December 31, 2016
I'm so pleased to look over at my archives and see that 2016 was the most I blogged on Silents and Talkies since 2010. I was incredibly close to averaging at least one post per week (hello 2017 goal!) I was going to add one more post to the 2016 total, rounding up my favorite new-to-me movies of the year, recapping the TCMFF, and some of the other fun movie-related events I got to attend, but the clock's a ticking, the window for squeezing in a comprehensive year-end round up is narrowing by the second, and I think it's just going to have to wait until next year (like, two days from now. "Next year" jokes never get old.)
So for now, I just want to wish you a Happy New Year and remind anyone who hasn't seen it yet that I made a video for NYE last year and it's my favorite thing I've ever done in my whole entire life and I swear on Dirk Bogarde's giant champagne glass that it will make you smile.
Happy New Year!
December 19, 2016
I saw this on Hamlette and Deb's blogs and decided to join in! I didn't include Two English Girls in any of my answers, but as a consolation prize I made it the header image for the post. It was definitely a contender for favorite period dresses. Muriel probably has my favorite period "look" with her steampunk sunglasses, which honestly deserve their own post...
1. What's your favorite Period Drama movie?
Jules et Jim (with an honorable mention for Doctor Zhivago)
2. What's your favorite Period Drama series?
Foyle’s War. Michael Kitchen owns my heart.
3. Which Period Drama do you dislike the most?
I’m going to go with Gone with the Wind. I don’t necessarily dislike it, I just think it’s kind of overrated and I have no desire to re-watch it. (Although I have to admit these sleeves are TO DIE FOR.)
4. Anne of Green Gables or Little Dorrit?
I haven’t seen either, eek! I’ll go with Little Dorrit though because Dickens is my mom’s favorite author and Tom Courtenay is in it.
5. Your favorite Period Drama dresses?
Olivia de Havilland’s dresses in The Adventures of Robin Hood. I’m patiently waiting for a Medieval style comeback... *fingers crossed*
6. Who's your favorite Period Drama character?
Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities.
7. If you could join a royal ball, which dress would you wear? (Pick a Period Drama dress)
I know there’s a specific dress that I’m forgetting (and I’m 99% sure it involves giant bell sleeves) but after spending WAY too much time trying to remember my mystery dress, I finally settled on Drew Barrymore’s angel dress from Ever After.
I really shouldn't say "settled" though because this dress is pure magic.
8. What's your favorite Jane Austen movie?
I’d normally answer Clueless, but since this is a period drama tag that probably doesn’t apply here. So my runner-up would be Emma.
9. Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife?
Downton Abbey, but only up until they kill off Sybil because I couldn't keep watching afterwards. (but Chummy on Call the Midwife is one of my favorite tv characters. I adore Miranda Hart.)
10. Sybil Crawley, Jenny Lee, Emma Woodhouse or Marian of Knighton?
11. Which couples of a Period Drama do you like the most? (Pick at least four)
Henriette and the Duc de Praslin in All This and Heaven Too
Phryne Fisher and Jack in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Becket & King Henry’s bromance in Becket
Lara and Yuri Zhivago in Doctor Zhivago
12. And last, which Period Drama villain do you like the most?
Death in The Seventh Seal!
December 17, 2016
In Late Spring (1949) Noriko is a 27 year old girl who lives in post-war Japan with her father. They lead a very happy existence until her aunt decides that the time has come for Noriko to get married. The film is one of the best I've ever seen (it now occupies the #1 spot on my 2016 new-to-me favorites list.) It's breathtakingly beautiful, subtle, and gentle... cinema at its absolute finest. If you want to learn more about the movie, the themes, the camerawork, definitely look at the reviews on letterboxd or imdb. There's a lot of good, insightful stuff there. As usual, though, if you're looking for "good" or "insightful" I'm not your girl. If you want to read more about why I connected with this movie and completely dried out my tear ducts in the process, however, please continue...
I watched Late Spring (1949) for the first time last weekend, and it was the most emotional experience I've ever had watching a movie. About forty or so minutes in I could tell my eyes were getting watery. Then I felt the slick stream of tears cascading down my cheeks... a steady flow of water traveling my face and landing in little droplets on the collar of my shirt. By the end of the movie, I was actually ugly-face sobbing. I've been an obsessive movie fan for close to two decades now and this has never happened to me before.
I loved this movie so much that I knew instinctively when it was over that it was one of the best movies I've ever seen in my entire life. It wasn't even a thought, just a truth that had to be acknowledged. I loved this so much. I actually haven't stopped thinking about it all week. I haven't even watched any other movies since last Saturday, because I just don't feel ready to part with it yet. Does that sound crazy? I just connected to this so much.
I turned 30 a couple weeks ago, and actually handled it better than expected (and way better than I handled 29.) This time last year I was so full of self-doubt about my path in life. I've been single for my entire life. I've never even been on a date. It's partially because I'm really shy, partially because nobody ever asked, and partially because I like being alone. But I didn't realize just how important that last part was until this year. I REALLY like being alone.
My solo trip to Europe this summer made me fall in love with solitude. I've always known how much I enjoy alone time, but to me that always meant having to stay home and read or watch movies (both of which I love, but I assumed things like trips and concerts had to be buddy activities. They don't.) Suddenly my future started shifting in my mind, changing from "reclusive, lonely old maid dies in her apartment and nobody discovers her body for 2 months, during which time her cats ate her face" to "awesome solo adventurer dies in her apartment and nobody discovers her body for 2 months, during which time her cats ate her face."
This stuff was all blossoming in my subconscious since I got back from Rome. When 30 approached, I wasn't as unnerved as I thought I'd be, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why I was suddenly okay with what had previously been a terrifying milestone.
Then I watched Late Spring last week.
I related to Noriko so much that her fate -- resigned to an arranged marriage -- was almost unbearable. I realized how incredibly happy I am with my life, how much I love being around my family (she lives with her father, I live with both parents and my younger brother) and how society often forces us into one-size-fits-all life events, even if it's not what we actually want. The main difference is that Noriko lived in 1949 Japan and I live in 2016 America. I don't have a pushy aunt trying to marry me off. I don't have friends pestering me about finally settling down. While it's still obviously common to couple off and start a family, it's not expected. It's not required. I have a choice. And as I watched Noriko being nudged into a future that she didn't desire, I suddenly realized how fortunate I am to be able to decide my own fate.
I may be interpreting this movie all wrong (although I'm of the belief that there's actually no wrong way to interpret a movie, we all should be able to get from movies whatever we personally need) but it seems to me like Noriko and her father both end up unhappy because of the way things "should be." When her father tells her that her mother wasn't happy, and he often found her crying on the kitchen floor, I imagined Noriko following in her footsteps, pushed into marriage and away from a life she loved. Most movies perpetuate the notion that "happily ever after" only happens after a trip down the aisle, but Late Spring tells a different tale, and it's one that resonated very strongly with me.
I'm dedicating all of my future single adventures to Noriko, a heroine ahead of her time, an independent spirit trapped in a traditional time, a glowing light snuffed out by societal conventions. She didn't get a happily ever after, but she helped me discover my own, and for that I'll always be grateful.
