Structured a lot like Lawrence of Arabia, a film that constantly reminds The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp even if Lawrence was made twenty years later, Colonel Blimp feels fresher and deserves as much if not more recognition than the other British film. The structure evoked before, is how the prologue of the film opens with actions that will brings us back in the story where it all begins. Another War drama influenced by this film of The Archers: Patton, the persona of the main character especially, reminds of the romantic good hearted Colonel Blimp. Made in vibrant colours like many of The Archers’ films of the 1940’s, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is one of the most notorious films of this prolific duet. Although the saturation of the colours didn’t overshadows the quality of the ensemble of the film.
The strengths of the Powell/Pressburger “mise en scène” is the sober approach and the clear subtext to every script they directed together. Their classic placing of cameras, the terra cotta palette used in Colonel Blimp gives a clear naturally neat feeling to the package.
Secondly, the subtext of their scripts is important because every story told by The Archers has its meaning in terms of sexuality, violence, philosophy, and life. The mainstream appeal of the story is the perfect setting to reach a wider audience while spreading concepts that goes beyond the actual script. The imagery of Powell & Pressburger is clear and the situations have plenty of deep meanings. The camaraderie between Colonel Blimp and his fellow military men is important and it shows how romantic Blimp conceives War and life in general. There’s also the aspect of time passing by the characters without any other clear indicator than the aging of the main character getting grades and being more and more into the bourgeoisie of high military ranks. The lesson we feel like getting is that success always isolate those who are earning it. This is the case here with Colonel Blimp.
Overall, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is a nice gem of British Cinema that most of the times is shadowed by Powell/Pressburger’s other great films like The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus and also by other epic films like Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. There’s probably the age factor, made in 1943, and the fact that The Archers are not as widely known as Francis Ford Coppola or David Lean. Anyhow, they deserve much more recognition for their extraordinary work on their films. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp ranks amongst their strongest efforts. Highly recommended.
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
Since this is one of the films that has been analyzed and dissected the most in Cinema history, this review will try to be original, fresh, with a new look on this monument in filmmaking. Orson Welles’ first film, technically avant-gardist, with a structure in flash backs, telling the different aspects of the story of Charles Foster Kane and his different personas and the way the people around him perceived him. Well, Welles was not alone in this adventure, on the script he was working with Herman J. Mankiewicz who brought many of the ideas of the story. There was also cinematographer Gregg Toland who worked before with the great John Ford. Robert Wise soon to be the director of classics like West Side Story, The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Set-up and many more was the editor of Citizen Kane. Without forgiving the wonderful cast of Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Everett Sloane, and Orson Welles himself.
He was already a huge star in America with his legendary broadcast of War of the World. Also the director of many Theatre plays, Welles wasn’t a simple man put in the director’s chair.
The story opens with the death of Charles Foster Kane, head of a huge corporate media in the USA. The films opens with many shots of his vast domain, Xanadu, where decadence is just a simple word. On his dying bed his last word will be Rosebud. A journalist is charged to find what that word meant to discover the mystery of that intriguing man. The first meaning of the whole film is that we cannot resume someone’s life with a simple word. We have to take the many angles and how the man was perceived by his peers to be able to learn a little about him. Kane’s public life, from his adoption to his fall after his failed Presidential campaign was resumed by the News on the March following his death. This facet of the film is amazing when put back in context, because the news seem real and the paparazzi (this term was invented with Fellini’s La Dolce Vita in 1961) feeling of them is unsettling, the shots with the greats of the time are particularly effective. A parallel with the life of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst has always been made with the life of Kane. The story was widely inspired by the Art collector misanthrope especially when you compare Xanadu with Hearst castle in San Simeon in California, which I had the luck to visit in May 2010. The decadence and saturation of luxury of the place demonstrate how fortunate and disconnected to the “proletarian” Hearst was.
However, the story of Charles Foster Kane isn’t only about Hearst’s empire, it’s also about Orson Welles himself and how to create a myth about a public figure. Welles was a man of myths and a man who told anecdotes and stories about his life that some may be true and some aren’t. The way Citizen Kane is constructed is a lot like when someone has to live with his own lies and work around them, every character has his own vision of Kane and how he really was. The perception of everyone is unique and Kane shows that.
