Saturday 27 February 2021

On Blu-ray - David Hare directs attention to "the greatest number ever written for a musical or a movie!" 'Make Believe' from SHOWBOAT (George Sidney, USA, 1951)

Watch Kathryn Grayson (above) in this duet by clicking here, especially from 4m 15s to the end of the number.  

Charles Rosher photographs her with enough space and height to actually ACT the song while she sings it with a soaring vibrato, within the 1.37 frame, and this she does with devastatingly expressive body and facial expression. And so they sing the number out. She is so fantastic in this, but so is everyone in the picture. You might also note Rosher's sublime gesture for the last verse of every song or duet for which he slowly, slowly moves the camera from medium close into a tight ultra-classical close shot. 


I cannot think of a single musical number in which the Director of Photography has given so much visual consideration to the sequence, and such a glorious definition of the Academy Ratio frame. He even shoots the end of Act 1 with the two big choruses of Ole Man River within magic hour, and a sublime early morning fog/mist that envelopes and caresses William Warfield. The mise-en-scène cuts back and forth in Joe's second long chorus between Joe to Julie and Bill leaving in disgrace along the shore, which has been visible throughout the entire first act of the movie. 


The setting and execution is a direct reference back to Rosher's photography of George O'Brien cutting across the marsh in misty twilight to meet Margaret Livingston in one of the greatest scenes in all of cinema from Sunrise, which Rosher shot for Murnau in 1927. Rosher and Sidney then repeat the motif in the final shots with Gardner/Julie semi-hidden in the shadows of the wharf blowing a kiss to the Show Boat. Sidney's 1951 picture constantly operates at this astonishing level of excellence and depth and passionate artistry. 

Much as I love the 1936 Whale movie, and its cast and his superb direction of it, this version remains my all-time favorite. Is "Make Believe" the greatest number ever written for a musical or a movie?


I must be becoming an old man. It wasn't until very recently, two years ago or so when I was watching Till the Clouds Roll  By  again, a jumble if ever there was one. Grayson plays Magnolia - for the first time, in the Show Boat extracts segment in that portmanteau exercise and she's also directed in the role for the first time by Sidney. The staging throughout that 15 minutes is static and dull, and obviously under the supervision of Freed for whom Whorf and Sidney as directors were obliged to stage the numbers this way in deference to the movie's clumsy proscenium "Shape". 

So not only is Lena Horne as Julie for her only time shot almost entirely in a single semi-profile close for the whole of "Can't Stop Loving", so are the rest of the singers including a very young Grayson. Sidney mentions her on the commentary for Show Boat (ported from the ancient 2002 MGM DVD) and remembers her with very great affection, especially her nose which he muses might have been matched with Bob Hope's to produce a unique child. I think he's saying as diplomatically as possible she was not a very great beauty. But he sees a great deal in her, and that extraordinary high soprano. And the shot quoted from Show Boat here really made me stand up and pay attention. He's directing her to act in every shot no matter how vocally based, and she acts the pants off troupers like Agnes Morehead and even gorgeous but dumb Keel. 


Sidney even digs deep enough into Keel to get the sheer callowness of Gaylord out of him, and he's not always anything like a sympathetic character. But as singing sopranos go my own personal bête noir is Jeanette Macdonald whom some of my heterosexual friends worship as some sort of sex goddess. Even in a negligée in her Lubitsch pre-code period she fails to move me one iota.


The new Warner Archive Blu-ray is an early contender for disc of the year. The MPI Team scanned the original three strip nitrate negs at 4K with pin sharp alignment restoration, color grading and resolution, along with newly remastered original multi channel magnetic audio tracks which have been remastered from the original mono track to multi channel stereo with breathtaking clarity. That excerpt from Till the Clouds is an extra in1080p on the disc. 

Friday 26 February 2021

Streaming on YouTube - Janice Tong recommends SIGMUND FREUD UN JUIF SANS DIEU/SIGMUND FREUD A JEW WITHOUT GOD (David Teboul, France, 2019)

Using widely collated footages and photos of Freud (above) from childhood to just prior to his death in 1939; the film is narrated through voice-overs - a winding and non-chronological epistolary narrative; mostly from the letters that he had received or had written, Freud appears to us through the perspectives of people who are central to his life: his daughter Anna Freud (narrated by Isabelle Huppert), Marie Bonaparte (Catherine Deneuve), Carl Gustav Jung (Micha Lescot), Lucie (Sandrine Kiberlain) and Lou Andreas-Salomé (Jeanne Balibar); with Freud himself narrated by Mathieu Amalric.  The narration of the film is by Denis Podalydès.

