Archive for March, 2017

Friday, March 10th, 2017

A Fine Lubitsch

Ernst Lubitsch had no equal when it came to crafting sophisticated comedies. One of the first sound-era Hollywood directors known and revered by the public, his “Lubitsch touch” represented the pinnacle of intelligent humor. His version of The Merry Widow (1934) still towers over other comedies. As Herman G. Weinberg pointed out in his book […]

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Friday, March 10th, 2017

Open to Life

We talk about directors who are open, either to the spontaneity of their actors (Robert Altman) or to chance events (David Lynch). No director has been as open as Jean Renoir. Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932) is not only an early sound film for Renoir, it’s an early sound film for the French cinema. Like […]

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Friday, March 10th, 2017

Deep-Dish Movie

Many comedies include dramatic elements that tag along for the ride, just as many dramas provide comic relief to sweeten an otherwise hard-to-swallow message. Yet only a few films blend comedy and drama as effortlessly as Sullivan’s Travels (1941). Preston Sturges, the film’s writer and director, was the best comedy writer of the 1940s. He […]

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Friday, March 10th, 2017

Ways of Escape

We talk about the great directors, yet it’s always a group effort. It takes a strong director to steer the many divergent elements in the same direction. When the process works, all the elements fit together so the result is equal to more than the sum of the parts. The Third Man (1949) is a […]

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Friday, March 10th, 2017

As Perverse as a Nightmare

Touch of Evil (1958) became a great film because of a misunderstanding. Charlton Heston had agreed to appear in a police drama for Universal Pictures, but only because he thought Welles was signed to direct it. Welles, in fact, had agreed only to act in the film. In a 1965 interview with the French magazine […]

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Friday, March 10th, 2017

Double Trouble

The best film noir centers on fate. Characters are destined to commit a crime because they can’t escape their past. Or a fatal flaw keeps them from seeing the obvious truth, so the tension builds as we’re unable to warn the characters, as we might be able to do in real life. Double Indemnity (1944) […]

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Friday, March 10th, 2017

A Leap of Faith

If the measure of a classic film is its ability to withstand the erosions of time, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) would have to be regarded as the best science fiction film of all time. Though we have moved beyond it chronologically, its predictive value still seems valid. The decades-old special effects also hold up […]

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