Moreover, Citizen Kane is a critic of the American Dream, in the early 1940’s being financially successful, popular, powerful, and beautiful was and still is the main occupation of capitalists in America. Charlie Kane was those things and he represented the rise of a man starting as someone who would be a poor worker before being adopted by a successful man and starting from a simple newspaper he made it to become a respected wealthy magnate trying to get to the White House. Juxtaposed, you have his fall and his descent, the attempted suicide of his wife, and his recluse final days. Like Howard Hugues who stayed in his Hotel room for years afraid of everything and everyone. Citizen Kane demonstrate that in some ways wealth and popularity are vile values that can turn a man into his misery.
The technical aspects of Citizen Kane, often praised for the invention of the deep focus and the presence of ceilings in the frames but cinematographer Gregg Toland was indeed invented by Toland on The Long Voyage Home directed by John Ford. This director is one of the major influences of Welles along with Jean Renoir. Welles told Peter Bogdanovich that every day during the preparation of Citizen Kane him and Toland were watching Ford’s Stagecoach and Welles was asking how to shoot this and that. They both dissected every frame and every scenes of the film because for Welles it was a strong film. Perhaps, even if Citizen Kane didn’t invented those technical effects, it shows a great mastery of them.
As stated in the first lines of this review, this is not an attempt to analyze and describe Citizen Kane in its whole but more something like my interpretations of its meanings and the understanding of the theories about it. It’s difficult to be negative about a classic that’s been sitting on the top of the world of filmmaking for so long, with few other films Citizen Kane is the kind of oeuvre that can’t be judged amongst men but amongst gods, if you permit the comparison...
Un prophète (Jacques Audiard, 2009)
Nominated for best foreign film at the 2010 Academy awards, Un prophète, beaten by a lesser film, sets itself amongst the great films of the first decade of the 21st Century. The story of the young Arab of 19 years old Malik entering in jail for 6 years. He has no family, no friends, no allies, no enemies, he doesn’t know how to read and write. Shortly he’ll understand that his only chance to survive is to “work” for the Corsicans. But our protagonist is a fast learner, he’ll learn to read, to write, to speak Italian, and more important to make connections and be influent. His stay in jail will bring him from a nobody to the head of one of the most important group of gangsters.
Life in prison is hard and the hierarchy of the groups must be respected as for the dominant ethnies. This is more than the passage of a man from boyhood to manhood or the adoption of a lone kid by a substitute father or even the orphan recreating his own family. Well, this is the amalgam of all these elements blended together as for the religious journey a man must handle to get through in his life. This last element is symbolized more than actually being explicit to the viewer, there’s some kind of purification through the process and even if Malik conspires against the law he tries to unite and instore peace amongst the many gangs who wants to control the drug traffic. There’s also a deeper symbolism when the “propos” of the film is analyzed with the religious aspects of Muslim, but this critic isn’t a specialist of religions. The further comments will get on the filmic qualities of the film.
For the visuals, Audiard took an almost documentary style of filmmaking to shoot Un prophète. Even if this technique seems to be the way to shoot films nowadays, the treatment of it really fits well with the story. It gives an objective point of view as for a slightly realistic feeling to the images. The editing is traditional and we don’t feel too much cuts or too many overuses of axis. The cinematography gives a lot of latitude to the performances of the wonderful actors. Speaking of which, the presence of Niels Arestrup as Cesar Luciani and Tahar Rahim as Malik is unsettling in their truth and transparent work. They completely inhabit their characters without pushing too hard or even overplaying the dramatic emotions. The subtle but captivating soundtrack of Un prophète gently mixes the different heavy moments of solitude and meditation of the main character.
The love of foreign films seems to grow slowly amongst the cinephiles and sometimes the fact that the North American audiences should “read” the film stops them from seeing it at all. However, the most challenging movies are sometimes the ones that are most worth the look. Un prophète especially qualifies for that instance; its many levels of understanding, the quality of the acting, the richness of the script, and the mastered “mise en scène” are the main reasons why every film enthusiast should watch it.
