Tag Archives: The White Shadow

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Preserving the Fragments: The White Shadow

[This post is a contribution to the third annual For the Love of Film blogathon and fundraiser, which will be running from May 13-18. This year, hosts Marilyn Ferdinand, Farran Smith Nehme and Roderick Heath have dedicated the week to Alfred Hitchcock, whose early (non-directorial) work The White Shadow will be the beneficiary of any money earned during the event, to support the National Film Preservation Foundation's desire to stream the film online for free. Be sure to donate so you can see this very-nearly lost film yourself!]

[Note: I suppose I spoil The White Shadow a bit in here, but it's an incomplete film, and in terms of film preservation, that's part of its power. I wanted to get across the sense of what it was like to be in the Academy screening when we came to the end of the portion that exists. But if you particularly don't want to know anything about the film until you can see it streaming thanks to the NFPF and this blogathon's fundraising efforts, skim lightly especially in two paragraphs before and after the image of Hitchcock directing.]

We excitedly gathered on the sidewalk, anticipating being let into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ own screening room, the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills. VIPs slipped by, headed toward the bar or lounge in their finery, while the rest of us waited, patient but anxious to begin the evening’s entertainment. Any screening at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre is a treat, a step into a more opulent past presented by the self-appointed guardians of Hollywood history, but this was no ordinary screening. This was the very first appearance of an early, long-thought-lost Hitchcock film pretty much since its original release in 1924. Well, technically Hitchcock was the Assistant Director on the film (and he tended to get in on every part of production he could in those early days, so likely he was doing much more), the second of two collaborations with director Graham Cutts and actress Betty Compson, apparently rushed into production to capitalize on the popularity of the first, Woman to Woman. According to producer Michael Balcon, “it was as big a flop as Woman to Woman had been a success.” But Woman to Woman remains a lost film, and in any case, The White Shadow could’ve been a terrible movie and we still would’ve been ecstatic to see it.

Our excitement was first of all out of curiosity to see if we could see any glimpses of Hitchcock in the film’s style, but also simply because here’s a film that has been thought lost for decades, turned up (partially at least) in an archive in New Zealand, along with a bunch of other long-lost films. If we can still locate treasure troves like this in 2011, what else might still be out there, waiting for intrepid archivists to find it, figure out what it is, and restore it so the world can rediscover it?

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The Roundup: 18 Feb 2012

And another series back from very long hiatus (with a new name), and another well-meaning intention to do a better job of keeping up. I’d really like to do these every week, a task made more challenging and yet more fun by deciding to include more sections of links. The idea being that I can just keep this up as I read blogs and sites thoughout the week and have it all ready to go by the end of the week. Here’s hoping. As usual, most of these are movie-related links, but that won’t necessarily always be the case, and there are some music and gaming links in the subsections. Anything that’s a video will open in a lightbox, so you won’t have to go anywhere else to watch them.

Featured Links

For the Love of Film III: The White Shadow by the Self-Styled Siren

The For the Love of Film Blogathon is now in its third year, with bloggers focusing on a specific aspect of film preservation, with the intent to raise awareness and funds for the National Film Preservation Foundation. This year, the focus is on the recently unearthed early Hitchcock film The White Shadow, one of a few films Hitchcock assistant-directed under director Graham Cutts in the early 1920s. The funds raised will support the costs of the NFPF streaming the film (that is, the four reels of it that still exist) on their website for four months. I’ve actually seen the film – I was at the Academy screening the Siren mentions – and though it certainly isn’t among the best silent films you’ll ever see, it does have more than historical interest, and it has a whole lot of that. The blogathon goes live in May, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it then.

Hitchcock’s Most Beautiful Shot Ever by Joel Gunz, guest-posting at The Lady Eve

Speaking of Hitchcock, The Lady Eve has been hosting a whole series on Vertigo, with this close-reading of a single shot of the film one of the highlights. Guest poster Joel Gunz looks at the shot of Madeline standing under the Golden Gate Bridge in terms of composition and cinematography, as well as artistic antecedents and psychological readings. By the end, he’s explicated a lot about Vertigo as a whole, simply by analyzing this one gorgeous still. Makes me want to go watch the film again immediately.

Why Don’t the Critics, Oscar, and Audiences Agree? by Jim Emerson on scanners::blog

It’s almost a cliche at this point to mention that the films the end up on critical best lists (whether print critics or bloggers), the films that end up the year’s box office champions, and the films nominated for Oscars are pretty much three different groups of films. There may be some overlap here and there, of course, but by and large, the goals of each group seem to be irrevocably dissimilar. Jim Emerson invokes an article from Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir to explain a bit about the Academy’s point of view, and then points out that their nominations used to be more actually populist, rather than prestige-y the way it is now.

