Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Erich von Stroheim Greed

Greed is a 1924 American dramatic silent film. It was directed by Erich von Stroheim and starring Gibson Gowland, Zasu Pitts, Jean Hersholt, Dale Fuller, Tempe Pigott, Sylvia Ashton, Chester Conklin, Joan Standing and Jack Curtis.
The plot follows a dentist whose wife wins a lottery ticket, only to become obsessed with money. When her former lover betrays the dentist as a fraud, all of their lives are destroyed. The movie was adapted by von Stroheim (shooting screenplay) and Joseph Farnham (titles) from the 1899 novel McTeague by Frank Norris. (The onscreen writing credit for June Mathis was strictly a contractual obligation to her on the part of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the parent studio), as she was not actually involved in the production.) Originally over ten hours long, Greed was ultimately edited against von Stroheim's permission to about two and a half hours, and the full-length version is a lost film.

The story of the making of the movie has become a Hollywood legend. The story had been filmed once before by an American film studio, William A. Brady's World Pictures, in 1916 under the title McTeague starring Broadway star Holbrook Blinn. Under the aegis of the Goldwyn studio, von Stroheim attempted to film a version of the book complete in every detail. To capture the authentic spirit of the story, he insisted on filming on location in San Francisco, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and Death Valley, despite harsh conditions.

The result was a final print of the film that was an astonishing ten hours in length, produced at a cost of over $500,000 — one of the most costly films yet made (though Stroheim's 1921 film Foolish Wives was publicized by Universal as costing over a million). Realizing it was far too long to be shown, Stroheim cut it down to six hours, to be screened with intermissions in two nights. However, Goldwyn producers told him to cut it to a more manageable length. With the assistance of fellow director Rex Ingram and editor Grant Whytock, von Stroheim trimmed the film to about four hours, to be shown in two parts.

However, during production, Goldwyn was merged into MGM. After screening it at full length once to meet contractual obligations, MGM removed Greed from von Stroheim's control despite his protests. The negative was given to MGM's head scriptwriter, June Mathis, with orders to cut it even further. Mathis gave the print to a routine cutter, who reduced it to 2.5 hours. In the process, key characters were removed from the final version so that it could be screened in a reasonable time frame. This created large gaps in continuity. Existing prints of Greed run at about two hours and twenty minutes.

Although Mathis' actual involvement in the cutting has never been confirmed, she was credited as a writer due to contractual obligations, and thus Stroheim blamed her for destroying his masterpiece. However, Mathis had worked with Stroheim before and had long admired him, so it is not likely she would have indiscriminately butchered his film.[6]
The hours of cut film were destroyed by a janitor cleaning a vault who thought they were unimportant film rolls and threw them in an incinerator (although it appears that much of it survived until at least the late 1950s) , and this film is known as one of the most famous "lost films" in cinema history. The released version of the film was a box-office failure; panned by critics and angrily disowned by von Stroheim. In later years, even in its shortened form, it was recognized as one of the great realistic films of its time. Rare behind-the-scenes footage of Greed can be seen in the Goldwyn Pictures film Souls for Sale.

In 1999, Turner Entertainment (the film's current rights holder) decided to "recreate", as closely as possible, the original version by combining the existing footage with still photographs of the lost scenes, in accordance with an original continuity outline written by von Stroheim. This restoration runs almost four hours. The re-edit was produced by Rick Schmidlin. (Other classic films with missing footage include Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons, Frank Capra's Lost Horizon, George Cukor's A Star Is Born and von Stroheim's Queen Kelly). In 1991, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"

Gibson Gowland as John McTeague
ZaSu Pitts as Trina
Jean Hersholt as Marcus
Dale Fuller as Maria
Tempe Pigott as McTeague's mother
Jack Curtis as McTeague's father (uncredited)
Silvia Ashton as 'Mommer' Sieppe
Chester Conklin as 'Popper' Sieppe
Joan Standing as Selina

Trina and McTeague
James F. Fulton as Prospector Cribbens
Cesare Gravina as Junkman Zwerkow
Frank Hayes as Charles W. Grannis (The Modern Dog Hospital proprietor)
Austen Jewell as August Sieppe
Hughie Mack as Mr. Heise (harness maker)
Tiny Jones as Mrs. Heise
J. Aldrich Libbey as Mr. Ryer
Reta Revela as Mrs. Ryer
Fanny Midgley as Miss Anastasia Baker
S.S. Simon as Joe Frenna
Max Tyron as Uncle Rudolph Oelbermann
Erich von Ritzau as Dr. Painless Potter
William Mollenhauer as Palmist
William Barlow as The Minister
Lita Chevrier as Extra
Edward Gaffney as Extra
Bee Ho Gray as Extra and Knife Thrower used in saloon scene
Harold Henderson as Extra
Florence Gibson as Hag
James Gibson as Deputy
Oscar Gottell as A Sieppe twin
Otto Gottell as A Sieppe twin
Hugh J. McCauley as Photographer
Jack McDonald as Placer County Sheriff
Lon Poff as Man from the Lottery Company
Erich von Stroheim as Balloon vendor
James Wang as Chinese cook

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jean Renoir The Grand Illusion

Grand Illusion (The Criterion Collection)

Grand Illusion (French: La Grande Illusion) is a 1937 French war film directed by Jean Renoir, who co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Spaak. The story concerns class relationships among a small group of French officers who are prisoners of war during World War I and are plotting an escape.
The title of the film comes from a book—The Great Illusion by British economist Norman Angell—which argued that war is futile because of the common economic interests of all European nations. The perspective of the film is generously humanistic to its characters of various nationalities.
It is regarded by critics and film historians as one of the masterpieces of French cinema and among the greatest films ever made. Orson Welles named Grand Illusion as one of the movies he would take with him "on the ark." Empire magazine ranked it #35 in "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.

