Blog Directory CineVerse: 2017

Arranged marriages only work in the movies...or do they?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

On December 13, CineVerse will showcase “Sweet Land” (2005; 110 minutes), directed by Ali Selim, chosen by Peggy Quinn.

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A tale of 5 sisters

Thursday, December 7, 2017

There's a haunting visual lyricism and nonverbal poetic beauty infused in Sofia Coppola's "The Virgin Suicides" that helps this film rise above your standard crop of coming-of-age movies about the challenges of adolescence. It's striking how the narrative skips and jumps around the collective memories of the boys telling the story, often providing short and incomplete portions of a scene or shot that would likely have been fleshed out by other filmmakers with more exposition and detail. The effect, like an impressionistic painter, is to provide just enough of a glimpse at a moment in time for the viewer to figure things out for themselves about a character or situation. Instead of taking the audience from A to B to C to D, "The Virgin Suicides" often goes right from A to D, forcing the viewer to figure out what happened in between on their own. That can be challenging and frustrating for some, but rewarding for others who like to come to their own conclusions about the story and the people that populate it. There was a lot to discuss during last night's review of this film. Here are the points most noteworthy:

WHAT DID YOU FIND INTERESTING OR UNEXPECTED ABOUT THIS PICTURE?

  • It’s directed by a woman but told from the point of view of males – consider that the original novel was written by a man and concerns the nostalgia men feel for females they felt were out of their leak or unattainable when they were younger. Coppola has intuitive sensibilities that aren’t limited by her gender, and she seems tap truthfully into the feelings of awkward teenage boys. 
    • Salon reviewer Stephanie Zacharek wrote: “In the old days, you might have said those girls were imprisoned in the male gaze. But Coppola's picture is completely nonjudgmental about the narrators' love for the Lisbon girls…The picture has a feminine sensibility in terms of its dreamy languor, the pearlescent glow that hovers around it like a nimbus.” 
  • The point of view is detached and distanced, coming from the males who put the Lisbon girls on a worshipful pedestal; hence, many questions remain unanswered and the reasons why the girls chose to kill themselves remain enigmatic and mysterious. This is more of an open-ended film with unresolved issues and unanswered character motivations; but these loose ends are fitting, considering that we’re getting the testimony of boys who didn’t know the girls very well and are reminiscing them through the sentimental but subjective lens of their observations. 
    • This film isn’t preoccupied with solving the mystery of why the girls committed suicide and answering every practical question; instead it’s concerned with reminiscing, reflecting, and romanticizing the past. 
  • Despite its ominous title and somber subject matter, the movie isn’t too depressing or emotionally overwhelming. It’s arguably infused with a feel-good visual poetry and enough smile-worthy moments to keep viewers from feeling the blues throughout. 
  • "The Virgin Suicides” is also ineffective period piece that harkens sentimentally to a bygone era and a time when teenage love was likely felt and treated differently than today. 
WHAT THEMES ARE EXAMINED IN THIS MOVIE?
  • The conflict between internal and external forces. In an essay for The Dissolve, Genevieve Koski wrote: “All of Coppola’s films reveal themselves as being about characters seeking a balance between their inner and outer lives.” 
  • Isolation and alienation. 
  • Inner and outer reflection, as exemplified by the motif of reflective images via glass or windows. 
  • “Material possessions as signifiers of an internal life,” according to Koski. “The various baubles and trinkets populating (Coppola’s) films become outward signifiers of an internal emptiness of some kind or another.” Some of these material possessions include photos, makeup, candles, bras, tennis shoes and other artifacts. 
  • An American preoccupation with happiness, keeping up appearances, and maintaining the status quo. Consider how Mr. Lisbon is focused on the TV baseball game when the priest visits to console the family over the suicide of their daughter. 
  • How memory fades and decays over time. 
  • How ordinary, mundane life can be horrific. 
  • The inability to look beyond the surface: the boys infatuated with the Lisbon sisters limit their feelings and experiences to what they can see. 
OTHER FILMS THAT REMIND US OF THE VIRGIN SUICIDES:
  • Ordinary People 
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock 
  • Carrie 
  • Stand By Me 
  • My Summer of Love 
  • Girl, Interrupted 
  • Prozac Nation 
  • American Beauty 
OTHER FILMS BY SOFIA COPPOLA:
  • Lost in Translation 
  • Marie Antoinette 
  • Somewhere 
  • The Bling Ring 
  • The Beguiled

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Talent runs in the Coppola family

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Make a date with CineVerse on December 6: “The Virgin Suicides” (1999; 97 minutes), directed by Sofia Coppola (daughter of Francis Ford Coppola), chosen by Farrell McNulty, will be on the menu. Plus: enjoy a trailer reel highlighting Coppola’s major works.

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The curious case of Benjamin Braddock

Thursday, November 30, 2017

There's a reason why "The Graduate" ranks at #17 on the American Film Institute's list of top 100 American films: it's a masterwork. And it's now 50 years old, believe it or not. All the more reason to celebrate a movie that, while firmly entrenched in its time period, continues to resonate five decades later. Why? Because non-conformity, rebellion, alienation and the confusion of young adulthood are themes that never go out of style. There was a lot to unpack during last night's CineVerse discussion of this movie. Here's a roundup of what was on the talk menu:

HOW WAS THIS MOVIE GROUNDBREAKING?

  • It was the first to employ “preexistent pop music to convey mood and texture,” according to Slant Magazine.
  • It’s compositions were highly influential, using multiple characters creatively spaced together or apart in the same frame as well as clever deep focus photography to draw contrasts between characters and objects in the foreground, middle ground and background.
  • It was uncommon to use a handheld camera at this time; yet The Graduate often did, conveying great subjective POV shots and you-are-there type movements to bring us into Ben’s world.
  • It’s one of the first American films to use sound foreshadowing, where we start to hear dialogue or sound effects from the next scene but played at the end of the previous scene.
  • It adopted innovative editing approaches inspired by the French New Wave, including jump cuts, temporal cross-cutting, and flash frames (of nudity, a year before the “R” and “X” movie ratings were instituted).
  • It tapped into a growing discontent among youth and their feeling of being misunderstood and hedged in; it sympathized with the growing counterculture. It also felt topical, relevant and contemporary, yet refrained from mentioning anything contemporary, like news stories, events or movements going on in 1967.
THIS FILM IS REPLETE WITH VISUAL AND AUDITORY SYMBOLISM. CAN YOU CITE EXAMPLES?
  • The moving walkway: We see Ben standing still on a travellator at the airport. “What this stationery movement, perhaps, implies is the unwillingness with which Benjamin’s life is projecting him forward…behind him is a stark white wall whose color serves as motif for expressing Benjamin’s—and eventually other characters’—bleak and lifeless state of mind,” wrote blogger Abhineet Kumar.
  • Announcements from the airport loudspeaker: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are descending into Los Angeles,” is an inside joke, suggesting the vapid, plastic culture endemic to the city’s culture. “Please stay to the right” can be interpreted politically, as if the forces in Ben’s world were trying to herd him into a conservative Republican WASP mindset.
  • An off-centered character: Ben is rarely seen centered in the middle of the frame in the first half of the picture; he’s typically on the right side of the frame. We see him centered more in the frame after he falls in love with Elaine, as if to suggest that she has created balance in his life.
  • The scuba diver: We first see a scuba diver figure in Ben’s aquarium, motionless, small and submerged. Soon, Ben mimics the scuba diver in his pool, pushed down and suffocated figuratively by his parents. Next, Mrs. Robinson throws her keys into the aquarium, which lands atop the scuba diver figure. This suggests that the scuba diver is the “key” to understanding the movie.
  • Fish in the aquarium: they appear to be mindlessly moving about with a focused direction or purpose, at least from Ben’s point of view.
  • Claustrophobic shots: Recall images where Ben’s mother, father, and later their guests appear to be dominating the frame and crowding into Ben’s field of view, insinuating a suffocating, imposing and oppressive intrusion from unwanted outsiders.
  • “Plastics”: A word that suggests a synthetic, non-natural, artificial and false state of being.
  • Vacant, blank or empty backgrounds. Slant Magazine reviewer Budd Wilkins wrote: “Benjamin is consistently framed in angsty isolation against blank backgrounds—white voids in the plane and airport, the watery azures of fish tank and swimming pool—using the widescreen Panavision frame to pin him in place like an entomologist’s latest specimen.”
  • Black and white stripes: We first see them in Ben’s bedroom wallpaper, implying jail bars. Later, we see that his family has an awning in this pattern.
  • A predator in the jungle: Think about how Mrs. Robinson is wearing leopard print clothing and is juxtaposed with foliage, as if she were a hungry big cat stalking her prey in the bush.
  • Caged animals: We see Ben watching zoo monkeys embracing in a cage, an unnatural setting to them that provides no meaningful existence. Likewise, Ben feels caged by mom and dad and questions his purpose. 
  • The church crucifix: Ben and Elaine use it to lock the wedding party into the church, implying that these young, free spirits will use the older generation’s religious trappings to box them into the confined lives they’ve created.
WHAT IS THIS MOVIE TRYING TO TELL US?
  • It’s hard to escape the preset paths that our parents and society try to force us to follow.
  • The transition to adulthood is a slow, pathetic march to mundaneness, conformity, and empty values. 
  • Salvation lies in nonconformity. Director Mike Nichols said in an interview that this film was about “a boy who was drowning in things, in objects, in affluence, fighting, and then finding there’s no way he could fight his way out of it except madness. And madness was what he found to save him.”
  • Yet, we’re probably predestined to turn out like our parents or the previous generation; if you rebel or resist, there’s no guarantee of happiness—consider the expression on Ben and Elaine’s faces in the final shot, as they head into an uncertain future. Even with their escape, Ben and Elaine are likely to repeat the mistakes their parents made, perhaps with Ben or Elaine becoming a philandering Mr. or Mrs. Robinson years down the road.
  • We’re mostly alone in this world; think about how alienated Ben is, despite being surrounded by many people. Consider what the compositions suggest, often showing Ben separated from characters or isolated in the shot; even the final shot on the bus shows Ben sitting relatively far away from Elaine.
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY MIKE NICHOLS:
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Catch-22
  • Carnal Knowledge
  • Silkwood
  • Postcards from the Edge
  • Working Girl
  • The Birdcage
  • Angels in America
  • Charlie Wilson’s War

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A movie that's still trying to seduce you

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Cineversary returns to CineVerse on November 29, when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of “The Graduate” (1967; 106 minutes), directed by Mike Nichols, chosen by Larry Leipart.

