Wednesday, February 05, 2020

This Week in Tickets: 27 January 2020 - 2 February 2020

I hate the reason that it happened, but I would have run myself completely ragged going to movies if the Lunar New Year Movies hadn't all been cancelled/postponed.

This Week in Tickets

It's fairly rare for me to run the table for a series at the Brattle these days, and I didn't really do it here (I skipped the previous Saturday and Sunday and left after the first movie on Thursday because I just saw Dr. Cyclops a year ago), but I did spend the first four days of last week at "Things to Come: The Birth of Sci-Fi Cinema", catching The Man They Could Not Hang, The Boogie Man Will Get You, Just Imagine, L'Inhumaine, and Mad Love over four days. It's a crying shame that more big-budget sci-fi wasn't made during this period - I can't think of another blockbuster fantasy aside from The Wizard of Oz between Metropolis and Forbidden Planet - because the raw visual imagination was kind of stunning.

Friday night was back to Harvard Square for more Silent Hitchcock at the Archive, with The Lodger the first entry for the weekend. Hitchcock was really starting to become Hitchcock there.

On Saturday, I spent an afternoon doing Oscar-nominated shorts, starting with the Documentaries at Causeway Street - the only place playing them on the T this week - and then heading down the Green Line for Animation at Boston Common. There was just enough time to make that trip, but it was worth it. In a fun coincidence, both were showing on screen #7 in their respective buildings.

After that, back up the Red Line to Harvard, to catch the silent version of Blackmail at the Archive. I enjoyed it a great deal, and the introduction had me curious enough to come back the next night to see the talkie version. I think it might have been my first time seeing that film with sound, despite being told how rare the silent version was before each of the three or four times I have attended a screening in the past decade or so.

As always, keep up with my Letterboxd page, because I'm pretty sure I'll start falling behind soon, what with the first festival of the year starting on Friday.

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 31 January 2020 in the Harvard Film Archive (Silent Hitchcock, 35mm accompanied by Martin Marks)

There aren't enough characters in The Lodger to create an actual mystery around the identity of its serial killer, which means that when you see it now, there's almost a century of people playing with you, from Hitchcock to whoever is doing the accompaniment, emphasizing how obviously Ivor Novello's title character is bad news. It only makes the scenes of him and the girl that fits the killer's type sexier, especially when contrasted with the cop next door who is clearly talking their future together for granted.

I do kind of wonder how that guy would have delivered one of his last lines, "lucky I got here in time!", if this were a sound film. It's just the right amount of funny and twisted as an inter-title, but being spoken could have made it too important or silly or the like.

What I thought back in 2013, the last time the HFA did a Hitchcock retrospective


* * * (out of four)
Seen 1 February 2020 in the Harvard Film Archive (Silent Hitchcock, 35mm accompanied by Martin Marks)
Seen 2 February 2020 in the Harvard Film Archive (Silent Hitchcock, 35mm sound version)

Though both are fine entertainments, I found myself liking the silent version of Blackmail more. It just feels right, especially considering how the elongated beginning of both is identical, with the missing dialogue feeling strange in the sound version, but more so because the camera feels a bit less restricted, though not always - having both Anny Ondra's heroine and Cyril Ritchard's creepy artist on-screen at once works better than the cutting in the silent version, even if it was done to show off Ritchard playing the piano and singing. It is, if nothing else, a fascinating artifact both for how the industry was scrambling to figure shooting with new, less mobile technology out and how Hitchcock immediately seemed to grasp how useful it might be to not have the music under the control of some random accompanist when he wanted chilling silence, or how he could choose what the audience heard to create subjectivity. Both of those are a huge part of why Alice's reaction to killing said artist in self-defense feels like a genuine state of shock

Alice's "dubbed" voice (provided by Joan Barry on the set but off-camera) threw me, not because I know Anny Ondra's (I don't), but for how working class it is. It seems like it wouldn't take long for those accents to become comedic as opposed to just how many Londoners talked.

What I thought in 2005, when I saw the silent version with the Alloy Orchestra accompanying

The Man They Could Not Hang
Just Imagine
L'Inhumaine et Paris Qui Dort
Mad Love
Oscar-Nominated Documentary Shorts
The Lodger
Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts
Blackmail (silent)
Blackmail (sound)

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