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5 items from 2011

Meet Me in St Louis – review

17 December 2011 4:05 PM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

This week we have a welcome rerelease of Meet Me in St Louis, which opened in America 67 years ago this month. It was the first truly great movie from the Freed unit, the MGM department specialising in musicals and headed since 1940 by Arthur Freed, who wrote some of the best songs of the 1920s and 30s and produced several of the finest films of the 20th century.

Freed acquired Sally Benson's series of New Yorker stories about the delightful middle-class Smith family proudly living in 1903 St Louis and looking forward to the following year's World's Fair but not to a proposed move to New York. He assembled the writers, composers, designers and cast, including the virtually unknown Vincente Minnelli, and told studio boss Louis B Mayer: "I want to make this into the most delightful piece of Americana ever." He achieved his aim with a movie that defines perfection, »

- Philip French

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Lover's rock: the story of reggae's Motown

22 September 2011 4:06 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Lover's rock influenced the Police and Sade, and gave women a voice in reggae – so why was it sidelined in its native Britain?

In 1979, Janet Kay's piercing falsetto was one of the defining sounds of the summer. Silly Games, her bittersweet ode to a faltering relationship, enjoyed heavy radio play, thanks in part to a subtle arrangement by songwriter/producer Dennis Bovell, a distinctive drum pattern from Aswad's Angus Gaye and distribution on a Warners subsidiary. The song reached No 2, the highest chart placing for a black, British woman at that point. It also signalled a coming of age for lover's rock, the softened, British reggae sub-genre that focused on romance, but, as noted in Menelik Shabazz's documentary The Story of Lover's Rock, involved so much more than setting teenaged heartbreak to a reggae beat.

Though a primarily underground phenomenon, lover's rock influenced pop acts such as the Police, »

- David Katz

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New York's "Essential Pre-Code" Series: Week 1

4 August 2011 12:48 PM, PDT | MUBI | See recent MUBI news »

Each year New York residents can look forward to two essential series programmed at the Film Forum, noirs and pre-Coders (that is, films made before the strict enforcing of the Motion Picture Production Code).  These near-annual retrospective traditions are refreshed and re-varied and repeated for neophytes and cinephiles alike, giving all the chance to see and see again great film on film.  Many titles in this year's Essential Pre-Code series, running an epic July 15 - August 11, are old favorites and some ache to be new discoveries; all in all there are far too many racy, slipshod, patter-filled celluloid splendors to be covered by one critic alone.  Faced with such a bounty, I've enlisted the kind help of some friends and colleagues,  asking them to sent in short pieces on their favorites in an incomplete but also in-progress survey and guide to one of the summer's most sought-after series.  In this entry: what's playing Friday, »

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Things That Came to My Mind While I Was Watching the Film #2

27 June 2011 9:02 AM, PDT | MUBI | See recent MUBI news »

In contemporary cinema many camera pans look like postcards, but ones without the simplicity or light-hearted use of clichés of the past. (No European ever hated an American film for those old expository shots of their cities.) Those opening postcards once led us to, say, Gary Cooper. And therefore we knew it was cinema. Today, the postcard pan tries to lead us to the illusion that we actually are somewhere, and not in a film. But a panning shot by itself is not a pretense, it is just what it is: a look over rooftops, at streets seen from above, hills and roads, all passing by—a Google view of the world. The pan is no longer the amazed discovery of what cinema could embrace (the 1900s) nor the deep breath of the Straubian traveller. It is now an illusion of legibility or a misplaced conception of opacity, a shot »

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Alan Ladd, Ella Raines, Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, Jeanette MacDonald on TCM

26 January 2011 5:52 PM, PST | Alt Film Guide | See recent Alt Film Guide news »

Ella Raines, Franchot Tone in Robert Siodmak's Phantom Lady (top); Jeanette MacDonald, Maurice Chevalier in Rouben Mamoulian's Love Me Tonight (middle); Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn in Billy Wilder's Love in the Afternoon (bottom) Pre-1948 Paramount talkies are owned by Universal (or whichever conglomerate owns Universal; I've lost track of them by now — Comcast? NBC? General Electric?). For the most part, Universal couldn't care less about the movies in their archives. Relatively few have been released on DVD and most of them are hardly ever shown on cable. Well, Turner Classic Movies has leased the Universal library — whether all of it or only some titles, I don't know. That's why the early Mae West movie This Is the Night (1932) was shown a couple of weeks ago, and that's why we now have Lucky Jordan (1942), the film that helped turn Alan Ladd into a star. I've never seen this »

- Andre Soares

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