Jean Gabin as Lieutenant Maréchal, a French officer
Marcel Dalio as Lieutenant Rosenthal, a French officer
Pierre Fresnay as Captain de Boeldieu, a French officer
Erich von Stroheim as Captain von Rauffenstein, a German officer
Dita Parlo as Elsa, a widowed German farm woman
Julien Carette as Cartier, the vaudeville performer
Gaston Modot as an engineer
Georges Péclet as an officer
Werner Florian as Sgt. Arthur
Jean Dasté as a teacher
Sylvain Itkine as Lieutenant Demolder

For many years, the original nitrate film negative was thought to have been lost in an Allied air raid in 1942 that destroyed a leading laboratory outside Paris. Prints of the film were rediscovered in 1958 and restored and re-released during the early 1960s. Then, it was revealed that the original negative had been shipped back to Berlin (probably due to the efforts of Frank Hensel) to be stored in the Reichsfilmarchiv vaults. In the Allied occupation of Berlin in 1945, the Reichsfilmarchiv by chance was in the Russian zone and consequently shipped along with many other films back to be the basis of the Soviet Gosfilmofond film archive in Moscow. The negative was returned to France in the 1960s, but sat unidentified in storage in Toulouse Cinémathèque for over 30 years, as no one suspected it had survived. It was rediscovered in the early 1990s as the Cinémathèque's nitrate collection was slowly being transferred to the French Film Archives at Bois d'Arcy.
In August 1999, Rialto Pictures re-released the film in the United States, based on the Cinematheque negative found in Toulouse; after watching the new print at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, Janet Maslin called it "beautifully refurbished" and "especially lucid." The print was restored and released as the inaugural DVD of the Criterion Collection

In Grand Illusion, director Jean Renoir uses the First World War (1914–1918) as a lens through which to examine Europe as it faces the rising spectre of fascism (especially in Nazi Germany) and the impending approach of the Second World War (1939–1945). Renoir's critique of contemporary politics and ideology celebrates the universal humanity that transcends national and racial boundaries and radical nationalism, suggesting that mankind's common experiences should prevail above political division, and its extension: war.
On the message of the film, Renoir himself said, in a film trailer dating from the re-release of the film in 1958:
"[Grand Illusion is] a story about human relationships. I am confident that such a question is so important today that if we don’t solve it, we will just have to say ‘goodbye’ to our beautiful world."

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Passion of Joan of Arc

The Passion of Joan of Arc (The Criterion Collection)

The Passion of Joan of Arc (French: La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc) is a silent film produced in France in 1928. It is based on the record of the trial of Joan of Arc. The film was directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer and stars Renée Jeanne Falconetti. It is widely regarded as a landmark of cinema, especially for its production, its direction and Falconetti's performance, which has been described as being among the finest in cinema history.
The film summarizes the time that Joan of Arc was a captive of the English. It depicts her trial, imprisonment, torture, and execution.

Maria Falconetti as Jeanne d'Arc
Eugène Silvain as Évêque Pierre Cauchon
André Berley as Jean d'Estivet
Maurice Schutz as Nicolas Loyseleur
Antonin Artaud as Jean Massieu
Gilbert Dalleu as Jean Lemaître
Jean d'Yd as Nicolas de Houppeville
Louis Ravet as Jean Beaupère (as Ravet)
Michel Simon as Judge

The original version of the film was lost for decades after a fire destroyed the master negative. Dreyer himself attempted to reassemble a version from outtakes and surviving prints, but he died believing his original cut was lost forever. In one of the most important discoveries in cinema history, a virtually complete print of Dreyer's original version was found in 1981 in a janitor's closet of an Oslo mental institution. This version is now available on DVD.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Battleship Potemkin

Battleship Potemkin [Blu-ray]

Battleship Potemkin (Russian: Броненосец «Потёмкин», Bronenosets Potyomkin), sometimes rendered as Battleship Potyomkin, is a 1925 silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein and produced by Mosfilm. It presents a dramatized version of the mutiny that occurred in 1905 when the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against their officers of the Tsarist regime.

Battleship Potemkin has been called one of the most influential propaganda films of all time, and was named the greatest film of all time at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. The film is in the public domain in some parts of the world.

The film is composed of five episodes:
"Men and Maggots" (Люди и черви), in which the sailors protest at having to eat rotten meat;
"Drama on the deck" (Драма на тендре), in which the sailors mutiny and their leader, Vakulinchuk, is killed;
"A Dead Man Calls for Justice" (Мёртвый взывает) in which Vakulinchuk's body is mourned over by the people of Odessa;
"The Odessa Staircase" (Одесская лестница), in which Tsarist soldiers massacre the Odessans; and
"The Rendez-Vous with a Squadron" (Встреча с эскадрой), in which the squadron tasked with stopping the Potemkin instead declines to engage, and its sailors cheer on the rebellious battleship.

Eisenstein wrote the film as a revolutionary propaganda film, but also used it to test his theories of "montage". The revolutionary Soviet filmmakers of the Kuleshov school of filmmaking were experimenting with the effect of film editing on audiences, and Eisenstein attempted to edit the film in such a way as to produce the greatest emotional response, so that the viewer would feel sympathy for the rebellious sailors of the Battleship Potemkin and hatred for their cruel overlords. In the manner of most propaganda, the characterization is simple, so that the audience could clearly see with whom they should sympathize.

