Comparative Analysis: The Dictator (2012) and The Great Dictator (1940)

I have often said that I do not enjoy indulging in comparative analysis when writing a standard review. Sometimes it does come up by I try not to focus on that aspect. However, there will be the rare occasion where the comparative analysis angle is far more intriguing than a standard review, so I have taken it here. I hope you enjoy it and welcome comments.

After having seen The Dictator a thought occurred to me that would invariably shift the tone and direction of the piece I wrote regarding it and it would thus not be a traditional review. The thought was as follows: The Dictator is like Sacha Baron Cohen’s own take on The Great Dictator. Now before proceeding with this line of reasoning allow me to state unequivocally that I am not for a second equating Cohen to Chaplin. What I am saying is that the parallels that this film shares with the one made 72 years ago are rather hard to ignore.

Frankly, I could also write a little more on this topic and explaining why this film does work to the extent that it does and find that this is a much more interesting dialogue than “How funny is this?” as that’s quite the subjective question, and “How does this rank in Cohen’s canon thus far?,” ibid.

Now, this might seem a rather facile allusion at first but what most intrigued me about this thought was the absolutely refractory nature that this tale has and that it makes The Dictator not only true to its time but as true to the artistic force driving it as The Great Dictator was.

The first confluence that the two films share is that there is a rather overt political message being delivered in the film. Each fits the tone of the actor and the film perfectly aside from being a necessary oration for the political climate in which it was spoken. Chaplin, the silent star, who resisted the advent of sound with fervor eventually, slowly gave in. The Great Dictator was his grudging embrace of the new form. That’s not to say Chaplin didn’t make it a visual venture, as this film features the iconic playing with the globe scene but it does also have the memorable speech, one of the most brilliant pieces of acting ever committed to celluloid. The silent star has a stump speech wherein he not only wears his heart on his sleeve but belies the fact that he is a double for the dictator.

The Dictator does have its own double aspect, however, as the title indicates, it focuses on the dictator rather than the double, and the speech here is given by the dictator not the double. The speech, as opposed to being heartfelt, goes from being tongue-in-cheek to sarcastic to the near equivalent of a bit from The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, the 21st Century replacement of the political cartoon. Chaplin’s speech was made during the darkest moments of the 20th century and was a message of hope, whereas Cohen is speaking in a world that alternates between great apathy and great fervency, where there is much conviction with little to no information despite the ready availability thereof. In the end, his is a rather even slam of both sides showing the warts totalitarianism and capitalism have.

While Cohen’s tale creates a fictitious nation meant to capture the foibles of as many leaders of Aladeen’s ilk as possible, Chaplin’s is clearly a caricature of Adolf Hitler, and has the additional layer of being a personal statement by Chaplin on his own behalf, who had for years been a presumed Communist by Hoover’s FBI.

While the cinematic quality of either is never going to be confused, I will reiterate that each reflects their lead perfectly. Chaplin was every bit the dramatist, the sensitive artist as he was a comedian, he’s cinema’s crying clown, only he’s unlikely to frighten small children. Cohen is broad, crude and if he’s left a member of his audience un-offended he feels he’s failed in his mission. His style is a perfect reflect of the excess and vapidity of the global political scene in this day and age. This is not to say that decisions of today’s world leaders do not carry weight, but while the world is always in the balance we’ve rarely come so close to the brink of global devastation as we did in World War II. Therefore, the tone of events allow for greatly contrasting tones in the films.

Cohen’s film taking place in a world that is not completely and totally at war allows there to be more societal commentary here, namely in the person of Zoey (Anna Faris). It’s not subtle and it doesn’t always work perfectly but she is the personification of what I referenced above: much conviction with not enough information.

The insanity of World War II also lead to the creation of the United Nations, what was essentially supposed to be a more effective solution than the prior League of Nations. In some ways it has been, in others not as much, this is also a notion that this film toys with quite a bit. Whereas The Great Dictator tackles the Nazi notion of Aryan superiority foremost, then the major players of the Nazi party and then the party’s constructs. The tertiary commentaries of The Dictator vary from totalitarian mindset, to post-9/11 paranoia, the year of protest and more.

