Top Ten By Year: 1949 #3 – Puce Moment (US / Anger)


Previous Top Ten By Year lists:
1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, 1978, 1925, 1969
1930

Previous Top Ten By Year: 1949 Posts:
Top Ten By Year: 1949 – Poll Results
100 Images from the Films of 1949
What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1949: A Love Letter
#10. The Queen of Spades (UK/Dickinson)
#9. Rendezvous in July (Becker)/Au royaume des cieux (Duvivier) (France)
#8. Too Late for Tears (US / Haskin)
#7. The Heiress (US / Wyler)
#6. The Set-Up (US / Wise)
#5. Caught (US / Ophüls)
#4. The Passionate Friends (UK / Lean)

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September of 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I choose comparatively weaker years for me re: quantity of films seen/quantity of films loved. I use list-making as a way to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-drive way. I was sick of spending too much time trying to decide what to watch, or watching films just to cross them off another dumb canon list. I wanted to engage. I wanted films to be enhanced by others, by looking at a specific moment in time. I wanted something that led me to seeing or revisiting things I might not have gotten to otherwise. Lastly, my lists are based on personal favorites, not any weird notion of an objective best.

This is the first year I’ll be doing separate posts for each film. #9 will go up Monday. After that, one will go up each day until the end. Then I’ll post them all together so they are gathered in one place. There are a lot of films I loved that did not make the cut. In particular, Flamingo Road, Such a Pretty Little Beach, On the Town, Inspirace, The Reckless Moment, Reign of Terror, The Rocking Horse Winner, and Samson and Delilah are all films I thought at one point would be on here. Of all of these, Flamingo Road was a sure thing until it wasn’t at the very last minute. Please go watch it.

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#3. Puce Moment (US / Anger) (first-time viewing)
(you can watch the film here. It is just over six minutes.)

Puce Moment is about that slinky diva from Singin’ in the Rain. You know the one — the vamp that never speaks. Every so often she can be seen skulking through the frame with her long cigarette & droopy posture that cries “Exotic!” Kenneth Anger’s short is about the Pola Negri’s, the Alla Nazimova’s, the Greta Garbo’s of the world. Just as Singin’ in the Rain was a love letter to Hollywood and the silent cinema, Puce Moment was about, in Anger’s words, his “love affair with Hollywood, silent film goddesses”, a bygone era where everything was etched in memory as performance and pose.

Bewitching garments of fabric shimmy towards us. A methodical pause is granted to each piece before it moves down the line. This is a fashion show without bodies. Whatever is happening, it’s as if it must be done. A close-up of a woman. She is fully made up, and blazingly modern. She holds fabric to her face. She looks up in ecstasy as the dress is lowered onto her, as if putting on a gift from the gods. Everything is deliberate and practiced. It is a ritual. After all, this is Kenneth Anger, and this was his ritual. This rack of pastel flapper frocks were artifacts belonging to Anger’s costume designer grandmother. When he was a child he would sneak up to her room and put one on in a similar fashion, going through them one-by-one each time.

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It becomes clear that Puce Moment is some kind of witchery. There is a shot of this goddess’s vanity and its compact pastel glamour. I think about playing “Pretty Pretty Princess” as a kid and how this image is exactly what I imagined those worthless pieces of plastic to be. Boudoirs were made for her, and she was made for her lair. She takes time to bask in the act of lounging, existing to exist in this space. Suddenly the couch moves. Then she is outside. It’s different. Being outside demands a purpose. Enter the Borzois! just as exotic as she. There are an irrational amount of them.

Though nothing can meet the process inside, she leaves her fortress in Mount Olympus. She is ready to meet the world with her dogs. It’s not night. It’s the late afternoon, but she must make something of this lazy hour. Who is this all for? For us? For her? Puce Moment is about the presentation of self as its own art form, as represented by the immortal celluloid siren. Today, Lady Gaga practices this publicly (calculated transparency and branding have supplanted mystery. Female pop stars are the only people who have preserved a small piece of what was). She is the diva walking her Borzois. Anger can’t imagine these women any other way. For him, the public self is also imagined to be the private self.

The woman’s movements are halting, as if she’s slightly off balance. While standing still, she wobbles. This is because Anger shot Puce Moment at 8 frames per second, evoking the silent period and planting the film firmly on its own plane of existence. There are other reasons the film feels out of time (but very much not out of place). The original soundtrack featured a piece by Verdi. But 20 years later, after falling out with soon-to-be Manson-ite Bobby Beausoleil over Lucifer Rising, he fled to London, got involved in the rock scene, and in 1970 re-released Puce Moment with a Jonathan Halper song attached to it. His psych ambience reverberates over those visuals as we hear him sing “Yes, I am a hermit”. A psychedelic sound added to a film from the 1940s, about the 1920s and its evocation of the no-longer, that already felt borne out of 1960s counterculture? No wonder the film feels like it exists in some far-off glitter dimension we can otherwise only hope to catch glimpses of in slumber.

Puce Moment is but a fragment, the only fragment, of an intended feature length project called Puce Women. The film would have been made up of different women representing different parts of the day. Instead we get one woman and a slice of something undone. Kenneth Anger uses the short film to go towards Hollywood while others working in this mode, avant-garde outsiders with limited finances, were doing the exact opposite. It feels fitting that Puce Moment is all there is. Its mysterious power remains absolute. It is a spell cast on the viewer, but one manifestation of Anger’s paganism. It is the luxuriant feminine eternally out of reach.

Top Ten By Year: 1949 #4 – The Passionate Friends (UK / Lean)


Previous Top Ten By Year lists:
1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, 1978, 1925, 1969
1930

Previous Top Ten By Year: 1949 Posts:
Top Ten By Year: 1949 – Poll Results
100 Images from the Films of 1949
What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1949: A Love Letter
#10. The Queen of Spades (UK/Dickinson)
#9. Rendezvous in July (Becker)/Au royaume des cieux (Duvivier) (France)
#8. Too Late for Tears (US / Haskin)
#7. The Heiress (US / Wyler)
#6. The Set-Up (US / Wise)
#5. Caught (US / Ophüls)

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September of 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I choose comparatively weaker years for me re: quantity of films seen/quantity of films loved. I use list-making as a way to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-drive way. I was sick of spending too much time trying to decide what to watch, or watching films just to cross them off another dumb canon list. I wanted to engage. I wanted films to be enhanced by others, by looking at a specific moment in time. I wanted something that led me to seeing or revisiting things I might not have gotten to otherwise. Lastly, my lists are based on personal favorites, not any weird notion of an objective best.

This is the first year I’ll be doing separate posts for each film. #9 will go up Monday. After that, one will go up each day until the end. Then I’ll post them all together so they are gathered in one place. There are a lot of films I loved that did not make the cut. In particular, Flamingo Road, Such a Pretty Little Beach, On the Town, Inspirace, The Reckless Moment, Reign of Terror, The Rocking Horse Winner, and Samson and Delilah are all films I thought at one point would be on here. Of all of these, Flamingo Road was a sure thing until it wasn’t at the very last minute. Please go watch it.

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#4. The Passionate Friends (UK / Lean) (first-time viewing)

Playing image association with David Lean’s The Passionate Friends conjures up a jellyfish and its streamer arms floating weightless in the ocean. Maybe it’s because I cast the image of Mary (Ann Todd) out on the balcony, billowing curtain in the foreground as she says goodbye to a different life once and for all, over the whole film. But there’s more to it than that. That wind and those floating curtains are just part of the visual language Lean uses to represent the life Mary doesn’t choose. There is the gentle ripple of the water, the outstretched tree branches that create particles of shadow, and the impossible majesty of the Swiss Alps. They are all part of the sensuality and openness of nature, the choice not made. The jellyfish is a clumsy descriptor, but maybe it’s fitting that I struggle to describe a film that seems to exist in the ethereal.

The Passionate Friends shows the ways time and memory play off each other in the psyche. Just as the properties of nature have the power to signal shifts in thought, atmosphere and objects can become tickets to elsewhere. The Set-Up uses time in the most confining of ways; the emotional lives of its characters are tethered to what is happening within those fateful seventy-three minutes. The Passionate Friends uses time as a structural and thematic bedrock; the subjectivity of its characters become inextricable from the past and the never-was.

The film confused some viewers when it was released (even for the flashback frenzy of the 40s, this was a lot to take in). We begin in Switzerland and travel back nine years, and then (for a brief time) another nine years. We then follow the same route back; nine years forward, and another nine to Switzerland for the final act. The structure recalls John Stahl’s The Locket, another 1940s film that uses to-and-fro flashbacks. The Locket gets more complicated by shifting perspectives as well as time. But The Passionate Friends not only forgoes most standard flashback cues, it even intercuts moments of imagined conversations and actions as characters traverse through humiliation and regret in the exact moments they are felt.

These forays into the internal both jolt and wash over the characters (and us), as inner lives and the autonomy of human emotion are wont to do. Lean always makes sure that the exterior communicates the interior. In an early scene, Mary sits in the carriage next to her husband, doused in darkness and boxed in by both the frame and the shroud of her veil. Barely visible, she is lost in reflections that hurt. Then we’re in the past, and we can feel the sensuality of nature everywhere. It is so bright; Mary and Steven are young and in love. Sunlight covers them, and branches shade them. Together they create a shimmering screen (seen above) that recalls the curtain of the first still (an image that comes much later in the film), and the veil that envelopes Mary in the carriage. In The Passionate Friends, images call back and signal to each other constantly. The veil is the curtain is the sun and shade. It is all of a piece.

All of a sudden there is a whistling screech as the carriage stops short. We are yanked back to the present the exact moment Mary is. There is no pomp and circumstance, no smooth transition. It is cruel, and we feel the loneliness of that carriage so much more. Compare this to how A Letter to Three Wives initiates flashbacks (also from 1949 with an advanced flashback structure); the autotune distortion of a repeated phrase hypnotizes us into and out of the past. There is the slow blur of the frame, a go-to sign that a flashback is coming our way. Lean doesn’t hand-hold. He wants to put you in the viscous of the emotional. The drift-in and shock-out of memory is faithful to Mary’s state of mind. We are with her — truly with her. The Passionate Friends is full of filmmaking that administers a psychic and emotional immediacy, a surprising early onset example of the discontinuous editing that would be en vogue in decades to come.

The Passionate Friends is a human drama rich enough for me to have seen drastically different takeaways on both its characters and its depiction of love and romance. The Passionate Friends is in that Daisy Kenyon class of “it’s complicated”, a sensual film about unsensual people. A film about repeating choices. There are no easy answers, just a lot of messy and contradictory feelings and desires. It’s not about the kinds of love we like to dream about, though it initially fools you into thinking it is. There is a different kind of love happening here, a sturdier love that sneaks up on both sides of the screen, borne out of epiphanies that have their own kind of beauty.

Mary knowingly gives up love for autonomy, money, and comfort with Howard Justin (Claude Rains). Their marriage is amicable, providing her with the kind of emotional freedom she needs and the finer things she wants. When we first meet her she’s on a plane to Switzerland. She sits in luxury, spoiled by “White bread. Butter. Cream!”. A big bowl of fruit even sneaks into the frame. She is, literally, in the clouds. One could argue this is the most openly passionate she appears in the entire film. This is the life she chose and the life she ultimately wants. There are no external forces preventing Steven and Mary from being together. Howard is not a tyrant. Freedom is always hers, including the choice to leave. She never does.

But every nine years she is destined to almost choose Steven (Trevor Howard), the pleasant professor of humble means. Mary’s trouble is the curse of knowing who you are, and knowing that the love you want isn’t the love for you (“I’ve always been a little hard”). Or thinking that you know that about yourself. Sometimes she seems to hold herself back, as if knowing this about herself has simply closed her off to what is possible. Mary and Steven can only exist in the “what if?”, but her self-assessment seems so absolute as to forbid any warmth in her life. For her, passion means first and foremost a loss of control and selfhood. She needs to belong to herself, an objective for a woman rarely understood today let alone then, and one that positions Mary as an outsider in the world.

How much is there really between Steven and Mary? As with so many romances, their feelings remain strong because they are left unprocessed. What could have been likely remains so much stronger than what would have been. Lean connects them metaphysically; dissolves erase the space between them as they think of each other in their respective solitude. Any time she is in the open air, the memory of Steven surrounds her (even if she doesn’t know it). Despite Lean’s lean (I’ll see myself out) into these romanticisms, The Passionate Friends is not a film about lost love. It’s more about mourning the type of person you long to be but aren’t (and can’t we all relate to that?!). Not being with Steven isn’t necessarily about not being with Steven; it’s about feeling passion and desire but not being able to live by that.