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No CineVerse meeting on Nov. 22

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, CineVerse will not meet on Wednesday, Nov. 22. We will reconvene on Nov. 29.

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Moon River memories

Thursday, November 16, 2017

There's a reason why "Breakfast at Tiffany's" continues to be cherished all these years later – it idealizes the pairing of romantic opposites in a sentimentalized big city and perpetuates the "and they lived happily ever after" storybook myth that adults and children alike love. It's also a handsomely directed, beautifully scored time capsule espousing early 1960s values and imbued with eye-catching fashionista visuals and values that can lure in even the country bumpkin viewers. Here's the official CineVerse assessment of this movie:

WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS 56 YEARS LATER?

  • The film is associated with style, wardrobe and the New York fashion scene: it made the little black dress popular. 
  • New York is like a character in the story – the movie romanticizes the city and some of its popular destinations: 
  • It’s a mythologized, sanitized Big Apple: the mobsters are nice and kind, people do live happily ever after, etc.; the whole film feels like a fantasy, a surreal vision or a dream. 
  • We care about the character of Holly Golightly: she appears very superficial, materialistic and shallow, but she’s actually a “real phony” who has ensconced herself with bright, shiny, expensive things to hide her pain and fear. 
  • There’s good chemistry between Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard and well-written dialogue sourced from a Truman Capote novel. 
  • It’s a simple story, but effective, touching on themes of unrequited love, unfulfilled dreams, and the sacrificing of love and romance for pragmatism and security. 
WHAT ARE THE VALUES AND ETHICS ESPOUSED IN BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, ESPECIALLY REGARDING LOVE, HAPPINESS AND FEMINISM?
  • There is a focus on romantic, idealized love—fantasy wish fulfillment is the ultimate goal. Paul subscribes to this theory, and eventually convinces Holly of its virtues and his love for her. 
  • In this way, Holly is a wild thing that Paul needs to tame for her own good. 
  • Consider how Holly and Paul represent different animals – Holly exemplifies a wild cat, climbing fire escapes with feline grace, wearing fur, owning a pet cat, wearing a cat mask, etc.; Paul wears the mask of a dog and exhibits the loyal qualities of a canine companion. 
  • These animal alter egos play into a theme at work here, that of disguises and aliases to mask one’s true self – consider how Holly and Paul each have alternate names (Lulamae and Fred, respectively). 
  • There are other references to animals in the film, including rats and super rats, bulls, and horses. 
  • The suggested implication here is that the woman must become subservient to her pursuer’s passion and desire for her to truly achieve happiness. 
  • Before her surrender to Paul at the end, Holly is willing to sacrifice romance and love for security, pragmatic concerns and to prevent getting hurt. 
  • The moral to the story? Take a chance on love; it’s worth the risk of possibly getting your heart broken. 
  • Another moral: life is like a box of Cracker Jack – there’s a surprise in every box, and you never know what you’re going to get. Paul gets a cheap ring that he offers to Holly as a pledge of his love.
HOW IS THE ISSUE OF PROSTITUTION DEALT WITH IN THIS FILM?
  • Holly’s original character in Capote’s story is an upscale prostitute; in the screenplay, she prostitutes herself in a nonsexual way, serving as a $50-a-night escort. 
  • Paul is insinuated as a gigolo who sleeps with a married woman who pays him generously for sex. He’s the inverse of the “kept woman” character. 
  • The film sentimentalizes prostitution, glossing over a deep social problem. 
  • It’s interesting that this film pasteurizes the reality of being a hooker, when other films of the time, Butterfield 8 and The Apartment, were more frank and direct in their sexual contexts. 
  • Hepburn, it could be argued, wasn’t as willing to take a risk with her screen personality than actresses like Shirley McLaine and Elizabeth Taylor; she was also more of an introvert now being asked to play an extrovert.
THE CARICATURED PERFORMANCE OF MICKEY ROONEY AS AN ASIAN IS OFTEN CHIDED AS THE MOVIE’S GREATEST FLAW. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THIS DATED, STEREOTYPE-INFUSED CHARACTER?
  • It may have been funny in 1961, but many consider it terribly insensitive by today’s standards. 
  • It’s doubly offensive in that this character is played by a Caucasian, the equivalent of a white man in blackface exaggeratedly acting like an African American.
OTHER FILMS BY BLAKE EDWARDS
  • Experiment in Terror 
  • Days of Wine and Roses 
  • The Pink Panther and many sequels 
  • 10 Victor Victoria

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Back when Hepburn was all the hype

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Circle November 15 on your calendar; that's the date that CineVerse will feature “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961; 115 minutes), directed by Blake Edwards, chosen by Nick Guiffre.

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Time + tension = Western thrills

Thursday, November 9, 2017

"3:10 to Yuma" certainly owes a debt to its genre predecessor "High Noon." The latter set the template for higher-tension Western drama driven by the ticking down of a clock, the theme of a man abandoned by his community and doomed to go it alone against insurmountable odds, and a plaintive theme song that gets repeated throughout the movie. Yet the former stands on its own as a distinctive genre outing that presents a riveting test of wills between two very different men – a conflict that could have been transplanted to a modern setting or other genre, such as film noir.

After parsing through this picture last evening, our CineVerse group came to the following conclusions:

WHAT STUCK WITH YOU ABOUT THIS FILM THAT YOU PERHAPS DIDN’T SEE COMING?

  • While it features the visual iconography of a classic Western, it arguably feels more like a suspense thriller, psychological drama, or even film noir. Consider that this story could have been set in a modern, urban landscape. 
  • Wade isn’t your stock villain: he’s complex and somewhat unpredictable; on one hand, Wade is an outlaw capable of violence and lawbreaking, yet he has a roguish charm and capacity for civility. Criterion Collection essayist Kent Jones wrote about Wade: he’s a “charming outlaw who shoots down two men, including one of his own, and doesn’t even stop for a breath; who is prone to romantic reveries and expressions of tenderness; who shifts in the blink of an eye from the affable to the mercenary and back again…a remorse­less murderer with a capacity for awe. Critic David Thomson has complained that the film suffers from Ford’s “inability to be nasty,” but that is pretty much the point: goodness and mercy often arrive unannounced in this film, and come as a surprise even to those who bestow them.” 
    • Glenn Ford is playing against type here, as he was often cast as the good guy in so many pictures before this. 
  • The film is shot in black and white during a period when virtually all Westerns were made in color. It was also filmed on location in Arizona, not on some Hollywood backlot made to look like an old Western setting. 
    • Per Rob Nixon of Turner Classic Movies, “the exterior sequences are also very striking; Daves used red filters to give a heightened, harsher sense of a land ravaged by drought, and sets the action against homesteads and towns whose almost barren physicality and less-than-upright citizenry place them at the edge of civilization, a narrative space well suited to the story's ambiguities and tensions.” 
  • Also different from previous Westerns, this one isn’t a traditional white hat/black hat moral parable that espouses conventional values endemic to this genre, such as living by a code of honor and displaying the heroic traits of rugged individualism. “3:10 to Yuma” is a tale with a contemporary feel about two flawed and contrasting characters trying to do what’s in their respective best interests. 
  • The original tale was written by crime fiction novelist Elmore Leonard, famous author of “Out of Sight,” “Get Shorty,” and “Rum Punch.” Perhaps that’s what helps him view it with a noir-ish vibe.
THEMES EXPLORED IN 310 TO YUMA:
  • Mann’s internal struggle between doing what’s right and honest and taking the easy way out for personal gain or increased odds of survival. 
  • Slant Magazine reviewer Chuck Bolan believed this film was a “study in masculinity that dramatizes a man’s struggle to balance the needs of his community – or in this case, his family – with his personal needs as an individual.” 
  • A battle of wills between two very different men – one who is insecure, frustrated and stressed and the other who is self-confident, charismatic, calm and cool. 
  • The loneliness and hardship of life in the old West. 
  • Drought – literally and figuratively. The land is desperate for rain and Dan is desperate for money and security. 
OTHER MOVIES THIS FILM REMINDS US OF:
  • High Noon 
  • Shane 
  • The Hateful Eight 
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 
  • The Proposition 
  • The Rover 
OTHER FILMS BY DIRECTOR DELMER DAVES:
  • Broken Arrow 
  • Dark Passage 
  • Destination Tokyo
  • The Hanging Tree

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A western to set your watch to

Sunday, November 5, 2017

On November 8, CineVerse presents “3:10 to Yuma” (1957; 92 minutes), directed by Delmer Daves, chosen by Don McGoldrick. Plus: Partake in a movie trivia game for a chance to win DVD prizes from 7-7:40 p.m.

