Andrei Tarkovsky, Audrey Hepburn, Blake Edwards, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Christopher Plummer, cinema, Eli Roth, film, Gene Wilder, Gold Diggers of 1933, Hostel, Ivan's Childhood, Julie Andrews, Mel Stuart, Mervyn LeRoy, movies, Oprah, quickies, Roald Dahl, Robert Wise, The Sound of Music, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (dir. Blake Edwards, 1961) – Been way too long since this one. It’s hard to watch it “objectively,” largely on account of its status as the origin of Audrey Hepburn’s ultimate and most everlasting image. This is interesting, considering how different her character here is from those in Roman Holiday, Sabrina, My Fair Lady, and Charade, to name a few. She is arguably at her most complex here as a solo woman living with an unnamed feline, milking men for all that they’re worth before expending them and moving on. Of course, it’s much more complex than that. She has a divided nature and deeply conflicted desires, unlike her characters from the aforementioned films. While this doesn’t necessarily maximize viewing pleasure (nor does her anorexic frame), it gives her more humanity than many of her films, which left her at the mercy of male narrative catalysts.
The Sound of Music (dir. Robert Wise, 1965) – This largely happened thanks to Oprah, whose reunification of the original cast was just enough of a novelty to warrant a watch. Was struck watching the film, prior to the show, how cohesive are the images with the words, the form with the content, the themes with the narrative. Land is important to the narrative, which features an imminent exodus from the domestic terrain and into a new one that we no more see than Moses go to see Israel. The shots embrace Austria, the songs celebrate it, and the narrative clings to it despite holding family as a higher ideal.
Ivan’s Childhood (dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 1962) – How perfect, and, as usual for Tarkovsky, how ripe for analysis. Have watch four of his films, and two of them have here appeared in “Quickies,” which is a bummer. But if you can’t do something right, do it just barely at all. How do you put these images into words, anyway? A child in wartime trauma: openness contrasted with claustrophobia. A boy forced to live in the foolish world of men. The maternal: ever elusive, ever evasive, ever lovely. He dreams of her from the beginning; she fuels his every thought, word, and deed; in the end she is his heaven.
Gold Diggers of 1933 (dir. Mervyn LeRoy, 1933) – These pre-codes are so interesting, particularly in their initial display of female agency, which often swirls the bowl before getting flushed. This one has lots of little parallels with a later, code musical like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in which the lovely showgirls dupe the rich men into giving them exactly what they want, whatever that may be. In both films, women belong to different types: one wants money, the other wants “love,” or something like it.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (dir. Mel Stuart 1971) -What a beaut. It may give priority to Wonka, unlike the book and the exponentially inferior remake, but when it’s Gene Wilder, how could you not? So many elements of horror are here, which any child can tell you. It’s hard, too, to deny the (biblical) allegory going on. This is about creation, beauty, free will, election, sin, death, and grace. Let’s be real: it ends with an ascension and authority extended from the creator to the one plucked from a tragic existence. Enough Genesis tropes are live and active here that, conscious or not, Roald Dahl/Mel Stuart were clearly influenced by them.
Hostel (dir. Eli Roth, 2005) – Thought it was worth a brief look into the modern slasher film, but this was too much even to finish. It certainly did well to exploit the American-youth fear of the other and turn the European fantasy vacation on its head. In the same way that classic horror tropes punish any display of sexuality in the narrative, so also is this manifest at the level of horror film history itself. This is a film defined by sexuality taken to an extreme with an extremely violent parallel. Brings new meaning to the term “horror porn.”