Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Shine On You Crazy Diamonds...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shine On You Crazy Diamonds...



Originally this piece contained video clips. They may be restored in the future, but for now the list consists of pictures only.

Suppose I come across an unseen film on the television schedule (this scenario is not so hypothetical). Assuming that I don't recognize the title, I may hit the information button, to call up a plot summary. If the story sounds interesting, I may set a recording. Likewise if the director's name (too seldom listed) places the sight unseen within the auteurist pantheon. But a better barometer than either of these criteria is the appeal of the leading lady...the luminescence of the movie star who presides over the proceedings. Rita, Marilyn, Lana, Audrey...any of these names will certainly trigger a not entirely intellectual excitement and anticipation. Pronto, the movie is selected. Likewise with Netflix, the video store, and even the movie theater on occasion, though sadly few - actually, none - of the faces gracing this entry can be found on the not-so-silver screen of the twenty-first century.

Invited by Tony Dayoub at Cinema Viewfinder and Ibetolis at Film for the Soul to participate in the 20 Actresses meme (originated by Nathaniel R. at Film Experience), I humbly submit my own very subjective listing, in rough ascending order, accompanied by a picture and the name of a representative film.



20. Francoise Fabian

My Night at Maud's, 1969, France, dir. Eric Rohmer



19. Kim Novak

Vertigo, 1958, USA, dir. Alfred Hitchcock



18. Juliet Berto

Le Gai Savoir, 1969, France, dir. Jean-Luc Godard



17. Barbara Stanwyck

Baby Face, 1933, USA, dir. Alfred E. Green



16. Joan Fontaine

Letter From an Unknown Woman, 1948, USA, dir. Max Ophuls



15. Grace Kelly

Rear Window, 1954, USA, dir. Alfred Hitchcock



14. Lana Turner

The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1946, USA, dir. Tay Garnett



13. Greta Garbo

Queen Christina, 1933, USA, dir. Rouben Mamoulian



12. Paola Pitagora

Fists in the Pocket, 1965, Italy, dir. Marco Bellochio



11. Monica Vitti

L'Avventura, 1960, Italy, dir. Michelangelo Antonioni



10. Rita Hayworth

Gilda, 1946, USA, dir. Charles Vidor



9. Veronica Lake

I Married a Witch, 1942, USA, dir. Rene Clair



8. Marilyn Monroe

The Seven Year Itch, 1955, USA, dir. Billy Wilder



7. Anna Karina

Le Petit Soldat, 1960, France, dir. Jean-Luc Godard



6. Claudia Cardinale

8 1/2, 1963, Italy, dir. Federico Fellini



5. Ginger Rogers

Stage Door, 1937, USA, dir. Gregory La Cava



4. Stefania Sandrelli

I Knew Her Well, 1965, Italy, dir. Antonio Pietrangeli



3. Brigitte Bardot

Contempt, 1963, France, dir. Jean-Luc Godard



2. Louise Brooks

Pandora's Box, 1929, Germany, dir. G.W. Pabst



1. Audrey Hepburn

Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961, USA, dir. Blake Edwards




Among the other actresses who came close, and perhaps on another day would have been selected: Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Margaret Sullavan, Gloria Graham, Ava Gardner, Katharine Hepburn, Lillian Gish, Sheryl Lee, Anne Wiazemsky, Lea Massari, Bulle Ogier, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Marie Saint, Jean Seberg, Shirley MacLaine, Gene Tierney, and Penelope Cruz. To name just a few.

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22 comments:

Fox said...

Nice job including Juliet Berto. For me, she has that kind of androgynous/frownish phyisicality that Charlotte Gainsborg does but that I still find oddly attractive.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that she doesn't come off so feminine to me in the way say Anna Karina does, but she's lovely in her own unique way. Anne Wiazemsky kinda has the same effect on me.

MovieMan0283 said...

I definitely see the Gainsborg connection. It's something about how she frowns most of the time, but then when she smiles it's that much better. And she had a very playful, childish quality that Rivette brought out really well.

Tony Dayoub said...

Nice list. I'm not surprsied at our overlaps, either. I've seen those four on a lot of lists.

Putting up a link to your site on mine in a minute.

MovieMan0283 said...

Even though this list took forever, it was really fun to assemble - thanks for the tag (and the link).

Joseph B. said...

I remain steadfast in my belief that Delerue's "Le Mepris" theme is the single most moving piece of music ever written.

Gloria said...

Thanks for including Monica Vitti! ;D

She was a great fave of mine when I was in school. I don't know if she's the best actress for Modesty Blaise, but she rocked there (well, she rocks in a lot of pictures, and I appreciate actresses who, like her, are equally gifted for comedy and drama)

Marilyn said...

Really nice list. I'm not familiar with Paola Pitagora, but you've made me curious. I will never understand the appeal of Veronica Lake, but I acknowledge it exists.

And thanks for that wonderful clip of Audrey Hepburn - one of my favorite moments in film.

MovieMan0283 said...

Joseph,

You may very well be correct (in fact I think I like it better than the film itself).