Eisenstein's experiment was a mixed success; he "was disappointed when Potemkin failed to attract masses of viewers", but the film was also released in a number of international venues, where audiences responded more positively. In both the Soviet Union and overseas, the film shocked audiences, but not so much for its political statements as for its use of violence, which was considered graphic by the standards of the time. The film's potential to influence political thought through emotional response was noted by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who called Potemkin "a marvelous film without equal in the cinema ... anyone who had no firm political conviction could become a Bolshevik after seeing the film," The film was not banned in Nazi Germany, although Himmler issued a directive prohibiting SS members from attending screenings, as he deemed the movie inappropriate for the troops.

The most celebrated scene in the film is the massacre of civilians on the Odessa Steps (also known as the Primorsky or Potemkin Stairs). In this scene, the Tsar's soldiers in their white summer tunics march down a seemingly endless flight of steps in a rhythmic, machine-like fashion, firing volleys into a crowd. A separate detachment of mounted Cossacks charges the crowd at the bottom of the stairs. The victims include an older woman wearing Pince-nez, a young boy with his mother, a student in uniform and a teenage schoolgirl. A mother pushing an infant in a baby carriage falls to the ground dying and the carriage rolls down the steps amidst the fleeing crowd.

The massacre on the steps, which never took place, was presumably inserted by Eisenstein for dramatic effect and to demonise the Imperial regime. It is, however, based on the fact that there were widespread demonstrations in the area, sparked off by the arrival of the Potemkin in Odessa Harbour, and both The Times of London and the resident British Consul reported that troops fired on the crowds with accompanying loss of life (the actual number of casualties is unrecorded). Roger Ebert writes, "That there was, in fact, no czarist massacre on the Odessa Steps scarcely diminishes the power of the scene ... It is ironic that [Eisenstein] did it so well that today, the bloodshed on the Odessa steps is often referred to as if it really happened."

The scene is perhaps the best example of Eisenstein's theory on montage, and many films pay homage to the scene, including Terry Gilliam's Brazil, Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, Tibor Takacs' Deathline, Laurel and Hardy's The Music Box, George Lucas's Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Chandrashekhar Narvekar's Hindi film Tezaab, Shukō Murase's anime Ergo Proxy and Peter Sellers' The Magic Christian. Several films spoof it, including Woody Allen's Bananas and Love and Death, "Australia", Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker's Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (though actually a parody of The Untouchables), Soviet-Polish comedy Deja Vu, Jacob Tierney's The Trotsky and the Italian comedy Il secondo tragico Fantozzi. The 2011 November 7 Parade in Moscow also features an homage to the film. The Irish born painter Francis Bacon (1909–1992) was profoundly influenced by Eisenstein's images, particularly the Odessa Steps shot of the nurse's broken glasses and open mouthed scream. The open mouth image appeared first in his Abstraction from the Human Form, in Fragment of a Crucifixion, and other works including his famous Head series.

The Russian born photographer and artist Alexey Titarenko paid tribute to the Odessa Steps shot in his series "City Of Shadows" (1991–1993) by using crowd of desperate people on the stairs near subway station in Saint Petersburg to demonize the Soviet regime and as a symbol of human tragedy

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Rules of the Game

The Rules of the Game (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

The Rules of the Game (original French title: La Règle du jeu) is a 1939 French film directed by Jean Renoir about upper-class French society just before the start of World War II. As a point of departure he began with Alfred de Musset's Les Caprices de Marianne, a popular 19th-century comedy of manners: "My first intention was to film a transposition of Caprices de Marianne to our time. It is the story of a tragic mistake: the lover of Marianne is taken for someone else and is bumped off in an ambush". He was also inspired by Jeu de l'amour et du hasard of Marivaux, by Molière, and took some details from Beaumarchais: the quote at the beginning of the film comes from Mariage de Figaro
The Rules of the Game is often cited as one of the greatest films in the history of cinema. The decennial poll of international critics by the Sight & Sound magazine ranked it #10 in 1952, moved it up to #3 in 1962, and #2 in 1972, 1982, and 1992; in 2002 it fell back to #3, behind Citizen Kane and Vertigo.

Nora Gregor as Christine de la Cheyniest
Paulette Dubost as Lisette, her maid
Marcel Dalio as Robert de la Cheyniest
Roland Toutain as André Jurieux
Jean Renoir as Octave
Mila Parély as Geneviève de Marras
Anne Mayen as Jackie, niece of Christine
Julien Carette as Marceau, the poacher
Gaston Modot as Edouard Schumacher, the gamekeeper
Pierre Magnier as The General
Pierre Nay as Monsieur de St. Aubin
Francœur as Monsieur La Bruyère
Odette Talazac as Madame de la Plante
Claire Gérard as Madame de la Bruyère
Lise Elina as Radio-Reporter
Eddy Debray as Corneille, the butler
Léon Larive as the Cook
Henri Cartier-Bresson as the English Servant

The Rules of the Game is noted for its use of deep focus so that events going on in the background are as important as those in the foreground. In a 1954 interview with Jacques Rivette and François Truffaut, reprinted in Jean Renoir: Interviews, Renoir said "Working on the script inspired me to make a break and perhaps get away from naturalism completely, to try to touch on a more classical, more poetic genre." He wrote and rewrote it several times, often abandoning his original intentions altogether upon interaction with the actors having witnessed reactions that he hadn't foreseen. As a director he sought to "get closer to the way in which characters can adapt to their theories in real life while being subjected to life’s many obstacles that keep us from being theoretical and from remaining theoretical".
The film's style has had an impact on numerous filmmakers. One example is Robert Altman, whose Gosford Park copies many of Rules of the Game's plot elements (a story of aristocrats in the country, aristocrats and their servants, murder) and pays homage with a direct reference to the infamous hunting scene, or "la chasse", in which no one moves but the help.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Ugetsu (The Criterion Collection)

Ugetsu is a 1953 Japanese film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. Set in 16th century Japan, it stars Masayuki Mori and Machiko Kyō, and is inspired by short stories by Ueda Akinari and Guy de Maupassant. It is one of Mizoguchi's most celebrated films, regarded by critics as a masterwork of Japanese cinema, a definitive piece during Japan's Golden Age of Film.
The film's original Japanese title is Ugetsu monogatari (雨月物語), which means "Tales of the Moon and Rain", sometimes translated as "Tales of Moonlight and Rain" or "Tales Of The Pale And Silvery Moon After The Rain". The title was shortened when the film was released in the United States.

