Today’s Shorts: Combate De Boxe (1927), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Easy Street (1917), Brief Encounter (1945), Magic Myxies (1931), Pickup On South Street (1953), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957a), Shall We Dance (1937)
Combat De Boxe is an experimental film that deals with a sport that has always been bound to cinema (later television of course) since the very beginnings of the form through kinetograph movies such as Corbett and Courtney (1894). In such, Combate De Boxe combines poetry with technological tricks such as double exposure and split screen to capture an abstract montage that serves as an impressionistic depiction of what it is like to be in a boxing match.
What makes Combat De Boxe even more interesting is its formal links to a film that came out 53 years later: the masterpiece, Raging Bull. Whist Scorsese distinguishes (from movies such as Rocky) a strong and unique formal aesthetic in his boxing sequences that really take you inside the ring through POV, Dekeukeleire also does this, but with a clever use of the close-up and negative imagery that have you situated inside the ring, looking outwardly (as if through a boxer’s distracted imagination).
This ultimately leaves this a surprising short from the silent era that somehow manages to capture an aesthetic far ahead of its time.
Entirely endearing, Little Miss Sunshine is a perfect movie, one that poignantly explores three ideas: losers, winners and fears.
With great performances all around, a brilliant script and good direction, Little Miss Sunshine is then about living your life in face of the momentum of the world around you – a concept perfectly captured by the image of the van that they are always running to catch up to. As a road movie, this van is an integral part of the journey, but what we grow to find out is that this narrative is not so much about the the road, the destinations or the stops along the way, rather, the family within this yellow VW Campervan. With the world soaring by, it’s only this bubble that matters, one that constructs its own definitions of “loser” and “winner” whilst fearlessly doing what it feels it has, wants and needs to do.
As is common with Chaplin, a story of the little guy prevailing against all odds, a story that makes light of the darkest sides of life; poverty, drugs, violence and chaos.
With some brilliant comedic action set-pieces and a well established scenario, Easy Street is not only a hilarious spectacle, but a romantic and hopeful tale of change in a community. Having not seen a Chaplin picture in a while, this really hit home and was a pure joy to be immersed in. Yet another brilliant movie from one of the greatest figures in all of cinema.
Any romance that features a love triangle or some form of cheating is very hard to do well, but Brief Encounter is an effortlessly masterful depiction of extramarital love affairs.
This all comes down to the manner in which, through script, cinematography and camerawork, we are made to see the subjective and psychological perspective of our main character, Laura Jesson. In such, we are made to understand the confounding, tearing emotions of a person who has stumbled onto love when they know they ought not to. So, as the title and taglines suggest, this film is about the bittersweet brevity of precious encounters that life sometimes throws our way.
Every second of this film exudes this powerful and complex emotional concept, deeming it one of the greatest romance films I have ever seen.
This is a really impressive science documentary of sorts from the 1930s co-directed by an early British pioneer in the field, F. Percy Smith. In such, this contains some of Smith’s most astounding use of both micro and time lapse photography as “Magic Myxies” are investigated.
The downfalls of this film come down to the science and little else. So, primarily, this subject is far too dumbed down, but the script is also pretty incorrect about many things. The main blunder is that, whilst these Myxies (Myxomycetes – slime moulds) are Eukaryotic organisms (they have membrane-bound organelles, which separates them from bacteria – Prokaryotes) they are neither animals, plants or fungi, instead, protista (a kingdom of organisms that kind of just means “other”). (High school biology seemingly does come in handy later in life). However, considering that this documentary is over 85 years old, this can be forgiven.
So, despite these scientific fallacies, Magic Myxies is still a pretty awesome film from a technological and aesthetic perspective.
P.S. You can watch this here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=04kdhZQTnIU
Pickup On South Street is a pretty brilliant movie. The direction is great with strong cinematic language that manages to inject some impressive camera movement, cinematography and fight choreography into this narrative. Moreover, the script is pretty solid with an intricate plot, multi-faceted characters and complex subject matter. In such, Pickup On South Street uses the subject of the Cold War to explore the shades of good and bad in dubious American citizens.
Both in terms of form and content, Pickup On South Street is then a rather impeccable movie, well designed and executed. It nonetheless didn’t resonate with me however. The characters weren’t very compelling, and neither was the narrative. This lead me to only see the downfalls in logic in character decisions and disengage from the momentum of the plot. I think this all just comes down to the fact that crime-thrillers rarely do much for me.
Alas, Pickup On South Street is an impressive movie that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys the likes of Double Indemnity, Touch Of Evil, The Killing and movies alike.
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter is the Deadpool of the Hollywood Golden Age – just a thousand times better. In such, just like Deadpool is a deconstruction of the superhero genre, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter is a deconstruction of wish-fulfilling Hollywood romances and spectacles of the 30s, 40s and 50s.
With brilliant… everything – characters especially – this narrative perfectly assess a much explored idea of success being found in a humble, preciously average life. This is such a poignant projection of this almost cliched idea thanks to the execution of the excellent script, but also because of the direct revision it provides on classical narratives and the manner in which we interact with them. In such, whilst many high-end pictures are about simple endeavours in love, family and heroism, all that surrounds them is often a contradictory spectacle of celebrity and vapidness.
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter embodies a classical formula whilst providing this simultaneous commentary on how we interpret it, ultimately assuring us with no reservations the idea that, “success is the art of being happy”.
Such is the simple greatness of this film that cannot be better articulated by anything but the film itself. Highly recommended.
A fine picture and a solid piece of entertainment, Shall We Dance features the iconic Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in a twisting, on-off romance invigorated by the timely topic of “fake news”.
Highly enjoyably with a narrative that grows stronger with each number and plot beat, there’s nothing to really say about this narrative. And I suppose that’s its only downfall; Shall We Dance is a pretty unremarkable film. Though this is not a throw-away movie, it certainly lacks a spark or punch as it is heavily sedated by the conventional romantic structure that is kept together by slightly inventive, though never truly astounding, musical and dance sequences.
All in all, Shall We Dance was a good time, but also a film that should be approached neutrally. In short, don’t expect a spectacular masterpiece.
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