Auteur List: Otto Preminger

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#51 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Apr 14, 2021 10:45 pm

The Man with the Golden Arm did actually play better this time, mostly because the climate Preminger depicts is so anxiety-ridden and depressing without forcing an alignment with our protagonist. The film doesn't work for me as a pity party for Sinatra, but it does when looking in the peripheries as Preminger sympathizes with Parker and Novak’s characters equitably. Sinatra is a man tethered to his past who understandably vies to transcend it for self-preservation (which I’m noticing is a connective theme amongst Preminger’s works, however elastically-defined, and sensibly so, as he owes his life and career to multiple meanings of the term; while he also fatalistically cannot- and perhaps should not- be able to escape it from certain points of view. Parker may be manipulative but she has suffered irreparable damage from her ties to Sinatra, and whether her physical ailment is permanent or not the psychological traumas have clearly deformed her; and she will forever be bound to a narrative that involves him. This is a great examination of weighing the individualism of free will to start anew against other ideas of responsibility and history as baggage keeping people in broken states. The drug depictions and the melodramatic exaggerations feel secondary to this neutrally objective yet compassionate look at the life of an imperfect person who has made mistakes and affected others in ways that cannot be undone. The limits of rehabilitation are real, and I admire how Preminger clearly values reform, is conscientious to the social barriers to sustaining change, and also pivots to the harmed as equally worthy subjects.

I still have my share of problems with this film, mainly that this divided attention is compendious with an emphasis on the overly concise, and Preminger takes extreme measures in so many different directions that the film never discloses what kind of movie it’s supposed to be. Is it a drug noir, a nightmare of social pressure, a social problem pic, a melodrama of comprehensive perspectives? The formal trajectory doesn’t ever firmly fit with one idea- which would be fine at portraying the messy chaos of Sinatra’s life and social environment, but we fluctuate between a clear centering on his progression with narrow-minded concentration that ignores the rest, to a wider consideration for the others in the milieu. I can’t help but think that choosing one or the other would have served the narrative better, as the Sinatra-asphyxiating solipsism of the former doesn't fit with the latter like oil and water. Perhaps this is the most wild and unhinged example of Preminger’s “push-pull” struggle of objectivity and intimacy, which reflexively mirrors these characters’ own erratic mood shifts, but it doesn’t feel intentional and only works as an analysis if grasping at straws. Still, a solid movie that could have been great (I also wonder if Sinatra made demands that created this uneven movement to give him more of an elucidated subjective arc).

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#52 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:48 am

knives wrote:
Sat Apr 10, 2021 11:25 pm
Preminger’s black films undoubtedly need to be seen in the context of his relationship with Dorothy Dandridge
After getting this far in Fujiwara's book, I (surprisingly) have to doubt this claim. While Preminger and Dandridge's relationship was obviously significant for many reasons, it doesn't seem to have impacted Carmen Jones much (other than Preminger convincing Dandridge into a sexual relationship because an intimate director-star affair during production 'makes a movie better'). Thematically this was already material of interest and the tweaks on the femme fatale role is just another broad example of Preminger's complex attention to women. There's little evidence from interviewees present during production that their relationship's context informed what we got, but the historical context of Brown vs. the Board of Education and Preminger's desire to make fantasy worlds of all-black characters in both films intending to reflect the "needs and aspirations" of black people in that era, are definitely of greater significance. Porgy and Bess is also one of three films Preminger didn't produce (along with River of No Return and The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, my three least-favorite of his post-Laura works so far... coincidence?) which pretty clearly impeded his control over the film(s), though not completely of course- notably Billy Mitchell, a film that possesses a lot of Preminger's fingerprints in the trial scene. Plus it seems that their affair had ended by the time of Porgy and Bess.

Also now that I've read Preminger's objectives for The Man with the Golden Arm, including his changes to the book and quotes about his research on addiction, it's painstakingly clear that he had very admirable intentions. In particular removing the cause of the condition to send the message that addiction is not due to a moral deficiency or personality weakness but nondiscriminatory, as well as focusing on the psychological factors to reinforce humility that will power can't 'beat it', are really profound views for the era and directly challenge the czar's ethos at that time, which conversely did not support rehabilitation. I still don't love the film, but- as someone who always had great respect for Preminger's grey worldview and empathetic social pulse- I find myself holding his character in even higher esteem.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#53 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:55 am

I'm probably going to revisit Saint Joan tonight. I wasn't crazy about it the first time, but I know it's got its fans, including I think domino. What should I be looking for to most appreciate or grasp its qualities?

