Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on December 1, 2013
I was going to write about The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), because it’s screening tomorrow on TCM and, also, because the latest Coen brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), opens theatrically this coming Friday. Instead, I got stuck on the Inside Llewyn Davis poster. There is something about its composition that I find very striking. To notice it, you’ll have to ignore the top and bottom, which are lame in the ways that most movie posters are routinely lame: emphasizing celebrity names up top, and then all the normal credits at bottom. The middle section, however, is inspired. I can’t stop looking at the cat. There are several reasons for this, and the first is due to the sight-lines, which immediately reminded me of the Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818) painting by famous German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. It’s a classic example of a visual construction where all the lines lead to the center. Except in Friedrich’s case the lines of the natural landscape converge on man, whereas with the Inside Llewyn Davis poster, the sight-lines provided by the New York City streetscape converge on the cat. I think this is great because, in my humble opinion, any movie poster is immediately improved with the addition of a feline presence. Since our furry little friends are said to have nine lives, in this post I’ll be looking at how cats have been depicted throughout cinema in nine different categories. [...MORE]
Posted by Susan Doll on October 17, 2011
Author Susan Orlean recently published Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, a biography of the canine movie star. Instead of doing the usual round of book signings at bookstores, which are seldom lucrative these days unless the author is a star or celebrity, Orlean is touring theaters. The author is using the occasion to introduce new generations to Rin Tin Tin by showing a 1925 film starring the talented canine. I thoroughly enjoyed Orlean’s program, which included a short film about Rin Tin Tin, a reading from the book, a screening of Clash of the Wolves, a Q&A with the author, and a signing for those who purchased the book. If Orlean comes to your area, I can’t recommend her program enough; it offers much to think about regarding the meaning and value of pop culture in America, the bond between humans and animals, and the need for writers to find a larger context for their memories and experiences.
Unlike Lassie, who was a character created for the movies and played by several male dogs, Rin Tin Tin was a real pet from the real world before he became a movie star. And, there is much about his life story that is as heart-wrenching as any script for a movie. In September 1918, U.S. soldier Lee Duncan found a family of German shepherds in a bombed-out kennel in Fluiry in the Meuse Valley of France. A female with five puppies seemed to be the last survivors in the kennel, and Duncan took it upon himself to rescue them. He found homes for the mother and three pups, but he adopted the remaining two puppies, which he named Rin Tin Tin and Nenette (some sources use “Nanette”) after popular French dolls of the time. When he tried to arrange for passage for the two puppies on his return trip home to America, he ran into red tape. An officer intervened on Duncan’s behalf, and the puppies made the arduous voyage. Sadly, Nenette died from canine distemper shortly after her arrival in the States, but Rin Tin Tin grew into a strong, athletic dog. A striking-looking dog, Rin Tin Tin was nearly black, with gold marbling on his legs, chin, and chest. His unusually large, tulip-shaped ears were expressive, signaling mood or emotion through their twitchy movements or erect position.
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