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“En Pointe: The Ballet Blogathon” Begins Today!

Today, I am delighted to say, is the day to celebrate all things ballet in film! Co-host Michaela and I will be updating the posts as they arrive throughout the weekend. Her home page for this event can be found, here.

Just a quick reminder! Because of how popular the ballet blogathon proved to be, we added an extra day. The blogathon is now from August 4th-6th.

It has been wonderful to discover so many other fans of ballet and to discover just how often ballet has been the theme of film. It has helped me to appreciate that ballet is very much alive and well, with a well-founded presence on screen and stage.

 

 

Day 1

Realweegiemidget Reviews – Black Swan (2010)

Love Letters to Old Hollywood – Twelve Favorite Water Ballets from Esther Williams

Thoughts All Sorts – Ballerina (aka Leap!) (2016)

Caftan Woman – The Mad Genius (1931)

The Midnite Drive-In – White Nights (1985)

Taking Up Room – An American in Paris (1951) 

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

Movies Silently  – The Dancer’s Peril (1917)

Christina Wehner“The Jealous Lover” from A Story of Three Loves (1953)

Diary of a Movie Maniac – Dancers (1987)

Into the Writer Lea – Dance as a Means of Showing, Not Telling, Cinderella (1955)

Sat in Your Lap – On The Town (1949) and The Pirate (1948)

Silver Scenes – The Death of the Swan : The Unfinished Dance (1947) and Ballerina (1937)

Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie ReviewsLimelight (1952)

Day 2

Taking Up Room – Save the Last Dance (2001)

The Dream Book Blog – Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel (1932)

To 10 Film Lists – The Red Shoes (1948)

Lifesdailylessonsblog – The Song of Scheherazde (1947)

Love Letters to Old Hollywood – Shall We Dance (1937)

Cary Grant Won’t Eat You – The Fun of Center Stage (2000)

Pure Entertainment Preservation Society  – Hans Christian Andersen

Critica Retro – Never Let Me Go (1953)

Anybody Got a Match? – Silk Stockings (1957)

Day 3

Crimson KimonoExposed (1983)

Cinematic Scribblings – Red Shoes (1948)

Silver Scenes – Russian Ballet Films of the 1940s-1960s

Christina Wehner  “A Winter’s Tale” (2014)

The Wonderful World of Cinema – The Ballet Scenes from Les Uns et les Autres (1981)

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies – Never Let Me Go (1953)

Blogferatu – Black Swan (2010)

 
30 Comments

Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Movies

 

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He Walked By Night (1948)

Richard Basehart shoots at the police

He Walked By Night is a crime procedural/film noir. What mostly makes it noir is the stunning cinematography of Robert Alton. And the fact that the film was mostly directed (though he didn’t receive screen credit) by Anthony Mann.

The film follows the investigation of the L.A. police into the murder of one of their own police officers by a skilled burglar, Roy (Richard Basehart), who has the police baffled and seemingly unable to track him down. Scott Brady is Sgt. Marty Brennan, a good friend of the murdered police officer, determined to be the one to find the killer. Captain Breen (Roy Roberts) provides the authority, Jack Webb is the forensics expert, and Whit Bissell is the electronics dealer duped by Roy into selling stolen wares.

It’s very much an ensemble piece and we never get to know anyone well. Even the motives of the killer, Roy, remain opaque. We know he’s a psychopath, brilliant, knows electronics and radio, but we are never sure what  he wants or why he’s doing what he does.

The film feels like a documentary at times. There is even a super-serious narrator to lend an aura of authenticity. We are assured at the beginning of the film that what we are watching is a true story, only the names have been changed. The story was actually inspired by a real incident involving a veteran of WWII, who’s exploits were chronicled in the newspapers.

The stand-out performance is definitely by Richard Basehart, a chilling presence who nevertheless manages to make you feel his paranoia and fear when he’s on the run or removing a bullet from his side.

