Tea Party Invaders! Douglas Sirk’s No Room for the Groom (1952)

Amidst the patchy availability of important Hollywood films of the golden age, it’s sometimes surprising what turns up. Douglas Sirk fares better than most directors — his characteristic melodramas are available in well-produced editions. Beyond the famous films of his mature period — Written on the Wind (1956), All that Heaven Allows (1955), Imitation of Life (1958) (perhaps the ne plus ultra of weepies) — some more obscure Sirks are available, gems like All I Desire (1953), curiosities like the western Taza, Son of Cochise (1953), and the fascinating, startlingly bitter screwball comedy No Room for the Groom (1952).

The Institution is Immaterial: Frederick Wiseman’s La Danse

The Musée d’Orsay contains two scale models of the Palais Garnier (1875) which must rank among the greatest of all time. Within the museum the models terminate the former railway station’s main axis, forming a kind of culmination. Along with Paxton’s Crystal Palace (1851), unlikely to be mentioned in a Parisian museum, the Garnier is perhaps the definitive building of its century. The first model, implanted beneath a glass floor, shows the building in its urban context, clearly demonstrating that the great opera house precipitated for its neighborhood the Full Haussmann. The second model, built to a highly detailed scale (perhaps 1:100) for such a large building, is cut through in longitudinal section like a doll’s house, revealing the famously ornate lobby and hall as relatively minuscule inhabited planets orbited by a dark matter cloud of unnamed rooms and fly towers. Frederick Wiseman’s La Danse, a fly on the wall portrait of the Paris Opera Ballet, seems the cinematic equivalent of that sectional model, but it would be more accurate to say that it is simultaneously both models. The film uses its all access backstage pass, its sore toes, sweat and heavy breathing, to achieve the purpose of the contextual model, the definition of an institution within a city.

Openings: The Boston Season begins.

The Boston musical season is now rolling along, with almost too many good things occurring to keep up with. The best news, and a great relief, has been the return of music director James Levine to the Boston Symphony Orchestra after many months off for back surgery and recuperation. Levine looks older, with more loose flesh around the face, and he walks onstage and off carefully with a cane (though at moments he just rests it on his shoulder and goes securely on). He seems to feel good, and once seated and starting to conduct shows great animation and involvement, indeed passionate involvement, in the work at hand. He has the orchestra playing spectacularly. He has really taken them beyond themselves, and they know it and seem to feel proud of it, as they should.

The Business of Designing Dreams: Christopher Nolan’s Inception

Inception, Christopher Nolan’s new film, could be considered a film about architecture. Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays an agent skilled at invading and manipulating the dreams of others, finds it easy to recruit a star architecture student (Ellen Page) to design the space in which the film’s climactic dream takes place. If architectural ideas have intrinsic value, then why not design dreams, especially if someone’s willing to pay? For Page’s character, as for Koolhaas, the invitation to produce ideas without buildings is an invitation to unburden. When she runs from DiCaprio’s initial offer, he knows she will come back. For an architect with ideas the opportunity to design a dream is itself a dream, or at least an opportunity to shoot a kind of mega-Imax movie without time, physics, or money between those ideas and their realization (DiCaprio does provide a design brief for the dream, a constraint essential to architectural creativity). Among other things, Inception is a rare film which takes architecture seriously, as process rather than just backdrop, and anyone with an interest in the subject will find themselves with some fascinating questions to ponder. For example, just what does it say about someone if Robert Moses-style tower slabs constitute the deepest level of their architectural dreaming?

Wild, but Not Crazy Enough: Scorsese’s Shutter Island

It’s good news that somebody, let alone a director of Martin Scorsese’s calibre, has finally recognized the highly cinematic creepiness of the Boston Harbour Islands. The opening scenes of Shutter Island reminded me of school excursions to those islands, which have the feel of a mid-ocean archipelago, rather than land sheltered by a harbour. Thankfully, no school excursion ever went as badly as the one on the film. I always got off the island.

Avatar

Until reading Manohla Dargis’ review in the New York Times, I had no intention of seeing Avatar. But her article affected me: I felt disturbed and violated. Her opening sentence: ‘With “Avatar” James Cameron has turned one man’s dream of the movies into a trippy joy ride about the end of life – our moviegoing life included – as we know it,’ is why. Those words in parentheses, an obliging repetition of the advertisements, obliterated my initial dismissiveness. So too, did its place as #24 in IMDb’s Top 200 List (well ahead of Citizen Kane and Sunset Boulevard). To say ‘Just another bullshit blockbuster to disregard’ is irresponsible in this case. 20th Century Fox and James Cameron are serious – $280 million is no joke, not even to them (it boasts of being one of the most expensive movies ever made). The aim for the filmmakers of Avatar is to revolutionize cinema through science fiction, to finish what George Lucas and Steven Spielberg began. They are desperate to do so in part because audiences are thinning.

Commentary: Here and There… of Anthropology at Home and Abroad

The ethnographic films of Robert Gardner and anthropology in general resonate quite powerfully with me, although I’ve hardly ever had a chance to become broadly or deeply acquainted with either. My first encounter with Gardner’s Dead Birds, his best-known work, made a deep impression on me, not only because of the film itself, which was reason enough, but because of the odd circumstances in which I first discovered it.

Entertainment for the Passengers of a Ship Amongst Icebergs: The Ten Best Films of the Decade

Everyone likes a top ten list, especially when the paragraph which precedes the list is an earnest disclaimer like this one: I didn’t go to enough movies this decade. I’ve missed intriguing films by Angelopoulos, Godard, Spike Lee, Wim Wenders and Abbas Kiarostami (among others). Additionally, this list is biased in favour of the English-speaking world, specifically the United States, in a decade when many interesting and hard to find movies seem to have been made in other places.

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com