It’s An Honor to Be Nominated, But These Iconic Films Never Were by Wilde.Dash at Love and Squalor

Lots of Oscar-y type talk this week, and I doubt that’ll stop until after the awards are announced and everyone’s done dissecting them. Here the always entertaining Wilde.Dash highlights a bunch of films that are widely considered top-notch classics yet weren’t even nominated for Academy Awards. Some of these (2001, Psycho) absolutely appalling to me. Just goes to show you, these little statuettes? Not that big a deal in the grand scene of things.

Culture Warrior: The Importance of Honoring Motion Capture Performances by Landon Palmer at Film School Rejects

In a year when the Academy doesn’t nominate Andy Serkis for acing (perhaps because motion capture is too cartoony to go against live action) and doesn’t nominate The Adventures of Tintin for Animated Feature (perhaps because motion capture is too live action to go against animation), Landon Palmer discusses why mocap seems to be such a disdained technology – because the very idea of motion capture, which renders actors unrecognizable behind a veil of CGI, threatens the concept of celebrity upon which Hollywood is built. (To be fair, I wouldn’t necessarily argue that either of the “perhaps” clauses above are correct; but Palmer’s assessment of the threat of mocap is an interesting read.)

Pioneers of Animation: Ub Iwerks – The Early Disney Years by Brandie at True Classics

Everyone knows Walt Disney. But not everyone knows Ub Iwerks, who was with Disney almost every step of the way, from the very beginning when they were partners in Kansas City working on Laugh-o-Gram shorts, through the move to Hollywood and the creation of Oswald the Rabbit and Mickey Mouse. But Iwerks isn’t only Disney stuff – he also had many successful cartoons of his own in the early sound era. Brandie has the full story in two posts (the second part is here, and they’re well worth reading – just as Iwerks’ films are well worth watching.

48 Hidden Images in Black Swan by Sati at the Cinematic Corner

Even a single viewing of Black Swan reveals the constant parallels that Aronofsky is making between Nina and Lily, with their faces often morphing into each other for split seconds here and there. But Sati has gone through the film with a fine-tooth comb and screencapped a TON of trick shots that I certainly never noticed before. As you look through these, some will seem obvious (Nina seeing herself on the subway or the sidewalk, or Lily’s face swapping for Nina’s during the sex scene), but most of the things during the club scene I hadn’t seen at all. Kudos to Aronofsky for his attention to detail, and kudos to Sati for uncovering that detail.

In Character: William Fichtner by Alex Withrow at And So It Begins

One of the most memorable and consistently awesome “hey, it’s that guy!” actors working today, William Fichtner shows up all over the place, and he’s often the best thing in any movie he’s in. Like, oh, say…Drive Angry for example. And many, many others. Alex Withrow runs down Fichtner’s best roles in this entry into his ongoing series highlighting character actors (the whole series is worth reading).

Katie-Bar-the-Door Awards by the Mythical Monkey

Speaking of ongoing series, I’ve been away from the blog-reading long enough I didn’t even notice he was doing this until now, but the Mythical Monkey has been posting entries every day with his alternate Oscars for each year since 1927. The awards (named for his wife) were his original impetus for starting his blog, but he’s since gotten lost in the silent era – lost in the best possible way. But he recently decided to get these posted and out there, and I gotta say, these awards are awesome. I don’t necessarily agree with them all (though mostly in cases where I haven’t seen all the films in question!), but they’re pretty great to read through. He just posted 1970, and is taking a break, but the whole series is worth a peruse.

More links!

Sam Fragoso of Duke and the Movies asks us to choose between Howard Hawks or John Huston. I picked Hawks, but that’s a tough question!
Kim Wilson at the Classic Film and TV Cafe reviews Man in Grey, a little-known British film that sounds rather transgressive for its time!
Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence announces the March in March blogathon – posts about Fredric March, in the month of March.
Hollywood Reporter explains why there are only two Best Song Oscar nominees this year.
Ryan at The Matinee kicks off his Blind Spot series by watching John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Alex Withrow of And So It Begins runs down the entirely of Spike Lee’s career.
Wilde.Dash of Love and Squalor picks her 30 most anticipated movies of 2012. Some great stuff to look forward to, for sure!
Nicolas Winding Refn talks to The Playlist about Drive
Bonjour Tristesse reviews Dario Argento’s The Bird With a Crystal Plumage, and likes it quite a bit. One I definitely want to catch up with.
Monty at All Good Things counts down his favorite actresses – some great picks here! Love the Lombard love.