November 29, 2016
I don't actually like this movie all that much, but I've returned to it dozens of times because Frank Sinatra's performance is SO good, and I love his character SO much that the rest of the movie doesn't even matter to me.
Watching this just brought back so many memories of when I first fell in love with Frank Sinatra, and classic movies in general.
I used to have a flip-phone in high school that let you set a video clip as your background wallpaper, and I spent way more time than I should admit trying to record a perfect 10-second clip of Frank Sinatra turning around in the door, when Barney Sloane enters the movie and we get our first glimpse of that skinny little world weary curmudgeon.
I remember before the internet made everything so easy I had a micro-cassette recorder that I used to tape the songs from the movie, resting the microphone in front of the TV speakers and making everyone in the house be quiet while I was recording.
I memorized his "convention of angels" speech when I was 14 and I was shocked when I watched it today and realized I still knew all the words.
"Your story's all cockeyed baby."
Barney Sloane was, and still is, FOR SOME REASON, my ideal. I remember listening to his bit about hard luck and not having eaten food since yesterday afternoon, his tie always at half mast, his creaseless pants (even though they're "constitutional") a cigarette limply dangling from his mouth, the way he says "at all" with such Sinatra-like enunciation, and feeling an overwhelming connection to the character. I wanted to love him, to be him, to know him, I don't even know. But watching it today I felt the same indescribable feeling.
Maybe watching this film so much as a teenager created an unbreakable bond between the character and my teenage self and whoever I am now. I feel more like Barney Sloane now than I ever did then. Maybe Barney Sloane helped shape me into another bleak world-weary curmudgeon (not so skinny though, dammit) or maybe that ill defined connection I felt as a kid was some kind of kinship with the person I'd become.
Anyway. Whatever the reason, Barney Sloane was, is, and always will be an incredibly relatable character for me and I'm sure I will put up with Doris Day's irrepressible goddamn chipper spirit many, many more times for years to come.
November 28, 2016
When I jumped on the pin-making bandwagon a few months ago I noticed there's a deficit of classic film related enamel lapel pins on the market. I scoured the internet to find as many as I could and collected them here for a little Christmas shopping/wish list kind of post. I already have the Gone with the Wind pin (#17) and I ordered the Hitchcock one the minute I laid eyes on it (#11.) A few pins were designed by me, but most of them are from other artists.
Honestly this was all I could find on classic movies, which kind of bummed me out! If you have any suggestions or ideas for a pin that you'd love to see exist let me know in the comments and I'll try to make it happen!
1 - Tippi Hedren pin from Demonic Pinfestation
2 - A Trip to the Moon pin from my shop
3 - Silent Film Intertitle pin from CreatorCollab
4 - Marilyn pin from Memento Mori Goods
5 - George Lassos the Moon pin from The Silver Spider
6 - Phantom of the Opera pin from Buddha Bit
7 - Sophia Loren quote pin from my shop
8 - The Man Who Came to Dinner pin from my shop
9 - Glow in the dark Psycho pin from That's Fancy Eh
10 - Jingle Bell Rock (Hudson) pin from my shop
11 - Hitchcock pin from Nacho Scratcho
12 - The Shining Redrum door pin from Quasi Visual Arts
13 - Holiday pin from my shop
14 - Vincent Price pin from Two Ghouls Press
15 - Funny Girl pin from Grackle Distro
16 - Glow in the dark Vertigo pin from my shop
17 - Frankly My Dear pin from Jennis Prints
18 - Maltese Falcon pin from my shop
19 - Hedy Lamarr pin from Ici Pici Pins
20 - Night of the Hunter pin from CreatorCollab
November 21, 2016
Yesterday I had the enormous pleasure of seeing Isabelle Huppert do a live Q&A at The Metrograph in New York City. Huppert is widely considered to be one of the best actresses (if not the best) of her generation, and being in that room last night you definitely got the sense that you were in the presence of an icon.
My own personal admiration for her is comparable to how I feel about my favorite classic Hollywood actress, Barbara Stanwyck. They both have a quality of effortless perfection about their work. They are masters of their craft. They blend seamlessly into their roles and exude a powerful sense of confidence, but at the same time, both are able to tap into this authentic vulnerability that you rarely see on screen. And, as I learned last night, Huppert also emulates Stanwyck off-screen in her modesty, professionalism, grace, and wit.
Huppert chose all of the movies for her Metrograph retrospective (although I got the sense that Metrograph was unable to procure a lot of her choices. She kept asking about specific films that she thought she had included, but the moderator said they were unable to secure the rights or unable to obtain a copy. None of her Chabrol films were included for this reason, apparently.) including Abuse of Weakness, White Material, The Piano Teacher, Amateur, and Home. The Q&A I attended was preceded by a screening of her 2012 film In Another Country, by Hong Sang-soo.
I hadn't seen it before, but it easily entered my "favorite new-to me movies of the year" list. The film starts out with a girl dreaming up a screenplay to distract her from family problems. She dreams up three scenarios, each featuring a French woman visiting a small coastal town in South Korea. In the first segment, Huppert plays a director on holiday with the family of a South Korean filmmaker. In the second segment, she plays a married woman impatiently waiting for her famous lover to join her for a one-day tryst. In the third segment she plays a divorcee whose husband has just left her for his South Korean employee. In each scenario, she meets the same group of people and has similar but varying interactions with them -- asking a lifeguard for directions to a lighthouse, borrowing an umbrella from the girl who runs the hotel, eating barbecue with another family. The film is a light and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, but I think the best word to describe it is sweet. And it had SUCH a perfect ending. When the last scene was ending I thought to myself "PLEASE let this be the last scene, it would be tragic if it continued after this. It's too perfect." Some movies just keep going past that sweet spot, but this one knew exactly where and how to end. I loved it.
As soon as the film was finished, Huppert came out for a Q&A. In the very first question she couldn't remember the word for "lighthouse" and someone from the audience helped her out. It was hilarious because one of the ongoing jokes (probably THE ongoing joke) in In Another Country centered around Huppert's character trying to communicate the word 'lighthouse' to the South Korean lifeguard. It really set the tone for an intimate, fun event where Huppert engaged with the audience as if we were all old friends.
Here are a few of my favorite anecdotes from the event:
- Somebody asked if there is any director she hasn't been able to work with yet that she'd love to. She was incredibly modest about it, trying to say that she only wants to work with people who want to work with her. But then she did kind of let it slip that she'd love to work with Woody Allen. I'm personally not a fan of his, but for her sake I hope word gets out to him. Isabelle Freaking Huppert wants to be in one of your movies, Woody. Make it happen.
- While working on Heaven's Gate, Godard came to Montana to visit Huppert, as they were going to be working on a movie together. She asked him if he could just give her an idea of what her character was going to be and he said "the face of suffering." haha! She also told her Heaven's Gate director, Michael Cimino, that Godard was visiting and he excitedly asked if she could bring him around to the set. She passed the message on to Godard and he said he was too tired. He just stayed in his hotel and never visited the set.
