After the towering, messianic, heralding-of-a-new-art-form success of Disney’s first feature-length animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the spectacularly egotistical businessman Walt Disney nearly destroyed, obliterated, and defaced his company’s livelihood with a duo of divine artistic achievements that were, in their individual ways, far too radical, even fanatical, for the box office mainstream. Pinocchio was an id-logic nightmare glimpsed through a murky ether, and Fantasia a resplendent rhapsody that owed more to avant-garde sound-and-space films like Berlin: Symphony of a Great City and flaunted its rejection of the reality principle at every turn. Disney, a dazzling dreamer of a child in a clown-suit dressed as a business-suit, hadn’t developed the capacity to disentangle his own mind from the world’s; he couldn’t fathom that his affection for a project, no matter how unwieldy, would not automatically result in the world’s endorsement of it as a corollary. His company’s shining star had flared and glistened and tested its own mettle and might by flying to the sun in a matter of years, and it was about to implode and burn with Uncle Walt left with naught but a fiddle to wallow away his time watching the tattered rummage of his hopes and dreams. Continue reading
2016 is 75 years on from 1941, one of the finest years ever in cinema. Let’s dredge up a little history for the week in honor of that cabal of films.
An ice-cold film, and a stone-cold masterpiece; beneath John Huston’s ostensibly congenial and cordial conversation piece beats the pitch-black heart of an interior-trapped world opening its eyes to the search for meaning, even if nobody knows what they’re looking for. The Maltese Falcon’s place in film history is enshrined in the decades of films that have imbibed in its reverberations throughout time. Often cited as the first noir, which may or may not be true, the film was more importantly the introduction to fame for Humphrey Bogart and the first film of legendary director John Huston. A duo that would light a fire and blaze a trail though cinema for a little while, their masterpiece was still seven years away as of The Maltese Falcon’s release in 1941. But if the knuckle-dusted and iron-clad The Maltese Falcon lacks the monumental quality of the hot-headed, thousand-shades-of-grey tall tale from across the border, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, then their debut doesn’t stand exclusively on its reputation either. Nearly silent though its craft may be, The Maltese Falcon is a film where each person is a potential swindler, each step a walking threat of the world collapsing around you, and each shot a last will and testament. Continue reading