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Bank robber blues

Thursday, November 2, 2017

"Dog Day Afternoon" often plays as a comedy but ends as a tragedy, all the while ticking away as a fine psychological drama and mild thriller filled with fine performances and fascinating characters that were hallmarks of early 1970s cinema. The movie has a lot to say about the power of the media, sociocultural politics, LGBT awareness, and the deep state of mistrust and pessimism that pervaded our culture in the mid-1970s.

Here's a roundup of the major discussion points from our CineVerse meeting yesterday:

WHAT MAKES DOG DAY AFTERNOON STAND OUT FROM OTHER FILMS AND HOW WOULD IT HAVE BEEN BOLD AND DISTINCTIVE UPON ITS RELEASE IN 1975

  • It tackles the subject of a gay relationship with honesty and matter-of-factness.
  • There is no proper score written for the film, although it does feature a pop song by Elton John at the beginning. 
  • It employs an anti-authority theme that criticizes police brutality, the Watergate era, and the Vietnam war.
  • It explores the power of the media and the nature of the 15 minutes of fame axiom.
  • It has a very authentic feel, thanks to it being based on true story; consider that it’s shot on location in New York, uses natural lighting, and has a spontaneous, improvisational feel to it
HOW IS SONNY A WONDERFULLY INTERESTING STUDY IN CONTRADICTIONS?
  • He often seems to be in total control, then doesn’t have the slightest idea what to do next.
  • He’s the hero and the anti-hero of the film: you root for him, but he’s a criminal breaking the law.
  • He’s married with children yet is also married to a man.
  • He has a gay male partner and a straight male bank robber partner.
  • His greatest flaw is his compassion: he’s constantly trying to make things right for others, but things fail miserably when he does so.
  • He’s cheered on by the crowd for essentially breaking the law, yet rejected by many in that same crowd for being gay, which is not illegal.
HOW IS DOG DAY AFTERNOON SOMEWHAT LIKE SPIKE LEE’S “DO THE RIGHT THING?”
  • Both films take place in New York on one very hot summer day.
  • Both pictures end violently and tragically.
  • Both films leave us with no easy answers or straightforward morals to the story.
HOW DOES DOG DAY AFTERNOON TREAT THE SUBJECT OF HOMOSEXUALITY?
  • It doesn’t pander or resort to overplayed clichés or stereotypes. Ask yourself: did you suspect Sonny of being gay before it is revealed?
  • It shows the Sonny-Leon relationship objectively, fairly, treating it impartially; it’s given equal time compared to Sonny’s relationship with his wife.
ARE WOMEN GIVEN THE SHORT SHRIFT IN THIS FILM? WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT SOME OF THE FEMALE CHARACTERS?
  • It gives somewhat negative portrayals of Sonny’s mother and female wife. They seem to be shrill, unattractive, inattentive listeners and out of touch with his needs; some theorize that these qualities prompt Sonny to come out of the closet and prefer a gay relationship.
  • Yet, some of the women hostages are shown as strong and brave.
FILMS SIMILAR TO DOG DAY AFTERNOON:
  • John Q
  • Inside Man
  • Quick Change
  • The Town
  • Rabid Dogs
  • Hell or Highwater
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY SIDNEY LUMET
  • 12 Angry Men
  • Long Day’s Journey into Night
  • The Pawnbroker
  • Fail Safe
  • Serpico
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Network
  • The Verdict
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

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Sonny in the seventies

Sunday, October 29, 2017

CineVerse kicks off its new two-month schedule on November 1 with “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975; 125 minutes), directed by Sidney Lumet, chosen by Tess Stanisha.

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November-December CineVerse schedule hot off the presses

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Learn what's on the docket for November and December at CineVerse by viewing our new two-month calendar, available by clicking here.

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Horror with a generous helping of hilarity

Menace and mirth may seem like strange bedfellows, but a good horror film often features an ample touch of comedy. It helps relieve the tension viewers feel and can serve to put as at ease right before the filmmaker chooses to terrify us with a jump scare or sudden fright. A worthy example of a scary flick imbued with a wickedly funny sense of humor is "Creepshow." An autopsy of this picture revealed the following observations:

WHAT TOOK YOU BY SURPRISE, GOOD OR BAD, ABOUT THIS FILM?

  • It has a deliciously dark sense of humor that, while it may not buffer the violence, gore or gross-out shocks for those who are sensitive, makes the movie more satisfying and easier to swallow. 
  • It attempts the look, feel and spirit of old-time horror comic books, as evidenced by the animated titles and comic panel transitions between segments, the exaggerated colors, the clever episode titles, the split-screen compositions, the appropriately atmospheric and stylized score, and the choice to retell two tales first shared in the old EC Comics. 
    • Writer Slarek from CineOutsider wrote: “The stories in E.C. Horror Comics had a distinctive style. Usually brief and simple in structure, they were largely morality tales in which the wicked and greedy paid the price for their actions, often at the hands of those they had wronged. And in horror comics, killing someone wouldn't prevent them from coming back from the dead and dishing out an appropriately themed punishment. Sometimes events sent the central character on the road to madness or inadvertently brought about their own death or downfall, and many of the tales concluded with a satisfying sting.” 
  • It feels like it was made with love and care by those who love and care for the original source material. And this is true: the director is George Romero, the screenwriter/actor is Stephen King, and the special effects wizard is Tom Savini, and they’re paying tribute to the notorious EC Comics titles of their youth, such as “Tales From the Crypt” and “The Vault of Horror.” The animated sequences were also drawn by Jack Kamen, one of the original artists for EC Comics. This film wasn’t made by hacks and hired guns—it was crafted with TLC by true fans and legends of the horror genre. 
  • Each tale is distinctive and memorable in its own way, with some more humorous or violent or disgusting than others, and some longer than others. 
  • Like other memorable horror anthology films, this one features a wraparound story that bookends the movie: in this case, the mini-tale of a young boy getting revenge on his disciplinary father. 
  • We are often made to identify and sympathize with the murderers than the ones murdered. Consider how the daughter who murders her father was treated by him, or how henpecked and distracted the professor is made by his harpy-like wife. 
  • Creepshow features a pretty impressive cast for a B-horror movie, including Ed Harris, E.G. Marshall, Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook and Ted Danson. 
WHAT THEMES RUN CONCURRENT THROUGH SOME OF ALL OF THESE STORIES IN CREEPSHOW?
  • Poetic justice. As Roger Ebert phrased it: “In an EC horror story, unspeakable things happened to people – but, for the most part, they deserved them.” 
  • A character with an Achilles heel or fatal flaw: For Bedelia, her flaw is loose lips and prideful boasting. For Jordy Verrill, it’s ignorant curiosity. For Richard Veckers, it’s his pretentious cleverness and twisted cruelty. For Upson Pratt, it’s his air of superiority, dictatorial demand for control and cleanliness, and desire to live in a bubble. 
  • Bigotry and segregation—these are the thinly veiled subtexts of the final episode, which features a man who looks down upon other humans as lesser creatures whom he tries to keep locked out of his private and sterile Eden. 
SIMILAR MOVIES THAT CREEPSHOW BRINGS TO MIND:
  • Tales From the Darkside: The Movie 
  • Trick r Treat 
  • Twilight Zone: The Movie 
  • Tales From the Crypt 
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY GEORGE ROMERO:
  • The Living Dead films, including Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead 
  • The Crazies 
  • Martin 
  • The Dark Half

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The most fun you'll ever have...being scared

Sunday, October 22, 2017

CineVerse's Shocktober Theater and our current Quick Theme Quartet concludes on October 25 with “Creepshow” (1982; 120 minutes), directed by George Romero. Plus: the “Meet Sam” episode from “Trick ’r Treat” (2007; 21 minutes)

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Far out tales from the Far East

Thursday, October 19, 2017

It doesn't boast much action. Its pace may be glacier slow for many Westerners. And many would scoff at categorizing it as a "horror film." But Masaki Kobayashi's "Kwaidan" is still considered one of the greatest of all horror anthology movies. On the strength of its unforgettable visuals alone, here is a picture that can leave a memorably macabre imprint and implant an unshakable feeling of foreboding doom and dread. After discussing the movie last evening during our CineVerse meetings, here were the major takeaways we concluded:

WHAT LEFT A STRONG IMPRESSION ON YOU ABOUT THIS FILM?

