Summer of Rohmer: The Green Ray (1986)

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My Summer of Rohmer has been held over for its fourth smash week! For the uninitiated, I have been writing about the summer-set films of Eric Rohmer, allowing my vacation-less self to live vicariously through his characters. I have already traveled to Saint-Tropez for La Collectionneuse  (1967), the French Alps for Claire’s Knee (1970), and Normandy for Pauline at the Beach (1983). Today I join one of Rohmer’s most peripatetic souls, Delphine (played by Marie Rivière), through Cherbourg, the Alps, and Biarritz in The Green Ray (1986). Delphine has recently separated from her long-distance boyfriend, leaving her alone and without direction for her summer vacation. A melancholy romantic, she is fiercely protective of her independence, and forever seeking the man who is worthy to end it. She spends her holiday bouncing from resort town to resort town, staying long enough until her loneliness overwhelms her and she is forced to move on. She begins to see portents all around, creating meaning by turning the world into a Tarot card to be read. Rohmer finds the beauty in her intense ascetic solitude, and grants her an ending of offhand sublimity.

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Otto Preminger in the Czech Republic

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Last week I attended my first film festival outside the U.S.—the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) in the Czech Republic. Classic movie lovers will be pleased to know that the KVIFF paid tribute to Hollywood director Otto Preminger by including seven of his best films in addition to Valerie Robins’s 1991 documentary, Preminger: Anatomy of a Filmmaker.

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Tippett Studio

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A few weeks ago I got a chance to visit Tippett Studio and was given a tour by Phil Tippett himself. He was seven-years-old when he saw Ray Harryhausen’s The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and knew what he wanted to do with his life. Since then he has worked on Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, received his first Academy Award nomination for his dragon in Dragonslayer, was awarded his first Oscar in 1984 for his work on Return of the Jedi, worked with Paul Verhoeven on both RoboCop (the terrifying ED-209) and Starship Troopers (the even more terrifying alien arachnids), would win another Oscar for his visual effects on Jurassic Park, and the list goes on… [...MORE]

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July 9, 2016
David Kalat
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Gracie Allen Finds the Perfect Man

College students are coming to the Hotel Casa Del Mar–in pairs they come, two by two. It’s a veritable Noah’s Ark for young scholars. Why they have come is a matter of some debate, however. The new manager of the Casa Del Mar (Jack Benny) has told the coeds that they are going to be the summer entertainment for the hotel, a promotional gimmick to help rope in some tourists. And sure enough, he gets them to put on a show, full of elaborate song and dance numbers. But that’s just a ruse–the hotel’s deep in debt to a socialite (Mary Boland) with a fixation on using eugenics to engineer a new super-race, and the students are going to be her unwitting guinea pigs.

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KEYWORDS: Ben Blue, Frank Tuttle, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, Martha Raye
COMMENTS: 6
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The Sound Film That Wanted to be Silent

Today on TCM, some of Charlie Chaplin’s later films (City Lights, Modern Times, and Limelight) fill the afternoon. Chaplin is a figure in cinema history whose fascination for me has more to do with his personal life than his movies.  His movies, many of them masterpieces, are nonetheless broken up into such jarringly different phases that appreciating his film catalog from start to finish almost requires multiple sensibilities working against each other at once.  It’s not just that he went from silents to sound, many film artists did that.  It’s that he went from slapstick one-reelers to full length silent comedies to full length melodramatic comedies still defiantly silent in the sound era to talkies to star driven vehicles (Countess from Hong Kong) all within the course of a single career.  Making it even more jarring is the fact that Chaplin’s visual style changed little, if at all, from The Great Dictator to Countess.  He never seemed entirely comfortable in the sound era and Limelight, more than any of his other sound films, seems desperate to return to the good old days when silence was golden.

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Summer Reading Suggestions

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Pull up a chair and pour yourself a nice cold glass of something. It’s time for my annual nonfiction Summer Reading Suggestions!