Gloria,

I haven't seen Modesty Blaise and at first glance I would not think that comedy would be one of Monica Vitti's strong suits - but then I remember fleeting moments in Antonioni's work - her mugging in front of the mirror in L'Avventura, her rather un-PC tribal dance in L'Eclisse. Even in those works where we primarily remember her solemnity, there's a light, almost self-deprecating touch as well.

Marilyn,

I've only seen Ms. Pitagora in that one film, but she made a deep impression just based on that. As for Veronica, she is sort of an odd duck, but I think it's the voice that clinches it for me. It's odd too but there's something very sexy about it, I think. And yes, Audrey...it's true that Marilyn would probably have been a better fit for the original conception of Holly Golightly, but really...who on earth would want to wipe the cinematic record of Hepburn's sublime presence in that movie? When it comes to my favorite screen performances (not necessarily based on acting chops but presence and power), there are a few strong contenders in the male category: Brando in Waterfront, Cagney in White Heat, Pacino in Godfather II...but amongst the females, Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's walks away with the title, Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box providing the only possible contention...and she'll have to settle for Silver.

Daniel Getahun said...

What a brilliant list. Adding the video clips, such as they are, brings the selections to life so well. I've not seen a number of these films, but from the clips it's easy to see why these women grabbed your attention.

MovieMan0283 said...

Thanks, Dan - it was my hope that our common tendency to speed-read and move on could be overcome long enough to relish the clips - even those where we can't understand what they're saying! Of course, with these gals, it's not so much to ask...but it's nice amidst all the dancing about architecture to ocassionally walk through a few buildings, you know?

Like I said to Tony, this took forever to compile but was probably the most fun I've had on any posting so far.

Ibetolis said...

Great list and I love the adding of video clips.

Really classy choices; Fabian (lovely), Fontaine and Cardinale (how I left her off my list I'll never know).

Also, it seems like the entire blogsphere is in agreement about Barbara Stanwyck.

MovieMan0283 said...

Ibetolis, glad you liked the Fabian pick. It was one of my odder ones, but she really captivates me in that film. I think it's the eyes and the way they convey a warm intelligence.

As for Stanwyck, she almost wasn't on my list but some reshuffling got her onboard. I think the key for me is that particular film, Baby Face - she's got such a raw vitality in it. And find it hilarious that John Wayne plays such a wimp up against her!

Erich Kuersten said...

Whoa, lots of obscuro Euro-babes! I would've included Monica V. myself, but was worried about Modesty Blaise. Not that I've seen it. Good use of clips!

Dean Treadway said...

I love Stanwyck, too, but she somehow eluded inclusion on my list.

Am I correct in noting that there are no contemporary actresses on your top 20 list? Knowing your tastes, I'm not surprised. Still, I would think Meryl Streep should warrant some love from ya (actually, as reknowned and reliable an actress she is, I'm surprised she isn't on more lists).

I loved the originality of your list (even if you couldn't muster the courage to include Chantal Goya who, with the exception of Maria Falconetti in PASSION OF JOAN D'ARC, delivers cinema's greatest one-off performance in MASCULIN/FEMININ). Berto, Pitagora, and Fabian are all personalities I know nothing about, so I thank you for the introduction, and I'll be on my toes when I run into the chance to see one of their movies).

Our overlaps: Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly (how ya gonna have a list without those three) and the incomparable Louise Brooks. My God, that clip you had of Brooks, in which you can't see her stunning face until the end, still transmutes the fact that Brooks was a woman way ahead of her time in every way. I love it in older films when an element of the movie seems utterly contemporary. Often, it happens only fleetingly; for instance, there's a shot in GONE WITH THE WIND, while Melanie is having her baby in the darkness, that looks as though it was filmed yesterday. This happens sometimes (in my view) with older films.

Well, when you watch Louise Brooks and Greta Garbo, even today, their looks and performances smack entirely of modernity. Moviegoers watching these two actresses in the 1920s and 30s must have thought aliens came and delivered these women to our planet; they are both true originals are prescient templates for the modern woman.

FInally...gosh, I regret not remembering Veronica Lake. She's superb. And I love Charlotte Gainsbourg, Isabelle Huppert, Anna Karina, Maria Falconetti, Lili Taylor, and Sue Lyons, too.

Dean Treadway said...

Oh, and I adore Sissy Spacek, as well. And Karen Allen. And Jessica Harper!

MovieMan0283 said...

Erich,

Yeah, you gotta love the obscuro Euro-babes. Someday I may marry one. True, she'll probably just be looking for a visa, but I'll pretend not to know.

Dean,

I chose that clip because of that moment at the end and then was somewhat disappointed when I watched the whole thing and realized you couldn't really see her till then. But in retrospect, that only makes the final moment more powerful - and it's such a great expression she has there.

I know exactly what you mean about that moment of recognition - when a film breaks its historical bounds, and seems beyond time. The more movies I see, the more I learn of film history, the harder these moments are to attain. I remember a big movie book which I used to leaf through as a kid, and stills from From Here to Eternity and Bridge on the River Kwai seemed raw and immediate. Now, it's to easy for mind to place them within a tidy box of 50s style which is too bad in a way.