The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957)
The Bridge on the River Kwai is a widely popular and acclaimed film from one of the most famous British directors of all-time: David Lean. With 7 Oscars and a #83spot on the not-so-viable IMDb Top 250, the movie should at least ring a bell to anyone. As for its over-heroic characters or its La Grande Illusion wannabe war prisoner flick, The Bridge on the River Kwai sure lets you with an illusion of a great movie. Like François Truffaut said Le pont de la rivière Kwai est un film conçu pour épater l’Académie et empiler les statuettes dorées ornées d’un homme nu tenant une épée en guise de phallus. Well, I’ll translate this citation like this : The Bridge on the River Kwai was made to impress the Academy and pill up those little golden naked men holding their sword as a phallic substitute. The guy couldn’t be more right.
I have a profound aversion towards those films made for a moment, I even prefer the Tom Hanks/John Candy comedy Volunteers where they built a bridge for an important convoy of Viets to cross a river. The Bridge on the River Kwai tells the story of British soldiers captured and forced to built a bridge over the Kwai river. The many face to face between the two leaders wants to demonstrate how mentally strong they are and how they will fight for their men. Anyhow, I kept comparing the dynamic of the prison camp with the dynamic of La Grande Illusion, made twenty years earlier. Renoir’s film is so much deeper and richer than Lean’s spectacular film about courage and brainwashed Army concepts can’t keep the pace and level of the inventive “mise-en-scène” from Renoir just make The Bridge on the River Kwai look even lesser than it actually is.
However, as a whole, the movie is entertaining and the goal is achieved, heroism and courage sweat from the entire film. Although even if they are oversimplified and stereotyped every character still works. The whole story makes you hold your breath and there are moments of pure cinema, but the film isn’t as great as Lean’s other films, say Brief Encounter or Lawrence of Arabia.
David Lean is the kind of filmmaker capable of great and less than average pictures, a fellow critic, Kevyn Knox compared him to Steven Spielberg which I think are two similar filmmakers. They both made superb technical films with great budgets, great recognition, and lots of box-office entries while having a constant lack of soul in their filmmaking approaches.
Winner of the 2009 Academy award for Best Foreign Film, El secreto de sus ojos is an interesting chase story. Like Hitchcock always said, a great story is where the chase is better than the catch. A good example of this theory is David Fincher’s mind gripping Zodiac, where we follow the protagonist’s investigation/obsession around the Bay area to find one of the most famous serial killer cases.
El secreto de sus ojos begins like many films, it tells a story set in the past told by the central character until we get where he is to conclude in the “present”. Freshly retired, court investigator, decides to write a novel about a case of rape and murder he worked on 25 years ago. The story, told in episodes from the discovery of the body to the “present” is really well handled and reminds of the great investigation stories of the Hollywood of the 1970’s, “à la” Alan J. Pakula.
The film’s structure opens with a dream-like with a sequence of unconnected events where the faces of the characters are hard to distinguish. This prologue announces the pivots of the story. It’s interesting because it creates déjà vus for the viewer and the feeling of assembling a puzzle together. This is a very efficient approach that keeps the tension and the awareness.
Like the title of the film announces, translated to The Secret In Their Eyes, the actors had to nuance their play to get this subtle touch of telling their emotions with their eyes without overplaying or being simple caricatures. The bunch of actors is almost unknown for North American audiences letting an easier identification with the different characters that populate that interesting film.
El secreto de sus ojos, is a riveting investigation that, by moments, reminded me of the great films by David Fincher: Zodiac, Se7en, The Social Network. Films that not only investigate on crimes or actions but also on the human behaviour and the many human interactions while these events occur. It reminded me of them, but, yes there’s a but, it definitively lacks of depth in the general intrigue of it all. However, some aspects of the script could have been done tighter especially the clichés of the classic investigation story could have been cut out and be more concentrated on the darker aspects. When you compare it to the other Foreign films nominated that year, Un prophète and Das Weisse Band (The White Ribbon), this is a much more lesser film especially in the depth of the story.
The more we discover about Ernst Lubitsch’s films the more we can understand the Hollywood Cinema of today. His films of the 1930’s and 1940’s are the cornerstone of filmmaking. His comedies of the pre and post Code are hilarious and intelligent. Just watch his very efficient Ninotchka, Design For Living, The Shop on the Corner, and Trouble in Paradise to discover his range of work. The quality of the scripts and the sober “mise en scène” of his films are particularly noticeable. François Truffaut, in his book Les films de ma vie, made a great homage to this master from Vienna.