While very different tonally, in terms of comedic and dramatic effect it would be fascinating to see these two films as a double feature and further compare and contrast them, but there are some of the most apparent parallels that I found upon one viewing of the newer film.

For the record, there is a bit of inconsistency in The Dictator for my liking. The laughs stop long enough so you notice some of the sillier plot points so the most I can give it is a 7/10. Having said that, I clearly found method to Cohen’s madness such that I took up this tangential association as the most interesting way I could find to discuss it. No film is perfect but there are few films in this day and age that even have something to say, and no matter how crass the method of delivery or how silly the context that does mean a great deal, and I definitely appreciated that.

Short Film Saturday: Guy Maddin

On occasion on these posts I think it would make sense to feature a filmmaker who excels in the short film form. Therefore, I figure who better to start with than Guy Maddin.

This is not to say Maddin’s feature work isn’t brilliant, it certainly is. I have not yet seen all of it but I started with Brand Upon the Brain and didn’t expect that to be exceeded and then it was by My Winnipeg. For my reaction to a few other features go here.

Yet I’d have to say I almost prefer his short works because they can be that much more explosive and consistently brilliant and for those unfamiliar with Maddin it is here that you can get a sense for his style and see if its to your liking before investing your time and potentially money in them.

So below you will find many of Maddin’s short films culled from many locations about the internets enjoy! Before proceeding please note that quite a few of these films are NSFW (Not Safe for Work) and Parental guidance is suggested. Also, since I found so many this post also constitutes a Make Your Own Film Festival entry which is a series I’ll add to quite a bit soon.

The Heart of the World

Sombra Dolorosa

Spanky: To The Pier and Back

Zookeeper Workbook

Fuseboy

Sissy Boy Slap Party

The previous films I first viewed thanks to a blog post by Roger Ebert. The film below is available on The National Film Board’s (Canada) site.

http://media1.nfb.ca/medias/flash/ONFflvplayer-gama.swf

Now here are some I found through YouTube searches:

It’s My Mother’s Birthday Today

Hospital Fragment

Fancy, Fancy Being Rich

Odilon Redon or The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Moves Towards Infinity

Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair

A Trip to the Orphanage

Odin’s Shield Maiden

Your Online Georges Méliès Film Festival

Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield in Hugo (Paramount)

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Here’s another blog trying to prove how clever they are by linking to all the visual references in Hugo.” Wrong. Granted it’d be more painstaking to jot down the shots and match them to those in the film. However, the purpose of this post is a bit broader.

I have linked to anything and everything I could find. Some are referenced in Hugo, some aren’t. What I really want to people to do is to take a few minutes and watch some of there. Some are quite short. However, I’ve also created this post using just one website.

The internet archive is a great resource for all kinds of material but especially films which have entered the public domain. You can stream and download all kinds of great movies for free.

If you enjoy these movies, as I suspect you will, in their more primitive degraded state then you can look to Flicker Alley who have released many great sets of Georges Méliès rediscovered and restored works on DVD.

Enjoy!

If you ever wonder where your dreams come from, look around: this is where they’re made.
-Ben Kingsley, Hugo

<a href="http://www.archive.org/details/Lauberge-ensorceletheBewitchedInn1897&quot; title="The Bewitched Inn (1897)”>

A Terrible Night (1896)

The Devil in a Convent (1899)

<a href='http://www.archive.org/details/Cinderella_601&#039;>Cinderella (1899)

Joan of Arc (1899) [TINTED; Third-Party Voice Over Added]

The Man with a Head in the Cabinet (circa 1900)

The One Man Orchestra (1900)

The Devil and the Statue (1901)

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

The Monster (1903)

The Infernal Cauldron

The Impossible Voyage (1904)

The Infernal Cakewalk (1903)

Frolics of Satan (1906) [TINTED]

The Palace of the Arabian Nights (1906)

The Eclipse (1907)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1907)

Good Glue Sticks (1907)

The Devilish Tenant (1909) [TINTED]

Movies Viewed in 2011

This will be one of two running lists I will maintain. This list of all films seen in the year will assist in the assembly of a list of people and films to consider for my end of year awards.

