Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
This is the first of a series of posts that will commemorate the decade that was (or will soon be was!?). Each few days I will name my choices for the best films of each particular year in the aforementioned decade that will soon be a was. This will culminate just after the new year with my list of the 50 greatest films of the decade. So without further ado I give you the year 2000.
Monday, November 23, 2009
My Quest to watch The 1000 Greatest Films
Screened 11/09/09 on DVD from GreenCine
Ranked #519 on TSPDT
That particular extracurricular cartoonish anomaly aside, Julian Duvivier's pre-noir noirish film about a French thief and all about roue, running around the Casbah, evading the police and the informants but not the ladies, though perhaps seen as a bit racist in hindsight when it comes to the portrayal of the Casbah and its residents, is a classic of poetic realism (which was after all a stylistic precursor to film noir) that was in itself a precursor to a whole slice of film history. This may seem a bit on the overdramatic side but nonetheless, in this critic's eyes, it is a true statement. And a fellow critic may very well agree with me. In his essay for the Criterion release of Pepe le Moke, Michael Atkinson wrote thus: "Without its iconic precedent there would have been no Humphrey Bogart, no John Garfield, no Robert Mitchum, no Randolph Scott, no Jean-Paul Belmondo (or Breathless or Pierrot le fou), no Jean-Pierre Melville or Alain Delon, no Steve McQueen, no Chinatown, no Bruce Willis, no movie-star heritage of weathered cool, vulnerable nihilism, bruised masculinity-as-cultural syndrome."
I couldn't have said it better myself. I was actually trying to verbalize this very point when I came across the Atkinson essay and he did it for me. Pepe le Moko is, at the very least, one of the catalysts for all the aforementioned film history that was to follow. Along with films such as early Hollywood Fritz Lang and von Sternberg, Duvivier's exotic thriller is what made noir possible, and in turn everything which has spawned from noir's own dark underbelly. In fact, the novel on which Pepe is based was in turn inspired by Howard Hawks' Scarface. Perhaps film history is all one viscous circle - much like the winding alleyways of the Casbah itself. How's that for a segue?
This spectacular spiraling camera of Duvivier is like a whirling dervish breaking free of the poetic realism it finds itself mired - for good or for bad - inside of, yet it is Pepe himself, the wonderful and quite prolific actor Jean Gabin, that makes this visually attractive film blossom into the full fledged sexy beast that it is. To quote Michael Atkinson again (from the same Criterion written essay as above) in describing Gabin, he says he is "almost Garbo-like in his ability to anchor our attention without moving a muscle." It is Gabin's stoic realism, twinged with an almost anti-sentimental sentimentalism (that makes sense, right?) that is the heart, the core, of Duvivier's film. Incidentally, Gabin would go on to roles in Grand Illusion, Port of Shadows, Daybreak and Moontide but his career would slow down with the advent of WWII, where he would work with the Resistance. The rest, I suppose, is history.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
After building the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man (in my capacity as manager and projectionist of our local arthouse Midtown Cinema) I sat down and watched the brothers' fourteenth film all by my lonesome. At first glance I wasn't sure what to make of this strangely curious little film. Yes, the Coens' are usually purveyors of strangely curious little films, but this one was strangely curious in a completely different way. Don't ask how, just go with me here. Anyway, after contemplating it for a while, by the time I went to bed that night (about 2 hours after finishing the film) I was won over by this strangely curious little film. Perhaps not their best (Fargo and No Country For Old Men hold those spots) but pretty darn close. In that Coenesque second tier realm of Miller's Crossing, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski. A strangely curious little film indeed.
Read my review of A Serious Man at The Cinematheque.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Read my review of Paris at Gone Cinema Poaching.