Category Archives: films

Introducing the Low Key Film Movement

What kinds of films do you like? Action packed thrillers? Monster movies`? Romance?

Those are all fine with me. But these days, I long for a particular genre of film that I don’t get to see very often. It is the “low key” genre. How to define it? It is a genre of film that doesn’t take itself all that seriously. But that opens your heart to real world experience.

Such as?

As I recall, the first “low key” film that I really got into was “The Gods Must be Crazy”.  Here is the trailer

John Sayles has had a long career in film making, and made some great low key films. “The Return of the Secaucus 7” is one of them.

But the one low key film that I have on my mind today is “Local Hero” by Bill Forsyth.  Here is the trailer

I will be posting on low key films as the weeks go by this autumn. Stay tuned”! And enjoy the films!

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The Warmest Heart Ever Captured on Film?

I blame the Duke of Donald.  He has taken the joy from the last several years through his cold hearted, murthless hedonnism.

BTW, I find the juxtaposition of “mirthless” and “hedonism” to be odd, as I had always associated hedonism with the pursuit of mirth. Trying to make up for a deficit of mirth, so to speak. But with the Duke, you get a figure who is hedonistic in the extreme without that.

This cold hearted era makes me yearn for a warmer sort of character. A character who exudes warmth and friendship. Which one?

How about the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz?

In fact, the scarecrow, played by Ray Bolger, may be one of the warmest characters ever portrayed on screen.

What do you think?

Hitchcock Talks about his MacGurfins

Alfred Hitchcock was a master of the genre of filmaking that we cal “suspense” or “thrillers”. It is a genre that some say is not great art, but instead is just entertainment.

Of course, Hitchcock’s films ARE entertaining. They are some of the most entertaining films ever made. They pull you into a story and keep you focused until the very end. Not only that, but his endings are invariably satisfying. Good triumphs over evil — but it is always a close call.

Hitchcock pulled this off again and again, which implies that he knew what he was going. Put another way, he had a formula that he understood and used.

What was it?  You might expect that he would have been rather secretive about his formula. To the contrary, he was rather open. It all has to do with the supremacy of character and plot over MacGuffin.  He talks about that in some detail in this interview with Fracois Truffaut. Enjoy!

I Kept Thinking that Oscar Wilde is Still Important. I just Remembered why

Before I say anything, I would be frank with you. I do not think that Oscar Wile was one of the great story tellers of his day. There were better. Nor are his plays among the most entertaining. They have their moments, but sometimes are a bit over done.

Indeed, Wilde himself was, let’s face it, a bit overdone.

So why the fascination? I have wondered about this. And I have come to a conclusion. Wilde is still important because he championed the cause of not taking ourselves too seriously. Not getting too caught up in our struggles to justify our existence. To also spend a bit of effort enjoying reality as it is presented to us.

Why is this important? Because we do tend to take ourselves too seriously. And that tends to restrict our ability to see reality more broadly. And to be more tolerant. And to be more inclusive.

Got that? Good! So go watch “An ideal Husband“. And enjoy it!

If You Liked Easy Rider, What about Two Lane Blacktop?

The truth is that not many people have ever heard about the 1971 film “Two Lane Blacktop”. It got very little play when it came out, and basically sunk like a stone in the pond afterwards.

And there is a reason. It is not a conventional film that tells a story the way we are used to experience. Instead, Two Lane Blacktop gives you a series of glimpses into a story, and leaves you to fill in the blanks. So to watch the film, you focus on its “feel” rather than its “meaning” or “message”.

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That was a “thing”back then. And it has its own type of charm. Here is a review.

Here are 2 European films in this genre that I enjoyed

The narrative concerns a group of upper middle class people attempting—despite continual interruptions—to dine together.

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  • Fellini’s (1953)

it stars Marcello Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi, a famous Italian film director who suffers from stifled creativity as he attempts to direct an epic science fiction film.

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Why do I like these films? They challenge us to take our view of story and meaning a bit less seriously. They are, in my view, light hearted, in a way that we need these days. How+ They help us take ourselves a bit less seriously.

 

Remembering Peter Fonda

It seems like a long time ago when Peter Fonda played a handsome young rebel in the film “Easy Rider”.  It was 1969 and Fonda had a certain look that sold well.

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That look gave the film a certain gravitas. It was a nice contrast to the more scalawag look that Dennis Hopper had as his sidekick.

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Fonda’s appearance sold the film and so it is worth reflecting on it for a moment. It was a serious look. A look that suggested depth of character. A sense of the importance of rejecting societal norms and embracing an alternative, more free way of being. And it was a look that made fun of mainstream values.  It was “in your face”.

The truth is, however, that there was not much else to the film. Just the look, the music, motorcycle riding,  drugs, a bit of odd sex in a cemetary, and a tragic nasty ending.

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That ending was, in fact, the real content served up by the film.  The shocking contrast to the aimless wandering. Beautiful, romantic youth was killed in a senseless fashion by red neck society.. An ending of the type that we associate with the great romantics — Shelley and Byron. Hmmm … the fact that this was not a particularly original ending did not occur to folks at the time.  To the contrary, the film seemed to be very different. And it was different than the mainstream Hollywood stuff that we were used to seeing.

It was different, for example, from “Funny Girl” and “Planet of the Apes” and “The Thomas Crown Affair”., three popular films from 1968. But in fact, “Easy Rider” shared characteristics with some popular films of 1969 — like “Midnight Cowboy”,, and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, Both of these 1969 films had  similar tragic,  romantic  endings. That was a popular thing that year. We might also recall that Clint Eastwood gave us a similar rebellious look. And even the motorcycle thing had its own pedigree.

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While this may not be  particularly original or deep stuff,, Fonda was able to make it look deep. Perhaps he got that from his father, Henry Fonda who was very good at portraying serious characters (like Tom Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath”). Peter Fonda was the next generation and he  captured the imaginations of lots of young folks because he seemed to reflect the questioning that was going on at that moment. He seemed genuinely determined to get to the truth about the meaning of life.  He was a hedonist, as hippies generally were,  but a hedonist on a mission or sorts.

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Well, maybe Peter Fonda was serious about that. And maybe he was not that serious about it. Time went on,  he got older, but he did not appear to get any wiser. To the contrary, he seemed to get a bit cranky. And he has now passed on at age 79.

It is tempting to dismiss this as just more evidence of the shallowness of Hollywood culture where a certain look sells — but just for a moment.

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But it is a bit painful to be reminded that Fonda was not really a rebel. To the contrary, he was a rather typical creation of extravagant Hollywood culture. He came from a well known Hollywood family, and had a pampered existence. Naturally, he complained about it on the grounds that his famous father was emotionally distant.

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That was the reality. And sad to say, it is a bit boring. So perhaps we can all be forgiven for not paying very much attention to the reality. Instead, we remember the fantasy. We remember the look and the pretend epic journey that Fonda and Hopper embarked on in the film. After all, we were with them, at least in our imaginations.  Never mind that we were actually walking the dog, or cutting the grass, or  grilling burgers in the back yard ,or cramming for an exam. We were much more than those things in our dreams and we still are!