Sunday, June 19, 2005

the big sleep (hawks, 1946)

This time I made myself pay attention to the scene where two thugs give Marlowe a beating - this is just before Elisha Cook shows up. Hawks made it clear that this wasn't a pair of know-nothing amateur crooks; he takes their footwork and efficiency as seriously as anything else in any of his movies. When Harry Jones (Cook) says to Marlowe that the working-over was "about the best I've ever seen," you believe him.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

m. hulot's holiday (tati, 1953)

In the first Hulot film, it's Hulot's car that represents the germ of modernization, that would begin to encroach upon the Old World in Mon Oncle and exist to be conquered in Playtime. At the same time, his car is the opposite of modern, it's even more prehistoric than Eugene's contraption in The Magnificent Ambersons.

The slow-motion here is used sparingly, but it's great. The shot behind Martine, when she first looks out over the beach, has a quality that Scorsese successfully duplicated (in his own way) when introducing Vickie - splashing her legs in the water - in Raging Bull.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

l'argent (bresson, 1983)

Among other wonders, there's scarcely a motion wasted in a Bresson film. Camera movements and actor movements are fixed to a process. Small processes, overarching structures. That's what people mean when they say his movies are "pared down to essentials." They don't talk about the voluptuous colors in his films, starting with Une femme douce, or the tactility of actors and objects. Bresson's use of these things: the opposite of "pared down."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

batman begins (nolan, 2005)

Just frightful. Ten years ago, the Batman shepherds replaced a director with great style (Tim Burton...well, he has great style sometimes) with a director with an enormous talent for bad style (Joel Schumacher). Raspberries occurred. Catastrophe ensued. Consequently, they hedged their bets and chose a director with no style at all, Christopher Nolan. When I say "no style," I don't mean "minimalism" or anything so promising. I mean this is a Delbert Mann film. Batman Begins isn't pretty and it isn't ugly. The visual design isn't baroque and it isn't utilitarian. It's just exhausted: they're trying to kickstart a dying enterprise with a white elephant. Okay, Star Wars III is white elephant art, too, but it's gorgeous, stylish, and affecting. (I like David Lean's fatty boom-batties sometimes, too - just letting you know where I stand.)

The dialogue is unspeakable. "There's...hope on the streets." Each line of the script is worse than the last. Each member of the Poseidon Adventure-style cast of all-stars seems to have been punished for his good deeds. Liam Neeson (with his ridiculous beard), poor Gary Oldman (whose biggest acting challenge is making "car chase faces," you know, the facial gymnastics that suggest the actor is driving a car real fast), poor Morgan Freeman (his most shamelessly "yessah boss" role since Robin Hood), poor Rutger Hauer, poor Michael Caine, etc., etc. And - oh mother of Christ - poor, poor, poor Tom Wilkinson, impersonating an Eye-talian mafia lord. Just about the only people who make it out alive are Christian Bale (all the same, still miles away from being robbed of the Oscar for American Psycho) and Cillian Murphy.

That's it. Some cute moments here and there. Otherwise, it's dogshit. Don't step in it.