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Richard Was Here

KarlRichardResizedThis space was formerly occupied by Richard Harland Smith, who handled write-ups for TCM Underground on Wednesdays and retired from the Morlocks a couple of weeks ago.  Since no one has yet taken this space over and since I had the Wednesday posts and Richard the Friday until we switched a while back, I figured this would be as good a space as any to write about my experiences with movie blogging and how so much of it was influenced by the very same Mr. Smith.  It’s not the usual thing to send off a Morlock with a written tribute but Richard Harland Smith is important to me as a friend and a writer.  I just want to say a few words to try and fill this empty space and talk about movie blogging through the years and how much my own sensibilities have been informed by Richard in that time and will continue to be as long as I write.

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Summer of Rohmer: Pauline at the Beach (1983)

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Welcome to the third week of my Summer of Rohmer, in which I fill the void of my own vacation-less summer by vicariously joining the beach holidays of Eric Rohmer’s neurotic, attractive, and hyper-articulate characters. I started the series by visiting a Saint-Tropez cottage in La Collectionneusefollowed with a scenic French Alps home in Claire’s Knee, while today I scurried off to a Normandy beach house in Pauline at the Beach. We have leapt from Rohmer’s cycle of “Moral Tales” to his “Comedies and Proverbs”, as well as his shift to female protagonists (which began with his previous film A Good Marriage (1982)). Pauline at the Beach (1983) is set during the waning weeks of summer, with Marion (Arielle Dombasle) bringing her 15-year-old niece Pauline (Amanda Langlet) to spend a few parent-less weeks before they both have to return to work and school. There is a pressure to find friends and have a fling before the holiday runs out. The waifish blonde Marion is immediately pursued by two men, the dewy-eyed romantic Pierre (Pascal Greggory) and the older, pragmatic womanizer Henri (Feodor Atkine). Rohmer frames the film around Pauline’s observations. She is a quiet, almost background presence throughout, silently weighing Marion’s actions as she falls for Henri and keeps Pierre on her string. Rohmer leads off his Comedies and Proverbs films with a quote, and here it is one from Chretien de Troyes: “He who speaks too much does himself harm.” Marion, Pierre, and Henri talk incessantly about the nature of love, but show no knowledge of how to embody it. Instead they remain irrevocably wrapped up inside themselves. I produced the DVD and Blu-ray of Pauline at the Beach for Kino Lorber (complete with an Eric Rohmer interview and a  fine booklet essay by Michelle Orange), so consider that a full disclosure of my biases.

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Wanna Share a Firecracker with This Bunch? They’re Explosive!

I hope most of my readers are enjoying today’s holiday with family, friends, and loved ones. Rather than distract you from your barbeques, picnics, cookouts, and fireworks with a long-winded blog post, I thought I would regale you with some of my favorite Fourth of July promotional photos of classic Hollywood stars.

I suspect the old-school press agents who worked for the studios back in the day knew that cheesecake photos of beautiful movie stars and fireworks was suggestive. Still, the images were  innocent enough to pass through the Production Code office.

Remember, unlike the other cheesecake you consume today, this post has no calories!

A YOUNG DEBBIE REYNOLDS SPARKLES AMONG THE FIREWORKS.

A YOUNG DEBBIE REYNOLDS SPARKLES AMONG THE FIREWORKS.

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A Shared Experience: Barry Lyndon

Years ago, sometime in the eighties, I was sitting in the living room of my parents house with my father and uncle, talking among ourselves as Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 masterpiece, and my favorite of his works, played in the background.  This did not bother my father as he was never much of a movie person in the first place and it didn’t bother me because I had seen Barry Lyndon at least five or six times by that point so I was happy just to have it going in the background of our conversation.  My uncle, on the other hand, was a musicologist, who taught in Charleston, SC, where I am from and where we were at the time.  He got distracted from our conversation by the movie as it entered into the duel scene between Barry (Ryan O’Neal) and his resentful stepson, Lord Bullingdon (Leon Vitali).  He tried to keep the conversation going but as the duel progressed he kept looking away to the tv and finally interrupted us.  I completely understood.

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