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Ida Lupino (#110 of 4)

Locarno Film Festival 2015 Schneider vs. Bax, Dark in the White Light, & Junior Bonner

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Locarno Film Festival 2015: Schneider vs. Bax, Dark in the White Light, & Junior Bonner

Fortissimo Films

Locarno Film Festival 2015: Schneider vs. Bax, Dark in the White Light, & Junior Bonner

Warning: Proceed with caution. It’s fitting that such counsel conjures an image of black text on yellow, because it’s also something to keep in mind when returning to the Locarno Film Festival, whose ubiquitous mascot is, of course, the spotted leopard. If you’re not careful, this can indeed be an unpleasant place. The stifling heat, the airless venues, the local prices, those unseemly beige military uniforms worn by security staff, and the walks from one location to another, which always seem, in such unceasing humidity, just one block too far. All of these can be troublesome in and of themselves, but when concentrated together in a single locale at the windless foot of the Alps, things can get oppressive. Why bother?

Nicholas Ray Blogathon: Poet of Violence

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Nicholas Ray Blogathon: Poet of Violence
Nicholas Ray Blogathon: Poet of Violence

“Violence is never an end, but the most effective means of access…[having] no other purpose than to blast away the accumulated debris of habit, to create a breach—in brief, to open up the shortest roads.” —Jacques Rivette, “Notes on a Revolution” (1955)

I. Introductory

The films of Nicholas Ray, more than any other contemporary American director’s, were singled out by the up-and-coming Cahiers du Cinéma crowd (on the cusp of their own splashy Nouvelle Vague) as justification for their politique des auteurs—more a personal stance on critical practice than dogmatic superstructure, and long since codified and ossified by academic film criticism into hierarchy-happy “auteur theory.” What attracted critical minds like Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, and others to Nicholas Ray and his oeuvre—bored stiff as they were by the risk-averse, respectable, and ultimately neutered “cinema of quality”—was the stamp of the personal and the element of danger they discerned in his films, whether that meant the improvisatory handling of actors with a touch deft enough to coax remarkable performances out of even non-professionals; the “superior clumsiness,” cited by Rivette in “Notes on a Revolution,” resulting in “a discontinuous, abrupt technique that refuses the conventions of classical editing and continuity”; or the purely visual flourishes Ray relished—ranging from the sweeping, vertiginous helicopter-mounted shots in They Live By Night to disorienting, subjective POV compositions like the “rolling camera” during a car crash halfway through On Dangerous Ground, its very title indicating the source of Ray’s critical appeal.

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor: Alfred Hitchcock Presents

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And Now a Word from Our Sponsor: <em>Alfred Hitchcock Presents</em>
And Now a Word from Our Sponsor: <em>Alfred Hitchcock Presents</em>

When people speak of Hitchcock, they usually refer to the Master of Suspense’s movies. No one sings the praises of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the TV show he hosted from 1955-1962. If Hitch’s cinematic work cemented his legendary director status, his portly silhouette beamed into millions of households every week made him a celebrity. Before Rod Serling submitted Twilight Zones “for your approval,” and the Crypt Keeper bloodied up HBO, Hitch presented the types of twisted tales you’d expect from him. Like Serling’s masterpiece, Alfred Hitchcock Presents had a famous opening sequence. As Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March for a Marionette” played, Hitch would step, in silhouette, into his outline drawn on the screen. It was simple, yet mysterious, and more than a little creepy.

At the movie theater, Hitch let his camera do the talking for him, revealing his macabre sense of humor and morbidly perfect comic timing. On TV, with far less screen time and budget, Hitch did the talking himself. “Good eeeeve-ning,” he would always begin before buttering us up for the night’s deviltry. He would tell us about tales of suspense and “murrrr-der” written and directed by people like Arthur Hiller, Charles Beaumont, Ida Lupino, Ray Bradbury and Robert Bloch; and seemed genuinely pissed off that he had to stop for commercials. “And now…a word from our…SPON-surrrrr,” he would say disapprovingly. His mock disdain (or was it real?) made for some funny comments at the expense of his benefactors.