5 items from 2017
“Cain, Curtiz, And Crawford”
Mildred Pierce is one curious piece of cinema. As film critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito point out in their fascinating conversation that is a supplement on this beautifully-presented Blu-ray release from The Criterion Collection, Pierce is a movie that almost doesn’t know what it wants to be. In many ways it is a woman’s picture, that is, a melodrama, but it’s disguised inside a manufactured film noir.
This reasoning is sound, for in spite of novelist James M. Cain being known for terrific pulp crime fiction (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice), his 1941 novel Mildred Pierce is not a crime story, unless you want to say that a young woman having an affair with her stepfather is “criminal.” The book is indeed hardboiled and pulpy, but there is no murder in it.
On the other hand, Michael Curtiz »
- email@example.com (Cinema Retro)
Nostalgia just ain’t what it used to be.
When the poster for American Graffiti (1973) asked the question “Where were you in ’62?” it was marketing a trend, spiked by the increasing popularity of the theatrical musical Grease, for audiences of a certain age to look backward to a time when life wasn’t ostensibly so complicated, when your life was still out there waiting to be lived, to a time when America hadn’t yet “lost its innocence.” The demarcation point for that alleged loss is often assigned to the upheaval of grief and national confusion experienced in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, so it was no accident that the setting for American Graffiti’s night of cruising, romancing and soul-searching was placed a little over a year before that cataclysmic event. The interesting thing about Graffiti was the aggressiveness with which that »
- Dennis Cozzalio
The shadow of Casablanca will always loom over Michael Curtiz’s bumper filmography, but time has been nearly as kind to Mildred Pierce, an adaptation of James M. Cain’s 1941 novel. A Joan Crawford vehicle made in 1945, the movie is a solid and relevant story that was remade recently for television by Todd Haynes for HBO – albeit minus the murder subplot, which wasn’t in the original text.
Crawford plays Mildred Pierce-Beragon, a woman hauled in by the police following the shooting of her husband, Monte (a slithery Zachary Scott). Mildred is the prime suspect, but then the film flicks to flashback as she starts telling the story of her rises and falls, and we begin to learn of the machinations that ended in murder.
We meet the younger Mildred, »
- Rupert Harvey
Twenty years ago, Cheryl Dunye made history as the first African-American lesbian to direct a feature-length film. Now that film, The Watermelon Woman, has finally been given a proper DVD release, courtesy of First Run Features. To mark the occasion, we spoke on the phone with Dunye about the film, history, performance, and authenticity.
The Film Stage: Both The Watermelon Woman and the short that’s included on the new DVD, Black Is Blue, express a high level of commitment and detail in the recreation of documentary form. What documentaries and / or mockumentaries influenced you?
Cheryl Dunye: I’ve been working in this practice since the late ‘80s. I went to Rutgers and had a studio practice there, got my Mfa, and that’s where I discovered what was becoming the queer film world. There was a lack of identity, representation — in the work that was being seen — by, »
- Daniel Schindel
The Criterion Collection 860
1945 / B&W / 1:37 flat Academy / 111 min. / available through The Criterion Collection / Street Date , 2017 /
Cinematography: Ernest Haller
Art Direction: Anton Grot
Film Editor: David Weisbart
Original Music: Max Steiner
Directed by Michael Curtiz
James M. Cain’s 1941 novel Mildred Pierce offers a venal and self-destructive view of America not with a story of respectable bourgeois society, not the criminal underworld. A de-classed, suburb-dwelling nobody fights her way onto the social register by using men and by hard work… and then watches as her obsessive goals blow up in her face In Cain’s worldview it’s every woman for herself. He drags in an odd personal theme, »
- Glenn Erickson
5 items from 2017
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