Masayuki Mori as Genjurō
Machiko Kyō as Lady Wakasa
Kinuyo Tanaka as Miyagi
Eitarō Ozawa as Tōbei (as Sakae Ozawa)
Ikio Sawamura as Genichi
Mitsuko Mito as Ohama
Kikue Mōri as Ukon
Ryōsuke Kagawa as Village Master
Eigoro Onoe as Knight
Saburo Date as Vassal
Sugisaku Aoyama as Old Priest
Reiko Kongo as Old Woman in Brothel
Shozo Nanbu as Shinto Priest
Ichirō Amano as Boatsman
Kichijirō Ueda as Shop Owner
Teruko Omi as Prostitute
Keiko Koyanagi as Prostitute
Mitsusaburō Ramon as Captain of Tamba Soldiers
Jun Fujikawa as Lost Soldier
Ryuuji Fukui as Lost Soldier
Masayoshi Kikuno as Soldier
Hajime Koshikawa
Sugisaka Koyama as High Priest
Ryuzaburo Mitsuoka as Soldier
Koji Murata
Fumihiko Yokoyama

Ugetsu won the Silver Lion Award for Best Direction at the Venice Film Festival in 1953. The film appeared in Sight and Sound magazine's top ten critics poll of the greatest movies ever made, which is held once every decade, in 1962 and 1972. In 2000, The Village Voice newspaper ranked Ugetsu at #29 on their list of the 100 best films of the 20th century.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pather Panchali

THE APU TRILOGY 3-Disc set [Pather Panchali-Aparajito-The World of Apu]

Pather Panchali (Bengali: পথের পাঁচালী, Pôther Pãchali, English: Song of the Little Road) is a 1955 Bengali drama film written and directed by Satyajit Ray and produced by the Government of the Indian state of West Bengal. Based on Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay's 1929 Bengali novel of the same name, the film was the directorial debut of Ray. The first film of The Apu Trilogy, it depicts the childhood of the protagonist Apu in the countryside of Bengal in the 1920s.
Though the film had a shoestring budget of Rs. 150,000 (US$3000), featured mostly amateur actors, and was made by an inexperienced crew, Pather Panchali was a critical and popular success. Influenced by Italian neorealism, Satyajit Ray developed his own style of lyrical realism in this film. The first film from independent India to attract major international critical attention, Pather Panchali won "Best Human Document" at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, establishing Satyajit Ray as a major international filmmaker. Pather Panchali is today considered one of the greatest films ever made.

Kanu Banerjee - Harihar Ray, Apu and Durga's father
Karuna Banerjee - Sarbajaya Ray, Apu and Durga's mother
Subir Banerjee - Apu Ray
Runki Banerjee (Uma Dasgupta, teen) - Durga Ray (Child)
Chunibala Devi - Indir Thakrun, Old aunt
Haren Banerjee - Candy seller

Pather Panchali DVD

The novel Pather Panchali by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay is a classic bildungsroman in Bengali literature. It first appeared as a serial in a periodical in 1928, and was published as a book in 1929. The plot was based on the author's own early life. The novel depicts a poor family's struggle to survive in their ancestral rural home and the growing up of Apu, the male child in the family. The later part of the novel, where Apu and his parents leave the village and settle in Benaras, formed the basis of Aparajito, the second film of the Apu trilogy.
Satyajit Ray read the novel in 1943, when he was doing the illustrations for a new edition of it, and contemplated the possibility of making a film based on it in 1947–48. Ray chose the novel because of certain qualities that, according to him, "made it a great book: its humanism, its lyricism, and its ring of truth." The author's widow granted permission for Ray to make a film based on the novel; however, the agreement was in principle only, and no financial arrangement was made.

Kanu Banerjee, an established Bengali film actor, portrayed the role of Harihar Ray, father of Apu and Durga. The role of Sarbajaya, wife of Harihar, was played by an amateur theatre actress of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), Karuna Banerjee, who was the wife of one friend of Ray. Uma Dasgupta, who was selected by an interview to act as Durga, also had prior experience in acting in theatre. For the role of Apu, Ray advertised in newspapers looking for boys of five to seven years age. Several boys turned up in response, but none of them met the expectation of the director. Finally, Ray's wife spotted a boy in their neighbourhood as a possible candidate. This boy, Subir Banerjee, was eventually cast as Apu (the surname of three main actors was Banerjee, although they were not related to each other). The toughest hurdle in the casting process was to identify an actress suitable to enact the character of the wizened, old Indir Thakrun. Ray eventually found Chunibala Devi, a retired stage actress living in a brothel, as the right candidate to portray Indir. Several minor roles were played by the villagers of Boral, the shooting location.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Searchers

The Searchers [Blu-ray]

The Searchers is a 1956 American Western film directed by John Ford, based on the 1954 novel by Alan Le May, and set during the Texas–Indian Wars. The picture stars John Wayne as a middle-aged Civil War veteran who spends years looking for his abducted niece (Natalie Wood), along with Jeffrey Hunter as his adoptive nephew, who accompanies him.
The film was a commercial success, although it received no Academy Award nominations. It was named the Greatest American Western of all time by the American Film Institute in 2008, and it placed 12th on the American Film Institute's 2007 list of the Top 100 greatest movies of all time.