Trailers of Interest

(videos open in a lightbox)

Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress
Justin Kurzel’s The Snowtown Murders (though I think this one is better; so is the former name)
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s Intruders

Max Payne 3
Far Cry 3

Cool videos

(videos open in a lightbox)

The ABCs of Cinema by Evan Seitz
The Knights Who Say Ni! Kinetic Typography by Evan Seitz
Salvador Dali on “What’s My Line”
Music Video: Jack White’s “Love Interruption” (from upcoming album Blunderbuss)
Music Video: YACHT’s “Shangri-La” (from album Shangri-La)
Live Performance: James Mercer singing “September” (from upcoming Shins album Port of Morrow)

News of Interest

Joss Whedon is writing a RomCom. Not my fave genre, but okay.
Netflix is developing an original series with Weeds creator Jenji Kohan
People are planning to remake Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Suspicion. WHY? Although, of all his films, those two are among the least untouchable.
Gina Carano lines up another action film: In the Blood. I’ll watch it.

Bonnaroo lineup is announced

Rockstar is bringing the original Max Payne game to iOS. Cool!
Touch Arcade reviews Beat Sneak Bandit, a new iOS game. I downloaded it; we’ll see what I think.

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Scorecard: September 2011

[At the end of every month I post a rundown of the movies I saw that month, tallying them according to how much I did or didn't like them. You can always see my recent watches here and my ongoing list of bests for the whole year here.]

What. I actually got a monthly recap type post in on time? Even early (which is okay, I’m not planning to watch a movie tonight)! This has never happened, to my remembrance, in the history of my blog. Don’t get used to it, though I’m going to try to stay on task. A decent variety this month. Incidentally, in other postings about the two silent films, people have asked me where they can see them. I wish I had a better answer, but as of right now, both these films can only be seen if a repertory cinema in your area screens them. They’re not on DVD, and both of them are rare enough, I think, that they can’t be found online. I’ll see if I can find out more next time I see the archivists who run The Silent Treatment shows; a web archive of some of these harder-to-find movies would be fantastic, but either the archives that own the prints aren’t interested in doing that or they simply don’t have the funding.

What I Loved

Changing Husbands

I always love the Silent Treatment nights at Cinefamily, where a couple of UCLA and Academy archivists bring in rare silents, but I have to admit (as do they) that a lot of the films are more historically/academically interesting than actually good. But this one is genuinely charming and entertaining, and I pretty much loved every second of it. Leatrice Joy plays two roles – one a bored wife of a rich man who only wants to be a stage actress despite her husband’s wishes to live a quiet life, the other a struggling actress who just wants to be out of the spotlight. Yep, you guessed it, these women meet, realize their resemblance, and switch places – supposedly just for a few days, but the rich husband turns up and takes the actress home for the holidays, never suspecting the switcheroo. Joy does great in both roles, and the two men who confuse the women are charmingly hapless. There’s quite a bit of wonderful innuendo, giving pre-Code fans a lot to enjoy in the film.
1924 USA. Directors: Paul Iribe and Frank Urson (supervised by Cecil B. DeMille). Starring: Leatrice Joy, Victor Varconi, Raymond Griffith.
Seen September 7 at Cinefamily.

Night Train to Munich

A recent addition to the Criterion library, but I recorded it from TCM a few months ago and just now got around to watching it. Well, that’s not QUITE true. I started watching it a while back, but my mood wasn’t right and I wasn’t paying close enough attention and I was missing stuff…so I held off until I could concentrate on it. And I’m really glad I did, because though it’s not a particularly complicated film, it does have a number of plot turns, as befits a WWII spy thriller. Margaret Lockwood’s dad is a Czech scientist who needs to escape before Prague is taken over by the Nazis; he does, but she gets intercepted by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp, where she meets Paul Henreid, a freedom fighter who manages to help her escape. But is he what he seems, and what of the dashing British agent played by a very young Rex Harrison? Double-crosses abound, and it all leads to a tense cross-continent train trip where precarious identities may be uncovered at any second, and a final action scene that prefigures whichever Bond film had the gondola setpiece. It starts off a little slow, but man does it pay off by the end, and they know just when to stop it, too. No awkward overlong coda, just DONE. Love it.
1940 UK. Director: Carol Reed. Starring: Rex Harrison, Margaret Lockwood, Paul Henreid.
Seen September 19, on TCM (via DVR)

What I Liked

Contagion

I wasn’t too interested in the plot of this film when I first heard about it, but with Soderbergh directing and a cast like THIS? I mean, look at it. Yeah. In an all-too-possible scenario, a deadly virus quickly spreads across the whole world, involving the CDC, the WHO, bloggers and media, ordinary citizens, scientists, government officials, etc. as they try to stop the spread of both the virus and the growing panic of the population. There’s a LOT going on here, and the pace is brisk, but steady. The balance between micro and macro is held quite well throughout, though the connections of the Marion Cotillard story and to some extent the Jude Law story were a bit tenuous. Overall, though, it’s a tremendous achievement of pure craft, and the use of major stars allow quick identification with characters that otherwise have little time to develop. Full review here.
2011 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle.
Seen September 10 at an AMC multiplex.