- Huppert was VERY impressed with her feline costar in her 2016 film Elle. She said it was a trained cat and it was the first time she ever worked with a cat that was basically an actor.
- Huppert and her family own a repertory theater in Paris in the 6th arrondissement. She said her son does all of the programming now, and it looks like right now they're wrapping up a Lauren Bacall retrospective! I'm definitely going to check this out next time I'm in Paris!
- In Another Country was shot in NINE DAYS. Huppert was talking to director Hong Sang-soo about his next project and he causally asked if she'd want to be in it. He had no script, no plot, no plans except for the location. She agreed and the next month she flew to Seoul where she was met by the director and her male costar at the airport. Her hair was done at a beauty salon in Seoul, and her wardrobe in the film was selected from her own closet by the director. Sang-soo wrote the screenplay as they filmed, giving out scripts the night before shoots. Apparently they were intended to shoot for two weeks but after nine days he said "that's it!" and called a wrap. She said that their follow-up film (shot last year and scheduled to be released soon) was shot in only five days!
- She said she doesn't like to call her roles "characters." She prefers to just think of them as other people, who are also her. I honestly think this is more than semantics, it's indicative of how much her (I don't want to say characters but) characters feel like real people.
All in all, this was an incredibly fun evening and I'm so glad that I braved the harsh winds yesterday to go out for this event. And now I'm even more determined to track down more of Isabelle Huppert's films. As of now I've mostly limited myself to the ones I've been able to stream on Fandor, Hulu (now FilmStruck), or Mubi. But now I think I'm going to have to start tracking down those elusive DVDs. Oh boy!
November 03, 2016
Monica Vitti's ennui is one of the reasons I love cinema. Her sad, bored, lonely, searching characters in the films she made with Antonioni are simultaneously relatable and aspirational. She is alternately a volcano of emotion and a bottomless pit of emptiness. Claudia, Valentina, Vittoria, and Giuliana are completely different women but she portrays each of them with the same solemn resolution, adding dimension to roles that, in less gifted hands, could have fallen flat.
I love her work with Antonioni. I always include Claudia whenever I do those "which fictional characters represent you?" memes. L'Avventura is one of my desert island movies. But Vitti's talents didn't end with melancholy expressions of chronic boredom or modern discontent. In a career spanning almost four decades, Vitti constantly displayed an uncanny knack for comedy. While her sullen expression might have left a lasting impression on the landscape of cinema, her laugh echoes through history, waiting to be heard.
It's often stated that Vitti turned to comedy after the Antonioni films, but in reality they were a brief departure from the genre -- two of her first films, Ridere! Ridere! Ridere! (1954) and Le Dritte (1958) were comedies. And, one could even argue, there is an element of comedy at play within her work with Antonioni. Her humor, spontaneity, and force-of-nature energy are on full display when Claudia is making faces in the mirror or dancing to "Mai!" in L'Avventura, when Vittoria wrestles and imitates corny lovers with Piero in L'Eclisse, when Giuliana tries quail's eggs in Red Desert.
This vitality comes through even more-so, though, in her comedies. I have yet to see the pre-L'Avventura ones that I mentioned above (sadly the non-Antonioni films are very hard to find in America... see this post for an elaborate story about the lengths to which I had to go to find and watch "On My Way to the Crusades I Met a Girl Who...") but I've managed to track down several of her 60's-70's comedies and I highly recommend them.
The most famous (and most readily available) is Modesty Blaise. This was actually my introduction to Monica Vitti, who starred opposite one of my favorite actors, Dirk Bogarde, in the English spy spoof. Vitti plays the titular character, a super mod spy who changes outfits and hair colors in the blink of an eye, and Bogarde plays her arch-nemesis, Gabriel, an over-the-top white-haired villain who drinks from giant champagne glasses with goldfish swimming in them. It's one of the most fun movies I have ever seen, although after countless viewings I still have no idea what's going on plot-wise.
But it's a prime example of Vitti's light comedic touch. It actually feels light. Effortless. Gentle. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Vitti and Terence Stamp, playing the Robin to her Batman, sing a little duet while eating ice cream.
Isn't that beautiful? And light as a feather. I love the hat tilt, the way Stamp and Vitti reach for a kiss before sinking into their seats. It's comedic choreography, well timed, simple, and sweet.
I think the mark of a great comedienne is the mannerisms -- it's not just about being able to deliver a punchline. Aside from Modesty Blaise, all of Monica Vitti's films were in Italian, and despite the language barrier I still find her humor absolutely charming. It's the mannerisms. It's the almost Chaplin-esque facial expressions. I think she would have excelled in silent film, although one would definitely miss her perfect intonations and that raspy, delightful laugh.
Her flair for creating Antonioni's weary women trying to make sense of the alien world around them lay in her ability to communicate with the audience through her expressions. I firmly believe you could watch L'Avventura with the subtitles off, and, just by watching Vitti's face, completely understand what the movie is saying. She brings this same talent, this ability to convey thoughts and emotions through gesture and manner, to her comedy.
My two favorite Vitti comedies are The Scarlet Lady, in which she stars as a revenge-obsessed woman opposite Maurice Ronet, and The Pizza Triangle (alternate titles are A Drama of Jealousy and Jealousy, Italian Style but I swear it's a comedy) which co-stars Marcello Mastroianni and Giancarlo Giannini. The Scarlet Lady is (drum roll!) available on amazon, on a Region 1 disc (so you can play it in the US) with English subtitles (woo hoo!) Unfortunately The Pizza Triangle doesn't seem to be commercially available in the US, but I found a copy here if you're interested.
Or you can go back and re-watch the Antonioni films, paying close attention to those fleeting glimpses of a rare comedic talent. Like Garbo before her, Monica Vitti was a natural at honing in on and reflecting the weight of existence on screen.... and when she laughs, it is a revelation.
October 31, 2016
Happy Halloween! A couple weeks ago I got obsessed with the idea of making a Halloween video set to a Bauhaus song. I wanted to do Spirit, but then I re-listened to She's in Parties and it just seemed to fit so well with the ethereal spookiness of early 30's horror and Val Lewton films. I have enough footage saved to my computer now to do one with Spirit as well, but I think I'll save that for next year.
But for this year, here's "She's in Parties" by Bauhaus, with clips from the following films: Isle of the Dead (1945), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), Dracula (1931), Night Monster (1942), The Old Dark House (1932), Mark of the Vampire (1935), Frankenstein (1931), The Fall of the House of Usher (1928), The Black Cat (1934), The Seventh Victim (1943), Nosferatu (1922), Doctor X (1932), Bedlam (1946), Cat People (1942), Horror Island (1941), The Leopard Man (1943), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941)
October 19, 2016
This was the last book that I wanted to read for Raquel's Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge, which ended on September 15th. But in a beautiful fusion of procrastination and serendipity, I didn't get around to reading it until this week, when leaves are falling, the wind is starting to moan --not quite howling just yet-- and Halloween is definitely in the air. It's the perfect time of year to dive into a book about one of my favorite spooky movies!