To Be or Not to Be tells the story of a theatre troop in Warsaw who escapes from the Nazis by portraying Generals, Professors, and the Fuhrer of the Third Reich. This comedy plays on many levels, first there is the main couple of the troop. Him, , thinks that he is the greatest Warsaw Theatre actor and her, Carole Lombard in her final role before her tragic death, has a secret lover while her husband is on the stage doing his monologue. Slowly the story gets mixed up and every character is asked to perform in a way to distract the Nazis and escape from what could be a horrible denouement. Even if some elements of the script are unlikely the moments of laughter are memorable as for some performances and lines.
Plus, it clearly influenced Quentin Tarantino on the writing of his Inglourious Basterds script especially the setting of the story and how a little group of individuals could resist and trick the Nazis. But, don’t forget the other influences from Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen, Sergio Leone, the original Inglorious Bastards, and many other films.
What’s strongly important to remember about Lubitsch’s film is how his comedies are strongly structured and how they play on many levels of stories and humour. Like Chaplin’s Great Dictator, To Be or Not to Be is a comedy mocking Adolf Hitler and his party, but the two films take this persona and make it a subject of laughter and derision. They happen before the discovery of the Holocaust and the seriousness of the situation excluded any pretext to make comedies about it. Those films witness how Hitler was perceived outside of Germany, in To Be or Not to Be the menace it represented is easily passed by to help the course of the story. Even today films like these couldn’t be done because the subject is still sensible and comedies turned to lighter subject and aren’t as politicized as they were at the time of these two great masters.
It is refreshing to watch To Be or Not to Be because it brings a different light on the perception of Nazi Germany. As horrible as this era was, the fictional treatment of these events is intelligent and appealing. I highly recommend this dashing film.
The 1960’s have been Jean-Luc Godard’s most productive decade. In 1964, he made La bande à part, Une femme mariée, a segment in Les plus belle escroqueries du monde, the short documentary Reportage sur Orly. As stated in many subsequent reviews of his films on Le Mot du Cinephiliaque, Godard is a revolutionary filmmaker with whom’s work I have some kind of love/hate relationship. His early films are fresh arrogant and inspiring as his later work even more arrogant and caracterized in the intentionnal lack of narratives.
Strangely, Une femme mariée, stands apart in the long filmography of the master. Closer to a Michelangelo Antonioni or an Ingmar Bergman picture than to a Samuel Fuller, this film with beautiful close ups and many sumptuous movement of camera, tells a simple story in a glossy black and white that accentuates the beautiful forms of the naked bodies of the lovers. At some point, Une femme mariée doesn’t look like a Godard film. It’s the dialogues that recalls his rich literal background and his “aisance” to play with the words. The kind of story reminds me of the great films by Bergman where a married man consumes his love for a mistress. The moments of the couple and the moments of conjugal life where the married woman lies to her husband about her liaison and her deep involvement with him recalls those doomed marriage that Bergman often portrayed in his films. The Antonioni touch is more on the visual aspect of Une femme mariée, in its highly contrasted black and white picture and the way the bodies are erotically shot. I cited Fuller, because his films of the 1950’s were a considerable influence on Godard’s films of the 1960’s. His raw camera work and his in your face attitude towards Cinema is palpable in films like La bande à part or À bout de souffle.
As an unconditional fan of Jean-Luc Godard’s films, even if some of his films deranged me, they are work of one of the most important figure of the French New Wave and it should be regarded as an important heritage of the coming of age of modern Cinema. Une femme mariée is oft overlooked and probably because of its unGodardian approach or because of its experimental (funny to think that Godard isn’t experimental) cinematography that isn’t shot in the same approach as his other films of this era. One thing is sure about Une femme mariée, this is truly a film of its time.
The Most Influentials Directors of All Time POLL returns!
Last year was a blast and I received some interesting lists when I asked you to provide the Top 25 most influential directors of all time!
I've decided to hit it back this year but adding more specifics:
- Rank the Top 10 most influential directors of all time or The 10 MOST Important Directors. Influential is used as important, the ones who changed the way films are/were made.
- Entries are accepted until June 23 2011, 23:59 EST.
- Send your lists @firstname.lastname@example.org
- Spread the word to all movie/film lovers out there.
