Frank Borzage’s hybrid of genres has apparently been a film that has been neglected for a long time and not given a proper restoration. With Criterion they ensure a long lasting release of what is a pretty engaging mix of drama, comedy, romance, and yes, a disaster film. I’m not sure if I was as wild about “History is Made at Night” as most movie buffs seem to be, but Frank Borzage’s film is a success at being entertaining and engaging. Borzage is able to bounce between themes rather well, balancing out dread and whimsical romance well.
Ramin Bahrani’s stellar and often brilliant drama is very much a post 9/11 film about the immigrant experience, the “America Dream,” and the promise of perpetual poverty. In a country that doesn’t even grant its born citizens a chance at higher quality of life, what hopes do immigrants have? Ramin Bahrani’s indie hit “Man Push Cart” focuses primarily on Ahmad, a young man who is working toward a big goal that always seems so painfully out of his grasp. Like everyone in America, he works until he can barely stand, and he does it every single day without complaining.
When you get down to it, you can examine “Klute” as something of a neo-noir set in the darkness of New York City where society shifted out of the Free Love era and in to much dimmer years. But deep down “Klute” manages to be a rather fantastic character study about a woman who is hopelessly and probably forever exploited by the world. Throughout “Klute” she struggles with whether she wants to have what she perceives as an easy ride and allow herself to become exploited, or resist, and try to carve out a better world for her that’s more respectable, but so much tougher than she’s prepared to handle.
The thing about cinema is that it’s an often very literal art form that takes what is often very metaphorical or performance art about stage productions and has a hard time supplanting it for the audience. For “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” it’s a very good cult rock film that often feels like it has to be seen on stage in order to soak in the true experience. I’m not trying to take away what a cult classic John Cameron Mitchell’s musical drama is, but I couldn’t quite help but feel that “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” could have been much more appreciated as a live show.
Chaplin’s “The Circus” is the perfect encapsulation of what The Little Tramp is and why he’s so special. He’s an underdog hero that always seems to keep the good faith, despite the fact that he’s in constant pain, and almost never gets a happy ending. There’s something so insightful and poetic about the truth of “The Little Tramp” character. We root for him, and we cheer for him, and at the end of the day he doesn’t really get the women, or the fortune, or even much fulfillment. And that’s why the character is so mesmerizing and engaging.
A hybrid of documentary and fiction, this silent film explores the history of witchcraft, demonology and satanism. It shows representations of evil in a variety of ancient and medieval artworks, offers vignettes illustrating a number of superstitious practices and presents a narrative about the persecution of a woman accused of witchcraft. The film ends by suggesting that the modern science of psychology offers important insight into the beliefs and practices of the past.
Ernst Lubitsch’s last completed film was a riff on the British class system in the period before World War II. The estate of Sir Henry Carmel is turned upside down by two outsiders: Adam Belinski (Charles Boyer), a Czechoslovakian writer forced from his country by the Nazis, and Cluny Brown (Jennifer Jones), the orphaned niece of a Cockney plumber who is hired as the new maid but who secrets desires to pursue her uncle’s profession.
Thirteen years later, Guillermo Del Toro’s period dark fantasy is a masterpiece of the genre telling a tale of loss of innocence and good versus evil that’s touching, gripping and a bit spooky in its way. Del Toro’s film is one that warrants repeated viewing and continued analyses as it’s a fairy tale that masterfully mixes “Alice in Wonderland,” the Brothers Grimm, “Wizard of Oz,” along with classic folklore.