My Winnipeg

There aren’t any other filmmakers quite like Guy Maddin. Not that I’ve seen anyway. A Canadian filmmaker working somewhere on the fringe of experimental, Maddin uses styles and techniques from early cinema that have all but faded from use by pretty much everybody else. It’s as if in some alternate universe, German Expressionism and Soviet montage live side by side, accompanied by classic Hollywood tinting and iris fades, with voiceovers, dialogue, and title cards all working together for maximum effect. This is one of the more accessible Maddin films I’ve seen, a sort of documentary, sort of memoir, sort of fantasy about his home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It’s mesmerizing and fascinating.
2007 Canada. Director: Guy Maddin. Starring: Darcy Fehr, Ann Savage.
Seen September 22 and 23 on Netflix Instant.

Hard Boiled

I’ve been meaning to see this for quite some time, but my desire got stronger after seeing the film name-checked in Matthias Stork’s video on chaos cinema, as a stellar example of action setpieces. He was talking about the final shoot-out, which unfolds in a few very long traveling shots that manage to never lose spatial orientation no matter how hectic the action gets. And that sequence is for sure incredible, the standout in the film. The rest of it is good, too, but I have to admit to zoning out a bit here and there during some of the “plot” parts due to tiredness – thankfully it didn’t seem to matter too much, but I would like to go back sometime and fill in the gaps. It gets a little ridiculous what with the baby and all (pretty sure this was a major influence on the goofy Shoot ‘Em Up), but Chow Yun-Fat is earnest enough in his role to make it work.
1992 Hong Kong. Director: John Woo. Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu Wai.
Seen September 2 on DVD.

Falling Down

My boyfriend Jonathan and I have been taking turns showing each other films that mean a lot to us, and this was one of his for me. I’d never ever heard of it before he started talking about it, but since then I’ve come across a lot of other people who think pretty highly of it, too – a good sign that Schumacher can’t be simply written off based on his involvement in Batman & Robin. When he does smaller things or more indie things, he’s got quite a good eye and sensibility. This film has Michael Douglas basically in “I can’t take this anymore” mode as he leaves his car in a huge traffic jam and heads across Los Angeles on foot to see his daughter on her birthday – sounds like a great idea, except his ex-wife has taken out a restraining order against him, our first sign that maybe not all is quite right with Mr. Douglas. It’s kind of fascinating though, how the script and Douglas’s performance paint this character – he’s psychotic to some degree, but at the same time, you kind of totally understand where he’s coming from, and a good bit of the financial angst it is certainly still relevant. And it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t even realize how his actions come across to others – when he invades a pool party with a machine gun he’s picked up along the way, it doesn’t occur to him why the people are scared of him. I didn’t love it as much as Jonathan does, but it’s certainly solid, and I’d rewatch it at some point.
1993 USA. Director: Joel Schumacher. Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall.
Seen September 17 on DVD.

The White Shadow

In a way, it’s tough to review this one, since only three reels of it exist. But on the other hand, it’s not like I’ll ever get to see the rest of it. Unless by some miracle the rest of it pops up somewhere. This film was discovered among the New Zealand Film Archive silents by an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences archivist working to catalog the American films being held there. You may recall the big “discovery” of these films a couple of years ago – a lot was made of finding John Ford’s Upstream and some others. More are being identified all the time, and this one turns out to be one of the earliest films Alfred Hitchcock worked on, as assistant director to Graham Cutts. The story involves a pair of sisters played by Betty Compson, one sweet and demure, the other wild and “soulless”. The rather convoluted plot involves mistaken identity, the wild daughter running away, the repentent father trying to find her, and the sweet girl marrying a man who was attracted to the wild daughter and never realized she had a double. Yeah. It’s pretty crazy, and the ending (read to us at the screening by Eva Marie Saint based on the copyright documents, since the last two reels of the film are still lost) sounds even crazier. But the opportunity to see films like this is such a treat – it’s both a saddening reminder of the state of silent film preservation (some 50-80% of all silent films are lost) and a hopeful indication that perhaps some films long thought lost actually do exist somewhere, in some form.
1924 UK. Director: Graham Cutts. Assistant Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Betty Compson.
Seen September 22 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

