Tuesday, April 07, 2009

April showers: a grab bag of links and hints, plus a question.

by Ryland Walker Knight

Wow, this is counterintuitive. But it's a treat nonetheless since the film has no Region 1 DVD. I went ahead and embedded the film here but you should definitely watch it full screen, and loud. It deserves to be seen just like its title declares (asks?) it to be. That way, the outsized colors that feed this melodrama will pack more punch and, we hope, shock you into a powerful feeling. I saw the film last summer before my Telluride trip (see the bottom and the comment thread of this post) and it kick-started a Nick Ray fascination that has only grown since (a recent example). In fact, I've had my favorite of his films, On Dangerous Ground, at home from Netflix for a little too long now. I sure would like to write something coherent about it, but that will probably have to wait since I'm on the hook for a long-form piece about James Gray for a certain publication to be named later. In any case, watch James Mason shiver and rant his way through an illness and addiction whose consequences hit home in more ways than one. New media, baby. It'll take over your life. Get it?

look away

And, a reminder: my last Dreyer Diary shall hit The Notebook shortly, I'm told, and the link will appear in the link dump post below. While I'm here: March was rough stuff for a variety of reasons but the Dreyer films were a fine project to keep my brain active. I'm happy I met the films on the big screen (as with this Ray above, and On Dangerous Ground) since each is meant to be felt with the eyes (as a portal to the heart). For what it's worth: Ordet was/is my favorite. I'd like to write about it again, and better, some day. It has a lot to give. And, to reiterate what I tweeted @ Brian, all that nonsense comparing Silent Light to Ordet misses the fact that, plot point be damned, Reygadas' project is much more about tactility whereas Dreyer's project is about reorientation. You can find the perfect example of this shifting of perspective begin at the 3:55 mark in the clip below. (It occurs to me that I should say this comes a little late in the film, and that I should issue a spoiler warning for those concerned with such things.)

video unavailable; maybe again, some day, in a different form

What's really cool about On Dangerous Ground is that it's about both! I might say that those two films, along with some Hitchcock and Buñuel, are my favorites of the 1950s. I know it's a rich decade, as every one is, and that I cannot compare with some cinephiles' viewing history, but, are there any takers? Or, what's your favorite Nick Ray picture? And, for that matter, which Dreyer?

hit me

—Do we still have readers out there in the sphere? Can I provoke a response? To echo our stooly mope above: hit me.


  1. At the request/suggestion from a reader/friend, I have turned off comment moderation to inspire conversation. However, I should say, don't think I won't delete things I don't like.

    Also, he reminds me of how much I like Tourneur, and Cat People in particular. You can watch that film in its entirety on youtube, if you like, by clicking here.

  2. Here is a comment to show that you have readers. AND, Thanks for the link, now I'm going to have to watch Bigger than Life. Hulu has some nice B-flicks, or rather A-flicks to me. I'm partial to Ray's Johnny Guitar but love On Dangerous Ground (your photo made me want to go and watch it again). I'm always going back to those noirs and melodramas. As for the Dreyer it's gotta be Gertrud, Ordet, Vampyr.
    I notice you like Tourneur as well, very nice!
    -greetings from a fellow Tumblr!

  3. Why thanks, PJ, for stopping by. (I love your tumblr, btw.) Johnny Guitar sure is something, it's true. I mean, I dig'm all; I really do.

    I realize that my question may sound, um, "desperate" or something but it's just always curious to me that I get this generous traffic report every day (thank you everybody!) but then nobody ever leaves a note. Now, sure, it's not like I invite that much conversation, nor do I post all that often, but I do want to hear if something tickles somebody, or if they have a question, or if they think they have something useful to me and my continued education in the cinema (in the world).

    In any case, thanks.

  4. I was excited to see the "Bigger Than Life" link, but was sad when I started to watch and found that after the credits end they widen the image from it's CinemaScope ratio. In the first moments after the credits, you can't even see James Mason on the side of the frame.

    Oh well. It does pop up on TCM sometimes, and I was lucky enough to see it in all its widescreen glory at a showing at the Castro in San Francisco...

  5. Hey, goofball, you don't need comments! Do you? Just keep us satisfied with more thoughtful posts. And as for your question, I'm thinkin IN A LONELY PLACE and GERTRUD. What does THAT say, huh?

    I don't know how anybody watches a movie on youtube. Hulu looks good, but ads are the devil. And places like surfthechannel are annoying bc of all those links to jump thru. Still: new media, baby. We better adapt.

  6. @Rain: Yea, that's lame. Didn't know that when I posted this, clearly. And, you are correct: Nothing beats the Castro. I'm pretty damned jealous of that mini Malick retro coming up in two double bills on April 15th and 22nd.

    @CT: I can watch Hulu because making it full screen doesn't worsen the image. Watching movies on youtube is strictly a refresher tactic. And mostly I go to the others for tv shows since I don't have a tv. I'm adapting. Hella.

  7. Ry, On Dangerous Ground is certainly one of my very favorite Nick Rays! (It's hard for me to pick a single one.) I remember first encountering the name of the film on James Quandt's all-time fave top 10. (Consulting my notes, the others on that great list were Stromboli, Au Hasard Balthasar, Two or Three Things I Know About Her, Playtime, Borzage's Moonrise, Ozu's Woman of Tokyo, Naruse's Flowing, Werner Schroeter's The Rose King, and Sirk's There's Always Tomorrow!)

  8. Girish, thanks for the list! That would be one hell of an education, to watch all of those in some kind of syllabus. And, in fact, I'm "missing" a number of them. There's always more movies along with tomorrow.

  9. In all honesty, much as I like some of his later work, I don't think I'll ever like a Nick Ray film more than They Live By Night. I'm not sure if I prefer that version or Altman's remake.

  10. Ryan, They Live By Night sure is something, too. It used to be on youtube, too, but now all that I can find is the opening from this user, who offers plenty.

    Also worth mentioning Kevin's latest post since I play a part in it as "intellectual commentator number 1" or some such. Some such like: we watched INLAND EMPIRE last weekend and Kev live-blogged it.

  11. TCM sometimes broadcast it as one of their after-dark movies. It's a little too odd-ball for prime time. That final image with Cathy O'Donnell walking back towards the house, away from her dead lover, is simply breathtaking.

    And it was so nice seeing Bigger than Life at Film Forum when they showed it a few months back. Ray's use of CinemaScope is just revelatory. I don't like everything in his career, but when Ray is in the zone he really soars.

  12. I guess the reason I don't post comments is because I use your blog to find out about good movies. I pretty much haven't seen any of the movies you talk about, so I don't know what to say. Also your blog makes me feel stupid so I'd feel like I'd just look like a moron if I posted a comment. I'm not all literary like dat, but I do appreciate a good flick. Regardless, Thank You.

  13. Ryan, I didn't get to see it at Film Forum for whatever reason. But I can imagine it looked great.

    Anon: thanks for the compliments. I sure am sorry if I make you (or anybody) feel stupid. All I try to do here is share good, cool and pretty things so if that's what you get, that's great. Thanks for reading.

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