  • The stylized and artificial sets and colors; the filmmakers seem to be purposely trying to avoid realism and instead portray an exaggerated, expressionistic simulation of reality in which visuals and sound are hyperbolic manifestations of a particular character’s mindset or experience.
  • The craftsmanship evident is meticulous; this was the most costly Japanese movie to date; it was photographed nearly completely on hand-painted sets within a giant airplane hangar, providing a needed sense of vast scope that enabled the use of extreme widescreen (2.35:1) to portray extra wide compositions.
  • The soundtrack abandons traditional over-dramatic horror/mystery music, instead relying on outlandish instruments and objects to generate unsettling noises and music. Essayist Gwendolyn Foster wrote: “Toru Takemitsu’s bold and modern soundtrack, which deftly avoids the clichés of conventional film music…uses expressionist sounds, and bizarre instrumentation interspersed with sections of uneasy quiet and deliberately disarms the spectator, while simultaneously weaving a spell that draws the viewer further into Kobayashi’s colourful and highly stylized realm.”
  • The horror isn’t violent, graphic or traditionally shocking. Instead, it evokes an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere and a milieu in which the characters seem to be drifting between two states—the real world and the supernatural world, which often blend together. Foster further suggested: “Kwaidan is a film of nuance and restraint, despite the excesses of sound design and wildly stylized visuals. Kobayashi’s misc en scene is deliberate and proceeds with the assurance of dream-like logic, or the lack thereof. Kwaidan is a psychological horror film for those who are seeking an utterly immersive experience, in which the viewer is gradually seduced by the deeply saturated colour, the expressiveness of the seemingly vast hand built studio sets, and the sheer time factor. In its visual and thematic structure, Kwaidan is ultimately an expressionist fairy tale for adults, in which all is artifice, and yet at the same time mesmerizingly real.”
  • The film feels decidedly Eastern in its sensibilities, yet comprehensible to Westerners. Consider that the source material comes from Japanese folk tales reinterpreted by a westerner—Lafcaido Hearn, an Irish-Greek writer who lived in Japan—and was inspired by woodblock printmaking of the 17th century Edo period and Kabuki theater. Yet, the stories would fit right in with western-style anthology horror and thriller texts like The Twilight Zone.
WHAT THEMES ARE EVIDENT IN KWAIDAN?
  • Cosmic karma: how breaking your promise can come back to haunt you.
  • The dangers of venturing beyond the normal limits of safe reality. Criterion Collection essayist Geoffrey O’Brien wrote: “These are not tales that point to any obvious moral other than the danger of venturing, deliberately or by accident, beyond the invisible barriers that mark the limits of the human world. What lies beyond those barriers is the domain of supernatural terror, but it is also the domain of art. In Kwaidan, beauty is not decoration but a direct link to unknown and perilous realms.”
  • The terrifyingly cold and vast emptiness of the universe. “The three main stories of Kwaidan offer no escape. The gorgeousness of their painted skies and otherworldly color schemes, the transparent unreality of everything we see, all the bravura touches of stylization, only emphasize that one may travel to the farthest reaches of the imagination only to find at last a great and terrifying void,” noted O’Brien.
  • “Hauntedness as a state of Japanese existence,” according to Slant Magazine’s Carson Lund. “. Kobayashi’s gambit is to contextualize these hauntings in political terms, as reflections of deep-seated anxieties within Japan as a result of its strict moral codes…(the film) seems as much a cautionary message to Japanese audiences on the danger of following the mistakes of history.”
OTHER WORKS DIRECTED BY MASAKI KOBAYASHI:
  • Black River
  • The Human Condition I, II, and III
  • Harakiri
FILMS THAT KWAIDAN REMINDS US OF:
  • Suspiria, with its lavish and exaggerated color
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining, two Kubrick films that share a sense of cold, expansive and hermetic space

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A stir-fried helping of tasty Asian horror

Sunday, October 15, 2017

On October 18, three themes converge on CineVerse: World Cinema Wednesday, Shocktober Theater, and Quick Theme Quartet. Join us for “The Black Hair” and “The Woman of the Snow” episodes from “Kwaidan” (1964; 83 minutes), directed by Masaki Kobayashi. Plus: the “Nightmare at 20,000 feet” episode from “Twilight Zone: The Movie” (1983; 30 minutes) and a trailer reel preview of the November/December CineVerse schedule

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Terror times three

Thursday, October 12, 2017

It's not often you see Boris Karloff in a color horror film – especially one with garish hues and exaggerated chromatic tones like "Black Sabbath," perhaps director Mario Bava's finest hour (or should we say 90 minutes). If the funky colors – which predate the psychedelic era – and atmospheric lighting don't leave an impression, other unsettling visuals probably will. For a roundup of our CineVerse discussion points from last evening, read on.

WHAT STRUCK YOU AS DISTINCTIVE, UNEXPECTED OR RARE ABOUT THIS MOVIE?

  • The color photography and lighting design is especially memorable; we see deep and sometimes exaggerated colors that catch the eye. “Favoring bright primary hues, sets are bathed in washes of color that can only be called hallucinatory. Electric greens and crimson reds, steely blues and deep purples give the screen depth and character,” wrote reviewer Glenn Erickson.
  • Often, there are long stretches of little to no dialogue, allowing the story to unfold via pure visuals, unnerving sound effects, and strength of performance by the actor. Consider the last nine minutes of the third story, “A Drop of Water.”
  • Arguably, each story improves upon its predecessor, resulting in a film that gets better as it progresses. This is often true of horror anthology movies, which commonly save the best episodes for the conclusion.
  • This film presents a vampire tale that goes against the grain: introducing to many the disturbing concept of the “wurdulak,” an undead fiend that feasts on the blood of its loved ones.
  • The epilogue peels back the curtains on movie magic and shows us how the sausage is made in a humorous way.
  • This movie was memorable enough to inspire a major heavy metal band to name itself after it: Black Sabbath. 
  • The film stands as another example of giallo — “a lurid, colorful, perverse and blood-drenched brand of Italian horror”, as described by New York Times writer Andy Webster.
WHAT THEMES RUN AS UNDERCURRENTS IN ONE OR MORE OF THESE THREE EPISODES?
  • A person being alienated from their own home and attacked from within a would-be safe sanctuary; consider that two of the three stories occur completely or primarily inside a small apartment, with a female being besieged by a real or supernatural force.
  • The sins of greed and lust do not go unpunished: the nurse’s avarice and the prostitute’s seedy profession come back to haunt them.
  • Family ties can bind – An adherence to traditional family values and patriarchal respect can ironically destroy the entire clan. Erickson wrote: “the idea that family is a weakness against supernatural evil goes against conventional horror tradition, and is all the more disturbing for it.”
  • Revenge of the dead upon the living.
  • Personal and psychological horror can be more terrifying than a physical or supernatural manifestation. Director Mario Bava was once quoted as saying: “If I could, I would only tell these stories. What interests me is the fear experienced by a person alone in their room. It is then that everything around him starts to move menacingly around, and we realize that the only true 'monsters' are the ones we carry in ourselves. Alas, the marketplace demands terrible papier-mâché creatures, or the vampire with his sharp fangs, rising from his casket!"
WHAT OTHER FILMS, TELEVISION SHOWS, OR WORKS OF LITERATURE COME TO MIND AFTER WATCHING BLACK SABBATH?
  • Thriller, a TV show hosted by Boris Karloff
  • The Hammer horror films of the late 50s/early 60s, with their saturated colors, Gothic sets and costumes, and amped up sex and violence
  • Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY MARIO BAVA:
  • Black Sunday (also known as The Mask of Satan)
  • The Evil Eye
  • Five Dolls for an August Moon

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Cat scratch fever

Monday, October 9, 2017

You won't want to miss Cineversary on Thursday, October 12, at the Oak Lawn Library, from 6:30-8:45 p.m.. That's when we'll celebrate the 75th anniversary of “Cat People” (1942; 73 minutes), directed by Jacques Tourneur

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A movie so scary it inspired the name of the first heavy metal band

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Shocktober Theater and our current Quick Theme Quartet returns to CineVerse on October 11 with “Black Sabbath” (1963; 92 minutes), directed by Mario Bava. Plus: the “…And All Through the House” episode of “Tales From the Crypt” (1972; 11 minutes), and the “Amelia” episode from “Trilogy of Terror” (1975; 24 minutes)

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Tea, crumpets and ghost stories

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The granddaddy of all anthology horror films is arguably "Dead of Night," a lesser-known and rarely seen outing from Britain released in 1945. Martin Scorsese ranked this picture among his 11 scariest horror films of all time, and it places high on other reputable lists as well. Creaky in some spots, excessively padded in others, and certainly tame by today's Tinseltown terror standards, this film nonetheless gets under your skin – if you give it a chance. Among the major discussion topics at last evening's CineVerse meeting are the following:

WHAT DID YOU FIND CURIOUS, SURPRISING OR OUT OF THE ORDINARY ABOUT THIS FILM?