The film is especially poignant when his letters are spoken softly through Amalric distinctive voice; Freud’s thinking is no longer merely entombed in the books I have read of his, and his image is no longer that of the bespectacled, handsomely dressed and coiffured man with a neatly manicured beard you see in photographs; he literally comes alive in this film. It is as though a veil is suddenly lifted, and we move from the mythic figure of Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, to reveal Freud the man. 


It is astonishing to see how close a resemblance (in looks at least) that Robert Finster captured in last year’s Netflix show Freud. Which by the way, I really enjoyed despite its panning by critics and audiences, the main complaint being that it portrayed Freud as a ‘coke-fiend’. (Let’s not forget that it is readily documented that this was a drug he studied the effects of, on himself and others; as it was not taboo (or illegal) at the time, and was used to ‘loosen the tongue’). 


As Netflix’s response was to cancel the show, I have to ask the question - where has everyone’s imagination gone? And as Fran Lebowitz says - a book is a ‘door’ not a ‘mirror’; and so too is it the case with good films and TV shows. It’s a door where you’re opened to new worlds and experiences; and not ones that you can necessarily relate to, nor do they have to be historically accurate. What an odd world we live in to want to only identify with characters in a film or a novel that we watch or read?!


With Sigmund Freud, un juif sans Dieu, there is no mention of cocaine-taking; but there is a lot of footage of Freud in his handsome gardens in Vienna, surrounded by flowers, his wife and family members (above). The later footage of him in exile in London were especially beautiful with him sitting in the garden, a comforter on his lap and his beloved chow-chow, Topsy, by his side (below). 


Although there are no English subtitles in the YouTube version, for those who can read a little French (for me this helps, as spoken French can be a little hard to follow) you can put the auto-generated closed captions on. 


This is one documentary that should be watched on the big screen if it ever comes to a festival in your city.


Produced by Arte. Currently available to watch on #YouTube if you click here

Hitchcock's Most Ingenious Film? - Ken Mogg considers the details in ROPE (1948)

PATRICK HAMILTON'S 1929 PLAY called Rope, which was palpably based on the Leopold and Loeb murder case five years earlier, shows an attempt by two intellectually well-endowed young men to demonstrate their 'superiority' by committing 'the perfect murder'.  That Alfred Hitchcock was drawn to the case may testify to his ambivalence: after all, he had recently referred to his audience as 'the moron millions'.(1)  

Accordingly, the killers' unsuspecting tutor, Rupert Cadell (James Stewart), is a crucial character, finally brought to the realisation that his glib teachings derived from Nietzsche have been terribly misunderstood by the two young men, Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) - and that he himself is guilty, because of his own arrogance, of failure to see such a possible outcome. 'Until this moment,' he tells them, 'the world and the people in it have always been dark to me.'  Of all the many exposés of human subjectivity by Hitchcock's films, Rupert's epiphany at the end of Rope may be the most telling, involving, as it does, his explicit admission that his respect for 'intellect and superior logic' has not been sufficient.  In its way, the case of Rupert in Rope anticipates that of the police inspector in I Confess(1953) whom we also watch apply a relentless logic that manages to get it wrong. 

 Technically, Rope is remarkable - and remarkably painstaking.  It purports to take place in real time, without cuts, although of course it does no such thing.  The sleight of hand involved may be demonstrated by concentrating on the successive cloud and lighting effects which the film uses in order to subtly suggest a progression from mid-afternoon to late evening.  (See below.)  First, though, consider the layout of Brandon and Phillip's apartment situated somewhere in 'an apartment high up in the East Fifties' of New York City, as specified in the script.  Most of the film takes place in what I'll call the living room.  This is dominated by a wide studio window which faces over Manhattan; in a side wall are set two smaller windows which face a narrow side street.  Next to the living room and opposite the side wall is a small entrance hall containing a telephone.  Further along a corridor is the dining room, and then a kitchen with a swing door visible from the living room.  Offscreen somewhere, and not seen during the film, is the bedroom which contains a second telephone.  Considerable thought has obviously gone into this layout, as into the view out the main window which, in the course of the film, will be shown to have several aspects. Officially, the film has 'eight cloud changes during its nine reels, dropping from a sky full in reel one to one or two in reel nine'.(2)  That rather simplifies matters, but it gives the general idea.

