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Twentieth Century (#110 of 2)

Mysteries of Space and Time: Migrating Forms 2011

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Mysteries of Space and Time: Migrating Forms 2011
Mysteries of Space and Time: Migrating Forms 2011

I. The Trains

Among the earliest images from motion picture history is the arrival of a train; the locomotive entering La Ciotat station in 1895, its passengers exiting through compartment doors that, one by one, make the vehicle bloom, gives the cinema its archetypal visual allegory. Of course, trains appear not only in the Lumière mode (approaching, distending, coming to a halt), but also in the tenor of Howard Hawks (Twentieth Century) and Buster Keaton (The General) and James Benning (RR), trains that are either largely dining-car-and-dressing-room affairs or hopelessly fussy and incessant, objects with cycles rather than destinations.

The 60 shorts and features in this year’s Migrating Forms festival at Anthology Film Archives are not, in any ordinary sense, train movies, although they intensify assumptions about a medium that ultimately gave the Lumières their apocryphally startled audience at the end of the 19th century. Of course, the image of the moving train depends largely on expressions of space (the proximity of the movie camera to the train, for instance, or the axis of its trajectory across the frame) and time (the speed of its appearance on screen, the duration of its arrival and departure) that have their model consummation in the cinema, that supply the technology with definitive features exploited to great effect by many of this year’s filmmakers.

Now and Forever: Early Carole Lombard at Film Forum

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Now and Forever: Early Carole Lombard at Film Forum
Now and Forever: Early Carole Lombard at Film Forum

[The Carole Lombard retrospective runs at Manhattan’s Film Forum from November 21st—December 2nd. Click here for more information.]

In at least seven movies, all of them comedies with serious undertones, the exuberant Carole Lombard became emblematic of the whole screwball comedy genre of the thirties, and she passed into folklore with her marriage to Clark Gable and her early death in a plane crash in 1942, at age 34. It’s her centenary this year, so there have been tributes, including a “star of the month” program on the indispensable Turner Classic Movies. TCM showed her seven wonders, starting with Howard Hawks’ Twentieth Century (1934) and ending with Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be (1942). In between those very different peaks, Lombard was the archetypal madcap heiress in Gregory La Cava’s My Man Godfrey (1936), a small town girl caught up in the publicity machine in the cutting Ben Hecht satire Nothing Sacred (1937), a manicurist on the make in Mitchell Leisen’s Hands Across the Table (1935), a congenital liar in the overlooked True Confession (1937), and a demanding, hot-to-trot wife for Alfred Hitchcock in Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941).