homeland, season two premiere
by request: damsels in distress (whit stillman, 2012)

what i watched last week

In Cold Blood (Richard Brooks, 1967). The semi-documentary style is impressive, and Conrad Hall’s B&W cinematography is excellent. The film rises or falls on the talents of Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, both of whom deliver. In Cold Blood gets message-y at times, not unusual for a Richard Brooks movie, and there’s a character played by Paul Stewart who is awkwardly stuffed into the narrative, not exactly as Truman Capote, but as a writer who comments on what is going on (he is, in the end, more a Richard Brooks stand-in than a substitute for Capote). More damaging is the psychological overlay that attempts to explain the killers; I wasn’t convinced. Nonetheless, the acting of the leads, and the vérité feel of the picture, raise In Cold Blood to a high level. #869 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10.

Faust (F.W. Murnau, 1926). You can’t take your eyes off the screen. The scenes of a city under plague are reminiscent of Murnau’s Nosferatu … when Faust turns away from a cross, he’s an old Dracula. The essence of the plot/myth is easy enough to understand: man sells his soul to the devil, in order to have the power to do good, but ends up spending most of his time getting laid. It doesn’t do any good to delve deeper, though, since the whole “you’ve got 24 hours, then you’re mine” angle seems to waver in how it’s applied. The acting ranges from adequate to overdone, which doesn’t ruin the picture. Murnau isn’t really looking for great acting, he’s interesting in creating an interesting look that amplifies the themes he is presenting. Dreyer and Falconetti showed how to blend acting and presentation into a classic with The Passion of Joan of Arc. Faust isn’t that good, but again, I’m not sure how much Murnau cared. There are many startling images, and special effects which still impress. #437 on the TSPDT list. 8/10.

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