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#54 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Apr 16, 2021 12:53 pm

It's my favorite Joan of Arc adaptation. Here's my writeup from the 50s thread:
therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:36 pm
Saint Joan

Well I finally got around to this, and will add to the fire for this film’s strange greatness. This film gives the other Joan of Arc adaptations an unpredictable opponent as potentially the best of the lot (sacreligious I know), impressing through the narrative and contextual manipulations Preminger issues this story, concocting something truly original and creatively perverse. Widmark is ridiculous, which I can only chalk up to him playing so against type he either didn’t know what to do with the part or Preminger sought to apply his hamminess to the most pathetic of characters. Seberg is absolutely terrific in her debut, doe-eyed with innocence and dedication, as if mimicking her own devotion to the craft as well as her character’s faith. Seberg’s (and perhaps equally credited here as Greene’s and Preminger’s) Joan is more complicated than other adaptions have allowed. She is fleshed out in self-actualization with a (mostly) secure identity, and we are afforded opportunities to witness her attitude instill hope and confidence in older men of higher ranks and statuses. However, her own insecurities still shine through briefly and we are reminded of her human nature, even as she suppresses them and lies to herself and others, playing mother, servant, and expert. Is her ego driving her just as her faith? Preminger seems to be poking the bear a bit more aggressively than, say, Rossellini in Flowers or Bresson in Diary, but this is partially due to his interest in exploring character more deeply than the others. Preminger wisely continues his mature stance of showing without telling, and we believe in Joan as a result, at the very least believing that she believes, which is all that matters here.

As the objective truth becomes unimportant, the compassionate lens of the character study is catapulted into the spotlight, Joan’s protagonist infused with so much energy that we become serene, angry, humbled, depressed, and resentful right there with her, and through her. Whether these are the emotions a vehicle of God would possess is besides the point, they are those that a human does, and much like Francis and his children in Rossellini’s film, her story becomes spiritual by way of the existential, with doses of intimate psychology just close enough to join her with empathy but far enough away to avoid the trappings of the analytical angle and instead move towards a lighter dreamy blend of fantasy and realism, that becomes Preminger’s format for the spiritual. On a larger sociological level, Joan’s solidification of a nationalist identity challenges the sensitive patriarchal rigidity, and in this way the witchcraft angle plays out much like Dreyer’s Day of Wrath. This film is more theatrical and so there’s more space to venture towards extremes in content vs visual expressiveness in the Dreyer, here via Greene’s script and Preminger’s skills at imbuing energetic intensity into all performances while capturing them closely with a delicate curious and fearless camera. It’s a careful examination of passion battling fear, from a passionate and fearless filmmaker, a grounded response under a veil of spiritual questions.
mizo is really the expert on this one but after reading this section in Fujiwara's book earlier today, I think it summarizes Preminger's conflict between subjective belief and objective realism through the humble but curious position of an outsider who cannot access this truth. Preminger specifically heightens the dissonance from Joan's "paradoxical self-defense" of confidence and uncertainty against the non-empathetic systems that surround her, isolating that faith. There's also an argument in the book that it's Preminger's most personal work seeing himself in Joan: "Preminger depicts a conflict between a world that demands 'reasons' and a protagonist who obeys only intuition."

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#55 Post by knives » Fri Apr 16, 2021 12:56 pm

It’s probably my favorite too.

Also I completely denounce my earlier statement since it was based off of faulty memories.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#56 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Apr 16, 2021 2:28 pm

Well it was a sensible context to introduce, and I was surprised at how little weight it held myself. The author is also very interested in this contextual analysis between director and star/protégé with a lot of attention on Seberg, so it's not like there's some biased disregard for this approach.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#57 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 16, 2021 2:50 pm

If loving Richard Widmark's "Who the hell let him get away with this?" one of a kind perf is wrong, I don't wanna be right

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#58 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Apr 16, 2021 9:36 pm

Fun fact: Preminger is quoted as not only loving Godard's Breathless but being inspired to shoot Bunny Lake is Missing on the streets of a city to emulate his mise en scène from that film. (I'm also curious what the author is referring to by Godard's "explicit reference to Whirlpool" in Breathless)

The stories from production on Hurry Sundown are insane- understandably so since a mixed-race cast and crew were filming in the south in the mid-60s. But a homemade bomb preset and exploding in the studio-rented motel pool where townsfolk observed black people swimming with white people, and actors waking up to their cars riddled with bullet holes, is all still pretty wild.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#59 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:26 pm

Saint Joan. (revisit) Thanks for sharing that great write-up, T. I’m not sure I completely agree with your assessment of Seberg’s Joan being more complicated than in other adaptations, though; until the trial scene where her performance opens up substantially what struck me was how purely so absolutely confident she is.