  • It varies in tone and style – some of the episodes are scarier than others, while at least one is downright humorous and may not fit tonally with the rest of the picture (the ghost golfing vignette). Interestingly, each story was helmed by a different director – with four in total. Arguably, that helps distinguish each episode from one another in terms of visuals, pacing, themes, and overall feel.
  • Anthology films in general can be risky: just as one bad apple can spoil the barrel, one lesser episode in an anthology can sour the rest of the movie for the audience. Then again, word-of-mouth about only one or two good episodes in an otherwise mediocre anthology horror film can be enough to keep it alive and resonant.
  • It’s surprisingly creepy and effective as a good horror movie, despite being released overseas in the mid-1940s. Remember that Britain was not known for horror pictures – in fact, between 1942 in 1945, the government barred the import and viewing of all H-rated pictures (meaning H for horror), likely due to the brutality of World War II and to keep morale and spirits up at home.
  • Dead of Night carries on the tradition of the classic English ghost story; it feels very British, yet appeals to Americans because we have an affinity for the English ghost story and famous writers of this genre, including Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, M.R. James, Henry James, and Algernon Blackwood.
  • It features a compelling circular wraparound story that serves as a framing device . The epilogue provides a twist ending that makes the viewer feel unsettled and helps the overall film resonate more with viewers.
  • This film apparently inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho; consider that Psycho uses mirrors in several scenes to depict a split personality or some off-screen menace that could come into view at any moment. Psycho also ends with a psychotic individual in custody and overwhelmed by the dominant side of his split personality – similar to Maxwell being capped in a sanitarium and talking in his ventriloquist dummy voice.
  • Speaking of Hitchcock, this movie brings back three memorable actors from the master of suspense’s last great film made in Britain: The Lady Vanishes – Michael Redgrave, and Naunton Wayne as Caldicott and Basil Radford as Charters; the latter two characters became a popular duo who starred in their own films after The Lady Vanishes, and the actors reappear here as similar characters.
  • Apparently, the film also influenced the Big Bang Theory. Writer Jez Connelly wrote: “Astronomer Royal Sir Fred Hoyle and his Cambridge colleagues Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold were inspired by a viewing of Dead of Night when formulating their pre-Big Bang ‘Steady State’ theory of the Cosmos. ‘My God! It’s a cosmology. Maybe there’s something in this cyclical cosmology’ wrote Hoyle in his diary after witnessing the film’s famously elliptical narrative, and so was born a theory explaining life, the Universe and everything based on a horror film about one man’s never-ending nightmare.”
  • Lastly, this film is memorable for attempting something rare, especially for an older film: allowing the twist to play out while the end credits roll. That’s risky, considering that some viewers may walk out or turn off the movie as soon as they see the first credit text appear.
MANY CONSIDER THE VENTRILOQUIST DUMMY FINALE EPISODE TO BE THE FILM’S STRONGEST CHAPTER. IF YOU AGREE, WHY DO YOU BELIEVE THIS IS SO?
  • Perhaps it’s because, among all the tales told in Dead of Night, it allows for either a psychological or supernatural reading; in other words, it’s the most ambiguous and subjective. There’s a suggestion here that Hugo is really alive and autonomous; it’s also quite possible that Max is deranged and suffering from a split-personality disorder, only imagining that his dummy is alive.
  • Consider that this may have been the first instance of ventriloquist dummy horror in film; many imitators have followed, including Magic, Dead Silence, and Devil Doll. Prior to this film, ventriloquist dummies like Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy were considered cute, comedic and harmless. This story helped introduce the creepy notion that dolls can be possessed by supernatural forces and should not be trusted. That’s a formula that’s worked countless times in pop culture, from the Twilight Zone’s Talking Tina to Chucky to Annabelle.
  • This vignette also features an A-list British actor for the time, Michael Redgrave, who gives an outstanding performance – probably the best in the movie.
  • There are also fascinating psycho-sexual dynamics at work in this story, as Max seems to be involved in a strange love triangle with Hugo and his rival Klee. 
WHAT OTHER FILMS COME TO MIND AFTER VIEWING THIS MOVIE?
  • The Topper films 
  • Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors
  • Tales from the Crypt, the Vault of Horror, and Asylum – all anthology horror films by Amicus Studios
  • Hitchcock’s Psycho, Vertigo and The Lady Vanishes

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The English know how to tell a pretty good ghost story, too

Sunday, October 1, 2017

On October 4, Shocktober Theater returns to CineVerse, this time in the guise of a Quick Theme Quartet we call "A Fearsome Foursome of Anthology Horror." Once a quarter (every third month), CineVerse will explore four movies tied together by a theme. Our fourth quartet will focus on four horror anthology films (featuring separate scary stories within one movie). Part 1: “Dead of Night” (1945; 103 minutes), directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, et al. Plus: the “Morella” episode from “Tales of Terror” (1962; 22 minutes)

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Life, death, and everything in between (plus a few oddball diversions along the way)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

If you're seeking sobering philosophical answers to the most important existential questions, you may not want to ask the Monty Python troupe. Then again, this silly and sardonic sextet may have actually figured out what it's all about – the meaning of life, that is. For proof, look to their film of the same name, which we explored yesterday at CineVerse. Although we may not have uncovered the answers to the mysteries of life, death and the afterlife, we did uncover answers that may help you appreciate this movie. For example:

WHAT DID YOU FIND SURPRISING, UNPREDICTABLE, UNEXPECTEDLY FUNNY, OR EVEN CONTROVERSIAL ABOUT THIS MOVIE?

  • It begins with a strange mini-movie prologue that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the film but which fits within the Python tradition of non sequitur absurdist humor.
  • It’s not a straightforward narrative with set characters, settings and situations like the Python troupe’s previous Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian. Instead, serves as a series of unrelated and seemingly random sketches about life and death.
  • It isn’t afraid to be disturbing, provocative, divisive, grotesque, crass, obnoxious, and immaturely titillating. It attacks many sacred cows and institutions, including Catholicism, Protestantism, patriotism, government, education, fear of death, and others.
  • Consider the lengths it goes to to lampoon and make us laugh – depicting an extended and disgusting vomiting session by morbidly obese man, naked women serving as a harbinger of death, singing a farcical song about the religiously inspired choice of not using contraceptives, satirizing the teaching of sex education, and more.
  • Arguably, it’s not as funny as the group’s previous works; but it seems to be tackling the deepest and most serious issues and has the benefit of what appears to be a larger budget and higher production values in which to demonstrate its zany brand of comedy.
  • Interestingly, the film does ask deep, serious philosophical questions that prove rhetorical: why are we here, what is it all about, where do we go when we die, etc. Using the pretext of comedy and silliness, the Pythons force us to ask similar questions about our own mortality and reasons for being. Blogger Phil Reed said the film presents “big ideas explored in small (and often irrelevant) ways.”
  • Reed suggested that the ridiculous nature of the movie and its characters “takes us off our guard. After all, a film that intends to discuss a topic as wide and ineffable as the meaning of existence can't be taken too seriously if the question is posed by a fish with John Cleese's head on it. It makes the audience more receptive to the idea that a satisfactory answer to The Ultimate Question might not be reached after all. But more importantly, it allows the Pythons to slip a genuine stab at the meaning of life into the film without actually having it held up and dissected by viewers at all.”
  • It ends by fulfilling the promise it made at the beginning that everything you wanted to know about life and existence will be explained; ironically, however, this explanation is quickly rattled off by a talking head who reads a bit of prepared copy for a few seconds – making the ultimate explanation for the meaning of life quite anticlimactic and relatively insignificant.
WHAT THEMES ARE EXPLORED IN THIS PICTURE?
  • The randomness, unfairness and possible pointlessness of life: “Triumph and tragedy alternate throughout the film, but there is always a steady magnetic return to the middle ground of life's tedium and banality, such as when trench warfare takes a back seat to a birthday celebration, or an exploding restaurant patron gives way to an after-hours cigarette break,” posited Reed.
  • Different levels of life and reality. Reed also believes that there are three parallel levels of reality within the film, starting with the lowest level, “in which the characters do not know they are characters and don’t realize they are in a film or even that there is a film to be in,” he wrote. The top level, represented by the fish – which “not only start off the film, but they appear to be above the middle of the film as well, as they are able to watch and comment on it when it’s over,” Reed noted. And us in the middle.
  • The fat man seen also plays with levels in the form of a hierarchical social structure and pecking order, according to Reed. At the top of Reed’s ladder here is Mr. Creosote, who is catered to by the maître d’ and other servants within the restaurants on a lower level. At the bottom of this ladder is Maria, the cleaning woman, and the fish in this scene. By causing Mr. Creosote to blowup, the maître d’ puts himself at the top of the ladder and also elevates the stature of the cleaning lady.
  • The viewer as the central character in the movie they are viewing. Reed writes that, often, “the camera is operating from a first-person perspective. Characters address you, apologize to you, invite you to follow them, and become frustrated with you. It is for your benefit that they are having these discussions, and they sincerely want you to benefit from them, becoming upset when you walk out of the restaurant, or frustrated when you don't seem to have learned anything from their own personal philosophies.”
DOES THIS MOVIE REMIND YOU OF ANY OTHERS?
  • Zulu
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Oliver!
  • Stand by Me

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Everything you always wanted to know about life (and Monty Python's take on it)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

CineVerse is proud to present a modern comedy masterpiece on September 27 with “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life” (1983; 107 minutes), directed by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, chosen by Jim Krabec

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"You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Boasting an airtight knockout script, A-list actors, and whip smart direction from a European filmmaker who had a great nose for American film noir, "Chinatown" stands as one of the seminal motion pictures of the 1970s – or of any era, for that matter. Like a tightly wound onion, the film has layers of meaning and substance that can be peeled away and savored by those willing to delve into the labyrinth. Here are some of the major talking points we discussed at last evening's CineVerse meeting:

THEMES INHERENT IN THIS PICTURE:

