Thursday, May 9, 2013

Favorite (four), part nineteen

Just like my other eighteen posts in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  Most of the films 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 will be good to someone else, too).

Jerry Schatzberg's Scarecrow
Zsigmond gives it great space and brings a real strength to much of the framing.  Its assets - its looseness, authenticity, and the freewheeling nature Schatzberg is able to capture quite often - leave its engine running a little cold at times.  But there's a Pialat depth and a heaviness of feeling that more than make for any lack of narrative drive.  When people start talking about the great character studies the American cinema produced in the seventies, I would comfortably and certainly throw this one into the mix. 

Alexander Mackendrick's The Man in the White Suit
A great little film I never knew much about.  Alec Guinness is wonderful as the vulnerable scientist.  And Mackendrick keeps things suspenseful, fun, and heartfelt.  One of those films that will be great fun to watch for years to come.  

Frank Borzage's The Mortal Storm
Sure it may be an extremely well-made film that makes you think more than it makes you feel.  But it is also frightening and communicates the horrors of fascism as well as anything I have ever seen.  Borzage's film seems like it might have been one of the main things Tarantino saw as he put Inglourious Basterds together.  Featuring some terrific set pieces (like IB), Borzage builds suspense by working through the characters rather than through music or any other cinematic manipulation.  Borzage who was known for his melodrama impresses here with an extraordinary sense of restraint.

Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty
I was quite impressed by the filmmaking which I found incredibly complex yet elegant and modern.  Bigelow maintains some increasingly rare sensibilities - a noticeable respect for framing, film as negative, and camera movement more as dance than prizefight.  I feel it only falters from greatness in its final act, becoming questionably plausible on certain major plot points and pretty lazy with certain emotional ambitions.  And although I am in the minority, I like Chastain's look but continue to question the depth of her abilities. 


  1. Jeffrey, I am thrilled to see another post here, and at that one that showcases some excellent films! ZERO DARK THIRTY is of course one of the best films of 2012, and well-deserving of the critical accolades that continue to define it. For me it even eclipses Bigelow's previous THE HURT LOCKER, another exceptional work. I completely understand your minor reservations though. SCARECROW is indeed a great character study, and it seems to get better over time, especially in view of the great lead performance by Hackman and Pacino. Talk about coincidence the film will be screening for a one-week engagement at the Film Forum on May 17th, and I'll definitely be in attendance:

    THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT is one of the great Ealing masterpieces, and I also got to see this months back at the Film Forum. Douglas Slocombe’s luminous black and white was stunning negotiated in the DCP restoration.

    THE MORTAL STORM is indeed restrained and is as good a film as we have dealing with the horrors of fascism. Borzage is a master, and this is one of his most powerful works.

    All told a brilliant re-cap here Jeffrey!

  2. Sam, great to have you here, as always! I appreciate the wonderful additions and your terrific guidance. You have led me to countless gems, and I am truly appreciative.