Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Cotten’

Absolute Corruption – Three Films About Power

Posted 29 Jul 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews

By Ezra Stead

Citizen Kane has been widely cited as the greatest American film ever made. Citizen Kane, USA, 1941

Directed by Orson Welles

Scarface, USA, 1932

Directed by Howard Hawks

Beauty and the Beast, France, 1946

Written and Directed by Jean Cocteau

Never before or since has any director made such an impressive feature film debut as Orson Welles did, at the astonishing age of 25, with Citizen Kane (1941). Despite having no prior experience in filmmaking, Welles was given carte blanche on the film, and he delivered the most original, innovative and provocative film of its time. Even today it is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and it is a standard by which all other films are judged. According to the great critic Andrew Sarris, as quoted in his 1967 book Interviews with Film Directors, “Citizen Kane is still the work which influenced the cinema more profoundly than any American film since Birth of a Nation.” Read More

Hitchcock’s Strangler Trilogy

Posted 01 Jun 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Movies I Got

By Arnold Stead

Shadow of a Doubt, USA, 1943

Rope, USA, 1948

Strangers on a Train, USA, 1951

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Rope is one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest masterpieces.

Phillip, a budding pianist anxious to know if his debut concert will be a success, asks Mrs. Atwater to read his palm. She grants his request and says: “These hands will bring you great fame.” Her prophesy should please him, but Hitchcock shows us Phillip’s hands, the hands of a strangler, fingers frozen in the posture of their deed; then the strangler’s terrified face. It would seem Phillip already knows that the fame Mrs. Atwater speaks of is, in fact, infamy.

Flanked by Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and Strangers on a Train (1951), Rope (1948) serves as the centerpiece for Alfred Hitchcock’s strangler trilogy, a three-part meditation on murder, madness, and reading. In his famous study of Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut remarks that Strangers on a Train, “just like Shadow of a Doubt is systematically built around the figure two.” In both pictures the two central characters “might very well have had the same name. Whether it’s Guy or Bruno, it’s obviously a single personality split in two.” I will argue that Rope fits Truffaut’s schemata, as Phillip (Farley Granger) and Brandon (John Dall) – like Charles Oakley and his niece in Shadow of a Doubt, as well as Guy and Bruno in Strangers on a Train – form “a single personality split in two.” I will further argue that Phillip’s hands, like Charles Oakley’s and Bruno Antony’s, have a will of their own. Hitchcock endows those male hands with a characteristic usually associated with the phallus. To revise an old chestnut: these hands, when aroused, have no conscience.  Read More

Uplift The Race – Three Spike Lee Joints

Posted 12 May 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Do the Right Thing, USA, 1989

Malcolm X, USA / Japan, 1992

Bamboozled, USA, 2000

Directed by Spike Lee

Spike Lee is one of the most important filmmakers of the late 20th century.

For twenty years now, ever since his debut feature She’s Gotta Have It in 1986, Spike Lee (b. 1957) has been one of the most innovative and provocative directors of his time. As expressed numerous times throughout his many films, Lee’s highest goal is to “wake up” and uplift all oppressed and deluded people, but he has an understandably primary concern for his own people, the African-Americans who have been abused and misrepresented in the United States ever since before it was even called the United States.

Many critics have accused Lee of the same bigotry his films abhor, citing in particular three of his best films – Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X and Bamboozled – as being counterproductive and causing, rather than alleviating, the tensions between various races, but particularly between blacks and whites. Yet all one has to do is view these films to see Lee’s love of all humanity; each one of these films is an eloquent cry of pain at the inhumanity bred by racism in anyone, of any race.  Read More