  • The American dream usurped: there’s so much corruption in this setting that it undercuts the vision of the American dream that anyone can rise up from nothing and make their own barren land a fertile one of opportunity. Consider that Cross pilfers from these dreamers and steals their land and water. Noah Cross can be seen as a destructive variation on the story of America’s founding fathers.
  • The futility of good intentions and the common man against the forces of evil: the corruption and corrosion inherent in L.A., as exemplified by Cross and his cronies, prevents Jake and the police from affecting any change or protecting the innocent. Mulwray’s dam ends up killing people, the police end up killing Evelyn, Evelyn herself loses in the end and her daughter returns to her father/grandfather.
    • Gittes himself brings about the final catastrophe and his own fate.
  • Ignorance and illusion: Jake demonstrates how clueless he truly is, with his good intentions and lack of knowledge about the true corruption around him resulting in the inadvertent death of a girl he may love. 
    • Ponder how Jake misidentifies many clues and people, such as his not recognizing Detective Loach as the person who instructs him to visit Ida Sessions’ house, leading to Evelyn’s demise. 
    • He constructs explanations based on unreliable, limited information he has gathered, and consequently worsens situations when he trusts his distorted reality (i.e., in trying to help Evelyn, he leads her father directly to her).3 With this victory of corruption (Cross) and the vulnerability of the flawed protagonist as climaxing themes, we see an ideological updating of the noir thesis of fate.
    • By unraveling the mystery, Gittes has allowed evil to triumph: Evelyn is killed and Cross gets away with the murders as well as the custody of his daughter.
  • Duality, what William Galperin calls a “bifocal vision” of intermittent opposites: Evelyn is both a sister and a daughter to Kathryn. Lt. Escobar has a ‘summer cold.’ Water is abundant, yet there is a drought, and Cross’s justification for his manipulation of the water is explained to be “for the future”, which he won’t live to enjoy anyway. Gittes is an investigator, yet he is blind to the ‘real picture.’ Saltwater is both a life essence for fish but deadly to vegetation; “bad for the glass”: Cross’ water is both bad for the grass and bad for the glass, namely Gittes’ ability to see the truth.
  • A perversion of Biblical stories: The drought in Los Angeles is transformed into a spiritual thirst or dryness, with the malevolent Noah Cross seen as a biblical perversion of his first name. Not only has he drowned his son-in-law, but he has ‘repopulated the earth’ in a sense with the impregnation of his daughter, Evelyn, and in an ironic way, though he is secretly diverting water away from thirsty L.A., he is helping to nourish the valley so that a ‘new city’--a new Eden--will grow in the future. 
  • The dangers of voyeurism and invasion of privacy:
    • The film opens with a client looking at photographs of his wife in bed with another man taken by Gittes. He snaps photos of Hollis Mulwray with another woman together, which inadvertently get published and create a scandal. His telephoto lens and binoculars are used in other scenes, to spy on Evelyn or Hollis from afar.
    • Gittes’ spectatorship and curiosity leads him into deeper, more politically corruptive scandals, pulling him even further away from the urban setting (indicative of a usual noir backdrop) and further inward psychologically, toward the center of the real immorality and back to the ghosts in his mind.
    • His voyeurism and his misinterpretation of reality gets Gittes into trouble. His ignoring of “No Trespassing” signs get him a scar on his nose (his eyes are still free, but with a bandage on his nose he can’t ‘sniff out’ things anymore), and later a brutal thrashing from a group of farmers. As a result of his spying, a man’s unfaithful wife ends up with a black eye, and Hollis Mulwray’s widow winds up with no eye (it is literally blasted out of its socket in the final scene).
    • To accentuate the voyeuristic perspective of both Gittes and the viewer (seeing through his eyes), ponder how Polanski often frames Nicholson in profile, off to one side of the screen. This serves more of a function than simply to present a subjective viewpoint --it also depicts Gittes’ impotence (his being ‘boxed in’ a corner in the face of evil or greater numbers), as well as the innate, malignant evil lurking in the corners, just beyond our frame of vision.
    • In this sense, a deep psychological framing is achieved, and a sense of apprehension is evoked with a more menacing off-screen space. Finally, this type of framing, usually involving deep-focus three-shots, shifts power relationships away from the off-sides, ‘cornered’ Gittes to other characters (i.e., the police or the flanking stature of Cross), reaffirming his insinuated helplessness.
  • Guilt and a tortured backstory: think about how many of the personalities in this story have skeletons in their closets or dark secrets that come back to haunt them.
    • Chinatown itself exemplifies his guilt, in that he had years ago been told by a police friend to do as “little as possible” there, after managing to get another mysterious woman “hurt” there (we aren’t told who or how). 
    • Chinatown becomes a world in which the individual becomes helpless against the intriguing mysteries surrounding him, and where moral degeneration and evil abounds to defy the imagination. Fate comes full-circle when Gittes finds himself back in Chinatown, despite his efforts, to repeat his earlier mistake.
THE FILM OFTEN USES FORESHADOWING TO PREDICT WHAT’S LATER GOING TO HAPPEN. CAN YOU PROVIDE EXAMPLES?
  • Recurrent Chinese motifs (ethnic joke, Chinese workers at the Mulwray house, occasional oriental music, the breaking of an Oriental vase, etc.)
  • Earlier in the film, after making love to Evelyn, Gittes notices a flaw in the iris of Evelyn’s eye. Symbolically, the flaw conceals the ‘truth’--and therefore power and knowledge through discovery--from the detective, and serves to mirror his own ‘distorted perspective’ back to him.
  • Evelyn leaning on the steering wheel horn earlier; later, she lies died on the wheel, producing an unending horn.
  • The left lens of Jake’s sunglasses are broken after the orange grove skirmish; later, the left lens is missing from the glasses found in the pond by Jake.
MOTIFS (REPEATED PATTERNS) USED IN THE MOVIE:
  • Masks: The interiors of most rooms in “Chinatown” are graced with venetian blinds on the windows (and the shadows they produce), an evident visual referent to classic noir misc en scene. The blinds become a metaphor for the repetitive motif of masked concealment: Evelyn wears a widow’s veil, a chain link fence surrounds the reservoir, glass bricks separate Gittes from his secretary, even the bandage on his nose becomes a mask.
  • Water: The attempt to control it parallels man’s historical effort to control and regulate a wild, primitive force so that it does not destroy life or prevent it from existing. The detective’s role then is to uncover the ‘secret of the waters’, but the flawed Gittes as gumshoe can neither bring about reform nor curb the violence concerning water: Mulwray is drowned in it and loses a shoe, and he himself is engulfed by it in a culvert and also happens to lose a shoe.
  • Eyes, glasses and reflections: Evelyn’s flawed eye, the glasses found in the water, the eye of the dead fish staring up to Jake from his plate, the reflected image from Jake’s camera and car mirrors, etc.
OTHER FILMS THAT REMIND YOU OF CHINATOWN:
  • Its sequel, The Two Jakes
  • L.A. Confidential
  • The Big Sleep
  • The Conversation
OTHER MAJOR WORKS DIRECTED BY ROMAN POLANSKI
  • Knife in the Water
  • Repulsion
  • Rosemary’s Baby
  • Death and the Maiden
  • The Pianist

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Don't forget it, Jake...it's Chinatown

Sunday, September 17, 2017

On September 20, CineVerse will feature “Chinatown” (1974; 130 minutes), directed by Roman Polanski, chosen by Jim Doherty

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Cinderella and Pygmalion meet 1880s Britain

Thursday, September 14, 2017

David Lean is rightly known for his visionary, sprawling epics. But arguably it's his British films of the 1940s and early 1950s that bring out the best sensibilities in this talented filmmaker. "Hobson's Choice," Lean's underrated effort from 1954, blends the best elements of comedy, drama, and period piece into a highly entertaining tale about a clever daughter turning the tables on her outspoken and irascible father. Our film discussion group came away with many truths after digging deeper into this lesser-known gem, including the following observations:

WHAT’S DATED ABOUT THIS PICTURE AND WHAT’S STILL RELEVANT AND EVERGREEN?
  • There will always be conflicts between parents and their children, and expectations that parents have for their offspring.
  • Yet, the woman’s role in the house and the family have changed dramatically since the setting of this 1880s British story and since 1954, the year the film was made.
    • It’s laughable today to think that a woman unmarried by age 30 would be expected to die an old maid and/or be fated to indentured servitude to her aging parents.
    • Maggie’s character can be seen today as an inspirational feminist trapped back in a time when being so would wholly unacceptable to many in society.
  • The idiom “Hobson’s choice,” which means that there’s really only once choice to make with no alternative, has gone out of style; but the concept of having a lack of options or choosing the least of all evils will never go away.
  • Class struggles and trying to make a living in a challenging capitalist world are themes that resonate today. Yet, in world dominated today by large corporations, the family-owned business is quickly becoming an endangered species.
  • As foreign and passé as many of the character traits, vernaculars and idiosyncrasies exhibited by the film’s main characters may seem nowadays, these characters can still speak to us. Per Criterion Collection essayist Armond White, “As in so many Lean films, the eccentricities displayed by Henry, Maggie, and Will are observed, revealed, and discovered to be timeless human attributes, as in classic British literature. Their comic actions recall the histrionic undercurrents that propel the Dickens melodramas.”
WHAT THEMES ARE AT PLAY IN HOBSON’S CHOICE?
  • A clash of wills: as White wrote: “the father wrestles with his loss of authority, the daughter fights for her individuality, and the workman gains self-esteem and self-determination.”
  • Triangles: a twisted love triangle, represented by the father, the daughter, and the workman—each of which has something to gain and lose. Other triangles: the three sisters, the three grooms, and Willie, Maggie and his old girlfriend.
  • Pygmalion and Cinderella, only inverted: “In fairy tales, the lowly commoner invited to join the royalty is usually a deserving girl who happens to be beautiful as well as virtuous. The Cinderella character in Hobson's Choice is Willie Mossup. His beauty is a commercially viable talent,” wrote film reviewer Glenn Erickson.
  • Great things grow from small: this is a quote in the film from Willie, which summarizes a major message of the picture. Consider how Willie and Maggie start at the bottom of the ladder but by the end of the movie they’re on top and running the shop.
  • The benefits of being a practical fantasist: Blogger Normand Holland posited the following: “Lean’s heroes, like Maggie, are dreamers. Think of Laura Jessup in Brief Encounter, Pip (in Great Expectations), T. E. Lawrence (in Lawrence of Arabia), and Col. Nicholson (in Bridge on the River Kwai)…like Maggie, they may dream of great expectations, but they are pragmatic; they accomplish things; they adjust to realities. The lovers in Brief Encounter know from the outset that their love is impossible, and they accept that.”
  • Comeuppance: Hobson is overdue for a fall.
  • Boots: they symbolize ruggedness, utilitarianism and practicality; they also serve on the lowest level of the body.
  • Levels: the film depicts various levels of architecture, class distinction and rank. Hobson resides in the “upper level” (upstairs), Maggie works on the middle (street) level, and Willie exists on the lower level early in the film. Consider how Willie’s lower-class girlfriend lives on a lower level street; how Hobson falls to a lower level and literally and figuratively “hits bottom” when he falls through the hole, emerging only to be humbled and placed at Willie’s former level—seeing boots at eye level for the first time in the film.
OTHER FILMS BY DAVID LEAN:
  • 1945 Blithe Spirit
  • 1945 Brief Encounter
  • 1946 Great Expectations
  • 1948 Oliver Twist
  • 1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • 1962 Lawrence of Arabia
  • 1965    Doctor Zhivago
  • 1984 A Passage to India