The juxtaposition between the life she chose and the life she didn’t can be seen at the New Year’s Eve ball (the scene always referenced in relation to Phantom Thread). On the ground floor she is seen catching up with her one-time soulmate. It is anarchy; they have to yell their pleasantries at each other, and there are Josef Von Sternberg amounts of balloons and streamers everywhere. In keeping with the spontaneous spirit of the event, they soon get split up. Soon after, we see her up in a box with Howard (Claude Rains is introduced looking like an old-school Count, beginning the film’s sly misdirect of his character). The prince and princess looking down on their subjects have such a different energy from the one below. Not cold, but congenial and removed. She looks down longingly, wanting to be part of the ruckus but knowing she wouldn’t know how. She defines herself as belonging to the lofty box that is lacking. It is not a longing that says “why didn’t I choose that?”. It is a longing that says “why can’t I be like them?”.

Steven may love Mary, but he doesn’t really know her. At one point Mary says to him “you don’t really know me at all”. At another point Howard says to him “you don’t know her”. Mary expresses this again later on, stating “we’re practically strangers to each other”. When he receives a letter from Mary in which she breaks off the relationship, he goes to Howard and accuses him of having made her write the letter. I mean, that’s how it always is in these love stories, isn’t it? The tyrant husband holds his wife prisoner or blackmails her into staying? Hell, that’s what Robert Ryan does to Barbara Bel Geddes in Caught! But there are no conventions of the Gothic or the Doomed Romance here. Just a woman making a choice — the same choice. It doesn’t mean she won’t think and dream of Steven on lonely nights. And it doesn’t mean she’ll never stop wondering about what could have been, and there will always be a sense of something lost.

But Howard does know her, and there are untapped waters between them. Claude Rains starts out as the cuckolded husband (we are teased with riffs on his Notorious character). Then, gradually, he emerges as the film’s true soul (Steven is never afforded much perspective while Howard increasingly is). Lean and Rains fully embody Howard’s intense humiliation and betrayal as he starts to reinterpret his own feelings towards Mary. As his pain turns to rage, hers turns to disorientation. He is driven to deliver two  shocking speeches in opposition to each other. She is driven to the brink by no longer belonging. It all crescendos in a spectacular whirlwind of emotional agony where absolute vulnerability and fate intervened reveal the power to reset. Steven is gone. This isn’t what we expected with who we expected. But like I said, The Passionate Friends belongs in that Daisy Kenyon category of “it’s complicated”.

Top Ten By Year: 1949 #5 – Caught (US / Ophüls)


Previous Top Ten By Year lists:
1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, 1978, 1925, 1969
1930

Previous Top Ten By Year: 1949 Posts:
Top Ten By Year: 1949 – Poll Results
100 Images from the Films of 1949
What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1949: A Love Letter
#10. The Queen of Spades (UK/Dickinson)
#9. Rendezvous in July (Becker)/Au royaume des cieux (Duvivier) (France)
#8. Too Late for Tears (US / Haskin)
#7. The Heiress (US / Wyler)
#6. The Set-Up (US / Wise)

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September of 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I choose comparatively weaker years for me re: quantity of films seen/quantity of films loved. I use list-making as a way to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-drive way. I was sick of spending too much time trying to decide what to watch, or watching films just to cross them off another dumb canon list. I wanted to engage. I wanted films to be enhanced by others, by looking at a specific moment in time. I wanted something that led me to seeing or revisiting things I might not have gotten to otherwise. Lastly, my lists are based on personal favorites, not any weird notion of an objective best.

This is the first year I’ll be doing separate posts for each film. #9 will go up Monday. After that, one will go up each day until the end. Then I’ll post them all together so they are gathered in one place. There are a lot of films I loved that did not make the cut. In particular, Flamingo Road, Such a Pretty Little Beach, On the Town, Inspirace, The Reckless Moment, Reign of Terror, The Rocking Horse Winner, and Samson and Delilah are all films I thought at one point would be on here. Of all of these, Flamingo Road was a sure thing until it wasn’t at the very last minute. Please go watch it.

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#5. Caught (US / Ophüls) (rewatch)

1949: the year Max Ophüls dissected American living. Between 1941 and 1950 he was living there in exile. In that time he made only four films (a healthy output by today’s standards, but on the low end for the time). Two of those, Caught and The Reckless Moment, were released in 1949, the only ones of his career to be set in America. Each perform a visual audit on different aspects of peddled American ideologies and societal divides, specifically as they manifest and are bred in post-war women. Even if 1949 were a cinematic dead zone (it’s not), it would still be notable on the strength of these two films alone.

Caught is thematically blunt. James Mason’s do-good doctor is a mouthpiece for deeper and more connected living. Every character talks about money; having it and not having it, wanting it and not wanting it. The key to the film comes from Laura Crossley’s writing on it; “it is in the gap between the narrative proper and its presentation where the film finds its subtle power”*. One would assume that visual reinforcement would just make the blunt more blunt, but it does the opposite. Ophüls lays out a parallel interrogation using bodies and space, elevating Caught into greatness because it takes that thematic bluntness and keenly translates it into an emotional realm. Through blocking we are given us access to Leonora’s struggle, something that the dialogue, often full of judgment towards her, threatens to erase. She is on the world’s loneliest abacus, sliding back and forth between two men with opposite lives, finances, ideologies, temperaments, and futures. Ophüls uses his trademark fluidity to embody Leonora’s (Barbara Bel Geddes) wavering. As her agency, doubts, circumstances, and subjugation alter and shift, the camera constantly recalibrates its characters and the space to reflect that. New angles are found in motion. The frame is never shared, but cordoned off. Actors are often dwarfed by one another. The screen is one of halves. Sometimes a third person or an object interrupts somewhere in the middle.

Smith’s (Robert Ryan) mansion becomes the a prison of open space, a permanent waiting game where sleep is for the free and the piano never stops. Later on (in a truly beautiful scene), the camera glides around the outside of a crowded dance floor in the East Side (the most trademark Ophüls shot in the film). Leonora and Quinada (Mason) attempt to dance in the center. There is little room to move. They don’t dance so much as shuffle. Toes are stepped on — whose? Who can tell. It’s all so silly that a moment of spontaneous laughter occurs between them. It is a moment of such naturalism, aided by the distance of camera-as-observer, that it’s as if we’ve witnessed something between two people, not two characters. It is the freest Leonora is in the entire film, packed in the crowd like a sardine, the opposite of Smith’s baroque suffocations. It is one of the many constant ways Caught’s visual schema tells Leonora’s story, a bumpy road that dismantles and rebuilds her values.

In writing about Too Late for Tears I talked about the commodification of specifically female riches as depicted by Lizabeth Scott’s Jane and Barbara Bel Geddes’s Leonora. Rounding out the Materialistic Trio is another character I’ll write more about later: Ann Todd’s Mary Justin from The Passionate Friends. Here is a woman (not American like the other two) that made the same choice Leonora does: to marry for security and comfort. But Claude Rains is no Robert Ryan, and Ann Todd is no Barbara Bel Geddes. Both marriages function as a business transaction. The difference is that Ann Todd and Claude Rains have an amicable relationship, with freedom in the bargain. And Mary isn’t the young tenderfoot Leonora is, even in flashbacks. She knowingly gave up love for autonomy, money, and comfort. She flirts with making another choice every so often, but knows herself too well to take the plunge. Mary’s trouble is the curse of knowing who you are, and knowing that the love you want isn’t the love for you.

Jane knows what she wants, and Mary knows who she is, but Leonora’s journey is one of hard-knocks self-discovery. As played by Barbara Bel Geddes (a favorite of mine, Midge 4ever), she’s imbued with uncommon down-to-earth texture. She’s not the Girl Next Door or the Glamour Girl or the Sexpot. She is easily persuadable but also her own person. She stands up for herself just as often as she does not. She is wishy-washy, making decisions and then doubling back on them, because false hope takes longer to shake then movies would have you believe. She convinces herself that she married Smith for love, because even though she wants that ever-present mink coat, she also believes love should come with money. Rich husband plus love equals success to Leonora, but her friend Maxine is shown as a comparative extreme (she doesn’t need the love). Maxine alternately encourages and chastises her to make the necessary sacrifices to afford Dorothy Dale’s Charm School, and to make the most of an invitation she receives for a yacht party (where she will meet Smith). Leonora can only begin to self-actualize when she can be honest with herself about why she married Smith, and to shed the values she’s been sold all her life. The price for that freedom is high (see also: The Set-Up which also exacts a physical price for freedom).

Leonora’s values are datedly confronted by the two men who reside on either end of that lonely abacus; Larry Quinada and Smith Ohlrig. Played by James Mason and Robert Ryan respectively, each role comes with its own challenge. For Mason, it’s that his character touts a lot of pushy altruism, seeing Leonora as a bit of a sheep with potential. Mason has to represent a lot and preach a lot, all while falling in love. He lends a wonderful sense of irritable apprehension to Quinada’s love that counterbalances his lectures. Meanwhile Robert Ryan plays a loosely fictionalized Howard Hughes, and his challenge is to impart a psychological weight to a man that also functions as representation. He is capitalism as sickness. Power as sickness. These things distort him physically and mentally. He is cursed, made inhuman by conducting all aspects of his life as business. He marries Leonora to prove a point, quickly hating himself for this rash move. He is incapable of believing that a woman would marry him for anything but his money, making her an employee and him resentful and sadistic. Smith Ohlrig is only ever surrounded by people who are paid to be there, while Larry Quinada is only ever surrounded by people he aims to help.

Caught’s Cinderella Gone Wrong story has a lot of overlap with the cycle of 40s Gothic films. It also awkwardly gets lumped in with a lot of noir. This is a romantic drama with a strange European sensibility. The Reckless Moment doesn’t share that sensibility, but both are about the uneasy contract made between women and society. You can either be spread thin with no sense of self or your struggles or become a product sold to the most affluent bidder. It’s easy to show women who are openly miserable, who know why they are miserable, or who’ve got patriarchy’s number. It’s more interesting, and more challenging, to show women who are trapped in ways they don’t understand. Joan Bennett’s Lucia (The Reckless Moment) never wavers from her position as the do-it-all Mom, even in the most trying and dangerous of times. She doesn’t see her life the way Donnelly (Mason again) does. Leonora puts herself through Charm School just so she can offer herself up as a product for purchase like the mink coat she models (“Forty-nine ninety five!”). Both women are led by preset paths, and both are willing participants. And I love that about these films. They aren’t about trailblazing women striking out against convention. They aren’t about the Katharine Hepburns of the world. These women act within conventions. They both conform and rebel, but their journeys are complex, fraught, and compromised, the way journeys, and life, always are.

(* “Indicting Americana: how Max Ophuls exposed the American Dream in Caught and The Reckless Moment” by Laura Crossley)

Top Ten By Year: 1949 #6 – The Set-Up (US / Wise)


Previous Top Ten By Year lists:
1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, 1978, 1925, 1969
1930

Previous Top Ten By Year: 1949 Posts:
Top Ten By Year: 1949 – Poll Results
100 Images from the Films of 1949
What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1949: A Love Letter
#10. The Queen of Spades (UK/Dickinson)
#9. Rendezvous in July (Becker)/Au royaume des cieux (Duvivier) (France)
#8. Too Late for Tears (US / Haskin)
#7. The Heiress (US / Wyler)

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September of 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I choose comparatively weaker years for me re: quantity of films seen/quantity of films loved. I use list-making as a way to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-drive way. I was sick of spending too much time trying to decide what to watch, or watching films just to cross them off another dumb canon list. I wanted to engage. I wanted films to be enhanced by others, by looking at a specific moment in time. I wanted something that led me to seeing or revisiting things I might not have gotten to otherwise. Lastly, my lists are based on personal favorites, not any weird notion of an objective best.

This is the first year I’ll be doing separate posts for each film. #9 will go up Monday. After that, one will go up each day until the end. Then I’ll post them all together so they are gathered in one place. There are a lot of films I loved that did not make the cut. In particular, Flamingo Road, Such a Pretty Little Beach, On the Town, Inspirace, The Reckless Moment, Reign of Terror, The Rocking Horse Winner, and Samson and Delilah are all films I thought at one point would be on here. Of all of these, Flamingo Road was a sure thing until it wasn’t at the very last minute. Please go watch it.

set up#6. The Set-Up (Us / Wise) (rewatch)
“That’s the way it is. You’re a fighter. You’ve gotta fight.”

The formal functionality of both The Set-Up and David Lean’s The Passionate Friends (you’ll hear about that one later) is to live, breathe, and translate the emotional acuity of its characters. As discussed in David Bordwell’s essential Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling, the 1940s saw an overhaul of the 1930s mode of filmmaking, a mode dominated by being on the outside watching. There is no probing beyond dialogue or situation. We don’t watch characters think, we watch them do. We take cues as if watching a stage production. The 1940s rewrote the book that had just been rewritten; movies began looking in, not at. Narrative filmic storytelling as we know it today derives from the foundations and schemas experimented with, and in many cases normalized, in the 1940s (subjectivity, flashbacks, voiceover, advanced structures, dreams). The techniques of the late silent period were reintegrated after the 1930s perfected and glamorized the basics and logistics of sound cinema (all while harnessing the power of the studio system). The vividness with which The Set-Up and The Passionate Friends translate the purgatory of the mind is such that each comes across as more modern than their times. You don’t look at these films: you feel them. They are nowhere near the first films of the 40s to do this, but they do stand as the culmination of a decade’s work towards the telepathic.

