RUSSIAN EARTH AND TEXAN TURF

Rick’s Journal     –     MY FILM CAREER

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON THE RECENTLY VIEWED

Earth           Alexander Dovzhenko          1930

Dovzhenko

Dovzhenko

The waving grain of Russia’s fields is lyrical and hypnotic.  Dovzhenko’s tense, emotion-laden skies.  The strength in peasant faces, young and old in between.  The peacefulness of natural death and the joyful taste of pears moments before.  Long takes of hanging fruit  —  and my own recollection of my film history prof’s response to a student laughing at them:  “To each culture its own choice of fruitful globes to emphasize and display.”

The delightful sequence when the new tractor is found to have no water in the radiator and the farmers in their intimate way supply it by  — as the subtitles have it  —  letting fly.

All this beauty and humor and the face of the great Semyon Svashenko asVasili  —  not to mention his moonlight dance (see Rick’s Flicks June 6, 2016).  SPOILER ALERT:  Some surprising sexuality in a Russian silent:  Basil’s intended makes nakedly clear one aspect of the dead Vasili she will miss.

*         *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Giant          George Stevens          1956

The size of Texas  —  the expanse of landscape  —  sandy, dusty distance  —  all captured NOT by screen size but by directorial sensitivity and camera placement.  Novelist Edna Ferber spent three weeks in Texas and nailed Texans.  Stevens and his photographers nail the land in which Texans live.

Director and stars

Director and stars

Contemporary critics were hard on Stevens’ choice of leads.  The critics were wrong.  Sixty years after, the performances of Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor hold up remarkable well, and they speak each other and play off each other like they married couple they are.  They work skillfully with as much psychological profundity as Hollywood scripts of the era allowed.  Hudson is particularly good in a long part in which he ages convincingly.

Hudson, knight without a horse but with armor shining

Hudson, knight without a horse but with armor shining

This time around I found James Dean’s older Jett Rink more believable than in earlier viewings.  He was an actor in his mid-twenties at the time of this performance and acquits himself well.

A young, wanting-to-act, healthy looking Dennis Hopper is especially engaging.  A youthful Carroll Baker, “presented” in the credits, is already marvelously sexy and also moving in her part.  Jane Withers is very fine.

Interestingly Stevens repeats the funeral from Shane, including the bored child.

There is a lot of Giant, three hours and seventeen minutes of it.  It is almost all enthralling.

NEXT FRIDAY POST September 9
Look for “Seeing and Hearing George Stevens discuss his Giant.”

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

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