John Wayne as Ethan Edwards
Jeffrey Hunter as Martin Pawley
Vera Miles as Laurie Jorgensen
Ward Bond as Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnson Clayton
Natalie Wood as Debbie Edwards (older)
John Qualen as Lars Jorgensen
Olive Carey as Mrs. Jorgensen
Henry Brandon as Chief Cicatriz (Scar)
Ken Curtis as Charlie McCorry
Harry Carey, Jr. as Brad Jorgensen
Antonio Moreno as Emilio Figueroa
Hank Worden as Mose Harper
Beulah Archuletta as Wild Goose Flying in the Night Sky (Look)
Walter Coy as Aaron Edwards
Dorothy Jordan as Martha Edwards
Pippa Scott as Lucy Edwards
Patrick Wayne as Lt. Greenhill
Lana Wood as Debbie Edwards (young)

Several film critics have suggested that The Searchers was inspired by the 1836 kidnapping of nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker by Comanche warriors who raided her family's home at Fort Parker, Texas. She spent 24 years with the Comanches, married a war chief, and had three children, only to be rescued against her will by Texas Rangers. James W. Parker, Cynthia Ann's uncle, spent much of his life and fortune in what became an obsessive search for his niece, like Ethan Edwards in the film. In addition, the rescue of Cynthia Ann, during a Texas Ranger attack known as the Battle of Pease River, resembles the rescue of Debbie Edwards when the Texas Rangers attack Scar's village. Parker's story was only one of 64 real-life cases of 19th-century child abductions in Texas that author Alan Le May studied while researching the novel on which the film was based. Moreover, his surviving research notes indicate that the two characters who go in search of a missing girl were inspired by Brit Johnson, an African-American teamster who ransomed his captured wife and children from the Comanches in 1865. Afterward, he made at least three trips to Indian Territory and Kansas relentlessly searching for another kidnapped girl, Millie Durgan (or Durkin), until Kiowa raiders killed him in 1871.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tokyo Story

Tokyo Story (The Criterion Collection)

Tokyo Story (東京物語 Tōkyō Monogatari) is a 1953 Japanese film directed by Yasujirō Ozu. It tells the story of an aging couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their grown children. The film contrasts the behavior of their biological children, who are too busy to pay them much attention, and their daughter-in-law, who treats them with kindness. It is often regarded as Ozu's masterpiece, and has twice appeared in Sight & Sound magazine's 'Top Ten' list of the greatest films ever made.

The script was developed by Yasujirō Ozu and his long-time collaborator Kōgo Noda over a period of 103 days in a country inn in Chigasaki. The two, together with cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta, then scouted locations in Tokyo and Onomichi for another month before shooting started. Shooting and editing the film took place from July to October 1953. In many respects the production of Tokyo Story was unremarkable and routine. As with most Ozu films, production - from the development of the script to the final editing - took four months to complete. Ozu used the same film crew and actors he had worked with for many years and the film's themes were similar to the themes of his other films.

Like all of Ozu's sound films, Tokyo Story's pacing is slow (or, as David Bordwell prefers to describe it, "calm").[9] Important events are often not shown on screen, only being revealed later through dialogue. For example, Ozu does not depict the mother and father's journey to Tokyo at all. Ozu uses his distinctive camera style, often called “tatami-mat” shot, in which the camera height is low and almost never moves; film critic Roger Ebert wryly notes that the camera moves once in the film, which is "more than usual" for an Ozu film

Monday, February 20, 2012

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane (70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]

Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film, directed by and starring Orson Welles. Many critics consider it the greatest American film of all time, especially for its innovative cinematography, music and narrative structure. Citizen Kane was Welles's first feature film. The film was nominated for Academy Awards in nine categories; it won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) by Herman Mankiewicz and Welles. It was released by RKO Pictures.
The story is a film à clef that examines the life and legacy of Charles Foster Kane, played by Welles, a character based in part upon the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and Welles's own life. Upon its release, Hearst prohibited mention of the film in any of his newspapers. Kane's career in the publishing world is born of idealistic social service, but gradually evolves into a ruthless pursuit of power. Narrated principally through flashbacks, the story is revealed through the research of a newsreel reporter seeking to solve the mystery of the newspaper magnate's dying word: "Rosebud."
After his success in the theatre with his Mercury Players and his controversial 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, Welles was courted by Hollywood. He signed a contract with RKO Pictures in 1939. Unusual for an untried director, he was given the freedom to develop his own story and use his own cast and crew, and was given final cut privilege. Following two abortive attempts to get a project off the ground, he developed the screenplay of Citizen Kane with Herman Mankiewicz. Principal photography took place in 1940 and the film received its American release in 1941.
A critical success, Citizen Kane failed to recoup its costs at the box office. The film faded from view soon after but its reputation was restored, initially by French critics and more widely after its American revival in 1956. Many film critics consider Citizen Kane to be the greatest film ever made, which has led Roger Ebert to quip: "So it's settled: Citizen Kane is the official greatest film of all time." It topped both the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies list and the 10th Anniversary Update, as well as all of the Sight & Sound polls of the 10 greatest films for nearly half a century.
The film was released on Blu-ray on September 13, 2011 for a special 70th Anniversary Edition.

