Posts Tagged ‘ film ’

Peter Lorre: The Aggressive Mimicry of His Defining Roles

Great villains have the ability to attract and destroy. Like predators in the wild, these characters trick their prey  by posing as something familiar, harmless, or friendly. It’s a form of aggressive mimicry. These monsters of reality and fiction hunt without the world knowing it, a quality Peter Lorre brings to his performances, ensnaring the audience with unpredictable characters. The dangerous and unassuming  Lorre made the most bizarre and terrifying characters unbelievably magnetic.

Lorre’s career has been defined by several iconic roles: the first being in Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece, M. And while his face remains confined to the film’s conclusion, his presence in the film is undeniable. Mostly heard offscreen enchanting children with a wholesome whistle, Lorre remains in the shadows for much of the film’s runtime. The once banal act of whistling shifts the atmosphere. The killer approaches and dread takes over.

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Big Budget Godard: How Contempt Tells Us How He Really Feels

Fritz Lang directs his

Fritz Lang directs his

In 1963, French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard was hired by an Italian production company to make a movie. Godard decided to adapt the Italian novel The Ghost at Noon and was asked by his producers to cast Bridget Bardot and Jack Palance and include some nudity—because why else would people see a movie. What they got was pure Godard, a critique on commercial filmmaking and a reflection of his long-suffering marriage to Anna Karina.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Continue reading

“Rear Window” Talks Without Talking


Tired of endless exposition and character that simply tell you what they’re going to do instead of just shutting up and doing it? A great film communicates ideas by using cinematic elements rather than simply have a character describe what that person is or isn’t. Fully formed characters, well, characterize their attributes; they don’t say they’re sensitive and like long walks on the beach, they actually imbue sensitivity and go on long walks on the beach. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is prime example of this. Continue reading

Phil Spector, David Mamet, and the Artifice of Biopic

Before David Mamet’s Phil Spector gets underway, the director is careful to remind us that the preceding movie is just that, a movie. As the black screen and white text remind us of this, Mamet reinforces the film’s inherit phoniness. The viewer is not seeing events panning out live, but rather they are watching a dramatic interpretation of the trial of Phil Spector starring Al Pacino. But this warning is redundant. Of course we know it’s a movie. So why does Mamet insist on reminding us?

Mamet frequently tests the audience’s suspension of disbelief. Throughout the film, Phil Spector resembles real life, but only an interpretation of real life. Sets are sparse, lighting is exceedingly bright or awkwardly dark, and the performances bounce from the brutally naturalistic to the strictly stilted. All the while, Mamet parades his irrefutable proof for Spector’s innocence. But, again, it’s all fake.

Phil Spector Disclaimer

HBO and Mamet remind us that this movie is a movie.

Spector is highlighted by a number of factors that construct a case for Spector’s innocence. This proof is then held against the artifice of the film. Still, Mamet dares his audience to accept his fake interpretation as real. Pacino grabs the viewer with a sympathetic and infectious performance, while Mirren and Tambor sell Mamet’s script, detailing the reasons for Spector’s acquittal. Throughout the movie, Mamet makes careful use of the idea of playacting, dramatization, and who we are on and off the camera. In a sense, the audience becomes the jury, and the movie is a courtroom recreation. Continue reading