Tuesday, September 13, 2005

More Movies Noted

Here's what I've seen recently:

Steven Ross' Quietly on By, 2005 (8/10)
Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, 2004 (8/10)
Dymytrk's Murder My Sweet, 1944 (4/10)
Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm, 2005 (5/10)
Will Hindle's Watersmith, 1971 (8/10)
Wong Kar-Wai's 2046, 2004 (9/10)
Alex de la Iglesia's El crimen ferpecto, 2004 (8/10)
Pasolini's La ricotta, 1963 (7/10)
Jerry Lewis' The Ladies Man, 1961 (6/10)
Bruce Conner's Valse Triste, 1977 (6/10)
Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, 1943 (5/10)
Hitchcock's Torn Curtain, 1966 (3/10)
Hitchcock's Under Capricorn, 1949 (4/10)
Tavernier's Safe Conduct, 2002 (6/10)
Alex de la Iglesia's Day of the Beast, 1995 (8/10)
Phil Karlson's 99 River Street, 1953 (7/10)
Jean Painleve's Le vampire, 1945 (9/10)
Alex de la Iglesia's Commonwealth, 2000 (7/10)
Dimitri Kirsanoff's Brumes d' automne, 1929 (10/10)
Dimitri Kirsanoff's Menilmontat, 1926 (9/10)
Dmytryk's Crossfire, 1947 (8/10)
Seong-kang Lee's My beautiful girl, Mari, 2002 (9/10)
Anthony Mann's The Tin Star, 1957 (5/10)
Alain Corneau's Serie Noire, 1979 (9/10)
Jacques Tourneur's I Walked with a Zombie, 1943 (8/10)
Jacques Tourneur's The Leopard Man, 1943 (6/10)
Irving Lerner's Murder by Contract, 1958 (9/10)
Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2005 (3/10)
Solondz' s Palindromes, 2004 (8/10)
Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers, 2002 (6/10)
Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, 2005 (9/10)
Erroll Morris, The Thin Blue Line, 1988 (8/10)
Welles' The Hearts of Age, 1934 (6/10)
Eisenstein's Aleksander Nevsky, 1938 (7/10)
Yvan Attal's Happily Ever After, 2004 (5/10)
Lassie Come Home, 1943 (4/10)
Alan Arkin's Little Murders, 1971 (6/10)
Paul Mazursky's Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, 1969 (6/10)
Varda's Cleo from 5 to 7, 1961 (10/10)
Walsh's The Roaring Twenties, 1939 (6/10)
Vincent Minnelli's The Bad and the Beautiful, 1952 (8/10)
Jean-Pierre Denis' Murderous Maids, 2000 (6/10)
Peter Watkins' Battle of Culloden, 1964 (9/10)
Peter Watkins' The War Game, 1965 (9/10)
Daves' 3:10 to Yuma, 1957 (7/10)


Blogger Campaspe said...

Oh dear, such a low rating for Shadow of a Doubt, my favorite Hitchcock. But your rating for Bad and the Beautiful is exactly what I would give it. Apropos of your Grahame post, she's great in it, isn't she? Wonderful, subtle job showing how manipulative the character is, without resorting to any indicating at all.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

I generally don't like Hitchcock very much and I really don't like his influence over American film-making.

I think Gloria Grahame actually points to why I really don't like Hitchcock - take a look at Nicholas Ray's movies, or Dmytyrk's, or Aldrich's or Phil Karlson's (or Clouzet or Lang, for that matter) in the 1950s. All of them were also great masters of the thriller - but the best of their thrillers MEAN something. Their movies are not about McGuffin's (Hitchock's horrific term) but about things that are REAL and meaningful and important. They're not about "spot the symbolism", sight gags, infantile obsessions with blond women, obviously faked studio shots or half-baked Freudianism.

8:35 PM  
Blogger surlyh said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:01 AM  
Blogger surlyh said...

Well, I don't think you can blame Hitchcock or any artist for his followers. And you would rate Dmytryk over Hitchcock because Dmytryk's films are about something "real"?

It is interesting to compare Hitchcock to Lang, who's German films were a huge influence. Whearas Lang pursued the individual caught by larger societal forces, Hitchcock eschewed social context. Yes, Hitchcock made "movie-movies", and his main concern seemed to be manipulation of the audience. But in some of those films he tapped into some very creepy collective fantasies, if only because he shared them. His obsessions lead to some compelling and original films.

More than stories about psycologically complex characters and social commentary often seen in the films of the other directors you sited, Hitchcock's films seem to be closer to approximations of relentless dreams. Dreams of pursuit, murder, sex and guilt. Half-baked? Often illogical? Sure, in a literary or academic sense. But as visual film they are often stunning.

Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo--each pulp and "obsessive", yet to me all become completely original works as film.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Alex said...


I wouldn't rate Dmytryk over Hitchcock, but I would rate Nicholas Ray or Samuel Fuller or Clouzet or Lang over Hitchcock. Take a look at Wages of Fear or In a Dangerous Place or On Dangerous Ground or 99 River Street or Le Courbeau. All of them are very obsessive, even sweaty movies. Remember that Clouzet, for example, competed head-to-head with Hitchcock for the rights to the book of Wages of Fear. Imagine if Hitchcock had won the battle. We would have gotten yet another slick Hitchcock number with a blond and Jimmy Stewart in the lead, instead of Clouzet's punches to the gut and whacks upside the head. Surely Hitchcock wouldn't have even tried to touche the true core of the movie, the savage nature of capitalism, while Clouzet rides that core for all it's worth.

1:45 PM  
Blogger surlyh said...


I share your love of Ray, Fuller, Clouzet and Lang. I have taken a look at Wages of Fear, In a Dangerous Place, On Dangerous Ground, Le Courbeau and (most recently at LaSalle) 99 River Street. Wonderful movies all.

No, Hitchcock wouldn't have touched Wage's theme of capitalism. He wouldn't have been able to capture the acid bite of Clouzot. But neither Clouzot nor any of the others would have been been capable of filming Jimmy Stewart's strange stalking of Kim Novak in Vertigo--an extended sequence that, I would argue, is made all the more compelling because of the framing, editing, and precise use of subjective point of view that are distinctly Hitchcock's. My point is that Hitchcock's strengths are not those of drama or social or political comment, but of film. Linked to the right story the films moved on the line between pulp and dream. The writing of Cornell Woolrich worked in a similar way: often bad by conventional standards, his best stories drag you along into a noir world with headlong, dreamlike momentum.

Is this a lesser form of art? The question seems irrelevant to me.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

No, I'm not quite buying it. While it's certainly true that Hitchcock had a distinctive style of his own (who would deny that?), I'm less than convinced that Hitchcock was actually that superlative at "drag you along into a noir world with headlong, dreamlike momentum".

Compared to say, Nicholas Ray, at that very thing, Hitchcock is to me highly inferior. You literally feel the pulse of obsession in In a Lonely Place, On Dangerous Ground or Bitter Victory - you only get visceral emotions like that very, very rarely in Hitchcock. In terms of pure cinema, I'd rather take the shoot-out ending scene in Fuller's House of Bamboo or the opening to Forty Guns (or anything in Fixed Bayonets!) over almost everything in Hitchcock.

Take a look at what Anthony Mann could do with Jimmy Stewart versus what Hitchcock does. You want obsession - Mann has Stewart do obsession more convincingly in literally every minute in Winchester '73 than Hitchcock does all but the best few sequences of Vertigo. Hitchcock gets stiff and horrendously boring performances from the incomparable Joseph Cotten, when Welles and Aldrich and Lean (ok, actually Welles in that case too) and Dieterle are all getting world-shattering stuff from Cotten. Preminger rips the roof off this sucka with Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder and Hitch gives us another embalmed McGuffin number in The Man Who Knew Too Much.

In the last analysis, Hitchcock's final claim is simply that he was THE master of thrills. But, except for the handful of his very very best movies, very few of his movies have thrilled me even remotely the way Nicholas Ray, Samuel Fuller, Anthony Mann, Robert Aldrich, Elia Kazan, Clouzet, Lang, Preminger, Billy Wilder (who's actually very funny, unlike Hitch, who thought he was funny and almost never was) or even much less heralded folks like Mate, De Toth, Tourneur, Karlson or Fleischer often do.

Most Hitchcock movies put me to sleep, honestly.

12:07 PM  
Blogger surlyh said...

I agree with a lot of what you say. Hitchcock certainly was no comedian. I think that Ray is one of the most emotionally rich directors that ever worked in hollywood. Hitchcock can't compete. And while I love the Fuller you mention, those films don't have that "dream" quality of Hitchcock. Fuller is literal if he's anything. We're talking apples and oranges here in pure cinema. As an aside, I only just recently saw House Of Bamboo for the first time and loved it. Like any film, but especially the great ones, I try to see them first on the big screen. I wonder if the remake is any good, the name of which escapes me.

Anyway, I get how you and a lot of people find Hitchcock empty once you scratch below those surface thrills. Without a doubt he needed writers and actors who could do it on their own. His skills lay elsewhere. I guess we differ in that that dream-like state that I find in his films is something that is unique to him, and is something I find compelling. Thanks for the critical back and forth.

8:15 PM  
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