Monday, June 18, 2007

June 18th Log

1944, Howard Hawks, United States
Repeat Viewing, Theater

Seeing this film on the big screen in 35mm print was a real treat!!! Hawks, Bogart, and Bacall. What a classic Hollywood trio! Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were two of the greatest on-screen actor/actress duos of all-time. Their chemistry was pitch-perfect, and each had the ability to stand out. Together they starred in four films, two of which were directed by American pioneer filmmaker Howard Hawks. The very first of these collaborations came in 1944, with To Have and Have Not. This was Bacall's debut performance, and she shines. Obviously the film owes it influence to the masterpiece, Casablanca, which may be the more celebrated film but doesn't discredited this effort. There are moments and dialogue of pure brilliance ("You know how to whistle, don’t you?”). The strength unquestionably lies in the on-screen chemistry of it's legendary performers. Also, To Have and Have Not is joyous and lovable entertainment of beautiful and brilliant filmmaking, acting and writing. Of course the famous rumor that surrounds the history of the film is that Hawks and Ernest Hemingway had a bet that Hawks could not make a successful film of Hemingways worst novel. If this rumor is true, Hemingway certainly owed Hawks money! Hawks direction is flawless and the film has a true emotional and artistic depth. The ending is truly classic! Beautiful and simple, yet absolutely perfect (Bacall's expression at the ending is an unforgettable image!). Bogart, Bacall, and Hawks would reteam two years later with an equally brilliant collaboration, The Big Sleep, which may be the definitive Bogart-Bacall picture! To Have and Have Not should not be forgotten for the classic film it remains, as well as the beginning of a golden screen couple. "Hey slim, are you still happy? What do you think."

1935, King Vidor, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

The Wedding Night is a wonderful film. One that sets itself apart from both its period and its genre. Directed by the always expressive King Vidor, The Wedding Night never relies on sentiment or melodrama and the result is a film that is beautifully and emotionally realized. The underlying theme is the contrast of lifestyles and this is expressed both in nationality (American and European) as well as environment (city living and country living). Gary Cooper is not at his best as the lead, but he doesn’t have to be. Vidor’s direction and thematic texture and characterization really drive the force of the film. I had never seen Anna Sten before, but she is wonderful as the daughter of a Polish farmer whom Cooper falls in love with. It is said that Cooper did not get along with Sten on the set, but it never shows on screen as they have great chemistry together. Unfortunately Sten never made another film at MGM and in fact made very few films afterwards. Shot with glorious deep-focus cinematography by the great Gregg Toland, The Wedding Night handles its complicated relationships with honesty and appreciation. In the end the film becomes a tragic one without condensation or even closure. The final shot is beautifully lyrical. I would consider The Wedding Night one of King Vidor’s best films!


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