Out of the Furnace
"Out of the Furnace," about two suffering brothers (Christian Bale and Casey Affleck) in Pennsylvania steel country. hits some of the same notes as "The…
At left: Hitchcock's "Notorious." Bergman on strong axis. Grant at left. Bergman lighter, Grant shadowed. Grant above, Bergman below. Movement toward lower right. The attention and pressure is on her.
I've mentioned from time to time the "shot at a time" sessions I do at film festivals and universities, sifting through a film with the help of the audience. The e-mails I receive indicate this is perceived as some kind of esoteric exercise. Actually, it's something anyone can do, including you, and you don't need to be an expert, because the audience, and the film itself, are your most helpful collaborators. Of course it would be wise to research a film you hope to dismantle in public, and be familiar with its director and context, but I believe the process in its pure form could be applied to a film you've never even heard of. I want to tell you how.
An open letter to sports columnist Jay Mariotti, who resigned from the Sun-Times and lashed out during a TV interview announcing that newspapers were dead:
I begin with a confession of ignorance. Before the Olympic Games, I had a confused and narrow vision of China. It was assembled from many movies, some of them historical dramas like "Raise the Red Lantern," some of them biopics like "The Last Emperor," some of them powerful slices of life like "The Blue Kite," "To Live," "Ju Dou" or "Story of Qui Ju." But all of them depicting the distance, the strangeness, the difference of China. Along with those images came a heavy overlay from the Cold War, the reign of Mao, the idea of China as a hostile superpower. I saw photos of the Shanghai and Beijing skylines, but I also pictured tens of millions living in poverty and age-old conditions.
I've had my own corner of the internet even before the days of the web, back when I logged on to all-text Compuserve with my DEC Rainbow or Tandy 100. But I never wanted a blog. Yes, I made some enduring friends through my Compuserve forum, Andy Ihnatko for example, but eventually the task of reading and responding to countless messages became too time-consuming. I knew I wouldn't have to interact at such depth with a blog, but, frankly, most of the blog comments I read online were not ones I was eager too receive.
‘40 YEARS AFTER: FILMING THE '68 REVOLUTION’
As it happens, I missed the press preview for "Fly Me to the Moon." It was a stupid misunderstanding, too boring to describe. My fault. I admit I was not inconsolable. After "Space Chimps," I had launched enough animated creatures to the Moon without starting on the insect kingdom. But even more to the point, "Fly Me to the Moon" was in 3-D, and I could all too easily imagine being "startled" by flies buzzing, ohmigod! straight at me!
Faithful readers will know about my disenchantment with 3-D. My dad took me to see the first 3-D movie, Arch Oboler's "Bwana Devil," in 1952. Lots of spears thrown at the audience. Since then I have been attacked by arrows, fists, eels, human livers, and naked legs. I have seen one 3-D process that works, the IMAX process that uses $200 wrap-around glasses with built-in stereo. Apparently that process has been shelved, and we are back to disposable stereoscopic lenses, essentially the same method used in 1952.
I was one of the allegedly three billion people watching the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on TV, and I think I received the intended message: China is here, big time. The scope, precision and beauty of the production was, you will agree, astonishing. The distinguished director Zhang Yimou was given $300 million and full rein of his imagination, and perhaps some of his background in opera was also useful. The sheer size of the production was awesome. It said a lot for China, both positively and perhaps negatively. With the exception of the star pianist Lang Lang, a duet between Sarah Brightman and Liu Huan, and some featured dancers, the emphasis was not on individuals, but on masses of performers, meticulously trained and coordinated. What was your reaction to the opening spectacle of 2,008 drummers, creating waves and shapes of lights with their drums? Mine was amazement and pleasure. Also a reflection of the discipline and dedication of these unpaid drummers. You could see the little earpieces with which they apparently received cues; you could imagine the performance otherwise breaking down into chaos.
It is the most sensational find in recent film history. A nearly-complete print of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" (1927) has been discovered in Buenos Aires, 80 years after it was thought a quarter of the film was lost forever. Called by many the most important of German films, one of the landmarks of silent Expressionism, its plot had several loose ends that will now be repaired.
I've just been watching "The Thief of Bagdad" (1940), which has probably the most influential special effects of all pre-CGI films. It's going into the Great Movies Collection, not for the effects, of course, but because it is a sublime entertainment on a level with "The Wizard of Oz" or the first "Star Wars." But there are few effects in "Star Wars" (1977) that were not invented for, experimented with, or perfected in "The Thief of Bagdad." And some of them had their genesis in Raoul Walsh's magnificent 1924 silent film of the same name starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
Left: Rex Ingram, as the genie, towers over Sabu, as the thief, in "The Thief of Bagdad." The shot was made by combining real footage of Ingram, close to the camera, and Sabu, several hundred feet away.