||[Sep. 22nd, 2003|12:43 am]
Another movie watching binge:|
My Man Godfrey
The Iowa City Public Library's collections is well-sprinkled with classic films, and I'm making my way through them. This contrasts the down and out with the rich, a popular theme during the Great Depression, but this is a comedy that is as crisp and fluent as you'll ever see. William Powell is brilliant as Godfrey the Butler. Carol Lombard is as good as the role requires, but the roll is stagily giddy; I suspect she had loads more to offer. The real star is cinematic technique, starting with the credits, where the title and credits are neon signs in a waterfront scene the camera pans across, which settles on the Brooklyn Bridge (though the city in the movie is never named), that lap-dissolves from the matte painting to a live scene. The photography and editing are fantastic; I don't know how much monkeying they did in the digital transfer, but the blacks, whites, and greys are sumptious.
Kaspar Hauser or "Every Man For Himself And God Against All." This is one of Werner Herzog's best known and loved movies, and is a great introduction to his style. For Herzog, an unusually straightforward telling of a historical event -- a mysterious young man appears who apparently knows only one sentence in a human language, who is later, just as mysteriously murdered. I saw this in college and loved it, and I enjoyed it a second time around.
Herzog is really a film-maker's film-maker; this movie is full of arresting visual imagery, from the wind-tossed rye field in the beginning, to the strange sequences that represent Kaspar's inner imaginings. These, according to the commentary track, were done by putting a telephoto lens after a fish-eye lens. The pace is pretty slow here; Herzog isn't afraid to let a shot go about 3 times longer than a Hollywood director because he wants you to really see it.
The real attraction is the inimitable Bruno S., the non-actor Herzog found for the film. I won't duplicate his bio but he is absolutely perfect for the role. The look of perpetual surprise on his face, his gait and his diction are unlike anything a 'real' actor would ever do.
If you ever get the chance, check out Bruno's only other feature, Herzog's Stroszek, which is funny, heartbreaking, and an outlandishly bizarre vision of America through Herzog's eyes.
Actually, every Herzog film I've ever seen has been crucial. The pace, always deliberate, may throw you. I've heard from people who've thought his films were boring. But once you surrender to his method, they're the sort of movies that make the real world seem strange when they're over.
And he's prolific; there's over 40 features on http://www.imdb.com. He made a fantastic vampire movie in Nosferatu. He explores small-town madness in Heart of Glass. And he sets a cast of dwarves loose to trash everything around them in "Even Dwarves Start Small." And all of his films are leavened with a quirky, dry humor.