Movies spotlighting characters who are fiercely individualistic always have appealed to me. For after all, we live in a culture in which conformity is the norm, in which one is expected to do what one is told without asking questions. Sometimes, cinematically-speaking, those who do ask questions become heroes. Sometimes, they become victims. But their stories are more interesting to me, just so long as those stories are well-told.
These days, Greta Gerwig is all over movie screens. She recently has been seen in LOLA VERSUS, and Whit Stillman’s latest, DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, and Woody Allen’s latest, TO ROME WITH LOVE. (I must add here that, in these parts, any new Woody Allen film-- good, bad, or indifferent-- is well worth a look-see.) Anyway, what is so appealing about Greta Gerwig is her naturalistic screen presence. She is at ease in front of the camera and, once that camera rolls, it does not seem as if she is acting. She is just, well... being her character.
Lately, there have been some very interesting female characters appearing in movies. These characters are young-- they are in their twenties-- and the stories that spotlight them deal with issues involving romance and commitment.
Back in the early 1950s, 3-D was a gimmick employed by Hollywood to lure back into theaters patrons who were abandoning moviegoing in favor of sitting at home in their easy chairs and staring at what then was new and novel: their just-purchased television sets. And these days, in case you haven’t noticed, there has been a resurgence of 3-D in movie theaters.
GANJA & HESS, which dates from 1973, is one of those films that can be labeled a forgotten classic. The reason why it is forgotten is that too few moviegoers saw it during its all-too-brief original theatrical run. But now, decades later, the uncut version of the film, which was written and directed by Bill Gunn, is available on DVD.
The release last year of Martin Scorsese’s HUGO has brought to the forefront a long-deceased cinema pioneer. That would be Georges Méliès, who is played in HUGO by Ben Kingsley.
What makes Méliès so interesting historically is that he was as much an illusionist as a filmmaker. His imagination allowed him to concoct and employ a range of special effects in the films he made around the turn of the 20th century. These effects include time lapse photography, multiple exposures, and hand-painted color on film shot in black-and-white.
I recently presented a paper at a Hofstra University conference spotlighting the 50th anniversary of the New York Mets. My subject was “The Mets in the Movies” and I chronicled the various celluloid references to the Amazins, from Bill Mazeroski, the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer, hitting into a triple play against the Mets in the screen version of Neil Simon’s THE ODD COUPLE to Billy Crystal’s wearing a Mets baseball cap while running with the bulls in Pamplona and herding cattle in CITY SLICKERS.
There is a movie, currently in release, which tells the story of a young man who finds himself in a life-threatening situation. All that sustains him is the found photo of a beautiful woman, whom he has never met. He survives but finds himself lost and frazzled, and unable to function in the everyday world. So he sets out to find this woman-- and make her real.
HOUSE OF PLEASURES, which was shown on the film festival circuit under the more appropriate and less commercially exploitable title HOUSE OF TOLERANCE, is a stinging mood piece which explores the plight of a group of prostitutes in a high-end Parisian bordello at the turn of the 20th–century.