Showing posts with label 1961. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1961. Show all posts

16 March 2015

DVD Review - The Young Savages (1961)

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Genre:
Drama
Distributor:
Simply Media
DVD Release Date:
16th March 2015 (UK)
Rating: PG
Director:
John Frankenheimer
Cast:
Burt Lancaster, Dina Merrill, Edward Andrews, Vivian Nathan, Shelley Winters
Buy: The Young Savages [DVD]

John Frankenheimer started out doing live television and learnt his trade in that throughout the 1950s. He made one previous feature The Young Stranger before he moved permanently into film (even though he would return to TV in his later life) with The Young Savages and what a step up it was. Frankenheimer’s status as a master craftsman has grown through the years and deservedly so.

Both the similar titled films The Young Stranger and The Young Savages are about problematic teenagers, but The Young Savages has a more sophisticated approach to the storytelling and visual style. Burt Lancaster (who collaborated with Frankenheimer on numerous films) plays the district attorney Hank Bell, who is investigating a murder of a blind Puerto Rican boy by 3 teenager delinquents. Bell is from the same neighbourhood as the boys, and one has a relationship with one of the boy’s mothers played by Shelley Winters.

It’s an issues film, which during the ‘50s and early ‘60s were very popular. It deals with issues like crime, racism, justice and although done intelligently enough, it’s never too preachy unlike more modern attempts like Crash. Burt Lancaster is pretty much always great and this is no exception. Shelley Winters is still at the height of her talent before she starts doing AIP films only a few years later. Kojak fans will also see a young Telly Savalas playing a police detective like he did on his later television show.

The real strength of the film is really Frankenheimer’s style. It’s full of strange angles and close-ups, which will be more evident in his later masterpieces The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds. It was Frankenheimer's first collaboration with cinematographer Lionel Lindon who he would collaborate with on The Manchurian Candidate. In closing it’s an early Frankenheimer film which stylistically pre-dates a lot of aesthetic choices he would make in later films, with a solid storyline and two strong performances from it’s stars.

★★★1/2
Ian Schultz

22 July 2014

Blu-Ray Review - Too Late Blues (1961)

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Genre: Drama
Distributor: Eureka
BD Release Date: 21st July 2014 (UK)
Rating: 15
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Director: John Cassavetes
Cast: Bobby Darin, Stella Stevens, Seymour Cassel
BuyToo Late Blues (1961) Blu-Ray

Too Late Blues is a fascinating film from the filmography of John Cassavetes. It was his second directorial effort after his pioneering independent Shadows; Paramount hired him with the idea of making him the American art house answer to the numerous European auteurs of the early 60s. In many ways he was, and it showed incredible foresight by Paramount, but things weren’t quite as hunky dory for Cassavetes.

Too Late Blues is about a leader of a jazz band played by Bobby Darin. He meets a young singer (Stella Stevens) who he becomes infatuated with, she joins his band but his ego is too strong and everything falls apart for both of them. The film’s main theme is the idea of selling out, which for a film in the early 1960s is quite startling; Bobby Darin’s bandleader is forever being asking to compromise his music for commercial success. It’s not hard to see the parallel between this and Cassavetes himself.

Casssavetes dismissed the film as a commercial experiment but his singular personality certainly shines though the film. It has enough interesting aesthetic choices akin to that of his later more independently minded films. The drain shot near the end, for example, doesn’t quite work but it is beautiful in its faults. It also contains a subject matter close to his heart: commerciality vs. art and the world of jazz. 

The performances are the film’s biggest strong points; both Bobby Darin and Stella Stevens are electrifying. It’s a shame Darin died so young because he could have easily had the film career Sinatra had, if not more so. The rest of the cast is mostly Cassavetes’ stock cast- most notably Seymour Cassel as one of the band members who is still working in films today.  


Overall it’s a fascinating attempt by Cassavetes at more commercial filmmaking so early in his career, but it doesn’t quite work. The first half is far superior to the second, although the performances and interesting stylistic approaches Cassavetes takes makes it’s far from being a failure.

★★★1/2

Ian Schultz

23 September 2013

La Notte (The Night) Masters Of Cinema Blu-Ray Review (1961)

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Rating:
12
BD/DVD Release Date:
23rd September 2013 (UK)
Distributor:
Eureka Video
Director:
Michelangelo Antonioni
Cast:
Jeanne Moreau, Marcello Mastroianni, Monica Vitti
Buy La Notte:
(Blu-ray) / [DVD]

La Notte is a classic slice of Antonioni. It was made in his native Italy before he later came west and made films such as Blow-Up, Zabriskie Point and The Passenger. It was made at the height of the Italian art films of the early with other films such 8 ½, The Leopard and Accattone. These filmmakers were influenced by or either had their start in the Italian neo-realist movement of the 40s and early 50s. The films instead being about social issues become increasing more internalised and dealt with much more existential themes about alienation and men’s role in modern society.