The Set-Up was part of a post-Body and Soul cycle looking to capitalize on that film’s success. Prizefighting pictures provided a rich template for social and political commentary, what with men being chewed up and spit out by a rigged system. It is based on a 1928 narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March about an African-American fighter named Pansy, a fact unsurprisingly reworked by RKO. There is a black fighter in the film, magnetically portrayed by James Edwards and brought to life with the same care and consideration as the other locker room inhabitants. This equal regard among white men is its own small progress for the time (black characters simply did not appear like this in Hollywood film at this time, and in the exceedingly rare cases they did it was because the film was about race relations). While it hurts to think of what could have been in its own right as a faithful adaptation in subject, The Set-Up is loyal to its source material in its adherence to poetic contemplation.

Robert Wise spent a lot of time in rundown arenas exploring the ins and outs of various  venues and watching the fights. He uses these lived-in details to build a world where the  routines in the night of a fighter have an honest home. That home has a defined perimeter, a town that calls itself Paradise City. It is a den of big-band sin, a microcosm of the seedy and sloppy. There are more blinkering lights than people and the place is hopping. Shit goes down here, home to the ironically named Dreamland arcade and Cozy Hotel. Outside the boxing venue, as soon as the film starts, there is an uncut minute where we drift between, and establish, no less than six pairs of characters buying their tickets. We won’t necessarily get to know them, but they will be familiar to us soon enough, our sea of heathens.

The camera is a free agent in The Set-Up, switching its perspective allegiance at will. But when you’ve got its attention it is a conduit for empathy and its antithesis. The Set-Up takes place in real time. One minute equals one minute (again, not something you will find in films of this time. High Noon is a few years off, and On the Town‘s New York time stamps at its start were their own fun new flourish). We are not allowed to forget time, and thus its immutability. We begin and end with a clock in the town square, and in those seventy-three minutes everything for Stoker Thompson (Robert Ryan) will change. We quickly learn that his manager has not only arranged for the night’s match to be thrown, but he is so sure that Stoker will lose that he doesn’t even bother telling him about the dive. We haven’t met the boxer yet, but we already want him to win because everyone not only expects failure of him, but are planning to bank off of that failure.

The camera enters through the window of the Cozy Hotel, as if we’re about to visit Marion Crane and Sam Loomis. Instead, a melodrama plays out between Stoker and his wife. Audrey Totter’s Julie stays behind because she just can’t do it anymore. She spends her evening walking the streets having her own existential crisis, in a sustained character arc also unlike any of its contemporaries I can think of. The internal life of the wife whose support has run out is externalized and inferred by her surroundings and Wise’s direction. Inconsequential exchanges reflect the claustrophobia of her predicament. The invasive obscenities of the city center create a chasm of lacking. The habitual passing trams are her indecision. All of this adds to the inescapable tension of not seeing the fight. Not going is somehow even worse than going, but she’s done watching her husband…

Meanwhile, men in ratty robes and lapsed dreams wait in a locker room. Everybody has a story, and everybody has a delusion of choice, whether clinging to religion, the legendary losses of a champ, fate, or the promised road. It feels like they are waiting for their public execution. There is a beautiful sense of community and shared respect between these men, because they all cling to not just their own hope but each others to get by. They just need to get that one winning punch in.

Twenty minutes of The Set-Up’s concentrated seventy-three are the boxing match. To say it is cumulatively overwhelming is to undersell the experience of it. This is The Flesh Circus from AI but with human beings. Men pummel each other for a merciless crowd screaming to see them bleed. There is a total absence of humanity in this venue, save for Stoker’s redemptive stakes and the newspaper man who believes in him. There is no music. Just the shrieks and savagery of the crowd. Round in and round out the camera makes its own, visiting the familiar faces we can collectively call Gluttony with tighter and tighter editing patterns and closeness. It is a gradual build-up that eventually railroads my nerves.

At a certain point towards the end of the match I begin crying, because I need Stoker Thompson to win (Robert Ryan, doing all-timer work here in his own favorite role, lends a dog-eared ache to a man who perseveres despite seeming ready for the junkyard). I am rooting with everything I’ve got for the wash-up in the ring fighting for his goddamn soul. And that need is being completely drowned out by a neverending onslaught of hateful vile creatures. They scream for whoever is winning, unless they have money to lose. They are horrific, and Robert Wise creates a sustained tapestry of toxic claustrophobia more upsetting than most things you’ll see in the movies. The boxing ring, time, the increasingly tighter close-ups, all of it squashes us in until it’s too much. And then it’s over. Nobody cheers. The lights go up immediately; the announcer isn’t even done naming the winner and everybody is up out of their seats, filing out, bereft of any of the energy they just had. The sport has done its job; the citizens, drained of their hellfire, exit to find their next fix among the riff-raff. The men in the ring, and the stakes they fight for, couldn’t matter less. Stoker is alone now, surrounded by the ominous shadows that Robert Wise carried over from his Val Lewton’s days, left to face the consequences of his hard-earned redemption.

Top Ten By Year: 1949 #7 – The Heiress (US / Wyler)


Previous Top Ten By Year lists:
1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, 1978, 1925, 1969
1930

Previous Top Ten By Year: 1949 Posts:
Top Ten By Year: 1949 – Poll Results
100 Images from the Films of 1949
What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1949: A Love Letter
#10. The Queen of Spades (UK/Dickinson)
#9. Rendezvous in July (Becker)/Au royaume des cieux (Duvivier) (France)
#8. Too Late for Tears (US / Haskin)

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September of 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I choose comparatively weaker years for me re: quantity of films seen/quantity of films loved. I use list-making as a way to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-drive way. I was sick of spending too much time trying to decide what to watch, or watching films just to cross them off another dumb canon list. I wanted to engage. I wanted films to be enhanced by others, by looking at a specific moment in time. I wanted something that led me to seeing or revisiting things I might not have gotten to otherwise. Lastly, my lists are based on personal favorites, not any weird notion of an objective best.

This is the first year I’ll be doing separate posts for each film. #9 will go up Monday. After that, one will go up each day until the end. Then I’ll post them all together so they are gathered in one place. There are a lot of films I loved that did not make the cut. In particular, Flamingo Road, Such a Pretty Little Beach, On the Town, Inspirace, The Reckless Moment, Reign of Terror, The Rocking Horse Winner, and Samson and Delilah are all films I thought at one point would be on here. Of all of these, Flamingo Road was a sure thing until it wasn’t at the very last minute. Please go watch it.

The Heiress

#7. The Heiress (US / Wyler) (rewatch)
“Why couldn’t you just have been a little more clever?”

This is the story of a young woman’s untimely conversion to her antonym self.

Dr. Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson) suffers from Dead Wife Syndrome. The deceased isn’t an angelic cardboard apparition or a catalyst for male torment and vengeance inflicted on the audience. No, we are not the victim; but his daughter Catherine (Olivia De Havilland) is. Her mother died during childbirth, and as Dr. Sloper puts it, “only I know what I lost, and what I got in her place”. He uses the inherent chill of societal composure to mask his indifference towards Catherine, seeing her as “an entirely mediocre and defenseless creature with not a shred of poise”. The older women in his orbit defend her, not because they disagree entirely, but because they rightly feel it is unfair to hold Catherine to such high standards and finality. He’s never said any of this to his daughter, but it doesn’t take us long to learn it.

Catherine feels the pangs of her father’s remarks (“your mother was fair. She dominated the color”) but isn’t able to grasp that it goes deeper than a general disappointment in her awkward social conduct. Truth be told, Catherine is pretty hopeless at society life. In 1850s New York, custom is personality. In fact, it erases personality, ensuring that a lack of custom leaves a woman with nothing to offer. Her harsh plainness (that middle part with lightning bolt severity and the hopelessly matted slope of her hair seem to define her) is made more apparent by how she carries herself. Instead of composure there is deer-in-headlights panic and fluster (god, I relate to all of this so much). Anyone near her at a party is made uncomfortable by being involuntary witness to her struggle. How to participate in small talk? Where does she put her claret cup? Where did she put her claret cup? Who sits down first? She can’t even get hold of the dance card dangling off her wrist let alone get the dance steps right. For these unforgivable infractions she is seen as a pariah of pity to others. We see that Catherine is bright and generous (but naive when it comes to trusting and knowing people), but her particular brand of clumsy shyness has no place in these suffocating confines. Her surroundings, and the burden of being her father’s daughter, ensure that she is never given the chance to be a real person.

So maybe that’s why, in a weird way, Morris Townsend’s (Montgomery Clift, enchantingly inscrutable here) insincerity feels preferable than her father’s barely contained indifference; because it is sincere romantic love as experienced by Catherine. For all of Morris’s deceit, there is something woefully lost about them both. Morris is described by his sister as honest, and while Morris’s wooing of Catherine is wholly manipulative, it does feel like he projects a candid passion of self that could easily be deemed unfit. Catherine is homely, out of place, and tied to the house on Washington Square. Morris is beautiful, displaced, and yearning to belong to status and the house on Washington Square. If Morris’s feelings were true, they’d compliment each other perfectly. Morris’s deception is malicious in nature, but there seems to be no maliciousness in him. I like to think that Catherine would never have realized on her own that Morris didn’t love her. But I’m just like Catherine, falling for Montgomery Clift, not wanting to believe the worst even when all signs point in that direction.

In the midst of their courtship, Morris plays a song for Catherine that he learned while toiling away his money in France. She asks to know what it means. He plays it again, translating the words for her with a slow recitation that sounds like Clift Goes Cohen. “The joys of love last but a short time / the pains of love last all your life”. The words are a pall-in-motion, cast upon the film as they are spoken and immediately regurgitated by Aaron Copeland’s score as their romantic theme. Soon after, Catherine finally finds her nerve by immediately accepting Morris’s proposal. She says “I love you” as if she is just learning the words. After some skepticism and hesitation she now trusts him completely, determined to be him with or without her father’s blessing. She is helped by her Aunt Lavinia (Miriam Hopkins), the kind of busybody whose one-and-only mode is breathless melodrama. She genuinely wants happiness for her niece but can only see everything through the narrow lens of her time and place. This character type is the natural destination for Miriam Hopkins’s energies. She makes Lavinia endearing despite herself, and is the closest thing to an ally Catherine has.

The tragedy of The Heiress is not of a woman conned into love. It’s that her father’s read on the courtship doesn’t arise from the (plenty of) red flags and observations that Morris elicits. It is because outright, at face value, he cannot believe that that a man would want his daughter for the simple fact that he is her daughter. Clift’s arrival simply brings out these cruel truths.

The greatness of Olivia de Havilland is made even clearer when Catherine is hurt so badly that it causes her to fissure. Her voice has deepened and lost all its buoyancy. She speaks in craggy deliberate daggers. Her demeanor matches the harshness of visage; that kind-hearted openness that used to shine out of it is gone. Her needlepoint is now the only thing she can rely on. She used to be the embroidery but now she is the needle. It actually hurts to feel the irreversible difference in her. She used to assume sincerity — now she assumes insincerity. When the maid compliments Catherine, she is reprimanded for using flattery for gains. But she was clearly being true.

You might notice that I’ve written about the characters and emotions of The Heiress almost exclusively, and it’s because I can’t tear myself away from them. William Wyler uses objects (the gloves, the embroidery, the stairs, the sliding doors) and interiors to tell a story of stifling environments and emotional arcs. He adapts the play beautifully, by understanding everyone in relation to each other and to the spaces they inhabit. It all builds to the fact that Catherine becomes that austere building of protection and isolation on Washington Square. Her final act is both cauterization and revenge, a ritualistic binding to the house as she closes herself off, literally, from any potential of future love. She announces that this will be her last embroidery, a final shedding of the vibrant Catherine we once knew. Like Sleeping Beauty in her trance, with the now flat and monotonous precision of her voice, Catherine closes up the house and makes her way up the staircase. It is both triumphant (because really, go to hell Morris) and tragic (her disappearing act is so much bigger than him), rightly considered one of the great movie endings.

Top Ten By Year: 1949 #8 – Too Late for Tears (US / Haskin)


Previous Top Ten By Year lists:
1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, 1978, 1925, 1969
1930

Previous Top Ten By Year: 1949 Posts:
Top Ten By Year: 1949 – Poll Results
100 Images from the Films of 1949
What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1949: A Love Letter
#10. The Queen of Spades (UK/Dickinson)
#9. Rendezvous in July (Becker)/Au royaume des cieux (Duvivier) (France)

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September of 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I choose comparatively weaker years for me re: quantity of films seen/quantity of films loved. I use list-making as a way to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-drive way. I was sick of spending too much time trying to decide what to watch, or watching films just to cross them off another dumb canon list. I wanted to engage. I wanted films to be enhanced by others, by looking at a specific moment in time. I wanted something that led me to seeing or revisiting things I might not have gotten to otherwise. Lastly, my lists are based on personal favorites, not any weird notion of an objective best.