Major characters
Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane: the titular "Citizen Kane"; a wealthy, megalomaniacal newspaper publisher whose life is the subject of the movie.
William Alland as Jerry Thompson: the reporter in charge of finding out the meaning of Kane's last word, "Rosebud". Thompson is seen only in shadow or with his back turned to the camera.
Ray Collins as Jim W. Gettys: Kane's political rival and the incumbent governor of New York. Kane appears to be the frontrunner in the campaign, but Gettys exposes Kane's relationship with Susan Alexander which leads to his defeat.
Dorothy Comingore as Susan Alexander Kane: Kane's mistress, who later becomes his second wife.
Joseph Cotten as Jedediah Leland: Kane's best friend and the first reporter on Kane's paper. Leland continues to work for Kane as his empire grows, although they grow apart over the years. Kane fires Leland after he writes a bad review of Susan Alexander Kane's operatic debut.
George Coulouris as Walter Parks Thatcher: a miserly banker who becomes Kane's legal guardian.
Agnes Moorehead as Mary Kane: Kane's mother.
Harry Shannon as Jim Kane: Kane's father.
Everett Sloane as Mr. Bernstein: Kane's friend and employee who remains loyal to him to the end. According to RKO records, Sloane was paid $2400 for shaving his head.
Ruth Warrick as Emily Monroe Norton Kane: Kane's first wife and the niece of the President. She leaves him after discovering his affair with Susan Alexander. She dies in a car accident along with their only child, a son, a few years later.
Paul Stewart as Raymond: Kane's cynical butler who assists him in his later years. Stewart had discovered Welles when he was a radio producer.

Minor characters
Georgia Backus as Bertha Anderson.
Fortunio Bonanova as Signor Matiste.
Sonny Bupp as Charles Foster Kane III: Kane's son who later dies in a car accident with his mother (though only the voiceover narration acknowledges this). Bupp was the last surviving principal cast member of Citizen Kane when he died in 2007 (bit player Louise Currie was still alive as of January 2011).
Buddy Swan as Young Charles Foster Kane.
Erskine Sanford as Herbert Carter.
Gus Schilling as The Headwaiter.
Philip Van Zandt as Mr. Rawlston.
The film's end credits read "Most of the principal actors are new to motion pictures. The Mercury Theatre is proud to introduce them." Welles along with his partner John Houseman had assembled them into a group known as the Mercury Players to perform his productions in the Mercury Theatre in 1937. After accepting his Hollywood contract in 1939, Welles worked between Los Angeles and New York where the Mercury Theatre continued their weekly radio broadcasts for The Campbell Playhouse. Welles had wanted all the Mercury Players to debut in his first film, but the cancellation of The Heart of Darkness project in December 1939 created a financial crisis for the group and some of the actors worked elsewhere. This caused friction between Welles and Houseman, and their partnership ended.
RKO executives were dismayed that so many of the major roles went to unknowns, but Welles's contract left them with no say in the matter. The film features debuts from William Alland, Agnes Moorehead, Everett Sloane, Ruth Warrick and Welles himself. An uncredited Alan Ladd appears as one of the newspaper reporters.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bicycle Thieves

Bicycle Thieves (The Criterion Collection)

Bicycle Thieves (Italian: Ladri di biciclette), also known as The Bicycle Thief, is a 1948 Italian neorealist film directed by Vittorio De Sica. It tells the story of a poor man searching the streets of Rome for his stolen bicycle, which he needs to be able to work. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Luigi Bartolini and was adapted for the screen by Cesare Zavattini. It stars Lamberto Maggiorani as the poor man searching for his lost bicycle and Enzo Staiola as his son.
It was given an Academy Honorary Award in 1950, and, just four years after its release, was deemed the greatest film of all time by the magazine Sight & Sound's poll of filmmakers and critics in 1952. The film placed sixth as the greatest ever made in Sight & Sound's latest directors' poll, conducted in 2002, and was ranked in the top 10 of the BFI list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14.

Bicycle Thieves is the best known neo-realist film; a movement begun by Roberto Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945), which attempted to give a new degree of realism to cinema. Following the precepts of the movement, De Sica shot only on location in Rome, and instead of professional actors used nonactors with no training in performance; for example, Lamberto Maggiorani, the leading actor, was a factory worker. The picture is also in the Vatican's Best Films List for portraying humanistic values.

Lamberto Maggiorani as Antonio Ricci
Enzo Staiola as Bruno Ricci, Antonio's son
Lianella Carell as Maria Ricci, Antonio's wife
Gino Saltamerenda as Baiocco, Antonio's friend who helps search
Vittorio Antonucci as Bicycle thief
Giulio Chiari as Beggar

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Seven Samurai (七人の侍 Shichinin no Samurai?) is a 1954 Japanese adventure drama film co-written, edited, and directed by Akira Kurosawa. The film takes place in 1587 during the Warring States Period of Japan. It follows the story of a village of farmers that hire seven masterless samurai (ronin) to combat bandits who will return after the harvest to steal their crops.
Seven Samurai is described as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made, and is one of a select few Japanese films to become widely known in the West for an extended period of time. It is the subject of both popular and critical acclaim; it was voted onto Sight & Sound's list of the ten greatest films of all time in 1982, and to the directors' top ten films in the 1992 and 2002 polls.

