Archive for May 2010

Eating my vegetables #5: Gone with the Wind

May 28, 2010

I had to watch Victor Flemming’s classic Gone With the Wind over two days because I somehow failed to understand that the film was almost four hours long. And I’ll be damned – it’s no doubt a story to warrant such an uber-epic length! A film so big, bold and melodramatic, I have to give it props for living up to it’s larger than life reputation. It is truly a grand story of the landed gentry of the Old South during the last half of the 19th century: the deprivations and carnage of the Civil War, the humbling squalor of Reconstruction and, of course, the deathless story of a love quadrangle throughout all those many years. By far the greatest thing about this film is the end: the dashing and rakish Rhett Butler, having finally and fully succumbed to Scarlett’s flighty and manipulative charms, fully realizes that his wife is a total bitch and deserves misery and longing for the rest of her miserable and immature life and walks out on her once and for all (appropriately just as the pragmatically scheming Scarlett finally realizes her life-long crush, the feminine and weak-willed Ashley Wilkes will never reciprocate the school-girl crush she’s harbored for twenty years!)

Continuing my post-modern PC analysis of the classics of American cinema, this one was a doozy! Slaves (even put upon field hands) betray absolutely zero resentment of their masters. A wife is raped by her drunken husband and, the next morning, glows as if she just spent the night discovering the joys of a new vibrator. But, good lord, does the camera just about swoon whenever Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable embrace? And great balls of fire do I love that a film ostensibly revolving around a love story has such an incredibly unhappy ending!


Eating my vegetables #4: Strangers on a Train

May 28, 2010

One of the greatest things about expanding your classic film palette is when you discover the films that other, more contemporary films you enjoyed as a child or young adult, riff on or pay homage to. In the case of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, it’s modern tributes include Woody Allen’s 00’s return to form Match Point (see semi-pro tennis players involved in sticky murder plots) and, most hilariously and most obviously, Danny DeVito’s 1980’s Saturday afternoon network TV movie Throw Momma From the Train.

I found Hitchcock’s original to be a most effectively twisty and crafty thriller (for this a great debt, no doubt, is owed to co-screen writer Dashiell Hammett.) Robert Walker is especially effective as Bruno Anthony – a man whose homicidal and delusional derangements result in him murdering another man’s wife in what he thinks is a double-murder pact designed to get rid of his overbearing father. Looked at from the lofty, PC perch of the 20th century his performance is sort of offensive: he’s clearly played as at least vaguely homosexual (and thus, to 1950s eyes extra mentally ill and scary!)

Hitchcock’s eye for set pieces is in fine form here. Indelible images include the shadows of the killer that, disembodied from any visible person, seem to stalk and overtake the victim in an amusement park tunnel of love and the dénouement in which a horrific collapse of a broken merry-go-round metaphorically mirrors Bruno’s utter loss of his psychological faculties. I also especially loved the performance of the director’s daughter Patricia Hitchcock as the bluntly and hilariously honest yet kind hearted doppelganger of the murdered woman who sets Bruno into a homicidal trance.