"...dominated by a wide studio window
which faces over Manhattan."
(Click to enlarge the photos and use slideshow)
At the least, Hitchcock did not want his single-set film to infringe his rule against ever merely showing 'pictures of people talking'.  Nor does it.  It has its own dynamism which needs to be appreciated before any dismissal of it as 'a failed Hitchcock experiment' (which, incidentally, he took further - especially the lighting effects - in his next film, Under Capricorn). The titles sequence seems designed to contrast with what follows.  For one thing, it takes place outside.  Briefly we see a nanny pushing a pram along a sidewalk.  Next, the view freezes, with no traffic or pedestrians visible, as the credits roll up the screen.  Finally, both passing cars and pedestrians re-appear, and a traffic cop at a pedestrian-crossing escorts two small children across.  The street seems an elegant one.  After this, the camera swivels to show a balcony and then a window. Following a pause, we hear the sound of a man's scream.  But the window has its curtains drawn.  Cut to inside the room and a close-up of gloved hands throttling a young man to death. Then the camera pulls back.  By now, the film's second reel has begun.

"...a close-up of gloved hands throttling
a young man to death."

That first cut is obvious enough, and is even required - demanded - by the fact of the scream.  The remaining reel-breaks (in the camera about every ten minutes; on a commercial 35mm projector with its larger, more accommodating spools, about every twenty minutes) are more or less 'invisible', or at least disguised, to suggest one continuous length of film and an unbroken continuity: a form of induced 'suspense'. The cuts themselves basically fall into two categories.  First, cuts which occur during a momentary blackness induced by the camera tracking into, say, a character's back and then out again.  Second, cuts on a character's reaction or on a piece of action so that we hardly notice the cut (if at all).  The 'experiment' would prove useful in many of Hitchcock's subsequent films, although he soon came to realise that the so-called 'ten-minute take', by itself, risked a certain cumbersomeness.  He had chosen the one-set film Rope as being more fitting than most movies for its use.  Nonetheless, there is little sign of it just a few years later in Dial M for Murder (1954), which also takes place largely in one room.  A case of Hitchcock once bitten, twice shy, perhaps.


Cabined, cribbed, confined

Still, the confined feeling of Rope is meaningful to the degree that its central character - Brandon - dominates much of it, although he meets his match before the end in Rupert.(3)  From the outset, Brandon is, to say the least, an oppressive character, as shown in the way he treats the docile Phillip. We sense a need to break away, or break out.  But Phillip typically does as Brandon tells him, as when Brandon says to follow him and bring the other silver candle-holder from the dining-room.  Brandon might easily have carried both candle-holders himself.  He evidently takes pleasure in ordering Phillip around, and is used to being obeyed. Also, most of the other characters are ordinary enough if measured against Brandon's yardstick of 'the superior few'. 

"Brandon might easily have carried
both candle-holders himself."

These characters are: Mrs Wilson (the hired housekeeper (4)), Mr Kentley (the bookish father of the murdered boy), Mrs Atwater (his sister-in-law), Janet (the late David Kentley's girlfriend) and Kenneth (a self-admitted average student).  Even Rupert is 'only' a housemaster at a prep-school, although he gave valiant war service, and knows his Nietzsche.  Rupert effectively becomes the spokesperson for a modest egalitarianism when he persists in getting to the bottom of the 'strange' feeling (his word) that he has experienced during Brandon and Phillip's party, purportedly thrown to celebrate their imminent departure for a holiday in the country. The audience's sense of oppressiveness, though, becomes most conscious only at the film's end, when Rupert throws open the apartment window and fires several shots from a pistol to attract attention and summon the police.  A critic once commented: 'you can feel the fresh air'.


