Monday, September 08, 2008

Well, on Saturday, Tropical Storm Hanna went through the metropolitan area, dumping several inches of rain. By Sunday, everything was sunny and dry.

I don't know if the hurricanes/tropical storms are any sort of metaphor for what's happening on the political front. McCain's pulling of Sarah Palin out of a hat was a trick worthy of Houdini. Looked at logically, she is a horror: her administration is filled with investigations into very questionable actions and ethics. But McCain knows that no one can think logically at this point. The whole campaign is now a matter of symbolic logic: the white avenger, backed by the right (literally) thinking white woman, will take back the country from the invading blacks. Even if it means more years of this horrible administration, which will pull the country down into an abyss of depression (on every level).

This time, when the hurricane went through New Orleans, the levees held. But barely. Is that some sort of statement about America today?

Last week, i did make it to one press screening: David Lean's "The Sound Barrier" (the title in the US was "Breaking the Sound Barrier"). One reason i wanted to see the film was that i'd only seen it on television, and i understood that the sound effects and the aerial photography (which were spectacular in its day) were not fully effective on television. Also: it was one of my father's favorite movies. It turned out to be such an enjoyable movie. It was nice to see such a cleanly crafted film, with a story where all the pieces fit (and the scientific information is presented so that it's easily digestible).

David Lean's English movies, before the success of "The Bridge on the River Kwai" bloated his work and he went the epic route, continue to be quite engrossing. There are the Noel Coward collaborations ("In Which We Serve", "This Happy Breed", "Blithe Spirit", "Brief Encounter"), the Dickens adaptations ("Great Expectations", "Oliver Twist") and what the BFI is identifying as the "Ann Todd trilogy" ("Madeleine", "The Passionate Friends", "The Sound Barrier"). The comedy of "Hobson's Choice" marked the end of that period; "Summertime" would take Lean to international settings (hinted at in "The Passionate Friends"), and from there, it was bigger (if not necessarily better).

But any artist should be judged on their best work, and not on some spurious idea of "progression" or "development". And from that standard, Lean's English films remain impressive.

And in "The Sound Barrier", it's easy to see why Ralph Richardson was so impressive in that period. With "The Sound Barrier" and "The Fallen Idol" and "The Heiress", it's impossible not to be impressed with the range and depth he can bring to these roles. (If "The Sound Barrier" was my father's favorite movie, Ralph Richardson was his favorite actor: my father just felt that Richardson was the greatest.)


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