- Put the banner on your Blog/Website.
- Have fun!
Rules: points are awarded as follows 10 for number one spot, 9 for number 2, 8 for number 3 and on...
See last year's Results
Michael Winterbottom’s film is a raw yet beautifully vicious film. Starring soon to become superstar Casey Affleck as a mild-mannered cop of the 1950’s, the beautiful Jessica Alba as a prostitute, and Kate Hudson as the main character’s girlfriend. From the first ten minutes to the end of the film us, the viewer, is completely immerged as a participant of the story. We are the witness of Lou Ford’s (Affleck) crimes, shenanigans and his perversions.
As conventional as the film would open, the first encounter of Joyce Lakeland (Alba), the prostitute, is vile and vicious, what seems like a cruel beating turns out to be a passionate session of sex. Some moments of The Killer Inside Me are unsupportable while others show deep intense, yet strange, love moments. The contrast of those moments is utterly disturbing for the viewer who is forced to be the partner of Ford’s evil plan. The structure of the film is modern and some elements and characters seem like if they are out of a David Lynch picture, see Bill Pullman’s unsettling performance, or from a David Cronenberg, see Elias Koteas’ intentionally cliché presence.
As you might think, The Killer Inside Me is a heavy film full of sexual games and violent pleasures. Set in Texas and in the 1950’s the themes of the film are a contrast to the conventional way of American life in those little towns where the suburbs and the giant house of Lou’s late father are a subtext of peace and common space. Lou Ford is an intriguing character filled with subtleties of Casey Affleck’s extraordinary performance. He seems like someone who never had to prove something and he just didn’t fit with the other people of the little town.
It was my first encounter with a film by Michael Winterbottom and I must admit that I am positively surprised by the freshness of the discourse and the quality of the images. Some frames reminded me of the mastered hand of Stanley Kubrick always inventing alternate ways to shot a dialogue scene or something commonly shot with textbook reaction shots. Aspects of Lynch and Cronenberg also occurs to me especially when we take part in Ford’s perversions and crimes. But the Winterbottom touch is how the psychology of the characters plays strong in the balance of this mastered mise-en-scène. It’s the human/horrible side of the character that keeps us watching but also loathes us to idolize the violence and acts of him. The use of music is important and some sequences are cinematic bliss in the juxtaposition of the music and the images. The Killer Inside Me will change the order of my Top 10 of the best films of 2010.
October (Sergei M. Eisenstein & Grigori Aleksandrov, 1928)
They Shoot Pictures Don't They? The 1000 Greatest Films #345
Of the many quests and lists I impose myself on watching many are unavoidable films. The first ever list I wanted to check'em all was Mediafilms masterpieces there were five Sergei M. Eisenstein films: Battleship Potemkin, October, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan The Terrible Part I &II. October is the last Eisenstein I needed to see. Of the great filmmakers of all time the British institute of Cinema stated that D.W. Griffith is the supplier of the alphabet, Chaplin the humanism and Eisenstein the theoretical inventor of the media. This is partly true, Eisenstein, especially with October, presents his theories of montage, editing, and decoupage of a scene to demonstrate a narrative. This aspect, as rhythmed as it is, as some interesting facets mainly because in this propagandist film about the recreation of the Revolution of 1917, shot like a documentary, the "propos" embellishes and glorifies the Soviet Union and its rise.
On some level, the fast editing and multi angles of decoupage are giving a gripping pace that carries the film from the events told in a chronological narrative. Other than being a pamphlet to the grandeur of the Soviet Union, October is the shipping banner of Eisenstein's vision of filmmaking and storytelling. His many books on montage are the establishment of modern day Cinema and television. Just watch how many uncountable times the sequence of the steps of Odessa has been reshot and put into great works of Cinema. Anyhow, Eisenstein's approach has somewhat conquered the seventh art. If you watch a mainstream film you'll hardly see a take lasting more than 3 seconds and a scene is shot from sometimes up to ten different angles are used to cut and edit the scene. For example, the Bourne movies, as popular as they were, those modern day action movies from Doug Liman (the first) and Paul Greengrass (the last two) with shots lasting two and even a second, shot with multiple angles giving a fast and heart clenching rhythm. Eisenstein's films feel that fresh to my eyes as a TV like 24 where the decoupage and multiple frames are used to tell many levels of stories.