'Did you think you were God, Brandon?' Rupert has just asked.  If James Stewart delivers those words a touch defensively, with an exaggerated, even vengeful, show of anger ('You're going to die, both of you'), it is because Rupert's epiphany has come with a rush, and his new realisation is painful.  Hitchcock doesn't hold back, even adding to the drama by having alternating red, green and white flashes pierce the room from a neon 'STORAGE' sign just outside the side windows.  (No-one has closed the curtains since the evening started.)  There is something accusatory about the successive flashes, a bit like the arrowed 'Direction' signs at the start of I Confess pointing towards the scene of a murder.  Hitchcock likened them to a musical effect.  He probably took the idea from the novel Enter Sir John (1929), on which Murder! (1930) was based, where the three colours evoke Harlequin.  The implication there, and perhaps in Rope, is that people are all 'merely players' and that there's little essential difference between them - for all that Rupert tries to deny it.  Or at least that we are part of one motley. 


Various effects

Hitchcock's 'effects' invariably make a point, even if - it may seem - he was prepared to 'cheat' on occasions.  Early on, we cut to David Kentley's strangling by Phillip,  while Brandon pins the victim's arms.  When the view widens, we see that the curtains were drawn shut.  A line of dialogue covers this, without really explaining it.  We hear Brandon say, 'A pity we couldn't have done it with the curtains open … in the bright sunlight.'  But this only poses the awkward question: how did the two killers explain to their victim (whose death-scream we heard) that for purposes of his murder the curtains would need to be closed?!  Scarcely less unlikely, perhaps, is the moment near the end when Rupert holds out the incriminating piece of rope that was used for the strangulation.  

"...Rupert holds out the incriminating
piece of rope..."

Up until now, our most recent view of the rope has been when the audacious Brandon used it to tie a bundle of rare books that Mr Kentley takes away as a gift from David's two 'friends'.  ('Such nice boys!', we had heard him tell Mrs Atwater.)  Rather improbably, it looks like Rupert had chased after Mr Kentley and given a reason why Rupert needed to take away that piece of rope - leaving the old man to manage the books untied!  (Conceivably he had a car parked just downstairs.)  At other times, Hitchcock was simply ingenious.  For his token cameo, he came up with the idea of appearing as his famous profile in a distant red neon sign that we see briefly before a change of camera-angle obscures it again.


Hitchcock worked on adapting Hamilton's play with his actor friend Hume Cronyn (Herb in Shadow of a Doubt).  However, the final screenplay was written by the American playwright Arthur Laurents. The latter seems to have been chosen for his knowledge of the gay scene.  A similar consideration influenced the casting of actors to play Brandon and Phillip, who are clearly lovers, though it's not explicitly stated.  As far back as 1938, Hitchcock had written: 'I like an actor to play a part for which his personal experience in life has raised him.'  One of the qualities of Rope, in its play and film versions, is the study it offers not of gayness, exactly, but of how one partner (Brandon) dominates the other (Phillip).  The screenplay is explicit: it describes Brandon as 'psychopathic'  and Phillip as 'neurotic … [someone who] wants to be and needs to be dominated.' 

"...clearly lovers, though it's not
explicitly stated."

Both of the actors were gay. Underlining the gay ambience is the fact that the musically-trained Phillip repeatedly plays gay French composer Francis Poulenc's 'Perpetual Movement No. 1' on the piano; at the time of the film's making, Poulenc was touring America as accompanist to his friend, baritone Pierre Bernac.  However, it's noteworthy that Phillip never plays the piece right through.  Perhaps there’s a suggestion here about the limits imposed by human subjectivity (Hitchcock’s perennial subject) that will allow only an incomplete grasp of the full picture.  No doubt, Phillip would eventually master particular works, like Poulenc's, but he would be left with little knowledge of most other fields of knowledge.  (Ironically, he and Brandon are in any case destined to die at the end of a rope.) In its way, what I call Hitchcock's use of Vague Symbolism is displayed here.


Hitchcock himself had no taste for purely conceptual matters.  He once observed: 'Directors who lose control are concerned with the abstract.'  As noted already, characterisation in Hitchcock's films was made as concrete and specific as possible, and conveyed to the audience by visible (or visual) means more often than not.  When the show-off Brandon drops the piece of rope, the murder weapon, into a kitchen drawer, he does it with a flourish and not the slightest sign of shame or remorse. To reinforce this particular 'effect', and its significance, Hitchcock uses a showy gesture of his own: we see what Brandon is doing in the brief moment before the kitchen swing-door closes again.