This was really an experience in two halves for me. Again for over the first hour I just found the film keeping me at a distance and frankly a little dull (despite Widmark’s strangely comedic efforts, which don’t trouble me as such, and the director’s success at making the play cinematic). I think one thing that may be off-putting to me is Seberg’s somewhat unnatural, oh-so-articulate and English diction - which really is the same as in her other films, but here, given that it’s more sophisticated than the characters around her, seems ill-fitting to her age and background (not to mention that in an English-language version of the story like this it identifies her that much more with the enemy!). But then comes the masterfully shot trial scene (surprise, surprise - this is Preminger of course), and the film really comes alive and becomes something more involving and powerful. The film’s impressive cast really comes to the fore here too, Aylmer and Gielgud especially.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#60 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Apr 16, 2021 10:57 pm

It's interesting that you read Seberg as unnatural and sophisticated, since the purpose of Preminger's casting, and arguably his hard-cracking direction breaking her down, was to capture a natural, innocent performance, wavering between naive and spiritually intelligent, but not possessing the worldliness of the systems around her. I'll have to revisit it again soon to see if I pick up what you're noticing, but that seems to run contrary to Preminger's intentions and other analyses of her character. However, I do think that- typical for Preminger- we are kept as outsiders, and Seberg's multifaceted performance elicits a lot of intentional confusion from us to reflect her own inner conflict between self-actualization and self-doubt, as well as her external conflict between her beliefs and these systems. So if she does embody some of these traits at times, they only add to her enigmatic presence- though consistent observations of these characteristics is not what I remember (subtly jarring shifts in existential stability, on the other hand, I certainly do!)

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#61 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:11 pm

I'm really only referring to her diction and manner of speaking, but it definitely colored the way she came across. Just doing a quick search for scenes on Google, this is an early one and indicates what I'm talking about. She enunciates every word so deliberately and clearly, and sysmatically avoids all contractions ("I do not" instead of "I don't", "it is" instead of "it's"). It creates an artifice that produces the "unnaturalness" (to my years anyway, and which is definitely less present in her more emotional turn in the court scenes and thereafter), but then I imagine that's probably how Shaw and Greene wrote it.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#62 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:35 pm

Yeah perhaps contractions weren't commonplace in the era depicted as the writers saw it, but I interpret that deliberate clear enunciation as belonging to someone who is speaking as if she has found divine serenity and must find a way to communicate with outsiders who are not God. Of course she loses this confidence at times, which is the power of her nuanced conflicted performance. I definitely see what you're alluding to, it just comes across as fitting to the character as someone who has had a spiritual experience of belief, still contesting with a corporeal world (and later, a fallible psyche).

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#63 Post by bottlesofsmoke » Sat Apr 17, 2021 12:12 am

Starting out, I’ve seen every Preminger movie from 1944 to 1965, many several times, (and several many times) and have a pretty solid grasp of my opinions on most of them. Preminger is a director that is usually “on my wavelength,” so to speak, in terms of visual style and worldview, so I have a pretty high opinion of many of his films. There are some I am less fond of, like Carmen Jones, which I re-watched last night with hopes of figuring out what it is that didn’t click with me. My opinion didn’t change much, it’s an okay movie but it never grips me like you’d expect such a combination of musical and melodrama to do. I don’t think Joe is an interesting or sympathetic enough character, he’s just so flat and defined only by his desire for Carmen, which itself isn’t developed well. Joe not being compelling is a problem because the story of Carmen is so familiar there is little dramatic tension, so that it really leaves the music (which I’ll get to) and Carmen herself as the only points of interest. Dandridge is great and she becomes easily the most sympathetic character in the film, with Preminger’s handling of her and her motivations the best part of the movie.
Part of my issue with the film can’t really be laid at the feet of Preminger, though, at least as director: though the score itself is beautiful, with a few exceptions, I dislike Oscar Hammerstein as a lyricist. The upbeat songs in Carmen Jones are fine, but the ballads have that signature sappy sentimentality that just does not work for me. I know the music in musicals doesn’t matter that much to some, but to me it is very important and can really alter my enjoyment of a movie for good or ill. It’s one of the reasons I like Porgy and Bess more than Carmen Jones. I say that Centennial Summer is the best of Preminger’s musicals, not only does the parallel sister storylines have more substance and there are many great characters, but also the roving camera of the film’s “passed” song lyrics and when the camera floats past the dancers to the child at the door in “Cinderella Sue” are some of the most lovely visual moments in any musical of its era.

