Wednesday, June 18, 2008

heep see

The Pawnbroker dir. Sidney Lumet

MoMA's theatre must run an elderly special, as we were the youngest people in the crowd by a good three decades. Caught this early Lumet flick as part of the museum's ongoing (and simply exhaustive) overview of jazz-inflected soundtracks for American and world cinema, Jazz Score, I would've written this up for my soundtrack column, save that I can't find any usable clips for this film on YouTube. Lumet weds Quincy Jones debut film score to the gritty B&W cinematography of Boris Kaufman, and shows how a cage can follow a man. Who knew that 1960's Harlem bore such close resemble to concentration camps? Or that in the middle of this depressive/ redemptive film would appear the theme from Austin Powers?

Crazed Fruit dir. Ko Nakahira

Also part of the MoMA Jazz Score series. This directorial debut from Nakahira (who --according to critic Donald Ritchie-- was assigned more middling fare ever after) was the first film of Japan's new wave, kin to Rebel Without a Cause and Breathless. Was delighted to learn that this film features the first score of Toru Takemitsu, whose significant soundtracks I dig immensely. Here, Takemitsu presents a winsome interplay between Hawaiian steel guitar and muted trumpet. Damn YouTube, why is there no clip of the subtle seduction scene, wherein the slight movements of fingers, thighs, and quick glances (all while the sea heaves and seaweed wags and sighs) hint at the urges teeming just beneath the surface? One of my favorite scenes in recent memory. And the ending remains jarring some fifty years on.

Cat People dir. Jacques Tourneur

Reading Martin Scorsese's lecture/ book on American cinema got me excited about trolling deeper into low-budget noirs, which prove that whole "necessity is the mother of invention" adage. Can't afford special effects to transform Simone Simon into a black panther (no afro wigs and hip-huggers in the 40's)? Then convey such animalistic change and its attendant fear and bodily terror via shadows, shrieks, the disorientation of light that comes from a pool, the held shot of an otherwise orderly descent of stairs growing more ominous merely through deepening lines of shadow.

Gun Crazy dir. Joseph H. Lewis

Again, as recommended by Scorsese, a raw and careening predecessor to Bonnie and Clyde. The gun-loving guy is disgusted not by death, but instead by the resulting convenience: "Two people dead? Just so we can live without working?" Too many incredible shots to be had here: the camera on the floorboards of the getaway car, the tracking shot through hallways of carcasses or else a looooong backseat shot that follows the heist and pistol-whipping of a cop outside of the bank before following them on the getaway, then that discreet smile back at us as they speed away. And is there a sexier cinematic entrance than that of Peggy Cummins (as Annie Laurie Starr) firing her six-shooters at the county fair?

Looking at IMDB now, it makes sense that Dalton Trumbo helped on the screenplay. Check this dialogue:

Him: "It's as if nothing were real anymore."
Her: "I'm yours. And I'm real."
Him: "But you're the only thing that is. The rest is a nightmare."