred in Coppola’s movie about a paranoid wiretapper, is now the self-searching protagonist of Arthur Penn’s Night Moves—a fittingly equivocal title for a film in which the potential dynamism of an action genre is suppressed to the level of creeping lethargy, while the metaphor of motion remains valid in terms of the shifting currents of personality and identity with which Penn is chiefly preoccupied. Hackman informs the movie with a bleak sense of non-heroism as a private eye who handles divorce cases, a man who distances himself from life by assuming a disinterested, often bitterly cynical point of view, prying out a1l the answers (it seems) while missing the meaning, until finally there is no discernible meaning, just a lot of dead or almost dead people swirling in the washed-out glare of an overexposed sea.

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Videophiled: Preston Sturges’ ‘The Palm Beach Story’

20 January, 2015 (08:10) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

PalmBeachThe Palm Beach Story (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) – Leave it to Preston Sturges to create the sexiest and most grown-up romantic comedy of his day. Claudette Colbert has never been more desirable as Gerry Jeffers, the flirtatious pragmatist with a clear-eyed take on the realities of men, women, and sex, and Sturges turns Joel McCrea’s All-American stiffness into comic perfection as her husband, the aspiring inventor Tom, a would-be Horatio Alger with a sense of pride and honor at odds with Colbert’s willingness to leverage her sex appeal. She’s not mercenary exactly, merely more socially sophisticated, and without the usual homemaking skills of the traditional housewife, those are tools she is more than willing to use. They are opposites in everything from attitude to onscreen energy to body language. Colbert moves like a dancer and even her dialogue seems to dance through the film while the stocky, blocky McCrea is slow-moving, deliberately speaking bedrock, a foundation of hard-working focus and unbending values. They shouldn’t work but when his hands work the stubborn zipper on the back of her dress, they temperature rises noticeably.

The Palm Beach Story is a variation on the classic comedy of remarriage, a theme that runs through such films as The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday. Not that this couple divorces, but that’s Gerry’s plan, convinced that he’s better off without her expensive tastes, and she runs off with little more than the clothes on her back and almost literally falls into the lap of an idle rich oddball (a brilliantly underplayed comic turn by Rudy Vallee) and his cheerfully man-hopping sister (a sparkling Mary Astor). Meanwhile, Tom runs after her and gets introduced to Palm Beach society as her brother, Gerry’s plan to leverage the situation to finance his future as well as hers. She’s nothing if not thoughtful.

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