Altough, personally I'd never shot a scene like any of these people, Eisenstein's lessons are unavoidable and any cinephile, director, or Film Historian should study them. But I' m more on the side of Andrei Tarkovsky when he said in Sculpting in Time:
"I am radically opposed to the way Eisenstein used the frame to codify intellectual formulae. My own method of conveying experience to the audience is quite different. Of course it has to be said that Eisenstein wasn't trying to convey his own experience to anyone, he wanted to put across ideas, purely and simply; but for me that sort of cinema is utterly inimical. Moreover Eisenstein's montage dictum, as I see it, contradicts the very basis of the unique process whereby a film affects an audience. It deprives the person watching of that prerogative of film, which has to do with what distinguishes its impact on his consciousness from that of literature or philosophy: namely the opportunity to live through what is happening on the screen as if it were his own life, to take over, as deeply personal and his own, the experience imprinted in time upon the screen, relating his own life to what is being shown."
For me filmmaking is substracting the camera from the mind of the viewer and the more sober and subtle the direction is the more it is mastered and successful. That's why when thinking about a film I'll always prefer long takes and slow zooms in/out even if the ballet of Martin Scorsese's masterpieces makes me dream of filmmaking, a great scene can be shot from only one point of view and with one effective tracking shot. Look at the scene in Citizen Kane where Kane goes into the journal and discuss with Cotten's character and many others, Toland's deep focus permits the action near the camera and some action in the back of the room. There is great interaction in that scene with few camera movements all in one effective shot. The viewer actually doesn't even realize that the camera is standing in an impossible place in the room. We'll get back to Citizen Kane soon but now let's conclude that Eisenstein's technique in October shows the possibilities of editing in these early days of a fresh new art even if today this is textbook filmmaking, it has its limits and restrictions.
Dear fellow bloggers,
I'd like to influence you to vote, even if it's not for me but for your faith in the LAMB and this community united by our passion: movies. It won't take much of your time and it's free!
VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE!
I'd like to influence you to vote, even if it's not for me but for your faith in the LAMB and this community united by our passion: movies. It won't take much of your time and it's free!
VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!VOTE! VOTE!
All you need to make a film is a girl and a gun. – Jean-Luc Godard
With his Made in U.S.A, Godard has literally taken this concept and put it in his film. Anna Karina plays a woman who needs to find the murderer of her fiancé. Ironically Made in U.S.A has never been released in theatres in the US until 2009, or so, because it was adapted from Donald E.Westlake(aka Richard Stark)’s novel that Godard didn’t owned the rights. So the author of the novel has always opposed himself for its release in the US. With this felony apart, this minimalist, film noir inspired, with a B movie feel is somewhat uneasy but really interesting.
The minimalist aspect of Made in U.S.A is palpable in every scene and it even starts with the opening credits passing so quickly that if the viewers blinks he can miss the names of JLG (Jean-Luc Godard),LS (Laszlo Szabo), AK (Anna Karina), JPL (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and moreover the names are written with only the initials of the actors.
We also feel this aspect in the few small sets used to shot the film: a small apartment, a garage, a small garden, a gym, an office. Everything is reduced and the spaces are confined to the frames and most of the scenes are shot with only one angle giving an unidimensional feel to the film. Godard rarely use reverse/reaction shot and in Made in U.S.A he almost never did them. There are some interesting movements of camera, a travelling in the gym and a 360 degree turnaround in the garage. Otherwise, the camera is almost steady all the time with most of the time restrictive shots. The form of the film is minimalist and it’s almost a trademark for Godard to shot with the minimal equipment and to lower the costs of the films, it permits a lot of improvisation and a more flexible panel for his discours.
AK portrays a character that in the 1950’s would have been played by Humphrey Bogart or some film noir classic manly face. But in Godard, everything is different and this innovation to bring a woman character as something very interesting to the story. The detective story takes us in a whole new place and for the first act of the film the viewer is lost into the maze of it.
