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Archive for October 2nd, 2013

Track_of_the_Cat

by Judy Geater

Director William Wellman made two Westerns adapted from novels by
Walter Van Tilburg Clark. The first and best-known, of course, was
‘The Ox-Bow Incident’ (1943), a devastatingly bleak drama crammed into
just 75 powerful minutes. Bleak is also the word to describe the
second film where this writer and director joined forces, ‘Track of
the Cat’.

However, rather than being short, this is a film which seems to go on
and on, like the prints of the cat which Robert Mitchum follows
through the snow. It comes as a surprise to realise that this Western
actually only 102 minutes long, because the repetitive, bitter
conversations and recriminations make it feel more drawn out. This is
a dark, psychologically turbulent movie, one of the many 1950s films
to open up a dysfunctional family and show the rivalries and hatreds
simmering under the surface.

The book and film have both been compared with ‘Moby Dick’ because of
the theme of obsession – though in this film the creature which must
be caught and killed is a black panther, which killed some of the
family’s stock, rather than a whale. If it really is a panther, that
is. Nobody sees it close up and lives to tell the tale. The decision
never to show the cat makes it all the more frightening, and hints
that it is a symbol, though, again as with the whale in ‘Moby Dick’,
that symbol’s significance constantly shifts. (more…)

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grandmaster-1

© 2013 by James Clark

 

    Though notoriously slow about completing film projects, Wong Kar Wai evinces perhaps the most efficient filmic architecture for dealing with the monstrosity of making progress toward viable integrity. This is a cinema stemming not from sagas of impasse; but from torrents of lush sensation (visual and aural, to a degree evoking the tactile) the richness of which sets in relief mishaps deriving from personal and social elaborations of the impetus of the streaming. Just think of the soaring and strangely searing musical moments—at the jukebox, in Fallen Angels; along a cop’s night beat, in Days of Being Wild (as augmented by Xavier Cugat’s “Perfidia”); at the fast food bar in Chungking Express (“California Deamin’”) and at the cop’s flat “Dream Lover” not to mention Dinah Washington’s “What a Difference a Day Makes;” at the restaurant on three consecutive Christmas Eves, in 2046 (burnished by Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song); and at Chan’s hotel room (Nat again, giving us “Que Sas” [“Who Knows”]) and, in the same film—In the Mood for Love—along the stairway to the noodle bar, “Yumeji’s Theme”—that stay with us for days after the screening.

Remarkably, then, despite an extensive soundtrack, such magic does not live in the most recent entry. No one would remember a single melody here, five minutes after leaving the theatre. Closing that run of barnburners before losing his edge, Wong positions his music in accordance with a pervasive, quite oppressive entanglement in attaining to prestige (in other—more loaded—words, advantage). His new mineshaft to frisson—in tandem with scintillating cinematography and the supernal body and vocal language of the two protagonists, played by Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi—consists of the sounds of flesh colliding and bones breaking in the thrust and parry of seemingly myriad kung fu battles. (The latter protagonist reminisces that, being the daughter of a major martial arts figure, her earliest strong impression was that of the sounds of snapping limbs, jaws and ribs.) The sound design of this motif musters bullet-like whizzing thrusts by arms and legs, followed by thunderclaps of the recoil. Those are the sounds we carry far beyond the theatre; and those are among the key portals to assimilating this remarkable film. (more…)

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