A Foreign Affair

I’m a big fan of Billy Wilder and have seen most of his films, but I put this one off for quite a while because I’d heard mixed things about it, and that’s pretty close to right. Jean Arthur as a stuffed-up congresswoman investigating the unseemly conduct of American servicemen in post-WWII Berlin doesn’t quite fly, and her transformation into someone with actual emotions thanks to the attentions of a not-quite-on-the-level John Lund is a bit unbelievable. I frankly found her character so irritating in the beginning I didn’t care much about the turn, which says a lot, because I LOVE Jean Arthur. That said, all the parts with Marlene Dietrich are ace, especially the two nightclub numbers she does in her inimitable way. Arthur has some good isolated scenes, like when she breaks down telling about a past failed love affair, but they’re not enough. There’s also a Nazi spy subplot that’s intriguing but doesn’t quite go anywhere. When the ending came, it felt pretty opposite what I wanted to happen. Some really good parts, fairly unsatisfying whole.
1948 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, John Lund, Millard Mitchell.
Seen September 26 on TCM (via DVR)

What I Didn’t Like

Stone

I mostly watched this so I could have another film to add to my Milla Jovovich post on Row Three, but I did think I’d like it more than I did. Edward Norton is a guy in jail about to come up for parole, Robert De Niro is the case officer who will decide whether he’s fit to leave or not, and Milla Jovovich is Norton’s wife who tries to get De Niro to look favorably on her husband. Which she does by seducing him. It looks like a cat-and-mouse thriller, but it’s a lot more about De Niro’s own demons and how the situation with Norton and Jovovich affects him. Meanwhile, Norton has a whole religious experience that didn’t work for me at all, and while Jovovich gives a really good performance, I couldn’t ever really grasp her character’s motivations. Plus the whole thing has this dour, broody feel going on – and not in a good way.
2010 USA. Director: John Curran. Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich.
Seen September 5 on Netflix Instant Watch.

Rewatches – Love

Drive

I saw this back at the LA Film Festival (my review) and promptly declared my love for it. I was curious whether a second viewing would diminish my love, as festival screenings carry their own high with them that sometimes fades under normal moviewatching conditions, but no. If anything, I liked it BETTER the second time, because I could just sit back and enjoy the leisurely pacing, the gorgeous cinematography, the bursts of violence, and the whole dreamy/brutal tone of it all without worrying about what I thought about it or what to write about it. It will almost certainly be near the top of my Best of 2011 list.
2011 USA. Director: Nicholas Winding Refn. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks.
Second viewing September 17 at an AMC multiplex. First seen June 2011 at the LA Film Festival.

Bringing Up Baby

It’s been a long, long time since I saw this movie, and I was really glad Jonathan picked it out of my collection to watch. It’s still among the zaniest movies ever made, and I can’t help but get caught up in its breakneck pacing. I don’t care if Hepburn’s character is a manipulative, conniving piece of work, or that Grant’s 180 degree turn towards loving her is totally unbelievable. She’s a force of nature in this film, and it somehow seems natural that everything else gets caught up in her wake. And as utter farce, it’s jaw-achingly funny.
1938 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Dame May Whitty, Charlie Ruggles, Barry Fitzgerald.
Umpteenth viewing September 25 on DVD. First seen many, many years ago, probably on VHS.

Marie Antoinette

Can I just say how much I love that Jonathan chose this himself as one to watch, because he wanted to get more familiar with Sofia Coppola’s films? I figured he would like it, because its pop-art take on history is a flavor that both of us like, and he did. I did, too…I actually haven’t seen it since it first came out on DVD, so I was glad of the rewatch on it to confirm that it really is as surprisingly good as I thought it was.
2006 USA. Director: Sofia Coppola. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn.
Second viewing September 18 on DVD. First seen soon after DVD release on DVD.

Totals:

Films seen for the first time in September: 9
Rewatches in September: 3
Films seen in theatres in September: 4
List of Shame films seen in September: 0
2011 films seen in September: 2 (1 rewatch)
2000s films seen in September: 5 (2 rewatches)
1990s films seen in September: 2
1940s films seen in September: 2
1930s films seen in September: 1 (1 rewatch)
1920s films seen in September: 2
American films seen in September: 8 (3 rewatches)
British films seen in September: 2
Canadian films seen in September: 1
Hong Kong films seen in September: 1