Seven Samurai
Kambei Shimada (島田勘兵衛 Shimada Kanbei) (Takashi Shimura) — The leader of the group and the first "recruited" by the villagers, he is a wise but war-weary soldier.
Katsushirō Okamoto (岡本勝四郎 Okamoto Katsushirō) (Isao Kimura) — A young untested warrior. He comes from a warrior family and wants to be Kambei's disciple.
Gorōbei Katayama (片山五郎兵衛 Katayama Gorōbei) (Yoshio Inaba) — He is recruited by Kambei and is a skilled archer, he acts as the second in command and helps create the master plan for the village's defense.
Shichirōji (七郎次) (Daisuke Katō) — He was once Kambei's lieutenant. Kambei meets him by chance in the town and he resumes this role.
Heihachi Hayashida (林田平八 Hayashida Heihachi) (Minoru Chiaki) — Recruited by Gorōbei. An amiable though less-skilled fighter. His charm and wit maintain his comrades' good cheer in the face of adversity.
Kyūzō (久蔵) (Seiji Miyaguchi) — He initially declined an offer by Kambei to join the group, though he later changes his mind. A serious, stone-faced samurai and a supremely skilled swordsman; Katsushirō is in awe of him.
Kikuchiyo (菊千代) (Toshirō Mifune) — A would-be samurai (right down to the false noble birth certificate) who eventually proves his worth. He is mercurial and temperamental. He identifies with the villagers and their plight.
Gisaku 儀作 (Kokuten Kodo) — The miller and village patriarch, referred to as "Grandad," who tells the villagers to hire samurai to protect themselves.
Yohei 与平 (Bokuzen Hidari) — A very timid old man who shares some memorable comic scenes with Kikuchiyo.
Manzō 万造 (Kamatari Fujiwara) — A farmer who fears for his daughter's purity when surrounded by the dashing samurai.
Shino 志乃 (Keiko Tsushima) — Manzō's daughter who falls in love with Katsushirō.
Rikichi 利吉 (Yoshio Tsuchiya) — Hotheaded and relatively young, he has a painful secret concerning his wife.
Rikichi's Wife (Yukiko Shimazaki) — Unseen in the early part of the film, the secret of her whereabouts will lead to tragedy.
Mosuke 茂助 (Yoshio Kosugi) — His house is one of the three outlying buildings that will have to be abandoned in order to save the twenty in the main hamlet.
The Bandit Chief (Shinpei Takagi)
Bandit Second-In-Command (Shin Ōtomo)
Musket Bandit (Toshio Takahara)
Roof Bandit (Masanobu Ōkubo)

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Gold Rush

The Gold Rush (Two-Disc Special Edition)

The Gold Rush is a 1925 silent film comedy written, produced, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin in his Little Tramp role. The film also stars Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman, Malcolm Waite.
Chaplin declared several times that this was the film that he most wanted to be remembered for.

Though a silent film, it received an Academy Awards nomination for Best Sound Recording. In 1953, the film entered the public domain (in the USA) due to the claimants failure to renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication

Charlie Chaplin as The Tramp (labeled as The Lone Prospector)
Mack Swain as Big Jim McKay
Tom Murray as Black Larsen
Malcolm Waite as Jack Cameron
Georgia Hale as Georgia
Henry Bergman as Hank Curtis

Lita Grey was originally cast as the leading lady. Chaplin married Grey in mid-1924, and she was replaced in the film by Georgia Hale. Although photographs of Grey exist in the role, documentaries such as Unknown Chaplin and Chaplin Today: The Gold Rush do not contain any film footage of her, indicating no such footage survives.
Chaplin attempted to film many of the scenes on location near Truckee, California, in early 1924. He abandoned most of this footage (which included him being chased through the snow by Big Jim, instead of just around the hut as in the final cut), retaining only the film's opening scene. The final film was shot on the backlot and stages at Chaplin's Hollywood studio, where elaborate Klondike sets were constructed.
Discussing the making of the film in the documentary series Unknown Chaplin, Hale revealed that she had idolized Chaplin since childhood and that the final scene of the original version, in which the two kiss, reflected the state of their relationship by that time (Chaplin's marriage to Lita Grey having collapsed during production of the film). Hale discusses her relationship with Chaplin in her memoir Charlie Chaplin: Intimate Close-Ups.
The Gold Rush was a huge success in the US and worldwide. It is the fifth highest grossing silent film in cinema history, taking in more than $4,250,001 at the box office in 1926, and the highest grossing silent comedy. Chaplin proclaimed at the time of its release that this was the film for which he wanted to be remembered.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers Collection (A Night at The Opera/A Day at The Races/A Night in Casablanca/Room Service/At the Circus/Go West/The Big Store)

Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx (October 2, 1890 – August 19, 1977) was an American comedian and film star famed as a master of wit. His rapid-fire delivery of innuendo-laden patter earned him many admirers. He made 13 feature films with his siblings the Marx Brothers, of whom he was the third-born. He also had a successful solo career, most notably as the host of the radio and television game show You Bet Your Life. His distinctive appearance, carried over from his days in vaudeville, included quirks such as an exaggerated stooped posture, glasses, cigars, and a thick greasepaint mustache and eyebrows.

Groucho Marx made 26 movies, 13 of them with his brothers Chico and Harpo. Marx developed a routine as a wise-cracking hustler with a distinctive chicken-walking lope, an exaggerated greasepaint mustache and eyebrows, and an ever-present cigar, improvising insults to stuffy dowagers (often played by Margaret Dumont) and anyone else who stood in his way. As the Marx Brothers, he and his brothers starred in a series of popular stage shows and movies.
Their first movie was a silent film made in 1921 that was never released, and is believed to have been destroyed at the time. A decade later, the team made some of their Broadway hits into movies, including The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers. Other successful films were Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup, and A Night at the Opera. One quip from Marx concerned his response to Sam Wood, the director of the classic film A Night at the Opera. Furious with the Marx Brothers' ad-libs and antics on the set, Wood yelled in disgust: "You can't make an actor out of clay." Groucho responded, "Nor a director out of Wood."

