Donahue, Hitchcock, Lang, Scorsese and Tedeschi, West

The Sacrament (Ti West, 2014). Following a couple elegant, artful horror features, West finally goes where all modern directors with a propensity to scare must. The Sacrament is a “found footage” that relies on the conceit of a couple Vice News reporters who tag along when a fashion photographer acquaintance goes looking for his sister, who has become a resident with a cult-like commune that has recently relocated to a remote area in South America. The plot draws heavily on the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, right down to the notorious beverage of choice when it comes time to draw the experiment … Continue reading Donahue, Hitchcock, Lang, Scorsese and Tedeschi, West

Arzner, Byrkit, Hitchcock, Pakula, Tartakovsky

Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943). Though he would sometimes demure at the question, this was typically the title Hitchcock offered up as his default answer when asked about his personal favorite among his hefty, dazzling oeuvre. I can’t really back him up on that, even though I can completely understand how this one would loom large for the Master. He’d made great films before this (The Lady Vanishes, Rebecca, and Suspicion among them), but there’s something about this one that feels like the Hitchcock cinematic voice locked in for good. The film follows Charlie Newton (Joseph Cotten), a … Continue reading Arzner, Byrkit, Hitchcock, Pakula, Tartakovsky

Duke, Hitchcock, Lang, Lorenz, Rees

Trouble with the Curve (Robert Lorenz, 2012). A longtime Clint Eastwood collaborator–multiple credits as a producer and assistant director–makes his feature directorial debut, and it predictably looks like one of his pal’s stodgier efforts, right down to the venerable actor doing a variation of his Gran Torino gravel-voiced grump complaining about the kids these days. In Trouble with the Curve, Eastwood plays a old baseball scout who’s disparaged by the moneyball adherents in the deluxe offices, even though there’s some things you just can’t tell about a prospect from looking at a computer screen. The film is painfully simplistic, setting … Continue reading Duke, Hitchcock, Lang, Lorenz, Rees

Cianfrance, Hitchcock, Levine, Sonnenfeld, Zinnemann

Sabotage (Alfred Hitchcock, 1936). My instinct is to refer to this as an early Alfred Hitchcock film, but he was a decade and almost two dozen films into his career by this point. What’s more, this was released the year after The 39 Steps, so while Hitchcock may not have been The Master yet, he was a seasoned, skilled and respected filmmaker already. This was toward the end of the run of his British-made films, and there’s a certain added restraint–even somewhat pedestrian quality–to the narrative about a terrorist group staging bombings around London. It notably adheres to all of … Continue reading Cianfrance, Hitchcock, Levine, Sonnenfeld, Zinnemann

Garnett, Gondry, Hitchcock, Sturges, Susser

The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett, 1946). This adaptation of James M. Cain’s 1934 novel is a film noir classic. It’s an exemplar of the form, and perhaps the perfect introduction to the dark charms of the sub-genre built around the basest of human instincts and the shadows in which the manifestation of those urges are obscured, if only because it spells out its duplicitous so plainly. It’s also, sad to say, only a middling film, unfurling its plot with a rushed anxiousness that sometimes leaves behind necessary depth and character development. Tay Garnett’s directing is moody, but also … Continue reading Garnett, Gondry, Hitchcock, Sturges, Susser

C.K., Gluck, Hitchcock, Yates

Louis C.K.: Hilarious (Louis C.K., 2010). It’s probably too much to ask that a stand-up comedy concert film reach the artistic peaks of the only example of the form that can reasonably by called cinematic art. There are limitations built right into filming a comedian on stage and too much effort to compensate for them just leads to undue fuss. Better then to be as unadorned as possible and count on the material to make the endeavor worthwhile. C.K. brings the same dedicated understatement to his directing work that shapes his darkly brilliant FX series. Luckily, C.K. is near the … Continue reading C.K., Gluck, Hitchcock, Yates

Edel, Farrow, Hitchcock, Jordan, Siegel

His Kind of Woman (John Farrow, 1951). How many other actors completely own a genre of film the way that Robert Mitchum does film noir? It’s like he was born into a delivery room filled with murky shadows and cigarette smoke, the doctor instructing the nurse to slap his bottom by growling, “Give him what’s comin’ to him, and make him sing when you do it.” He moves through this story of scheming and duplicity at a Mexican resort as if he’s walking through his own front door, tossing of aloof wisecracks with the ease of a guy who’s already … Continue reading Edel, Farrow, Hitchcock, Jordan, Siegel