Now that the announcement has been made official I can go ahead and ‘fess up: I recently recorded an audio commentary for the newly restored Cabinet of Dr. Caligari for the UK Blu-Ray release by Masters of Cinema. It was a huge thrill for me—I’d been wanting to do a Caligari commentary for years and no one had asked me yet. But not only was it a chance to finally yammer my way through Robert Wiene’s masterwork, but this new restoration is simply stunning—it’s from the original 35mm negative. Looks like it was shot yesterday.
And seeing this film fresh makes all the difference in the world, because there are so many myths and misconceptions about Caligari that need clearing up. Like, that this film is some kind of avant garde work of art. Because (ahem) it’s not.
Several weeks ago, I posted an essay that claimed that the reason movies get made is to make money. I stand by that claim, and have spent the many of the last several weeks trying to explore the edges of it, but I’d like to clarify that I’m not saying that everyone who works in film is motivated solely by greed. I am saying that the people who work in film have bills to pay, mouths to feed, kids to put through college, etc. I’m sure there are some lofty-minded artists who resist and reject all that, and are only motivated to realize their own personal visions—but even they are better served by enjoying a modicum of commercial success. And that’s where we are this week—to see what happens to artists so determined to buck the system they end up compromising their own art worse than any studio hack could.
Posted by David Kalat on August 31, 2013
Salvador Dali’s surrealist career was bookended by his experiences in the movies.
I have to couch that statement with the limiter “surrealist career” because Dali was a prolific and prodigious talent whose larger artistic career in toto is almost incomprehensibly vast—he was painting like a pro when he was a small child, and kept at it until 1989. That’s right, Dali was around to witness the first Internet virus. Just wrap your head around that.
But… he is known and celebrated primarily as a surrealist, and it is that phase of his career which intersects the world of movies. And therein lies our tale.
Posted by Susan Doll on June 24, 2013
Recently, I watched a Depression-era comedy that I had never seen, or even heard of, before. Danger—Love at Work (1937) stars Ann Sothern as Toni Pemberton, the carefree daughter of an eccentric wealthy family. Despite being engaged to stuffy Edward Everett Horton, she is smitten with Jack Haley, who plays a lawyer trying to do business with a family of wacky individualists. As Mrs. Pemberton, played by Mary Boland, notes, the family owes its penchant for eccentricity to a grandfather who advocated free expression of personality without inhibitions.
My favorite character is Uncle Herbert, played by John Carradine, who puts a hilarious spin on the archetype of the eccentric artist. Carradine shows off his versatility as a character actor in his obvious spoof of Salvador Dali. When Henry meets Herbert, he is decked out in a smock as he paints the inside window of the Pembertons’ South Carolina mansion. He is so pleased with his modernist painting, dubbed “The Love Life of a Cup and Saucer,” that he announces he is no longer a surrealist but a post-surrealist. Henry ends up spending the night with the Pembertons and is given a room where the ceiling has been adorned by Herbert. The butler explains that Herbert suspended himself from the chandelier to paint “Friendship” on the ceiling, which consists of huge, distorted forks, knives, and spoons. The butler explains that the painting is called “Friendship,” because cutlery works together during a meal. Later, Henry watches Herbert furiously paint a seascape while standing in front of a fan in a raincoat (top photo). A butler pours water on his head from a sprinkler can, because, according to Herbert, the artist must experience his subject matter.
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