Thursday, March 21, 2019

Hollow Triumph

1948, US, directed by Steve Sekely

A neat, small-scale B-noir, with Paul Henreid in good form in a classic Hollywood dual role that wouldn't stand up to a moment's scrutiny out in the real world, and yet it works, partly because the film is so committed to its inevitable, utterly downbeat conclusion. There's also some especially fine cinematography by John Alton, deep in an exceptionally productive and successful period of his career, with this film released around the same time as the equally striking T-Men and He Walked By Night.

Monday, March 18, 2019

So Dark the Night

1946, US, directed by Joseph S. Lewis

Lewis is one of those filmmakers who is so deliberate with his choices that it's almost impossible not to be aware that there's a director at work, making conscious choices over each aspect of the structure and storytelling. Nothing is careless or accidental, for instance in his exceptional use of framing -- here there are frames within frames, grids, or lamps and other objects that unexpectedly intrude in the foreground, forcing the eye to look around to focus on the actors, or ask just why the camera is placed there and what this conveys of the directorial eye. All this is at the service of a story that's frankly on the outer edges of B-movie credibility, in an odd, out-of-time version of rural France, and yet that barely matters as the plot advances and Lewis centers in more and more tightly on a disintegrating mind.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Wonders

2014, Italy, directed by Alice Rohrwacher (aka Le meraviglie)

On the surface level a coming-of-age tale, and often a very affecting and unusual one, but deeper down a dissection of family -- both the ones allocated and chosen -- and, in the particular rural context, of the role of uncompensated labour within the family structure. The routines, often back-breaking, of children's work are depicted with great care, perhaps drawn from Rohrwacher'w own background, with the dividing line between domestic chores and work toward supporting the family income at best tenuous, particularly under the domination of a forbidding patriarch. The young actors, particularly Maria Alexandra Lungu as the oldest of the children, are excellent, while the particular non-touristy settings (in Tuscany and Lazio) peel back another layer of Italian life.


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Most of the images here are either studio publicity stills or screen captures I've made myself; if I've taken your image without giving you credit, please let me know.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States