Assorted Shorts and Features

1. Trevor
2. Juego de Niños
3. A Son’s Promise
4. Patrik, Age 1.5
5. Chasing 3000
6. Sin Destino
7. Thunderpants
8. Damned if You Don’t
9. Tom Brown’s School Days (1940)
10. Careful
11. Twilight of the Ice Nymphs
12. Time to Leave
13. Romulus, My Father
14. Following
15. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
16. Shiver
17. Army of Crime
18. Enter the Void
19. Alamar
20. Dogtooth
21. Hercules Against the Moon Men
22. Let Me In
23. Little Men (1935)
24. Boogeyman
25. Shutter
26. Mrs. Miniver
27. Blake of Scotland Yard (1937; theatrical cut)
28. Boys Town
29. Men of Boys Town
30. Modern Times
31. Witness for the Prosecution
32. The Champ
33. Manhattan Melodrama
34. Peck’s Bad Boy with the Circus
35. Peck’s Bad Boy
36. Frankenstein (1910; Edison)
37. Bout de Zan Steals an Elephant
38. La jetée
39. Is Anybody There?
40. Rabid Dogs
41. Kidnapped
42. Four Times That Night
43. 5 Dolls for an August Moon
44. Baron Blood
45. Bay of Blood
46. Roy Colt & Winchester Jack
47. House of Exorcism
48. Lisa and the Devil
49. The Girl Who Knew Too Much
50. Knives of the Avenger
51. Kill, Baby…Kill
52. Night of the Hunter
53. Black Sunday
54. Black Sabbath
55. Texas Chain Saw Massacre
56. Sounds Like
57. Right to Die
58. Valerie on the Stairs
59. The Washingtonians
103. My Boy Jack
104. Pooh’s Heffalump Movie
107. Boy of the Streets
108. Triumph of the Will
111. King of the Rocketmen
112. Etoiles: Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet
113. Friday the 13th: Part VII: The New Blood
114. Friday the 13th: Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan
115. Devil Fish
116. Attack of the Giant Leeches
117. B.T.K.
118. Pod People
119. The Giant Gila Monster
120. Piranha (1978)
121. Quicksilver Highway
122. Bambi
123. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
124. Jason Goes to Hell
125. Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
126. Demented
127. Leave Her To Heaven
128. Oceans
129. Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
130. The Amazing Transparent Man
131. Basket Case
132. Blood Bath
133. Manhunt in Space
134. Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars
135. Dance of the Dead
136. Dark Floors
137. The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies
138. Demented
139. Shoot the Piano Player
143. 8 Femmes
144. The Redeemer: The Son of Satan
145. The Offspring
146. Red Zone Cuba
147. The Complete Metropolis (1927/2010)
148. What About Juvenile Delinquency
149. The Atomic Brain
150. Until the Light Takes Us
151. The Girl in Lovers’ Lane
152. Somers Town
153.Dumb & Dumber
155. Speech: Platform Position and Posture
156. Bloody Birthday
157. Posture Pals
158. Appreciating Our Parents
159. The Unearthly
160. Beginning of the End
161. The Girl in the Gold Boots
161. Tormented
162. The Indestructable Man
164. C.H.U.D.
165. Hamlet
169. Are You Ready for Marriage?
170. Charlie
171. Racket Girls
172. Sex & Breakfast
173. Milo
174. Tom and Lola
177. Martin
178. Dead Silence
179. The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos
180. The Truck Farmer
181. I Accuse My Parents
182. Johnnie at the Fair
183. The Rebel Set
184. The First Spaceship to Venus
185. Die Wilden Kerle 2
187. Mad Monster
189. Earth
190. Warrior of the Lost World
191. The Beatniks
192. Mickey
193. The Crawling Eye
194. Hard Rock Zombies
196. Gunslinger
197. Easy A
198. What To Do On A Date
199. Swamp Diamonds
200. Junior Rodeo Daredevils
201. The Killer Shrews
202. Secret Agent Super Dragon
203. Circus on Ice
204. Monster A Go-Go
205. Crash of Moons
207. Monsters
209. The Nickel Children
210. The Corpse Vanishes
211. Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead
212. Phantasm IV: Oblivion
213. Child’s Play 3
214. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2
215. Echo (Ekko)
216. Teacher’s Pet
217. Saving Silverman
219. The Naked Gun
221. It’s Alive
222. Ballad of a Soldier
223. Black Orpheus
226. Bed and Board
227. Porcile
228. Knife in the Water