More specifically

But perhaps the best set of 'effects' in Rope to demonstrate Hitchcock's attention to the visual, and the palpable, concerns how we are made to feel the passing of time. This involved the cloud and lighting effects I referred to earlier, plus innovations in the use of Technicolor after considerable experimentation beforehand - Rope was the director's first colour film - and even the re-shooting of an early reel or two.  The woman wheeling the pram in the street suggests to me that the time of day is no later than mid-afternoon, as do the two small children using a pedestrian-crossing, who are holding hands with a traffic cop (no parents in sight).  Have they just come from school?  They scarcely look old enough.  

Be that as it may, a moment later we find ourselves inside Brandon and Phillip's darkened apartment, and soon afterwards watch Brandon opening the curtains, which allows us our first view of the Manhattan skyline.  'What a lovely evening!' we hear him say, with considerable irony.  Although the sky is grey rather than blue, there's a long wisp of cloud in the top left-hand corner, and a larger cloud-mass lower down, behind one of the tall (office?) buildings in the distance.  There's also another long wisp in the top right-hand corner.  Still, there is plenty of bare sky as well. Perhaps that's what Brandon means.


A few moments later - no more reel changes yet - a slightly altered camera angle lets us glimpse how there may be another large cloud behind a building on the right. Hitchcock thus takes advantage of the moving camera to add variety to what we see out the window.  However, by the time that Mrs Wilson arrives to begin her meal preparations, there has been another reel change.  The clouds on the left now appear to have grown.  A little later, Kenneth is the first guest to arrive.  I'm not sure that the clouds have changed their position but those clouds are now lit from underneath as if by the setting sun.  No mere painting, it seems, the view out the window is a construct that allows three-dimensional modelling.  Another cut, disguised by character movement, occurs when Brandon followed by Phillip go to welcome Janet in the entrance hall.  Mr Kentley and Mrs Atwater arrive next, and are admitted by Mrs Wilson.  As the near-sighted Mrs Atwood enters the living room, she mistakes Kenneth for David Kentley.  'David!' she exclaims - much to Phillip's consternation.  The camera swivels to show that he has broken a glass in his hand, and we may register that someone has turned on a table-lamp behind him. When the camera moves to the window in front of which the guests are (mostly) standing, a detectable rosiness is now striking the clouds behind them, as well as the sides of several of the buildings.  Further, a thin chimney in the middle-distance is emitting white smoke: a cold evening (facilitated by the near-absence of cloud cover) may be fast approaching.

Hitchcock and the cast of Rope

Incidentally, many of the buildings in the middle- and near-distance look as if they serve an industrial rather than a commercial function.  (Was Hitchcock careless in making the sedate street we saw at the start so close to them?  I don't know New York City, so I can only speculate that various types of districts co-exist there within short distances of each other.)  The camera now moves well back to show Phillip seated at the piano; out the window, a red glow is striking just the top of one of the larger buildings. Next to Phillip, Rupert is standing, having noiselessly arrived in the room after being admitted by Mrs Wilson.  On the cassone (chest) containing David Kentley's body, Brandon is now lighting two single candles.  And once again, when the camera changes angle, our view out the window also changes; now it looks as if there are a couple of large clouds on the right, and both are catching the evening light.  This effect will become more pronounced in the next few minutes. Several more of the tall buildings soon have the rosy glow; a red neon sign in the distance has come on (it seems to alternate green); over on the right, in the middle-distance, other chimneys are now smoking.  Etc.


With the approach of night, more lights appear outside; in the apartment, other table-lamps go on (although a nervous Phillip objects when Rupert switches on a lamp on the piano); all the candles on the chest are lit; for a while, the rosiness outside briefly lights up all the buildings; then the clouds darken; and the neon sign outside the window on the right starts flashing.  In a nice touch, we see Mrs Wilson turn on the light in the kitchen.  She is the last person to leave the party, although Rupert, his suspicions thoroughly aroused, afterwards finds an excuse to return.  Altogether, Hitchcock's meticulous attention to detail may never have been better illustrated than in Rope, and within that film no more so than in its countless cloud and lighting effects.(5)


