THIS  IS  THE  BOOK!!!!

The man who wrote this book was my Film Design teacher in Undergraduate school.  His class gave me a new set of eyes for reading images and understanding film.  Of all classes I've ever taken or participated in as an academic, his was the only one where students lined up to shake his hand on the final day of class.  It was that transformative. 

Now the experience is available in book form.  It's invaluable to anyone who engages with film on any level above casual consumption.

You won't read very much about Frank Borzage on this site.

I've tried several times to write about Borzage but can't find a vocabulary appropriate to the qualities in his work.  How does one write of the opportunities for transcendency in life?  Of the spiritual aspects of sexual attraction?  How does one plot the narrative graphic of falling in love?

When film lovers talk about a director with a indescribable style, they usually talk about Lubitsch and "the Lubitsch touch."  Yet, in film school, my professor (Bruce Block, author of the book above) pointed out the cinematic devices that Lubitsch used to create his "touch."  Frank Borzage, on the other hand, TRULY had a indescribable touch to all his films.   This book miraculously analyzes and unites the director's work and life in an impressive and absorbing volume.  I remove my hat in the presence of this book, which crystalizes the thoughts and philosophy of one of the great artists of motion pictures.

Joan Crawford Meets the 3 Stooges

Yep, you heard right.  This 1933 backstage musical has it all:  Fred Astaire's film debut, trippy musical numbers in the style of Busby Berkeley, the Three Stooges as stagehands, early unbilled appearances by Eve Arden and Nelson Eddy, and Robert Benchley in a supporting role.  For gender-bending, the cast includes the most fey of male character actors (Sterling Holloway as "Pinky" the playwright) and the butchest of female actors (Cecil Cunningham as a secretary).  And the leads, Crawford & Clark Gable, were at the epitome of their beauty when this was filmed.

The high point may be Crawford in a dirndl and Astaire in lederhosen dancing and singing:

We're going to Barvaria,

Where people take good care of ya...

I used to think the PostModern Era started in the 1980s when sex kitten Tuesday Weld married concert violinist Pinchas Zuckerman, but this surrealist collage of a movie was perhaps a precursor.

Like a Video Thrift Store (#1)

If you love to rummage, finding diamonds in the rough and treasures among junk, this box of 250 movies [and the one below] will give you years of fun and discovery.  You'll find pioneering films from the African-American film industry, nail-biting Cold War suspense flicks, space aliens invading Santa Monica, hot-rodders battling zombies, beefy gladiators, Japanese monsters on the rampage, and much more. 

Even a tired old Cinema Addict like me found some big surprises in these films.  A few are even in my Desert Island Disc list now.  Prints vary in quality, but some are surprisingly crisp.  Recommended.

Like a Video Thrift Store (#2)

Like the 250 Horror Movies box above, this box is a treasure chest of cinema:  kineoscopes of early live TV shows including original commercials, a 1947 film noir with DeForest Kelley, and a Euro-trash crime drama starring Fabio.  Esoteric work by directors like John Sturges, Anthony Mann, James Whale and Fred Zinneman.  Includes the brilliant film noir Too Late for Tears directed by Byron (War of the Worlds) Haskin, the original British version of Gaslight (suppressed in the U.S. by M-G-M in order to monopolize the 1944 Oscar-winning version), and the last film directed by Swedish pioneer Victor Sjostrom (that stars Conrad Veidt!).   The print of Ulmer's Detour is one of the best I've seen.  A good deal.


Home