I've read a handful of BFI books now, and Cat People by Kim Newman is my favorite. I've really enjoyed all of them, but some can get so caught up in the production details that they don't really spend too much time on the film itself. The bulk of this book devotes itself to deconstructing each scene, and it's absolutely fascinating. Production details can be interesting too (and this book isn't lacking in that department) but I'm personally way more interested in the actual film than the budgeting details. There's a reason I chose to read a book about a movie instead of a book about economics, haha :)
The author is a huge fan of the movie, which comes in handy when you're talking about a film that some people might not appreciate. He defends it valiantly from its detractors and diligently answers critiques with reasons why its supposed shortcomings make the film even better. He even included a particularly spiteful review from Stephen King and rebutted the complaint that the film was too obviously shot on a soundstage ("When I was supposed to be worrying about whether or not Jane Randolph was going to be attacked, I found myself worrying instead about that papier-mache stone wall in the background." UGH. For someone renown for his wild imagination, King certainly had a hard time using it when watching this movie.)
One interesting observation that really stuck with me was about which characters the audience is supposed to sympathize with. Modern audiences like Irena, Simone Simon's character, and feel sorry for her. But at the time of its release, did audiences instead see themselves in the milquetoast Kent Smith and All-American but nevertheless brazen husband-stealer Jane Randolph? Was French Simone Simon (playing Serbian here) a foreign, unfamiliar character whose exotic appeal had lured Kent away from his waspy Girl Friday? Newman writes in the book that the film is clearly trying to switch heroines halfway through the film -- in the scenes in which Randolph's character is in danger, we are supposed to be rooting for her. But do we? My heart is still with Irena, the poor romantic girl stuck in a body that she can't control.
Newman also gives us some background information about the sets used (or I should say, re-used) in the film. Val Lewton was an ace at recycling old sets, and here there are quite a few that will look familiar to you once you know where else you saw them! The inside of Irena's building with the giant ornate staircase is from The Magnificent Ambersons. Kent Smith's workplace is from The Devil and Miss Jones. The park is from an Astaire-Rogers musical (not sure which one.) For the infamous pool scene, they actually used an existing apartment building that had the right claustrophobic feel, with eerie underwater lighting. (On location shooting, take that, Stephen King!)
I've seen the film countless times so I didn't feel like I needed to revisit it before reading the book. However, now that I've learned so much about the film, gained so many insights into the characters and the psychology of the movie, I'm eager to watch it again with a newfound understanding.
October 17, 2016
Today is my one year Alainiversary! On October 17th, 2015, I fell down an Alain Delon rabbit hole and I've been watching his movies as if they were air and I couldn't breathe without them ever since.
About a week ago I received this signed photo in the mail. I could have fainted. I actually sat down right where I was standing, my eyes so fixed on the writing that someone would have had to physically move my head to get me to stop looking at it.
I don't know how to say this. I just... this means a lot to me. I don't care if it sounds silly or sad, but for some of us celebrity crushes are kind of all we have. I celebrate mine, and I embrace them. They make me goofy-grin happy! They are benchmarks in my life. There were my Sinatra years, my Bogarde years, and now my Delon years.
I enjoy the hunt, that desperate search to find every last movie they ever made. I like scouring ebay for weird memorabilia (favorite Sinatra find: a McDonalds lapel pin that says "Fry me to the moon", favorite Bogarde find: a comic book with an illustrated [and highly embellished] biography, favorite Delon find: Japanese fan magazines and an 81" poster for Any Number Can Win.) I like watching and rewatching the movies over and over again until I can close my eyes at night and play them on the black velvet underside of my eyelids*.
And I enjoy celebrating their anniversaries. Sinatra started on February 14th, 2000 when I was making a Valentine's Day mixtape for my parents (always the coolest kid around, it's nothing new) and Bogarde started on August 10, 2009 during TCM's Summer Under the Stars. I had seen Alain Delon before in Once a Thief and The Yellow Rolls Royce but it didn't *hit me* until I watched The Girl on a Motorcycle last October. It's not even really his film, it's 95% Marianne Faithfull, but his few scenes sealed my fate. Hook, line, and sinker, for a whole year.
Looking back on this little cinematic love affair, I can't believe how many Alain Delon related opportunities came up this year. Last December I got to see Purple Noon at The Film Forum. In February the Film Society at Lincoln Center showed an original print of La Piscine. In July The Film Forum showed a few Delon films, but the only one I was able to see was Deux Hommes dans la Ville. The reason I couldn't see the other ones? I was in Paris, where I got to see Le Samourai at Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé! And while I was there I also managed to pick up an Alain Delon coffee table book at a little DVD shop, along with some movies that were missing from my collection.
And then finally, my autograph. What beautiful timing. An Alainiversary present from the man himself! ;)
*paraphrasing Nabokov here
October 13, 2016
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of going on the TCM Classic Film Bus Tour in New York City. I'm a TCM Backlot member and they had a promotion a few months back where you could get the tickets, normally $49 each, for only $6! I got tickets for me and my parents, and the savings alone actually paid for my Backlot membership, so that was pretty cool!
I had done the LA tour during the 2014 TCM Film Festival, but I was itching to do the New York one since it's more like "home turf" to me :) I couldn't help but compare/contrast while I was on the bus, but I feel like my own preferences and sensibilities definitely influenced my opinions. I like New York better than Los Angeles. I like that it's kind of rough and dinged-up and a lot of days in NYC are spent trying to figure out how to navigate around a local parade or avoid falling into an open construction site, lol! It's not as shiny and sparkly as LA, but I love that. It feels more homey and cozy. When you're in New York, it's more like you're actually in a movie while LA feels like you're on set.
The tour bus in LA was TCM branded, had giant picture windows and a large flat screen tv in the front of the bus. The New York bus was a little worse for wear, was not TCM branded, and it had a sole travel-size-dvd-player screen for everyone to watch. But I liked it more.
For one thing, our guide, Jason, was WAY better than our LA guide, who my friends and I nicknamed "casually sexist tour guide Mike" because of the way he flippantly inserted demeaning misogynist comments into so many of his film anecdotes. Jason was knowledgeable and clearly was a true classic film fan. It was obvious that he was excited about the tour and film history, and his excitement was contagious. I found myself getting pretty pumped about locations for films I've never even seen, like Ghostbusters or Plaza Suite.
The tour kicked off with the "New York New York" number from On The Town screening on the DVD player as we drove off to our first destination. Then Robert Osborne came on (the screen, not the bus, haha!) and spoke a little bit about which NYC films made him fall in love with the city and move there. He said that Woody Allen's Manhattan is his favorite New York film, which really caught me by surprise. I'm not a fan of that film at all, but I have to give it some credit now, I guess, if it has the Osborne seal of approval!
Throughout the tour he'd ask the bus driver to pull over for a minute, at which point he'd play a clip from a film that was shot on the location we were stopped at. Above you can see On the Town playing on the DVD player while we were parked next to the subway stop in the movie.
This is actually not the best example (it's just the only one where I happened to take a photo of the screen and the location!) because this scene from On The Town was actually filmed on a soundstage! They had tried to film on location here, but because Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly were so popular, they had a difficult time getting work done with all of the crowds they were drawing!