A tour de force

Accordingly, characterisation in Hitchcock is never non-existent or inadequately worked out - that is a myth.  True, Rope is as close to a thesis-film as Hitchcock ever entertained, which brought risks.  (Its thesis, I suggest, concerns the limits of human subjectivity and the dangers of overweening human ego.)  Of critic/author Dan Callahan's many fine points about the film, I particularly like his perception of it as 'a queer project' whose touches are often 'underground' (deliberately left to the individual viewer to interpret).(6)  Callahan spots that Janet is what is called in gay circles a fag hag (Callahan, 152) meaning that she is a straight girl who likes to associate with gay men.  I think of how Brandon is happy to direct her to the telephone in the bedroom, in which presumably she will see a double-bed! Yet it's instructive to learn that Hitchcock was worried about Constance Collier's portrayal of Mrs Atwater as possibly making her appear a lesbian.  'Easy does it!', you can practically hear him telling her.  And while we're on the subject, what are we to make of how, after the murdered David Kentley's body 'went limp', Brandon felt 'tremendously exhilarated' at what he and Phillip had just done?


Originally, Rupert himself was supposed to be gay.  Casting James Stewart in the role, however, put paid to that idea.  Instead, the script makes him that rarity, someone who seeks to elevate himself into 'the superior individual' (a term of Schopenhauer's, I believe) whose trust in 'intellect and superior logic' may or may not see him through.  The fact that he walks with a limp probably signals that he is one of Hitchcock's impotent males (like the wheelchair-bound Stewart character in Rear Window) and thus one more reminder of the film's humanistic thesis.  The script notes: '[Rupert] has such charm and humor (and a smile) that you cannot really be sure whether he means the extreme ideas he propounds or whether he is joking.  Just as you cannot really be sure whether Rupert is essentially good or essentially evil.'  Of course, his final epiphany eventually makes him the very spokesman for the film's thesis. A clever instance of having your cake and eating it?!

" epiphany..."


At the end, a still-stunned Rupert sits guardian-like alongside the trunk containing David Kentley's body, one hand resting on its lid, as the group wait for the police to arrive.  The sound of a siren becomes ever-louder.  Earlier in the film, a similar siren had been heard briefly, an instance of how Hitchcock liked to 'prep' his audiences for many of his effects, as if to render those effects integral and not seemingly manufactured at all. Callahan makes a similar point about the film's use of Poulenc.  Not only does Phillip play the 'Mouvement Perpétual No. 1' at the piano but the same composition had already been used as the basis for the score under the opening credits.  (Apart from that, Callahan notes, the film plays without any musical score, which heightens the tension. [Callahan, 151])  Rope is a remarkable Hitchcock tour de force.



1. Professor Wes Gehring refers to Hitchcock as 'sort of a first cousin to Brandon's character' in Rope.  Wes D. Gearing, Hitchcock and Humor(McFarland, 2019), pp. 162-163.


2.  Ken Mogg, The Alfred Hitchcock Story(Titan, 2008), p. 105


3. Novelist Donna Tartt drew on a roughly comparable situation to Rope’s in her 1992 novel The Secret History. The resemblance has often been noticed. 


4.  Edith Evanson would play the office cleaning-lady in Marnie (1964).


5.  The Ropescript includes a prefatory ’SPECIAL LIGHTING NOTE’, as follows.  ’When the action of the story commences, we see through the large studio window the roofs of cross-town Manhattan.  We are facing a Westerly direction [where the sun sets].  When this panorama is revealed for the first time, the sun is just beginning to lower.  The light is bright yellow, then as the action continues we see the sun beginning to set and the clouds in the sky take on deeper colors.  This light change continues as the clouds move across the sky and finally, when the sun has gone [down], we get the strong afterglow. About this time, various neon signs have begun to appear, starting in the far distance and, as the action of the play goes on, the ones nearer to us begin to light up and climactically a large neon sign begins to light up the whole room.  This sign is not seen through the big window at the back, but comes from two side windows which face a narrow side street.’


6.  Dan Callahan, The Camera Lies (Oxford, 2020), p. 150, p. 151    

CINEMA REBORN MARCH NEWSLETTER #1 - FILIBUS and AIMLESS BULLET announced for the 2021 programme. Plus Lina Wertmuller and Godard's BREATHLESS

Mornews about Cinema Reborn’s 2021 Program screening at the Randwick Ritz from Thursday 29 April-Sunday 2 May

We have just added two titles that expand the offering into hitherto unexplored areas 


FILIBUS (Mario Roncoroni, ITALY, 1915, 76”)


