1961: 2 movies

posted 2014 October 3

Directed by John Whitney Sr.

   Abstract animation which was in full bloom in the early 1920s, went underground and finally had a comeback in 1958 with the opening credits sequence of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. That was the project of John Whitney Sr. and Saul Bass. Here, three years later, Whitney treats us to a 7-minute feast of his visuals which hypnotize and stimulate. Sensuous, stellar, mysterious, and mathematical all at once. The screen is born anew with this movie!

The Misfits
Directed by John Huston
Written by Arthur Miller
Produced by Frank E. Taylor
Music by Alex North 
Cinematography by Russell Metty
Editing by George Tomasini
Art direction by Stephen B. Grimes and Bill Newberry
Set decor by Frank R. McKelvy
Costumes by Jean Louis and Dorothy Jeakins
Music by Alex North
Starring Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable,
Eli Wallach, Montgomery Clift,
and Thelma Ritter

   Take the woman most widely considered to be the most beautiful in the world, take a screenplay by her Pulitzer-prize winning husband, take Hollywood's finest cast and crew, and voila! You have a movie that can not be duplicated. At times, it feels like a grown-up version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, especially since it's about an fragile and idealistic young woman who seems to find surprises wherever she turns, except that the surprises in this case are human weakness and death. At other times, it feels like the last chapter in the cowboy/Western genre since it takes place among washed up cowboys in a world that doesn't need them as much anymore.
   Part of the movie's success is in how their is no clear black and white morality to it. All of the characters are struggling to stay afloat and to survive in a grey world. This can make it challenging viewing since everyone in the movie has major flaws, but instead of making the movie distasteful, we watch on, hoping for answers, and because the movie carries truth. Even Roslyn, who is our stand-in and gives us our perspective, who is so pure and in love with life, at times even she comes across as flawed. On the negative side of her spectrum, she's a victim, a martyr for no one, an unreasonable idealist, a perfectionist addicted to pointing her finger at everyone else. But through it all, the movie belongs to her and the actress who portrays her, Marilyn Monroe. Her character's compassionate convictions still speak true today. It's hard to divorce one's perception of Roslyn from Marilyn, but this doesn't take away from the movie. It could be one of the only movies where the audience's familiarity with an actor enhances the movie-watching experience. The movie shows us the much-needed positive angle of Marilyn Monroe's lesson to us: you must have compassion to have true and pure joy.
   Through it all, the camera moves around like a dream. It captures shots of people, city streets, small-town streets, the mountains, and animals. Shots that you don't ever want to let go. It builds tension by tightening the arguing actors in a frame, and shows loneliness by capturing a single body against an endless sea of wild country. The days, the nights, the interesting characters, settings, and thrilling experiences, Marilyn's performance makes a poem around them, and it's a beautiful, frightening, and heart-breaking one.

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