The film is set during the course of one day not unlike Antonioni’s Blow-Up. La Notte is about a upper middle class married couple, the man Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Mastroianni) and his wife Lidia (Jeanne Moreau). Giovanni is a writer and his latest book La stagine (The Season) has been recently published. They film starts with them visiting a friend in hospital who is terminally ill. Lidia is so upset by the state of her friend she leaves early but Giovanni stays on. On his way out he is almost seduced by a crazy young woman but the nurses pull them apart.

During the course of the day the couple head off to the writer’s book launch party. His wife wonders off from the party but they meet up again in their old neighbourhood, they lived there when they were newly wed. They decide to go to a nightclub and later a party. Over the course of the day their marriage and communication is tested to its limits.

The film is noted for its use of landscape that is empty and barren much like the film’s main protagonists. The film’s credits are over an astonishing shot of city of the Milan from a skyscraper as the camera slowing descends. The film is deliberately made so it bores you at times just like how the married couple is bored of each other.

The film boosts 2 outstanding performances from Mastroianni and Moreau who were really at the top of their game. The character Giovanni is too involved in his narcissistic and needs to plan things. Lidia is the opposite she is too involved in the real word cause she just wonders and distracted by things in the sky and so on.

La Notte is well remembered for it’s stunning cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo who also shoot 8 ½ starring Mastroianni. Gianni shot the majority of Antonioni’s Italian films. La Notte uses lots of high contrast black and white photography especially at the party segment of the film that is simply breaktaking as is the lighting.

The film was a favourite of Stanley Kubrick, Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky. All these filmmakers had a similar detached view or even cold aesthetic so it’s no surprise that they found a kindred spirit in Antonioni even though Bergman did have a real love/hate thing with his films. It’s a fascinating film with gorgeous cinematography, great performances and a perfect blend of a passion, emotion but also emotional coldness.


★★★★1/2

Ian Schultz

26 May 2013

Chronicle Of A Summer Blu-Ray Review

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Made during the summer of 1960 by anthropologist filmmaker Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin, Chronicle of a Summer set out to record the everyday lives of a diverse array of Parisians through an highly influential approach to documentary filmmaking that made use of an original mixture of intimate interviews, debates, and observation.

The idea for the film arose when Rouch and Morin served as members of the jury for the first International Festival of Ethnographic Film in Florence, 1959. Rouch remembers Morin approaching him with the following question: “You have made all your films abroad; do you know anything about contemporary France?” Morin then proposed that Rouch should move away from his devotion to African rituals and customs and instead turn his gaze onto the Parisians “and do anthropological research about my own tribe.

The film hinged on a simple theme: ‘How do you live?’ For Morin, this was a question that “should encompass not only the way of life (housing, work) but also ‘How do you manage in life?and
'What do you do with your life?’” These questions were tackled through the film’s redefined approach to the documentary form which was, as the opening voice-over announces, “made without actors but lived by men and women who devoted some of their time to a novel experiment of film-truth’,” or, as it is more commonly known, cinéma vérité.



The film’s interviews, debates, and observations reveal many fascinating insights into Parisian society at the onset of the 1960s. We witness factory workers and mechanics who talk about the oppressive nature of daily work and life; with one interviewee evoking the words of Albert Camus as read in his The Myth of Sisyphus. Then there are the debates surrounding the independence wars in Algeria and Congo which situate the film within discussions of racism and decolonisation.

More recently, Chronicle of a Summer has been read by Richard Brody as “one of the greatest, and perhaps the primordial, Holocaust film.” This interpretation of Rouch and Morin’s documentary as a ‘Holocaust film’ can be seen in the story of Marceline. We are first introduced to Marceline at the beginning of the film; first as an interviewee for the filmmakers’ as they make a first attempt at their experimental documentary technique, and then as an interviewer asking random passers-by: “Are you happy?” It isn’t until much later in the film that the numbered tattoo on her arm is revealed.

Immediately after the revelation that Marceline was a Holocaust survivor, the film presents us with its most intense, haunting, beautiful, and powerful scene. Marceline walks along an almost deserted Place de la Concorde, reminiscing about her experience of the Occupation. Far from making this film one about the Holocaust, what this scene demonstrates is a direct link between the legacy of the Second World War and France’s position as a colonial power clinging onto its territories during a time of decolonisation.

As this review as shown, it is often the filmmakers themselves who can provide the best analysis of their film. So I will end this piece on the excellent Chronicle of a Summer with two quotes by Morin. The first quote relates to the films questioning of how much reality and truth is presented in documentary filmmaking: “I thought we would start from a basis of truth and that an even greater truth would develop. Now I realise that if we achieved anything, it was to present the problem of truth.

The final quote is taken from the films end in which Rouch and Morin pace up and down the Musée de l’Homme before Morin states: “We wanted to make a film about love, but it turns out to be about indifference.

★★★★½

Shane James

Rating: 12
DVD/BD Release Date: 27th May 2013 (UK)
Director: Edgar MorinJean Rouch
CastMarceline Loridan IvensLandryRégis Debray

BuyChronicle of a Summer (DVD + Blu-ray)