229. Sans Soleil
230. The Invisible Man
231. The Neverending Story
232. The Brood
235. A Dennis the Menace Christmas
236. Charcoal People
237. Robot Monster
240. Tell Your Children
250. Harpoon: Whale Watching Massacre
251. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
252. Reservoir Dogs
253. Jackie Brown
254. Pulp Fiction
255. Funhouse
263. The Box Man
264. Roads to Koktebel
265. The Howling
268. Biutiful
276. On the Shoulders of Giants
277. The Fab Five
279. Bride Wars
282. The Fugitive Kind
283. The Flyboys (aka Sky Kids)
285. Estômago
286. Cheiro de Ralo
287. Date Night
288. The Ballad of Nessie
290. Birdemic: Shock and Terror
294. Puppet Master
295. The Boogeyman (1980)
296. Demonic Toys
297. Smoke (Dym)
301. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
302. Screamtime
303. Dolls
305. Troll 2
306. Dark Tower
307. Dolly Dearest
309. Hellraiser IV: Bloodline
311. Hellraiser V: Inferno
312. Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker
313. Logan
314. Hellraiser: Deader
315. Hellraiser: Hellworld
316. Tremors 2: Aftershocks
317. The Concert
320. The Baby’s Room
321. The Horde
322. From Within
323. Duck Soup
324. Flying Deuces
335. Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia
341. Touch of Evil
342. Frankenstein
343. Bride of Frankenstein
344. Son of Frankenstein
345. Ghost of Frankenstein
346. House of Frankenstein
348. The Lost Boys
349. Planet Terror
350. Death Proof
351. Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice
352. Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest
353. Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering
354. The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (2010; TV)
355. Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror
356. Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return
357. Children of the Corn: Revelation
358. Children of the Corn (2009)
359. Gamera
360. Gamera vs. Guiron
364. Creature from the Black Lagoon
365. Gamera vs. Zigra
366. Children of the Corn (1984)
367. Gamera vs. Baguron
368. Gamera vs. Gaos
374. The Thing (1982)
375. The Lion King (2011, 3D re-release)
376. The Monster Squad
377. In the Mouth of Madness
378. They Live
381. Escape From New York
385. Demons 6: De Profundis (aka The Black Cat)
388. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
390. Fantasia
391. Fantasia 2000
392. Dumbo
393. Nic and Tristan Go Mega Dega
395. Strike
396. Glumov’s Diary
397. The Cold Eyes of Fear
401. Ghoulies
402. To Let
403. Spider
404. Dorm
405. Session 9
406. Die Wilden Kerle 3: Die Attack Der Bestiegen Biester
407. Der Wilden Kerle 5: Hinter Dem Horizont
411. The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad
412. I Bury the Living
413. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die
414. Burnt Offerings
415. A Slit-Mouthed Woman a.k.a Carved
416. Trick ‘r Treat
417. Little Hercules
418. The Catman of Paris
419. Hellion: The Devil’s Playground a.k.a Cubbyhouse
420. Mad Monster Party
421. Forget Me Not
422. Videodrome
423. Return of the Living Dead
424. Audrey Rose
426. Wicked Little Things
427. The Chair
428. The Exorcist
434. Psycho
435. Final Destination
436. High Tension
437. Final Destination 2
440. Final Destination 3
441. The Final Destination
442. [REC]
443. Lake Mungo
445. Blood River
446. The Nameless
448. Boys’ Reformatory
449. [REC] 2
450. Pontypool
451. Face to Face
454. Taris
455. A Propos de Nice
456. Zéro de Conduite
457. L’Atalante
458. Pepito y La lámpara Maravillosa
459. Who Can Kill a Child?
462. The Wild Child
463. The White Ribbon
464. The Omen
465. The Fly (1986)
466. Jurassic Park
467.Berlin Alexanderplatz
468. Pit Pony (1997)
469. Burning Secret
470. Last Day of Summer
471. The Legend of Hell House
474. Out in the Silence
475. Carrie
476. Frankenhooker
477. Black Moon
478. Rare Exports
479. Rare Exports Inc.
480. Rare Exports Inc. – The Official Safety Instructions
483. Mallrats
488. Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis
492. Creepshow 2

