First, a word of thanks to Kevin Lee for inviting me to do the audio commentary for a 7-minute video essay on Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window (1944). It was my first such experience and it was fun.
A few links:
-- Michael Sicinski's February page has a clutch of reviews including Import Export, The Sun Also Rises, Mad Detective, Alexandra, Atonement and The Counterfeiters. Also, a Bollywood movie that can bring Michael to tears (Pradeep Sarkar's Laaga Chunari Mein Daag: Journey of a Woman) is one that's going on my queue immediately.
-- Chris Fujiwara in the Boston Phoenix: "Separation is the myth and the reality of Ritwik Ghatak’s cinema. His work screams it, shouts it, sings it in image and sound. It’s not enough for a marriage to come to an end; that end also has to become an abstract principle: “Separation is essential,” says the hero’s wife near the beginning of Reason, Debate, and a Story (1974). In E-flat (1961), a theater director tells an actress, “Think it is 1947 and you have to leave your home,” at which she breaks down in tears."
-- Dave Kehr in the NYT on Joan Crawford: "[She] was an almost entirely artificial creation, from top (those painted-on eyebrows and wide-open eyes) to toe (a tiny woman who began as a dancer, she learned to carry herself effectively en pointe to create an illusion of height). [...] She is always trying too hard: enunciating her words too carefully in hopes of hiding her native twang; moving with a too-studied precision meant to show off her superlative legs; or fixing the camera with that unblinking stare, intended to suggest an alluring hauteur but just as expressive of borderline panic."
-- Kimberly Lindbergs's sumptuous "favorite DVD releases of 2007" post.
-- Filmblog discovery of the week, via Craig Keller: David Cairns's Shadowplay.
-- At Errata, Rob Davis and J. Robert Parks do a podcast on a dozen films, which sparks a discussion in the comments, especially around I'm Not There.
-- David Bordwell on His Girl Friday: "[I]n the 1963 Cahiers tribute Louis Marcorelles called it “the American film par excellence.” Praising Hawks, and HGF specifically, was part of a larger Cahiers strategy to validate the sound cinema as fulfilling the mission of film as an art. What traditional critics would have considered theatrical and uncinematic in HGF—confinement to a few rooms, constant talk, an unassertive camera style—exactly fit the style that Bazin and his younger colleagues championed."
-- Dan Sallitt on John Ford's Tobacco Road: "Because we tend to associate the Fordian tone of elegy with admiration and celebration, we might be surprised to see it crop up here. I briefly wondered whether the studio might not have concocted a Ford-like score of a mournful accordion playing "Shall We Gather at the River" and laid it over the resistant material. But music is only part of the integrated Fordian elegiac tone, which also draws on beautiful deep-space long-shot compositions, a slowing of rhythm, an emphatic isolation of individual shots, and the use of symbolic imagery. There's no mistaking that Ford is on the job."
-- Both Acquarello and Daniel Kasman have been filing reviews from the Film Comment Selects series. Also, here are Daniel's reports from Berlinale at The Auteurs' Notebook.
-- Thanks to Ryland Walker Knight at Vinyl is Heavy, some poetry selections from Nietzsche's The Gay Science.
-- The Siren has been reading Mary Astor's memoir, A Life on Film.
-- At The House Next Door, Fernando F. Croce on Maurice Pialat's A Nos Amours: "[Sandrine Bonnaire's] Suzanne is in every scene, and throughout the film one feels a transfixed Pialat steering the still-unformed talent, not so much molding Bonnaire as discovering in tandem with the actress the corporeality, force, and shifting emotional depths that would later mark her greatest performances (Vagabond (1985), La Cérémonie (1995), Secret Défense (1998))."
-- At In Media Res, Michael Z. Newman picks the Ying Yang Twins's "Wait (The Whisper Song)" as a guilty pleasure: "Owning up to a guilty pleasure is a performance of confession to cultural sin, but the sinner seeks benefits other than absolution. Calling the pleasure guilty validates participation in the ritual of taste; now liking something bad doesn’t indicate failure to recognize criteria of quality and social acceptability but affirms them. Advertising a guilty pleasure can be a way flaunting status, as only those already in possession of cultural capital can risk some on a guilty pleasure."
-- Alex Cox to Dennis Lim on his film Walker: "It was incredible, but since 1988 I have not had one offer of work from any of the Hollywood studios. I've existed entirely independent of the studios. You make one political film, and that's it -- blacklisted. But that's OK, it's a good film to be blacklisted for."
-- Owen Hatherley at The Measures Taken: "What would a world be like without art? And why did the most talented artists of the period immediately after the First World War end up advocating the abolition of art altogether? ‘Art is Dead! shouted the Dadaists, with their hatred of galleries and museums. ‘From the easel to the machine’, was a slogan of the Constructivists. The ten years after 1918 marked a total war on the category of ‘art’, its networks of patrons and consumers, and its unique objects. This is something which hasn’t exactly been forgotten by history, but tends to be treated rather patronisingly – an eccentric extremism that art grew out of, a failed utopia, or a juvenile biting of the hand that feeds."
-- Here's a big, meaty Hitchcock website: Ken Mogg's 'The MacGuffin'. Mogg is the author of The Alfred Hitchcock Story (1999).
Traces: Joan Bennett and the monogrammed pencil.