Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Good Night, And Good Luck

Dianne Reeves

Growing up, ours was the only house on the block with a party at Christmas-time. We were Hindu but my sister was born on Christmas Eve, and it was a perfect pretext to celebrate both occasions, one of which rightfully belonged to us; the other we confidently claimed as ours because we had seen it in countless American movies, most memorably in a little jewel written by Preston Sturges called Remember The Night. All my family lives in India and so, on the night of Christmas Eve this year, when American families were presumably gathered around trees or fireplaces, I ventured out into the cold and clear to go see a movie. I was the only one in the theater for Good Night, And Good Luck.

George Clooney begins this black-and-white film, set in the 1950's, with a tenor sax playing the melody to "When I Fall In Love". But he's being ironic, because nostalgia is the last thing he's after. This is a wisely small and compact movie that never overstays. It is meticulously written and the lead performance, by the brilliantined David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow, is the best I've seen all year. Senator Joseph McCarthy plays himself, on kinescope, and almost the entire film takes place indoors in spaces where people work. Modest though it is, there is a coherence and clarity to Clooney's conception that is pleasantly startling. Next on my to-rent list: Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind.

I like the way Clooney weaves in vignettes of Dianne Reeves performing with her band in the CBS studio periodically through the movie. At first it seemed like lazy filler, easy connective tissue, but then I thought of Nicholas Ray having Hadda Brooks sing "I Hadn't Anyone Till You" in that nightclub scene with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in In A Lonely Place. There is a dry ironic aftertaste to many of these songs from the Great American Songbook — they are romantic and courtly on the outside, but lean into the lyrics and you'll find them issuing dispatches of disappointment and betrayal. Which suits the unforced, glancing parallels with the tenor of present times that seem to be on Clooney's mind.

29 Comments:

Blogger girish said...

To Rob Davis:
Hey Rob, I really like your comments on Dave Kehr's blog about The New World.

December 27, 2005 7:39 AM  
Blogger girish said...

I've turned word verification off to see if the comment spam makes a comeback.

December 27, 2005 7:42 AM  
Blogger girish said...

It's been forever since I've seen a good Albert Brooks movie, and so it was a pleasure to see the trailer for his new one, provocatively titled Looking For Comedy In The Muslim World.
It's mostly set in India. Here's more.

December 27, 2005 7:45 AM  
Anonymous rakesh said...

I was born on the 22nd of December...

December 27, 2005 10:58 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Flickhead, I almost feel guilty linking to this:
"Dare I discuss in public that dark night in 1969 when my parents annihilated their wreck of a marriage?"

December 27, 2005 12:59 PM  
Blogger girish said...

For those of you who've seen Tsai Ming-Liang's The Wayward Cloud, the Parisian Harry Tuttle has a thoughtful and detailed analysis on his blog.

December 27, 2005 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Check out our newly appointed national treasures of cinema. http://www.loc.gov/film/nfr2005.html

December 27, 2005 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

Check out our new cinematic national treasures.

December 27, 2005 5:47 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ah, thanks for the link, Peter.
Nice to see Fast Times At Ridgemont High in there. I've only seen the censored version of Baby Face but still thought it gutsy.

December 27, 2005 7:23 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Man, the comment spam was flyin' last night.
Reluctant return to word verification.

And I don't say this often, but both screen capture quizzes this week, Filmbrain's and Aaron's, are a piece of cake, thank you very much.

December 28, 2005 9:14 AM  
Blogger girish said...

I wonder what kind of establishment I'm running here.
The last few days, I've had a blizzard of hits from google looking for "Emmanuelle Devos", in the buff and otherwise.
I'm sure I was nothing if not disappointing.
And minutes ago, an eager googler came around looking for "the wayward cloud blow job."

December 28, 2005 3:20 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Mucho meaty fun:
Slate Movie Club.

December 28, 2005 8:46 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Good Night, And Good Luck opens next week only over here.

Did you post the link to Rouge's page on The Wayward Cloud somewhere? That would explain the B.J. connection ;) (I told you it was a bad pun...) That or blame it on the link to my blog :(

Thanks for the Movie Club pointer! Now that's a critical confrontation (self-criticism). I never heard of it, is it an old tradition at Slate?
I wish there was more of these collegial workshops online...

December 29, 2005 12:11 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

girish, you and I share something in common: sisters born on Dec. 24!

Harry, Slate's been doing The Movie Club for several years. Here is a handy page for tracking down previous editions, some of which have been quite interesting. The first, I believe was simply a two-way conversation between David Edelstein and Jonathan Rosenbaum, and there was little common ground.

December 29, 2005 4:51 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks for the link, Brian!
And Harry--You're right; it must've been the Rouge article.

December 29, 2005 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

The #1 Googled phrase that brings people to my site is "Brown Bunny blowjob". Welcome to the internet, Girish.

Now, where are those pics of Devos?

December 29, 2005 10:18 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Filmbrain, that is sobering.
My naivete is baffling even to me.

December 29, 2005 2:12 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, Flickhead, for responding to my request for Michel Legrand MP3's. Much appreciated.

December 29, 2005 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Aaron Hillis said...

I, too, was born on December 24.

My number one Google hit is "Heath Ledger Cobble Hill," presumably people looking for my famous neighbor.

(And if anybody is looking for that gay Casanova cowboy after Googling Girish's site, Heathy will be moving from Douglass Street to 2nd Place, so stop stalking that poor Aussie near me.)

December 29, 2005 5:51 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Aaron--Filmbrain also mentioned a few other illustrious inhabitants of your (tony) neighborhood.

December 29, 2005 7:13 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Rock Snob:
"I'm going on holiday for a week and I was a little nervous about how I'd look in a bikini... Until I saw these recent Tara Reid pictures. Thanks for making me feel better about myself, Tara."

Wait.
I did not just post that.
It's the Googlers. They're pulling a Zelig on me.

December 29, 2005 7:30 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Yikes! Tara's got a "gunt".

Don't feel bad, G: Netflix just sent me "Into the Blue" starring Jessica Alba in a bikini.

Man cannot live by Buñuel alone...

December 29, 2005 7:58 PM  
Blogger girish said...

"Man cannot live by Buñuel alone..."

Terrific line...
Don Luis would have approved.

December 29, 2005 8:03 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

I had to do a double take there. I thought you wrote .

December 29, 2005 9:01 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Heheh.
In that fantastic book of interviews with Bunuel, Objects Of Desire, the two Mexican journalists, however vehemently they disagree with him, always refer to him deferentially as...Don Luis.

December 29, 2005 9:11 PM  
Blogger phil said...

geez girish...first a post about a george clooney movie, and now pics of tara reid? this blog is going to hell in a handbasket.




(george clooney...ha! it feels like you just gave the hangabouts here the middle finger. i'm kind of tickled.)

December 29, 2005 9:21 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey Phil--Props where props are due.
A good movie's a good movie no matter who or where it comes from, right?

December 29, 2005 11:26 PM  
Blogger phil said...

;)

December 30, 2005 2:43 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

"Harry, Slate's been doing The Movie Club for several years. Here is a handy page for tracking down previous editions, some of which have been quite interesting."

Thanks Brain. I really enjoyed this Movie Club. Too bad I only discover it when it's over. I hope somebody else will keep it going...

December 31, 2005 2:56 AM  

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