Friday, May 18, 2012

Save the Last "Waltz" for Me: Hitchcock's Much-Dismissed Musical

This is my somewhat belated contribution to the Film Preservation Blogathon, which ends today. It’s all for a good cause, too. Please go here to donate to help the National Film Preservation Foundation’s attempts to run a now-rediscovered fragment of Graham Cutts and Alfred Hitchcock’s long-lost The White Shadow.

Alfred Hitchcock had little love for 1934’s Waltzes from Vienna. He called the period immediately after making it “the lowest ebb of my career,” and in later years playfully admonished those who even bothered to see the musical comedy-romance-cum-faux-biopic. Actually, can we even call it a musical? True, it’s a fictionalized tale about Johann Strauss’s efforts to compose “The Blue Danube,” and it’s swirling with music and musicians. But nobody breaks out into song in it, and there isn’t even much dancing. We can’t call it a historical film, either (a la, say, Amadeus), because it’s a fanciful re-imagining of Strauss’s efforts and makes no pretensions towards verisimilitude. It’s one giant tease: A historical musical that can’t manage to fit either genre.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

“Blessed Are the Young Who See What Isn’t There”: On the Final Moments of 1900

Bernardo Bertolucci’s mesmerizing, towering 1900 is hitting Blu-Ray thanks to Olive Films, and I haven’t been this excited about a release in quite some time. When I saw it again at MoMA last year, I was quite shaken for some days afterwards. There’s something about 1900 that puts every other movie to shame – in its size, scope, and sweep, obviously, but also in the fact that you can’t just shrug your shoulders at it. It provokes an emotionally violent response, regardless of whether you love it or hate it. You might even do both. At 317 minutes, there’s a lot of movie in there.