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By Jon Warner

 

There have been several films that follow an inanimate object (or animal) as it is transferred ownership to different people, with the meaning or importance of said object changing depending on the situation and the person involved. Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 (1950) follows a Winchester rifle across several owners. Tales of Manhattan (1942) is a fascinating film involving several stories following a formal tailcoat. There’s also The Red Violin (1998). Even Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) and War Horse (2011) do something similar. Max Ophuls’ magnificent melodrama The Earrings of Madame de… seems to follow a similar pattern on the surface, as a pair of expensive earrings transfer owner several times. Ophuls’ film, though, seems to do something just a little different. It’s not really about following the earrings. In fact it is more about the motivations behind the giving and receiving of them than anything regarding chance transfer of ownership. Considering the monetary value of the earrings, no single person seems to give them a second thought until the earrings come full circle back to the original owner, as they are finally received as a gift of true love, becoming a glimmering example of both a failed marriage and an adulterous affair.

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 © 2014 by James Clark

 

     Whereas (in Italy, in 1962) Anna Magnani would capitalize, on the leverage stemming from her indispensability, to hijack Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Mamma Roma, for her own reasons, Katharine Hepburn would shape to her liking the 1940 film romance, The Philadelphia Story, to an outcome unsurprisingly very different from the former project—but, nevertheless, quite amazingly within the same galaxy where disinterestedness becomes palpably crucial. In 1939, Hepburn helped herself to her ex-boyfriend, Howard Hughes’ film rights to Philip Barry’s stage play, The Philadelphia Story (in which she starred); and, ever the shrewd media player, bought out her contract with RKO and signed on with MGM mogul, Louis B. Mayer, on condition that he finance her film property, starring herself (of course) along with a cast and production team of her devising, including her friend, director, George Cukor. Her coming, from out of such high-finance scheming, to navigate along a flight-path which Magnani broached with a wave of instinctive, emotive poetics, is one of the great enigmas of supposedly mainstream, Hollywood “entertainment.” Continue Reading »

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by Duane Porter

Vikar Jerome, the protagonist of Steve Erickson’s novel, Zeroville (2007), set in 1970′s Hollywood, has a picture of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift tattooed on his shaved head, “their faces barely apart, lips barely apart, in each other’s arms on a terrace, the two most beautiful people in the history of the movies, she the female version of him, and he the male version of her.” This is the terrace scene from George Stevens’ A Place in the Sun and it is 1969 and no one shaves their head and no one has tattoos. Vikar has been known to react violently when curious onlookers misidentify the couple as James Dean and Natalie Wood in Rebel Without a Cause. It might be hard to find someone that passionate about this movie today, but there are still a few of us captivated by its beautiful delirium.

As it begins, a young man wearing a black leather jacket over a white t-shirt is standing at the side of the highway trying to catch a ride. He turns to look at a huge picture of a bathing beauty on a billboard that declares, “It’s an Eastman.” It’s an image very much like the one in his dreams. Just then, a brand-new Cadillac convertible zooms by and the pretty girl behind the wheel beeps her horn, leaving him standing there as she speeds down the road, a departing vision of his American Dream. Finally, a beat-up old truck, filled with junk, stops and he gets a ride into town. He gets out in front of a large building that has the name, “EASTMAN,” engraved in large letters over the entrance. Continue Reading »

QM3By Jon Warner

 

There are few romantic films that are as beloved and cherished as John Ford’s beautiful and heartwarming classic, The Quiet Man. Intended for years as a pet project, Ford hand selected the story, the stars and the setting of Ireland in order to bring together many elements that meant a great deal to him. Ford’s Irish heritage, and that of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, turned the film into a sort cinematic expression of anthropology, extending the elements of the plot beyond simple mechanics and enlivening the whole film with a passionate and joyful sense of place, family, and tradition (all very consistent with Ford’s career). These elements reached into the lives of those making the film, and in turn, these personal connections become visible to the audience. In a sense, this film is as much a love story between Ford and his fondness for Ireland and for heritage, as much as anything else. But the fact that the film is buoyed by intense chemistry from Wayne and O’Hara, many romantic scenes, and a charming, sexually playful tone, it’s hard to top this film for sheer enjoyment.

