Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Deepenings
July 13, 2011
Rapt Lorber Films El Bulli: Cooking in Progress Alive Mind A Little Help Freestyle The style is what holds us. Rapt is about the kidnapping of a French tycoon in Paris, and no sooner have we felt a tinge of disappointment—what, another ransom film?—than we feel curiosity about what will happen. The people are quickly credible, but it is the electric style that convinces us of the maker’s intelligence. How could this writer-director, Lucas Belvaux, not know that he was entering familiar territory? He must have had a reason. He has.
As the prison term of Casey Anthony drags on, now until July 17, is there time to reflect? On the day of her verdict, last Tuesday, she looked as nervous as any of us might have felt. She was in trial mode, in a drained pink shirt, her brown hair drawn tightly back and restrained in a pony-tail. Her dark eyes stood out, but she held herself together. No one doubts her nerve. Then, by Thursday (sentencing day), the hair was down on her shoulders. It stirred. She was prettier, and more confident—wasn’t she? Her sweater was sky blue. Was her lipstick stronger? Who can be sure?
David Thomson on Films: ‘Larry Crowne’ Could Have Tackled the Challenges America Faces Today. Instead, Its Story Is Stale and Cheap.
July 06, 2011
Why is this picture called Larry Crowne? Is it because the filmmaker and star, Tom Hanks, buys into the limp orthodoxy that he is an American everyman figure? Is it because he has vague hopes that this is a story about everyday, good-natured American stick-at-it-ness, in the league of Jerry Maguire or Erin Brockovich? Or is it because no one involved in the making of it really knows what the film is about? Just think for a moment how the film’s attitude toward us, and its sense of purpose, might shift if the title was, For Example, Larry Crowne? And why not?
Peter Falk’s Columbo had a heavy patina of grubby naturalism. His raincoat had never seen a dry-cleaner; he was often unshaven and his hair was wild. One of his eyes could look the wrong way—but which eye? His halting speech affected shyness, befuddlement, or hours spent watching John Cassavetes films. He was as unkempt as Hercule Poirot is spick-and-span. But the two characters were equally artificial. I’m not complaining. If I’d done a murder, I’d rather be drawn into serpentine discussions with Falk, and even be arrested by him. He had respect for a wily games player.
The trouble with the new Selznick version of A Farewell to Arms which stars Rock Hudson as the ambulance driver, Frederick Henry, and Jennifer Jones as the nurse, Catherine Barkley, is that to be the least bit convincing or moving it demands that the viewer help along considerably by recollecting the novel—that he fill out the action, give emotional significance to the landscapes, add dimension to the characters. Otherwise it is a spiritless, silly, and, I fear, embarrassing movie.
The Big Small Screen
June 23, 2011
Too Big to FailHBO Bobby Fischer Against the World HBO In the last few weeks, America has had the chance to see two disturbing movies about our warping emphasis on heroes. Both of them played on cable, on HBO in fact, and some may think that therefore they fall under the rubric of “television.” But this misunderstanding has not prevented many of the best film directors in America from being driven to cable recently for worthwhile work.
David Thomson on Films: What Does a Producer Do?
June 23, 2011
What does a producer have to do to get noticed by film critics? It’s not enough to raise the money, order the cars, serve the lunches and make sure the location latrines are in working order—all of them.
TNR Film Classic: Greta Garbo (September 28, 1932)
June 18, 2011
Since Miss Greta Garbo came to America some years ago, her fame has grown and grown. In her last picture, a Hollywood and rather nursery version of Pirandello’s “As You Desire Me,” she has come to the end of her contract and to her highest success; the piece has passed from one end of country to the other in triumph, and Miss Garbo has gone back to Sweden, to return or not to return as the case may be. During all this time her position has steadily advanced.
Here’s another “movie” from Britain that without a touch of pomp or pretension seeks to ask us, “Well, why in hell do you think you know what a movie is, or has to be?” Since nearly anything could serve and function within the gloriously loose structure of The Trip, I found myself hoping that its two guys might find one of their conversations leading into a lugubrious consideration of what Terrence Malick thought The Tree of Life was really about.
TNR Film Classic: 'Hell's Angels' (October 1, 1930)
June 11, 2011
Hell’s Angels, according to the unexpectedly accurate statement of its corps of press agents, is “the most pretentious spectacle ever produced.” It cost four million dollars. It took four years to write and film. The producer and director, Mr. Howard Hughes, assembled for it the largest fleet of aircraft ever brought together by an individual—a larger air force than is possessed by the governments of many great countries. In an aerial conflict between Mr. Hughes and China, between Mr. Hughes and the Argentine Republic, between Mr.