Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"I'm hard to get, Geoff, you just have to ask me."

Odd Man Out, Carol Reed, 1947.

Ascending to the painter's room: "He will have something in his eyes, something more than any of my subjects ever had!"

Only Angels Have Wings, Howard Hawks, 1939.

The genius of the times spoken line by line: "He's been dead about twenty minutes and all the weeping and wailing in the world won't make him any deader twenty years from now."

"More alive" might seem a more logical choice of words than "deader," but then I guess grief is the effort to make somebody dead even when they already are. Cary Grant won't waste the energy... yet. Only Angels Have Wings, one of the grandest entertainments ever pitched around the grieving process, knows a lot about it.

It also affords more time to consider what makes a movie a Howard Hawks movie. There are those strong diagonals that happen, as if by chance, in the amazing aerial sequence (above), a subtle but breathtaking choreography that aims only to keep a moving airplane in the center of the frame at all times. But I doubt they're talking about diagonals when they call Hawks an auteur.

Instead, maybe it's the way his movies hold, contain, the energy of crowds, achieving a weird clarity in spite of commotion that persists

when the focus shifts to the individual.

Footlight Parade, Lloyd Bacon, 1933.

Not a still from the movie, but a placeholder until I have the means to grab one. The image that accompanies the words differs in one crucial way: As James Cagney seizes inspiration in the streets, the liberating imagination that allows him to turn fire hydrants into mountains is commensurately blinded by the forces that make him turn black into white.

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