In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_6wh5wlqfopjzco9yww3bztgtxeb

Welcome to Me

Since moving onto the big screen, however, Kristen Wiig has added a nuanced dramatic edge to her skill set that finds her digging deeper inside…

Thumb_ride

Ride

Helen Hunt directs herself in this story of a brittle New York book editor who begins healing old wounds by learning how to surf.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Far Flunger Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Opening Shots: 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'

picnic1.jpg

"But I do want to say something about imagination purely as a tool in the art and science of scaring the crap out of people... You approach the door in the old, deserted house, and you hear something scratching at it. The audience holds its breath along with the protagonist as she/he (more often she) approaches that door. The protagonist throws it open, and there is a ten-foot-tall bug. The audience screams, but this particular scream has an oddly relieved sound to it. "A bug ten feet tall is pretty horrible," the audience thinks, "but I can deal with a ten-foot-tall bug. I was afraid it might be a hundred feet tall."

-- Stephen King, "Danse Macabre" (1987)

picnic2.jpg

Peter Weir's "Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1975) is masterpiece of horror, but not in the way you might think. There are no monstrous bugs of any sort -- except for the usual (tiny) ants that plague just about any picnic. "Picnic at Hanging Rock" is a perfect thriller because (like "Twin Peaks," another symphony of anguish over Not Knowing) it's about effect of Mystery on the human imagination -- not just the ache of the Unknown, but the terror, and torture, of the Unknowable. Is there anything more horrible for the mind to contemplate than a mystery with no satisfactory solution? It's more than the psyche can bear...

picnic3.jpg

And it's all set up right here, in what is undoubtedly a series of nearly imperceptible dissolves (perhaps combined with optical work): A rock in the outback remote wilderness (premonitions of Ayers' Rock and Fred Schepisi's "A Cry in the Dark" (1988)) that stays utterly still, yet shifts and changes. First, we see the black trees in the red foreground. Then the rock appears, hovering over the landscape. Next, fog obscures the foreground and the rock appears to be floating (hanging?) on a cushion of mist. How much time has elapsed between each of these views? Minutes? Hours? Days? Just when you think you know what you're seeing, it becomes something slightly different. You can't quite pin it down. It's ... unsettling, disorienting...

Zamfir's primitive-sounding pan flute reverberates in the air. It's an ominous beginning and we're tempted to feel, like Roy Neary would about another rock formation in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" a few years later, that this means something. But what if it doesn't?

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Thirtieth Anniversary of "A View to a Kill"

An essay on John Glen's 1985 Bond film, "A View to a Kill," in honor of its thirtieth anniversary.

Notes on watching "Aliens" for the first time again, with a bunch of kids

Captain's log: eight fifth graders, one adult, one James Cameron movie.

The Unloved, Part 17: "The Moth Diaries"

Scout Tafoya's video series continues with a look at Mary Harron's "The Moth Diaries".

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus