Tag Archives: the joys of imperialism

National Cinemas: The Wages of Fear

maxresdefault-1515097996-726x3881The Wages ofFear, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s famed French-Italian white-knuckle thriller was and is almost incomparable as an exercise in hair-raising. It is so well edited, choreographed, acted, and composed that one almost wishes to reduce it to the level of thriller alone (not that, with this skill, it would be “reducing” per-se). Yet Clouzot was not, nor was he ever, simply content to thrill. His scabrous films simply used the conventions of thriller cinema to chill to the bone, to indict and valuate, to scare, to hope, and to leave nothing in their wake. His 1953 work is absolutely one of the most thrilling films ever released, yet this does the texture of the piece a disservice. If it is Hitchcockian, and Hitch is the director Clouzot is almost always compared to, then it evokes Hitch on all his levels, not simply thrilling but tacitly provoking and confronting society’s very base construction and the nastier aspects of the human condition under a thin membrane of sharply composed set pieces. Continue reading


Film Favorites: Black Narcissus

Michael Powell, especially when paired with his long time partner in crime Emeric Pressburger, was a director cripplingly ahead of his time (although they shared credits, Pressburger favored writing and Powell handled most of the behind-the-camera work). Literally crippling, in fact, for his provocative, lurid, deeply confrontational 1960 horror Peeping Tom, at that point perhaps the most daring and subversive commentary on filmmaking and film-watching ever released, essentially killed his career. Dark-hearted in a way even Hitch’s fellow 1960 release, Psycho, never approached, Peeping Tom grabbed a world not ready for it and shoved itself right up into humanity’s soul with voyeuristic, directly implicating POV filmmaking and sickly green hues to induce malaise and shock. It was an atomic final gasp on one of the all-time directorial careers. Continue reading

National Cinemas: Lawrence of Arabia

David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia should be the easiest film in the world to review. It is “the” epic, which is to say the most epic film perhaps ever made and the “best” epic film ever made. Or so they say. In fact, it is an epic, grand in scale, filled with lofty ambitions and shots of people of different-hued skin staring at each other as if to ponder the mysteries of the world. But it is also much more than that, and perhaps one of the most deceptive films ever produced. I suppose, as a monstrously-budgeted film with no relative unknowns in the lead roles, no romance, little action, and an implicitly homosexual main character, someone was worried about its commercial prospects in the moment, and they granted Lean the freedom to have his film express, breathe, prod, poke, and reach out in every which way that films of this nature weren’t really supposed to do. After all, if it didn’t have anything on the surface, except of course its “grandness” to appeal to audiences, it had to have something in its bones that would only be revealed once audiences were experiencing the film and having it happen to them – something that would gain critical attention for long-lasting appeal, if not immediate commercial success. That something turned out to be Lean making it one of the best films ever made. Continue reading

Review: Zero Dark Thirty


Much has been written about Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden through the eyes of fictional CIA officer Maya Lambert (Jessica Chastain). By a wide-margin, it’s the best reviewed film of a year generally considered a pretty sturdy, upright twelve months for films. It’s been praised as a more-than-worthy follow-up to director Bigelow’s and screenwriter Mark Boal’s Oscar-winning previous release The Hurt Locker and at one point it was all but assured to win its year’s round of awards. Many consider it a seminal docu-drama on America’s role in the global sphere and its much-debated commitment to combating terrorism elsewhere in the world as well as what many would argue instituting its own form of US terrorism in its place. Whatever your opinion about that, it’s weighty material, and more than one person has claimed that Zero Dark Thirty will stand the test of history as a companion piece to the numerous books, documentaries, and journal articles written about America’s involvement in the Middle East during the past decade. Continue reading