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Archive for August 8th, 2012

by Sam Juliano

From the early 20’s to the mid 40’s  a total of 221 Our Gang comedies were made.  This represents the largest number of films in an American series ever produced, and over decades they have continued to resonate with the television and home video patrons, who have connected with Our Gang’s universality, ragmuffin characters, and economic hardships all negotiated with a deep sense of humanity, aching pathos and uproarious humor.  The Our Gang comedies, launched during the silent era,  showcased kids on both sides of the class divide who brought wit, tenacity and world wise perceptions to all sorts of domestic situations from friendship, school crushes, and business enterprises to the grim realities of Depression era squalor that necessitated going into survival mode.  It was a time when kids outwitted adults, and served as a kind of Greek Chorus for all the ills and faults that characterized people during times of desperation and deprivation.  But it was also a carefree time of childhood comeraderie  engineered during a time when people needed each other and relied on teamwork to get by at a time during rough times.  Our Gang treated boys and girls, black and white and rich and poor as equals at a time when discrimination against African-Americans and females was commonplace, combining all into a trenchant study of class interaction, tempered with an ironic commentary on the kind of behavior that will emanate from domestic upbringings.  Series creator Hal Roach and his main director Robert McGowan opted to show children in a natural way, sending out talent scouts to find candidates for roles, encouraging improvisational approaches to the material.  A revolving door approach at M-G-M studios necessitated the replacement of kids of kids who had grown too old with others generally found in the Los Angeles area.   (more…)

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© 2012 by James Clark

Robert Bresson’s Mouchette is the kind of motion-deficient movie an attentive viewer could mull over for a long time. Coming on the heels of a production about a composed donkey at risk, its presentation of a girl at risk, and without components to make even a semblance of composure a possibility, allows of variants by means of which to further investigate waywardness foreclosing upon youthful powers. That those powers at issue do, as Bresson well discerns, not have to do with normal human attributes but instead with energies positioning one as being very unlike the conventional, venerable grasp of humankind, moots an effective correspondent having strayed far off the beaten path. One such contrarian not wasting much time about following up the (all-important) “hidden” thrust of Mouchette was Terrence Malick, who, six years after the astringent death spiral of that hapless figure, introduced in Holly, protagonist of his first feature film, Badlands (1973), a deadly package of immature indulgences braced, however, by the easy sensuality of a Texas drawl and the palpably radiant “vast sky ahead” of the Prairies of South Dakota and Montana (Big Sky Country), no longer merely an item of a cramped and bloodless classroom. (more…)

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