This is the first year I’ll be doing separate posts for each film. #9 will go up Monday. After that, one will go up each day until the end. Then I’ll post them all together so they are gathered in one place. There are a lot of films I loved that did not make the cut. In particular, Flamingo Road, Such a Pretty Little Beach, On the Town, Inspirace, The Reckless Moment, Reign of Terror, The Rocking Horse Winner, and Samson and Delilah are all films I thought at one point would be on here. Of all of these, Flamingo Road was a sure thing until it wasn’t at the very last minute. Please go watch it.

#8. Too Late for Tears (US / Haskin) (First-time watch)

Unsurprisingly, I watched and rewatched a lot of noirs for 1949. A few of them (Follow Me Quietly, Tension, and Too Late for Tears) are grubby little things; Bs streaked with nasty. I am fond of all three, but Too Late for Tears is in a league of its own. The film bombed and bankrupted Hunt Stromberg Productions. It received mixed reviews from critics. Its star Lizabeth Scott named it as her least favorite of the films she appeared in (why?!?!). The writer, Roy Huggins (adapting his own work), also hated it. They were all so wrong. All this time it was only available in a barely legible public domain copy, until 2016 when UCLA and the Film Noir Foundation performed their incredible restoration on it. Too Late for Tears is not the only film in this top ten that gets labeled as noir, but it’s the only true knock-down drag-out one of the bunch. It scratches that particular itch for duplicitous dames and charismatic lowlifes.

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A Love Letter to Jane Palmer,

So many femme fatales play what’s-her-angle with the audience. Not Jane Palmer. She’s got a money complex, which she blames on coming from “the kind of people who can’t quite keep up with the Joneses and die a little every day because they can’t”. The apartment she has with her husband (Arthur Kennedy) is nice and quite spacious, but bare and not a house (or a penthouse); old Hollywood code for Humble Living. But all that could change, because as soon as Too Late for Tears starts, a suitcase of money is tossed into their car. From there it’s up to us to keep up with Jane and up to others to catch her. Her husband certainly can’t do either. From the start it is clear she is on her side, and the side of crisp green paper. In the early going she tries to make her side their side. But that quickly falls through and all bets are off.

Both Too Late for Tears and Caught (which I’ll be talking about later) center around materialism; specifically, the notion of female materialism. In Caught, Leonora buys into the idea of money-as-endgame; she is the average result of the new postwar consumerism. This is all challenged; first by her reality, then more explicitly by another man, and finally, herself. On this point Jane never falters. The gleam in her eye is permanent, one that only the diamond necklace she eventually adorns can hope to match. Her itch for the green propels not just her but the entire film. The suitcase doesn’t initiate a transformation — it provides the welcome mat, an invitation to step into herself. In a telling speech to her husband she claims “I haven’t changed. It’s just the way I am”. What was telegraphed in the first scene (she doesn’t want to see Alan’s “condescending” rich friends) was just the tip of the disillusioned iceberg. She hates it all and she wants out. That suitcase is the starting pistol — anddddd she’s off!

Lizabeth Scott is all high cheekbone and pout, her face framed by the light bouncing off the waves of her hair. Her voice is hoarse with husk and her words possess a slightly mealy texture. Age isn’t readable on her. Angles and lines foreshadow the Lauren Bacall of the 50s, yet there’s also an odd (very vague) Maria Bamford-ness there. In the same year she also plays Liza in Easy Living, another greedy and heartless gal. There, she is afforded no perspective, and the film ends with a shocking act that seems intended to be taken as what she deserved (although I favor a much bleaker, more complex reading). In Too Late for Tears she is seen almost anthropologically, as if the suitcase was part of some sadistic psychological experiment: let’s see what Jane does! This is supported by Scott’s incredible performance, which is full of emotional transparency. Everything shows on her face. Unlike most femme fatales, she is not an enigma. We always see the cogs moving and the fire burning. We understand her all too well, perhaps more than we are comfortable with.

Jane dares to be a woman that goes the criminal distance for greed, not love. Doesn’t she know only men can do that? Jane’s perceived perversity takes on a “what are you?” quality, represented by the great Dan Duryea, resident Roger Rabbit weasel. Danny Fuller (Duryea) realizes he’s in over his head with his dame. His downward spiral, which Duryea milks so much empathy and pathos out of, is triggered by the fact that Jane Palmer is just too evil, even for him.

In the opening getaway chase we already glimpse her barely suppressed smile in the midst of legitimate danger. Later on, Danny slaps and threatens his way through the apartment, demanding his money back. Everything is at risk and she doesn’t have a course of action yet. But we dissolve into the next scene, which takes place that same afternoon, and you’d think she doesn’t have a care in the world! Why? Because she’s too enamored with her new mink coat (also note: mink plays a huge symbolic role in Caught) to let the threat of Duryea get her down. She looks down at her new possession lovingly and packs it away. Any danger she is in cannot eclipse the ecstasy of money.

But she feels the danger — all of it. And at one point her conscience even wavers. It is a critical slingshot moment for her; she is momentarily pulled back and then catapulted forward by her actions. She is hell-bent but not unfeeling. Late in the film she commits a murder. While she doesn’t waver (or regret it) she looks horrified when it happens, as if she didn’t just poison a man!

From the start she’s cracked, slightly deranged even. She’s got an unnerving and unblinking smile when she calls bluffs (and remember that permanent gleam)? Danny knows she’s cracked, Kathy (Kristine Miller) knows she is duplicitous, and Blake (Don DeFore) knows she’s a parasite. She is flying by the seat of her pants. She’s not a criminal, and she’s never had to outsmart people like this before. But she will. Too Late for Tears sustains tension by pitting Jane’s multi-faceted transparency and her inexperienced ruthlessness against the constant precipice of exposure (reappearing guns, missing claims tickets, and a man with an agenda abound) and the fact that every character knows she’s not on the level. You can’t miss her desperation: Jane is on warp speed. Because this is the chance of a lifetime, and you’ll have to pry that money from her cold dead hands.

Top Ten By Year: 1949 #9 – Rendezvous in July (Becker) & Au royaume des cieux (Duvivier) (France)


Previous Top Ten By Year lists:
1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, 1978, 1925, 1969
1930

Previous Top Ten By Year: 1949 Posts:
Top Ten By Year: 1949 – Poll Results
100 Images from the Films of 1949
What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1949: A Love Letter
#10. The Queen of Spades (UK/Dickinson)

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September of 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I choose comparatively weaker years for me re: quantity of films seen/quantity of films loved. I use list-making as a way to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-drive way. I was sick of spending too much time trying to decide what to watch, or watching films just to cross them off another dumb canon list. I wanted to engage. I wanted films to be enhanced by others, by looking at a specific moment in time. I wanted something that led me to seeing or revisiting things I might not have gotten to otherwise. Lastly, my lists are based on personal favorites, not any weird notion of an objective best.

This is the first year I’ll be doing separate posts for each film. #9 will go up Monday. After that, one will go up each day until the end. Then I’ll post them all together so they are gathered in one place. There are a lot of films I loved that did not make the cut. In particular, Flamingo Road, Such a Pretty Little Beach, On the Town, Inspirace, The Reckless Moment, Reign of Terror, The Rocking Horse Winner, and Samson and Delilah are all films I thought at one point would be on here. Of all of these, Flamingo Road was a sure thing until it wasn’t at the very last minute. Please go watch it.

 

#9. Rendezvous in July (Becker) & Au royaume des cieux (Duvivier) (France) (first time watches)

Diametrically opposed visions of postwar French youth: the dreamers and the delinquents. Two unknown films by two well-known directors (Jacques Becker and Julien Duvivier). I couldn’t choose between the two; they belong together.
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Rendezvous in July (Becker) is about twenty-year old kids who can see the Eiffel Tower from their windows. It is a light spring breeze that is on-the-move, because there are places to be and dreams to achieve. We’re first introduced to a family we’ll never see again. This is a pattern that continues through the first fifteen minutes. Our main characters are all introduced alongside their parents, illustrating how markedly different these proto teeny-boppers are from their elders. Collectively, these adults cover all the bases of your standard generational gap; they have practical jobs and adhere to custom, and they mostly disapprove of the instability of artistic endeavor. But these kids are idealistic, and pretty, and talented. They are aspiring actors, playwrights, cinematographers, documentarians, and musicians. They are riding the high of the postwar Americanization boom; they wear pants, love jazz, and smoke American cigarettes (a character offers one to his dad who disdainfully replies with “Keep em”).

What makes Rendezvous in July special is its intense possession of the perky energy we’d soon associate with the phenomenon of 50s teeny-bopperdom. I can’t think of an earlier film that depicts youth with the kind of modern immediacy that would become commonplace in the upcoming decades. It must have felt so new watching these characters congregate and flit from place to place, cavorting as a group entity with all the, as the Grinch would say, noise, noise, noise, noise! These kids dance fast to fast music, but Becker speeds up the frame rate all the same.

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The centerpiece of the group’s carefree whimsy is the Boat-Car Shark, (because a river can’t stop these kids from getting where they need to). It is one of your rubber bath toys made life-size and fully operational, with Keith Haring-esque hieroglyphs (eyes and octopi that recur on other costumes and decor) and headlights for eyes. It floats across the Seine while passersby look on, noting that “they sure have it easy”. They drive up and out onto the cobblestone, dropping everyone off at their various classes and odd-jobs, a communal vehicle that can provide them with the shortcuts needed to keep up with their pace.

They are at an age where anything and everything is possible as long as you’ve got talent and idealism. For all the bounce in this film’s step, there is just enough space made for us to observe that the bubble is burstable. There is no place in the film for people potentially going nowhere, and no tolerance for any irreparable steps taken towards the workaday life.

Lucien (Daniel Gélin) finally gets the funding he needs for an anthropological study. He excitedly tells his film crew they are due to leave within two weeks. But the crew can no long go; they made various job commitments in order to earn steady wages. It is a deep betrayal; he becomes petulant and has what can only be described as a tantrum. He calls them, among many other things, pathetic slobs. Lucien’s disparaging plea that his friends don’t sell out so young is sympathetic — to a point. That choice is so often the point of no return, where you cross over and become just like everybody else. But the more you get to know Lucien, the more incapable he seems of registering anybody else’s feelings. I can’t tell if Becker intends (or even sees) for the character, or if it’s just apparent to me. However, Lucien’s speech to his friends goes on long enough that it settles into something purposefully ugly. But while Lucien and others take steps towards success and opportunity, a girl named Christine suffers a series of humiliations.

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As much as I love Rendezvous in July, it probably wouldn’t be here without Christine. Jacques Becker sees her but her peers do not. He and Nicole Courcel (her debut film) let us see. This is a clique where identity and emotion are defined by your talent and passion. The plight of realizing you don’t have talent, and its unfortunate companion deep insecurity, is an unforgiving thing, especially with friends that don’t recognize or relate to said plight. She is seen by the group as a bit of a vindictive femme. To a degree she is, but it all stems from the fact that she sees beauty as her one sure thing.

At first we see her as her friends do:

In an early scene, she calls Therese (Brigitte Auber, also her debut) to tell her she has a part in Rousseau’s (Henri Belly) new play (her brother is the playwright, getting her in the door). Therese is disappointed about this, and it’s the exact reaction Christine was hoping for.  A smirk spreads across her face when she hangs up.

When the time comes, Christine is too nervous to audition for Rousseau; she puts his hand to her chest so he can feel her heartbeat. Sexuality is the only hand she feels she’s got to play in that moment.

She is bad in the play and she knows it. She didn’t need further proof, but during the curtain call the audience gives it to her anyways; a limp round of applause meets her when she steps forward, the opposite of Therese’s lively reception. Audience members share an exchange: “She’s pretty, eh? “Pretty, but very bad”. In the dressing room, she is chastised by Rousseau (who she lost her virginity too) for being sad: “Your dress is great. You look lovely. What more do you want?”.

Every single scene shows how thoroughly unseen this girl is. She is viewed as inferior to Lucien (her romantic interest), told she has no heart; she is even slapped. The list goes on. Some of the men also make selfish decisions (out of pure selfishness as opposed to coming from a place of pain like Christine), and then blame her for their choices. Rousseau chose to cast a girl who doesn’t cut it, only to scream at her for — guess what — not cutting it. Lucien is impulsive and proposes to Christine after making her feel like scum. When Christine is led astray after feeling worthless, just like before, it is she that receives all the disgust.

That this girl feels everything is never considered. Indeed, nobody ever shows actual concern for her, or sees her very apparent sadness. A girl who acts out because she feels less than is constantly misunderstood as dumb, not worthy of Lucien, a bad actress, and heartless. Nicole Courcel pours a deep melancholy and ache into this girl looking to be valued, using the only tool she thinks she’s got (the how and who of that be damned). She is the only one with nothing at the end. I think about Christine all the time. Everybody else, with their bubbly spirits and camaraderie, will be fine by virtue of the fact that they are in this film. Except Christine. Christine has more in common with the girls of Au Royaume des Cieux.

