1945: 2 movies

(Last updated 3 April 2014)

A Study in Choreography for Camera
Directed by Maya Deren
Starring Talley Beatty

   How can the same movie be graceful, rocking, otherworldly, and meditative? Just leave it to master-director Maya Deren and one of her favorite subjects: dance. We start in a forest spinning around, until we spot a man stretching in the woods, meditating on his own body and his surroundings, then we close in on him. It's as if we're entranced by him, and we are so mesmerized that we can't do anything else but follow him wherever he takes us. He smoothly transports us to an intimate living-room where he begins undulating like a wave. He then jumps us into a grand lobby of a museum where he frolics and spins like a multi-headed god. And finally he leaps into a trance-like pose on the edge of the forest where we started, but this time on a cliff's edge overlooking a tranquil bay. By the end, we should feel more familiar with our entrancing character, seeing him in different surroundings and how his mood and actions adapt to them. The reality is part of what makes this movie so great. He is always an enigma, always changing, especially at the end,  appearing new, changed, alien, and majestic. This may be his greatest feature: his ever-changingness, his ability to be reborn, his constant search for tranquility.
   Some of the close-up shots remind us of Leni Riefenstahl's work, but this piece has nothing of the drudgerous pomp and arduous length. It's a lean and exquisitely spiritual movie. An amazing revelation of this "study" is that despite its short length, the constant concentration on pure movement, and the clever transitions, leaves the viewer feeling as winded as if a three-hour epic has just been viewed.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Directed by Elia Kazan
Produced by Louis D. Lighton
Written by Tess Slesinger and Frank Davis
Cinematography by Leon Shamroy
Editing by Dorothy Spencer
Art direction by Lyle R. Wheeler
Set decor by Thomas Little
Costumes by Bonnie Cashin
Makeup by Guy Pearce
Starring Peggy Ann Garner, Ted Donaldson,
Dorothy McGuire, James Dunn,
Joan Blondell, and Lloyd Nolan.

   It's almost too beautiful for words! Sure, it's a wordy and straight-forward, linear story, but it's certainly not simple. It's fleshed out with such care and detail that its every scene floods the senses and the one's emotional capacity. We get a feel for life in the shoes of two kids in a family struggling to survive. Though they know all the ins and outs of their environment, their neighborhood, their work, their play, their situation is in a constant and uneasy flux. Death, diseaase, poverty, and dreams shake up their world and force them to grow with maturity and to make a choice between staying good kids or turning into brats. We feel life in their skin maybe as clearly as we feel that in our own. Every scene gives us cause to laugh, to cry, and to think about whether the hardships they face can ever be lessened.

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