Archives for September 2015

They Made Me a Fugitive (1947)

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“This is the last time organ runs his fingers through my permanent wave.”

Once I heard this line I was convinced I had to write about this film. Released as I Became a Criminal in the United States They Made Me a Fugitive is Brazilian-born British director Alberto Cavalcanti’s (simply known as Cavalcanti) foray into noir, a genre usually associated with post-WWII American urban landscapes. The Brit-noir stars Trevor Howard as Clem Morgan, an ex-RAF down on his luck. He finds himself caught in a criminal enterprise that leads to him being framed for a crime he did not commit.

For the most part They Made Me a Fugitive is a standard-issue crime drama, but here are a few reasons I enjoyed the film:

  • The setting (post-war London) rivals or surpasses any post-war urban decay as portrayed by its American counterparts – kind of makes sense, because noir thrives on the decayed and the decrepit. After being bombed to near oblivion, London is an ideal location.
  • Trevor Howard – yes that quintessential English gent – is reduced to a life of crime and on the lam. This is something worth staying in for (or at least enjoying as a late night cinematic treat).
  • One for the ladies – while Narcy (portrayed by Griffith Jones) is the head of the smuggling racket, the place they use as a front is a funeral home (aptly named Valhalla), run by Aggie (Mary Merrall), who is tough as nails.

This setting is just one of the several references in the film to the theme of death, a theme that reaches its climax on the rooftop of the aforementioned funeral home –

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You can catch this gem on Amazon Prime Video.

Fun fact: The script was written by playwright Noel Langley, one of the screenwriters of The Wizard of Oz. (Source: Wikipedia).

The Ingrid Bergman Tribute at BAM

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the kick off event for BAMcinematek’s Ingrid Bergman Film Retrospective. Created and written by Ludovica Damiani and Guido Torlonia (also the director), the evening featured live performances by Bergman’s daughter, Isabella Rossellini and Academy-Award winner Jeremy Irons.

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What a creative way to mark the centennial of Bergman’s birth – combining personalized, “autobiographical” narratives of her life and work with featured clips of those seminal works, including Casablanca (of course), Anastasia, and The Bells of St Mary’s, to name a few. The audience was also treated to home movies from Ingrid Bergman’s personal collection, including (amazingly) several stills and moving images from her early childhood.

Most striking and resonant for me? The irreverence and honestly her personal accounts were given – the triumphs were given equal weight with the tragedies and controversies … it was a refreshingly honest insight into the world of a performer, an artist, a human being. Equally poignant was that fact that her own daughter, who bears a striking resemblance to her, is uttering these words.

It is a wonder that all of this took place over the course of a breezy, uninterrupted 90 minutes. Unfortunately we were restricted from photographing any of the event; hopefully there will be a recording somewhere for those who wish to see it.

If you missed this extraordinary event, have no fear – from now until the 29th, BAM will be showing 14 of the cinematic icon’s greatest performances.

ILC’s recommendations: Notorious (1946), Journey to Italy (1954), Gaslight (1944).

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Ingrid Bergman in a still from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Notorious” (1946)

A Labor of Love

100years_movies10Well, that’s a wrap ladies and gents. As Labor Day 2015 fades into night, the summer is more or less over. What awaits us movie fans? Well with Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York, we will be hit with an onslaught of award-worthy projects. I will probably discuss these a little later. But for now, I have a little assignment I have set forth for myself as the year comes to a close.

Recently, I took an “online movie list challenge,” consisting of my selecting films that made AFI’s 100, Years 100 Films list, produced over a decade ago.

The results were disappointing to say the very least. Sure, being in the 25th percentile is not a bad place in general, for someone who proclaims to love motion pictures as much as I do, that is a pretty low score.

Determined to right this wrong, I did what any good student would do – reviewed my input. What I found was an interesting pattern … while there are a few outliers, many of the films that I have “overlooked” happened to be produced during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Some movies I have seen bits of, others I have had spoiled for me – but none of them have I seen straight through from opening credits to the end.

This revision gave me an idea – a mini task/project for myself that will see me try to watch each of these missed films from now until December 31st.

Some I will probably review; others may not make it to post, I cannot make any guarantees. But be on the lookout over the next few months for a little cinematic trip back forty-plus years as I watch the following films (order listed is random):

  1. Toy Story (1995)
  2. Blade Runner (1982)
  3. Do the Right Thing (1989)
  4. The Last Picture Show (1971)
  5. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
  6. Easy Rider (1969)
  7. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  8. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  9. Intolerance (1916)
  10. The Deer Hunter (1978)
  11. Rocky (1976)
  12. Nashville (1975)
  13. Cabaret (1972)
  14. Network (1976)
  15. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  16. Tootsie (1982)
  17. Modern Times (1936)
  18. The Wild Bunch (1969)
  19. Raging Bull (1980)
  20. Schindler’s List (1993)
  21. The Graduate (1967)
  22. The General (1927)
  23. Chinatown (1974)
  24. Apocalypse Now (1979)
  25. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Well lookie here … a perfect 25 films!

So I throw it you, fair reader, take the challenge and let me know how you did in the Comments section below. Good luck!

Still from "Intolerance"

Still from “Intolerance”

Wes Craven (1939-2015)

Just a few thoughts regarding the passing of filmmaker Wes Craven, who passed away on Sunday.

I can never claim to be a horror-genre aficionado, but as a fan of cinema, it would be remiss of me to not recognize Craven’s contribution an often dismissed genre. While for many, horror may not qualify as “high cinematic art,” it should be recognized that at its best, it’s able to frighten audiences and leave a lasting impression. And that he did in creating one of the most terrifying screen characters – Freddy Krueger – a figure that is literally the stuff of (my and many others’) nightmares.

In addition to the frighteners he put on me with Mr. Krueger, here are a couple of additional titles that I quite enjoyed:

Swamp Thing (1982): Not technically a horror film, more sci-fi; but still, it provided its own form of late night entertainment.

Vampire in Brooklyn (1995): Despite some “less than favorable” reviews and no good vibes from the people behind the scenes, this horror comedy is one that for whatever reason, I liked when I first saw it. Or maybe I was more intrigued by the concept than by the delivery.

Red Eye (2005): I liked this one so much I wrote about it in 2012! An exhilarating, 85-minute thrill ride from start to finish, it definitely was a Goldilocks “just right” in terms of creating tension and coming to (relatively) satisfying resolution.

Oh shoot, I almost forgot about Scream (1996) – mainly the first one. To me, a measure of success for a film is determined by how often your art is imitated. Scream is a perfect example – since its release, not only were there the requisite sequels, but the Scream franchise launched a thousand derivative facsimiles and brought new life to a genre (slasher flick) that had grown a bit stale. The irony of course being that Craven, along with others, helped usher in the first wave with his Nightmare on Elm Street series.

How about you? Any Craven faves?

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P.S. … after many failed attempts, I think I might just finally check out The Last House on the Left (1972). Thanks(?) to this piece in The Guardian newspaper, I was reminded that while not a perfect film, it may be worth a look, if only for its social commentary.