The confrontation of one reformed outlaw with the shameful vestiges of his old life unfolds with a remarkably cynical disposition in Man of the West, as Anthony Mann’s widescreen, dusty landscapes and meticulous blocking presage the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone by several years, driving these brilliant character compositions with a sense of overbearing guilt and humiliation.
It is only with as daring a narrative structure as the one which Akira Kurosawa builds in Rashomon that its ruminations on subjectivity, truth, and storytelling find such peaceful resolve in a nihilistic world, as he skilfully navigates the conflicting perspectives of a single murder in classical Japan through dextrous, perspective-shifting camerawork and blocking.
With its light romance and dark tragedy moving along inverse trajectories, the archetypal narrative of A Star is Born may be the closest thing Hollywood has to a modern fairy tale, and it is in the precise balance of both that George Cukor’s vibrant take on it stirringly paints out the brief life cycle of those talented individuals we happily turn into beautiful, disposable commodities.
Early Summer delicately applies its introspective examination of shifting cultural attitudes around marriage in post-war Japan to the struggle of one multi-generational household and its eldest daughter’s longing for independence, as Yasujirō Ozu skilfully infuses cluttered, domestic interiors of birdcages and shoji doors with the rich lives of the complex characters who inhabit them.
There are few Golden Age Hollywood directors as willing to embrace the comical leading power of his female stars as Howard Hawks, but it is through Marilyn Monroe’s powerfully mesmeric screen presence carrying vibrant musical numbers and hilarious visual gags that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes becomes all the more flamboyantly intoxicating.
In bringing narrative tension to a classic Broadway revue of disconnected musical numbers, The Band Wagon lands as a boisterous examination of failure and success in the entertainment industry, rolling along with zeal while Vincente Minnelli’s exhilarating camerawork brings propulsive dimensions to that which unfolds onstage.
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