We made a couple of stops along the way, the first one being Zabar's, where You've Got Mail was filmed.
I should mention here that I felt like the tour was kind of post-1970's heavy, so for any of those militant TCM fans who think classics stop at 1960 you might want to steer clear of this tour. There were definitely a decent amount of older film locations -- I'm going to list every film at the bottom of this post -- but most of the movies are post 1960. There were a lot that seemed like weird choices to me, actually, like Moscow on the Hudson and Baby Boom. I'd be the first to acknowledge that some of the more modern films (if you can even call them that when they're 20-30 years old already) are bona fide classics but those seemed like odd choices to me for a TCM Classic Film tour.
Anyway, speaking of bona fide modern classics -- You've Got Mail. I love this movie (although I kind of hate how it ends!) so I was excited to stop at Zabar's. This is where Meg Ryan gets in the "cash only" lane when she only has a credit card.
36 Sutton Place is where the girls lived in How to Marry a Millionaire!
Of course we had to drive by Tiffany's! If I was in charge of the tour I think I would have come prepared with pastries and let everyone go stand outside the window for a little early morning contemplation a la Audrey Hepburn.
This is where Elizabeth Taylor hails a cab in Butterfield 8. Our tour guide joked that only in the movies could someone hail a cab in NYC and actually get one immediately. I think he might have been forgetting that the person hailing the cab was Elizabeth Taylor ;) Pretty sure she could get ten cabs just by stepping outside the door...
This is the street where Sally gets her Christmas tree in When Harry Met Sally, another one of my modern favorites. I should mention here that -- assuming every tour operates in the same order that mine did -- the left side of the bus is definitely the side to be on. My parents were sitting on the left and my mom kept trying to take photos for me because I was missing everything on the right side. (So thank you to my mom for a lot of these photos!)
Finally, we stopped at the subway grate where Marilyn Monroe took her iconic Seven Year Itch promo shots. I was wearing a mini skirt so this was my pathetic attempt at "doing a Marilyn" on the subway grate, haha!
The subway grate actually isn't marked, there is literally no way to know it's even there unless you know the exact address (southwest corner of Lex and 52nd, the 2nd subway grate in from the street) before you go there. Apparently classic film fans are trying to get the city to declare it a historical landmark so that they can at least get a plaque for it, and I really hope that works out! My only complaint about this stop is that the bus parked in the spot where you'd have to be standing in order to get a photo from the same angle as Marilyn's original pictures. It's a small pet peeve though!
Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the tour. I learned so many interesting facts about movie history in New York that will definitely be on my mind whenever I'm in the city now. Did you know that tenement residents were evicted in order to build Lincoln Center in their place? Before it was torn down the city let the crew of West Side Story come in and shoot in the abandoned neighborhood. I thought that was so sad!
Ideally I would love it if the tour was successful enough that they made one for Lower Manhattan (this tour only went through midtown and uptown) which is where I like to go whenever I'm in New York. I feel like there's a lot of material there, definitely enough for another tour! I'd also LOVE if they made a Paris tour. I couldn't stop talking about it to my parents after the tour was over. I started plotting out which movies I'd include, which locations, trivia to ask during the tour. I almost want to write out a whole Paris tour and just send it to TCM with my fingers crossed that they'd take me up on it, haha!
But right now we just have an LA tour and a NYC tour and I loved them both. If you love movies, I don't think the small things like bus branding or tv screen size will affect your enjoyment of the tour. The most important things are the locations, the information, and the tour guide, and the NYC tour excelled in all three departments. I'd actually do it again if the opportunity came up.
Here are the films that were included in the tour, in order of date:
Mounted Police Charge (1896), King Kong (1933), My Man Godfrey (1936), Nothing Sacred (1937), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), The Naked City (1948), On The Town (1949), Ma and Pa Kettle Go To Town (1950), It Should Happen to You (1954), The Seven Year Itch (1955), The Eddy Duchin Story (1956), North by Northwest (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), West Side Story (1961), Barefoot in the Park (1967), Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Producers (1968), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Cactus Flower (1969), The Out of Towners (1970), Plaza Suite (1971), Serpico (1973), The Way We Were (1973), The Sunshine Boys (1975), Network (1976), Marathon Man (1976), Annie Hall (1977), Superman (1978), Manhattan (1979), Eyewitness (1981), Arthur (1981), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Splash (1984), Ghostbusters (1984), Heartburn (1986), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Baby Boom (1987), Wall Street (1987), Three Men and a Baby (1987), Moonstruck (1987), Working Girl (1988), Big (1988), When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You've Got Mail (1998)
October 03, 2016
This post is for the Dual Roles Blogathon (It's not late if it's still technically yesterday in some time zones while I'm writing this, right?) which is highlighting films in which an actor plays more than one part. Naturally I couldn't pass up an opportunity to screencap the heck out of La Tulipe Noire (1964) in which Alain Delon plays a masked hero during the French Revolution.
The film itself is okay, it's definitely not the best adventure film out there, but it's enjoyable. Also, the US release has somewhat confusing English subtitles. But let's get real... if you're watching La Tulipe Noire, you didn't come for the subtitles:
To be honest I've only watched the film from start to finish once. But I've lost count of how many times I've just popped the dvd into my computer and fast-forwarded to the best eye candy scenes where Alain Delon is playing what has to be the hottest masked avenger in cinematic history.
Now that's not really much of a stretch for Alain, right? I mean, you could look at basically any candid photo of him and be like "yeah, definitely the hottest masked avenger of all time." He doesn't even need to DO anything, he just oozes "hot masked avenger."
So that's where the acting and the dual roles come in. Because in addition to playing Guillaume de Saint Preux, The Black Tulip, hero of the French Revolution, he is also playing this guy:
When the hot masked avenger gets injured on the job, he asks his brother Julian to cover for him. Guillaume has a whole Scarlet Pimpernel/Zorro situation happening-- he's a respected member of society who needs to keep his heroic antics under wraps. If he attends a social function with a giant gash on his face, the guy who caused it will obviously know he's The Black Tulip.
So sweet, innocent, pure little cinnamon roll Julian takes his place. He is so delicate and nice and awkward that, I kid you not, whenever the story was following him I'd be like "ugh, bring back Alain Delon!" That's how good Alain Delon is. He was literally right in front of me on the screen and I forgot it was him. Because hot masked avenger Alain Delon was nowhere to be seen.
Look at them, they don't even look like the same person. The Black Tulip is confident and manages to make a ponytail tied with a ribbon look like the most macho hairstyle that ever was. Julian, meanwhile, is buttoned up to the neck in a pilgrim ensemble like "gee, shucks, Guillaume, I sure wish I was as cool as you are!"
"we are literally the same person but I am still staring at you in awe because you are such a perfect specimen"
The film was based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, but apparently (I haven't read the book) the only thing they have in common are the names of the characters. So if you're looking for an accurate adaptation, you'll have to look elsewhere.
But I'm pretty sure if you're watching La Tulipe Noire, you were looking for something else:
(more screencaps after the jump!)