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The girls of Au Royaume des Cieux don’t have the luxury of dreams, or even hope. They are just trying to survive in the Haute-Mère reformatory. They are in a far-off and desolate landscape, a place that can only produce rain and mud (another French film from 1949, Such a Pretty Little Beach, uses a very similar landscape as its existential center). There are so many girls — all of them abused, thrown away and/or forgotten. They often huddle together and jam up the frames; it is a crowded and imprisoning space. Most have dabbled in sex work and some have murdered (viewed by society under the same criminal category). They are a rowdy bunch full of pent up lust and the nerve to still act rambunctious despite being beaten down by life.

They have rare allies in a couple of the authority figures, but that is threatened right at the start. A sudden death puts Mademoiselle Chamblas (Suzy Prim) in charge as director, a position she has craved for 20 years. She is the repressed headmistress archetype think Lili Palmer in The House that Screamed (1969)), misogynistic in nature and conception. This is a film full of transgressive streaks of eroticism; talk of same-sex exploits is a near-constant. While the lesbianism and sadism are not conflated, they are linked to establish a place that makes taboo happenings and histories part of the everyday. These girls have no hope that they can or will exist in the outside world, but at least the reformatory is a safer space than they’ve known. With Chamblas as director, all of that disappears and they are thrust into yet more worthless cruelty. But as Chamblas ascends, a girl named Maria (Suzanne Cloutier) enters. It is her purity and goodness that will gradually mobilize everyone into a revolution.

Maria hasn’t been convicted of any crimes, but pervasively unsafe living arrangements have kept her running away from various homes. Like the other girls, she is seen by society and its systems as the problem, punished for daring to endure, retaliate, or do what is needed to get by. Along the way Maria did find love. Real love. And he is coming for her. At first it seems like Au royaume des cieux is going to be about Maria and Pierre (Serge Reggiani) making their escape. Thankfully, it’s about a lot more than that (love and respect to Maria and Pierre who are sweet, but also too sweet). The couple, with their optimism, devotion, and will, come to represent hope for the girls. At first there is much animosity and infighting, but they eventually unite for a bigger cause — themselves. With their secret ingredient (resident anarchist Camille) acting as final inspiration, they riot and take control of Haute-Mère.

Duvivier’s camera singles out the girls as individuals during key moments. We get a brief reckoning glimpse of each; they get the frame to themselves, as if the camera is taking their photograph. It happens when Maria tells them about Pierre. The more she talks about him, the less it seems like a poor girl’s naivete. Some believe she’s either delusional or foolish. But most become convinced. You can see the hope breaking through on their faces. Love is possible. It’s not all manipulation and lies and violence. It happens again when the girls go on a hunger strike in retaliation of Chamblas’s new policies. Days into their starvation, the school director rolls a gigantic steaming pot of soup to the middle of the room where they all sleep, taunting them with the smell to give up their protests. The camera whip-pans back and forth, soup-to-girl, girl-to-soup, through each and every one of them. We feel the whirlwind of individual temptation and suffering, allowed to register that power lies in numbers, but that those numbers are made up of human beings pushing themselves to the brink for the rights they deserve.
—————————————————————————-
Diametrically opposed visions of postwar French youth: the dreamers and the delinquents. Two unknown films by two well-known directors (Jacques Becker and Julien Duvivier). I couldn’t choose between the two; they belong together.

Top Ten By Year: 1949 #10 – The Queen of Spades (UK/Dickinson)


Previous Top Ten By Year lists:
1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, 1978, 1925, 1969
1930

Previous Top Ten By Year: 1949 Posts:
Top Ten By Year: 1949 – Poll Results
100 Images from the Films of 1949
What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1949: A Love Letter

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September of 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I choose comparatively weaker years for me re: quantity of films seen/quantity of films loved. I use list-making as a way to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-drive way. I was sick of spending too much time trying to decide what to watch, or watching films just to cross them off another dumb canon list. I wanted to engage. I wanted films to be enhanced by others, by looking at a specific moment in time. I wanted something that led me to seeing or revisiting things I might not have gotten to otherwise. Lastly, my lists are based on personal favorites, not any weird notion of an objective best.

This is the first year I’ll be doing separate posts for each film. #9 will go up Monday. After that, one will go up each day until the end. Then I’ll post them all together so they are gathered in one place. There are a lot of films I loved that did not make the cut. In particular, Flamingo Road, Such a Pretty Little Beach, On the Town, Inspirace, The Reckless Moment, Reign of Terror, The Rocking Horse Winner, and Samson and Delilah are all films I thought at one point would be on here. Of all of these, Flamingo Road was a sure thing until it wasn’t at the very last minute. Please go watch it.

Queen of Spades 18

#10. The Queen of Spades (UK/Dickinson) (Rewatch)

We open on a close-up of a queen of spades. A Russian officer is heard, warning “for heaven’s sake, don’t play the queen of spades. It’s unlucky!”. This kind of schoolyard superstition is the atmosphere off which The Queen of Spades thrives. Everything is an omen of fate, or of doom. Spot the skulls that adorn the decor in places both obvious and hidden! A mysterious book of lore falls at Suvorin’s (Anton Walbrook) feet, as if meant for him. The malevolent Count of St. Germain is seen molding wax figures representing his intended victims. Flat shadows plaster every wall like silhouette portraits, and mirrors force characters to face themselves. The unabated extra presence of the self is foreboding. Archways, corridors, and doorways bore down on the characters, as if these spaces lay in wait for some unknown signal. And we haven’t even talked about the ghost.

The film was received with middling enthusiasm at Cannes, and didn’t fare much better upon general release. That its main claim to fame is Martin Scorsese’s love for it shows how overdue its proper appraisal is. It is defiantly out-of-step with the European cinema of the late 1940s, a spiritual holdover from the escapist Gainsborough melodramas that were en vogue during WWII. Audiences were craving more realism, on-location shooting, and Ealing comedies; wry, stately, or innovative fare. You’d never mistake this for any of that; it isn’t even a British story!

Based on a Pushkin short story, this Faustian ghost fable set in early 19th century St. Petersburg is the stuff of High Romanticism. Its style resides at the opposite end of realism, taking a page (just one page; enough to remind you, not call back to) out of German Expressionism for its Gothic-infused grandiosity and knowing artificiality. This approach suits the circumstances of the production, one beset by challenges such as director Thorold Dickinson signing on after the original dropped out over disputes (he had less than a week until shooting started, and was doing daily script rewrites during production). Cinematographer Otto Heller and production designer William Kellner, limited by a pair of tiny studios (with poor soundproofing and right next to a train station no less), create snow-strewn city streets and a lurid web of intricate shadows. But the real conductor of the film’s very un-British flamboyance is its Austrian star: Anton Walbrook.

His Purovkin seethes at everyone around him. He resents the rich for being rich and the poor for being poor. But one day he’ll show them all, or so he thinks. When I think of Anton Walbrook, God of all Gods, in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and The Red Shoes (playing characters in opposition to each other), I think about performances of great deliberation and an intensity concentrated in stillness. There’s some of that here too. But what sticks with you is his mannered mania; he is a stranded madman from the silent era. He speaks as if he has hypnotized himself, until that gives way to absolute frenzy. His voice is velvet doom, its own sorcery. There are times where he, and the film, feel like Young Frankenstein played straight. Indeed, Gene Wilder and Walbrook possess similar energies, especially when they shift into shriek-speak mode, complete with eyes of wildfire. The performance was considered too theatrical and over-the-top at the time, but what better home for that than a film made of ersatz embellishment? You can’t watch him with anything but total eyes-locked glee.

Hauntings in the 40s (Scarlet Street, Dead of Night, Flesh and Fantasy, etc) are akin to madness in the 20s (hell, madness in the 40s are akin to madness in the 20s; my write-up on The Set-Up will briefly touch on why this is). The frame is filled with tampered images. Whether superimposed or made kaleidoscopic, it’s the inescapability of the dead that claims emphasis. There is unnerving vigilance in the Countess’s cow-like eye, in death her knowing glower locks onto Anton Walbrook for life. The Countess’s unchanged decadence, frozen and isolated by her night with the Count, made her a kind of ghost in life.

But the ghost and film wield sound as their weapon of choice. The sound mixing on The Queen of Spades took as much time as anything else. We never actually see a ghost; it’s all what we hear through the power of suggestion. Instead of being able to point at her, she’s just everywhere. In the bitter whistle of the wind, the metronome-like plunk of her cane and heavy shuffle of her crinoline as it inches across the floor. These sounds are established while she is alive, and become her calling card in death. The Captain’s terror over this soon turns to ecstasy as The Countess releases her secret to him. He is too blinded by greed to process that a ghost passing off its fiercely guarded secret is a giant red flag of doom in a film filled with red flags of doom. He hasn’t been paying attention. But we have, and we know what lies ahead.

What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1949: A Love Letter


Previous What I’ll Remember posts:
1925, 1930, 1943, 1958, 1965, 1969, 1978, 1982, 1992, 2012, 2013, 2014

It’s that time again! The What I’ll Remember posts are a Top Ten By Year trademark; a fun, engaging, and personalized way of collecting movie memories that represent my time with the years chosen for this project. It’s something I work on gradually while making my way through the watchlist, whether it’s writing down observations, grabbing screencaps, or making notes of what to include. When I look back on these long afterwards, I find countless things I would have otherwise forgotten (despite the name of this feature!) and am always so grateful for having made them. What we take from movies should be more than the, understandably, ‘big picture’ way we tend to evaluate, enjoy, or talk about them. Hopefully this does a little to parse out all the different ways that film, whether taken individually or as a group, can be memorable!

I started 1949 one year ago. The Top Ten By Year: 1949 Poll Results went up in October (almost 300 people voted for ove 250 films!). You can also enjoy 100 (or so) Images from the Films of 1949 which went up last week. The Top Ten By Year: 1949 write-up should go up within a month’s time. And then after that: 1990!

(Note: I am posting this without having actually seen Le Silence de la Mer. It is the last one on my watchlist and I will update this post with anything I need to afterwards)

Raoul Walsh saying everything he needs to say with masterful shot compositions & blocking in Colorado Territory

Max Ophüls saying everything he needs to say with his masterful shot compositions & blocking, his fluid camera constantly recalibrating the characters & their relations to each other, in Caught & The Reckless Moment

UK murders done drolly
(The Hidden Room, Kind Hearts and Coronets)

The sandy desolation of Une si jolie petite plage (Such a Pretty Little Beach)

The peppy and shamelessly horny women of On the Town

Julien Duvivier’s Au royaume des cieux (The Sinners), so unseen & unavailable (only 39 votes on imdb & 13 views on letterboxd!), & so completely essential. The lost girls reformatory film of your dreams

The thrilling ball sequence in Madame Bovary, a 360 degree manifestation of delirium in which Emma’s inner ecstasy and social fantasy are externalized by a sudden & urgent call to “Smash the windows!”

Begone Dull Care” is really cool. Somewhat less cool: its flickers and sputters almost triggered a panic attack

Harry Lime’s self-satisfied entrance in The Third Man, even better when you realize he never meant to be seen and had seamlessly pivoted into it for the theatrics

Celeste Holm as the all-seeing yet unseen homewrecker Addie Ross in A Letter to Three Wives, an arsenal of sumptous half-whispered poison. The filmis good and all, but give me The Addie Ross story over drunk Jeanne Crain stressing about entering society life any day

Needing Gene Kelly to calm the fuck down in Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Level of Ham: Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins

In recent years, Joan Crawford has gone from someone I’ve always casually enjoyed to a pivotal personal icon. The very underrated Flamingo Road, part of her Mildred Pierce stretch of playing tenacious & sexually mature women, illustrates why. Through these roles, her gorgeously soft-lit turmoil & determination are a constant through the barrage of bad luck or bad choices her characters battle

The Fantasia-esque visuals of “Inspirace”, where droplets and the like morph into a transluscent fairy-tale

Post-WWII Americanization abroad (Late Spring, Bitter Rice, Rendezvous in July)

Joan Greenwood’s voice is like some majestic creature that is going to lull you into an eternal sleep. She is a kind of infuriating opiate in Kind Hearts and Coronets

The Secret Garden 1949 00009The Wizard of Oz-esque use of Technicolor for the garden sequences of The Secret Garden

Brunhilde Esterhazy: best character name or best character name? (and best character!) (On the Town)

The amusingly superficial posters on the walls of Dorothy Dale’s Charm School, such as the Personality Recipe (the components are appearance based), and the Which Shape Is Your Face? chart, filled with geometrics such as the very not face-shaped triangle (Caught)

Turns out that French films from 1949 with less than 300 views on letterboxd are my jam (Une si jolie petite plage, Rendezvous in July, Au royaume des cieux)

Four characters locked in by glares & jewels & power plays (oh my!) in Bitter Rice

madame fashion

tumblr_p52tb9wg1E1r7h84eo1_500Two show-stopping costumes presented as spectacles in their own right: Madame Bovary’s whimsical ballgown confection & Delilah’s opulent peacock ensemble (surely a greatest of all-time contender) (Madame Bovary, Samson & Delilah)

The sing-off turned brawl (recalling 1956’s “Lucy’s Italian Movie” which would use this film as inspiration) in Bitter Rice

The outré existence of Jose Ferrer’s astrologer/hypnotist character in Whirlpool. He casually outs a party guest as having recently tried to commit suicide (to the amusement of everyone including the man!), hypnotizes himself into post-surgery painlessness, warns his enemy of the alignment of Mars, and says things like “I bow to your abysmal scruples”

That huge plate of spaghetti in House of Strangers

The harrowing post-rape sequence in Bitter Rice. Rain, rice fields, and pain externalize the just-past

That all-too-brief moment when we’re treated to Jean Hagen & Judy Holliday looking really hot in drag in Adam’s Rib

A Letter to Three Wives basically invented auto-tune! (“Why th-hh-hh-ee bl–uuu–eeee ssuuuu-itttt?”) (Courtesy of Sonovox!)