In The Meantime Darling is really more something I didn’t remember very well than didn’t like, and well, I liked it on rewatch. It’s a typical homefront drama for the most part, but Preminger’s handling of the material is first rate and Jeanne Crain, despite only being 19, demonstrates the talent for bringing genuine feeling to dramatic scenes that would make her so good in the later forties. I particularly admired the way that Preminger balances so many different characters and little storylines in just a short runtime, I never felt like it was rushed or moments were shorted of significance. It’s really a smart look at life during wartime, particularly in the way that it presents the cyclical nature of the whole endeavor: couple moves on, couple checks in, when that couple moves on, the next couple checks in. Not only does this present a calming message - other people have been there before you and they’ve been able to handle it, so maybe you can too - but it also gives the idea of an neverending line of soldiers and their wives rising up to fight the bad guys. 1944 was really the year for Hollywood to highlight the trials of women on the home from, not only do you have the epic Since You Went Away but also The Very Thought of You, which really delves into the worries, problems, and moral quandaries of women married to men off fighting in wars. This belongs with those movies.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#64 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Apr 17, 2021 5:08 pm

knives wrote:
Fri Apr 09, 2021 6:57 pm
I think I wrote it up here before, but I think it’s simultaneously the clearest example of his dementia in his films, a wonderfully empathetic look at the cruelty of the times, and a broken film held together by scotch tape. It’s definitely worth seeing even if it’s not good.
Having just finished the bio, Preminger's dementia was not properly diagnosed, but everyone seems to report that he only began to act as if he had dementia after getting hit by a cab following his final film, so this wouldn't have shown up in Junie Moon. It's an interesting film because Preminger refuses to get overly melodramatic but also needs to communicate their collective conflict, so therein lies the paradox between the director and his material. Fujiwara brings up a great point that Preminger is showing a counterculture group divorced from its opposition (which he did in Skidoo), however he's not endorsing counterculture- by making the most aggressively unconventional character repelling and the more conventional peripheral characters warm- even if he's validating that this is an objective predicament these characters are in outside of objective sensitivity to one side or the other.

I didn't like the film very much (the opening is sure impressively raw though- good god) but it's not Preminger's worst. Barring a new low in his last two films I have yet to see, that honor can go to Skidoo; of which the most compelling attribute is that Preminger chose to translate his own acid trip for Gleason's character (the actual story behind his LSD trip is amusing and in step with Preminger's personality- Timothy Leary was acting as his 'guide', only for Preminger to kick him out of the house so that he could have the experience on his own terms!)

Such Good Friends feels like a farce that's arrested from deliverance by its methodology of contradiction between objective drama and subjective free association. I actually found the film to be somewhat amusing in spurts when the deadpan delivery of the comedy exhibited Elaine May's witty contributions, but her style does not mix with Preminger's and his austerity forces pause towards even the clearest gags to second-guess the tonal intent.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#65 Post by knives » Sat Apr 17, 2021 9:20 pm

Skidoo’s a personal favorite and will rank highly for me. I view it as a complete aesthetic blowout not unlike, appropriately, Brewster McCloud. Speaking of, I don’t it’s whereabouts but I read years ago an interview with Cannon where he bumped into Preminger selling his paintings during the production of Rosebud and noticed a significant decline. Cannon hadn’t seen him for years at that point so perhaps what decline there was was more obvious to him than Preminger’s close friends.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#66 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Apr 17, 2021 9:52 pm

Preminger apparently read five pages of Brewster McCloud and became disinterested, choosing Skidoo instead, so yeah, pretty appropriate (though I adore the Altman and hated the Preminger).