September 27, 2016
Image from The Princeton Garden Theater's instagram
Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a screening of Anomalisa (2015) at The Garden theater in Princeton, followed by a Q&A with writer/director Charlie Kaufman. I have to admit, I'm only somewhat familiar with Kaufman's work -- I'd seen (and enjoyed) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) years ago and I watched Being John Malkovich (1999) last weekend to cram for the event -- but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to listen to one of the most interesting filmmakers of our time.
Anomalisa is a stop-motion animation, but the story and characters feel remarkably real and human. The script originated as a play, which might explain why the puppets have more emotional depth than you'd expect from inanimate objects. The story is about a middle-aged customer service expert on a one day business trip in Cincinnati for a public speaking gig. He's emotionally detached from his wife and son back in LA, and finds he's unable to rekindle the flames with an old Ohio girlfriend. When he turns his attentions to a shy woman who's in town to attend his lecture things turn sweet, then Lynchian, then sour.
I liked Anomalisa, and I thought it was exceptionally well executed, but it's not really my kind of movie. The humor was wonderfully dry and sharp - I loved that - and the attention to detail with regard to the animation was mind blowing. It's actually a rather tender movie, thoughtful about little things like a self-conscious woman hiding her hands in the sleeves of her sweater. But there's a touch of the grotesque that runs through it that is off-putting to me. I felt the same way about Being John Malkovich. It's almost as if it's a beautiful object that's coated in a layer of grime. And that's absolutely fine, and even admirable, but it's not my thing.
I didn't dislike the movie. I enjoyed watching it, for the most part (call me a prude, I probably am, but I wasn't a fan of the drawn-out sex scene between two of the puppets. I'm firmly in the "fade to black" camp) but when it was over I just felt... nothing. I knew I didn't want to watch it again, but I was glad that I had at least once.
The Q&A after the film was interesting and Kaufman was hilariously self-deprecating. My kind of humor! *high fives the air* When the moderator inquired about rumors that Kaufman is writing a novel he launched into a defense, explaining that it's the only way he could create something without having to secure financial backing up front. This way he can write the whole book and nobody has to put out any money until it's published (financing was clearly a sore-spot for him, which was especially sad. Even though I wasn't particularly smitten with this particular film, there's no denying he's a creative genius and it's heartbreaking that somebody that talented should have trouble getting his movies made.) The moderator sheepishly said he had only been offering an opportunity for Kaufman to plug his book, which prompted Kaufman to sarcastically inform us that "we'll all be dead" by the time it comes out.
Sidenote: I am very much looking forward to this book, assuming it's published before I die. While uncomfortable, slightly grungy films aren't my cup of tea, I do enjoy that type of story in fiction and my reservations about Kaufman's work are entirely visual. I think that it's probably all about the difference between picturing the story with your own imagination vs. seeing it through someone else's eyes on the screen. It's likely the reason that Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite author but I've been unimpressed by every tv or film adaptation of his work.
He answered a lot of questions with simple yes/no answers -- does the Japanese doll's unique voice at the end of the film have any significance? Yes. Was he influenced by existentialism when writing the film? No.
I think my favorite reply was when somebody asked him about likability. The audience member hadn't found the main character in Anomalisa, Michael, to be either likable or sympathetic, and they wondered if Kaufman related to the character at all. Kaufman replied that likability isn't important to him, it isn't an element he considers at all when he's writing. As long as the character feels true to who Kaufman wants them to be, that's all that matters. "Hurrah!," I silently exclaimed. While I didn't personally like the character of Michael either, that didn't factor into my assessment of the movie. I don't think that a film's value should be determined based on how much we can relate to its characters. "Likability" or the "would I want to grab a beer with this person?" test seems to be such an important factor in almost every aspect of society anymore. We often choose presidents, hire job applicants, and critique film characters based entirely on this quality. To me, a film character should be interesting and fully formed. Whether or not I personally would want to hang out with them might be a consideration if I'm taking a buzzfeed quiz titled "Which movie character should be your BFF?" but it shouldn't come into play if I'm assessing the character's existence.
Another audience member asked if Kaufman wrote because he felt compelled to, or because it made him happy. Kaufman's reply was that he's never really happy (sad face!) but that there are times when one of his films is screened and it gets a good reception and he can't help but feel slightly pleased. If you want to talk about relatable, we've got relatable sitting here in front of us.
I was enjoying myself immensely, and I started to feel a little guilty about my lukewarm feelings towards Anomalisa. The writer/director was right in front of me (literally right in front of me, because I had somehow awkwardly ended up in the center front row BY MYSELF. Nobody else in the front row. So awkward.) and he was so kind, self-effacing, intelligent, and ridiculously funny. I had to wonder if the Q&A had preceded the screening, would that have colored my opinion of the film?
I'm not going to re-watch it to find out. Sorry!
HOWEVER. It's been a long time since I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I think it's time to revisit it. I feel like I owe it to Kaufman, and it'll be nice to spend some time in a world where erasing memories is a plausible procedure. I can think of so many I'd like to dump in my proverbial trash can (let's just discard that whole folder titled "teenage years") but last night's Q&A is one I'll definitely hold onto.
September 22, 2016
I recently entered a contest through the TCM Backlot and won tickets to see Dr. Strangelove (1964) today, as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series that Turner Classic Movies hosts with Fathom Events.
I hadn't seen the movie since TCM aired it in 2004 as part of an election-season series where a handful of politicians joined Robert Osborne to discuss their favorite films. I remember liking it, but I was 17 at the time and I'm not sure I fully grasped the humor or the message. Watching it now, with a fully-formed appreciation for dark humor and a better understanding of the perils of a nuclear-armed world, it felt more like an immersive experience than a simple night at the movies.
The movie was book-ended by clips of Ben Mankiewicz sharing some behind-the-scenes details, just like on TCM. He mentioned that the whole cast got a kick out of Peter Sellers, and apparently George C. Scott said that he felt guilty for accepting payment for his role because he had such a great time on the set that it felt like robbery to take the money! I wasn't surprised to hear this, because in the closing scenes I happened to notice Peter Bull, who plays the Russian ambassador, trying *so* hard to maintain his stern composure while Peter Sellers performed his Alien/Nazi-hand-syndrome routine in the foreground.
The movie definitely makes you laugh (the scene with the pay phone is priceless, and who can forget the film's most famous line, "Gentlemen. You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!") but watching a film in which paranoid, delusional leaders threaten the fate of the entire planet kind of hits a little close to home nowadays.
I am opposed to a Trump presidency for many reasons, a major one being the notion that a man who doesn't even have the temperament for twitter could be in charge of our nuclear codes. Someone who wouldn't rule out the possibility of a nuclear attack on Europe. By the end of this movie -- the cowboy riding the nuclear warhead onto its Russian target, the crazed Nazi scientist unfazed by nuclear annihilation, the images of Earth being wiped out by the Doomsday Machine while Vera Lynn's voice reminds us "We'll Meet Again" -- I was silently weeping in my seat.