Removing a bullet – you can’t help but cringe in sympathy

That scene were Roy extracts a bullet from his side is perhaps the most remarkable scene of the film, except the drainage system finale. He’s shot by the police and nearly caught, and so has to remove the bullet himself. What makes it a remarkable scene is how Anthony Mann stages it. The camera stays unflinchingly focused on Basehart’s face, dripping with sweat and twisted in pain, as he probes for the bullet.

Instead of focusing on the wound, we are focused on his face, which is probably Code dictated, since excessive gore was not allowed. But the effect is to focus the audience, not on the wound, but on Roy’s reaction to the wound. It forces us into his shoes and I found myself squirming as I watched his face and couldn’t help imagining myself trying to do something similar. It’s an example of how showing a character’s reaction to something can be more powerful than seeing the actual something. A wound has no intrinsic emotional meaning (apart from the gross factor) unless we see what its effect is on a person. It’s intense and well acted by Basehart.

The police procedural was a pretty new genre and would, after WWII, become increasingly popular both in fiction and TV. It never became as common as a film genre, though John Sturges also directed another fine early police procedural in 1950 called Mystery Street, starring Ricardo Montalban. It could be argued, with its primary focus on evidence and detection rather than character, that it works better as a TV episode than a full length film. He Walked By Night itself is only 79 minutes. Interestingly, Jack Webb, who plays the forensics expert in He Walked By Night, would produce and star in Dragnet, the TV series from the 1950s that is often credited with popularizing and even defining the police procedural.

There are noir aspects to He Walked By Night, however. It’s set in L.A., the home of film noir and hard boiled detective fiction. The post war focus on human corruption is also present, with war equipment, navy electronic equipment, a German Luger, and war veterans floating around the criminal underworld. But what really gives the film its noirish aspects is the cinematography by Robert Alton. His cinematography style could practically define Noir.

An example of Alton’s use of lighting

Instead of the blanket lighting approach – where sets were illuminated from above to highlight everything in the scene – Alton chose to light his sets by carefully hiding lights in select locations. The result was that his sets appeared to be lit by sources of light from within the scene, like lamps, matches, and flashlights.

He also would light his sets darker than anything I’ve ever seen on film. Almost pitch black at times, especially in the drainage tunnels. The crispness of his black and white photography is beautiful. It elevates simple scenes of streets and tunnels to poetry. Rarely has a city look so beautiful.

The end of the film is the highlight, however, when Roy flees into the drainage system of L.A.. Drains and sewage systems have always been an exciting place for a showdown. Victor Hugo got the ball rolling in 1862, with the confrontation between Jean Valjean and Javert in the sewers of Paris.  Interestingly, the characters of both Valjean and Javert were inspired by the memoirs of Eugene Vidocq, a convict turned police inspector, known for his undercover work. His memoirs inspired many early writers, from Hugo to Poe to Emile Gaboriau (who may have inspired Conan Doyle).

Apart from the many film versions of Les Miserables, in 1949, Orson Welles would meet a picturesque end in the sewers of Vienna, while giant mutant ants have to be battled in the very same drainage pipes of L.A. in the 1954 Them! Drains and sewers have been good to cinema.

Below are some examples of the gorgeous work of Robert Alton.

Richard Basehart loads his gun

Into the drain

Because the dog is so cute – Roy’s dog

Roy dives for the drain culvert

An example of just how dark the screen could often be – Roy runs down the drains

The police wear gas masks

Roy lights a match

The police prepare to surround Roy’s house

 
4 Comments

Posted by on July 26, 2017 in Movies

 

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An Update on “En Pointe: The Ballet Blogathon”

A quick update about “En Pointe: The Ballet Blogathon.” Because of the wonderful responses, my co-host Michaela and I have decided to expand the blogathon one extra day. That way everyone will have more time to post if they have multiple entries or to read every else’s posts.

New Dates: August 4th, 5th, and 6th

The roster of films so far is very exciting and has made me realize there are far more movies featuring ballet than I had ever realized. We are looking forward to reading everyone’s contributions!

The homepages for the blogathon can be found at both my blog, here, and at Michaela’s blog, here.

See you then!

 
13 Comments

Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Movies

 

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