I didn't read mention of that interview in the book, but Austin Pendleton was interviewed as bumping into Preminger in NYC after The Human Factor in really rough shape. Also, Preminger sold off his home in France and several paintings during the end of production and following The Human Factor, since he was pouring all his own money into that film and was facing prison if he didn't pay some cast/crew contractually, but he's recorded as having done so only with his back against a wall so I'm skeptical he was selling art around the time of Rosebud. I'd be curious to have a source to that interview since it would make much more sense if you're referring to either Pendleton's claim post-injury or Cannon's at least during/after The Human Factor when he was selling his art, which also could have been right around the injury. He could easily have had Alzheimers as some have predicted (though they never could confirm due to no autopsy, his wife vehemently denied it was dementia citing the car accident as reason for his regressive functioning) but it would have still likely been around The Human Factor in '79/'80 vs. Rosebud ~5 years earlier (it's also entirely possible that Preminger was selling his paintings for the hell of it in '75, and this is all a weird coincidence, but considering how meticulous Fujiwara is around Preminger's health and reports of it, as well as citing quotations from Cannon et al documented over time when reflecting on Preminger, it seems like a huge omission from this book).

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#67 Post by knives » Sat Apr 17, 2021 10:17 pm

Then it’s entirely possible I’m mixed up in my eight year old memories. Wouldn’t be the first nor last time. By the way I’ve been trying to fill my holes to limited pleasure.

While indeed an ignoble start to a great career The Great Love was not anywhere near as poor a film as I was expecting. In its generic form it develops a baseline charm that I eventually warmed up to. There’s a million stories like this one of lonely people who lost loved ones in The Great War coming to believe the most comfortable lie and this doesn’t do anything to stand out. It would probably reach the level of good if it could get a handle of its tone though. The comedy is charming. The lost generation stuff can be touching. So on for the various parts yet when in one film together they clash making for a rather misshapen experience. Lubitsch’s The Broken Lullaby and Ozon’s recent remake are far superior plays on the same theme.

At least by Danger - Love at Work Preminger seems to have mastered tone as this screwball pretty consistently works in extremities of tones. The supporting staff play at an extremely loud level while the central duo are so low energy as to be somnambulist. This reminded me a great deal of You Can’t Take it with You though ironically it seems to lack the political perspective of the Capra to make some of the jokes like Sothern’s explanation of her privilege really punch.

That is probably why the film’s contrasting characters don’t really work. This is highlighted with Horton’s, proving once again that no film with him is without merit, introduction. He’s stuck with Boland and the rest of the maniacs and the film whizzes by on their energy as it switches over to Sothern and Haley being boring and it just doesn’t work. I liked this one on the basis of some personalities I enjoy, though the infantilism was a real test of patience, but this still finds Preminger a talent without perspective.

Much to my surprise I found Kidnapped to be the first truly enjoyable film without reservation of these new Preminger films so of course it’s the one where hardly a frame of his work appears.

What’s the most interesting part of this Robin Hood story is how it is centered, essentially, around Stockholm syndrome as Bartholomew gains respect for Baxter because he’s forced to be around him all the time. This could make for a pretty good film on its own, but the movie aims for an epic feel in brief forcing a ton of plots over any cohesion. This makes Bartholomew’s character seem strange and out of place with a few detours of plot like a visit to an Uncle Ebenezer seeming out of place non-sequiturs even though they are the meat and potatoes of the plot. Over time it eventually turns into a higher quality Anthony Adverse to give a sense of things.

The story is a pretty basic adventure film shot gorgeously, albeit in an awful transfer, by Toland. The structure suggests something political, but beats me to what degree this is a remnant of the book or a deliberate attempt at giving meaning to their land locked Treasure Island. In any case I found this to be an enjoyable film worth recommending even if I doubt it will be anyone’s favorite.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#68 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Apr 17, 2021 11:39 pm

In Harm’s Way. (revisit) I don’t know where my head was at the first time with this one, as I now found it a very absorbing and compelling film. Maybe I was initially taken aback by the languid rhythm and somewhat meandering narrative, with its long shore leave sequences involving different interpersonal storylines, as opposed to the single-minded, tensely driven epic that Exodus was. But all of it was interesting and it coalesces powerfully in the end. A sobering realism prevails as well, with a few shocks to the gut, including our discovery of the moral extremes that make up the Kirk Douglas character. Preminger was putting out one star-studded Scope after another in these years, but this one just bursts at the seams, with guys like Meredith, Tone, Dana Andrews and Fonda in minor roles - the latter reprising the command line over Wayne that he enjoyed in Fort Apache (a reference to Lincoln from Fonda and the PT boat battle scene also conjure up memories of other Ford movies). A commendable performance from Wayne here and an impressive battleship combat scene at the end. I also luxuriated in Preminger’s compositions and camera movements throughout the whole thing. He definitely still had it at this point in time. Looking forward to the blu ray release in June.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#69 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Apr 17, 2021 11:55 pm