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Gunslinger Eastwood's last stand

Monday, September 11, 2017

On September 14, Cineversary returns to the Oak Lawn Library from 6-8:45 p.m.. We'll be celebrating the 25th anniversary of “Unforgiven” (1992; 131 minutes), directed by Clint Eastwood.

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David Lean--before the epics

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Make plans to join CineVerse on September 13 for an excursion into World Cinema Wednesday and the United Kingdom with “Hobson’s Choice” (1954; 108 minutes), directed by David Lean, chosen by Dave Ries

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Suffering for your art

Thursday, September 7, 2017

You don't have to be a musician, teacher, student or jazz/music lover to appreciate the film "Whiplash" or its powerful message about drive, ambition, obsession and the teacher-pupil relationship. And you certainly don't have to take this film – or its plot – literally. You can simply examine it for the parable it is and the cautionary tale it tells. Our CineVerse group discussion yielded some interesting observations and insights that may help you better understand what's going on here and why this picture is important, including the following:


WHAT’S INTERESTING, DISTINCTIVE OR UNEXPECTED ABOUT THIS FILM THAT YOU FOUND NOTEWORTHY?
  • It’s shot and edited rhythmically like a jazz song.
    • The cuts are meant to convey feeling and emotion and to visually communicate without words. Consider the close-ups of hand motions brushing the girlfriend’s hair around her ear.
    • There’s a rhythmic variety of tracking shots, close-ups, pans and push-ins all used to suggest the growth of Andrew’s talents and desire. Think about how kinetic and fluid the film is from the start – the opening shot tracks down the hallway for us to see Andrew.
  • It’s also shot like a war movie more than a jazz/music movie. This picture is startling in its brutality, sudden violence, blood, profanity and overall tone. Alternatively, it feels more like a sports film, leading up to the big fight or the big game.
  • Consider the harsh extent to which Fletcher is willing to go as a teacher, using verbal and physical abuse and threats to push and punishes students. Fletcher’s character is so powerful and villainous that, on paper, he would seem to completely dominate and upstage anyone else on screen with him.
    • But Andrew’s character is written and played to go toe-to-toe with Fletcher and equally capture our attention. Andrew is not your typical protagonist who is entirely sympathetic and comprehensible. He could be an arrogant, insensitive jerk, and he has qualities that are not so admirable.
    • While the monstrous personality of Fletcher may seem implausible, the movie aims for accuracy by casting a young actor – Miles Teller – who can really drum, as well as real music students and musicians in the classroom and performance scenes.
  • There are multiple climaxes and dénouements to this movie:
    • the festival were Andrew survives the car accident
    • the tenuous reconciliation between former student and teacher in the bar, plus the scene before it where he learned that Fletcher has been fired and Andrew is expelled
    • the JVC Festival conclusion
  • Surprisingly, Andrew is given a love interest, but abandons her fairly early on and she does not return – unlike so many other films of this type.
WHAT MAKES FLETCHER TICK, WHAT MAKES ANDREW TICK, AND WHY DOES ANDREW PUT UP WITH FLETCHER’S ABUSE?
  • Fletcher doesn’t care about properly training and educating students: he wants to mold his own new jazz legend and perpetuate the tall tale about Charlie Parker becoming greater after having a symbol thrown at him. He’s all about upholding his ideals of jazz tradition.
    • He believes you need to suffer for your art and that greatness comes from pushing yourself to the limit.
    • He’s very much like a Marine drill sergeant and Captain Ahab rolled into one – searching for the elusive white whale (next jazz great) and eager to break the spirit and the body of his soldiers to try to shape them into perfect killers.
    • Consider how Fletcher usurps the truth about his student who commits suicide; he creates a myth about an untapped talent cut down too early: this indicates how truly dangerous, warped and evil this man is.
    • Fletcher believes his means to an end are justified – that his tactics and approach are necessary for jazz to survive.
  • Andrew believes he could be the next all-time great jazz drummer, so he subscribes to Fletcher’s philosophy and is willing to endure the punishing tactics.
    • By subscribing, he forms a symbiotic relationship with Fletcher that initiates a cycle of abuse; he becomes reliant on the abuser to follow his masochistic dream.
    • But Andrew is becoming a mini-Fletcher: he abandons his girlfriend; he becomes a jerk to his classmates; he tells his family at the dinner table that talent, fame and legend are more important than living a mediocre life, in a cynical manner like Fletcher; then, he upstages Fletcher at the end as Fletcher tries to do to him.
WHAT MAJOR THEMES ARE EXAMINED IN WHIPLASH?
  • To what extent are you willing to push, sacrifice and compromise yourself for the pursuit of art and excellence? Do the ends justify the means?
  • Obsession, drive and ambition: an obsession with the past and in creating or perpetuating myths and legends is dangerous and misguided. And an obsession with achieving perfection creates a very imperfect human being.
  • The quest for excellence can be lonely and unappreciated.
  • The duality of our nature.
  • Being torn between two father figures: Andrew’s real dad, who was a failed novelist turned English teacher and is a milder, more compassionate person than Fletcher; and Fletcher, a hard-driving, uncompassionate teacher who also apparently failed to make it as a full-time artist.
  • The Faustian gambit: making a pact with the devil.
WHAT OTHER MOVIES COME TO MIND AFTER WATCHING WHIPLASH?
  • The Red Shoes
  • Fame
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Scorsese films like Raging Bull and Taxi Driver– where the main character pushes away his love interest and enjoys masochism and violence
  • The Piano Teacher
  • Rocky and The Fighter, two sports films depicting the struggles and sacrifices of an underdog athlete
  • Mr. Turner
  • Mr. Holland’s Opus

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Bang the drum quickly

Sunday, September 3, 2017

On September 6, CineVerse will present “Whiplash” (2014; 107 minutes), directed by Damien Chazelle, chosen by Linda Tague. 

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Fable of a benevolent alien

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" still packs a strong emotional punch 35 years after its release. Director Steven Spielberg focus less on science fiction and more on fairytale fantasy to tell a very personal story from a child's point of view – and that child be any one of us, regardless of age. How do we as viewers love "E.T."? Let us count the ways...

WHAT IS MEMORABLE AND SPECIAL ABOUT E.T., PARTICULARLY AS A SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY FILM?

