In this Charlie Chaplin flick we follow the little man or the Tramp as he prospects for gold in the Yukon. All alone and cold he stumbles upon a cabin where a corrupt man lives. However, the weather wreaks havoc and the Tramp finds himself eventually left with a fellow prospector. After a time the two friends split up. In the city the little man finds love while his former partner meets up with trouble on the road. Eventually they do reunite, strike it rich, and become millionaires. Along the way there are many characteristic Charlie Chaplin antics. It is extraordinary, because for a film that is not a “talkie,” The Gold Rush is surprisingly complex with humor, drama, and romance. If you take into consideration the era of this film, it is very good.
Charlie Chaplin will be continued in the next review…
Ben Hur, directed by William Wyler and starring Charlton Heston, tells the tale of Christ in connection with the young nobleman-turned slave, Judah Ben Hur. We follow Hur as a friend turns against him and he and his mother and sister are imprisoned. Soon he is doomed to a life rowing on a galley but on the way there a kind , mysterious stranger gives him a drink to quench his thirst. It takes a few years but Hur’s fortune turns and he is no longer a slave but a great chariot racer. The time comes to seek revenge and he beats his former friend in the ultimate chariot race. However, his victory is shorlived since he learns his kin are now lepers and the man who showed him kindness years before is now to be crucified. Returning the favor, he gives the suffering man water before He is hung on the cross. Despite the man’s death, miraculously his mother and sister are freed from leprosy. This epic is monumental and tells a wonderful story intertwined with the Gospel.
Starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron with director Vincente Minneli, this musical follows an American painter in Paris (Kelly) as he struggles with life and love. Jerry Mulligan is a painter who loves Paris and has made friends with many of the locals. The only problem is that he has no money. That all changes when a rich patron begins to sponsor him and his luck begins to change. Soon he becomes enchanted with a French girl (Caron) and after initial conflict they try to meet up whenever they can. At the same time Jerry is tied up with his patron and Lisa is engaged to a kind Frenchman who Jerry knows. When Jerry learns this he is devastated, however in the end he does get the girl. Although the final dance sequence seemed out of place, awkward, and too long, much of the rest of the musical is enjoyable. I Got Rhythm and The American in Paris Theme are catchy Gershwin tunes that Gene Kelly performs to perfection.
Disclaimer: I have since changed my opinions on this film but this capsule review stands as a reminder of how greatly things can change.
As far as all the hype is concerned, Citizen Kane was a major disappointment. It is a film which has been lauded as one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of all time. However, in my mind, overall it is nothing that amazing. This movie has an important context that has to be taken into consideration first of all. One of these points is that the film is supposedly a semi-autobiographical account of the famous journalist William Randolph Hearst. In this way, it is a satire of his life because he acquired great riches but no happiness. Other pioneering aspects of this film are the storytelling devices and the camera work. In the realm of storytelling, Citizen Kane relies on both flashback and various narrators in order to try and explain Kane’s past. Furthermore, the cinematographic process of sharp focus is also used, allowing the screen to be in complete focus. For being so highly praised Citizen Kane left me disappointed and also dumbfounded about how it gained such status.
The first time I ever saw the film, I actually wrote Citizen Kane off because my hopes were so high thanks to its major critical acclaim. Those hopes were soon dashed after viewing it once, but over time I realized I needed a second viewing. This second chance allowed me to see the minute details, which can be easily overlooked or forgotten. Now I can truthfully say I have a new found respect for this film.
The brainchild of Orson Welles, Citizen Kane opens somewhat unimpressively, however it is certainly very moody and atmospheric. As the camera closes in on a great mansion, we are given a first-hand view of a dying man followed by his mysterious final word “Rosebud.” In the following newsreel, we learn the man was Charles Foster Kane (Welles), a millionaire tycoon and newspaper man. A journalist (William Alland) is enlisted to find out anything he can about Kane. First, he scours the memoirs of Kane’s deceased childhood guardian (George Coulouris). Then, he talks with Mr. Bernstein (Everett Sloane), who worked with Kane’s paper the Inquirer. He gets around to talking to Kane’s unstable former friend Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten), as well as Kane’s second wife (Dorothy Comingore). We learn from these accounts about Kane’s early years, his success with yellow journalism, the evolution of his first marriage, and the rise and fall of his political career. Furthermore, we find out about Kane’s unhappy second marriage that ultimately left him loveless after looking for affection his whole life. Fittingly, we are again left with the bleak view of his fortress Xanadu, and we now have the knowledge that “Rosebud” was in fact utterly trivial.
Obviously, Greg Toland’s black and white cinematography using deep focus and low camera angles is noteworthy. The framing of the narrative with different points of view and flashbacks was unique at the time. The actors age in front of us showing the progression of time and montage is used to effectively condense time. There are the overlapping and fragmentation of dialogue to create a realistic feel throughout the film. Bernard Hermann puts together a score that slowly changes along with Kane. And of course, you have the supposed basis of Kane on William Randolph Hearst. Historically, Citizen Kane may, in fact, be the most important film of all time, and artistically it is certainly up there with the best of them. I will let others decide if that makes it the very best film, period.
The film stars Jon Voight as a naive Texan and Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo, the bum who initially cons him and eventually befriends him. Voight comes to New York expecting to make money off of rich city women as a male hustler. However, his callowness leaves him broke. That’s when the crippled, coughing, stealing, and nasally-voiced Ratso invites him to stay in Rizzo’s home on a condemned lot. Because they are both just trying to survive on the streets of New York, they befriend each other. When they are not walking the streets, stealing, or trying to bring in money, they talk and we slowly see into the pitiful lives of Joe and Ratso. Since winter has hit, Ratso gets ill so they decide to head out to Florida. On the way Rico (as he wanted to be called) spent his last breath. Both actors have powerful performances and Nillson’s Everybodys Talking is a nice added touch to the soundtrack.
Starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, this political thriller follows two young investigative journalists as they try to uncover the truth after a mysterious break in at the Watergate Hotel. The Washington Post is the only paper covering the issue that many have dismissed as an isolated event. These two men try to follow all the leads they have but they reach a dead end since no one seems willing to talk. However, with the help of the anonymous source Deep Throat, tireless searching, and a few witnesses, the pieces begin to come together. Little do they know the extent of what they have happened upon. Ultimately, their story about Watergate would lead to the scandal that ended in Richard Nixon’s resignation. This is not only an intriguing film, but it also holds tremendous historical importance.