Academy Award Nominated and Commended Shorts

60. Madagascar, A Journey Diary
61. Let’s Pollute
62. The Gruffalo
63. The Lost Thing
64. Day & Night
65. Urs
66. The Cow That Wanted to Be a Hamburger
67. The Confession
68. Wish 143
69. Na Wewe
70. The Crush
71. God of Love

Shorts of Jan Svankmajer

72. The Last Trick
73. Historia Naturae
74. Johann Sebastian Bach
75. Don Juan
76. The Garden
77. The Castle of Otranto
78. Darkness/Light/Darkness
80. Manly Games
81. The Ossuary

Internet Archive and Assorted Shorts

82. The Black Imp
83. Satan in Prison
84. Robinson Crusoe
85. A Trip to the Moon
86. The Kid
87. A Dog’s Life
95. Un Chien Andalou
96. Donald in Mathmagic Land
97. Six Men Getting Sick
98. The Alphabet
99. Lumière
100. The Amputee
105. The Grandmother
106. The Cowboy and the Frenchman
109. Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers
110. Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave
111. Wallace & Gromit: A Grand Day Out
167. Displaced
270-273 Stille Nacht 1-4
288. The Ballad of Nessie
299. Anemic Cinema
447. Pardon Our Pups

Gray Area Films

88. The King’s Speech
89. True Grit
90. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 3D

Eligible Titles for BAM 2011

91. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
92. The Green Hornet
93. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 3D
94. The Rite
95. I Am Number Four
100. Unknown
101. Battle: Los Angeles
102. The Adjustment Bureau
140. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
141. Winter in Wartime
142. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
154. Insidious
159. Source Code
163. Hanna
166. Soul Surfer
168. The Wrong Ferrari
175. Hop
176. Scream 4
186. Win Win
188. African Cats
194. Prom
195. Fast Five
206. Thor
208. Meek’s Cutoff
218. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
220. Bridesmaids
224. Alabama Moon
225. That’s What I Am
233. The Hangover Part II
234. The First Beautiful Thing
238. X-Men: First Class
239. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
242. Super 8
241. The Human Resources Manager
243. Brotherhood
244. Even the Rain
245. I Saw the Devil
246. Black Death
247. Toast
248. In a Better World
249. The Tree of Life
256. Hobo with a Shotgun
257. Trollhunter
258. Green Lantern
259. The Art of Getting By
260. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summmer
261. Midnight in Paris
262. The Other Woman
266. Kaboom
267. Bad Teacher
269. White Lion
270. Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes
274. NEDs
275. The Way Back
278. Big Mama’s House: Like Father, Like Son
280. Olhos Azuis
281. As Melhores Coisas do Mundo
284. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
289. Winnie the Pooh
291. Rubber
292. Zookeeper
293. The Resident
298. The Ward
300. Heartbeats
304. Cowboys & Aliens
308. Captain America: The First Avenger
310. Crazy, Stupid, Love
318. The Suite Life Movie
319. Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure
325. 13 Assassins
326. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
327. Terri
328. The Inheritance
329. Stake Land
330. Glee: The 3D Concert Movie
331. Senna
332. Final Destination 5
333. Dream House
334. The Reef
336. Fright Flick
337. The Help
338. Fright Night
339. Conan the Barbarian
340. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D
346. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
347. Our Idiot Brother
351. The Hole
352. Shark Night 3D
361. Creature
362. Dolphin Tale
363. The Tree
366. The Beaver
369. Super
370. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
371. Red State
372. Bereavement
373. Le Quattro Volte
379. Potiche
380. The Music Never Stopped
382. Housemaid
383. Exorcismus
384. The Colors of the Mountain
386. Drive
387. Contagion
389. Hesher
394. Abduction
398. 50/50
399. The Guard
400. Brighton Rock
408. Catching Hell
409. Renée
410. Real Steel
414. The Dotted Line
421. The Thing
425. Charismatic
429. Paranormal Activity 3
430. The Three Musketeers
431. Fireflies in the Garden
432. Martha Marcy May Marlene
433. Take Shelter
438. The Real Rocky
439. White Irish Drinkers
444. Atrocious
452. Puss in Boots
453. Unguarded
460. Turkey Bowl
461. Tower Heist
462. Anonymous
472. J. Edgar
473. 11-11-11
475. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 1
476. Into the Abyss
481. Hugo
482. The Muppets
484. Melancholia
485. Attack the Block
486. Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension
487. Game Time: Tackling the Past
489. Bill Cunningham New York
490. Beginners
491. Turtle: The Incredible Journey
493. Deadtime Stories 2 In Progress
494. Limitless
495. Take Me Home Tonight
496. Life in a Day
497. Le Havre
498. Good Neighbors
499. A Borrowed Life
500. “Master Harold”…and the Boys
501. The Arbor
502. Poetry
503. Neverland
504. Deadtime Sories: Volume 2
505. Buck
506. Snowmen
507. The Chameleon
508. A Better Life
509. The Sitter
510. New Year’s Eve
511. The Skin I Live In
512. We Bought a Zoo
513. The Sleeping Beauty
514. Gnomeo & Juliet
515. Page One: Inside the New York Times
516. Adrift

Weird Wednesday #2- Guy Maddin

So in digging through Netflix one day I found out that one of the most idiosyncratic, unique and creative filmmakers in all the world, Canadian Guy Maddin, has quite a few films available to stream.

Now it is rather difficult to encapsulate Maddin’s style but I will attempt to do so as to get a brief understanding of who he is and what he’s about in part to understand my disappointment in the first film.

Maddin’s films usually employ voice over, they are typically shot and styled like an antiquated film whether it be a silent, early sound or other classical techniques are employed, the films cuts quickly and chaotically at times like dreams, films may be tinted or in black and white, in terms of cinematography strange angles and overexposed imagery is not uncommon. Story-wise some sort of family drama is taken to the nth degree and the strange is commonplace and treated as such and not exploited. Due to the emphasis on technique and narrative there is usually not a dependence on performance.

Twilight of the Ice Nymphs

Pascale Bussiéres, Shelley Duvall, Ross McMillan and R.H. Tomson in Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997)

First, a disclaimer: Netflix claims that they stream both this and Archangel as one, they do not. Now the observations I made on Maddin’s usual style are based on viewing many titles long and short. This film is a departure from that formula, however, that is not why it fails to compel in my estimation.

In terms of camera-work and editing the film has a very simplistic zero degree approach most of the time. The camera does not draw attention to its presence, however, the cinematography does manage to be bothersome. You’ve heard of desserts being too sweet, well the same applies for eye candy. The colors are lush the sun-like light is plentiful but the palette is too crowded with brashness and boldness and blown out images such that its hard to look at.

