- To Each His Own (Mitchell Leisen)
- It’s Love I’m After (Archie Mayo)
- Black Moon (Roy William Neill)
- The Life Of Oharu (Kenji Mizoguchi)
- Hitler’s Children (Edward Dmytryk)
- Hitchcock/Truffaut (Kent Jones)
- The Whales of August (Lindsay Anderson)
- The Black Cat (Edgar G. Ulmer)
- Written On The Wind (Douglas Sirk)
- The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock)
1- I guess there are only so many things you can do with the classic ‘white woman drawn to the wicked world of Caribbean Voodoo’, but I must say that I was really struck by how much Black Moon looked and felt like my beloved I Walked With A Zombie. A side-by-side viewing of the two would really show what makes a film of genius as opposed to a solid Hollywood B-film. Of course, I Walked With A Zombie does have that Jane Eyre thing going for it, but it also has pacing, a great script, terrific acting and atmosphere you could cut with a knife. Black Moon has more the feel of the second part of a Saturday afternoon double-bill from the Thirties. Fun, creepy, a little depressing, but not much more.
2- Can a man be a feminist director? I don’t know what else to call Kenji Mizoguchi. Every one of his films that I have seen depict the plight of women, especially at the hands of self-interested men. The Life Of Ohara is an especially bleak example of this. It is gorgeous, and the performance of Kinuyo Tanaka is amazing, but man, is it depressing.
3- Thank you Criterion for having another 50% off sale and allowing me to own the endlessly insane Written On The Wind. I would love to know what the reaction was when it first appeared in theaters. Nymphomania, sexual performance anxiety and Lauren Bacall all wrapped up in an absolutely over the top Dallas-like story. The image of Dorothy Malone dancing in sexual frenzy in her bedroom in her underwear, while right outside her door her father dies of a heart attack, is something I don’t think I will soon forget – nor would I want to. This film is nowhere near the level of genius of All The Heaven Allows, but it is almost as formally dazzling. Color, costuming, mise-en-scene are all plotted out within an inch of their lives. Sirk seems to invert the famous Chekhov dictum by saying, ‘If a gun goes off in the first five minutes of a movie, you better see that gun for the rest of the film’. Malone won the Best Supporting Actress award for this frenzied portrayal, beating out another iconic performance of late 50s nuttiness: Patty McCormack as the terrifying Rhoda in The Bad Seed. I guess the Academy didn’t dare give it to any one else for fear that Malone would come and shimmy them all to death. And do I even need to mention her fondling of her father’s ‘oil well’ at the end of the film?
4- Thank you, Betsy Rubin, for your gift of a collection of more obscure Hitchcock films. Because of this I was finally able to watch his silent gem The Lodger. I feared that it would be more ‘homework’ than ‘pleasure’ but I was wrong. It was a wonderful watch. You certainly can tell that Hitchcock spent time in Germany and watching German films – this looks like it could have been directed by UFA-period Fritz Lang. The expressionist shadow and paranoia have obvious roots in Babelsberg, but so much of it is full of stuff we will see over and over again in later Hitchcock: the ‘wrong man’ plot, the underwear fetish, Catholic iconography (there is a really blatant re-enactment of the deposition from the cross). The interesting thing about this ‘wrong man’ plot is that Hitchcock doesn’t fill the audience in on the details until almost the end, so we don’t have the sympathy for Ivor Norvello that we do for Cary Grant in North By Northwest.
On to The Parradine Case!