Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An International Era 1955 - 1957 • "32 Days of Movies" Day 11


The eleventh chapter in "32 Days of Movies", an audiovisual tour through 366 films.
(2015 update: included Vimeo embed after the jump)

An International Era

In the late fifties, the Cold War cooled and from the Khrushchev speech to the kitchen sink debate, the era many had expected in the wake of World War II - one focused on the United Nations and at least talking about peaceful coexistence - had begun to emerge. After a decade of fiercely agonizing over who and what was and wasn't "American", the nation seemed to have a renewed hunger for the exotic, the different, the international. This was reflected on its movie screens, as a taste for foreign films serendipitously (or conveniently) coincided with the rise of several truly great auteurs.


There are only three American films this week - a cartoon (lovingly lampooning European forms), the first major film of a director who would go on to become international himself (American by birth, British by choice for a good thirty-five years), and then finally one film which is as unquestionably American as they come. It's the only selection in widescreen this week, and it takes beautiful advantage of that format in its opening shot. If one had to pick one film from these years to represent the U.S., in its romanticism, its violence, its restlessness, its beauty, its expansiveness, its quiet poetry - this would be it.




I have covered today's films here, here, here, and here.



Tomorrow: The Wide View

4 comments:

Shubhajit said...

Yet another great collection acclaimed classics, and yet again, it seems, I've watched only very few of them - 3 to be precise.

Pather Panchali - Ray's most famous feature as far as the Western world goes, and the non-Bengali populace of India too. Though I loved it, I'd place a few other Ray movies over it as far as my personal preference goes. By the way, I hope you've watched the entire Apu Trilogy of which this one was the first episode.

The Killing - though a relatively underrated noir and not mentioned in the same breath as some of Kubrick's other movies, I loved it.

Seventh Seal - again, like Pather Panchali, the most renowned work of Bergman, though in my humble opinion, it'd rank lower than a few of his other movies.

I've been procrastinating on my viewing of The Searchers. Hoping to correct that blemish soon :)

Sam Juliano said...

It would be almost impossible to top this lot in international prominence and wild diversity.

The glorious THE RED BALLOON by Lamorisee is a personal favorite; PATHER PACHALI, the great S. Ray's most moving film, NIGHT AND FOG and Cayrol's haunting narration a definitive lament to Holocaust horror and depravity; A MAN ESCAPED by Bresson the greatets prison film ever made; THE SEVENTH SEAL, Bergman's most emblematic film, ORDET a Dreyer masterpiece; THE SEARCHERS seen by many as the greatest Western; WHAT'S OPERA DOC?, an expressionistic Chuck Jones short awsh in Wagner, THE KILLING a seminal Kubrick noir, and THE CRANES ARE FLYING, a Russian gem.

Tremendous group of films at a major crossroads in cinematic history.

Joel Bocko said...

I've seen the other Apus and have debated whether or not World of Apu or Pather Panchali is my favorite - such different films. (With me, as with most people, Aparajito falls through the cracks a bit which is why I look forward to your revisit of it, on the DL of course ;) )

Oddly enough, since the time I bought Panchali all the Apu films seem to have become very difficult to attain. They don't even carry them on Netflix last time I checked.

I actually would rank Killing with other Kubricks, albeit not quite as highly - though lately I've come to prefer Asphalt Jungle among Sterling Hayden heist movies. I think 7th Seal is Bergman's most iconic film, but I think Cries and Whispers and Persona would give it a run for the most popular. I've even seen it get some flak for being too unsubtle, but that's just what I like about it, that stark allegorical medieval flavor.

Hope you enjoy The Searchers (I know some haven't). I love the fact that it ended up being the only widescreen film today, making that brilliant shot where the door opens and the space spreads out even more effective.

Joel Bocko said...

Interesting Sam, knowing your tastes I can definitely see why this would be one of your favorite eras (hard for me to say why exactly, but it seems right!).

I think with the influx of foreign films into my collection from this point on, a trend which doesn't dip until the late 70s, you will really see the strongest stretch in the series. All in all, 1955 - 1975 or so is probably my favorite period in movie history and the quality and density of the selection (nearly half of all the chapters are devoted to this 20 year stretch) will probably reflect this.

I'm most excited about the portion that begins Wednesday with the French New Wave and goes through 1970 - four chapters in the first informal part, three in the next - as the 60s is by far my favorite era in film history. I almost feel that this section will be a series-within-a-series, telling a story through a series of discoveries and developments so that by the end of those 7 chapters, the cinema will look nothing like it did at the beginning. Exciting times ahead.