It's hard to write a post about Dr. Strangelove and not draw the comparisons. I kind of feel like even if you're a Trump supporter you would have to see some similarities between him and General Ripper or General Turgidson, right? Maybe you would see them as the heroes of the story? Sometimes I really wish I could watch movies like this -- ones that clearly have a political message with (in my opinion) a pretty black and white notion of who's the good guy and who's the bad guy -- through different eyes. Do you see what I see if your opinions aren't informed by the same political ideology? Do conservatives and liberals walk away from Meet John Doe, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, or 12 Angry Men with the same message? Are we even seeing the same story? I'm honestly curious.
As a liberal, the takeaway that I got from Dr. Strangelove was one of anti-militarization. Signs around the army base proclaim "Peace is our Profession" while inside General Ripper is calling for an unprovoked nuclear airstrike against Russia. Neither side (save for a few paranoid individuals) actually wants war. None of us do, right? We all want our lives to go on peacefully, we want to love our families and eat good food and read good books. I don't want anybody to be blown to smithereens. I can't even fathom wanting that. And, to me, this film drives home that point. Only the delusional characters actually want war. Everyone else just wants things to remain calm and quiet. For them, peace really IS their profession.
Another message that I personally took away from Dr. Strangelove was that of human fallibility. No matter how many fail-safes we build into our weapons, no matter how high the chain of command before something like a nuclear attack could occur, humans are fallible. It's crazy to have weapons that could destroy the planet many-times-over resting in our stupid, stupid hands. Furthermore, the answer to human fallibility is not mechanical infallibility. The Doomsday Machine was created as way to combat human error, but in the end it's a combination of human fallibility and mechanical infallibility that seals the fate of our planet.
So yeah, this was quite an experience for me. I always take election season kind of hard (I definitely get it from my mom, who has proclaimed "if ______ wins, we're moving to Canada!" every four years since before I was even born) but this one is really getting to me and it's definitely permeating my film analysis. (Case in point: I was positive Jaws was a metaphor for gun control until I remembered that that wasn't even a major issue yet in 1975.) As someone who uses film as a form of escapism, this hasn't been the best situation to be in. I'm just a film lover who wants to experience a little of that bliss I keep hearing about, the one that comes with ignorance. Just two hours of ignorance, that's all I'm asking for...
September 16, 2016
This is a first for me -- I'm currently writing this on an airplane! I was in Alaska for the last week and now I'm en route back home to New Jersey. I just wrapped up this book a few minutes ago and thought, with 3 hours of travel ahead of me, it's the perfect opportunity to jump right into my review!
For my fifth book in Raquel's Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge I read "The Films in My Life," a collection of reviews by Francois Truffaut. I know, I know, this has been a very Truffaut-heavy reading challenge for me, lol! But what can I say, I love the man to pieces! And this book just solidified how much I adore his writing. It's so personal and passionate. I loved Andre Bazin's reviews in The Cinema of Cruelty, but nobody can top Truffaut, in my opinion, when it comes to writing about movies in a way that fully expresses just how much the author is head over heels in love with cinema.
Truffaut with Jacques Doniol-Valcroze at Cahiers du cinema
Something dawned on me as I was reading this book -- and it might explain just why I find his writing so relatable, heartfelt and energetic -- Francois Truffaut was the first film blogger. Stay with me here. His writings are often informal, offering apologies to his audience when he quotes himself or feels that he's reached the end of a review without fully expressing how much he loved the movie he was writing about. In one review, about ten paragraphs in, he calls attention to something that he left out of a plot synopsis earlier in the review. He didn't go back and edit it, he just slips it into the middle of the review as if he's engaging in a casual conversation with his reader. "Oh, by the way..." It feels so familiar, like he's a good friend -- or a fellow movie blogger -- who is so excited about relaying his feelings about the film that he can't keep it together.
But that's not to say that his writing is disjointed or scattered. It's incredibly well-organized, often precise and astute on a level that doesn't even seem possible. And it extends so far beyond summarizing plots, picking up on symbols, and trying to decipher the filmmaker's intentions. He does all that and more. What Truffaut manages to capture in his reviews, something I usually find lacking in professional critique, is the magic of cinema. The FEELING of enjoying a movie. He manages to describe the indescribable, the emotional state of being connected to the story unfolding in front of your eyes.
His writing is so powerful that it leaves me eager to watch everything he's ever loved and, to be honest, slightly ashamed when I love something that he puts down. Each time he criticized Rene Clement in the book I winced with regret over my undying love for Purple Noon, Forbidden Games, and The Joy of Living. BUT, by the same token, he (sacreligiously I feel the need to capitalize that word in this paragraph) acknowledges how important film "as entertainment" is, or how our own individual preferences are valid. That being said, he wasn't very modest when it came to his own opinions (a personal favorite quote, entirely because of the text in parenthesis: "Go and see Pampanini in La Tour de Nesle and then go see her in something else and if you don't immediately see that Gance was a genius, you and I do not have the same notion of cinema [mine, obviously, is the correct one.]")
Truffaut's first "Little intimate newspaper" column for Cahiers du Cinema (1954)
I also can't say enough how much I love how often he tosses around words like "favorite," "love," "genius" ... he wasn't afraid to exaggerate, he was perfectly comfortable spending an entire review just gushing about how much he loved the director, or how a film actually moved him to tears. His writing is so beautifully personal. For the most part he chose to include positive reviews in this collection, so obviously "beautifully personal" wouldn't actually apply to all of his writing. "Painfully personal" would be more appropriate for the barbed reviews he was known for in his early days at Cahiers du Cinema!
Truffaut edited this collection himself in the late 1970's (he put off his autobiography to work on this instead -- a fact I find absolutely tragic, since he passed away before ever finishing the other book.) but I hope that someone, at some point, puts together a complete collection of all of his writings. I don't care if it's the size of the encyclopedia, I'd want to read it over and over and over.
Obviously I need to include some of my favorite passages from the book. I singled these out because I found them either sly, beautiful, funny, or because they reflected my particular views on film in a way that I could never express with words. Or just because they reflect his sweet heart and gentle way of communicating how magical it is to love movies.
Truffaut with Roberto Rossellini
"From morning to night, on American television, there is murder, brutality, suspense, espionage, guns, blood. None of these gross and manipulative productions approaches a fraction of the beauty of a film by the maker of Psycho, but it is the same material, and so I can understand in that violent atmosphere what a breath of fresh air an Italian comedy, a French love story, a Czechoslovak intimist film must be."
"An artist always believes that the critics are against him -- and have always been against him -- because his selective memory benignly favors his persecution complex."
"Until the day he dies, an artist doubts himself deeply, even while he is being showered with his contemporaries' praise. When he tries to protect himself from attack or indifference, is it his work he defends or treats as if it were a threatened child, or is it himself? Marcel Proust answered it this way: 'I am so convinced that a work is something that, once it has come forth from us, is worth more than we are, that I find it quite natural to sacrifice myself for it as a father would for his child. But this idea must not lead me to address others about what can, unfortunately, only interest me.'"
"We saw all the good films, as well as many of the bad ones, because our love for cinema was like the explorer's thirst which moves him to drink even contaminated water."