  • It strikes a chord with the inner child in all of us—the one who experienced loneliness, awkwardness, misunderstanding or alienation when we were young; it’s especially relevant to children of broken homes and divorce, middle children, and kids who grew up in the suburbs, which describes the character of Elliott. 
  • It’s an intimate, emotional movie that Steven Spielberg considered his most personal film. Steven Spielberg said in an interview: “"E.T. was about the divorce of my parents, how I felt after my parents broke up. [It was] the first movie I ever made for myself.”
    • It’s a very emotionally resonant film that requires you to be an actively engaged viewer—it involves your feelings and moves you; films that can evoke a strong emotional reaction in audiences are powerful pictures that tend to be remembered and revisited.
  • It’s a rare science fiction story about aliens that are benevolent; many sci-fi films feature extraterrestrials that are violent and destructive to humans. Here, the message is that strangers from different worlds can and should coexist in peace and find a way to communicate.
  • It features a brilliant, emotional score by composer John Williams that ranks #14 on the AFI’s list of 25 greatest film scores.
  • Some believe E.T. turned aliens into pop culture icons and gave a lovable, memorable face to an alien being that was safe for and acceptable to children.
  • It helped usher in the era of product placement (Reese’s Pieces and Coca-Cola) into the movies, for better or worse.
  • It firmly established Steven Spielberg as the world’s most popular and famous director—a man with the Midas touch after consecutively helming Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and now E.T.
  • This was also nearing the end of the era when audiences showed up in droves, creating extremely long wait times and lines that often stretched around the block. With the proliferation of multiplex theaters later in the 1980s, these ridiculously long lines would subside; but in 1982, chances are that you had to get in a long line and wedge into a packed theater to see E.T.
  • Despite old school special effects limitations of its era, compared to the dazzling computer wizardry of today, E.T.’s effects hold up, especially the animatronic and puppetry work involved in making the alien look realistic and act believably.Disconnection from home and family is not healthy. E.T. needs to go back to his kind and his own world; he is reborn because he has made reconnected with the ones that love him. This suggests that Elliott, too, must find a connection and treasure his life with his family in suburbia, even if he doesn’t always fit in so well and lacks a father. It also underscores how E.T. and Elliott are connected and similar; think about how “E” and “T” are the first and last letters of Elliott’s name.
WHAT IS MEMORABLE AND SPECIAL ABOUT E.T., PARTICULARLY AS A SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY FILM?
  • Seeing life through a child’s eyes. Consider that it adopts the literal as well as emotional viewpoint of a child: the camera is often placed at a child’s level, and the point of view is often Elliott’s or E.T.’s. Consider how the “bad” adults like the man with the keys are often only shown as faceless silhouettes and from the mid-torso down.
  • Christ-like rebirth. This an uplifting story about a helpless creature who’s been abandoned and left behind, is vulnerable, friendly and cuddly, and can work feats of magic; yet, the creature gets sick, dies and is reborn. 
  • The importance of maintaining a sense of wonder and imagination. This picture makes you feel young again and taps into the mysteries and energy of childhood—how cool it is to find something really precious that’s your unique secret, trying to find your place in a world where you don’t feel like you fit in, and being in awe of the marvels and mysteries of the universe.
    • It also speaks to the power that children have to possess a powerful sense of imagination and an awe and reverence for magic, to be resourceful and resilient, to be open and receptive to the idea that aliens, monsters or the supernatural can exist, and to connect and communicate with life and nature in a way that most adults have forgotten or can’t.
    • It references Peter Pan in the film, and often plays on the themes of Pan—that you can fly, have adventures, wish upon a star for a miracle, and defeat the pirates (or, in this case, the adults trying to take E.T. away). . Remember that the “Keys” adult character is like a grownup Elliott or former Peter Pan—he’s been “wishing for this since (he) was 10 years old.” He, too, wants to be a kid again.
  • The importance of tolerance, compassion and understanding. Film journalist John Kenneth Muir wrote: "E.T. purposefully asks audiences to accept that which is alternative or seem different, and judge it not by how it looks. On the contrary, E.T. and Elliott develop a symbiosis, and so come to understand the feelings of one another. No matter how different or alien someone may seem, they possess the same feelings that you do. That too is E.T.'s message."
OTHER FILMS THAT E.T. BRINGS TO MIND:
  • Super 8
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Earth to Echo
  • Lilo and Stitch
  • Peter Pan
  • Snow White and the 7 Dwarves
  • Starman
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY STEVEN SPIELBERG
  • Jaws
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Jurassic Park
  • Schindler’s List
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • A.I.-Artificial Intelligence
  • Lincoln

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Anniversary for your favorite alien

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Don't miss CineVerse on August 30, when we'll wish a happy 35th anniversary to "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982; 115 minutes), directed by Steven Spielberg, chosen by Bob Johnson.

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Drama, comedy and horror on the menu for CineVerse in September and October

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The September-October 2017 CineVerse schedule is now posted and ready for viewing. Eager to see what's planned for the weeks ahead? Click here for a peek.

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"Past" tense

Many film critics, historians and scholars will point to "Double Indemnity" as the gold standard for classic film noir. While it's hard to argue against that film being the standard bearer for the genre, there's a dark horse candidate that's emerged in recent decades as a possible contender to the crown--Jacques Tourneur's "Out of the Past," which features a femme fatale nearly as cold-blooded and conniving as Phyllis Dietrichson and a less hardboiled anti-hero lead. Consider the following points in the film's favor, as discussed during last night's CineVerse meeting:

HOW IS THIS FILM DIFFERENT AND DISTINCTIVE FROM OTHER FILMS NOIR?
  • Many noirs predominantly feature nighttime scenes in gritty urban jungles using high contrast lighting that create lots of dark shadows; this film features plenty of daytime scenes in bright, sunny settings, including bucolic outdoor locations.
    • According to essayist Gary Morris, “Director Jacques Tourneur follows Hitchcock’s approach in finding terror in the everyday, in this case the majestic backdrops of Lake Tahoe and Puerto Vallarta. This is not to say there aren’t recognizably dark “noir” scenes, but, again as in Hitchcock, the darkness emanates mainly from within the characters. This gives even a scene shot on a bright afternoon at a woodland river an atmosphere of bleakness and horror, when a fishing trip ends in a gruesome murder. It also shows the limits of Jeff’s world. Finished with Kathie, he falls in love with a sweet girl from the town where he’s been hiding, but while most of their scenes together are shot during the day, in natural locations, it’s clear from their nervous, almost desperate exchanges that there are stronger, darker forces that will prevent them ever coming together.”
  • The male lead here is laid back, laconic and low-key in speech, sleepy-eyed and possessing a cool detachment; most noir male leads, which are often private eyes or anti-heroes plotting a crime, are more hardboiled, tougher, sharp-tongued, alert and attentive. Credit Robert Mitchum with infusing a new nonchalant style and attitude to this noir anti-hero archetype.
  • Almost all classic noirs feature characters smoking, but this one seems to be trying to set records for how many coffin nails can be lit up and sucked in a 90-minute flick. Smoking, in fact, becomes a form of jousting. Roger Ebert wrote: “Few movies use smoking as well as this one; in their scenes together, it would be fair to say that Mitchum and Douglas smoke at each other, in a sublimated form of fencing.”
  • The movie uses real locations and natural settings for a more realistic, authentic look.
  • Like many noirs, this one employs a flashback, which occupies nearly half the runtime; what’s interesting about the flashback is that (1) it primarily occurs in broad daylight, and (2) Kathie is depicted as more of “an idealized love object. When the narrative leaves flashback mode, her aura vanishes…Kathie then elicits nothing but contempt from Jeff,” wrote film reviewer Glenn Erickson.
THE CHARACTERS’ NAMES REVEAL INTERESTING THINGS ABOUT THEM. CAN YOU PROVDIE EXAMPLES?
  • Markham suggests a “marked” man who is fated to die.
  • Moffat sounds like “Little Miss Muffet,” who was visited by a spider; Moffat herself becomes a spider woman femme fatale.
  • Whit sounds like “wit,” a man of sharp intellect and facetiousness.
  • Meta has multiple meanings; in ancient Rome, "meta" meant a column or post, or a group of columns or posts, placed at each end of a racetrack to mark the turning places. The character of Meta also appears at and signifies a turning point in this story. Also, "meta" is a prefix designating the meta position in the benzene ring in the world of chemistry; benzene is a toxic compound.
  • Former partner Fisher has a name that makes us think he’s fishing for something or is fishy.
  • Eels speaks for itself: a personality who operates in a slippery underworld who finds himself “underwater” and dead at the heels of Whit and his henchman.
  • Stefanos sounds like Mephistopheles, Mephisto, a demon or evil spirit.
  • “The kid” remains nameless, and is deaf and mute, as if the dealings of these other shady characters have left him speechless and deafened him with their evil intonations; he stands as a silent cypher, merely observing what’s happening, and serves in a way as a surrogate for the audience.
THEMES SUGGESTED IN OUT OF THE PAST INCLUDE:
  • Inability to escape one’s past or one’s fate. The whole story is set in motion by Whit’s henchman finding Jeff and dragging him back to his past.
  • A doomed love triangle: Jeff, Kathie and Whit are all bound together and fated to fall. Arguably, however, this dominant relationship here is between Jeff and Whit, who have in common the same femme fatale woman, scathing hatred for each other, a certain personal code of honor, and a cynical, pessimistic worldview.
  • Fate and doomed destiny: interestingly, Jeff proceeds in getting involved with Kathie and Whit and reinvolving himself with him and her despite being aware that he’s being double-crossed and framed. It suggests that he can’t help himself because of Kathie’s allure.
  • Moral ambiguity: As Ebert posits, “The movie's final scene, between the hometown girl Ann and Jimmy, Jeff's hired kid at the gas station, reflects the moral murkiness of the film with its quiet ambiguity…As Jimmy answers Ann's question, is he telling her what he believes, what he thinks she wants to believe, or what he thinks it will be best for her to believe?”
  • Unanswered questions: Erickson also wrote that the secret of Out of the Past's superior dialogue is that “no question is ever given a straight answer. It's always another question, or a smart remark insinuating something.”
  • The dangerous noir female and what this character personifies. Morris wrote: “(Kathie) embodies postwar fears that women, having contributed mightily to the war effort and moved into “men’s work,” might abandon the domestic sphere entirely, causing all manner of social mayhem. She’s the culmination of the self-consumed, anti-domestic, anti-social female as evoked by Stanwyck in Double Indemnity and Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven, and even the most powerful men around her can’t comprehend or control the violent forces she represents.”
OTHER FILMS THAT REMIND US OF OUT OF THE PAST
  • Its 1984 remake, Against All Odds
  • Gilda
  • The Big Sleep, which also features labyrinth-like double crosses and a complicated plot
  • Angel Face
OTHER FILMS DIRECTED BY JACQUES TOURNEUR
  • Cat People
  • I Walked With a Zombie
  • Curse of the Demon
  • The Comedy of Terrors

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Living in the "Past"

Sunday, August 20, 2017

One of the all-time great film noir movies makes its way to CineVerse on August 23: “Out of the Past” (1947; 97 minutes), directed by Jacques Tourneur, chosen by Danealle Kueltzo. Plus: Stick around for a trailer reel preview of the September/October CineVerse schedule.

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