“In the meantime, it may be that his present series of pictures – The Kid, The Pilgrim and The Gold Rush – with their gags and their overtones of tragedy, their adventures half-absurd, half-realistic, their mythical hero, now a figure of poetry, now a type out of the comic strips, represents the height of Chaplin’s achievement. He could scarcely, in any field, surpass the best moments of these pictures. The opening of The Gold Rush is such a moment. Charlie is a lone adventurer, straggling along after a party of prospectors among the frozen hills: he twirls his cane a little to keep his spirits up. On his way through a narrow mountain pass, a bear emerges and follows him. Any ordinary movie comedian, given the opportunity of using a bear, would, of course, have had it chasing him about for as long as he could work up gags for it. But Charlie does not know that the bear is there: he keeps on, twirling his cane. Presently the beast withdraws, and only then does Charlie think he hears something: he turns around, but there is nothing there. And he sets off again, still fearless, toward the dreadful ordeals that await him.”
– Edmund Wilson, 1924 (excerpted in American Movie Critics)
“Jour de fete amounts to a kind of stylistic manifesto as well. Most of Tati’s work derives from observation rather than pure invention, inflected by the aesthetic and poetic properties of music, painting, and dance (which is where the invention comes in); everyday details are the basic unit of this enterprise rather than incidents designed to advance a plot. This is why Tati’s films are generally better appreciated by ordinary viewers than by critics and specialists, who tend to be more rigid about what films should be, storywise and otherwise. (Twenty years ago, my film class students were far more responsive to Playtime than were critics like Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris, who declared themselves bored and alienated.). Tati’s observation is tempered and structured by aesthetic-poetic imagination and by the perception that all of us, as critic Dave Hickey suggests, are living continuously inside a complex work of art that we call the world and that perhaps only another work of art can teach us to appreciate what’s right in front of us.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Essential Cinema
Continue reading Jonathan Rosenbaum on Jour de fete
“I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between the stars. When I got home I mixed a stiff one and stood by the open window in the living room and sipped it and listened to the groundswell of the traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and looked at the glare of the big angry city hanging over the shoulder of the hills through which the boulevard had been cut. Far off the banshee wail of police or fire sirens rose and fell, never for very long completely silent. Twenty-four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him. Out there in the night of a thousand crimes people were dying, being maimed, cut by flying glass, crushed against steering wheels or under heavy tires. People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, raped, and murdered. People were hungry, sick; bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness.” – Philip Marlowe, The Long Goodbye (by Raymond Chandler)
Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape? …If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!
– J.R.R. Tolkein