Unfortunately I’m more in line with where your head was the first time, but I was still impressed by Wayne and Neal’s relationship, which was mature and communicated in a very honest, at times commendably indirect, affecting manner. Definitely an outlier in Preminger’s work to prioritize and authenticate a successful central romance.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#70 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Apr 18, 2021 4:35 pm

I'm revisiting the BFI set of noirs with Adrian Martin's commentaries, and after about a handful of viewings of Fallen Angel over the years, it's finally clicked for me as a great film, even if it's a compromised one. First, this must be one of the most dynamic expressions of compulsive unease I've seen from Preminger through his camera movement. Martin doesn't make any such claim but he draws attention to some very unique shot choices that forced me to meditate on the inhibited access to psychological islands displayed on the countenances of characters, some of the loneliest and subtly complex observations in noir. The other notable attribute is an existential destabilization in narrative form, since the plot doesn't even kick in until the last act, directly annihilating the plot from the second act, while there's none in the first. This stream of consciousness mimics Andrews' own lack of self-knowledge, and we only barely formulate some sense of stability once Andrews and Faye actually connect with what appears to be an honest commitment, the first honest commitment in the film.

Martin doesn't mention anything about this last point, but I find it relevant how -after reading the bio and in reference to Bunny Lake is Missing's stark look at intense emotion's risks vs. healthy detachment's protection- the shedding of fixed obsessions in making decisive commitments marks freedom, rather than the opposite release from refusing commitment and issuing liberty to obsess at will. Only after Andrews accepts his place and pledges himself to an anchored position with Faye does he become psychologically free and self-actualized- a bit of irony; while the obsessions from Judd, and even Pop, keep them stuck in misery, vessels who are fallible, sloppy, or insane. The Andrews at the end resembles Preminger's own state of a present and caring observer, who refrains from getting too emotionally deep to avoid blinding himself and threatening his own self-preservation and peripheral awareness as a result. It's a compromise, but rarely do we see compromises that opt to disengage from passion itself as the sensible option, especially when that passion is not directed towards a threatening figure.

Plenty of noirs do engage with this theme but only when a subject, often the femme fatale, elicits the dangers of passion, signifying the source of the danger is not the 'passion' but the unpredictability and distrust in another human being's selfish motives. I agree with Martin that Stella doesn't really fit the bill; she has a moral code that she sticks to, and is not as actively deceptive as she is embodying illusory superficial qualities, becoming a faux-femme fatale. So without a femme fatale here, the passion alone haunts these characters, and since there is no subject to project that onto, there is no fallacious catharsis to be achieved. Instead, the predicament is revealed as a pathetic reflection of self-delusion, and these characters are left with their own worst enemy being self-destructive behavior in contesting with expectations over an idea, not contesting with a human being as they believe they're doing.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#71 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Apr 18, 2021 11:05 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 12:17 am
The Moon is Blue grows on me more with each return. I’m assuming this is either going to be an uphill battle to convince folks to get on the wavelength of this excellent stage play adaptation, or become a new board favorite as a result of this project, so I’ll repost my writeup from the 50s thread, which hasn’t changed except I now do find the film very “laugh-out-loud” funny. I really hope one day we get subs for Preminger’s German version from the same year, Die Jungfrau auf dem Dach, even if he was decidedly prouder of this available version.
therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 9:16 pm
The Moon is Blue: Preminger’s form couldn’t be more perfectly fitting for this play adaptation of a kind of less elitist comedy of manners. The objectivity allows all odd mannerisms, quirky personalities, and shifting dynamics to ebb and flow to unexpected rhythms, playing out in front of us like radical specimens under a microscope. Regardless of a pretty standard plot, every instant is a surprise because of such mystery and interest taken by the camera and actors resisting any spoon feeding for audiences of logical progression of character development. The social is thus rendered as absurd as it is in real life as people’s personalities clash and confuse and warm to one another through what feels like natural, wild, loose pathways and yet this is meticulously scripted and directed. How does one infuse a picture with so much expertise and control to draw a composite of fortuitous exchanges and whimsical social energy. I don’t think the material is laugh out loud funny, but the collective elements are incredibly charming and amusing and even relatable in feelings of shock for the general interpersonal experience even if the actual situations are not.
The Moon Is Blue. (revisit) Your write-up motivated me to give this another chance and spare me a bad conscience, but the result unfortunately is that my vote’s going to weigh on the “uphill battle to convince” half of the scale. I can appreciate your analysis highlighting an unusual convergence between the chaotically haphazard and the tightly controlled, but unfortunately I’m pretty insensitive to the charms you perceive in the film. For me it’s a rather more laborious experience sitting through much of this, failing to find these characters very relatable or their interactions interesting or amusing despite the quirkiness, in addition to the basic situation being pretty humdrum as you put it. Patty’s character is probably part of the problem; at the same time that I observed and could appreciate McNamara’s considered acting, her character was too much of an unrealistic “screwball” (as Holden describes her at the end) to invest in her. Stagey comedies that are pure interrupted dialogue are already a tough sell for me to begin with, but the sense of detached wit that this goes for much of the time gives it no chance.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#72 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Apr 18, 2021 11:18 pm