“No other crime thriller compares to Filibus!” exclaimed a Corona Films ad in the April 1915 edition of the Italian film magazine La Vita Cinematografica — and for once the ballyhoo was correct! Directed by Mario Roncoroni and scripted by future science fiction author Giovanni Bertinetti, Filibus is the most exciting, witty, feminist, steampunk, cross-dressing aviatrix thriller you will ever see! Previously seen in a badly subtitled, imperfect version, Filibus was recently remastered by the Eye Filmmuseum, restoring the film’s marvelous range of Desmet tinting and toning in the original nitrate material. To bring the film back to its flavor of the period — when the characters Fantomas and Arsène Lupin were worldwide sensations — US distributor Milestone hired young poet Austin Renna to write new intertitles based on an improved translation by Eye’s archivist Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi. To go with this fantastical film, is a new stunning orchestral score!
Flying high above the clouds her dirigible, Filibus, the mysterious sky pirate, is a master of disguise and the scourge of millionaires, banks, and the police. Lowered in a gondola by her henchmen, Filibus steals from the rich and then mysteriously vanishes into the clouds….

CAST Valeria Creti; Cristina Ruspoli, Giovanni Spano, Mario Mariani 




To read SusaPotter’s program notes and find a link to purchase tickets head for


The screening of FILIBUS has been generously supported by Cinema Reborn supporters David and Leith Bruce-Steer.



AIMLESS BULLET  (Yu Hyun-mok, SOUTH KOREA, 1961, 107”)


Cinema Reborn’s first film from Korea has long been regarded as one of the key works of modern Asian cinema. Aimless Bullet is a realist work, a film which captures the collective anxiety of post-war Korea through clerk Cheol-ho and his family — his mentally ill mother, his sex-worker sister and bank- robber brother. It epitomised the feeling of self-hatred and hopelessness that was central to Korean society after the Japanese occupation instituted a culture of domination and exploitation. Banned shortly after its first screenings by the then military government, Aimless Bullet has now been painstakingly restored by the Korean Film Archive. Cinema Reborn’s screening will be the first for the restoration in Australia.

CAST Choi Moo-ryong, Kim Jin-kyu, Moon Jeong-suk


To read Russell Edwards’ program notes and find a link to purchase tickets head for


The notes on the Cinema Reborn website now include David Hare and Adrian Danks on our Opening Film DESTRY RIDES AGAINRod Bishop on our likely to sell out Saturday Night Special THE LEOPARD/IL GATTOPARDO  and Bruce Hodsdon on our closing night CRISS CROSS. If you want to start on our front page featuring the image of the radiant Claudia Cardinale in Luchino Visconti’s 1963 masterpiece JUST CLICK HERE Each of the films has a link to bookings on the Ritz website.


…and just a reminder folks if you are minded to support the entirely voluntary work that goes into the presentation of each Cinema Reborn season you can donate through the Australian Cultural Fund and receive a tax deduction for the amount you give. CLICK ON THIS LINK










The Randwick Ritz in association with the Italian Institute for Culture and Cinema Reborn will be presenting seven films by Italy’s foremost female director in season commencing on Sunday 28 March.


Scholar and critic Jane Mills will introduce the first film in the series, THE LIZARDS/I BASILISCHI (Italy, 1963) and says “Irreverent, rule-breaking and impossible to define, Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller was the first woman to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar in 1977. Feminist (although often contested!) and reliably non-conformist, her films take the absurdities of society and turn them on their heads. The results are sometimes witty, sometimes shocking, always political.” For more details and bookings CLICK HERE




If you’ve never seen Breathless, now is the time. If you have, then you’ve never seen it like this: newly restored in 4K and projected on the big screen in all its ground-breaking brilliance. Sensual, thrilling and effortlessly cool, Breathless changed cinema forever.

After shooting a policeman, petty criminal Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) attempts to lay low with his American girlfriend, aspiring journalist Patricia (Jean Seberg), who is unaware of what he’s done. 

Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard from a treatment by François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol, Breathless is one of the most iconic films from the revolutionary French New Wave period of the late 1950s and 1960s. Inspired by American crime dramas, but completely rejecting the Hollywood approach to film style and storytelling, Breathless bursts with infectious and defiant energy that is just as subversive and joyful today as it was in 1960.

Not just a masterpiece of French cinema and not just a classic from the French New Wave, Breathless is simply one of the greatest and most influential films ever made, appearing at number 13 on the 2012 Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time poll.