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Book reading by celebrated children’s book author/illustrator Peter Brown at Word bookstore/cafe in Jersey City, N.J.

Richard Linklater’s visionary “Boyhood” in the best film of 2014.

by Sam Juliano

The romantic countdown is doing quite nicely, with elevated comment totals of late and a real sense of purpose by both the motivated writers and those inspire to contribute on the corresponding threads.  We aren’t so far from the half way point in fact.

Thanks so much to our Guardian Angel Dee Dee for her continued attendance to the sidebar.  And thanks to all who spend even seconds at the site leaving ‘likes’ or acknowledgements.

Summer moves forward, as does the program I am teaching until August 8th.

Lucille and the gang came along for two new releases this week in theaters.  We also attended a book reading and presentation at the Word Bookstore in Jersey City.  Peter Brown of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild fame was on hand as per my FB report: Continue Reading »

by Shubhajit Lahiri

Woman of the Lake, directed by Yoshishige Yoshida, aka Kiju Yoshida, one of the most influential members and great intellectuals of the Japanese New Wave movement, was a lyrical, disquieting and beautifully shot meditation on urban alienation, existential crisis, marital fidelity, and the complex dynamics of love and lust. This was the 2nd film in the director’s thematically & stylistically connected series of 6 films, made right after his parting ways with Shochiku Studio, which has been loosely qualified as “Anti-Melodramas”. All were shot in B/W (except for one), starred his glorious wife-cum-muse Okada, and fabulously deconstructed the melodrama form of filmmaking by imbuing them with a dark, edgy, layered, psychologically dense, thematically rich and stylistically dazzling signature.

It was preceded by A Story Written with Water(a troubling account of mother-son relationship with all its repressed desires and associated guilt), and was followed by The Affair/Joen(a bravura and powerful examination of a mother’s memory on her daughter and how it shapes her relationship with men – possibly the best film of the lot along with the one under focus), Flame & Women(an incisive probe into psychological questions and moral dilemmas through the topic of artificial insemination), Affair in the Snow (portrayal of the dichotomy and irony of choosing between sexual prowess and emotional connect, and a complementary and companion piece to Woman of the Lake) and Farewell to Summer Light (a lilting take on questions of memory and ephemerality of relationships that is sure to remind one of Linklater’s “Before Trilogy”, and the only one shot in colour). Continue Reading »

by Sam Juliano

The ABCs of opera.  Aida.  Boheme.  Carmen.  This triptych expression has come to denote not only the essentials for a newcomer to the form, but also the most pared down assessment of these three quintessential works that continue to rate among the most performed operas year after year worldwide.  The middle of the three, Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 La Boheme may well have emerged the most popular opera of all-time over the past ten or fifteen years if we further examine some telling statistics.  Certainly there can be little doubt that it is the most perfectly composed of the composer’s works, and the one that boasts the most clarity of structure.  It is also (along with Carmen) one of the two most frequently mentioned operas by musicologists to have made converts of non-believers of the form.  La Boheme is the perfect choice for one’s first introduction to opera, whether in attendance at the opera house, via HD broadcast or on an audio CD.  Charming, sublime, lyrical, sentimental and suffused with soaring emotions, this four-act work of moderate length (by opera standards) is finally unbearably poignant, but along the way it showcases some of the most beautiful music ever written.  Puccini’s incomparable melodic felicity -often attacked back in the day as shameless and ‘wearing your heart on your sleeve – by the cynics, is now regarded as old-fashioned melody-making that very few have been able successfully emulate.  Though the composer crafted several operas that border on master-class (Turandot, La Fanciula de West, Manon Lescaut, Gianni Schicchi -the latter contains the beloved suprano aria “O Mio Babbino Caro” while the first-mentioned features the electrifying tenor standard “Nessun Dorma”) La Boheme is one of the three unquestioned masterpieces (Tosca and Madama Butterfly are the others) that have beguiled and ravished opera goers for many decades, and no doubt will continue to do so well into the future. Continue Reading »

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