"L'Atalante grasps the essence of both Godard's A Bout de Soffle and Visconti's White Nights -- two films which can't be compared, which are diametrically opposite, but which represent the best in each genre. Godard accumulates bits of truth and binds them together to make a kind of modern fairy tale, Visconti begins with a modern fairy tale in order to rediscover a universal truth."
"We look at this movie with a strong feeling of complicity; I mean that instead of seeing a finished product handed to us to satisfy our curiosity, we feel we are there as the film is made, we almost think that we can see Renoir organize the whole as we watch the film projected. For an instant, we think to ourselves, 'I'll come back tomorrow and see if it all turns out the same way.'" (I LOVE THIS ONE.)
"I could say that a French film moves forward like a light cart on a windy road while an American film rolls along like a train on its tracks."
"When a man makes himself ridiculous by his stubborn insistence on striking a certain pompous pose, whether he is a politician or a megalomanic artist, we say that he has lost sight of the bawling baby he was in his crib and the groaning wreck he will be on his deathbed. It is clear that the cinematographic work of Jean Renoir never loses sight of this naked man, never loses sight of man himself."
"On Lubitsch's sound tracks, there are dialogue, sounds, music, and our laughter --- this is essential. Otherwise, there would be no film. The prodigious ellipses in his plots work only because our laughter bridges the scenes. In Lubitsch Swiss cheese, each hole winks."
"[Frank Capra] was a navigator who knew how to steer his characters into the deepest dimensions of desperate human situations (I have often wept during the tragic moments of Capra's comedies) before he reestablished a balance and brought off the miracle that let us leave the theater with a renewed confidence in life."
On Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: "This isn't literature. It may be dance or poetry. It is certainly cinema."
"Frenzy is like the design of crossword puzzle squares imposed on the theme of murder."
"In a slick film every touch of boldness is a pleasant surprise, but in a daring film even the slightest compromise is exasperating."
"I'm aware that these observations may seem disjointed, but what am I to do? 'You like Cukor, you like It Should Happen to You; write a review.' I said, 'OK.' But the trouble is that Cukor isn't the kind of director you write about; he's someone to talk about with friends in the street or sitting in a cafe." (One of the many passages that felt so film-blogger-ish to me!)
On Anastasia (1956): "Don't go to see this cynical and mediocre film. Anatole Litvak despises you; despise him back" (Oh snap!)
"Like all great films, it's more beautiful and more successful each time you see it. You laugh less, but you live it more each time, and you feel increased emotion."
On The Naked Dawn: "What counts are the delicate and ambiguous relationships among the three, the stuff of a good novel. One of the most beautiful modern novels I know is Jules et Jim by Henri-Pierre Roche, which shows how, over a lifetime, two friends and the woman companion they share love one another with tenderness and almost no harshness, thanks to an esthetic morality constantly reconsidered. The Naked Dawn is the first film that has made me think that Jules et Jim could be done as a film." (I include this one here because of its importance. Upon reading this review, Henri-Pierre Roche struck up a correspondence with Truffaut and eventually asked him to direct the film version of his novel.)
On Stalag 17: "Sefton is intelligent; that's why he acts the way he does. For the first time in films the philosophy of the solitary man is elaborated; this film is an apologia for Individualism. (Certainly, the solitary man has been a theme of films, as with Charlie Chaplin and many other comedians. But he has usually been an inept person whose only desire was to fit into society.) Sefton is alone because he wants to be alone."
Writing about Claude Autant-Lara (surprisingly in a POSITIVE review of his film, La Traversee de Paris): "Autant-Lara seemed to me like a butcher who insists on trying to make lace."
"Everybody knows that it's better to tell a serious story lightly than to relate light matters gravely."
"Lola Montes is presented like a box of chocolates given to us as a Christmas present; but when the cover is removed, it comes out as a poem worth an untold fortune."
"One would have to say that the greatest filmmakers are over fifty, but it is important to practice the cinema of one's own age and try, if one is twenty-five and admires Dreyer, to emulate Vampyr rather than Ordet. Youth is in a hurry, it is impatient, it is bursting with all sorts of concrete ideas. Young filmmakers must shoot their films in mad haste, movies in which the characters are in a hurry, in which shots jostle each other to get on screen before 'The End,' films that contain their ideas. Later on, this succession of ideas will give way to one great, overriding idea, and then the critics will complain about a 'promising' filmmaker who has grown old. So what?" (Truffaut wrote this one in 1958, accurately predicting what critics would say about his own progression as a filmmaker some 10-15 years down the road.)
On The Legend of Nayarama: "My God, what a beautiful film!"
While describing the plot of Bunuel's Archibaldo de la Cruz: "He looks around the place, quickly finds the real woman, and invites her to visit his pottery studio the following Saturday. I've forgotten to mention that Archibaldo, who is well-to-do, is a dilettante potter." (This is one of the instances I was talking about earlier, where he adds in something he forgot rather than going back to edit it into the review.)
On Orson Welles & Citizen Kane: "When Everett Sloane, who plays the character of Bernstein in Kane, relates how, one day in 1896, his ferryboat crossed the path of another in Hudson Bay on which there was a young woman in a white dress holding a parasol, and that he'd only seen the girl for a second but he thought of her once a month all his life... ah, well, behind this Chekhovian scene, there was no big director to admire, but a friend to discover, an accomplice to love, a person we felt close to in heart and mind."
Again on Citizen Kane: "When I see Kane today, I'm aware that I know it by heart, but in the way you know a recording rather than a movie. I'm not always certain what image comes next as I am about what sound will burst forth, or the very timbre of the next voice that I'm going to hear."
"There are movies that are profound and lofty, made without compromise by a few sincere and intelligent artists who would rather disturb than reassure, rather wake up an audience than put it to sleep. When you come out of Alain Resnais' Nuit et Brouillard, you don't feel better, you feel worse. When you come out of White Nights or Touch of Evil, you feel less intelligent than before but gratified anyhow by the poetry and art. These are films that call cinema to order, and make us ashamed to have been so indulgent with cliche-ridden movies made by small talents."
"I shall never try to communicate in writing to those who do not feel the physical joy and the physical pain which certain moments of A Bout de Souffle and Vivre sa Vie caused me."
"There are films one can admire and yet that do not invite you to follow... why pursue it? These are not the best films. The best films open doors, they support our impression that cinema begins and begins again with them."
"They are so alive that in spite of their pessimistic endings they inspire in us an irresistible urge to sing in the rain."
"The more like me my film is, the less the public is going to like it. (This realization provokes a variety of reactions ranging from embarrassed denial to reluctant change. If you change your mind, you may come away scarred, or a Sergeant York, a daredevil.)"
"To compare our hexagon (the shape of France) to a game of chess, the movies always offered us the point of view of a rook or a bishop, never of the pawns."
"I realize that it's presumptuous to write about a film one has seen only three times" (I just found this so ridiculously adorable. I've written reviews (albeit mine aren't nearly as important as his were, lol!) after watching a movie one single time, while working, while distracted by my cat, while eating, while also scrolling through twitter. Perhaps I should take this (again, ADORABLE) quote as a sign that I need to pay a little more attention to movies before I dare write about them.
All photos were scanned by me from Truffaut: A Biography and Truffaut by Truffaut