Yeah I can appreciate this not being someone's 'thing' but to your critique, I think her character's "unrealistic screwball" is the whole point, because she provokes these men into revealing their own issues by challenging normative female, and human, behavior- a screwball character in a 'normal' modern world rather than a milieu with the internal logic of screwball. As a result we get a ceaseless regurgitation of honesty resembling deviance like a nonchalant Vegas ethos invading the privacy of 50s conservatism, or rather destroying its facade.

I've seen this film three times now, and each time like it more- but it was definitely an uphill battle myself to recognize its genius. Reading about its history and analysis in the bio since this last viewing makes me love it even more though, as if that were possible, and I'll probably give it a fourth watch before the project's end.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#73 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Apr 20, 2021 10:35 am

Rayon Vert wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:11 pm
I'm really only referring to her diction and manner of speaking, but it definitely colored the way she came across. Just doing a quick search for scenes on Google, this is an early one and indicates what I'm talking about. She enunciates every word so deliberately and clearly, and sysmatically avoids all contractions ("I do not" instead of "I don't", "it is" instead of "it's"). It creates an artifice that produces the "unnaturalness" (to my years anyway, and which is definitely less present in her more emotional turn in the court scenes and thereafter), but then I imagine that's probably how Shaw and Greene wrote it.
Circling back to this point, I'm not sure this is an issue with the film or Seberg. I'm not a Joan of Arc expert, but a quick run through her history on the internet expresses that she was an illiterate person who surprised the court with how well-spoken and sharp she was, and there are recorded quotes from her that demonstrate this, including statements that avoid contractions and mirror similar lines in Preminger's film. Where Preminger, Shaw and Greene, and Seberg come into play is by emphasizing her otherworldliness in juxtaposing an 'accurate' dictation with the more informal and artificial (but modernly 'normal') dictation of the other characters. This creates a sense of surprise and eccentricity for modern audiences through dissonance, emulating an alarm that would conversely be formed through Joan of Arc matching their dictation back then. It's an interesting trick, but that's my suspicion. Nonetheless, if there's a critique it should be against everyone else's speech being 'modern' rather than Joan's being wrong, but it's clearly an artistic choice and would be a bit like criticizing Scorsese and Schrader for implementing NY accent anachronisms in their Jesus movie.

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Maltic
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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#74 Post by Maltic » Tue Apr 20, 2021 12:34 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Apr 18, 2021 4:35 pm
I'm revisiting the BFI set of noirs with Adrian Martin's commentaries, and after about a handful of viewings of Fallen Angel over the years, it's finally clicked for me as a great film, even if it's a compromised one. First, this must be one of the most dynamic expressions of compulsive unease I've seen from Preminger through his camera movement. Martin doesn't make any such claim but he draws attention to some very unique shot choices that forced me to meditate on the inhibited access to psychological islands displayed on the countenances of characters, some of the loneliest and subtly complex observations in noir. The other notable attribute is an existential destabilization in narrative form, since the plot doesn't even kick in until the last act, directly annihilating the plot from the second act, while there's none in the first. This stream of consciousness mimics Andrews' own lack of self-knowledge, and we only barely formulate some sense of stability once Andrews and Faye actually connect with what appears to be an honest commitment, the first honest commitment in the film.