The whip-pans of Au royaume des cieux

Coming around to Richard Conte in a big way with rewatches of Whirlpool and Thieves Highway, and a first-time viewing of House of Strangers

“Setting the Scene” opening narrations
(Beyond the Forest, Border Incident, Flamingo Road, A Letter to Three Wives, Abandoned, The Reckless Moment)

Title cards! Some favorites!

The ache of seeing Gene Tierney try to keep her projected congeniality together for her husband in the face of a murder charge & a muggy mind. She has never been more  available to us onscreen (Whirlpool)

The metaphoric horror show of Blood of the Beasts, catapulting me into a meltdown that can only be described as unhealthily distressing

Max Ophüls making 2 (TWO!) films that interrogate what it means to be an American woman. While Leonora has to face the worth of her ideals head-on, Lucia faces the challenge of remaining Steadfast Mother Hen in the midst of violent crisis
(Caught and The Reckless Moment)

The shot of the dam breaking in Au royaume des cieux

tumblr_p6g19lM7141vnek3io1_540The borderline surreal climactic heist-in-the-smoke of Criss Cross

The way James Cagney plays the I-talk-to-my-dead-mother confession to Edmund O’Brien. So intimate and watchful; a critical test that, if he passes, promises the rareness of trust (White Heat)

Semi-documentary trends popping up in films one wouldn’t entirely categorize as such (1949 is in the midst of the semi-documentary procedural craze yet there aren’t many any from this particular year)
(Border Incident, Follow Me Quietly, Abandoned)

The Third Man, a sweet spot masterpiece. How corny but true to say but every time you watch it it’s like “wow, people made this & now we have it & it’s a thing that exists, how beautiful is that?”

The terrible grotesquerie of Beyond the Forest which I can honestly say is one of the worst films I’ve seen (worth watching for how weirdly bad it is, I’ve never seen anything quite like it)

All those two shots with Francesca and Silvana in Bitter Rice

The famous sewer chase in The Third Man, even better than you remember, even greater than you know it to be. Cinema’s apex? Food for thought….

The central boxing match in The Set-Up. An absence of humanity, just hungry faces barking for blood, and one man’s committment to redemption

The canted & cluttered off-kilter world of post-war Vienna in The Third Man

The bold 1st act of Pinky which, Jeanne Crain casting aside, depicts remarkably honest dilemmas and scenarios about race that are actively confrontational towards white audiences, especially for its time. And then…it ends up being about the film’s one uninteresting story thread!

Seeing Setsuko Hara’s fortress beam of a smile disintegrate as Late Spring unfolds

The dead vigilant eye of Dame Edith Evans, in death her knowing glower locks onto Anton Walbrook for life in The Queen of Spades

I remember being a teenager when I saw White Heat for the first time, and being shocked by the emotion on display when Cody finds out his mother is dead (“She’s dead.” “She’s dead.” “She’s dead.” etc). It still shocks. A totally unrestrained feral piece of acting by James Cagney

The “ok byeeee” nature of Harry Lime’s exit (“So long Holly!”) immediately following the cuckoo clock speech in The Third Man. Also, Orson’s delivery of this speech and all of the rest of it. Nobody else would say Harry’s lines in his perfectly natural offhand way, with a rhythm that is its own kind of music. It makes you love the character. There is an urge to shout “No, wait, don’t go, you just got here!”

Geraldine Brooks in The Reckless Moment making me wish it didn’t take until the 50s for us to see teens with modern gumption onscreen

Elizabeth Taylor playing her first adult part (Conspirator), while still shaking off now-awkward kiddie roles like Amy in Little Women

The first halves of Tension and I Was a Male War Bride. Before the detective enters the scene, Tension is the best kind of lurid noir. And then there’s the sexy outdoors slapstick of I Was a Male War Bride, before it gives way to pleasant but ho-hum bureaucracy humor

Money destroys
(The Rocking Horse Winner, Too Late for Tears, Caught, Thieves Highway)

Anna’s forthright walk through the autumnal street; past Holly, past us. Through two funerals, she shuns the living through her loyalty to the dead
(The Third Man)

The height of the social problem film trend of the late 1940s, which would emerge as a mainstream trend in the 1950s
(Pinky, Intruder in the Dust, Home of the Brave, Lost Boundaries, The Lady Gambles, Never Fear, Not Wanted, Knock on Any Door)

The surrealist wall paintings in Audrey Totter’s apartment in Alias Nick Beal

Time, As a Factor
(On the Town, The Set-Up, D.O.A.)

Silvana Magnano’s face and body in Bitter Rice. Just go see for yourself.

Samson & Delilah: DeMille still kinking it up with incredible costumes, scope, & Technicolor. I loved it.

Flashback Fever:
(The Fan, The Accused, Beyond the Forest, Champion, Criss Cross, Knock on Any Door, Twelve O’ Clock High, Edward, My Son, A Woman’s Secret, Black Magic, House of Strangers, Not Wanted, Kind Hearts and Coronets. A Letter to Three Wives, The Passionate Friends). These last two feature particularly intricate flashback structures, which confused some audiences at the time

i shotThe beautiful and sensual closing scene of I Shot Jesse James. They are outside but you’d never know it. They are faces emerged from blackness, a woman soothing her man in his final moments

Francesca’s character arc in Bitter Rice, from tossed aside moll to solidarity among hard-working women

The dance-hall scene in Caught; freedom in a crowd. Ophüls’ roving camera canvasses the outskirts. Two characters connect with their guards down, making room for candid and infectious laughter

Claude Rains unmatched ability to humanize characters who might otherwise not have been (The Passionate Friends)

We don’t meet the son in Edward, My Son!? We don’t learn why the confession happened in A Woman’s Secret?! These might work if the films were any good but they aren’t so it’s just nonsensical and very frustrating

easy livingThis shot from Easy Living (1949, Tourneur), so full of longing. The film is barely regarded, even by Tourneur enthusiasts, in part because it was one a “one for them” of his.  But it’s got a Daisy Kenyon vibe in that it’s a refreshing drama from the late 40s about complicated adults with complicated adult problems

A hill of tumbling apples & a fiery truck. A man burns for capitalism, but capitalism doesn’t burn for him (Thieves Highway)

Women in conflict with their desire for the finer things in life and for true love. Two different choices are made in The Passionate Friends and Caught

Kirk Douglas’ final scene in Champion; some of the most nakedly raw pre-Brando acting out there. Between him & James Cagney’s similarly animalistic outbursts in White Heat, 1949 features really powerful moments showcasing the vulnerability of male monsters

The Tale of the Countess Ranevskaya in The Queen of Spades

tumblr_nlxgovRqnt1szayaxo6_540
This particularly hot Burt Lancaster look in Criss Cross

The way The Passionate Friends illuminates interior lives & times past

One of life’s great joys: watching Anton Walbrook become untethered onscreen (The Queen of Spades)

The German Professor Bhaer in Little Women being very obviously Italian (played by Rossano Brazzi). Actually, most Professor Bhaer’s aren’t German now that I think about it!

The end of Easy Living; a shocking, nakedly misogynistic action, and a truly bold storytelling choice. I’ve rarely felt this kind of disappointment in a character

Di1YuVxU0AA0GycFeeling immediate worship and loyalty for Audrey Totter based on this early moment from Tension (delivered like “Drrriiiffffffttttt”)

The remnants of an apple peel and their heartbreaking significance in Late Spring

Apartment life at the end of the Chinese Civil War in Crows and Sparrows, only released at the end of the Chinese Civil War because it dared to be in opposition of Chiang Kai-shek’s corrupt government

A special shout-out to Lt. Kitty Lawrence, a bit character in I Was a Male War Bride whose short time onscreen is used for explicit kink-wishing. (“He could leave marks on me anytime. I’d bring the stick!”)

Flights of Fantasy (films that break with reality in different ways)
On the Town, My Dream is Yours, The Passionate Friends, Alice in Wonderland

20190111_132013Rendezvous amphibian20190111_140233The funky car-boat in Rendezvous in July, whimsically floating down the Seine, and featuring eye illustrations that reappear on costumes & decor throughout the film

The stale taste left in my mouth as I watched scenes from The Shop Around the Corner (presumably from its source material) lifelessly recreated word-for-word by the cast of In the Good Old Summertime

Dan Duryea’s nickname for Lizabeth Scott in Too Late for Tears (“Don’t ever change, Tiger. I don’t think I’d like you with a heart”)

Adaptations using badly dated, and entirely invented, framing devices with the authors as characters (Black Magic, Madame Bovary, Alice in Wonderland)

Toshiro Mifune finally allowing himself to release all of his pent-up emotions in The Quiet Duel

tumblr_papn29Fchm1tqsk9wo3_540The faceless mannequin in Follow Me Quietly, and that chilling time we are fooled by it

With Jour de Fête as my 4th Tati, it might be time for me to admit he’s just not for me

Lizabeth Scott completely and unapologetically owning her roles as the most materialistic of women in both Too Late for Tears and Easy Living

Deborah Kerr’s bitter drunken hag performance in the last act of Edward, My Son. Is it good? Is it bad? Hell if I know, but it’s something

Hoping that one day Lou Bunin’s Alice in Wonderland can be seen in better condition. It’s not good, but the stop-motion animation & sets are quite imaginative. Fuck Disney for going out of its way to successfully squash this (they are even responsible for the subpar color film stock they ended up using)

Whirlpool & The Reckless Moment: two very different 1949 women’s noirs exploring the masks projected by married women at the sacrifice of themselves. In the former the turmoil is internal, about the psychology and relationship. In the latter, things spiral externally; noir and family are inextricable as Joan Bennett puts a brave face forward in juggling it all alone (the husband is away). They each even write letters to their respective spouses that are either thrown away or not completed

The # of films across genres from western to sports drama to fantasy to noir that are just about nuanced humans with palpable lived histories & relationships. These films transcend their genres & feel primarily identifiable and connceted by this instead
(Colorado Territory, Rope of Sand, Easy Living, The Set-Up, Alias Nick Beal, Caught)

Audrey Totter and the boxing ticket. To tear or not to tear? (The Set-Up)

Traces of gay!
(“Christmas USA”, “Puce Moment”, Such a Pretty Little Beach, Au Royaume des Cieux)

The evocative autumn backgrounds in the otherwise pretty dreadful The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

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David Brian aka: The Pits. As if Hollywood thrust a crusty newscaster into leading roles (romantic opposites with Joan & Bette, the nerve! Bette is cheating on Joseph Cotten with this bag of sand in Beyond the Forest) showing a total disregard for audiences everywhere
(Intruder in the Dust, Beyond the Forest, Flamingo Road)

The age of Pseudo Psychoanalytic films winds down with Whirlpool. Preminger’s characteristically sober touch makes an unconventional approach for this kind of story

The Set-Up as a collective conduit for all the souls who inhabit the film. Such vivid empathy and consideration for the various crushing predicaments and hopes of these characters

The unlikely focuses of Thieves Highway. A roadside breakdown patiently unfolds as a life is saved and a bond is formed. You expect it to have bearing on the plot. It doesn’t. But it has plenty on the story

Confirmation upon rewatch that I still don’t care for Adam’s Rib

Screenshot_20190320-130256_Message+“Puce Moment” becoming a literal aesthetic board when I got prints made of screenshots and now have them taped to my sides of my vanity

Montgomery Clift’s inherent tenderness complicating his performance & putting him intriguingly at-odds with his character in The Heiress

Van Helfin’s suppressed & then unstable guilt in Act of Violence, initiating the film’s left-turn segue into the underworld

Father and daughter on opposite sides of the road in Late Spring; change is already here

The deep affection I developed for Christine in Rendezvous in July. She is maligned by her friends for her mean streak & envy, but her actions, driven by insecurity & mediocrity, are easy to understand. The more unforgiving the film & its occupants are toward her, the more I came to empathize and love her

crissFacing imminent death straight-to-camera in the final moments of Criss Cross

Orson goes to Europe
(The Third Man, Black Magic)

The brutal historical noir of Reign of Terror, courtesy of Anthony Mann. Invasive close-ups, tight spaces, paranoia, double agents, and plenty of beheadings

The hypnotizing hypnotizing sequences of Black Magic!

