Thursday, June 08, 2006

It comes to pass... anyway, George W. Bush's anti-gay initiative didn't pass, but he vows not to give up. Will he leave people alone? That's a stupid question. In Iraq, there was the death of al-Zarqawi. Of course, Washington (Bush, Cheney and cohorts) are trying to claim a victory, but it's really not that relevant to the instability of the government there and the destabilization of the region.

But enough of that. Today finally got out of the house and went to the IFP to discuss the shorts and got more to watch. Then walked down to Florent for the NewFest industry party, saw Sandi DuBowski, Lynda Hanson, Debbie Zimmerman, Steve Grenyo, Jennie Livingston, said hello to Basil Tsiokos and talked a bit with Jim Hubbard, and then walked home. Got cherries from a street vendor, two pounds for the same price i paid for one pound the other day here in Brooklyn. While walking, ran into Douglas with Tom Settle (was that the name) as they were shopping for a computer. Larry went to Sotheby's reception. Got home, and watched "Track of the Cat" and "Plunder of the Sun" on TCM: Diana Lynn night. But her two best performances not shown, i.e., "The Major and the Minor" and (of course) "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek". Diana Lynn was wonderful, but she had the usual problem of child actresses: everybody loved her as the wiseacre child, but she never found a role as an adult which was as magical as those adolescent roles. Watching "Track of the Cat", i can see why it was so slammed when it opened in 1953: nothing happens. For a long time. And it's primarily set inside the kitchen of the house. People come and go from the kitchen, but that's it. (There's not even that much action of people going up and down the stairs.) It's "stagey", and the fact that Wellman tried to experiment with Technicolor by "de-colorizing" the film... the set design is (mostly) white, black and grey. The red wool jacket that Robert Mitchum wears really is an "emblem". I remember when i first saw it, it was on TV in the 1960s, and you didn't miss much "color" by seeing it on a black-and-white TV....

But seeing it in "full" color, it really is obvious how "striking" the attempt to stylize the visual field of the film was. But the film is lugubrious, rather like a bad production of Eugene O'Neill set in the frozen West. I always got it mixed up with "Blood on the Moon", the 1949 Robert Wise directed Western which starred Mitchum, Barbara Bel Geddes and Robert Preston. ("Track of the Cat" has Teresa Wright, Diana Lynn, and Tab Hunter.)

In the past two weeks, i was looking up stuff on Robert Wise, because i was curious about some of his "noirs" like "The Set Up" or "The House on Telegraph Hill" or "Born to Kill". And in interview after interview, he "explains" why Orson Welles "failed" in Hollywood: Welles was "undisciplined", his "problem was he had no discipline"... Wise kept saying this again and again. Well, who the hell is Robert Wise (the hack of all time) to say that about the man who helped to launch his career by making him editor of "Citizen Kane"? And then Wise went and hacked up (on orders of RKO brass) "The Magnificent Ambersons" (which Wise always defended). I'm sorry, i do like some of his films ("The Haunting" is one of my favorite horror movies), but i hate Robert Wise for being such a toady and touting the Hollywood line about Welles being "undisciplined".

The other night, i was trying to write more on this blog, but i got distracted watching two Anthony Mann noirs: "Railroaded!" and "Two O'Clock Courage" on TCM. They were visually quite fascinating, but... well, the acting (in "Railroaded!" especially) was just so bad. The visual imagination (the cinematography, the editing, the compositions) was so strong, but the acting just plunked you right down to "B" movie level. Tom Conway and Ann Rutherford really worked it in "Two O'Clock Courage": they didn't play characters, they were characters!

Walking through NYC, i did see different people. I saw Ashley Judd walking her dog. I saw Greg Mehrten (is that the name?) who's in Mabou Mines. It just reminded me of what i've been missing....

Anyway, want to get to the screening tomorrow of "Pandora's Box". Can't wait. And today, "Sir Arne's Treasure" arrived in the mail, so i'll try to look at that over the weekend. Though i'm not sure i'll have time, because i've got 20 shorts to look at for the IFP. But Dave Kehr's comments on Stiller in the NY Times were very perceptive (i thought): i also think that "Sir Arne's Treasure" is a better film than "The Saga of Gosta Berling", but "Berling" has the attraction of being Garbo's first major role. But i always felt that Mary Johnson (the star of "Sir Arne's Treasure" and "Gunnar Hede's Sage", which is Stiller's other masterpiece, i think) would have been the one who would have been the international star. (She has a quality rather like Lillian Gish and Janet Gaynor, i.e., a "maiden" quality, but with real willpower.) But whatever it was that Stiller saw in Garbo to make him decide to make her his protege... well, the world saw it, because Garbo became the biggest star of the late silent period.

I also thought that J. Hoberman's piece on Antonioni in The Village Voice was sharp and insightful. Antonioni seems to bring out the best in people's writings, at least it did for Stephen Holden and Hoberman!

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