Tuesday, March 20, 2007

the naked city & the most dangerous game

realism & artificiality in 2 great american films.

watching 2 movies this evening, i found that my favourite part of each film contrasted realism & artificiality.

1. realism: the end of the docunoir film the naked city (jules dassin, 1948) where willie garzah runs to his death on the williamsburg bridge, hunted by barry fitzgerald. this film throughout has the grittiness of a neo-realist film, but especially the death scene at the end, which is really quite spectacular.

2. artificiality: the beginning of the most dangerous game (irving pichel, ernest b. schoedsack, 1932) where a (miniature) boat navigates through the rough sea (or a tub of water).
this artificiality has such a beauty to it, the real thing would pale in comparison. also of note is the very atmospheric hunting scene towards the end (see image). the sets of this film were recycled from king kong.
these scenes make me think of jack smith and his love of josef von sternberg's visual style, with its abstractions and bizarre artificiality.

naked city 1948 (d. jules dassin)

the most dangerous game 1932 (d. irving pichel, ernest b. schoedsack)
boat and bog


woolgathersome said...

I love what you're creating with these film stills...and so prolific! Capturing these ephemeral, rarely seen slower than 24fps, still lifes...Beautiful!

the art of memory said...

i found nothing gives me greater pleasure than capturing film stills, it is like the intimacy a translater has with the book/writer he/she is translating, if that doesn't sound to pretentious.

Doug said...

I agree, these still studies are absolutely beautiful. The perspective lines and deep focus of The Naked City are so striking, and your comparison of them to artiface is evocative.

I have thought about how the internet has allowed us to redefine iconic imagery for certain films by choosing our own framegrabs. I remember Dave Kehr once suggested that one of the reasons The Seventh Seal became so venerated by film culture was because its high-contrast black-and-white cinematography reproduced werll in film books. If that's true, new technology seesm to have opened up the field.

the art of memory said...

thank you,
i think you are quite right about the possibilities of the internet in redefining how we look at films.
i find that even films i have watched a dozen times look very different when i decide to capture images and go through looking for interesting frames. and it makes film viewing resemble looking at paintings, or photography.
i personally tend to remember images from films or atmospheres, rather than plots anyway.
by the way, i have enjoyed looking at filmjourney.
very nice site.

Doug said...

Thanks for the compliment, I appreciate it. And I am totally with you--I always remember atmosphere and impressions over plot details (or actor names). Sometimes I'm embarrassed because I'll tell someone I loved/hated a particular film but then can't remember why at all--I just remember how it made me feel, or an image or two.

the art of memory said...

i am the same way.
memory and film go very good together.
that is why it is so great to watch them over and over again.