The sympathetic eye that Ida Lupino lends Sally Forrest in her social issue melodrama Not Wanted. Nobody is an archetype, there is no “don’t do this & you’ll be fine” angle. It’s all refreshingly light on didactics

Amy - 5Adult Amy’s outfit entrance. Autumn-as-dress; magnificent (Little Women)

Favorite Performances of 1949:
Silvana Mangano in Bitter Rice, Doris Dowling in Bitter Rice, Joan Crawford in Flamingo Road, Gene Tierney in Whirlpool, Judy Holliday in Adam’s Rib, Claude Rains in The Passionate Friends, Audrey Totter in Tension, Virginia Mayo in Colorado Territory, Celeste Holm in A Letter to Three Wives, Juano Hernandez in Intruder in the Dust, John Ireland in I Shot Jesse James, Lucille Ball in Easy Living, Gerard Philipe in Such a Pretty Little Beach, Dan Duryea in Too Late for Tears, Orson Welles in The Third Man, Barbara Bel Geddes in Caught, Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress, Toshiro Mifune in The Quiet Duel, Setsuko Hara in Late Spring, Chishû Ryû in Late Spring, Richard Basehart in Reign of Terror, Anton Walbrook in The Queen of Spades, Doris Day in My Dream is Yours, Mary Astor in Act of Violence, Lee J. Cobb in Thieves Highway

Favorite Characters of 1949:
Lane Bellamy (Joan Crawford/Flamingo Road), Christine (Nicole Courcel/Rendezvous in July), Claire Huddesen (Ann Miller/On the Town), Brunhilde “Hildy” Esterhazy (Betty Garrett/On the Town), Francesca (Doris Dowling/Bitter Rice), Silvana (Silvana Mangano/Bitter Rice), Claire Quimby (Audrey Totter/Tension), Sadie Dugan (Thelma Ritter/A Letter to Three Wives), Jane Palmer (Lizabeth Scott/Too Late for Tears), Vivian Martin (Eve Arden/My Dream is Yours), Anne (Lucille Ball/Easy Living), 1st Lieu. Catherine Gates (Ann Sheridan/I Was a Male War Bride), Harry Lime (Orson Welles/The Third Man), Sgt. Paine (Bernard Lee/The Third Man), Connie (Arthur Kennedy/Champion), Addie Ross (Celeste Holm/A Letter to Three Wives), Martha Gibson (Doris Day/My Dream is Yours), Lt. Kitty Lawrence (Marion Marshal/I Was a Male War Bride), all the girls in Au Royaume des cieux, Rui Minegishi (Noriko Sengoku/The Quiet Duel), Beatrice ‘Bea’ Harper (Geraldine Brooks/The Reckless Moment), Fouché (Arnold Moss/Reign of Terror), Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan/Act of Violence), Ed Kinney (Millard Mitchell, Thieves Highway)

Least Favorite Characters of 1949:
Kip Lurie (David Wayne, Adam’s Rib), John Gavin Stevens (David Brian, Intruder in the Dust), Titus Semple (Sydney Greenstreet, Flamingo Road), Midge (Kirk Douglas, Champion), Walter (Vittorio Gassman, Bitter Rice), Eddie O’Brien (Gene Kelly, Take Me Out to the Ball Game), Hester Grahame (Valerie Hobson, The Rocking Horse Winner), Sibella (Joan Greenwood, Kind Hearts and Coronets), Andrew Delby Larkin (Van Johnson, In the Good Old Summertime), all the kids in The Secret Garden, Hon. Charles Adare (Michael Wilding, Under Capricorn), Lizaveta Ivanova (Yvonne Mitchell, The Queen of Spades), Mr. & Mrs. Manleigh (Florence Bates & Hobart Cavanaugh, A Letter to Three Wives) everyone watching the boxing match in The Set-Up, Arnold ‘Red’ Kluger (Charles McGraw, The Threat), Mademoiselle Chamblas (Suzy Prim, Au royaume des cieux), David Harper (David Bair, The Reckless Moment), Masa Taguchi (Haruko Sugimura, Late Spring), Robespierre (Richard Baseheart, Reign of Terror)

Actors I saw the Most in 1949:
Robert Ryan, Jeanne Crain, Janet Leigh, Richard Conte, Robert Mitchum, Van Johnson, James Mason, Audrey Totter, Joseph Cotten, Lizabeth Scott, Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, Arthur Kennedy, James Mason, Victor Mature, Kirk Douglas, Margaret O’Brien, Claude Rains, Gene Kelly, Orson Welles, Virginia Mayo, David Brian, Sally Forrest, Barbara Lawrence, Van Helfin, Sydney Greenstreet, George Sanders, Dan Duryea, Doris Day, Jack Carson, Trevor Howard

The consistently gorgeous dissolves & compositions of Døden er et kjærtegn (Death Is a Caress)

The last major year of Margaret O’Brien’s career, capping at age 12 with lead roles in two major adaptations of beloved classics (Mary in The Secret Garden, Amy in Little Women). She’d appear in other films & TV, but there was no place made for her as an adolescent

Bette Davis saying “I’m Rosi Moline” over and over again in Beyond the Forest, while I just kept hearing Nomi Malone

Of Mankiewicz’s two films from 1949: House of Strangers > A Letter to Three Wives

Betty Garrett openly lusting after an atypically girl-shy Frank Sinatra in both Take Me Out to the Ball Game and On the Town

mother is a freshman 4mother is a freshman 5Mother is a Freshman 1mother is a freshman 3

Loretta Young’s wardrobe in the hyper-slight but genuinely pleasant Lloyd Bacon Technicolor comedy Mother is a Freshman, in which everybody wants…..Van Johnson…

The Miss Turnstiles Ballet sequence, the perfect example of my (and Kelly/Donen too!) penchant for abstract monochromatic sets from studio-era Hollywood. Vera Ellen gets to show off her talents and be the perfect hyper-faceted non-existent fantasy woman, all in just a few minutes.
The “Cool Girl” equivalent of its era.
(On the Town)

Dear Everyone,
How did it take me this long to love Doris Day?
Sincerely, A Former Fool
(My Dream is Yours & It’s a Great Feeling)

On the Town, the first musical shot (very much in-part) on-location, the bulk of which is the film’s opening number. It’s a thrill seeing these actors buoyantly hit every major tourist spot in the fantastical time-compress only the movies can provide

Finally having context for that oft-used all-timer Judy Garland gif
(In the Good Old Summertime)

🎶🎶”The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down”🎶🎶
(On the Town)

The bonkers part-animation dream sequence that comes out of nowhere in My Dream is Yours. Ever wanted to see Jack Carson hop around in a bunny costume? Well, here’s your chance

Loving three-strip Technicolor as much as Two-strip Technicolor!
(It’s a Great Feeling, In the Good Old Summertime, Little Women, Mother is a Freshman, My Dream is Yours, On the Town, Samson and Delilah, The Secret Garden, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Under Capricorn)

The screaming match between Mary (Margaret O’Brien) and Colin (baby Dean Stockwell) in The Secret Garden, two of the most abrasive minutes in cinema!

tumblr_nlpd3sZc901qz8c8to1_500Joseph Cotten’s in-the-moment choice not to give Ingrid Bergman the rubies in Under Capricorn. Such a sympathetic moment as he awkwardly hides them behind his back

The stone-cold hardening of Catherine’s (Olivia de Havilland) soul through heartbreak in The Heiress

Seeing one of the glass figurines that Karel Zeman used in his stop-motion short “Inspirace” at the Karel Zeman Museum, and finally getting around to watching it!

Joan Crawford giving Sydney Greenstreet what for in Flamingo Road with a couple of swift and much-deserved slaps…….an action she lampoons in It’s a Great Feeling, one of cinema’s best cameos!
(Jack Carson: [after being slapped]: What was that for?
Joan Crawford: Oh, I do that in all my pictures.)

S.Z. Sakall’s delivery of “and anyways she-she’s a dog” in My Dream is Yours

tumblr_ozt4ourqa41rusn89o1_540

 *** QUOTES ***
(littered, of course, with The Third Man)

“Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly!”
(The Third Man)

Aunt Penniman: Can you be so cruel?
Catherine Sloper: Yes, I can be very cruel. I have been taught by masters.
(The Heiress)

“Hell is other people…”
(The Reckless Moment)

“I don’t want people to like me. Nothing pleases me more than when they don’t like me. It means I don’t belong.”
(Beyond the Forest)

Claire: How’d you feel if someone broke your dinosaur?
Ozzie: Never had one. We were too poor.
(On the Town)

“Men are no good. They’re devious. Before marriage they only show their good side, but once they have you, everything awful comes out. Even if you marry for love, you never know what you’re getting”
(Late Spring)

“Death’s at the bottom of everything Martins. Leave death to the professionals”
(The Third Man)

“I bow to your abysmal scruples”
(Whirlpool)

“Smash the windows!”
(Madame Bovary)

“Mariah: bolt the door”
(The Heiress)

“No part of marriage is the exclusive province of any one sex.”
(Adam’s Rib)

Louis: [after murdering his cousin along with his cousin’s mistress] I was sorry about the girl, but found some relief in the reflection that she had presumably during the weekend already undergone a fate worse than death.
(Kind Hearts and Coronets)

Amanda Bonner: And after you shot your husband… how did you feel?
Doris Attinger: Hungry!
(Adam’s Rib)

“A person doesn’t change just because you find out more”
(The Third Man)

“This is it. I’ve been waiting for it, dreaming of it all my life – even when I was a kid. And it wasn’t because we were poor, not hungry poor at least. I suppose, in a way, it was far worse. We were white collar poor, middle-class poor. The kind of people who can’t quite keep up with the Joneses and die a little every day because they can’t.”
(Too Late for Tears)

“The most dangerous thing about completely immoral women is their tremendous unused and unpredictable reserve of honest feeling.”
(Rope of Sand)

“Do you think women live in vaccum-sealed containers like tennis balls?”
(House of Strangers)

“I’m being constantly disillusioned. Has money completely lost its power? Is everyone motivated now by love?”
(Rope of Sand)

Lucia: You don’t know how a family can surround you at times.
Martin: Do you never get away from your family?
Lucia: No.
(The Reckless Moment)

Martins: I was going to stay with him, but he died Thursday
Crabbin: Goodness, that’s awkward.
Martins: Is that what you say to people after death? “Goodness, that’s awkward”?
(The Third Man)

“If you ever tried to get away from me, I’d follow you ’til I wore the earth smooth.”
(Rope of Sand)

Alan Palmer: This money’s like poison, it’s changing you, it’s changing me.
Jane Palmer: I wish it were that easy, I’ve always been this way.
(Too Late for Tears)

Capt. Henri Rochard: My name is Rochard. You’ll think I’m a bride but actually I’m a husband. There’ll be a moment or two of confusion but, if we all keep our heads, everything will be fine.
(I Was a Male War Bride)

“You’ve rejected your place in the world and I hate untidiness”
(The Spider and the Fly)

Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don’t. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs – it’s the same thing. They have their five-year plans, so have I.”
(The Third Man)

“I’ve been rich. And I couldn’t get a breath of fresh air or feel the ground under my feet” (Colorado Territory)

Deborah: Why is it that sooner or later no matter what we talk about… we wind up talking about Addie Ross?
Addie Ross: [voiceover] Maybe it’s because if you girls didn’t talk about me you wouldn’t talk at all.
(A Letter to Three Wives)

“Always looking for a new way to get hurt from a new man. Get smart, there hasn’t been a new man since Adam”
(House of Strangers)

 

“Even getting hit by Reno was all velvet”
(Colorado Territory)

“You were born to be murdered”
(The Third Man)

“You going legitimate is like a vulture going vegetarian”
(Abandoned)

Sheriff Titus Semple: Now me, I never forget anything.
Lane Bellamy: You know sheriff; we had an elephant in our carnival with a memory like that. He went after a keeper that he’d held a grudge against for almost 15 years. Had to be shot. You just wouldn’t believe how much trouble it is to dispose of a dead elephant.
(Flamingo Road)

“Right from the beginning you might say she had a–well, she just had a voice with hormones”
(A Woman’s Secret)

 

100 (or so) Images from the Films of 1949


Hi everyone! Lots happening lately in the Top Ten By Year Project:

  • The 2 zines I made, for 1943 and 1969, are in permanent stock over at my etsy site Femina Ridens. Please go check it out and pick one (or both!) of them up.
  • I’m pretty much done with the 1949 watchlist so you can look forward to 2 other posts besides this one going up in the next month. They are What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1949: A Love Letter & the Top Ten By Year: 1949 write-up.
  • Next, I’ll be taking on 1990. My watchlist is the biggest one to date. I doubt I’ll end up watching everything, but I’m excited to post it next month so keep a look out for that too!
  • I’ll also be starting on a new zine, this one on 1978 (which was done several years ago for this project; I’ll be revisiting, revising, and reinterpreting everything I did for that year into a new booklet)

For my What I’ll Remember posts, I always include some favorite shots & images from the films of whatever year I’m doing. However, I’ve only ever done one of these 100 Images posts before (for 1930). It felt time to make this an official part of the Top Ten By Year project.