Maddin’s dialogue, as well as his narration, can be quite poetic and beautiful as is evidenced by My Winnipeg, however, while the text of this film on the surface read wonderfully it is rarely performed as such. Furthermore, when your text is quasi-Shakespearean in terms of imagery and few of the actors carry it off convincingly it also becomes an assault on the ears.

Granted there are good performances (Krige and Duvall) and the narrative which starts non-existent does eventually reveal itself, however, it takes far too long and at that point interest has been lost.

Careful

Careful

Now, before proceeding I have included video links to some shorts below which will give you a taste of this man’s style and why it’s so easy to fall in love with it.

Careful is the kind of film that plays right into Maddin’s wheelhouse, for lack of better words this is the kind of film you expect from Maddin. The tale is a strange one taking place in a fictional Teutonic village in the Alps wherein all loud noises are frowned upon lest they cause an avalanche. This reserve permeates the fabric of the city and infiltrates the private lives of its people.

All the families seemingly have skeletons in their closets which are slowly but surely brought to light. However, things don’t play out in a typical fashion. there is heavy usage of tinting, odd angles and a decidedly 1930s approach and technique to all aspects of the film.

The film starts off with the narrator talking over cuts in a mock-educational film wherein life in the town is described. The tale ends up being split into a part one and part two despite only running 99 minutes. Yet with this throwback style the narrative is not reserved as there are severed limbs, murder, suicide, incest and more.

Despite how disparate in quality and style I found two films Maddin is always exciting and is worth getting to know if you have the stomach for his brand of weird.

My Winnipeg (trailer)

Sparky: To the Pier and Back

Maybe the best illustration of how his mind works. A simply concept, shot uniquely and cut frenetically.

Sombra Dolorosa

Film History Friday #1


Better late than never I always say.

So for Film History Friday my goal is to look back at a filmmaker, event, or whatever in the annals of the history of film that has had a profound impact on the course of the artform. Aiding me greatly in this quest will be the wonderful website known at The Internet Archive this is a fantastic site that archives all sorts of content online, from old web pages, to books, music and films in the public domain.

It’s all well and good to talk about films but the best way to learn about them is to see them so there will be some video links below. My subject for this particular installment is the magnificent Georges Méliès. He is frequently referred to as the first wizard of cinema. A magician at heart, Méliès truly was the first man that demonstrated the boundlessness that film has in its ability to enchant and amaze. The first two films below feature wonderfully blocked, I dare say choreographed, shots wherein cuts that are nearly invisible create the most wondrous illusions. Truly now the tact of cutting and making an object vanish is old hat but keep in mid the era, the lack of sophistication of audiences and also it must be said that Méliès performs these illusion with such a deft hand, with such aplomb that it brought a smile to my face. There’s such unabashed joy in many of these films that it is likely to communicate to audiences even more than a century later.

This first film shows you a very basic demonstration of what Méliès is about. It’s a short simple tale of a many being driven slowly mad by a mischievous imp playing tricks on him.

The Black Imp (1905)

Video

Here we see Méliès upping his game. While this film was made just two years later you must take into account the fact that he is credited on the IMDb with having directed 555 films between 1896 and 1913. Even dealing mostly in shorts that’s a ridiculous output. The point is the learning curve was high and he can tell a simple story in one film knowing he’d get to push the envelope in another. If you liked the first film you’ll love this one.

Satan In Prison (1907)

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The video posted below is a fragment. It’s a piece of an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe that he did. It seems to be all that remains. Many of his films its sad to say are lost. The fact remains that a lot of silents are gone and we only know of them because the text for titles was copyrighted. Film preservation combined with the short-shelf life and combustible nature of of silver nitrate stock made things difficult. It’s also interesting to note that the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and the forthcoming film, deals with Méliès in a fictional sense and his lost films also.

Robinson Crusoe -fragment- (1902)

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I was only going to post three but since that was a fragment I think one more is in order. This is the film that made me fall in love with him. Even 108 years later this is still amazing stuff.

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

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