Archive for March 10th, 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

Dizzying Heights

With so many fine films to his credit, it’s a challenge to pin down Hitchcock’s best film. For my money, the best one is Vertigo. That’s especially evident in the restored print that’s available on DVD and Blu-ray. Perhaps the most rarefied of Hitchcock’s films, Vertigo is difficult to talk about without giving away important […]

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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

When Legend Becomes Fact

Some films pack an extra wallop because they skillfully place the story and characters into a larger historical context. John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) is just that kind of film. It explores the slippery relationship between legend and fact. It also explores the tension between an older, more violent west and […]

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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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Friday, March 10th, 2017

Don’t Be Late

No current horror movie would be quite the same if Alfred Hitchcock hadn’t chosen to scare the living daylights out of us in Psycho (1960). It isn’t just a movie that rises above its genre. Psycho has become a model for any type of film that attempts to creatively disorient the viewer. Similarly, Bernard Herrmann’s […]

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Friday, March 10th, 2017

Silly Little Irish Story

One of John Ford’s most popular films — The Quiet Man (1952) — almost didn’t happen. According to Jordan R. Young’s book John Ford’s The Quiet Man, Ford first tried to secure funding for the movie back in 1937. That was a year after he had purchased the story for just $10. Maureen O’Hara explained […]

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