At some level, we must concede that Michael Curtiz was more of a filmmaker of efficient craftmaking than superlative artistic ambition; this sense of getting-the-job-done pervades even his masterpiece, Casablanca, but gosh darn it, well-oiled-machine filmmaking has never been more delectable than Michael Curtiz filmmaking. The perpetually underrated master of the craft was no auteur, nor did he want to be, but his films sparkle with single-minded clarity and blunt craft like nothing else from the Hollywood machine in its early days. Again, he was a studio guy for Warner Bros and he always operated with a sort of humility to his stories that saw him not so much take control of them and do with them as he would; rather, he focused on a propulsive forward movement to his tales, a sort of inescapable quality that made the stories feel like they were telling themselves first and foremost. Yet Curtiz was always there, making functional filmmaking the food of the gods and cutting through the fat to produce films that, if not entirely perfect or challenging in the most overt of ways, were at east the most perfect versions of themselves. Continue reading
Analyzing the work of an Old Hollywood stalwart is no easy task. All the prime candidates have been written about to death; who, in all my majesty and knowledge, can I actually tackle without self-repetition? So much I wanted to take on Nicholas Ray, one of the reigning “brash young men” skirting around Hollywood royalty in the 1950s, but having reviewed In a Lonely Place and Johnny Guitar (and thinking his most famous film, Rebel Without a Cause, is the least fun film of his to write about) crossed him off the list (Bigger Than Life desperately needs a review though). Jacques Tourneur certainly popped up, but I’ve already covered his two most famous films, Cat People and I Walked With a Zombie, and Out of the Past and Night of the Demon can hop their way on over to Midnight Screenings anyway.