Many of these screengrabs are mine, some are not. This isn’t comprehensive. Some films aren’t represented here at all, and it’s not because there was nothing standout in them. But from what I was able to capture on my own, as well as what was available on various websites, this is a pretty decent overview of my favorite images. And there are a lot of great images I saved but chose not to use here. Many of these mean more with context, some are purely for aesthetics, most are a combination of both. For the most part, there is some rhyme or reason for the order in which they are presented.

(I have a few more films to watch so I may or may not be adding a few to this post over the next week)

So go check out the previous one of these (1930 is not the static wasteland you’ve been led to believe, not by a longshot), and please enjoy this one!

puce (1)PUCE MOMENT (director: Kenneth Anger / cinematography: Curtis Harrington)

quiet duel.jpg
THE QUIET DUEL (director: Akira Kurosawa / cinematographer: Sôichi Aisaka)

passionate 2THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (Director: David Lean / Cinematographer: Guy Green)

Queen of Spades 8THE QUEEN OF SPADES (director: Thorold Dickinson / cinematographer: Otto Heller)

third manTHE THIRD MAN (director: Carol Reed / cinematographer: Robert Krasker)

Border IncidentBORDER INCIDENT (director: Anthony Mann / cinematographer: John Alton)

tumblr_pertvhjilR1rpy49jo2_540INTRUDER IN THE DUST (director: Clarence Brown / cinematographer: Robert Surtees)

tihrd 6THE THIRD MAN (director: Carol Reed / cinematographer: Robert Krasker)

such a prettyUNE SI JOLIE PETITE PLAGE (Such a Pretty Little Beach) (director: Yves Allégret / cinematography: Henri Alekan)

les sangLE SANG DES BÊTES (Blood of the Beasts) (director: Georges Franju / cinematography: Marcel Fradetal)

set up 2THE SET-UP (director: Robert Wise / cinematography: Milton R. Krasner)

tumblr_pdvutbxvar1txwnz8o8_540WHIRLPOOL (director: Otto Preminger / cinematography: Arthur C. Miller)

reign 3REIGN OF TERROR (director: Anthony Mann / cinematography: John Alton)

Follow Me QuietlyFOLLOW ME QUIETLY (director: Richard Fleischer / cinematography: Robert De Grasse)

Flamingo RoadFLAMINGO ROAD (director: Michael Curtiz / cinematography: Ted D. McCord)

Act 2ACT OF VIOLENCE (director: Fred Zinneman / cinematography: Robert Surtees)

Black MagicBLACK MAGIC (director: Gregory Ratoff (& Welles uncredited) / cinematography: Ubaldo Arata & Anchise Brizzi)

FollwFOLLOW ME QUIETLY (director: Richard Fleischer / cinematography: Robert De Grasse)

Death 4DEATH IS A CARESS (Døden er et kjærtegn) (Director: Edith Carlmar / Cinematographer: Kåre Bergstrøm)

under 3UNDER CAPRICORN (Director: Alfred Hitchcock / Cinematographer: Jack Cardiff)

reckless momentTHE RECKLESS MOMENT (Director: Max Ophüls / cinematography: Burnett Guffey)

Passion ateTHE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (Director: David Lean / Cinematographer: Guy Green)

tumblr_osohl6W20Z1v5e4kpo3_540CAUGHT (director: Max Ophüls / cinematography: Lee Garmes)

third amnTHE THIRD MAN (director: Carol Reed / cinematographer: Robert Krasker)

under 5UNDER CAPRICORN (Director: Alfred Hitchcock / Cinematographer: Jack Cardiff)

crissCRISS CROSS (director: Robert Siodmak / cinematography: Franz Planer)

tumblr_ogh7ljrCU21todh85o9_540CAUGHT (director: Max Ophüls / cinematography: Lee Garmes)

bitter 1BITTER RICE (director: Giuseppe De Santis / cinematography: Otello Martelli)

ChampionCHAMPION (director: Mark Robson / cinematographer: Franz Planer)

reignREIGN OF TERROR (director: Anthony Mann / cinematography: John Alton)

Border Incident 2BORDER INCIDENT (director: Anthony Mann / cinematographer: John Alton)

tumblr_nmqca1iWaX1txum4do4_1280WHITE HEAT (director: Raoul Walsh / cinematographer: Sidney Hickox)

Queen of Spades 18THE QUEEN OF SPADES (director: Thorold Dickinson / cinematographer: Otto Heller)

DzFPsnDWsAk9uFyAu royaume des cieux (The Sinners) (director: Julien Duvivier / cinematography: Victor Arménise

third man 2THE THIRD MAN (director: Carol Reed / cinematographer: Robert Krasker)

les sang 4LE SANG DES BÊTES (Blood of the Beasts) (director: Georges Franju / cinematography: Marcel Fradetal)

rocking (2)THE ROCKING HORSE WINNER (director: Anthony Pellisier / cinematography: Desmond Dickinson)

InspiraceINSPIRACE (Inspiration) (director: Karel Zeman / cinematography: Antonin Horàk)

puce  (3).jpgPUCE MOMENT (director: Kenneth Anger / cinematography: Curtis Harrington)

InspiaceINSPIRACE (Inspiration) (director: Karel Zeman / cinematography: Antonin Horàk)

underUNDER CAPRICORN (Director: Alfred Hitchcock / Cinematographer: Jack Cardiff)

Late Spring (2)LATE SPRING (director: Yasujiro Ozu / cinematography: Yûharu Atsuta)

thieves 2THIEVES HIGHWAY (director: Jules Dassin / cinematography: Norbert Brodine)

Queen of Spades 7THE QUEEN OF SPADES (director: Thorold Dickinson / cinematographer: Otto Heller)

recklessTHE RECKLESS MOMENT (Director: Max Ophüls / cinematography: Burnett Guffey)

DfSreeLX4AE5ThR“BAD LUCK BLACKIE” (director: Tex Avery)

images-w1400WHIRLPOOL (director: Otto Preminger / cinematography: Arthur C. Miller)

tensionTENSION (director: John Berry / cinematography: Harry Stradling Sr.)

DzFO3KvX4AAFQeNAu royaume des cieux (The Sinners) (director: Julien Duvivier / cinematography: Victor Arménise)

BitterBITTER RICE (director: Giuseppe De Santis / cinematography: Otello Martelli)

bitter 2BITTER RICE (director: Giuseppe De Santis / cinematography: Otello Martelli)

puce (2)PUCE MOMENT (director: Kenneth Anger / cinematography: Curtis Harrington)

my dream is yours58MY DREAM IS YOURS (director: Michael Curtiz / cinematographer: Wilfrid M. Cline & Ernest Haller)

samsonSAMSON AND DELILAH (director: Cecil B. DeMille / cinematographer: George Barnes)

bitter 3BITTER RICE (director: Giuseppe De Santis / cinematography: Otello Martelli)

under7UNDER CAPRICORN (Director: Alfred Hitchcock / Cinematographer: Jack Cardiff)

queen of spades 2THE QUEEN OF SPADES (director: Thorold Dickinson / cinematographer: Otto Heller)

les sangLE SANG DES BÊTES (Blood of the Beasts) (director: Georges Franju / cinematography: Marcel Fradetal)

Queen of Spades 1THE QUEEN OF SPADES (director: Thorold Dickinson / cinematographer: Otto Heller)

such a pretty 2UNE SI JOLIE PETITE PLAGE (Such a Pretty Little Beach) (director: Yves Allégret / cinematography: Henri Alekan)

Late SpringLATE SPRING (director: Yasujiro Ozu / cinematography: Yûharu Atsuta)

tension 2TENSION (director: John Berry / cinematography: Harry Stradling Sr.)

tension 3TENSION (director: John Berry / cinematography: Harry Stradling Sr.)

tehieves highwTHIEVES HIGHWAY (director: Jules Dassin / cinematography: Norbert Brodine)

FLamingo Road 2FLAMINGO ROAD (director: Michael Curtiz / cinematography: Ted D. McCord)

my dream 2MY DREAM IS YOURS (director: Michael Curtiz / cinematographer: Wilfrid M. Cline & Ernest Haller)

deth77DEATH IS A CARESS (Døden er et kjærtegn) (Director: Edith Carlmar / Cinematographer: Kåre Bergstrøm)

rocking 2THE ROCKING HORSE WINNER (director: Anthony Pellisier / cinematography: Desmond Dickinson)

I Shot JesseI SHOT JESSE JAMES (director: Samuel Fuller / cinematography: Ernest Miller)

Black Magic 2BLACK MAGIC (director: Gregory Ratoff (& Welles uncredited) / cinematography: Ubaldo Arata & Anchise Brizzi)

Death 2DEATH IS A CARESS (Døden er et kjærtegn) (Director: Edith Carlmar / Cinematographer: Kåre Bergstrøm)

I Shot Jesse (2)I SHOT JESSE JAMES (director: Samuel Fuller / cinematography: Ernest Miller)

easy livingEASY LIVING (director: Jacques Tourneur / cinematography: Harry J. Wild)

Christmas USA“CHRISTMAS U.S.A” (director: Gregory J. Markopoulos)

set upTHE SET-UP (director: Robert Wise / cinematography: Milton R. Krasner)

Death 3DEATH IS A CARESS (Døden er et kjærtegn) (Director: Edith Carlmar / Cinematographer: Kåre Bergstrøm)

Bitter 0BITTER RICE (director: Giuseppe De Santis / cinematography: Otello Martelli)

DeathDEATH IS A CARESS (Døden er et kjærtegn) (Director: Edith Carlmar / Cinematographer: Kåre Bergstrøm)

Act 1ACT OF VIOLENCE (director: Fred Zinneman / cinematography: Robert Surtees)

tumblr_pi3q66Ltxm1qmemvwo1_540WHIRLPOOL (director: Otto Preminger / cinematography: Arthur C. Miller)

Quiet DuelTHE QUIET DUEL (director: Akira Kurosawa / cinematographer: Sôichi Aisaka)

passionate 5THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (Director: David Lean / Cinematographer: Guy Green)

Late Spring 3LATE SPRING (director: Yasujiro Ozu / cinematography: Yûharu Atsuta)

Colorado TerritoryCOLORADO TERRITORY (director: Raoul Walsh / cinematographer: Sidney Hickox)

tumblr_pi3rr9s1sX1qmemvwo1_540WHIRLPOOL (director: Otto Preminger / cinematography: Arthur C. Miller)

tumblr_ozist7OTZK1s39hlao5_540THE RECKLESS MOMENT (Director: Max Ophüls / cinematography: Burnett Guffey)

tumblr_ogh7ljrCU21todh85o7_400CAUGHT (director: Max Ophüls / cinematography: Lee Garmes)

tumblr_oxbw62mMhb1rws4l6o1_540THE HEIRESS (director: William Wyler / cinematographer: Leo Tover)

Flamion 3FLAMINGO ROAD (director: Michael Curtiz / cinematography: Ted D. McCord)

rockingTHE ROCKING HORSE WINNER (director: Anthony Pellisier / cinematography: Desmond Dickinson)

third man 4THE THIRD MAN (director: Carol Reed / cinematographer: Robert Krasker)

salonSALON MEXICO (director, Emilio Fernández / cinematographer: Gabriel Figueroa)

Follow 2FOLLOW ME QUIETLY (director: Richard Fleischer / cinematography: Robert De Grasse)

les sang (2)LE SANG DES BÊTES (Blood of the Beasts) (director: Georges Franju / cinematography: Marcel Fradetal)

Slightly FrenchSLIGHTLY FRENCH (director: Douglas Sirk / cinematographer: Charles Lawton Jr.)

bitter 5BITTER RICE (director: Giuseppe De Santis / cinematography: Otello Martelli)

AdventuresTHE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD & MR. TOAD (directors: James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney)

Adventures 2THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD & MR. TOAD (directors: James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney)

les sang (2)LE SANG DES BÊTES (Blood of the Beasts) (director: Georges Franju / cinematography: Marcel Fradetal)

on the town 3ON THE TOWN (directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly / cinematographer: Harold Rosson

Kind HeartsKIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (director: Robert Hamer / cinematographer: Douglas Slocombe)

Criss 3CRISS CROSS (director: Robert Siodmak / cinematography: Franz Planer)

MadamMADAME BOVARY (director: Vincente Minnelli / cinematographer: Robert H. Planck)

take me outTAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME (director: Busby Berkeley / cinematographer: George J. Folsey)

pucePUCE MOMENT (director: Kenneth Anger / cinematography: Curtis Harrington)

under capricornUNDER CAPRICORN (Director: Alfred Hitchcock / Cinematographer: Jack Cardiff)

Queen of Spades 9THE QUEEN OF SPADES (director: Thorold Dickinson / cinematographer: Otto Heller)

Criss 2CRISS CROSS (director: Robert Siodmak / cinematography: Franz Planer)

ontown08ON THE TOWN (directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly / cinematographer: Harold Rosson

Adam RibADAM’S RIB (director: George Cukor / cinematographer: George J. Folsey)