Marx worked as a radio comedian and show host. One of his earliest stints was in a short-lived series in 1932 Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, co-starring Chico. Most of the scripts and discs were thought to have been destroyed, but all but one of the scripts were found in 1988 in the Library of Congress.

In 1947, Marx was chosen to host a radio quiz program You Bet Your Life broadcast by ABC and then CBS, before moving over to NBC radio and television in 1950. Filmed before a live audience, the television show consisted of Marx interviewing the contestants and ad libbing jokes, before playing a brief quiz. The show was responsible for the phrases "Say the secret woid [word] and divide $100" (that is, each contestant would get $50); and "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" or "What color is the White House?" (asked when Marx felt sorry for a contestant who had not won anything). It ran for eleven years on television.

Groucho was the subject of an urban legend about a supposed response to a contestant who had nine children which supposedly brought down the house. In response to Marx asking in disbelief why she had so many children, the contestant replied, "I love my husband." To this, Marx responded, "I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while." Groucho often asserted in interviews that this exchange never took place, but it remains one of the most often quoted "Groucho-isms" nonetheless.

Throughout his career he introduced a number of memorable songs in films, including "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" and "Hello, I Must Be Going", in Animal Crackers, "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It", "Everyone Says I Love You" and "Lydia the Tattooed Lady". Frank Sinatra, who once quipped that the only thing he could do better than Marx was sing, made a film with Marx and Jane Russell in 1951 entitled Double Dynamite.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012



Beginners is a 2010 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Mike Mills. It tells the story of Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a man reflecting on the life and death of his father while trying to forge a new romantic relationship with a woman dealing with father issues of her own.

Beginners premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, where the Los Angeles Times heralded it as a "heady, heartfelt film" with a cast who has "a strong sense of responsibility to their real-world counterparts"

* Ewan McGregor as Oliver
o Keegan Boos as young Oliver
* Christopher Plummer as Hal, Oliver's father.
* Mélanie Laurent as Anna, a French actress with whom Oliver begins a love affair.
* Goran Višnjić as Andy, Hal's much-younger lover.
* Kai Lennox as Elliot, Oliver's best friend and co-worker.
* Mary Page Keller as Georgia, Oliver's mother.
* China Shavers as Shauna, Oliver's friend and co-worker.
* Lou Taylor Pucci as The Magician
* Cosmo as Arthur


Hugo (Three-disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy)

In resourceful orphan Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield, an Oliver Twist-like charmer), Martin Scorsese finds the perfect vessel for his silver-screen passion: this is a movie about movies (fittingly, the 3-D effects are spectacular). After his clockmaker father (Jude Law) perishes in a museum fire, Hugo goes to live with his Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), a drunkard who maintains the clocks at a Paris train station. When Claude disappears, Hugo carries on his work and fends for himself by stealing food from area merchants. In his free time, he attempts to repair an automaton his father rescued from the museum, while trying to evade the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), a World War I veteran with no sympathy for lawbreakers. When Georges (Ben Kingsley), a toymaker, catches Hugo stealing parts for his mechanical man, he recruits him as an assistant to repay his debt. If Georges is guarded, his open-hearted ward, Isabelle (Chloë Moretz), introduces Hugo to a kindly bookseller (Christopher Lee), who directs them to a motion-picture museum, where they meet film scholar René (Boardwalk Empire's Michael Stuhlbarg). In helping unlock the secret of the automaton, they learn about the roots of cinema, starting with the Lumière brothers, and give a forgotten movie pioneer his due, thus illustrating the importance of film preservation, a cause to which the director has dedicated his life. If Scorsese's adaptation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret isn't his most autobiographical work, it just may be his most personal. Welcome to a magical world of spectacular adventure! When wily and resourceful Hugo discovers a secret left by his father, he unlocks a mystery and embarks on a quest that will transform those around him and lead to a safe and loving place he can call home. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Martin Scorsese invites you to experience a thrilling journey that critics are calling “the stuff that dreams are made of.”



Warrior is a 2011 American sports drama film directed by Gavin O'Connor and starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte. Warrior tells the story of two estranged brothers entering a mixed martial arts tournament, and deals with the brothers' struggling relationship with each other and with their father. The film was released on September 9, 2011 to overall positive reviews, and earned an Academy Award nomination for Nolte. Warrior is dedicated to the memory of Charles Lewis Jr., as seen just before the ending credits.

* Joel Edgerton as Brendan Conlon
* Tom Hardy as Tommy Conlon
* Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon
* Jennifer Morrison as Tess Conlon
* Frank Grillo as Frank Campana
* Kurt Angle as Koba
* Kevin Dunn as Principal Joe Zito
* Denzel Whitaker as Stephon
* Erik Apple as Pete "Mad Dog" Grimes
* Nate Marquardt as Karl Kruller
* Anthony "Rumble" Johnson as Orlando "Midnight" Lee
* Josh Rosenthal as himself
* Bryan Callen as himself
* Rashad Evans as himself

Described by critics as "heartbreaking and emotionally satisfying," "really gripping," and "an unapologetic powerhouse of emotional conflict," and self-described as a "rousing ode to redemption, reconciliation and the power of the human spirit," Warrior has received the most praise for the emotional approach it takes to the themes of forgiveness and "the enduring bonds of family" that it explores. In their review, Common Sense Media cites unconditional love as a major theme, further explaining that "some weighty issues" such as estrangement and alcoholism are dealt with.