But one of my greatest "Yowza!" moments in film viewing came when I watched Pandora's Box on TV a couple years ago. I'd heard about Louise Brooks, seen a couple photos , and shrugged. Eh, I don't get it, but OK. Then in the first scene of Pandora when she rips open the door, grinning, and embraces the meter man, I practically leapt out of my seat. Wow - what a pull she has! And she is completely, totally, modern, she sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the overly-modulated German actors and carefully precise mise-en-scene.

I don't really think of Garbo in the same way, more as somebody belonging outside of time than to any one specific era, but curiously enough, she's an actress I really didn't get until I saw her in a movie, which was relatively recent. Amazing how a moving image can capture something a still image can't.

manwithoutastar said...

Hey there MovieMan,

A real nice list you have here- great to see as many European stars as Hollywood. Wonderful to see Berto. And that photo of Novak is stunning.. Ingrid Bergman would certainly get into my list, very high.. nice site too!

MovieMan0283 said...

manwithoutastar,

Thanks - as for Bergman, as I said, on another day! As for (almost) as many European stars, I didn't quite realize how many I'd included, but am glad for the diversity, especially since this blog has mostly focused on American films. Which is surprising, since over the past few years, I was probably watching more foreign classics than Hollywood ones! Just one of those things, I suppose...I do hope next year to tackle a lot of my favorite films which haven't been dealt with yet (since in the past five months I've mostly been watching movies I haven't seen before).

By the way, how did you come across my blog? I recognize your name, but can't remember from which site - interesting-looking new blog you've got there, by the way.

manwithoutastar said...

I think I came to your site through Ibetolis'.. I like your writing here and am glad you like my site! Thanks for the link!

JOSEPH CAMPANELLA said...

Your list is amazing and I'm jealous of you.

I forgot Monica Vitti and Audry Hepburn. How could I do that? That's ridiculous.

I got to say MovieMan. You know your stuff and I feel like I'm getting a lesson in film history each time I visit your site.

Also, thanks for including all those video clips along with the pictures. It must have been a pain in the ass, but it was well worth it and appreciated!

Nice job.

MovieMan0283 said...

Joseph,

Thanks - it was a pain, but it was a fun pain.

MovieMan0283 said...

The original text of the post:

"Invited by Tony Dayoub at Cinema Viewfinder and Ibetolis at Film for the Soul to participate in the 20 Actresses meme (originated by Nathaniel R. at Film Experience), I humbly submit my own very subjective listing, in rough ascending order, accompanied by a picture and most importantly, a selection from one of their films: a clip via that illustrious cinematheque, YouTube. No, of course, the quality is not what you'd expect from the Criterion Collection - and yes, some of the clips are in a (untranslated) foreign language - but the appeal of these icons is so great that it reaches across barriers of time, space, and even language to grab ahold of us without letting go. So I encourage you to watch them all, either to relive your memories or to create new ones (by following through on renting the movies). A slight caveat: if you're obsessive about spoilers, avoid #19, #16, and #12. If you aren't obsessive about spoilers, watch them all and rest assured the movies will not be irretrievably destroyed for you. Follow the jump, and enjoy...

20. Francoise Fabian
(I could not justify putting up a Rohmer scene without English subtitles, and infuriatingly, none are available on the Internet. So instead I've put up a trailer, still untranslated, but it seems easier to watch than long scenes of dialogue in French. Someone out there with DVD-ripping technology, get to work! I suggest the scene where Fabian tries to seduce Trintignant. I will thank you heartily while pilfering the fruit of your labor for my blog. By the way: if you do speak French, or if you just don't care, here's a scene from the film.)

My Night at Maud's, 1969, France, dir. Eric Rohmer

18. Juliet Berto
(You have no idea how incredibly hard it was to find a clip for Berto - her best work, with Jacques Rivette, is generally unavailable - nor could I find that scene from 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, or even much of her work in Week End or La Chinoise, which are relatively well-represented on You Tube. Finally, I stumbled across a few minutes of Le Gai Savoir, which I haven't seen. You don't get to see too much of her in this video, but I suppose it will have to do - the other option was several minutes of the back of her head, from the same film. Oh, Godard...)

Le Gai Savoir, 1969, France, dir. Jean-Luc Godard

4. Stefania Sandrelli
(Another clip from a film I hadn't seen - or at first glance, even recognized - but I discovered it on YouTube and decided I had to include it. Further examination revealed that I had planned to attend a New York screening of the movie several years ago. Unfortunately, I put the wrong date on my calendar and missed out, so I don't know what's going on either, but it sure looks intriguing, doesn't it? And even - nay, especially - with mascara running down her cheeks Sandrelli is gorgeous, so, really, who cares?)

I Knew Her Well, 1965, Italy, dir. Antonio Pietrangeli

3. Brigitte Bardot
(Again, I'm including a trailer because the Contempt clips on You Tube suck.)

Contempt, 1963, France, dir. Jean-Luc Godard


1. Audrey Hepburn

Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961, USA, dir. Blake Edwards

That's a good closer, but of course I can't leave well enough alone. For some strange reason, YouTube won't let me embed my favorite scene from the film (though I can embed later sections posted by the same user). Click here to watch it."