Martin doesn't mention anything about this last point, but I find it relevant how -after reading the bio and in reference to Bunny Lake is Missing's stark look at intense emotion's risks vs. healthy detachment's protection- the shedding of fixed obsessions in making decisive commitments marks freedom, rather than the opposite release from refusing commitment and issuing liberty to obsess at will. Only after Andrews accepts his place and pledges himself to an anchored position with Faye does he become psychologically free and self-actualized- a bit of irony; while the obsessions from Judd, and even Pop, keep them stuck in misery, vessels who are fallible, sloppy, or insane. The Andrews at the end resembles Preminger's own state of a present and caring observer, who refrains from getting too emotionally deep to avoid blinding himself and threatening his own self-preservation and peripheral awareness as a result. It's a compromise, but rarely do we see compromises that opt to disengage from passion itself as the sensible option, especially when that passion is not directed towards a threatening figure.

Plenty of noirs do engage with this theme but only when a subject, often the femme fatale, elicits the dangers of passion, signifying the source of the danger is not the 'passion' but the unpredictability and distrust in another human being's selfish motives. I agree with Martin that Stella doesn't really fit the bill; she has a moral code that she sticks to, and is not as actively deceptive as she is embodying illusory superficial qualities, becoming a faux-femme fatale. So without a femme fatale here, the passion alone haunts these characters, and since there is no subject to project that onto, there is no fallacious catharsis to be achieved. Instead, the predicament is revealed as a pathetic reflection of self-delusion, and these characters are left with their own worst enemy being self-destructive behavior in contesting with expectations over an idea, not contesting with a human being as they believe they're doing.

Indeed, it's one of the best of Martin's commentaries imo. He even had me chuckling very loudly over the "coffee cup business" in the final scene.

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Re: Auteur List: Otto Preminger (Pre-Game)

#75 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Apr 20, 2021 1:30 pm

It might have been the best of the three BFI commentaries at least as far as insight, but I'm biased because he made me appreciate what I always considered a lame noir for the first time, after I-don't-know-how-many viewings since college. Conversely I expected more out of his Whirlpool commentary because it's always been one of my favorite noirs- though I just watched it through twice with the Martin commentary (and then again without it) over the last few days, and especially the second time I felt that Martin had some strong points to make that I hadn't considered, even if most I had and even if some idiosyncratic details I was disappointed he didn't discuss or even acknowledge.

The psychological dissolve of Ann has been widely discussed already, but I love how sinister Preminger pitches his power differential into Korvo's director of operations by sympathizing with her "disorganized soul" inherent in humanity (to borrow a thesis stated in Anatomy of a Murder) yet granting equal validation to Korvo's methods that defy science. Preminger, always a proponent of "reasonable doubt" (as Martin spends a lot of time discussing in his commentary, and was perhaps most audaciously communicated in a real-life anecdote from Beah Richards on the set of Hurry Sundown; when they were arguing about the way she should play her character, she rightfully played the trump card saying he wouldn't know because he's never been black, to which Preminger responded, "How do you know I've never been black?"), portrays Korvo as both a devious hack who tricks people into believing he has intuitive powers but also grants him those superpowers in hypnosis- including the absolutely insane self-hypnosis- that destroy all predictability in grounded science and threaten to reduce the worth of Bill's traditional psychoanalytic profession independently from his resentful, stupid acts.

Korvo himself becomes this contradiction, and the most ironic element of the film seems to be that, if he divorced himself from his passionate humanity (greed, personal vengeance, professional jealousy, impulsive emotionally-based decisions) he may actually be the most sensible character in the film. He's certainly the most insightful (Martin doesn't directly mention this, but as someone who has studied psychoanalysis and its modern modality, psychodynamic, extensively- "insight" vs. behavior change is the goal of this very popular framework of therapy) and being more insightful than a police captain, a psychoanalyst(!), and the heroine of the story's apparent self-actualization in the end, makes for a delicious piece of satire that becomes something greater as a humanist irony. Of course Korvo's blind spot is in his own ultimate and fatal admission of his ego inhibiting insight to himself- but he grants himself that in the end as well, and the resulting action of demise has different implications than Martin seems to allude to: that perhaps we need to suppress some insight in order to function in this crazy world! However, given that we've spent the narrative with the devastating ramifications of such suppression, it's a pretty cheeky damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation... Perfect for Preminger's disinterest in taking sides, and interest and compassion for said fundamental conflict.

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