Archive for February, 2009

Pandora’s Box (1929)

Posted in Silent Film with tags , on February 28, 2009 by leclisse

I watched Pandora’s Box again this evening.  It is upon this film that I base my love of Louise Brooks, and I consider it to be the finest silent film I have ever seen:

"No smoking in here!"

I read Barry Paris’ quintessential biography of Louise this past summer, which included an insightful anecdote about the making of Pandora from one of Louise’s articles written for the film journal Sight and Sound:

My final defeat, crying real tears, came at the end of the picture when he [director G. W. Pabst] went through my trunks to select a dress to be “aged” for Lulu’s murder as a streetwalker in the arms of Jack the Ripper. With his instinctive understanding of my tastes, he decided on the blouse and skirt of my very favourite suit. I was anguished. “Why can’t you buy some cheap little dress to be ruined? Why does it have to be my dress?” To these questions I got no answer till the next morning, when my once lovely clothes were returned to me in the studio dressing-room. They were torn and foul with grease stains. Not some indifferent rags from the wardrobe department, but my own suit which only last Sunday I had worn to lunch at the Adlon! Josephine hooked up my skirt, I slipped the blouse over my head and went on the set feeling as hopelessly defiled as my clothes.

Louise’s anguish in this scene translates into Lulu’s most vulnerable and, ultimately, redemptive scene when on the brink of death at the hands of Jack the Ripper.  Lulu offers herself entirely without affectation, without the coy flirtation that colors her previous history with both men and women alike.  Jack is without his knife, and Lulu is unable to advertise her sexuality.  They are reduced to the basest form of humanity — mere survival — but offer each other a sympathy and understanding they are unable to find elsewhere.


Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Three

Posted in DVD with tags , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by leclisse

Fresh from the TCM archives is a third installment in the Forbidden Hollywood Collection.  This time, the set includes five films from the vaults of Warner Brothers and one from MGM.  They are all directed by the often overlooked William Wellman, who excelled in an exquisitely gritty realism.  The list of films in this volume are as follows:

Other Men’s Women (1931), starring Mary Astor, James Cagney and Joan Blondell (both in supporting roles).
The Purchase Price (1932), starring Barbara Stanwyck and George Brent.
Frisco Jenny (1932), starring Ruth Chatterton.
Wild Boys of the Road (1933), starring Frankie Darro and Edwin Phillips.
Heroes for Sale (1933), starring Richard Barthelmess and Loretta Young.
Midnight Mary (1933), starring Loretta Young and Franchot Tone.

It doesn’t look like this set is even for sale yet on the TCM web site, so details on the special features will be forthcoming.  I have not seen any of these films yet, so I am eagerly anticipating this release.  Based on the excellence of the previous two volumes, I have no doubt that this one will be just as fine.  The cover even features a coy Joan Blondell:


The 2009 Academy Awards

Posted in Awards with tags , , , on February 23, 2009 by leclisse

This is the first year I have actually made a point of watching the entire broadcast of the Academy Awards, largely due to the fact that I have seen more nominated films this year than I have during any other season.  And like any other official award ceremony, I have mixed feelings about who won and (obviously) who did not.

Man on Wire‘s win for Best Documentary was probably the most gratifying win for me, because I loved this movie.  I haven’t seen any of the other nominees, but I can’t imagine that they would succeed in outshining one of the best documentary feature films I have ever seen.  James Marsh’s poignant telling of Frenchman Philipe Petit’s quest to tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers in 1974 was all at once enchanting, harrowing, and incredible:


The film’s tagline is an apt summation: 1974. 1350 feet up. The artistic crime of the century.

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Night Owl

Posted in eBay with tags on February 22, 2009 by leclisse

I’m not an insomniac, but occasionally sleeplessness will pay me a visit.  And what better way to spend my time as a night owl but on the internet, browsing eBay to the tune of “History Detectives” on my local PBS station.

I’ve always loved Jean Seberg’s style in A Bout de Souffle (1959), from her pedal pushers and New York Herald Tribune t-shirt down (or should I say up?) to her pixie hair cut. Speaking of New York Herald Tribune t-shirts, I found one on eBay several days ago and couldn’t do anything but swoon:


I also swooned at the price ($13 for shipping?  I know it’s from Spain, but give me a break).  As much as I would be delighted to purchase such an homage to Jean, $32 is just too much for a t-shirt.

Marquette University Foreign Film Festival

Posted in Festivals with tags , , on February 21, 2009 by leclisse

Marquette University’s festival of foreign films returns for another year, beginning on Saturday, February 28 and concluding on Thursday, March 5.  I admit I had not paid much attention to this film festival in previous years, but the lineup this time has caught my attention.

Inaugerating Sunday’s (March 1) succession of features is Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960).  I actually missed this one on my first reading of the schedule because it was listed by its English translation, The Adventure.  I saw this film several years ago, and have consistently meant to but failed to view it a second time.  This sad state of affairs is only due to my failure to check out the DVD from the library.  Regardless, the beauty of  L’Avventura has stayed with me despite my neglect.  Monica Vitti says more with her prolonged gazes of melancholia than is expressed through the film’s intermittent dialogue:

Monica Vitti in LAvventura (1960)

Monica Vitti in L'Avventura (1960)

Thinking of her now has me wondering why I have not looked into more of what Italian cinema has to offer.

Following L’Avventura is Fritz Lang’s haunting M (1931), which is yet another film I saw only once and to which I have not returned.  Not yet, anyway.  Also of note are Persepolis (2007) Battleship Potemkin (1925) on February 28, Rashomon (1985) on March 3, In the Mood for Love (2002) on March 4, and The Seventh Seal (1957) on March 5.  I’m not sure how many showings I will be able to attend, but I’ll see what I can do.

For a complete schedule, visit the official web site.