25 February 2015

A couple more movies that I loved

Quickly I’ll list a few movies that I recently watched and loved. That’s all I’ll do here today.

The first two (or four)

I loved Three Short Films About Peace (The Dream; The Shipyard; The Moment), by Errol Morris. I watched them online here.

I also watched and loved a film from 2012, directed by Ben Affleck, called Argo.

. . . plus one more:

I’m proud that my pen name Bryan shares the family name of Nicholas Ray, who directed the last movie that I saw (actually re-saw, since I’ve watched it numerous times): Johnny Guitar, released in 1954. All of the films that I’m listing in this blog entry are well loved of me; but I happen to have extra info about this last one.

Above is a still frame of Joan Crawford playing the role of Vienna. To the right of her, I included my own photograph of a red bow on shiny gold wrapping paper, because it reminded me of how the Hubble Space Telescope might interpret Vienna’s neckwear. (By the way, when I saved this two-piece assemblage in my computer, I named its file “a tie: photo finish.”)

Quotes

Now I’ll give a couple quotations about Nicholas Ray and his strange film Johnny Guitar, from an article that François Truffaut wrote under the pseudonym Robert Lachenay for Cahiers du cinéma.

Generally, Ray’s films bore the public, irritated as they are by the films’ slowness, their seriousness, indeed their realism, which shocks them by its extravagance. Johnny Guitar is not really a Western, nor is it an ‘intellectual Western’. It is a Western that is dream-like, magical, unreal to a degree, delirious . . .

The hallmark of Ray’s very great talent resides in his absolute sincerity, his acute sensitivity. He is not of great stature as a technician. All his films are very disjointed, but it is obvious that Ray is aiming less for the traditional and all-round success of a film than at giving each shot a certain emotional quality. Johnny Guitar is ‘composed’, rather hurriedly, of very long takes divided into four. The editing is deplorable. But the interest lies elsewhere . . .

. . . in Hollywood everything is permissible, except poetry. Howard Hawks, for example, keeps it at arm’s length, and Alfred Hitchcock cautiously ventures four or five shots each time, in small doses. While a Hawks settles down in Hollywood and takes things easy, flirting with tradition all the better to flout it, and always winning, Ray is incapable of ‘doing a deal’ with the devil and turning the arrangement to his advantage – he is picked on and loses the battle even before he starts fighting.

With Hawks we witness a triumph of the mind, with Nick Ray it is a triumph of the heart.

Now I’ll copy one more brief quotation about the director – this one was written by Jean-Luc Godard, for the same publication:

If the cinema no longer existed, Nicholas Ray alone gives the impression of being capable of reinventing it, and what is more, of wanting to.

. . . After seeing Johnny Guitar or Rebel Without a Cause, one cannot but feel that here is something which exists only in the cinema, which would be nothing in a novel, the stage or anywhere else, but which becomes fantastically beautiful on the screen. Nicholas Ray is morally a director first and foremost.

Finally, here is a short quotation about one of my favorite actors, Sterling Hayden, who plays the title role of Johnny Guitar (Johnny Logan). It’s from the book Nicholas Ray: An American Journey by Bernard Eisenschitz:

A sailor turned actor, OSS agent in Yugoslavia during the war, traumatized by the deposition he had been induced to make before the House Un-American Activities Committee, troubled by a marriage on the verge of breakdown, Hayden no longer gave a damn about his career . . . Though declaring his professional admiration for Ray, Hayden had no reason to be interested in a role to which he brings so much, precisely through his air of having lost all his illusions and the dreamy detachment with which he delivers his most lyrical lines.

I’ll end this with a sample of dialogue from the movie:

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