Friday, March 09, 2007

Revisit: L'Enfant Sauvage

A United Artists release 1970

Directed by
François Truffaut

Writing credits
François Truffaut
Jean Gruault
Jean Itard (scientific report)

Based on the true story of a child found alone in the wild and a doctor's attempts to educate him.

Truffaut's relatively accurate interpretation of the events surrounding Dr. Jean Itard's work with a wild child is as engaging as it is endearing. The film raises many interesting questions about the commonality of the human experience and man's primal nature, but mostly exists as a sincere effort to call attention to the works of Dr. Itard. The films only real drawback is Truffaut's acting, which is a bit wooden; the director claimed to have cast himself because he felt other actors weren't "utilizing the space he would offer", but as a performer, Truffaut is almost emotionless. Most of his character is laid out through voice-over, which can be a bore, but the film's brilliant cinematic construction (it was shot by Néstor Almendros, who was cinematographor for many of Rohmer's films, as well as Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven) keeps it interesting. It's also pretty short, which is always nice. Worth a look.

Revisit: Nobody's Fool

A Paramount Pictures release 1994

Directed by
Robert Benton

Writing credits
Richard Russo (novel)
Robert Benton (screenplay)

Sully (Paul Newman), a rascally ne'er-do-well approaching retirement age faces unfamiliar family responsibilities when his son and grandson move back home.

That video has nothing to do with this film, but it does prove a point: everything Paul Newman touches turns to gold. Newman recieved his ninth Oscar nod (not counting the Lifetime Achievement/Humanitarian awards he also won) for this film. Yes, even a mildly amusing, if not banal coming-of-age-at-60 story fares far better in Luke's cool hands. Only worth checking out if you're a Newman fan, but let's face it - who isn't?

Revisit: Annie Get Your Gun

An MGM release 1950

Directed by
George Sidney

Writing credits:
Dorothy Fields (book)
Herbert Fields (book)
Sidney Sheldon

The story of the great sharpshooter, Annie Oakley (Betty Hutton), who rises to fame while dealing with her love/professional rival, Frank Butler (Howard Keel).

A musical plauged with production problems from the get-go, Annie Get Your Gun went through three directors and two lead actors before settling on a final cast and crew. Original director Busby Berkeley was also replaced, first by Charles Walters and finally by George Sidney; likewise, Annie was originally supposed to feature the reunion of Wizard of Oz stars Judy Garland and Frank Morgan before Morgan passed away and Judy was fired for poor health.

Normally I'd say Garland's presence would make any musical better, but thank god she dropped out of this one. I couldn't find it online, but if you rent the Annie DVD, there is lots of deleted footage from her scrapped performance and you could tell she was all hopped up on something - jittery, unfocused, really poor stuff. Plus she doesn't fit the role of Annie whatsoever.

Betty Hutton, on the other hand, was made for the part. Easily the most underrated, unseen talent of her time, Hutton had more punch and pep in her pinky finger than most stars today have in their whole lives. She really threw herself into every performance, using complete physicality to put on a fantastic, energized show. Every part of her body is accented, particularly her face, which alone was capable of literally hundreds of expressions. She had this wonderful, wacky spirit, and could throw her voice better than most singers to boot! Check out this clip of her and Fred Astaire from Let's Dance...

See? Hutton was a ball of energy waiting to explode; she was, as Bob Hope once put, a vitamin pill with legs. Unfortunately, Hutton's road to stardom wasn't an easy one, and she quit the business early. Recently, she did an interview with TCM host Robert Osborne that is worth checking out. But I highly suggest you to go out and see Annie Get Your Gun, if anything to pay tribute to this forgotten legend of song.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Remake Rumors

I hope to god that this is a rumor. Panic in the Streets is a tight little crime thriller directed by one of my favorites, Elia Kazan. It also marked the feature film debut of Jack Palance. It's a great film, one of the best of the genre, and I'd be really disappointed if they let Mel Gibson tinker with it. Hopefully this'll get debunked in a few days, along with those silly Ron Howard to remake Cache rumors.

This is also extremely unnecessary. And from the director of Saw, no less! How horrifying!

The Power of Editing

Eisenstein - Battleship Potempkin Odessa Steps scene 1925

Riefenstahl - Triumph of the Will 1935

Maya Deren - Ritual in Transfigured Time 1946

Orson Welles' uninterrupted track shot from Touch of Evil 1958

Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner got me thinking a bit about editing and the power of montage. No time to discuss now, but I'll expand upon this post with some commentary later!