1959: 2 movies

(Last updated 12 September 2014)

Shadows
Written and directed by John Cassavetes
Produced by Maurice McEndree
Cinematography by Erich Kollmar
Editing by John Cassavetes and Maurice McEndree
Production design by Randy Liles and Bob Reeh
Music by Shafi Hadi and Charles Mingus
Starring Lelia Goldoni, Ben Carruthers,
Hugh Hurd, and Anthony Ray

   Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Cassavetes' world! It's sloppy, messy, and rough-edged. Why the characters do what they do, or say what they say is often unclear. Those adjectives sound like detractions, and they are, but they're also part of what makes this movie so intriguing. It feels like a first movie, which it is, but it also feels uncomparably full of life and passion. Certain moments and shots in it can not be topped, like the scene when Lelia's brother comes home to find her making out with a white guy. Her smiling approach towards the camera is beautifully interesting to no end. So, is the scene at the dancehall where the girls are rehearsing as the producer is making a deal with . It's potent because it is gritty in its content and delivery. It follows no set format or feeling, it feels free, and thus gripping for the viewer. It's important because of how it is such an early and well-done depiction of real city-life, following up where "Killer's Kiss" (1955) left off.
   It's also interesting because it basically voids the fuss that was the latest movement in French cinema. This movie has all that was admired about the "nouvelle vague", or "French new wave", but what makes it cooler, or more important, is that its raw presentation does not necessarily exist because of any stylistic manipulation. It exists because this was the best the cast and crew could do, this is the sum achievement they could afford with the money they had. The viewer can feel this, and that makes the viewing ever more intriguing!
   It's also ground-breaking in it's prominence of black characters, and it's frank depiction of racial strife. It takes up where the "Imitation of Life" movies left off. Some of the acting and situations may feel unrealistic or a touch off-key, but that is not enough to keep the true gold-hungry viewer away, especially since this adds to the rough vitality of the whole. And finally, the jazz score is as brilliant as it is melancholy.

Les quatre cents coups
Produced and directed by François Truffaut
Written by François Truffaut and Marcel Moussy
Music by Jean Constantin
Cinematography by Henri Decaë
Editing by Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte
Set decor by Bernard Evein
Starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Patrick Auffay,
Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy,
and Guy Decomble

   It's sad, like dripping with sadness. Even in its moments where the audience is snickering or laughing uproariously, it's still mournful. It's sad to the degree that it makes you feel sad for the Antoine Doinel, even if his life is not all that depressing, and he has plenty of things to be grateful for. But that's the genius of this work: it makes you understand that the character is sad not because of any one thing, but because he's a prisoner to his world, because he is realizing that life is rougher than he would have liked. It's unjust and seems to be biased against him.We've all had days or years like this, and this movie is medicine for those existential blues.
   The way it was recorded is amazing to comprehend. The bird's eye shots, the intimate zoom-ins, the running, the swirling and swooning. It's like the camera is a second Antoine, a wiser Antoine, maybe an older Antoine and his real best friend. We connect to the camera perspective in a way that we don't in most movies, because it feels like an invisible, unmentioned character. The sets and acting, even by the supporting actors and extras feel more real than most movies I've seen, which makes it feel sometimes documentary, and thus underlines that we are witnessing the truth, Doinel's truth.
   The title translates from French to "The four hundred blows".

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