Breathless is showing multiple times. Check out details here

Thursday 25 February 2021

Streaming on SBS On Demand - Barrie Pattison recommends SONG LANG (Leon Le, Vietam, 2018)

Not all that often we see new (or for that matter old) Vietnamese movies and the 2018 Song Lang which has turned up in SBS’s repertory comes as something of a surprise - no pondering the Marxist imperative, no triumphal account of battling American – or Chinese - imperialism. Its soft colours don’t resemble those of the few Vietnamese films that have made it here.

 What we get is a contemplative account of 1980s Saigon centering on the (still extant) Phuong Nam theatre where a traveling company is performing cai luong, a form of traditional Southern Vietnamese folk opera  recognisably similar to Chinese 12 tone scale presentations complete with the painted faces and flamboyant costumes.


For outsiders, this is a companion piece to Heinsoke Gosho’s 1933 Koi no hana saku Izu no odoriko/ The Dancing Girl of Izu, Masahiro Shinoda’s 1977 Hanare goze Orin/ Melody in Grey or Shu Kei’s 1996 Hong Kong Hu Du Men. All are explorations of the ritualised Asian theatre which we know mainly from elements that seep into Kung Fu movies. Chen Kaige’s Farewell my Concubine is frequently mentioned in comparison and this one has been claimed by the gay community. The pop star leads do spend moretime in one another’s company than that of the women in their lives.


The plot shows the marginal theatre company in debt to a local loan shark who sends in her strong arm man Lien Binh Phat to collect. He’s spreading lighter fluid over the costumes, ready to set them on fire, when leading man Isaac intervenes, throwing in his watch and pleading that they will only be able to make good the debt by using the material the heavy is about to destroy. 


As the plot rolls on, a terrified family finds Lien sitting down chatting with their children despite instructions never to let strangers into the house and using the same justification - that his is the moral position dealing with people who should pay their debts. Unexpectedly he buys a ticket and watches the evening’s show - the one the movie audience sees.


Later in the evening, Isaac is having a couple of beers in a neighborhood bar when yahoos pick a fight with him. The scuffle disturbs Lien drinking there and he takes out four of the hoons. 


At this point the film’s actual subject becomes clear. Isaac loses his room key and has to recover in Lien’s flat. The pair pass the night together playing Lien’s Nintendo, talking next to the Simca sign on the building’s (studio built) roof or in the streets where kids play all night. We discover that Lien’s father was a musician and he still has his single-stringed instrument which Lien can play to professional standard. He has his guest sing one of this father’s songs on which he has retained the documentation.


Lien is urged to audition for the company - whose materials he had been about to set on fire.


This central section of the film is its heart. It really is too long and not sufficiently incisive but it reflects a level of ambition which is not usual. It is what makes Song Lang notable.


There is another show by the company. The older actor as the general is clearly the most experienced player and his performance intrigues. The ending is unremarkable after what we have been watching.      


Song Lang  is the first film by Californian Vietnamese Leon Le and it’s not quite like anything that’s been around before. Though it appears to have had a quite wide distribution, we have no way of telling how representative this one is of its country’s production or indeed of Asian cinema. 


When was the last time we saw a Philippino or Thai commercial movie? It’s the kind of presentation that justifies the existence of SBS, despite the pronouncement of that dim politician who once explained it should not be there for people who were too mean to lay out twenty bucks for a foreign movie.


Rather this one than another exploit of Audrey Tatou or Bill Nighy. On a small scale, it actually does tell us something we didn’t know before and end up wiser for learning. 


Saturday 20 February 2021

On Blu-ray - David Hare is wiped out by Doris Day in her second film MY DREAM IS YOURS (Michael Curtiz, USA, 1949)

While still climbing her way to the top, Doris Day (above) in her second movie, My Dream is Yours  (1949) still under the steady stewardship of Michael Curtiz, here singing "Wicky Wacky Woo" (aka "Nagasaki") at a Hawaiian theme club "Dive". Jack Carson ever ready nearby to rescue her for better things. 

Pity he couldn't rescue her from some of the picture's disappointing score from Harry Warren and Ralph Blane. But the movie has Jerry Wald as producer, Curtiz directing her with a firm hand, a meaninglessly busy scenario and absolutely drop dead gorgeous three strip Technicolor. 

Another total wipeout from Warner Archive Blu-ray