The content of Made in U.S.A is closer to the first films of Godard where the fresh visions of the French New Wave bringing a new Cinema and a new breath was the main concern of these cineastes. But around 1966, with Masculin-feminin and 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle Jean-Luc Godard has derived into sociological studies of his generation. Shortly after, socialist concerns will be the main propos of his films, like in Tout va bien where we follow a strike of workers. For Made in U.S.A, it’s the fascist controlling aspects of our lives, and moral values that Godard targets. Unlike his more recent films, the narratives are still present and there is an actual story around the messages and the missives. But still, he cites many filmmakers that opened him the way into Cinema, naming his characters with their names: Donald Siegel, Robert Widmak, Inspector Aldrich, and Doris Mizoguchi.
Made in U.S.A marks the transition of Godard’s path into his more engaged films and his aversion towards the US government and its actions. Aside from being an uneasy film, Made in U.S.A is one of the important and interesting films of Jean-Luc Godard’s most prosperous period: the 1960’s. As They Shoot Pictures Don’t They stated this is a recommended film!
Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969)
A man is looking for America but couldn’t find it anywhere... What a plot line! Dennis Hopper’s directorial debut, Easy Rider was a big commercial success at the box office but also at Cannes. Made with only 40 000$ it grossed 60 million dollars. The film reflected the changes and the problems America was facing in the late 1960’s, it also hooked the many young folks who were experiencing those liberating years while in the same time (around 1968) the US government was seriously entering into the Vietnam War.
The setting of Easy Rider is pretty simple, two hippie bikers Peter Fonda as Captain America or Hyatt and Dennis Hopper as Billie make a prosperous drug deal in some place that looks like New Mexico. From this point, with the money earned from the deal they will go on a road trip on their motorcycle to the Mardi Gras to do their dreams. On the road they will meet a hippie hitch-hiker that will bring them in his community where the people is trying to live from their crops and be independent from the rest of the world. Some kind of garden of Eden, especially represented with the sequence with the naked bath in the river. This whole sequence in the community is utopian and those little idealist “tribes” were temporaries escapes from the modern changing world. The main characters leave because this whole scene has some weariness and the simplicity of this life probably just doesn’t fit with their journey.
After a while our two bikers continue their trip in America and they’ll encounter a young lawyer (Jack Nicholson) after a stay in a little town’s jail. The lawyer, an open minded drunk will follow them and bring some explanations to the common hostilities towards the two hippies.
The freedom represented in Easy Rider, has many layers: the freedom of the two hippies from their moral obligations and their freedom of image (hairs, clothes, bikes, etc.). The film itself brought in American film the anti-heroes that will lead the way to the 1970’s films of the Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Hal Ashby, Bob Rafelson, Michael Cimino, and the many directors of this decade. The low costs of the making of the film versus the profits opened the doors of the studios and also to the theatres for the filmmakers with a message and a soul. Something, earlier in the 1960’s, only the old guard of filmmakers could attain with their director’s cut in big studios.
Easy Rider was a phenomenon and also a revolution in filmmaking, Hopper was the leader of this revolution. Sadly, his subsequent films didn’t had the same critical praise and commercial successes. He practically died in the 1970’s with strong drugs addictions and multiple cases of wife beatings. He almost had a tragic end like his idol, James Dean, with who he starred with in Nicholas Ray’ s masterpiece Rebel Without A Cause. Well, Dennis Hopper had a miserable childhood and he always had anger problems. His film demonstrate that he had an exceptional talent and his script, co-written with producer Peter Fonda (son of Henri and father of Bridget) and Terry Southern, shows how he understood his generation and its issues. His camera accentuates the almost documentary vision of his script. The few dialogues and the metaphors of the motorcycles give to the film a Western-like blended with Road movie genre. The Western genre has always been a true American aspect of the Cinema. The “propos” of the film is mainly about America, especially about the Young or the New America. This revisionist version of a modern day Western/Road movie makes it even more appealing to the audience.
The leftist revolution in American movies was coming in part from the French New Wave that brought new liberties in filmmaking and many communist/maoist ideas especially from Jean-Luc Godard. In Easy Rider we are not in the presence of a political movie like if you are watching a Godard film but its revolution and new freedom is palpable.
Easy Rider is a turning point in American Cinema and probably in its History, without it you can forget about the second Golden Age of this art. With Hopper’s film, the Cinema got closer to the common issues of American young adults, with the introduction of drugs, violence, sex and the free spirited thoughts of this era.