Friday, January 04, 2013

There's been the usual glut of end-of-the-year reflections, etc. One new movie which just opened was the documentary "56 Up". But then i read Manohla Dargis's review, and i was perplexed: she seemed to see a different film. She saw a film which simply reinforced the class system in England, and i saw a film which was a little more complicated than that. What i was surprised about was the emotion that the documentary engendered: there is the feeling that you know these people, when (of course) you really don't. You're seeing this selected sliver of their lives, and the artifice (in terms of the craft of the editing, the recording, etc. which remains thoroughly professional) is in giving you the impression of a "real" view of these people over a period of 49 (yes) years. The film is done so well that the necessary gaps (the people who refused to participate again, etc.) are elided. It's still one of the most fascinating experiments in documentary filmmaking.

One documentary that i watched this week was "Project Nim"; i'm sorry that i missed it last year, but i'm glad i caught it on HBO. It raised so many issues, especially about human interaction with animals. The arrogance of some of the people involved was shocking: what's funny is that the people who think they can treat animals so horrendously also treated the other people (who trained and cared for Nim) horrendously. So it seems to be across-the-board: if you can treat an animal in such a cavalier and high-handed way, chances are you're a person with little compassion or sensitivity in general.

TCM's Star of the Month is Loretta Young. Watched a bunch of her pre-Code movies: "Platinum Blonde", "Taxi!", "Life Begins", "Road to Paradise" and "The Truth About Youth". Loretta Young is an example of someone with no actual training in acting, who started appearing in movies as a child, and in her youth (when she was between the ages of 14 and 24), it didn't matter. She was so lovely, and her emotions seemed fresh, so who cared if she could actually act? But after 1935, she's still beautiful, but she's more guarded, and her emotional range seems to have constricted. But that early Loretta Young remains one of the great stars of the  pre-Code period, and in 1933 she gave some of her best performances ("Man's Castle", "Midnight Mary", "Zoo in Budapest"). And she was only 21 years old.


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