Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Favorite (four), part six

Just like in my other five posts thus far in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  I'm trying right now to take in almost a film a day.  Most have been first-time viewings.  And most I have been glad to finally see, but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those (and hopefully one or two of these will be good to someone else, too).

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes

Powell believed in beauty.  And Powell believed in art.  And this is about as beautiful a film about art, creation, and the artist's life as any I've ever seen.  Walbrook and Shearer's performances are otherworldly.  

Joseph L. Mankiewicz's House of Strangers

Richard Conte's great and so is Edward G. Robinson (in fact, they both deliver two of their more memorable performances).  Another key to The Godfather and Mean Streets, and at times, downright classic.

Nicholas Ray's They Live by Night

Finally, I understand all the fuss.  It's an incredible debut and now up there among my favorite noirs.  Bowie and Keechie's chemistry is amazing, and there's something tremendously compelling about both Granger and O'Donnell.  Ray keeps things moving and shows off his inventive eye in a number of different scenes.  And he demonstrates that he has a real poetic connection and understanding of the outdoors.  A wonderful fatalistic build-up near the end rounds up a very, very good film.  

Samuel Fuller's The Steel Helmet
Fuller's expressionistic style and inventiveness under constrained circumstances (apparently a ten day shooting schedule) elevate this film to great interest.  Raw and full of engaged subtext, an incredibly original work for its time.  And with at least one classic line, "If you die, I'll kill you."


  1. Again Jeffrey, a superlative quartet of films! I am admittedly particularly partial to Powell and Pressberger's THE RED SHOES and Nicholas Ray's THEY LIVE BY NIGHT (you frame that one here brilliantly, as you do all the others)but THE STEEL HELMUT is one of Fuller's best films, and HOUSE OF STRANGERS exerted some marked influence. I'd definitely place the first two I mention here as contenders for the best films of their respective years, though the others aren't far off either.

    Wonderful round-up!

    It's look like Harry Potter later this afternoon with the gang! Ha!

  2. Sam, thanks so much for the wonderful words! You and I are in total agreement. I have a slight preference for the Powell and Ray above but really liked all four. Always a treat to have you here. Thanks so much, Sam!