Monday, August 26, 2019

Hitchcockian: François Truffaut 's The Soft Skin (1964)

 ...For the Vive la France Blogathon...

35 years after his death in 1984, François Truffaut is best known as the most successful of the youthful filmmakers to emerge from the nouvelle vague (New Wave) movement that swept French cinema in the late 1950s. But before he would write and direct his first full-length feature in 1959, Truffaut would make his name as an enfant terrible critic at the influential post-war film journal Cahiers du cinema (Notebooks on Cinema). It was Truffaut who authored a famous/infamous January 1954 article, an impassioned and polemic piece, that advanced the “auteur theory.”  This theory maintains that auteur films reflect the filmmaker’s personal/artistic vision and possess an identifiable style along with recurring themes and motifs. Alfred Hitchcock, a director revered by Cahiers’ young critics, personified the auteur concept and Truffaut was one especially smitten with his work. He would author 27 articles on Hitchcock over the course of the 1950s.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

"Vive la France!" - the Blogathon

Welcome to the Vive la France! blogathon. My co-host, Christian Esquevin of Silver Screen Modes, and I have been thrilled that so many joined in with us to celebrate the films of France along with non-French films set in France. Our participating bloggers have chosen an exciting range of subjects - covering nine decades - we know you will enjoy.

Blog post titles in bold contain links to each piece - click-and-read on!

A very big thank you to all the wonderful bloggers who took part in our blogathon. Who knows, maybe we'll do it again next year - on Bastille Day...

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The French Roots of Noir: Two Films by Marcel Carné with Jean Gabin

...For the Vive la France Blogathon...

In 1946 four relatively recent American films inspired Italian-born French film critic Nino Frank to pen an article for the August 1946 issue of the newly launched film periodical L’écran française. Titled “A New Kind of Police Drama: the Criminal Adventure,” the article pointed out that these films - The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, Laura and Murder, My Sweet - seemed more concerned with psychological motivations and undercurrents than crime solving. In his piece, Frank would use the term film noir and from then on be commonly given credit for coining the expression.

Years later the research of film studies professor Charles O’Brien, among others, would reveal that the term film noir had already been in use in France by the late 1930s in reviews and articles written about emerging French films of a certain kind.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Coming August 25 & 26: The Vive la France! Blogathon

On July 14, France's Bastille Day, the Vive la France! blogathon was officially announced. The event will be hosted by this blog and Silver Screen Modes. Originally set for Sunday, August 25, we have expanded the event and added Monday, August 26, to better accommodate all the bloggers who have signed up to participate.  Our subject is broad and includes just about "everything" France/French-related. For example, French films, movies set in France, films or profiles of stars and directors and writers and cinematographers, etc., of the French cinema, as well as French actors, directors, etc., who would have major Hollywood (and/or international) careers. There are so many possibilities. See Silver Screen Modes' announcement post for more background on French cinema.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

5 Favorite Films of the '50s for Classic Movie Day

The Final Five

Who among committed classic film bloggers could possibly resist the chance to join a blogathon honoring National Classic Movie Day? I couldn’t, but this year’s blog-fest posed a tough challenge.

The Classic Film and TV Café aka/Rick, its founder, is once more hosting a National Classic Movie Day Blogathon. This year participants were challenged to choose and elaborate on their five favorite films of the ‘50s. Only five. From the ‘50s. Impossible. I made the effort and eventually whittled my list down to 10 or so films, but other titles continued to pop into my head, so I decided to go at it from another angle.

What I’ve done is take a look at the films of two popular stars, two filmmakers and a studio that were all at their peak during the decade and then selected one favorite from each out of their 1950s filmographies. Here goes… 

Friday, May 3, 2019

For Those Who Think Noir: Where to get your film noir fix this Spring

Sketch for Mildred Pierce (1945) by Warner Bros. Art Director Anton Grot

Don Malcolm, long-time festival programmer of film noir from every corner of the globe, is of the strong opinion that "any time of year is a good time for noir." I agree. And so, though it is sunshiny and balmy where I live, with blossoms blooming everywhere, I have scoured the Internet and my email inbox to see what's to be found lurking in the dim-lit dark alley of film noir this Spring.

Monday, April 8, 2019





Audrey Hepburn. One of the most beloved stars in the history of Hollywood. An Oscar winner at age 25, she took the Best Actress award with her first starring role, as a runaway princess in Roman Holiday (1953). She would be nominated in the same category four times more and be honored, in 1993, with the Academy's Jean Hersholt humanitarian award. She was and is, 26 years after her death, a revered international style icon. And she has long been admired around the globe for her philanthropic work on behalf of the children of the world; in 1988 she embarked on her first mission for UNICEF, to Ethiopia, and in 1989 she was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Friday, March 22, 2019



On a Wednesday afternoon at the end of February, I slogged through the rain, my car moving at a crawl across a bridge mired in traffic, to the east side of the San Francisco Bay. Into wild and woolly Berkeley, California, I drove. Berkeley, that university town known far and wide for its political uprisings, fine school and lingering spirit of the late 1960s. But my visit on that rainy day had nothing to do with politics or school, though it did have something to do with a bygone era. I was on my way to see a movie, a very special screening at Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive of one of Hollywood’s great classics, a quintessential romp of a romantic comedy released at the tail-end of the Pre-Code era, It Happened One Night (1934).

Friday, February 15, 2019

Movie Music, the Communicating Link

Bernard Herrmann, likely the most celebrated of classic era film composers today, who wrote the scores  for Citizen Kane, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho and Taxi Driver among countless others, once said of the function of the film score:

Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock
“I feel that music on the screen can seek out and intensify the inner thoughts of the characters. It can invest a scene with terror, grandeur, gaiety, or misery. It can propel narrative swiftly forward or slow it down. It often lifts mere dialogue into the realm of poetry.”

This is surely true of Herrmann’s own remarkable work for Welles, Hitchcock, Scorsese and others, as it is of the contributions of Max Steiner to films like Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, The Letter and Now, Voyager and David Raksin’s work on such films as Laura and The Bad and the Beautiful. Herrmann’s contention has been borne out over the decades through scores by the likes of Franz Waxman, Miklos Rozsa and the all of Hollywood’s “big five” Golden Age composers. Beginning with Jaws and Star Wars, the prodigious work of John Williams continues to prove Herrmann’s point as do the scores of modern era film composers such as Alexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel.