Monday, June 11, 2007

June 11th Log

1947, Raoul Walsh, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Raoul Walsh is a well known Hollywood filmmaker who stands as a memorable icon for his tough-guy films (notably gangsters and westerns). Walsh started out as an actor and an assistant to D.W. Griffith during the silent era. While filming his 1928 film In Old Arizona, Walsh lost his eye. This ended his career as an actor and also lead to his well-known eye patch that he become legendary for wearing. Though never nominated for an Oscar, Walsh’s career as a director spans over 50 years and many of his films are now regarded as classics. Walsh was a master of narrative pacing and it is perhaps the critical factor that makes his films so wonderful and timeless even today. Walsh was also a master at masking genres. His 1947 film Pursued is no exception as it seems to be masked with genres of western, romance, and family melodrama. The film begins at the scene of the climax and is told as a flashback. What emerges is a purely psychological film that takes on layers of philosophical depths. Pursued is a film I imagine gaining value over repeat viewings. Through moody visuals and musical score (by the great Max Steiner), strong performances by leads Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wright, and expressive direction by Walsh Pursued is a rare noirish psychological western.

1958, Alfred Hitchcock, United States
Repeat Viewing, Encore

Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is a brilliant, thrilling, masterpiece that misleads you every step of the way. It's a film that gets better with every viewing, as you can get a new perspective each time. I think Vertigo is Hitchcock's most artistic and ultimately among his best films (alongside Rear Window and Notorious). Sure Hitchcock has made some brilliant films, but I think none have the depth that Vertigo does. Vertigo is an examination of desire and it's about how what we often think of romantic love can truly be selfish emotion. I'm most fascinated with the films study of Scottie's (played to perfection by James Stewart) relationships to Madeleine and Midge, who is the opposite of Madeleine. Midge is real, Madeleine is not. Scottie is obsessed with Madeleine; her mysteries, her beauty, who wouldn't want her? While Midge is available, loving, honest, but plain and unexciting. She'sthe kind of women you don't look twice at. It's really interesting psychology about the male psyche. If nothing else, master composer Bernard Hermann and the film's final image are sure to move you. The visual aspects of the film are astonishing (the endless use of profile shots, the passionate green lighting effects glaring through the window, the Golden Gate Bridge, the final shot, etc, etc). Vertigo is an amazing masterpiece that's one of the most important films in American cinema history, by one of the most influential filmmakers.


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