STRANGE THRESHOLD OR BEHIND THE DOOR FROM PETER LORRE

Rick’s Journal  —  MY FILM CAREER

When I was a student at UCLA the perks included not just the regular experience of hearing Colin Young and Hugh Gray and Arthur Ripley as regular classroom instructors.  They were always bringing outstanding  —  nay!  THRILLING  —  guest speakers for us.

I was late for class the day Mr. Ripley brought Peter Lorre with him.  I could see through the open door that not a seat was left.  I was able to stand in such a way that our guest could not see me but I could see him.  Even from outside the room, though, his presence was still vivid.  From where I crouched, I seldom distinguished any of his words; but I could hear the buzzing nasal hum of an internationally recognizable voice.

The Speaker

Right there, before my squinting eyes, stood M, a redder-faced, heavier M, heavy but not sloppy, neat in an expensive gray suit.  I was looking at Ugarte, at Joel Cairo, at Julius O’Hara.

In those good and glamorous days at UCLA, Peter Lorre was the only speaker I had to hear from such an uncomfortable distance.  I was close to all the others, usually in intimate classroom settings  —  small classrooms.  Billy Wilder  —  when only three of us showed (!), and we had him all to ourselves; and he graciously gave us an hour and a half.  Bette Davis  —  in a small classroom.

Dalio in CASABLANCA (photo courtesy of reader dmg)

 

I can’t remember why Marcel Dalio was in town when prof Hugh Gray brought him to class to talk with us.  And blithering, often hungover youth that I was, I cannot now report much of what he said to us.  He was candid, unsentimental and quintessentially French relating anecdotes from the sets of Casablanca but especially The Rules of the Game and Grand Illusion.

Coming Soon:  George Seaton.  Billy Wilder.  Jean Renoir.  And Bette Davis:  dynamite in a small classroom.

Coming Soon:  Farrell, Kidman and Dunst in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled.

Note:  Consult imdb for Arthur Ripley, Hugh Gray and Colin Young.

NEXT FRIDAY POST July 28

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

POTPOURRI

Rick’s Journal    —    MY FILM CAREER

LATE NOTICE

I have just been reading again the report in the New York Times of the death of Poland’s film directing giant Andrzej Wajda on 10/9/16.

Reading of his early films took me back to campus days at UCLA.  It was a privilege to be there when Colin Young was not only teaching in the film school (Theater Arts Department) but helping establish the U of C Press’ Film Quarterly while writing for it, and bringing exciting cinema to the UCLA community, including the first work of the late, great Andrzej Wayda.

Readers may want to read the full-page coverage (with photographs) of Wajda’s life, death and career in the New York Times for 10/11/16 (by Michael T. Kaufman, p. B12).

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RECOMMENDED READING

CLOSE-UPS OF SOME VERY SPECIAL FILMS

Ian Christie and Andrew Moor have collected a useful and compelling group of essays, including some of their own, called The Cinema of Michael Powell.  The compilation contains several pieces on productions of the Archers, those films written, produced and directed by Powell in association with Emeric Pressburger (e.g., to name some, I Know Where I’m Going, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp,A Matter of Life and Death, The Red Shoes, Gone to Earth, and, of course, Peeping Tom). The book is academic in style and theoretical in aesthetics but rich in interpretation and insight.  Two especially interesting essays are one by Robert Shail on masculinity and masculine roles in the war films of P & P and another by Natacha Thiéry on sexuality and death of Powell’s female characters.

The various essays amply address the photography and color so significant in the P & P films, along with the production design and designer Hein Heckroth.

An excellent index allows the reader to find an individual film title in any and all of the collected essays.

Two examples of provocative commentary:

Christie in his introduction to the volume describes Gone to Earth as “flooded with a Celtic mysticism spilling from Shropshire into Wales…”    Jean-Louis Leutrat on Black Narcissus:  “Although some commentators…have seen in the film a confrontation between two conflicting religions, I, on the contrary, see in the characters’ status [they’re nuns] no more than the pretext for a radical experiencing of desire…Faith is not the subject of the film, and it is only ultimately significant inasmuch as it presupposes and demands consent to a refusal of femininity.”  (“The Invisible and the ‘Intruder Figure’:  Perfume in Black Narcissus.”)

Christie is Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck College, University of London.  Moor teaches Film Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University.

NEXT FRIDAY POST November 25
Until then,
Get out and go to the movies,
See you there,
Rick