Sunday, March 18, 2007

March 18th Log

1952, Anthony Mann, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

That kind can't change. When an apple's rotten, there's nothing you can do except throw it away or it will spoil the whole barrel…. Well, there's a difference between men and apples.” After the success of the classic 1950 film Winchester ’73, Anthony Mann re-collaborated with screenwriter Borden Chase and lead actor James Stewart for this 1952 film, which was shot in Technicolor. Of course, this marked the second of eight films Mann made with Stewart (five of which were westerns). While I think their next collaboration, 1953’s The Naked Spur, was their greatest masterpiece, Bend of the River deserves mention among Mann and Stewart’s finest achievements. As such it belongs mention among the very best American westerns ever made. Many of the psychological and obsessive characteristic traits of the Mann westerns are evident here and Stewart once again gives an incredibly complex performance to heighten the depth of the emotion layers. At the core of the film is greed and the destruction that is caused through greedy desire. The film observes this among other complex psychological elements, notably through it’s lead character: Glyn McLyntock (played by Stewart), a mysterious man with a troubled past that he is trying to forget as he helps guide a group of settlers looking for new farming life in open hills of Oregon. Throughout the film McLyntock seems to be convincing himself he has changed and his criminal past is behind him. He wonders or hopes the framers will accept and appreciate him, but he hesitates to tell them of his past. Through flawless performance, characterization and directing, Mann pours on the psychological depths as well as the overall mood and landscape of the atmosphere. Mann has complete control over the direction and he creates a film that is emotionally layered, while also a very thrilling one of action and humor. Bend of the River is beautifully paced and Stewart’s performance is aided by a strong supporting cast (notably Arthur Kennedy as the other troubled gunman, and Julia Adams as the woman who wins his heart). Bend of the River is best in its psychological examination of a mans struggle with himself and his past. Yet this film does have a plenty of pure excitement, suspense, and adventure to offer. A highly recommended classic of American filmmaking.

1999, Paul Thomas Anderson, United States

Repeat Viewing, Independent Film Channel

When I saw this was coming on the Independent Film Channel I decided to start watching… and of course I ended up watching the entire film! How can I not? Magnolia is such an engrossing film, and by the end you are left with no idea that its running time is over three hours long, because it feels as though it flies by. This is undoubtedly one of my personal all-time favorite films from a filmmaker I consider the best in contemporary American film. PT Anderson was a close friend of Robert Altman, who hired him as assistant director on the set of Prairie Home Companion. The influence of Altman is obvious and perhaps working with him on that film became as moment of the passing torch. Magnolia is a brilliant film that only gets better with repeat viewings, and as Anderson’s career emerges it’s importance and status as a landmark will increase. After four incredible feature films, Anderson’s auteur significance has already become evident. Each of his four films stand apart yet there is a cinematic distinct style and narrative themes that seem to strongly connect each of them to the filmmaker, which at its most basic core is family or human relationships and loneliness. Within the loneliness and human relationship is Anderson’s use of compositions, colors, camera work, metaphoric objects and sound to express the emotions and feelings of the film and more importantly of the characters. Another prominent factor of his films are uncontrollable forces within them that are connected with coincidence and chance, and of course this is most obvious in the weather in Magnolia. But the greatest uncontrollable force that is evident in every Anderson film is the past, which is often the cause of loneliness or of failed human relationships. As such Anderson’s characters disregard or lie about the past, and even in some cases will form new relationships, new families, or even new names and identities. Anderson’s films examine the importance of the past as a form of determining the future. Centering on individuality, insecurity, loneliness, and substitute families, the human relationships struggle with the past and it’s affect on the future. I think one of the great gifts of Anderson as a filmmaker is his ability to risk the narrative structure of the film without conforming to boundaries. He captures the essence of human emotions and behavior and presents it in a way that is both real and yet unlike anything we’ve seen or even expect to see in a film. His films can be equally sad, funny, exciting, and hopeful at the same time. Magnolia closes with a moment full of hope as Claudia smiles into the camera just as it cuts to black and the closing credits. Magnolia is a masterpiece and one that I view differently every time I see it, which I hope will continue to be many more times throughout my lifetime.


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